Supreme Court acquits Death row convicts: The 15-year-old’s brutal murder case that sparked call for code of investigation for Police to avoid technical acquittals

code of investigation for police

Supreme Court: In a case where a young boy was cruelly done to death but the prosecution had “utterly failed to pass muster in establishing its case”, the 3-judge bench of BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Sanjay Kumar, JJ has suggested that it is high time that a consistent and dependable code of investigation is devised with a mandatory and detailed procedure for the police to implement and abide by during the course of their investigation so that the guilty do not walk free on technicalities, as they do in most cases in our country.

In the case at hand, a 15-year-old boy was brutally killed allegedly by three men (his neighbours), in 2013. The Additional Sessions Judge convicted all three of them on different counts and two of them were sentenced to death penalty. The Madhya Pradesh High Court affirmed the said verdict. The Convicts, hence, approached the Supreme Court.

Gaping holes and weak links in Prosecution’s case

The Supreme Court found gaping holes and weak links in the chain of evidence led by the prosecution. There was a confusion about the time and circumstances in which the deceased went missing. The prosecution’s case was further complicated by the fact that the ransom calls made to the victim’s family had varying ransom amounts, and the victim’s mother gave conflicting statements about recognising the voice of the kidnapper. She first said that the caller was a stranger and then went on to add that she had recognised the voice but as her child’s life was in danger, she did not tell the police. Additionally, there was uncertainty about the use of tracking dogs during the investigation, as the mother mentioned that the dogs were used in the evening after the body was taken out from the well in the afternoon but the Investigating Officer did not even mention the use of sniffer/tracking dogs during investigation.

To make matters worse, the call data statement provided by the telecom company was sufficient to link one of the accused to the ransom calls, but the police chose to mention “unknown” in the FIR. There were also allegations of police brutality and coercion during the investigation, which further raises questions about the validity of the evidence presented. The legal validity of the procedure adopted by the police and the value of the evidence collected through alleged confessions were also questionable.

It is essential under Section 27 of the Evidence Act that the person concerned must be ‘accused of an offence’ and being in the ‘custody of a police officer’, he or she must give information leading to the discovery of a fact and so much of that information, whether it amounts to a confession or not, that relates distinctly to the fact discovered, may be proved against him. In effect, both aspects, viz, being in ‘the custody of a police officer’ and being ‘accused of an offence’, are 18 indispensable pre-requisites to render a confession made to the police admissible to a limited extent, by bringing into play the exception postulated under Section 27 of the Evidence Act.

Supreme Court’s findings

The Court found that the prosecution utterly failed to pass muster in establishing its case and observed,

“There are cavernous gaps in the evidence that the prosecution would offer as an ‘unbroken chain unerringly pointing to the guilt of the appellants’. Discrepancies galore in the prosecution’s case tear asunder the fabric of its purported version as to how events unfolded. Oftentimes, Courts find that reckless overzealousness and unbridled fervour coupled with scant regard for due procedures and practices on the part of the police, in picking upon those whom they perceive to be the guilty party and then building up a case against them, accomplishes the direct opposite of what they seek to achieve, by exposing gaping holes and weak links in the chain of evidence that they ultimately offer, as is the situation now.”

Expressing dismay, the Court said that a young boy in the first flush of youth was cruelly done to death and the wrongdoers necessarily had to be brought to book for the injustice done to him and his family. However, the manner in which the police tailored their investigation, with complete indifference to the essential norms in proceeding against the accused and in gathering evidence; leaving important leads unchecked and glossing over other leads that did not suit the story that they had conceived; and, ultimately, in failing to present a cogent, conceivable and fool-proof chain of events pointing to the guilt of the appellants, with no possibility of any other hypothesis, leaves us with no option but to extend the benefit of doubt to the appellants. The higher principle of ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ and more so, in a case built on circumstantial evidence, would have to prevail and be given priority.

The Court found it perplexing that, despite the innumerable weak links and loopholes in the prosecution’s case, the Trial Court as well as the High Court were not only inclined to accept the same at face value but went to the extent of imposing and sustaining capital punishment on two accused that too without putting forth any valid and acceptable reasons as to why this case qualified as the ‘rarest of rare cases’, warranting such drastic punishment.

The Court, hence, held that the yawning infirmities and gaps in the chain of circumstantial evidence in the case warrant acquittal of the appellants by giving them the benefit of doubt as the degree of proof required to hold them guilty beyond reasonable doubt, on the strength of circumstantial evidence, is clearly not established.

[Rajesh v. State of M.P., 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1202, decided on 21.09.2023]

Judgment authored by Justice Sajay Kumar

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Appellant(s): Mr. Sidharth Luthra, Sr. Adv. Ms. Supriya Juneja, AOR Mr. Bhavesh Seth, Adv. Mr. Pankaj Singhal, Adv. Mr. Aditya Singla, Adv. Mr. Shakti Singh, Adv. Mr. Ayush Agarwal, Adv. Mr. Udbhav Sinha, Adv. Ms. Trisha Chandran, Adv.

For Respondent(s): Mr. Pashupathi Nath Razdan, AOR

Must Watch

maintenance to second wife

bail in false pretext of marriage

right to procreate of convict

Criminology, Penology and Victimology book release

Join the discussion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.