26 October 2020


Supreme Court

State of Himachal Pradesh Vs. Raj Kumar




Proved circumstances must be consistent only with hypothesis of guilt of Accused and totally inconsistent with his innocence

Present appeal preferred by the State challenges the judgment of the High Court acquitting the Respondent under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) by setting aside his conviction and the sentence of life imprisonment imposed upon him by the trial court. Based upon the evidence, the trial court held that deceased suffered harassment at the hands of her brother-in-law (Respondent-Accused). The trial Court held that, Jeewan Lal (PW-1) son of the deceased had spoken about the overt act of the Accused in beating the deceased and that the Accused taking away Meena Devi from the house. The trial court held that, no reasonable explanation was forth coming from the Accused for the death of the deceased who was living jointly with the Respondent-Accused. On those findings, the trial court convicted the Respondent-Accused.

Prosecution case is based on circumstantial evidence. It is well settled that, in a case based on circumstantial evidence, the circumstances from which an inference of guilt is sought to be drawn must be cogently and firmly established and that those circumstances must be conclusive in nature unerringly pointing towards the guilt of the accused. Moreover, all the circumstances taken cumulatively should form a complete chain and there should be no gap left in the chain of evidence. Further, the proved circumstances must be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the Accused and totally inconsistent with his innocence. In a case, based on circumstantial evidence, the inference of guilt can be drawn only when all the incriminating facts and circumstances are found to be incompatible with the innocence of the accused.

While appreciating the evidence of a witness, the approach must be whether the evidence of the witness read as a whole appears to be truthful in the given circumstances of the case. Once that impression is formed, it is necessary for the court to scrutinize the evidence more particularly keeping in view the drawbacks and infirmities pointed out in the evidence and evaluate them to find out whether it is against the general tenor of the prosecution case. Jeewan Lal (PW-1) is the son of the deceased residing with her and the Accused in the same house, and a natural witness to speak about the occurrence. Evidence of PW-1 is cogent and natural and is consistent with the prosecution case. The High Court was not right in doubting the evidence of PW-1 on the ground of alleged improvements made by Jeewan Lal (PW-1) and rejecting his evidence on the premise that there were certain improvements.

Deceased was last seen alive in the company of Accused and the Accused did not satisfactorily explain the missing of deceased and the same is a strong militating circumstance against the accused. Decesded who was residing in the same house with the Accused and was last seen alive with the accused, it is for him to explain how the deceased died. The Accused has no reasonable explanation as to how the body of deceased was found hanging from the tree.

When conviction is based on circumstantial evidence, there should not be any gap in the chain of circumstances; the Accused is entitled to the benefit of doubt. In the present case, by cogent and convincing evidence, prosecution has established the circumstances:(i) Motive (evidence of PW-15); (ii) Accused beating the deceased and taking her away (Evidence of PW-1); (iii) Death of deceased is homicidal (evidence of PW-24); (iv) Conduct of Accused in not reporting to the police about missing of the deceased; and (v) Absence of explanation from the Accused as to the death of the deceased. The circumstances relied upon by the prosecution are proved by cogent and reliable evidence. The circumstances cumulatively taken form a complete chain pointing out that the murder was committed by the Accused and none-else.

In the appeal, the High Court has not properly appreciated the evidence and intrinsic worth of testimony of prosecution witnesses and the formidable circumstances established by the prosecution against the accused. The High Court entertained fanciful doubts and rejected the credible evidence of Jeewan Lal (PW-1) on slender grounds. Due to mis-appreciation of evidence, the High Court set aside the conviction and caused a miscarriage of justice. Reasonings of the High Court for acquitting the Accused are unsustainable and the impugned judgment cannot be sustained. The impugned judgment is set aside. The conviction of the Respondent under Section 302 of IPC and the sentence of life imprisonment imposed on him by the trial Court are affirmed. The appeal is allowed.

Tags : Acquittal Validity Evidence Credibility

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