15 March 2023 6:23 AM GMT
The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, reiterated that omission on the part of the prosecution to explain injuries on the person of the accused assumes greater importance where the evidence consists of interested witnesses or where the defence gives a version which competes in probability with that of the prosecution.A Bench comprising Justice BR Gavai, Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Sanjay...
The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, reiterated that omission on the part of the prosecution to explain injuries on the person of the accused assumes greater importance where the evidence consists of interested witnesses or where the defence gives a version which competes in probability with that of the prosecution.
A Bench comprising Justice BR Gavai, Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Sanjay Karol reversed conviction imposed by the Trial Court and affirmed by the Chhattisgarh High Court primarily on the grounds that, the prosecution had not explained the injuries on the person of the accused; the delay in filing the FIR; and evidence consisted of interested witnesses, especially it being a case of pre-existing rivalry between the parties.
In 2006, one of the accused, Naresh Kumar had assaulted one Atmaram. Atmaram lodged a report at the police station. Consequently, Naresh along with other accused, who were armed, formed an unlawful assembly and entered the house of the deceased (Atmaram’s father); attacked him and his family members. The family members went to see a doctor after being assaulted. However, the doctor refused to treat them unless a report was lodged at the police station. In view of the same, they reported the crime. Eventually, chargesheet was filed against 12 accused persons. The Trial Court convicted all the accused persons. The Division Bench of the Chhattisgarh High Court dismissed the appeal filed by the accused persons. Challenging the order of the High Court Special Leave Petitions were filed before the Apex Court. As the matter was pending one of the accused passed away; and some of the accused had already been released on completion of their sentence. Therefore, essentially, the appeals of four accused persons were before the Apex Court.
Analysis by the Supreme Court
The Court noted that Atmaram, who went to lodge the incident of murder was not an eye-witness to the incident. He was informed by his son that his father was murdered. In his statement recorded under Section 313 Cr.P.C., accused Naresh stated that he had received grievous injuries upon being attacked by Atmaram. He went to the police station from where he was sent to the hospital. The Court referred to the medical examination of Naresh. In his cross-examination, the Investigating Officer had also admitted that Naresh had grievous injuries on his head, finger and leg and was taken to the hospital from the police station. It was noted that the prosecution did not provide any explanation with respect to Naresh’s injuries.
The Court opined that considering the nature of injuries that Naresh had received, it was difficult for him to take part in the second part of the incident where Atmanra’s father was killed and family members were assaulted. Citing Lakshmi Singh And Ors. v. State of Bihar, the Court stated that non-explanation of injuries indicates that the prosecution had suppressed the genesis of occurrence; persons denying presence of injuries on the accused are lying and their evidence is unreliable; defence version explaining the injuries is probable casting doubt on the prosecution's case. Furthermore, omission on the part of the prosecution to explain the injuries on the accused would assume greater importance where the evidence consists of interested or inimical witnesses or where the defence gives a version which competes in probability with that of the prosecution one. It was also taken note of that there was previous enmity between the two families involved in the matter, on account of election of Sarpanch. It was stated that previous enmity can act as a double-edged sword. It can be used to establish motive, but it also opens up the possibility of false implication. Moreover, the Court noted that there was a delay of about four to five hours in lodging the FIR and the reason for the same has not been explained by the prosecution. The Court thought it fit to give benefit of doubt to Naresh.
The Court observed that there was no mention of accused No. 8 to 10 in the intimation report or the spot panchnama. The Court noted that given the distance of the places involved in the matter, the delay in lodging the FIR cast serious doubt on the genuineness of the prosecution’s case. Placing reliance on Ramesh Baburao Devaskar And Ors. v. State of Maharashtra, the Court noted that when there is pre-existing enmity amongst the parties, the immediate lodging of the FIR provides credibility to the prosecution’s case. With respect to the issue of evidence of interested witnesses, the Court observed that when evidence is partly reliable and partly not, the Court is required to separate the chaff from the grain and seek further corroboration from reliable testimony, direct or circumstantial. The Court granted benefit of doubt to accused No. 8 to 10 as well -
“Taking into consideration the delay in lodging the FIR, with the circumstance of their names not being mentioned in the contemporaneous documents, the possibility of the said accused being falsely implicated cannot be ruled out.”
Nand Lal And Ors. v. State of Chhattisgarh| (2023) LiveLaw SC 186 | Criminal Appeal No. 1421 of 2015| 14th March, 2023| Justice BR Gavai, Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Sanjay Karol
Indian Penal Code 1860 - Section 302 - Murder Trial -omission on the part of the prosecution to explain the injuries on the accused would assume greater importance where the evidence consists of interested or inimical witnesses or where the defence gives a version which competes in probability with that of the prosecution one - Para 26
Indian Penal Code 1860 - Section 302 - Murder Trial -in case of proven previous enmity, a possibility of false implication cannot be ruled out - Para 34
Code of Criminal Procedure 1973- Section 154 - Delay in registering FIR - The immediate lodging of an FIR removes suspicion with regard to over implication of number of persons, particularly when the case involved a fight between two groups. When the parties are at loggerheads, the immediate lodging of the FIR provides credence to the prosecution case - Para 31
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