The Calcutta High Court has acquitted two men who were convicted by the Trial Court in the case of an acid attack on two girls in their house.

The Court while deciding the appeal acquitted the two convicts on the ground that their conviction cannot be based on suspicious circumstances.

A Division Bench of Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice Ajay Kumar Gupta held, “On the basis of suspicious circumstances, appellant cannot be held guilty. Suspicion, howsoever high, cannot take the place of proof of guilt. Accordingly, appellant is entitled to the benefit of doubt and ought to be acquitted. Therefore, I find that prosecution failed to bring home the charges against the appellant beyond the reasonable doubts either by direct or circumstantial evidence.”

The Bench also noted that how the appellant and his friend entered the room at night where the victims were sleeping and how they threw acid on them is not clear from the prosecution witnesses and that their suspicion or belief does not constitute proof.

Advocate Amitabha Karmakar appeared on behalf of the appellant while Advocate Parthapratim Das appeared for the State.

Facts of the Case –

After having dinner, the victim started shouting and the parents of the complainant immediately switched on the electric light and noticed the face, breast of her sister, and the belly, hand, and leg of her daughter were burnt extensively with blisters. It was suffocating in the whole room by the essence of carbolic acid.

Both the girls were admitted to the hospital in serious condition and it was further alleged that the appellant and his friend used to tease the victim in various manners while going to school on the road. The appellant used to propose her for marriage but she rejected the same due to which he used to express that if she does not marry him he would make her such a condition that no man in the world would marry her and also expressed that human beings would be frightened by seeing her face.

The family members had arranged the marriage of the victim and alleged that because of this, the appellant had committed such a crime.

The Trial Court in this regard convicted and sentenced the appellant and his friend to suffer rigorous imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of Rs. 30,000/- under Section 326A/34 of the Indian Penal Code. The matter was therefore before the High Court.

The High Court observed, “Upon careful perusal of the evidence and judgment delivered by the trial Court, I find the trial Court had relied on the version of witnesses mainly victims as well as doctors who were examined as P.Ws. 2, 7, 8 and 9. Most of the witnesses had turned hostile. Even the family members of victims who were present at the place of occurrence did not support the case of the prosecution.”

It was further noted by the Court that in a case resting on circumstantial evidence, the circumstances put forward must be satisfactorily proved and those circumstances should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused.

“In the instant case, only two circumstances have been proved by the prosecution. Firstly, Victims suffered acid burn injuries. … Secondly, Jiten Barman and his friend Shri Gajen Jana used to tease victim Sampa Barman in various manner while going to school on the road”, the Court further said.

The Court also asserted that the victim girls could not state who threw acid on them while sleeping and that none of the family members, who were very much present in the house, neighbours, or persons of the surrounding locality saw the appellant together or committing offence.

The Court said, “Another convict, Gajen Jana, did not file appeal against the same self-judgment. … in the interest of justice, he ought to be extended the same relief and acquitted of the charge levelled against him in view of the law declared in Sahadevan & Anr. Vs. State of Tamil Nadu and Md. Sajjad Vs. State of West Bengal as such he is also acquitted of the offence in view of the aforesaid judgments.”

The Court, therefore, set aside the order of conviction and sentence passed by the Trial Court.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the appeal and acquitted the convicts.

Cause Title- Jiten Barman v. The State of West Bengal

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