Holding TIP In Superintendent’s Office Is A Method Not Known To Law: SC While Acquitting Murder Accused Citing Irregular Witness Identification
The Supreme Court held that the identification of the appellant by a crucial witness was not reliable due to irregular procedures. The Court pointed out that the witness was shown the accused at the office of the Superintendent of Police, a method not recognized by law, raising doubts about the identification's credibility acquitting the accused. The appellant was convicted under Sections 302 and 201 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, receiving sentences of life imprisonment and three years' rigorous imprisonment, respectively. The High Court confirmed this judgment.
A two judge Bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal held that, “the identification of the appellant by PW-6 in the court is not free from reasonable doubt. It becomes very doubtful as the accused was shown to the witness in the office of the Superintendent of Police, only with a view to see that he identifies the accused in the court. This procedure is not known to law. Moreover, the evidence of another eyewitness to the theory of last seen together has been withheld from the court. Therefore, the testimony of PW-6 cannot be believed. Thus, the important circumstance of the last seen together has not been established. Hence, the first circumstance in the chain of circumstances has not been established. Hence, we hold that the prosecution has failed to prove the charges against the appellant beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The complainant filed a missing complaint, stating that his brother (deceased) had not returned after leaving for the factory on his motorcycle.
Advocate Rukhsana Choudhury appeared for the Appellant and Advocate Arun Kumar appeared for the Respondent.
The prosecution contended that on the day of the incident, the appellant and the deceased consumed liquor. Later, an altercation ensued, leading to an assault on the deceased, resulting in his death. The appellant, along with three others, buried the deceased's body.
The Court noted that the prosecution relied on two main pieces of evidence: the theory of "last seen together" and the recovery of the deceased's body based on the appellant's disclosure statement.
The Court noted the testimony of a crucial witness for the prosecution, which stated the appellant and the deceased were last seen together. However, his identification of the appellant was inconsistent, and the identification process was irregular. But another witness contradicted his timeline, providing an alibi for the appellant during the alleged incident. The Court said, “The testimony of PW-9 creates serious doubt about the version of the PW-6 that the incident of the minor accident occurred at 4 p.m. on that day.”
The Court noted that instead of conducting a formal identification parade, crucial witness was shown the accused at the police station. This irregular procedure raised doubts about the credibility of the identification. The court said, “In the present case, there is a disturbing feature. Instead of holding a test identification parade, PW-6 was called to the office of the Superintendent of Police, and the appellant was shown to him in the office. Thus, the identification of the appellant by PW-6 in the court is not free from reasonable doubt. It becomes very doubtful as the accused was shown to the witness in the office of the Superintendent of Police, only with a view to see that he identifies the accused in the court. This procedure is not known to law”
The Court further noted that a key eyewitness supporting the last seen together theory was not examined, and the prosecution failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for this omission.
Considering the inconsistencies, lack of proper identification procedures, and absence of essential witnesses, the Court found the prosecution's case unconvincing.
The appellant was acquitted of all charges, and the appeal was allowed. The bail bonds of the appellant were canceled.
Cause Title: Mohd. Rijwan v. State of Haryana, [2023 INSC 911]