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In A Case Of Circumstantial Evidence, Heavy Duty Is Cast Upon The Prosecution To Prove Its Case Beyond Reasonable Doubt: Supreme Court

Rintu Mariam Biju
7 Oct 2022 2:40 PM GMT
In A Case Of Circumstantial Evidence, Heavy Duty Is Cast Upon The Prosecution To Prove Its Case Beyond Reasonable Doubt: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court, last Friday, reiterated that there's a very heavy duty cast upon the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt while considering circumstantial evidence.

Highlighting this, a Bench of Chief Justice UU Lalit, Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia observed,

"In a case of circumstantial evidence, the Court has to scrutinize each and every circumstantial possibility, which is placed before it in the form of an evidence and the evidence must point towards only one conclusion, which is the guilt of the accused. In other words, a very heavy duty is cast upon the prosecution to prove its case, beyond reasonable doubt."

The Bench was considering an appeal plea filed by accused persons convicted in the murder of a 72-year-old man. They were awarded life sentence in the matter by the Trial Court, which was upheld by the Karnataka High Court.

An FIR was lodged on October 12, 2000 at 1:15 PM mid night, by the son-in-law of the deceased, S. Ramakrishnan which stated that his father-in-law, who was seventy-two years of age was murdered by some unknown persons. As per the post mortem report, he died because of the main injury, which is a 13 cm x 5 cm deep incised wound on the front neck, cutting jugular veins on both sides.

After receiving a lead piece of information, the police inspector, in charge of the investigation caught the accused along with four other persons. All the five persons were taken into custody and were formally arrested on 01.02.2001. A voluntary statement was then given by Dodda Hanuma (Accused No. 2), and finally all the five accused confessed that they had committed the dastardly murder of the informant's father-in-law.

On March 19, 2003, charges were framed against the accused under Section 302/396, read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. Ultimately the accused were convicted by the Trial Court under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC. Their sentence was upheld by the High Court. Out of the 5 accused, 4 of them appealed before the Supreme Court.

The main question before the Apex Court was whether the prosecution had been able to prove the case against the present appellants, beyond reasonable doubt.

The Bench went on to explain how circumstantial evidence must be complete and the chain of evidence must point towards the culpability of the accused.

"It is a case of circumstantial evidence and in a case of circumstantial evidence, the entire chain of evidence must be complete and the conclusions which is arrived after examining the chain of evidence must point towards the culpability of the accused and to no other conclusion.".

This aspect was clearly missing from the prosecution's case, the Bench noted while adding that their case is based on the so-called confessional statements or voluntary statements given by accused Nos. 1 to 5 (all the present appellants) while they were in police custody.

"Statement given by an accused to police under Section 161 of CrPC is not admissible as evidence. The so-called evidence discovered under section 27 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872, i.e., the recovery of stolen items and the recovery of the weapon are also very doubtful", the Bench observed.

The Bench also noted that the appellants' confessions of how they planned and executed the murders was captured on a video, which was exhibited before the court. The Trial Court as well as the High Court took this evidence of voluntary statements made by the accused and hence, admitted it as evidence. This, the Top Court said, is against the Constitution of India as well as the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

"Both the Trial Court and the Appellate Court went completely wrong in placing reliance on the voluntary statements of the accused and their videography statements. Under Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India, an accused cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself. Again, under Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872; a confessional statement given by an accused before a Police officer is inadmissible as evidence."

The allegation against the appellants was that they were involved in as many as 20-25 such cases. But what was given before the subordinate courts was a chart giving description of offences, numbers and Sections under which such offences had been allegedly committed. "No documents in the nature of chargesheet or any other proof was submitted. Therefore, this factor cannot be taken into account", the Supreme Court noted.

On these observations, the present case requires the Top Court's interference as both the High Court as well as the Sessions Court have ignored the well-established principles of criminal jurisprudences and have relied upon facts and evidences which are clearly inadmissible in a court of law. On these grounds, the Bench allowed the appeals.

"The crime indeed was ghastly, to say the least. Yet, linking the crime to the present appellants is an exercise which was to be undertaken in the court of law under established principles of law. This has not been done."

Case details

Munikrishna @ Krishna vs State By UIsoor PS | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 812 | CrA 1597-1600 OF 2022 | 30 October 2022 | CJI Uday Umesh Lalit, Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia

Counsel : Advocate on Record Lakshmeesh S. Kamath appeared for the appellants, Additional Advocate General Nikhil Goel appeared for the State

Headnotes

Indian Evidence Act, 1872 ; Section 25 - Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 ; Section 161 - Both the Trial Court and the Appellate Court went completely wrong in placing reliance on the voluntary statements of the accused and their videography statements - A confessional statement given by an accused before a Police officer is inadmissible as evidence - Statement given by an accused to police under Section 161 of CrPC is not admissible as evidence. (Para 13)

Criminal Trial - Circumstantial Evidence - In a case of circumstantial evidence, the Court has to scrutinize each and every circumstantial possibility, which is placed before it in the form of an evidence and the evidence must point towards only one conclusion, which is the guilt of the accused - A very heavy duty is cast upon the prosecution to prove its case, beyond reasonable doubt - Parameters under which the case of circumstantial evidence is to be evaluated - Referred to Hanumant Govind Nargundkar & Anr. v. State of Madhya Pradesh AIR 1952 SC 343. (Para 12)


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