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Supreme Court acquits murder convict over prosecution failure to prove motive

The bench of Justices R.F. Nariman and B.R. Gavai was hearing the appeal filed by a man accused of murdering his wife.

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The Supreme Court has acquitted a convict undergoing life imprisonment under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code stating that the prosecution has utterly failed to prove motive beyond doubt.

The bench of Justices R.F. Nariman and B.R. Gavai was hearing the appeal filed by a man accused of murdering his wife. According to the prosecution, the appellant was addicted to liquor and used to abuse and beat the deceased forcing her to get money from her mother.

On March 23, 2003, the accused and deceased went to sleep in their house. At the dawn of next day, his brother gave a call to the appellant so that they could go to their field for harvesting jawar crops. The accused opened the door and expressed his inability to accompany him to the field stating that his wife had committed suicide by hanging.

Later, the brother gave information to the police about the incident, following which a crime case was registered for the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC. The accused claimed trial. Later, the accused was found guilty and convicted for the murder of his wife and sentenced to life imprisonment. His appeal was also rejected by the High Court. Following which the accused has challenged the Order of High Court before the Supreme Court.

The Apex Court has noted that in the present case, the medical expert has admitted that in both the cases of suicidal or homicidal hanging, the ligature marks around the neck shall go upwards ears. He also concluded that it was a case of hanging. He has further admitted, that in the case of homicidal strangulation, the bodily resistance would have been reflected.

The Court further noted that the case of the prosecution entirely rests upon the circumstantial evidence. As well as the counsel of the accused has submitted that unless and until the prosecution proves its case beyond all reasonable doubt, the conviction in a case of circumstantial evidence would not be warranted. He said that merely on the basis of suspicion, the conviction would not be sustainable.

Whereas the Counsel for the State vehemently opposed the submissions and said that the law with regard to conviction on the basis of circumstantial evidence has been very well crystallized in the judgment passed by the Apex Court in “Sharad Birdhichand Sarda Vs The State of Maharashtra”.

The Top Court said that in the present case admittedly there are no marks on the body that would suggest violence or struggle.

“In any case, the medical expert himself has not ruled out the possibility of suicidal death. On the contrary, the post-mortem report shows that the cause of the death was ‘asphyxia due to hanging’,”

-said the Court.

The Court held, “In the light of this evidence, we find, that the trial court, as well as the High Court, have erred in holding, that the prosecution has proved that the death of the deceased was homicidal.”

The Court also explained the scope of Section 106 Evidence Act. The Court said “that it is well-settled that Section 106 of the Evidence Act does not directly operate against either a husband or wife staying under the same roof and being the last person seen with the deceased. Section 106 of the Evidence Act does not absolve the prosecution of discharging its primary burden of proving the prosecution case beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is only when the prosecution has led evidence which, if believed, will sustain a conviction, or which makes out a prima facie case, that the question arises of considering facts of which the burden of proof would lie upon the accused.”

The Court has further said,

“Another circumstance relied upon by the prosecution is, that the appellant failed to give any explanation in his statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C. By now it is a well-settled principle of law, that false explanation or non-explanation can only be used as an additional circumstance when the prosecution has proved the chain of circumstances leading to no other conclusion than the guilt of the accused. However, it cannot be used as a link to complete the chain.”

The Supreme Court has said that the High Court and the trial court have failed to take into consideration the evidence of the witnesses. “Though in a case of direct evidence, the motive would not be relevant, in a case of circumstantial evidence, motive plays an important link to complete the chain of circumstances. The motive relied on by the prosecution is the ill-treatment by the appellant meted out to the deceased for not arranging the money from her mother. In this respect, the prosecution relies on the evidence of PW-3-Anandi, mother of the deceased,” it said.

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The Court held, “In the present case, we are of the considered view that the prosecution has utterly failed to prove motive beyond doubt. As such, an important link to complete the chain of circumstances is totally absent in the present case.”

“In the present case, we are of the considered view that let alone establishing chain of events which are so interwoven to each other leading to no other conclusion than the guilt of the accused, the prosecution has failed even to prove a single incriminating circumstance beyond reasonable doubt. As such, the appeal is allowed and the conviction and sentence passed by the trial court as affirmed by the High Court is set aside. The appellant is acquitted of all the charges and he is directed to be released forthwith if not required in any other case,”

-said the Court.

SC-March-3

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