26 March 2023 4:00 AM GMT
The Supreme Court recently acquitted a man who was concurrently convicted by the trial court and the High Court for the alleged murder of his wife thirty five years ago."In our considered view, the courts below have seriously erred in passing the order of conviction based on incorrect and incomplete appreciation of evidence, causing serious prejudice to the accused, also resulting into...
The Supreme Court recently acquitted a man who was concurrently convicted by the trial court and the High Court for the alleged murder of his wife thirty five years ago.
"In our considered view, the courts below have seriously erred in passing the order of conviction based on incorrect and incomplete appreciation of evidence, causing serious prejudice to the accused, also resulting into travesty of justice", a bench comprising Justices BR Gavai and Sanjay Karol stated after finding serious deficiencies in the case built on circumstantial evidence.
The appellant Guna Mahto was found guilty of murdering his wife, Deomatiya Devi under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 by the Trial Court, Daltonganj in Sessions Trial. He was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment under Section 302 and two-years rigorous imprisonment for the offence punishable under Section 201 of the Indian Penal Code. The High Court affirmed Trial Court’s view.
The crime relates to the year 1988. The prosecution alleged that the accused had committed the murder of his wife and that he dumped her dead body in the village’s well with an intent to cause disappearance of the evidence related to the crime. Later, the accused approached the Police with unclean hands by fabricating a false story, stating that his wife was ‘missing’.
After going through the facts, the Court referred to the settled principles of circumstantial evidence which was held in the landmark case of Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra.
The Court noted that there is no evidence, ocular or documentary, relating to the factum of the accused having caused the disappearance of evidence by giving information to the police in order to prevent himself from being prosecuted in relation to the murder of his own wife.
Examining the testimony of Banaudhi Mahto (PW-2), the father of the deceased, the Court understood that he hadn’t stated anything against the accused in relation to the crime. Other prosecution witnesses too made statements which were either hearsay or weren’t credible.
This led the Court to opine that the circumstances linking the accused to the crime weren’t proven at all.
“The Courts below presumptively, proceeded with the acquired assumption of the guilt of the accused for the reason that he was lastly seen with the deceased, and lodged a false report, forgetting that as per the version of the father of the deceased, father of the accused had himself apprised him of his missing daughter, at least two days prior to the incident. Doubt and suspicion cannot form basis of guilt of the accused. The circumstances linking the accused to the crime are not proven at all, much less beyond reasonable doubt.”
A Bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sanjay Karol also explained that the non-examination of the investigating officer proves prosecution’s case to be doubtful.
“It is in this backdrop, that non-examination of the Investigating Officer attains significance. It is not that the Investigating Officer was not available or that the factum and manner of investigation was deposed by his colleague who was also associated with the same. Non-examination of the Investigation Officer has, in the attending circumstances rendered the prosecution case to be doubtful if not false. The offence under Section 201 IPC could not have been proven without his examination.”
On these observations, the Bench set aside the orders of the courts below.
Case Title: Guna Mahto Versus State Of Jharkhand | Criminal Appeal No.108 Of 2012
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 240
Murder Trial - Supreme Court acquits man convicted for allegedly killing his wife thirty five years ago- Reverses concurrent findings of trial court and High Court-Doubt and suspicion cannot form basis of guilt of the accused. The circumstances linking the accused to the crime are not proven at all, much less beyond reasonable doubt.
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