Ori HC | Accused cannot be convicted based on circumstantial evidence until and unless guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt

Orissa High Court: A Division Bench of S.K. Mishra and A.K. Mishra, JJ. set aside a lower court’s decision of convicting the appellant based on circumstantial evidence.

The Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) found a dead body of a young woman which was severed into four pieces on the railway track. The trail of blood led to the house where the appellant was residing with his wife on rent. Upon investigation of the said rented house, the ASI found the house splattered with blood. He found one plastic mat covered in a pool of blood. The accused was not found in the house, although he was with the deceased the previous night. Considering the circumstances, the ASI lodged an FIR suspecting it to be a case of murder. Out of the 14 witnesses examined on behalf of the prosecution, three of them stated that they had heard the accused assaulting the deceased due to non-fulfilment of demand of dowry. Based on these statements and the circumstantial evidence, the learned Additional Sessions Judge, came to the findings that the accused and the deceased were residing in one house because of the trail mark of blood from the house of the accused to the railway track. Adding to it, doctors too confirmed the case to be of murder as the antemortem injury was inflicted by the sharp cutting weapon. The appellant was convicted and imprisoned for life under Sections 201, 302, and 498-A IPC, Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. 

The counsel for the appellant, Anima Kumari Dei, submitted that the entire judgment does not reveal that when and on which date the occurrence took place so as to put a nexus between the last seen of the deceased with the accused and the discovery of the dead body of the deceased since the FIR was lodged two days after the occurrence.

The Court held the following:

  • There is a considerable lapse of time between the time the accused and the deceased were last seen together and discovery of the dead body of the deceased, and therefore the last seen theory is not applicable in this case.
  • From the materials available on records, the chain of circumstances is not complete as to leave no reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused.
  • There is also no cogent evidence on records to show that there was any torture for the demand of dowry or causing the disappearance of evidence as no specific of such incident has been stated to by any of the witnesses.

The Court set aside the conviction recorded by the Additional Sessions Judge as it was based on circumstantial evidence available and did not form a complete chain unerringly pointing towards the guilt of the accused.[Gopal Mallik v. State of Orissa, 2019 SCC OnLine Ori 254, decided on 18-07-2019]

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