10 June 2024


Supreme Court

Sachin Kumar Singhraha Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh




Benefit of doubt given to an Accused must always be reasonable and not fanciful

In present matter, the First Additional Sessions Judge, vide judgment convicted the Accused/Appellant for the offences punishable under Sections 363, 376(A), 302 and 201(II) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and Section 5(i)(m) read with Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) and sentenced him to death.

The judgment of the Trial Court was confirmed by the High Court except in respect of the offence under Section 363 of IPC acquitting Accused under Section 363 of IPC. These appeals are presented by the convicted accused.

The circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn must or "should be" and not merely "may be" fully established. The facts so established should be consistent only with the guilt of the accused, they should not be explicable through any other hypothesis except that the Accused was guilty. Moreover, the circumstances should be conclusive in nature. There must be a chain of evidence so complete, so as to not leave any reasonable ground for a conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused, and must show that in all human probability, the offence was committed by the accused.

The Trial Court as well as the High Court has rightly concluded that, the prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt for the offence with which the Accused/Appellant was charged. All the circumstances relied upon by the prosecution are proved beyond reasonable doubt and consequently the chain of circumstances is so complete so as to not leave any doubt in the mind of the Court.

Though certain discrepancies in the evidence and procedural lapses have been brought on record, the same would not warrant giving the benefit of doubt to the Accused/Appellant. Justice cannot be made sterile by exaggerated adherence to the Rule of proof, as the benefit of doubt given to an Accused must always be reasonable, and not fanciful.

As has been well settled, life imprisonment is the Rule to which the death penalty is the exception. The death sentence must be imposed only when life imprisonment appears to be an altogether inappropriate punishment, having regard to the relevant facts and circumstances of the crime. As held by present Court in the case of Santosh Kumar Singh v. State through C.B.I., sentencing is a difficult task and often vexes the mind of the Court, but where the option is between life imprisonment and a death sentence, if the Court itself feels some difficulty in awarding one or the other, it is only appropriate that the lesser punishment be awarded.

Accused/Appellant has committed a heinous offence in a premeditated manner, as is indicated by the false pretext given to PW4 to gain custody of the victim. He not only abused the faith reposed in him by the PW4, but also exploited the innocence and helplessness of a child as young as five years of age. At the same time, the probability of reform of the Accused/Appellant is not low, in the absence of prior offending history and keeping in mind his overall conduct.

Therefore, with regard to the totality of the facts and circumstances of the case, the crime in question may not fall under the category of cases where the death sentence is necessarily to be imposed. However, the sentence of life imprisonment simpliciter would be grossly inadequate in the instant case. Accordingly, it is deemed proper to impose a sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum of 25 years' imprisonment (without remission). The imprisonment of about four years as already undergone by the Accused/Appellant shall be set off. The judgment and order of the High Court affirming the conviction of the Accused/Appellant stands confirmed. However, the sentence is modified. The appeals are disposed of accordingly.


Santosh Kumar Singh v. State through C.B.I., MANU/SC/0801/2010

Tags : Conviction Sentence Validity

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