25 March 2023 12:01 PM GMT
The Supreme Court of India on recently reiterated that in cases where two views are possible while relying on circumstantial evidence, the view favouring the accused must be preferred.Relying on judicial precedents, a Bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sanjay Karol observed, “…in cases where heavy reliance is placed on circumstantial evidence, is that where two views are possible, one pointing...
The Supreme Court of India on recently reiterated that in cases where two views are possible while relying on circumstantial evidence, the view favouring the accused must be preferred.
Relying on judicial precedents, a Bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sanjay Karol observed,
“…in cases where heavy reliance is placed on circumstantial evidence, is that where two views are possible, one pointing to the guilt of the accused and the other towards his innocence, the one which is favourable to the accused must be adopted.”
The Court’s reiteration came in a plea challenging a judgment of the High Court which affirmed a Trial Court’s judgement, convicting Pradeep Kumar, the appellant, under sections Section 302/34 IPC and 201/34 IPC based on his extra judicial confessional statement made in the presence of certain prosecution witnesses.
Firstly, the Supreme Court noted that none of the courts below found that the prosecution proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
“Suspicion, howsoever grave or probable it may be, cannot substitute the evidence, be it circumstantial or direct in nature, in establishing the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, the onus of which, at the first instance, is to be discharged by the prosecution. The distance between “may be” and “must be” is quite large and it divides vague conjectures from solid conclusions”, the Apex Court’s judgement highlighted.
Further, the court added that the accused cannot be convicted on the principles of preponderance of probability while adding that it’s the duty of the Top Court to ensure avoidance of miscarriage of justice at all costs
Terming the High Court’s judgement as “sketchy”, the judgement authored by Justice Karol read that the presumption of the guilt of Kumar by both the courts below is based on improper and incomplete appreciation of evidence.
The Court went through the prosecution witness statements and the circumstantial evidences. One of the latter, namely, the recovery of keys and the money; the Court said that there is no independent corroborated material except for the accused’s confessional statement, which also is not proven on record. Even otherwise, the keys, the currency notes and the blood-stained clothes weren’t sent for chemical analysis, the Court noted.
Also, the Appellant’s extra judicial confessional statement, apart from being hit by Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, wasn’t supported by two of the prosecution witness statements, the Court highlighted.
Coming to the prosecution’s star witness—the Investigation Officer; the Court viewed his testimony to be wholly unworthy, unbelievable and unreliable.
“This we say so for the reasons that he did not record the statement of Gajadhar Chowdhary (PW-10) or Gopal Yadav (PW-7) in 15 respect any prior animosity between the deceased and the accused. The evidence pertaining to the genesis of the crime was not collected by him”, the Court recorded.
Basis these findings, the circumstantial evidence did not conclusively establish only “one hypothesis”, the Court said.
“In the present case, we state that the circumstances present before us, taken together, do not establish conclusively only one hypothesis, that being the guilt of the accused, Pradeep Kumar. The presumption of innocence remains in favour of the accused unless his guilt is proven beyond all reasonable doubts against him. [Babu v. State Kerala, (2010) 9 SCC 189]. The cherished principles or golden threads of proof beyond reasonable doubt which runs through the web of our law should not be stretched morbidly which was done by the Courts below”.
The chain of circumstances, the Court opined, wasn’t completely established nor was the guilt of the accused alone, having committed the crime, proven, much less beyond reasonable doubt.
“This Court has stated essential conditions that must be fulfilled before an accused can be convicted in a case revolving around circumstantial evidence in the landmark case of Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra…”
It further noted that the Top Court would go on to interfere in the finding of the courts below only in certain situations—when the principles of criminal jurisprudence aren’t followed properly.
“Normally, we do not interfere with the concurrent findings of fact of the Courts below. We step in only in exceptional cases or where gross errors are committed, overlooking crying circumstances and well-established principles of criminal jurisprudence leading to miscarriage of justice”.
The Court acquitted the accused while allowing his appeal.
Case Title: Pradeep Kumar Versus State Of Chhattisgarh | Criminal Appeal No.1304 Of 2018
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 239
Indian Evidence Act 1872- in cases where heavy reliance is placed on circumstantial evidence, is that where two views are possible, one pointing to the guilt of the accused and the other towards his innocence, the one which is favourable to the accused must be adopted
Murder Trial - Section 302- Indian Penal Code 1860- Supreme Court reverses concurrent findings of guilt entered by the trial court and High Court-says exceptional case where gross errors are committed, overlooking crying circumstances and well-established principles of criminal jurisprudence leading to miscarriage of justice
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