Friday, June 2, 2023

SC Says Conviction Based On Uncorroborated Testimony Of Accomplice Is Untenable

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The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday held that conviction based on uncorroborated testimony of accomplice to the crime is untenable as the same is against the provision of law.

The observation came in while Supreme Court was hearing criminal appeal filed by the convicts accused of kidnapping and murder of ex-MLA of Tamil Nadu assembly. The prosecution story is that M.K. Balan, who was an Ex. M.L.A. was reported to be missing by his son after he went for his morning walk on 30.12.2001. On carrying out inquiry, the police received information and subsequently accused were arrested wherein they confessed the kidnapping and subsequent death of the MLA.

The case was heard by a three-judge bench following a reference from a division bench which gave the split verdict in the case on the issue of difference of opinion on section 133 and Section 114 of Evidence Act.

The bench comprising of Justice RF Nariman, Justice KM Joseph & Justice V. Ramasubramanian, placing reliance on recent judgement passed in K. Hashim vs. State of Tamil Nadu, wherein it was held that :-

  • It is not necessary that there should be independent confirmation of every material circumstance in the sense that the independent evidence in the case, apart from the testimony of the complainant or the accomplice, should in itself be sufficient to sustain conviction.
  • All that is required is that there must be some additional evidence rendering it probable that the story of the accomplice (or complainant) is true and that it is reasonably safe to act upon it.
  • Secondly, the independent evidence must not only make it safe to believe that the crime was committed but must in some way reasonably connect or tend to connect the accused with it by confirming in some material particular the testimony of the accomplice or complainant that the accused committed the crime. This does not mean that the corroboration as to identification must extend to all the circumstances necessary to identify the accused with the offence.
  • Thirdly, the corroboration must come from independent sources and thus ordinarily the testimony of one accomplice would not be sufficient to corroborate that of another. But of course the circumstances may be such as to make it safe to dispense with the necessity of corroboration and in those special circumstances a conviction so based would not be illegal.
  • Fourthly, the corroboration need not be direct evidence that the accused committed the crime. It is sufficient if it is merely circumstantial evidence of his connection with the crime.

The Supreme Court held that the combined result of Sections 133 read with illustration (b) to Section 114 of Evidence Act is that the Courts have evolved, as a rule of prudence, the requirement that it would be unsafe to convict an accused solely based on uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice. The evidence of an accomplice must point to the involvement of a particular accused.

The Supreme Court observed that the presumption of trial court against the accused was in conformity with law and thus no case was made out by the appellants accused as a result the criminal appeals were dismissed.

-India Legal Bureau

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