A two-judge Bench of Justice UU Lalit and Justice PS Narasimha has held that matters relating to crime and whether a particular thing happens to be a conclusive piece of evidence must be dealt with by a Court of Law and not through a TV channel.

Further, the Court also held that any such debate or discussion touching upon matters which are in the domain of Courts would amount to direct interference in the administration of justice.

AAG Mr. Nikhil Goel appeared for the State, while Counsel Mr. Lakshmeesh S. Kamath appeared for the Appellants before the Supreme Court.

In this case, all the accused were charged for the offences under Section 396 IPC. The Trial Court acquitted the original accused Nos. 5 to 8 but convicted the Appellants under Section 396 IPC (Dacoity with Murder) along with Section 34 IPC. The Trial Court further imposed the death sentence upon all the Appellants for the offence committed.

Aggrieved, the Appellants approached the High Court. The High Court on the appeal filed did not find sufficient reasons to affirm the death sentence. The High Court found that the Appellants were guilty under Section 394 IPC (Robbery) and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

The order of the High Court was challenged before the Supreme Court.

It is pertinent to note that when the voluntary statements of the Appellants were recorded by the Investigating Officer on a DVD, it was later played and published in a program named "Sutta Mutta" by Udaya TV.

The Apex Court in this context held –

…the fact that said statements on DVD recorded by the Investigating Agency were played and published in a program named "Putta Mutta" by Udaya TV. Allowing said DVD to go into the hands of a private TV channel so that it could be played and published in a program is nothing but dereliction of duty and direct interference in the administration of Justice. All matters relating to the crime and whether a particular thing happens to be a conclusive piece of evidence must be dealt with by a Court of Law and not through a TV channel. If at all there was a voluntary statement, the matter would be dealt with by the Court of Law. The public platform is not a place for such debate or proof of what otherwise is the exclusive domain and function of Courts of law. Any such debate or discussion touching upon matters which are in the."

The Bench further noted that this case was based on circumstantial evidence and placed reliance on Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra to hold that the circumstances on the basis of which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn, must be fully established.

The Court additionally went on to deal with the circumstances to consider whether the prosecution was able to establish them.

i) Missing Ornaments with Murder of Deceased

The Bench in this context held that as per the circumstantial evidence, it was established that the missing of gold and silver ornaments from the person of the deceased was quite simultaneous with the murder of the deceased.

Thus, the Court opined that the first circumstance propounded by the prosecution in support of its case was thus well established.

ii) Recovery of missing ornaments at the instance of Appellants

The Court noted that the actual recoveries from the shop where the stolen ornaments were sold by the Appellants was made 7 days after the voluntary statements were recorded.

In this context, the Bench held –

"There is no explanation why it took so much time for the Investigating Machinery to take the accused to the concerned shop. Further, the shop owner could not produce any register or documentation that any of the appellants had come to his shop on a particular day and sold the concerned ornaments. We must therefore go only by his oral assertions and not any contemporaneous record."

The Bench also noted that no Test Identification Parade (TIP) was conducted by the IO.

"The missing links in this circumstance are quite crucial and important. We, therefore, do not hold this circumstance to have been fully established and the connection of the appellants with the missing ornaments cannot be said to have been established," the Court held.

iii) Recovery of Material Objects (MO) – Knife and Iron Rod

The Bench noted that the MOs were recovered after 15 months from the date of the incident and yet were carrying blood stains sufficient enough for the Chemical Examiner to analyze and report that it was human blood.

The Court held that it was possible to believe that even after 15 months the material objects would still carry bloodstains.

"Considering the fact that the objects were supposed to have been thrown 15 months earlier in a place which was accessible to everyone and was open to the vagaries of nature, we do not accept said circumstance to have been proved. In our view, this circumstance cannot be held against the accused." The Bench held.

iv) Place of Occurrence of Incident

The Bench observed that this circumstance was proved, in this context, it opined –

"It is not as if that the prosecution was unaware about the place of occurrence but the fact that the appellants could point the house where the incident had occurred may show knowledge on their part about the place of occurrence."

The Court while considering the above-mentioned circumstances finally held that the Prosecution was not able to discharge the burden to such an extent that the presumption of innocence weighing in favor of the accused stands displaced.

"As a matter of fact, with the non-establishment of the second circumstance, the first circumstance by itself does not point in the direction of the appellants. In any case, the first and the fourth circumstances are wholly inadequate. They do not form a consistent chain leading to a hypothesis sought to be proved by the Prosecution," the Court held.

The Bench granted the benefit of doubt to the Appellants and acquitted them of all the charges.

In the light of these observations, the Court allowed the appeals.

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