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It is the quality of evidence that matters and not the quantity : SC

Duleshwar and Anr. Vs. State of M.P. (Now Chhattisgarh), Criminal Appeal No.1813 of 2017 with Criminal Appeal No. 1814, 1815 of 2017 – January 21, 2020.

The Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice A.M.Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari dismissed the criminal appeals accordingly.

Facts:

The appellants are the accused in the offence u/s 147, 148, 302/149 and 325 of the Indian Penal Code. They are seven in number and were tried together with several other co-accused persons in 2 incidents. One leaving PW1 with grievous injuries and another which led to the death of Govind Singh for a civil issue relating to demarcation of ridges in the fields. 18 were accused but then 8 were acquitted by the Trial Court stating that the charges against them are not proved beyond reasonable doubt. The convicted were awarded various sentences, including life imprisonment. Except A9, others filed an appeal in the High Court against their conviction. A revision petition was filed by the complainant against the appeals of the accused. Both the appeal and the revision petition were dismissed. Therefore, these appeals are made in the Supreme Court by 7 of the accused. These appeals are made in questioning about their conviction u/s 302/149 and reliability of the evidence of the prosecution.

The issue raised  before the Court is whether there is cogent evidence about the accused involvement in the crime?

The leaned counsel for the appellants mainly focused on the charge u/s 302/149. He stated that the eye witness and the other prosecution witnesses did not mention the names of the accused but only stated a vague number of the members seen in the scene. This is not enough to prove that the accused were present during the incident.

The counsel for the State argued that all the accused appellants have been identified by the witness. The learned counsel has also relied upon the decision in Paulmeli v. State of Tamil Nadu: (2014) 13 SCC 90 to submit that even the testimony of a hostile witness cannot be rejected in toto as the evidentiary value of his testimony is not lost and can be accepted to the extent that the version is found corroborated with other material evidence.

The counsel also stated by minor discrepancies in the statement of eye witnesses need not be taken into account. Lastly, the counsel relied upon the judgment of Lalji vs. State of UP and submitted that once it is found that the accused persons formed an unlawful assembly and committed the offence, every person of such assembly would remain liable and no proof is required.

The Court held that  it is the quality of evidence that matters and not the quantity; and even the testimony of a single witness may be sufficient to establish the identity of an accused as member of an unlawful assembly but, when the size of assembly is quite large and many persons have witnessed the incident; and when a witness deposes in general terms, it would be useful to adopt the test of consistency of more than one witness so as to remove any doubt about identity of an accused as a member of the assembly in question.

Therefore, conviction is beyond reasonable doubt and the charges remain unexceptionable and all the appeals filed by the accused-appellants are dismissed.

View/ Download the Judgments: Duleshwar and Anr. Vs. State of M.P.

–  Vydurya Selvi Baskaran

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