The Supreme Court has acquitted three people convicted for murdering a seven-year-old girl while stating that the prosecution has not been able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and the accused are entitled to the benefit of the doubt. (Yogesh and Others v. the State of Haryana)
A two-judge bench of Justices U.U. Lalit and Indira Banerjee noted, “There are, of course, circumstances like recovery of clothing apparel as well as tiffin box etc. belonging to the victim.”
“However, such recoveries by themselves, in the absence of any other material evidence on record pointing towards the guilt of the accused, cannot be termed sufficient to hold that the case was proved beyond reasonable doubt,” said the Court.
“Not only those circumstances are not conclusive in nature but they also do not form a cogent and consistent chain so as to exclude every other hypothesis except the guilt of the appellants,” the Court added.
The Court was hearing the appeal moved by three persons accused of murdering the girl after kidnapping her from outside her house while she and her brother were returning from school. It was alleged that the child was raped as the post-mortem report revealed injuries on genitalia indicative of forceful penetration of vagina. However, no semen was detected in vaginal swabs, as per the viscera report.
Initially, eight persons were arrested in connection with the FIR registered by the father of the deceased girl, for the offences punishable under Sections 302/364-A/376/216 read with Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The trial court in its order dated 13.07.2010, found that the charges under section 302/120B/34 IPC was proved against the four accused namely Yogesh, Sumit, Pardeep and Anuj. While the charges under Sections 364-A and 376 IPC were not proved against them and rest of the accused were not found guilty. The Trial Court had awarded life sentence to them and also imposed the fine. The order of the trial court was upheld by the High Court. Following which the three accused challenged the judgment of the High Court before the Supreme Court. Fourth accused was on bail and during the pendency of the appeal and after its dismissal, has gone absconding.
“No appeal was preferred by the State challenging the acquittal of other four accused or against the acquittal of the convicted accused in respect of the charges under sections 364-A and 376 IPC,” noted the Apex Court. It also noted that the evidence on record discloses that out of the three witnesses, who were stated to be eye-witnesses, two witnesses turned hostile and did not support the case of the prosecution.
The Apex Court allowed the appeal and while relying on the principles regarding the law on the point of circumstantial evidence as laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of “Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. the State of Maharashtra”, (1984) 4 SCC 116, noted further that the circumstances from which the guilt of the accused is to be drawn should be fully established. However, the circumstantial evidence recorded in the present case are non-conclusive in nature and do not form a cogent and consistent chain so as to exclude every other hypothesis except the guilt of the appellants.
Read the Judgment here;23221-2014-34-101-27362-Judgement-06-Apr-2021