The Supreme Court has observed that in a case where acquittal has been made owing to glaring contradictions between the testimony of prosecution witnesses, to overturn such a verdict the Court must provide strong and cogent reasons.

The Bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice V. Ramasubramanian observed thus "To overturn such a verdict of acquittal, handed over by the Sessions Court after disbelieving PW­1 and PW­4, the High Court should have come up with more stronger and cogent reasons than what has been recorded. The law on the scope of Section 378 of the Cr.P.C., is too well settled."

In this case, the appellants - accused were prosecuted along with 20 other persons, before the Trial Court for alleged offences under Sections 143, 144, 148, 147, 448 and 302 read with Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code. The Trial Court had acquitted all accused except those against whom the prosecution abated.

However, a Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court set aside the acquittal of the appellants herein (A­1 and A­2) and held them guilty only for the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC and sentenced them to life imprisonment. But the acquittal of all the other accused was confirmed by the High Court.

To come to the aforesaid conclusions, the High Court pointed out inconsistencies in the evidence of two prosecution witnesses-mother and maternal uncle of the deceased, insofar as the role played by all the accused other than A­1 and A­2. However, the High Court observed that there was consistency in the evidence of said prosecution witness with regard to the participation of A1 and A2 in the commission of the offence.

Aggrieved, accused no-1 and accused no-2 approached the Supreme Court.

Advocate Krishna Pal Singh appeared for the appellants-accused whereas Advocate V. N. Raghupathy appeared for the state.

The Supreme Court found the findings of the High Court to be illogical.

"We do not know how, in the facts and circumstances of the case, the conviction of only 2 out of the 22 accused can be sustained and that too only for the offence under Section 302 when the allegation of unlawful assembly, common object, trespass, rioting etc. are held not proved against all of them.", the Bench said.

The Court noted that there were glaring contradictions between the testimony of those two witnesses- PW-1 and PW-4 (mother and maternal uncle of the deceased) on the type of material object used and even on the role of A­2, hence the very foundation of the case of the prosecution stood shaken.

The Court also pointed out that nothing was stated by PW­1 in the FIR, about the injuries on her body, but she spoke about it in her evidence. Even the same was not corroborated by medical evidence.

The Bench noted that this was the reason why the Trial Court had disbelieved the evidence of PW­1 and PW­4.

The Court held that in order to overturn such a verdict of acquittal by the Trial Court, the High Court should have come up with more stronger and cogent reasons than what was recorded.

In view of that, the Court set aside the conviction of the appellants-accused.

Cause Title- [email protected] & Anr. v. State of Karnataka

Click here to read/download the Judgment