Sunday, June 12, 2011

“Circumstantial evidence must be inconsistent with innocence of accused”

Whenever a murder case rests upon circumstantial evidence, such evidence should not only be consistent with the guilt of the accused but should also be inconsistent with his innocence, the Madras High Court Bench here has said.

A Division Bench of Justices S. Rajeswaran and G.M. Akbar Ali made the observation while setting aside the conviction and life sentence imposed on a hawker accused of killing another hawker, involved in the business of purchasing and selling old newspapers and iron scrap, owing to a dispute between them over sharing a weighing scale.

Writing the judgment for the Bench, Mr. Justice Ali stressed that the circumstantial evidence must be complete and incapable of explanation of any other hypothesis than the guilt of the accused. The circumstances from which an inference of guilt was sought to be drawn must be established cogently and firmly. The circumstances, taken cumulatively, should form a chain so complete that there was no escape from the conclusion that within all human probability the crime was committed by the accused and none else. In the present case, the police had failed to establish the motive behind the crime beyond reasonable doubt, the Bench said.

Stating that the prosecution had failed to produce direct or corroborative evidence for the motive which was “admittedly very flimsy and remote,” the judges said: “If the motive is so strong and the enmity is so explicit, why the deceased had voluntarily accompanied the appellant to a remote place where he was done to death? This was not explained by the prosecution.”

According to the Kottar police in Kanyakumari district, the two hawkers were originally earning their livelihood in Coimbatore. One of them went to Nagercoil, his wife's native district, after handing over his weighing scale and weights to the other.

After reaching Nagercoil, he decided to settle down there and demanded the return of the weighing scale from the other hawker who refused to give it back. Following the dispute, the appellant got enraged and allegedly committed the murder on December 8, 2002.

Subsequently, on July, 30, 2004, the Principal District and Sessions Judge at Nagercoil convicted the appellant under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

He was also ordered to pay a fine of Rs.100 or undergo one more month of imprisonment.

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