To Sustain Conviction Based On Circumstantial Evidence, Chain Of Circumstances Must Be Complete, Cogent & Coherent - SC
A Supreme Court Bench of Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice Vineet Saran set aside the conviction and sentencing of an individual accused of kidnapping and murdering two children.
The Bench held, "we hold that not only is such conviction not possible on the present scattered and incoherent pieces of evidence, but that the prosecution has not even established the motive of the crime beyond reasonable doubt."
Three individuals were accused of kidnapping and murdering two children. A1 was the mother of the children. The High Court found the Appellant had an illicit affair with A1. A3 had a dispute with A1, two days before the occurrence of the crime.
The Trial Court convicted the three accused and sentenced them to death for the offence punishable under Section 302 read with 120B IPC, rigorous imprisonment for 10 years, and a fine of Rs.5000/ each for the offence punishable under Section 364 IPC.
The High Court acquitted A1 and A3. The Court set aside the death penalty and sentenced the Appellant to rigorous imprisonment for 20 years under Section 302 IPC. The High Court opined that the Appellant's motive to eliminate the children of A1 was that the Appellant was "madly in love" with A1. The Appellant approached the Supreme Court, challenging his conviction and sentence.
The case of the Prosecution was that the High Court's conviction must be upheld, as they have successfully established the motive for murder. It was contended that the call details produced between the Appellant and A1 established that they shared an intimate relationship, which became the root cause of the offence. Further, it was argued that the last seen theory, the arrest of the accused, the recovery of material objects, and call details produced conclusively established the guilt of the Appellant.
The Supreme Court found that the conviction of the Appellant was based only upon circumstantial evidence. Relying on a catena of judgments including C. Chenga Reddy and Ors. v. State of A.P., the Court opined that in order to sustain a conviction, the chain of circumstances had to be complete, cogent, and coherent.
The Court held that the circumstantial evidence against the Appellant did not conclusively establish his guilt. To that end, it was opined that "The last seen theory, the arrest of the accused, the recovery of material objects and the call details produced, do not conclusively complete the chain of evidence and do not establish the fact that A2 committed the murder of the children".
The Court also opined that the Prosecution's argument that the call details produced established an intimate relationship and that the relationship was the root cause of the offence was unworthy of acceptance.
The Court, while opining that "the tripod stand of Motive, Last Seen Theory and Recovery, that supported the conviction of A2 according to the High Court, is found to be nonconclusive and the evidence supporting the conviction of A2 is marred with inconsistencies and contradictions, thereby making it impossible to sustain a conviction solely on such circumstantial evidence", set aside the conviction of the Appellant. The Jail Authorities were ordered to set the Appellant at liberty.