The Supreme Court has recently acquitted persons who were convicted in a murder case providing them the benefit of doubt.

The Court said it is quite possible that it was a complete set-up by the police and they committed the murder in the process of arresting the deceased and then set up a false case against the accused.

The three-Judge Bench comprising Justice B.R. Gavai, Justice Vikram Nath, and Justice Sanjay Karol held, “The above evidence creates a very serious doubt on the entire prosecution story. It is quite possible that the police personnel of the concerned Police Station were there to arrest the deceased and his brother and in that process some resistance may have resulted into the incident causing the death of Pradip Phukan. The injuries of PW-2 have not been proved as admittedly there was no injury report. Even the scribe of the FIR has not been produced nor the signatures have been proved. It is quite possible that it was a complete set-up by the police. They having committed the murder in the process of arresting the deceased, and thereafter, knowing the enmity between the two parties, set-up a false case against the accused.”

The Bench noted that no explanation came forward to explain the presence of the police personnel throughout the incident.

Advocate Chandra Bhushan Prasad appeared on behalf of the appellants/accused while Advocate Debojit Borkakati appeared on behalf of the respondent/State.

Brief Facts -

The appellants had assailed the correctness of the judgment passed by the Gauhati High Court whereby the appeal was dismissed confirming the judgment and order of the Trial Court. The eleven accused persons were convicted under Sections 147, 148, 447, 323, 302, and 149 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for life along with a fine of Rs. 1,000/-.

In this matter, thirteen residents of the village came to a woman’s house, cordoned off her house without any reason, and caused grievous injury on the head of her brother-in-law by giving blows with sharp weapons and three of the accused persons, committed murder of a man by assaulting him with sharp cutting weapons. Hence, four of such accused persons preferred an appeal before the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case observed, “There is no recovery at the instance of any accused under Section 27 of the Evidence Act. The axe, according to the evidence, was left on the dead-body of the deceased. … what is evident is that Kuleswar’s name was not included in the FIR but his name has been consistently taken by the eye-witnesses of first assaulting the deceased with an iron rod. In so far as Pulen Phukan is concerned, his name has been taken by PW-1 and PW-2 for assaulting on the neck and whereas PW-3 and PW-4 have taken the name of Dulen Phukan striking on the neck. Thus, there is material inconsistency in the statement of the eye-witnesses.”

The Court further noted that when according to the prosecution story itself, the deceased had entered the neighbour’s house, it would be very difficult for the eye-witnesses to also have entered the house and to witness the assault.

“The prosecution has not established the place of occurrence by any material exhibit of having collected the blood-stained earth from the place of occurrence. Even the material exhibit, the axe, which is said to have been taken into custody by the police whether on the date of the incident or two days thereafter has also not been produced nor any evidence led to that effect”, said the Court.

The Court asserted that it is still a mystery as to how the Investigating Officer in his statement stated that he had filed a charge sheet against eight accused as five were absconding and there is no further statement regarding three more accused being arrested and put to trial, how the Trial Court proceeded to convict 11 accused and only two were set to be absconding.

“Even the scribe of the FIR has not been examined. … we are of the view that although the death of Pradip Phukan was homicidal but we are not convinced that the prosecution has established the case beyond reasonable doubt against the accused appellants. The appellants would be entitled to benefit of doubt”, held the Court.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the conviction and sentence of the appellants.

Cause Title- Pulen Phukan & Ors. v. The State of Assam

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