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Unless the acquittals were vitiated by manifest illegality the Court shall not set aside the acquitt

SHAILENDRA RAJDEV PASVAN AND OTHERS V. STATE OF GUJARAT, ETC., CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 333-334 OF 2017 – On 13th December 2019

The appeal claimed by Shailendra Rajdev Pasvan in the case, Shailendra Rajdev Pasvan and others v. State of Gujarat was allowed by the Supreme Court under the bench comprising of Justice N.V. RAMANA, Justice SANJIV KHANNA and Justice KRISHNA MURARI.

The complainant’s 9 years son was arrested by the appellant on 4th February by the information and complaint given by the complainant. Appellant 2 and 3 were also arrested by the police for committing the murder of the 9 years old boy Arjun. The trial court acquitted the accused from the charges as there was no eyewitness, the entire case is based only on the circumstantial evidence. The appeal in the high court was allowed and the accused were punished, now the appeal was brought to the SC.

The question of law is whether the circumstantial evidence is enough to convict the accused when there is no eyewitness? Whether the theory of last seen is well established by the witnesses and extra-judicial confession is also in question?

The circumstantial evidence was given by (PW-28) , (PW-29) and that factual evidence was irrelevant. The evidence was also shaky as they were the neighbors of the complainant who did not inform the police. From this unreliable evidence, the court felt that the theory of last seen fails and is rejected as feeble and untrustworthy evidence.

Police recovered the dead body of Arjun in a decomposed stage and the postmortem report had some points which lead to the doubt whether it was Arjun, so the court said that the recovery of the dead body alone will not support the confession made by the appellants.

The SC held that,

“In this background, the version of the prosecution cannot sustain, and recovery of the dead body of Arjun cannot be attributed to the disclosure statements made by the appellants.”

There are two-fold requirements to be fulfilled when the entire case is based upon circumstantial evidence,

Every link in the chain of the circumstances necessary to establish the guilt of the accused must be established by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt.

All the circumstances must be consistent pointing only towards the guilt of the accused.

Another point in proving circumstantial evidence is there time lapse between the death of the deceased and the period on which the deceased and the accused are seen together should be least possible so that the possibility of a  person interfering in the causing the death of the deceased is disqualified.

The SC said that the Trail court has rightly refused to accept the evidence which was given by the witnesses as they were some contradicting and unexplained information are provided. Further, the court added “the High Court committed an error of law in placing reliance upon the evidence of the aforesaid two witnesses. The High Court also failed to take into account the time gap between the point when the Accused Appellant No.1 and deceased were seen together and when the death is alleged to have occurred.” The link of the chain, in which all the factual evidence given by the witnesses should be against the accused is not coupled properly in this case and so the accused has found guilt beyond doubt.

When it comes to the extra-judicial confession made by the appellant no 1 in front of the neighbors of the complainant was answered by the SC that such confession may be out of fear or coercion or pressure. The SC made this aspect by referring to the case, Jagroop Singh v. State of Punjab.

The SC held that, “This Court cannot accept that the conviction of the appellants can be sustained on the basis of such a confession.”

The trial court in the opinion of the Supreme Court has rightly passed the order that all the accused were acquitted and so this court has revised the order passed by the High Court by upholding the order of the Trial Court, acquitting the appellants.

The Court allowed the appeals and set aside the conviction and sentences of the appellants.

–  Manusri Ramakrishna

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