Friday, March 24, 2023

Allahabad High Court acquits convict due to contradictory statements from witnesses

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The Allahabad High Court, while acquitting the appellant who was convicted under Section 326-A IPC, stated that the testimony of an injured witness cannot be taken as gospel truth in all circumstances.

The Division Bench of Justice Pritinker Diwaker and Justice Nalin Kumar Srivastava noted that contradictions and unnatural statements of these witnesses made the whole prosecution story highly doubtful.

The High Court passed this order while hearing a Criminal Appeal filed by Vimal Kumar Maurya.

The Court of Additional Sessions Judge, Jaunpur convicted the appellant Vimal Kumar Maurya under Section 326-A IPC in Sessions Trial arising out of Crime Police Station Badlapur, District Jaunpur and sentenced him for life imprisonment and fine of Rs 1 lakh with default sentence vide judgment and order dated 22.09.2014, feeling aggrieved of which the criminal appeal has been filed.

The prosecution case is as under. On 07.11.2013 at about 12:00 at night when the informant and her family members were sleeping in their house and injured Champa Devi, the mother-in-law and Madhuri, the sister-in-law (nand) of the informant were also sleeping in a room situated in the Usahra (baramda) in front of the window, some unknown person threw acid (tejab) from the window and caused grievous hurt and deformity on their faces. The injured ladies were taken to Government Hospital, but they were referred to Janpur and subsequently to Varanasi for further treatment.

First information report was lodged on the basis of written report of the informant on 08.11.2013 at 6:20 A.M and investigation started in pursuance of the said first information report.

The investigating officer recorded the statement of the injured witnesses, informant and other witnesses, inspected the place of occurrence and prepared a site plan. He also seized an acid burnt pillow, towel, dupatta and lantern from the place of occurrence and a memo was prepared.

During investigation, the name of the convict-appellant Vimal Kumar Maurya came into light and he was arrested by the police. Two other accused persons Sonu @ Santosh Kumar and Ved Prakash Yadav were also arrested, but subsequently a final report was submitted in their favour.

Charge under Section 326-A IPC was framed on 06.11.2014. The convict-appellant pleaded not guilty and claimed to be tried.

On the basis of oral and documentary evidence and after hearing the parties at length and also analysing the evidence of the defence, vide judgment and order dated 22.09.2014, the trial court recorded the conviction of the accused appellant under Section 326-A of IPC and sentenced him.

Rajiv Lochan Shukla, counsel appearing for the appellant has vehemently submitted that the conviction of the appellant is bad in the eyes of law and the trial court, without analyzing the evidence on record in an illegal and improper manner, has recorded the conviction of the appellant, which is not sustainable in the eyes of law. There was no evidence on record to prove that it was the appellant who was the author of the crime. He has not been identified on spot and all the recoveries relating to the incident are false and fabricated.

Prosecution case does not find support from the medical evidence. Even the injured witnesses are incapable of proving the prosecution case, as their evidence is shaky and full of contradictions. The place of occurrence is not defined and investigation is bitterly faulty. It is a case of false implication of the appellant and on the basis of the entire evidence on record, no guilt against the appellant is established and proved.

Counsel for the appellant further submitted that the lower court has neglected the defence evidence in an arbitrary manner. The findings recorded by the trial court in the impugned judgment and order are adverse to law and perverse warranting interference by the Appellate Court. Motive of the offence is also not proved.

On the other hand, Amit Sinha, A.G.A submitted that the trial court has made a proper and legal analysis of the evidence on record and the appellant has been rightly convicted. There is no illegality or infirmity in the impugned judgment and as such the same does not warrant any interference by the Appellate Court and the appeal is liable to be dismissed.

The Court noted that,

The arguments advanced by the parties take us through the statement of the prosecution witnesses and also the defence witnesses and at the same time through the documentary evidence adduced by the parties.

In his statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C, when incriminating evidence and circumstances were put to the accused, he has taken a plea of false implication and has stated that the case was registered against him due to enmity and also pleaded for defence evidence.

A written submission has also been made by the accused stating therein that the accused was arrested without any cogent and reliable evidence and the two accused persons Sonu @ Santosh Pal and Ved Prakash Yadav, whose name came into light during the course of investigation particularly on the basis of the statement of both the injured ladies, were not chargesheeted by the investigating officer rather a final report was submitted favouring them. No injured mentioned the name of the accused before the police and his name also does not find place in the F.I.R itself. He was not identified at the time of occurrence and the prosecution case is not supported by the medical evidence.

The Court observed that,

In the aforesaid circumstances, we also find that the circumstances regarding the treatment of acid burn injuries of both the injured ladies are fully established. Initially, the medical report of C.H.C, Badlapur and then of District Hospital, Jaunpur clearly showed that it was an acid burn case and the injuries were not normal. In that way the prosecution version finds corroboration from the medical evidence also and it is established that the injuries attributed on both the injured were caused by acid.

The other circumstances relating to the occurrence have been put into question by the counsel for the appellant. It has been argued that the prosecution evidence is self contradictory on the point as to by which means acid was thrown over the injured ladies. Both the injured ladies in their respective depositions have made contradictory statements in this regard and so is the case of deposition of the investigating officer of the case.

In our assessment, the prosecution evidence in this case does not meet the required degree of proof.

“Upon careful analysis and consideration of the settled legal position in the backdrop of the facts and circumstances of the case, we are of the considered opinion that the conclusion arrived at by the trial court in the impugned judgment is not in accordance with law and the evidence available on record. Thus, the Court is of the view that the prosecution has not been able to establish the guilt of the convict-appellant under Section 326-A IPC beyond reasonable doubt and to the satisfaction of the judicial conscience of the Court.

In Suchand Pal vs Phani Pal, 2004 SCC (Cri) 220, the Supreme Court held that if from the evidence on record and in the facts and circumstances of the case two views are possible, one pointing to the innocence of the accused and other to the guilt of the accused, the view which favours the accused should be preferred.

The trial court has erred in scrutinizing and analysing the evidence on record and the finding in respect of the guilt of appellant is perverse and not according to law. Therefore, we are inclined to grant benefit of doubt to the convict-appellant on the ground of rule of caution”, the Court further observed while allowing the criminal appeal.

“The order dated 22.09.2014 is, accordingly, set aside. The convict-appellant is given benefit of doubt and accordingly is found not guilty for the offence punishable under Section 326-A IPC. He is acquitted from the charge. Convict-appellant is in jail. He shall be released forthwith, if not wanted in any other case”, the Court ordered.

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