-Report by Nawvi Kamalnathan
In the case of Jabir and Others (hereinafter referred to as the appellants) Versus the State of Uttarakhand (hereinafter referred to as the respondents) the Supreme Court has decoded the need to understand the time frame between seeing the accused or deceased to the actual offence having occurred and thus the doctrine of last seen cant be applied in every case where the witnesses testify for seeing someone on relation to the case as it has its own limitations.
Haseen, the son of Prosecution Witness 1, is about 7 years old and went missing on 08.10.1999 around 4.30 pm. Later on, on 10.10.1999, his dead body was found in a sugarcane field in a village situated at a distance from his village. The post-mortem report showed the death occurred two days earlier.
After an order from the magistrate, the First information report was investigated and witnesses were produced by the police officers in charge. Also, in their final reports, the police alleged the appellants to be guilty of the crime.
The appellants were convicted under sections 302, 364, and 201 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and were sentenced to life imprisonment, seven years, and five years imprisonment respectively. The sentence and the conviction were upheld by the High Court of Uttarakhand.
The counsel appearing on behalf of the appellants contended that the conviction and the sentence given by the trial court are unsustainable, as there were no reasons as to why the FIR was delayed by almost five weeks after the seven-year-old deceased went missing.
Further, it was contended that the application under section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 was moved only after a month and no such application was sent to any officer. The police witness didn’t seem to support the statement made by the PW-1 (father of the deceased boy) and said to contain suspicions.
Per the testimonies of a few witnesses, it could be understood that the role of the accused was not known to PW-1. However, it could not be inferred from the inquest report. The complete point of focus of the counsel for appellants was that they were named as a result of enmity with the father of the deceased and his family.
It was highlighted that all the witnesses bought before the court from the prosecution’s side were members of the deceased and his family. The enmity could be traced back to an FIR lodged by the appellant’s family against the PW-2 the previous year to this incident.
The counsel appearing on behalf of the defendants contended that the court shall not disturb the current findings of the lower and the High Court. First dealing with the issue concerning the delay to file FIR the counsel said PW-1 didn’t sense anything unnatural and went to search for his son throughout.
Only after obtaining knowledge of the dead body did, he go to the police station after the post-mortem. The last-seen theory was not inaccurate in this case because as per A-1 to A-3’s statement, they have seen the boy latest with the appellants.
The inquest conducted following the day of the death was found to have occurred under suspicious circumstances. The investigations conducted by the police were not satisfactory as it was done much later to the death.
The court held that as per the basic principle of criminal jurisprudence, in case of circumstantial evidence, the prosecution shall be obliged to prove beyond any reasonable doubt. That all the links between the circumstances shall be established so as to complete the chain of the crime.
The court was also of the opinion besides crucial infirmities as there was no evidence in any form be it oral or objective that creates a connection between the appellant or the accused in this crime. The doctrine of last seen shall also have its limitations considering the time lag between the time the deceased was last seen with the accused and the time between the murder.
Therefore, the appellant-accused’s conviction and sentence passed by the lower courts shall not be sustained and the impugned judgment was set aside, thus ordering the acquittal of the accused.