17 June 2024


Judgments

Supreme Court

Bhupatbhai Bachubhai Chavda and Ors. Vs. State of Gujarat (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 295)

MANU/SC/0303/2024

10.04.2024

Criminal

Appellate Court cannot overturn order of acquittal only on basis that another view is possible

In present case, the Appellants, who are father and son, were prosecuted for the offence punishable under Section 302, read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). By judgment, the Sessions Court acquitted the Appellants. Being aggrieved by the judgment of the Sessions Court, the Respondent - State preferred an appeal against acquittal before the High Court. By the impugned judgment, the High Court interfered and converted the acquittal of the Appellants into a conviction for the offence punishable under Section 302, read with Section 34 and Section 323 of the IPC.

Appellate Court can interfere with the order of acquittal only if it is satisfied after reappreciating the evidence that the only possible conclusion was that the guilt of the Accused had been established beyond a reasonable doubt. The Appellate Court cannot overturn order of acquittal only on the ground that another view is possible. The judgment of acquittal must be found to be perverse. Unless the Appellate Court records such a finding, no interference can be made with the order of acquittal. The High Court has ignored the well-settled principle that, an order of acquittal further strengthens the presumption of innocence of the Accused. High Court has not addressed itself on the main question.

The High Court has gone to the extent of recording a finding that the Appellants have failed to adduce evidence in their support, failed to examine the defence witness and failed to establish falsity of the prosecution's version. This concept of the burden of proof is entirely wrong. Unless, under the relevant penal statute, there is a negative burden put on the Accused or there is a reverse onus clause, the Accused is not required to discharge any burden. In a case where there is a statutory presumption, after the prosecution discharges initial burden, the burden of rebuttal may shift on the Accused. In the absence of the statutory provisions as above, in this case, the burden was on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the Accused beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the High Court's finding on the burden of proof is completely erroneous. It is contrary to the law of the land.

As is apparent from Section 162 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC), statements recorded by police under Section 161 of the CrPC cannot be used for any purpose except to contradict the witness. The Trial Court gives several reasons for discarding the testimony of PW-4. His prior enmity with the Appellants and his failure to report the incident to the police, notwithstanding available opportunities, are also the factors considered by the Trial Court.

Therefore, the finding of the Trial Court that, the evidence of PW-4 did not inspire confidence is a possible finding which could have been recorded on the basis of the evidence on record. There was no reason for the High Court to overturn the order of acquittal when the findings of the Trial Court were possible findings that could be arrived at after reappreciating evidence. The judgment and order of the High Court is set aside. The judgment and order dated of the Trial Court is restored. Appeal allowed.

Tags : Conviction Evidence Credibility

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