-Report by Gopal Kumar
This case is related to Judge’s power to put questions or order production to discover or obtain proper proof of relevant fact under section 165 of the Indian Evidence Act.
In this case, the appellant-accused along with the other co-accused were charged with kidnapping and murder of a person in the year 2000. The Trial Court convicted both the accused persons for offences under Section 302, Section 364, Section 392, Section 394, Section 201 and Section 34 of IPC and awarded a life sentence under Section 302 IPC, and the remaining accused was convictedlesser sentence, vide order dated July 11, 2003. Further, the appellant filed the case to The Punjab and Haryana High Court which dismissed the file and upheld the conviction and sentence of the Trial Court vide order dated May 31, 2017. Hence, the appellant-accused filed the appeal before the Supreme Court.
In this case, the apex court found that the case of the prosecution is entirely based on circumstantial evidence and the ‘evidence’ of last seen and the “discoveries” made from the information given by the appellant.
The Court further observed that the case of the prosecution rests on two circumstantial pieces of evidence
1. The disclosure is given in police custody and the discovery is on its basis.
2. The evidence of last seen in the form of PW-10 (the neighbour of the complainant).
The court rightly points out that in the case of circumstantial evidence motive plays a significant role. The prosecution case is that the two accused killed the deceased only to steal his tractor. The prosecution case is that the deceased was kidnapped and murdered by the two accused, for his tractor which they had robbed from the deceased, after putting him to death. The Court pointed out that the facts that led to certain discoveries were already known to the police in the earlier discovery made by the co-accused. The Court further noted that the discoveries which were made on the pointing out of co-accused cannot be read against the present appellant.
According to section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act “If the disclosure has been made by the accused to the police while he was in their custody and such a disclosure leads to the discovery of a fact then that discovery is liable to be read as evidence against the accused. A fact discovered in a piece of information supplied by the accused in his disclosure statement is a relevant fact and that is only admissible in evidence if something new is discovered or recovered from the accused which was not within the knowledge of the police before recording the disclosure statement of the accused.
On the evidence of ‘last seen’ the Court noted:
“In this case, even if we take the time between the last seen and the approximate time of death as per the postmortem, which would go beyond 48 hours preceding the time of post-mortem the time of death can be stretched to the morning of May 9, 2000, which still begs an explanation from the prosecution as to the time gap, as the deceased was last seen with the two accused on 08.05.2000 at 7:00 P.M.” The Court further noted that the evidence of last seen itself is on a weak footing, considering the long gap of time between last seen by PW-10 and the time of death of the deceased, Section 106 of the Evidence Act, 1872 would not be applicable to facts and the circumstances of the present case. When a person does an act with some intention other than that which the character and circumstances of the act suggest, the burden of proving that intention is upon him.
The court said “In order to establish a charge of guilt on the accused, the chain of evidence must be completed and the chain must point out to one and only one conclusion, which is that it is only the accused who have committed the crime and none else.
The Court held that the evidence placed by the prosecution, in this case, does not pass muster the standard required in a case of circumstantial evidence.
The judgement given by the division bench of Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Sanjay Kumar noted:
In the present case, the prosecution has not been able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence of last seen only leads up to a point and no further. It fails to link it further to make a complete chain. All we have here is the evidence of last seen, which as we have seen loses much of its weight under the circumstances of the case, due to the long duration of time between last seen and the possible time of death. The Court set aside the conviction of a murder accused on the ground that the evidence last seen on which the conviction was based, failed to make a complete chain of circumstantial evidence.
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