Deceased With Chequered Past Involving Several Run-Ins With Law Cannot Justify His Murder: SC Dismisses Appeal With Bald Assertions, Upholds Conviction
The Supreme Court held that a person's past criminal record cannot serve as a defense for their murder. In this appeal, the accused appellants challenged their conviction by the High Court. They were found guilty of offenses under Sections 148, 302 read with 149, 307 read with 149 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and Sections 4/5 of the Explosive Substance Act, 1908.
A two judge Bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Sanjay Karol held that, “Be that as it may, simply because the deceased had a chequered past which constituted several run-ins with the law, Courts cannot give benefit thereof, particularly when such claims are bald assertions, to those accused of committing such a person’s murder. And in any event, such a plea is merely presumptuous.”
The Trial Court had convicted 9 out of the 11 accused, a decision upheld in the appeal. The High Court affirmed the conviction, emphasizing the accused's intent to commit murder and the formation of an unlawful assembly.
Advocate S. K. Verma appeared for the Appellants and Advocate Sumeer Sodhi appeared for the Respondents.
The convict-appellants challenged their conviction on four grounds: delay in filing the First Information Report (FIR), contradictory testimonies of prosecution witnesses, the deceased's criminal history, and the alibi of the accused.
The Court acknowledged the principles related to the delay in registering an FIR. The Court cited previous cases emphasizing that undue delay in filing an FIR raises suspicion and must be evaluated based on the circumstances of each case. The Court noted, “In such a situation, delay in filing of the FIR cannot be said to be fatal to the case of the prosecution more so in view of the injuries sustained by him; the place of occurrence being a remote village area and that the version of events was dictated to the police by this witness only upon their reaching his place of shelter. To us it does not appear to be a case of prior consultation; discussion; deliberation or improvements.”
The Court then discussed the principles regarding the plea of alibi. It emphasized that the burden of proof lies with the accused to establish the alibi with certainty, completely excluding the possibility of their presence at the crime scene. The Court found that defense witnesses failed to conclusively establish the alibi, lacking corroborative evidence and a reasonable explanation for the accused's presence at the crime scene. The prosecution witnesses' consistent testimonies further undermined the alibi claim. The Coirt said, “both these defence witnesses do not conclusively establish the plea of alibi, based on the principle of preponderance of probability as their statements stand unsupported by any other corroborative evidence.”
The Court examined the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and found them coherent on material facts. The statements of the witnesses regarding the presence of the accused at the crime scene, the victim's death, and the assault by the accused were consistent and credible. The Court dismissed the defense's claim of inherent contradictions in these testimonies.
The Court noted that the deceased's criminal history, even if true, did not justify his murder. Such claims were deemed bald assertions and were not considered as valid justifications for the crime.
The Court concluded that the charges against the accused were valid. The sentences imposed by the Trial Court and confirmed by the High Court were considered appropriate and not excessive. Consequently, the appeal was dismissed, and the bail granted earlier was canceled. The appellants were directed to surrender immediately.
Cause Title: Kamal Prasad & Ors. v. The State of Madhya Pradesh, [2023INSC895]