The Supreme Court in a murder case has acquitted a man who was in jail for 15 years on the ground that the defence has been successful in making a serious dent in the prosecution case.

The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah held, “… the prosecution story as set out does not appear to be a probable story and the supporting evidence led during trial of the witnesses of fact also does not inspire confidence. Rather there are material contradictions. … defence has been successful in making a serious dent in the prosecution case”

The Bench said that the testimony of the witness was not reliable and could not have formed the basis of conviction.

Advocate Anu Gupta appeared on behalf of the appellant while Advocate Sumeer Sodhi appeared on behalf of the State.

Facts of the Case -

The appellant had assailed the correctness of the judgment passed by the Chhattisgarh High Court whereby his conviction under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and the sentence to undergo life imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. 5,000/- awarded by the Trial Court was affirmed. He was in jail and had already undergone almost 15 years of incarceration.

As per the prosecution story, the uncle of the deceased lodged an FIR stating that while he was sitting in his house, his nephew was returning on a cycle and he heard his nephew shouting “Kaka Vijay Singh run, Shatrughan has assaulted me with a Tabbal”. On hearing the said cry for help, the informant along with his wife reached the spot and saw his nephew lying on the road while the appellant was moving his cycle along with Tabbal towards his house.

The Supreme Court in the above regard noted, “The first question to be considered is as to whether any of the eye-witnesses had actually seen the occurrence of the appellant assaulting the deceased. The answer is ‘no’.”

The Court said that the witness was influenced by the Sarpanch whose active participation in the proceedings subsequent to the incident cannot be ruled out.

“The medical evidence did not support the prosecution case as the weapon of assault could not have caused injury on the deceased as noticed in the post-mortem report. There was no motive as to why the appellant would commit the murder of an acquaintance and a friend for no reason. The defence version that the deceased was under the influence of alcohol and could have tripped and fallen on a sharp object resulting into the ante-mortem injury reported in the post-mortem was quite possible. The same is clearly borne out from the record”, observed the Court.

The Court further noted that the explanation for the delayed lodging of the FIR is not satisfactory and hence the prosecution failed to establish the charge.

“… the appellant would be entitled to acquittal. … The appellant is in custody. He shall be released forthwith, if not wanted in any other case”, directed the Court.

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeal, acquitted the appellant of all the charges, and set aside his conviction.

Cause Title- Shatrughan v. The State of Chhattisgarh (Neutral Citation: 2023 INSC 630)

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