A Supreme Court Bench of Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, Justice S Ravindra Bhat, Justice Padidighantam Sri Narasimha upheld a judgment confirming the conviction of murder-accused, passed by the Allahabad High Court.

Notably, the Apex Court observed that "The rejection of the FSL (ballistic) report is another grave mistake of the Trial Court. The conclusion of the Trial Court that the ballistic report is inadmissible as it is not in consonance with the requirement of Section 293 Cr.P.C. is entirely wrong. We have explained this in detail. In an identical situation this Court in State of Himachal Pradesh v. Mast Ram has explained how the ballistic report is in complete compliance of the statutory provision. The High Court had to necessarily step in to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice."

Senior Advocate Harin P Raval, Senior Advocate Siddarth Dave, Senior Advocate Jayant Muthuraj, Senior Advocate Ratnakar Dash, Senior Advocate Basava Prabhu Patil and Senior Advocate Vishvajit Singh and Counsel Bansuri Swaraj appeared for the Appellants. ASG Aishwarya Bhati and AAG AK Mishra appeared for the State, and Senior Advocate Sonia Mathur appeared for the Informant.

In this case, seven accused were convicted and sentenced to life by the High Court for the murder for five persons. The Appellants approached the Supreme Court.

In view of the evidence relating to motive, the Supreme Court held that the prosecution had succeeded in proving motive, and in that context observed that "In view of the evidence on the aspect relating to motive, coupled with the clear position of law with respect to the relevance and weightage of motive in cases of evidence of direct injured eyewitness to the incident, the conclusion of the Trial Court that the case of the prosecution fumbles as it failed to prove the motive is incorrect. The decision of the High Court, based on the principles laid down by this Court is unexceptionable."

With regard to the discrepancies in the timings of lodging of the FIR, the Supreme Court observed that "The Trial Court has taken a super technical approach in doubting the timing of lodging of the FIR for arriving at an erroneous conclusion the FIR and the tehreer are ante-timed. In these circumstances, there are compelling and substantial reasons for the High Court to interfere with the findings and conclusions of the Trial Court."

The Supreme Court further observed that there was no doubt with regard to the presence of the witnesses at the scene of the offence.

In context to the alleged discrepancies in the FIR and Fax sent by the Superintendent of Police, the Court said that "we reject the fax as well as the submissions based on the contents of the fax for the reason that firstly, the timings as indicated in the FIR stand confirmed by other oral and documentary evidence as discussed earlier. There is nothing to suggest about the happening of the event as mentioned in the fax. Secondly, as the prosecution has established the occurrence of the incident as described in the FIR on the basis of bullets on the vehicle, empty cartridges, blood recovery from the place of occurrence coupled with proof of injuries based on medical evidence we have to accept the story in the FIR and reject the one propagated in the fax involving Titu leading the attack on the victims."

Further, with regard to the contention of unlawful assembly and a common object, the Court was of the opinion that "the High Court has examined the issue from all perspectives and in great detail before reversing the decision of the Trial Court. The decision of the High Court is, therefore unexceptionable."

In the context of the recovery of weapons, the Supreme Court held that "As the prosecution has established the occurrence of the incident through the evidence of PW-1 and PW-2, and we are in agreement with the judgment of the High Court that these are credible ocular witnesses whose statements are corroborated by other contemporaneous evidence, certain minor variations, such as non-recovery of blood-stained clothes, certain other weapons etc. will not be fatal to the case of the prosecution. This principle is well established in cases where there are credible injured eye-witness testimonies."

The Appellants had also submitted that the ballistic report could not be relied upon as it was not authenticated and was contrary to the requirements of Section 293 Cr.P.C under which the report is to be made only by the Director/ Deputy Director/ Assistant Director and not by a Scientific Officer. In that vein, the Supreme Court observed that "In view of the fact that the ballistic report has come from the office of the Assistant Director bearing his seal and having considered the same in the context of Section 293(4) Cr.P.C., as explained by this Court in State of Himachal Pradesh v. Mast Ram we are opinion that the Trial Court committed a serious error in rejecting the ballistic report and it was necessary and compelling for the High Court to reverse the finding of the Trial Court on this count also."

In light of reasons mentioned above, the Supreme Court upheld the reasoning of the High Court, and dismissed the appeals. No orders were passed as to costs.

Cause Title: Ashok Kumar Singh Chandel v. State of UP

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