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Material contradictions in deposition of witness of disclosure statements; SC Acquitted the accused



ANWAR ALI AND ANOTHER v. THE STATE OF HIMACHAL PRADESH, CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1121 OF 2016, September 25, 2020, New Delhi.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice M.R. Shah pronounced that the reversion of order of acquittal by the High Court made by the Trial Court was not justified and hence held that the accused-appellants were not guilty.

The appellants were charged for the offences under Section 302 read with 34, 392, 420 and 201 of IPC for murdering one Deepak. The dead body was found near the Bihali bypass, Chandigarh and was seen by the PW4, Jashwinder Singh and he informed in the Bhunter police station. Police recorded the statement of PW4 and sent the same through Constable Pushparaj, PW2 and FIR was also filed by Head Constable Tara Chand. The investigation was carried out by PW18, investigating officer and the dead body was sent to post mortem.

On receiving information about a jeep lying in abandoned condition at Chandigarh the IO along with the other police went and recovered it. On checking the jeep, the officers recovered an envelope containing a mobile phone, three photographs and the documents of the jeep. With the detected mobile number and recovered photographs the accused were searched and were arrested. Further during the investigation a knife and rope were recovered which were used in the commission of the offence. IO filed a charge sheet against the accused for aforesaid offences.

The question of law is whether the High Court relied on the facts and evidence of the Trial Court before reversing the order of acquittal?

The prosecution relied upon the disclosure statements and the things recovered before and after investigation before the Trial Court. And hence the case was based on circumstantial evidence and not direct evidence before the Trial Court. The learned Trial Court found that the prosecution withheld the material information with respect to sniffer dogs and on appreciation of evidence found that the recoveries were made earlier and the panchnama of the same were prepared subsequently on which PW5 and PW6 put their signatures (para 2.1). Hence the Trial Court acquitted both the accused as the prosecution failed to prove the complete chain of events and stated that it was a case of circumstantial events.

The appeal was made by the State and the order of acquittal passed by the Trial Court was reversed and the accused were punishable under Sections 302 read with 34, 392, 420 and 201 of IPC. The High Court has sentenced the appellants- original accused to undergo life imprisonment under Section 302 and 34, IPC (para 2.2). And the High Court also imposed fines and imprisonment as per the other sections of IPC. Feeling aggrieved with the impugned judgment of the passed by the High Court in reversing the order of acquittal the accused preferred the present appeal.

The learned counsel on behalf of the appellants-accused made the following submissions:

  • The counsel stated that the High Court has exceeded in its Jurisdiction in reversing the order of acquittal passed by the Trial Court.

  • The learned Trial Court gave a specific finding on doubtful disclosure of statements and disbelieved on the appreciation of evidence on the recovery of knife and rope.

  • It made the prosecution case on full doubt by the conduct of IO not taking the help of jurisdictional police for conducting an investigation as required under section 166(3) Cr. P. C. The IO did not try to find the real culprit by finding the call details of the recovered mobile and did not even investigate any independent witness and did not investigate the father of the deceased.

  • It was stated that the learned Trial Court rightly acquitted the accused which ought not to have interfered by the High Court.

  • The counsel thus by above submission and relying on the decisions of this Court in few cases such as Babu v. State of Kerala, Banareddy v. State of Karnataka, and few other cases and prayed to set aside the judgement passed by the High Court and restore the order of acquittal passed by the Trial Court.

This appeal was opposed by the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent whose argument was as follows:

· The re-appreciation of the entire evidence by the first appellant Court is permissible and it was submitted that in the present case the High Court after re-appreciation of the entire evidence on record found the accused guilty.

  • It was stated that the High Court made reappraisal on every evidence and mainly the deposition of PW1, PW3, PW4, PW5, PW11 and PW18.

  • And it was also stated that the non- compliance of the provisions of section 100(4) Cr.P.C. and other related provisions were concerned and it was submitted that none of the spectators had come forward to act as a witness in the matter.

  • The case of Ronny v. State of Maharashtra was stated where the Court held that even if the witness has been brought by the investigating agency along with them, they cannot disbelieve on the ground (para 4.4).

  • The counsel for respondent-State also stated that the non-compliance of section 100(4)Cr.P.C although can be treated as a defective investigation but cannot come under in the way of the dispensation of justice and the case of C. Muniappan v. State of TamilNadu was cited were heavy reliance was placed by this Court.

  • It was held that defective investigation if any does not vitiate the trial in the case of State of Punjab v. Balbir Singh (para 4.5).

  • It was also stated that the reliance is placed upon the decision of this Court in the case of G. Parashwanath v. State of Karnataka.

  • Therefore making the above submissions it was prayed to dismiss the present appeal.

Thus after going through the order of acquittal by the Trial Court and order of the High Court reversing the same, the Supreme Court held that in this case the scope and the ambit of section 378 Cr. P. C and the interfere by the High Court in an appeal against acquittal is required to be considered (para 5.2). The Court stated the case of Kuldeep Singh v. The Commissioner of Police that if there is some evidence on record which is acceptable and which could be relied upon, the conclusion would not be treated as perverse and the findings would not be interfered (para 5.2.3).

The Court also in the recent decision of Vijay Mohan Singh case had an occasion to consider the scope of section 378 Cr.P.C (para 5.3). It was held that this is not a case of circumstantial evidence. The Court thus stated that the prosecution as failed to deserve the motive and the accused deserves acquittal is concerned. The Court also held the case of Suresh Chandra Bahri v. State of Bihar where it was held that if motive is proved that would supply a link in the chain of circumstantial evidence but the absence cannot be the ground to reject the prosecution case (para 9).

The Apex Court held that,

However, it is required to be noted that on appreciation of the entire evidence on record, the Trial Court found material contradictions in the deposition of the witness of disclosure statements and the recovery of knife, rope, crates on the basis of disclosure statements made by the accused and too recovered on 9.9.2020. However, the High Court without giving any congent reasons has interfered with the findings of fact recorded by the learned Trial Court solely by observing that those contradictions were minor contradictions and therefore the learned Trial Court was not justified in acquitting and accused solely on the basis of such minor contradictions. However, on considering the entire evidence on record, we are in complete agreement with the view taken by the learned Trial Court (para 6.1).

Therefore the present appeal succeeds. The accused-Appellants be set at liberty forthwith, if not required in any other case.

K. Ilakkiya

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