When trial court has recorded a finding of not proving the guilt, the Appellate Court should interfere only if the findings are perverse and are not possible by any reasonable person


[Case Brief] Shri Satish Kumar & Anr V/s The State of Himachal Pradesh

Case name: Shri Satish Kumar & Anr V/s The State of Himachal Pradesh

Case number: Criminal Appeal No. 19 of 2017, Criminal Appeal No. 1109 of 2016.

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench: Justice Hemant Gupta

Uday Umesh Lalit, J

Indu Malhotra, J

Decided on: March 02, 2020.

Relevant Act/Sections: Section 302, 34 of Indian Penal code, 1860, Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, section 5, 25, 27, 30 of the Arms Act, 1959, Section 389 of code of Criminal Procedure, 1973


BRIEF FACTSAND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

1. On 22nd December, 2009 at about 07:15 hours, an information (Ex PW 15- A) was received by Ram Singh (PW-15), Inspector, on phone said to be by Satish Kumar son of Kanshi Ram, that Ratti Ram son of late Shri Roshan Lal, had died due to gun shot.

2. On receiving such information, a Police team led by the Station House Officer of Police Station Ghumarwin proceeded towards the place of occurrence. Subsequently, on the statement of Neelam Sharma (PW-1), daughter of deceased Ratti Ram, FIR No. 218 was registered on 22nd December, 2009 at about 14:05 hours.

3. Neelam Sharma had stated that her father left home at about 8 am on 21st December, 2009 informing her that he would go to the house of Karma at Village Chujala and thereafter he would go to attend his duty at Village Harlog. But when he did not return till 6 pm, she called on his mobile number but mobile was switched off.

4. She called in the morning to the Forest Guard to inquire about her father who told her that her father had not come there to join the duty. Thereafter, she made telephone call to accused Satish Kumar, whose house is in front of her house and sought phone number of Karma, resident of Village Chujala. The Police came to her house on 22nd December, 2009, when she came to know that her father had died due to gun shot by Satish Kumar and Rajeev Kumar and the body of his father is lying at Balh Churani forest. The motive of murder was said to be land dispute with Satish Kumar pending in Shimla High Court

5. Criminal Appeal No. 19 of 2017 is preferred by Satish Kumar and Rajeev Kumar whereas Criminal Appeal No 1109 of 2016 is preferred by Lekh Ram, against common judgment of the High Court of Himachal Pradesh dated 20th September, 2016 whereby the appeal filed by the complainant was allowed and the order of acquittal passed by the learned trial court on 30th November, 2012 was set aside.


ISSUE BEFORE THE COURT:

1) Whether the High Court was correct in setting aside the order of acquittal of the learned lower court?

2) Whether the prosecution has successfully proved the role of the accused in causing the death of the deceased?

3) Whether the prosecution had recovered the dead body prior to recording of the confessional statements of the accused?


RATIO OF THE COURT:

1) The learned counsel for the appellant argued that this Court in Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra(1984) 4 SCC 116, delineated the conditions, which must be fulfilled before a case against an accused can be said to be established on the basis of circumstances.

2) They also relied on Brajendrasingh v. State of M.P., this Court held that the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn should be fully established and should also be consistent with only one hypothesis i.e. the guilt of the accused. The circumstances should be conclusive and proved by the prosecution. There must be a chain of events so complete so as not to leave any substantial doubt in the mind of the Court.

3) The court observed that There is no direct evidence as to the use of licensed gun of Lekh Ram, though the gun along with empty and live cartridges were recovered on the statement of Rajeev Kumar. It is not possible to conclusively hold that it was either Rajeev Kumar or Satish Kumar who fired upon the deceased. In the absence of the evidence as to which of the two accused fired upon the deceased, the accused cannot be convicted only on the basis of recovery of gun used in the commission of crime.

4) The court also observed that Section 27 of the Act provides for punishment if whoever uses any arms or ammunition in contravention of Section 5 of the said Act. Again, none of the conditions mentioned in Section 5 are attracted towards any of the accused including Lekh Ram. At best, there could be an allegation of violation of conditions of licenc but, none of the accused have been charged for violation under Section 30 of the Act. Therefore, none of the accused is liable for conviction for any offence under the Act. In a case based upon circumstantial evidence motive is relevant but the prosecution has failed to prove any motive on the part of the accused.

5) The court finally held we find that the High Court interfered with the findings of acquittal even though the conclusion drawn by the trial court is a possible conclusion on the basis of evidence on record.

6) The court found that the prosecution has failed to prove the role of accused in causing death of the deceased Ratti Ram inasmuch as the recovery of dead body in pursuance of similar disclosure statements made by accused Satish Kumar and Rajeev Kumar is not proved. In the absence of any evidence led by the prosecution as to who fired the fatal shot, the benefit of doubt must go to the accused persons and was rightly granted by the learned trial court.


DECISION HELD BY COURT:

1. The court found that the order of the High Court convicting the appellants is wholly illegal, unwarranted and unjust. The conviction of the appellants for the offences punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC and Sections 25 and 27 of the Act is set aside.

2. Accordingly, both the appeals are allowed. The order of acquittal recorded by the trial court is restored. The bail bonds shall stand discharged. All the accused be set at liberty, if not wanted in any other case.

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