The Supreme Court while acquitting a murder accused has observed that suspicion, however strong, cannot replace proof beyond reasonable doubt.

The Bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Vikram Nath noted that the case of murder was entirely based on circumstantial evidence, and thus held –

"It is also well settled that suspicion, howsoever strong it may be, cannot replace proof beyond reasonable doubt."

Counsel T. Mahipal appeared for the Appellant before the Apex Court.

An appeal was preferred before the Supreme Court by the Appellant – Accused assailing the judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which had dismissed the appeal of the accused and confirmed the order of the Sessions Judge, convicting the accused under Section 302 IPC and sentencing him to undergo rigorous imprisonment of life.

In this case, the deceased after consuming milk brought from the house of the Appellant, who was also a neighbor and running a dairy business had died. The complainant (husband of the deceased) had alleged that the Appellant and his wife had mixed some poisonous substance in the milk in order to eliminate his family. It was further alleged that the complainant and the deceased were demanding money from the Appellant borrowed by the him to purchase buffaloes and for domestic needs and had also executed a pronote. As the Appellant could not return the loan amount, he poisoned the milk due to which the deceased died.

The Trial Court had found all the ingredients which proved the death by poisoning were present and charge was proved by the prosecution. Further, it also acquitted the wife of the Appellant by giving her the benefit of doubt. However, convicted the Appellant under Section 302 IPC and sentenced him to undergo life imprisonment.

On an appeal before the High Court, the High Court upheld the findings of the Trial Court and dismissed the appeal.

Aggrieved, the Appellant approached the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court after referring to the facts of the case, noted that both the Courts below committed an error in recording the conviction of the Appellant.

The Court further also noted that the Trial Court proceeded on the premise that the Appellant had not denied the execution of the pronote while discussing the motive.

"This fact is apparently not correct in as much as the appellant in his statement under section 313 CrPC recorded on 10.11.2004 had specifically denied not only borrowing of the money but also that he never executed the pronote," the Bench added.

Furthermore, the Court also held that the Trial Court did not give any importance to the post mortem report and the statement of the Doctor who conducted the autopsy, in this context, the Court observed –

"The use of compound organophosphorus has a homicidal purpose because of its extremely strong pungent smell has also not received due attention by the Trial Court. The High Court judgment was cryptic and evidence had been only cursorily dealt with."

The Court also held that the statements of the Doctor who conducted the autopsy may lead to an inference that death could have been caused by some other reason but not poisoning.

The Court thus held it is more than evident that the chain of events has many missing and weak links and none of the ingredients to record conviction in a case of circumstantial evidence and that of poisoning case are made out. Prosecution has thus failed to bring home the guilt.

The Court accordingly held that prosecution has not established the charge beyond reasonable doubt so as to record conviction under Section 302 of IPC and observed that the Appellant deserves the benefit of doubt.

Thus, the Court allowed the appeal and set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court and acquitted the Appellant.

Cause Title – Rajbir Singh v. The State of Punjab

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