SL CoA | Expert opinion is material evidence; case needs to be established beyond reasonable doubt; Court allows appeal setting aside conviction of murder accused

Court of Appeal of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: A Division Bench of K.K. Wickremasinghe and K. Priyantha Fernando, JJ., allowed an appeal setting aside the conviction and acquitting the Accused-Appellant from the charge of murder.

The Appellant and the victim (deceased) were husband and wife. Appellant was a serving Brigadier in the Sri Lankan Army, they were sleeping in their room and the victim’s brother (PW 2) was sleeping in another room with the appellant’s son (PW 1). After hearing some unusual noise the PW2 ran to check what had happened on the other hand PW 1 followed the appellant to his room and saw saliva coming out of the mouth of the deceased and blood on her head, she was taken to the hospital where she succumbed to injuries in about 2 hours.

There was no dispute that the shot was fired from the personal weapon of the

Appellant and that the deceased died of that gunshot injury.

The counsels for the appellant Shavindra Fernando PC and Ananda Weerasinghe contended that the deceased had committed suicide by shooting herself and the appellant had tried to grab the weapon while he saw the deceased standing with the gun on her head but he was unsuccessful. After trial, the High Court Judge found the Appellant guilty of the charge and sentenced him to death aggrieved by which the instant appeal was filed. The counsels for the appellant contended that the trial judge had erred in his decision by not considering various important factors like the bullet was fired from a distance of 30 cm away from the head of the deceased and the judgment was based on hearsay evidence and he was denied fair trial. The arguments of both the parties were analyzed again and opinion of expert witnesses was referred to which was unable to prove a case against the appellant and hold him liable for the offence beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court while allowing the appeal set aside the conviction of the appellant and acquitted him on the count of murder explaining that the prosecution had failed to prove the charge beyond reasonable doubt against the Appellant. [Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka v. Don Chandana Priyantha Rupasinghe, 2019 SCC OnLine SL CA 11, decided on 26-11-2019]

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