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Not Safe To Convict A Person For Murder Solely On Basis Of Recovery Of Stolen Article : Supreme Court

Shruti Kakkar
1 March 2022 4:42 AM GMT
Not Safe To Convict A Person For Murder Solely On Basis Of Recovery Of Stolen Article : Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court recently set aside the conviction of a person for the offence of murder, after noting that the only evidence which linked him to the offence was the alleged recovery of stolen article from him.A bench comprising Justices UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha referred to the precedents which held that merely on the basis of recovery of article, it may not be safe to...

The Supreme Court recently set aside the conviction of a person for the offence of murder, after noting that the only evidence which linked him to the offence was the alleged recovery of stolen article from him.

A bench comprising Justices UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha referred to the precedents which held that merely on the basis of recovery of article, it may not be safe to sustain a conviction for murder.

The Bench referred to the tests laid down in paragraph 33 of Ashish Jain vs. Makrand Singh ( 2019) 3 SCC 770 :

"i. The first thing to be established is that the theft and murder forms part of one transaction. The circumstances may indicate that the theft and murder must have been committed at the same time. But it is not safe to draw the inference that the person in possession of the stolen property was the murderer [Sanwant Khan (supra)];

ii. The nature of the stolen article;

iii. The manner of its acquisition by the owner;

iv. The nature of evidence about its identification;

v. The manner in which it was dealt with by the accused;

vi. The place and the circumstances of its recovery;

vii. The length of the intervening period;

viii. Ability or otherwise of the accused to explain its possession"

 The Bench also noted the observation in Sanwant Khan v. State of Rajasthan AIR 1956 SC 54 as follows :

"Where, however, the only evidence against an accused person is the recovery of stolen property and although the circumstances may indicate that the theft and the murder must have been committed at the same time, it is not safe to draw the inference that the person in possession of the stolen property was the murdered. Suspicion cannot take the place of proof"

In Sanwant Khan, the Supreme Court quoted with approval the observation of the Bombay High Court in Bhikha Gobar v. Emperor, AIR 1943 Bom. 458 (B) that the mere fact that an accused produced shortly after the murder ornaments which were on the murdered person is not enough to justify the inference that the accused must have committed the murder.

Similar views were expressed in Sonu alias Sunil vs. State of Madhya Pradesh 2020 SCC Online SC 473 

In this backdrop, the Supreme Court observed in the instant case (Tulesh Kumar Sahu v State of Chattisgarh) :

"The only material which may possibly be taken against the appellant is, thus extremely weak. There is no other material on record which could even remotely be taken against the appellant. On the strength of the law declared by this Court, the appellant is, therefore, entitled to benefit of doubt."

Appearing for the Appellant, Advocate Kaustubh Shukla submitted that the only piece of evidence which could at best be put against the appellant was the recovery of ornaments pursuant to his alleged statement under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act.

Referring to the judgements in Ashish Jain vs. Makrand Singh ( 2019) 3 SCC 770 and Sonu alias Sunil vs. State of Madhya Pradesh 2020 SCC Online SC 473 counsel further submitted that in the absence of any register, the evidence coming from the witnesses alleging that they had pledged certain items of jewellery was extremely weak piece of evidence to sustain any conviction against the appellant.

Case Title: Tulesh Kumar Sahu v State of Chattisgarh| Criminal Appeal No(s). 753/2021

Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 228

Click Here To Read/Download Judgement




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