If a person commits a small theft, society must reform him, remarked Kerala High Court while acquitting a person convicted in a criminal case.
Justice PV Kunhikrishnan began his judgment disposing this criminal appeal by quoting the line from the poem 'Moshanam' of the famous poet Ayyappa Panicker – "Just because I have stolen a few things, why should you call me a thief? The judge also quoted another poem which when translated reads like this: "Whenever one steals something good, you people raise a clamour - for nothing and dub him a thief, a thief! It is the fault of your laws, Change you then your laws, I say, lest your laws should change you." The judge said:
"This Court does not want to contradict the great poet Ayyappa Panicker, because poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. It takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility. But with great respect to the poet, I have to say that the concluding portion of the above poem is not entirely correct in the light of Section 360(3) Cr.P.C and Section 3 of Probation of offenders act 1958. The 1st offender in a theft case need not be sent to jail in all situations in the light of the above provisions. Therefore the law is there, but society also should change by reforming first offenders. The criminal justice delivery system can attain its ultimate aim only with the help of society. To err is human. If a person commits some small mistakes, Section 360 Cr.P.C and Section 3 of the Probation of offenders Act will protect that person. But society should also protect him by not treating him as a criminal or thief"
The prosecution case against Abdul Rahoof was that he stabbed on the abdomen of one Sakkeer with a dagger, and thereafter he also stabbed on the groin of the defacto complainant, namely Jaffer with the same weapon due to the previous enmity in connection with the theft of one motor, belongs to one Bava Haji. On the other hand, the accused said he wanted to remove the label of the thief from his name and for that purpose he had went there. But instead of discussing the issue, they provoked the accused by characterising him as a thief and in that situation, the incident in this case happened, he stated. The Trial Court convicted the accused and sentenced him to rigorous imprisonment for three years and a fine of Rs. 1,000/-.
In appeal, the court noted that the accused sustained injury and there is a definite version to the defence, that the prosecution witnesses attacked the accused. Where there is deliberate suppression of facts about the injuries inflicted on the accused; and the prosecution does not provide an explanation to the same, the accused is entitled to a benefit of doubt, the court observed.
"Simply because some injured witnesses deposed that the accused inflicted injury on them and they sustained grievous hurt, the Court cannot convict an accused unless the prosecution is coming forward with the correct picture of the case. The prosecution has to prove the beginning of the incident till it's ending. Here is a case where, admittedly the accused sustained injury and there is a definite version to the defence, that the prosecution witnesses attacked the accused. The defence probabalised the case by a preponderance of probabilities.", the judge said while setting aside the conviction.