The Supreme Court reiterated that the court is concerned with the quality and not the quantity of the evidence which is necessary for proving or disproving a fact.

The Court was deciding a criminal appeal filed by a man against the judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court by which it dismissed his appeal and affirmed the judgment of the Additional Sessions Judge who convicted and sentenced him for the offence of murder.

The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta relied upon the judgment in the case of Vadivelu Thevar v. State of Madras AIR 1957 SC 614 in which it was observed as follows:

“Hence, in our opinion, it is a sound and well- established rule of law that the court is concerned with the quality and not with the quantity of the evidence necessary for, proving or disproving a fact. Generally speaking, oral testimony in this context may be classified into three categories, namely: (1) wholly reliable. (2) Wholly unreliable. (3) Neither wholly reliable nor wholly unreliable. … In the first category of proof, the court should have no difficulty in coming to its conclusion either way - it may convict or may acquit on the testimony of a single witness, if it is found to be above reproach or suspicion of interestedness, incompetence or subornation. In the second category, the court, equally has no difficulty in coming to its conclusion. It is in the third category of cases, that the court has to be circumspect and has to look for corroboration in material particulars by reliable testimony, direct or circumstantial...”

Advocate Vineet Jhanji appeared on behalf of the appellant/accused while AOR Siddhant Sharma appeared on behalf of the respondent/State.

Brief Facts -

The wife of the deceased used to reside along with her family members in the house which was situated on the backside of the grocery and halwai shops owned by her husband. In 1997, the deceased went to sleep in chaubara of the house which was not having any shutter whereas his wife along with other family members slept in a room on the ground floor. The wife heard a knock on the door of the room in which she was sleeping at about 2:30 a.m. and she thought that it was her husband. Hence, she opened the door and saw the appellant standing there, armed with a knife like chura. He inflicted an injury with the weapon on her abdomen and another assailant hold of her arm. She raised an alarm on which her sons woke up but none of the three persons could identify the other assailant.

Both the assailants fled away by opening main gate in between the two shops and the wife went upstairs to have a look at her husband. She found him lying severely injured on the cot with blood oozing out of his mouth and head. He was therefore, taken to the hospital but on the way itself, he died. The prosecution alleged that the motive behind the occurrence of such incident was that the appellant and his associate were bearing jealousy on account of roaring business being done at the halwai shop of the deceased which was doing much better as compared to the halwai shop run by the appellant. After trial, the appellant was convicted under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life along with a fine of Rs. 2,000/-. The conviction was affirmed by the High Court and hence, the appellant approached the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case said, “On going through the evidence of Sharan Kaur (PW-5) and Daljit Singh (PW-6), with reference to other evidence available on record, we are of the firm opinion that both these witnesses fall in the second category, i.e., wholly unreliable. No other tangible evidence was led by the prosecution to connect the accused appellant with the crime.”

The Court further noted that the prosecution’s story of motive is very weak and rather far-fetched so as to place implicit reliance thereupon and that two investigating officers conducted thorough investigation and found the entire case set up by the wife of the deceased to be false.

“The conduct of the first informant is unworthy of reliance, when we consider the fact that she tried to implicate Kulwinder Singh by filing various petitions while the investigation was still ongoing and even in her testimony during the trial. However, even in the FIR (Exhibit-PG/2), which was admittedly registered on the basis of her own statement, the first informant-Sharan Kaur(PW-5) did not name the said Kulwinder Singh, as co-assailant with the accused appellant herein. Even in the petition i.e. Crl. Misc. Petition No. 2053-M-1998 filed before the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, the name of the said Kulwinder Singh was not mentioned”, it observed.

The Court further said that the spade allegedly used to assault the deceased was found lying at the crime scene and no weapon of crime was recovered at the instance of the appellant and thus, there is no corroborative evidence so as to lend credence to the wavering and unreliable testimony of the wife.

“Lajpal Singh (DW-3), DIG (Operation), Punjab was examined by the defence, who in his cross examination stated that in his investigation, he found the accused to be innocent. … Having given our thoughtful consideration to the entirety of the material available on record, we are of the firm view that evidence of Sharan Kaur (PW-5) and Daljit Singh (PW-6) is wholly unreliable, does not inspire confidence in the Court so as to affirm the conviction of the appellant”, it added.

The Court reiterated that no corroborative evidence was led by the prosecution so as to lend credence to the testimony of the witnesses.

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeal, set aside the judgment of the High Court, and acquitted the appellant.

Cause Title- Kirpal Singh v. State of Punjab (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 312)


Appellant: Advocates Vineet Jhanji, Ranbir Singh Kundu, Imran Moulaey, Ravinder Pal Singh, and AOR Jyoti Mendiratta.

Respondent: AOR Siddhant Sharma

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