The Supreme Court acquitted a man who was convicted for alleged killing of his 2.5-year-old nephew by throwing him in the well.

The Court reiterated that the anomaly of having two reasonably possible views in a matter is to be resolved in favour of the accused.

The accused had filed an appeal against the judgment of the Karnataka High Court by which he was convicted.

The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice Bela M. Trivedi and Justice Satish Chandra Sharma observed, “In order to reverse an order of acquittal in appeal, it is essential to arrive at a finding that the order of the Trial Court was perverse or illegal; or that the Trial Court did not fully appreciate the evidence on record; or that the view of the Trial Court was not a possible view. … At the cost of repetition, it is reiterated that the anomaly of having two reasonably possible views in a matter is to be resolved in favour of the accused. For, after acquittal, the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused gets reinforced.”

The Bench said that the reversal of an order of acquittal is not to be based on mere existence of a different view or a mere difference of opinion and to permit so would be in violation of the two views theory, as reiterated by the Court from time to time in cases of this nature.

Advocate Sharan Thakur appeared for the appellant/accused while AAG Muhammed Ali Khan appeared for the respondent/State.

Brief Facts -

A boy aged 2.5 years lost his life in 2002 and a complaint was filed by his father against the appellant accused who was his younger brother i.e., paternal uncle of the deceased child. After a full-fledged trial, the Trial Court had acquitted the accused but the High Court reversed the order of acquittal and convicted him. The mystery of the child’s death continued as the matter was before the Apex Court.

According to the prosecution, the deceased child had gone out for playing and went missing and other family members of him searched for him in and around locality. Upon finding no trace till evening, a missing complaint was lodged and then after few days, the accused appeared at the house of the child’s father in a drunken state and started blabbering about the missing incident of the child. Next morning, the accused stated that he had murdered the child and thrown his body in the well. The father took the accused to the police for filing a complaint which led to the registration of FIR. On reaching the police station, the accused confessed to the commission of crime and his voluntary statement in the nature of extra judicial confession was recorded. The accused also took the child’s father and Investigating Officer (IO) to the well where he threw the body. On looking into the well, the dead body was found floating there which was taken out. Thereafter, charges were framed against three accused persons as jewellery articles were taken off from the child’s body and sold off.

The Supreme Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case noted, “Notably, it is a peculiar case wherein the appellant has been convicted for the commission of murder without ascertaining the cause of death in a conclusive manner. … the post mortem reveals the time of death within a time frame of 3 to 12 days. Allegedly, the death took place on 03.11.2002. Such a wide time frame concerning the crucial question of time of death raises a serious doubt on the reliability of the post mortem report. When this fact is seen in light of the already existing doubts on the identity of the deceased, one is constrained to take the report with a pinch of salt. More so, this discrepancy again brings into question the element of recovery of the dead body and identity of the deceased.”

The Court further said that the Trial Court had appreciated the entire evidence in a comprehensive sense and the High Court reversed the view without arriving at any finding of perversity or illegality in the order of the Trial Court. It said that the High Court took a cursory view of the matter and merely arrived at a different conclusion on a re-appreciation of evidence.

“It is settled law that the High Court, in exercise of appellate powers, may reappreciate the entire evidence. However, reversal of an order of acquittal is not to be based on mere existence of a different view or a mere difference of opinion. To permit so would be in violation of the two views theory, as reiterated by this Court from time to time in cases of this nature”, it held.

The Court also noted that the entire case of the prosecution is based on circumstantial evidence and the principles concerning circumstantial evidence are fairly settled and are generally referred as the “Panchsheel” principles. It said that essentially, circumstantial evidence comes into picture when there is absence of direct evidence.

“For proving a case on the basis of circumstantial evidence, it must be established that the chain of circumstances is complete. It must also be established that the chain of circumstances is consistent with the only conclusion of guilt. The margin of error in a case based on circumstantial evidence is minimal. For, the chain of circumstantial evidence is essentially meant to enable the court in drawing an inference. The task of fixing criminal liability upon a person on the strength of an inference must be approached with abundant caution”, it added.

The Court observed that to draw an inference of guilt based on such evidence would result into nothing but failure of justice and that the evidence completely fails the test laid down for the acceptability of circumstantial evidence.

“A reasonable doubt is one which renders the possibility of guilt as highly doubtful. It is also noteworthy that the purpose of criminal trial is not only to ensure that an innocent person is not punished, but it is also to ensure that the guilty does not escape unpunished. A judge owes this duty to the society and effective performance of this duty plays a crucial role in securing the faith of the common public in rule of law. Every case, wherein a guilty person goes unpunished due to any lacuna on the part of the investigating agency, prosecution or otherwise, shakes the conscience of the society at large and diminishes the value of the rule of law”, it said.

The Court concluded that the case does not fall in the category of a light-hearted acquittal which is shunned upon in law and that the High Court erred in reversing the decision of acquittal because the evidence of prosecution, at best, makes out a case for suspicion, and not for conviction.

Accordingly, the Apex Court disposed of the appeal and set aside the conviction of the appellant.

Cause Title- Kalinga @ Kushal v. State of Karnataka by Police Inspector Hubli (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 124)


Appellant: Advocates Sharan Thakur, Mahesh Thakur, Siddharth Thakur, Shivamm Sharrma, P.N. Singh, Mustafa Sajad, Keerti Jaya, Ranvijay Singh Chandel, and AOR Sushil Balwada.

Respondent: AAG Muhammed Ali Khan, AOR V. N. Raghupathy, Advocates Omar Hoda, Eesha Bakshi, Uday Bhatia, Kamran Khan, and Manendra Pal Gupta.

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