circumstantial evidence links in a chain

Supreme Court: In an appeal challenging the judgment and order passed by Madhya Pradesh High Court on 28-09-2010 dismissing appeal and confirming conviction and life sentence under Section 302 of Penal Code, 1860, the Vacation Bench of Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, JJ. allowed the instant appeal and set aside the appellant’s conviction and sentence.

The Court noted that in the instant case of circumstantial evidence, the prosecution led evidence for establishing 3 links of chain – motive, last seen and recovery of weapon of assault. It was noted that the High Court appreciated the finding of motive and last seen, but invalidated recovery of weapon and blood-stained clothes. The High Court further said that the recovery made did not indicate the appellant having committed the offence. However, the High Court looked at the entirety and affirmed the conviction.

The Court in the instant matter did not find the High Court’s conclusion to be strictly in accordance with law. The Court expressed that “In a case of circumstantial evidence, the chain has to be complete in all respects so as to indicate the guilt of the accused and also exclude any other theory of the crime”, reference made to Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra, (1984) 4 SCC 116 and Shailendra Rajdev Pasvan v. State of Gujarat, (2020) 14 SCC 750.

The Court was of the view that the High Court ought to have interfered with the conviction when it found one of the links in circumstantial evidence missing and not proved, with respect to the settled law in this regard.

The Court, therefore, allowed the instant appeal and set aside the appellant’s conviction and sentence.

[Laxman Prasad v. State of Maharashtra, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 743, Order dated 14-06-2023]

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