Andhra Pradesh High Court: In a revision petition preferred against the concurrent judgments of conviction and sentence passed against the petitioners, whereby the petitioners were sentenced to undergo one-year rigorous imprisonment and pay a fine of Rs. 10,000, Venkata Jyothirmai Pratapa, J., opined that when two views were possible in a criminal case, the view favourable to the accused had to be considered. The Court opined that in the present case, Petitioner Witness 1 blatantly rejected the respondent’s case by stating that the excise officials obtained his signatures not only in this case but also in several other cases. Thus, considering the contradictory evidence of the witnesses, the Court took them out for consideration and accordingly, set aside the conviction and sentence passed against the petitioners.
On 23-06-2006, on receiving the information about the illegal transportation of arrack sachets across the border of Karnataka, the Inspector of Prohibition and Excise, Yemmiganur along with the police officials and excise staff proceeded to the road, and found the petitioners with three plastic sacks which contained 200 arrack sachets of 100ml each. For the purpose of analysis, the excise inspector collected the samples and the remaining sacks were seized. Thereafter, a crime was registered. Further, with the permission of the Court and after obtaining destruction orders from the Deputy Commissioner of Excise, the Excise Inspector disposed of the contraband under Section 13(2) of the Andhra Pradesh Prohibition Act, 1995 (‘the Act’).
Meanwhile, the Excise Inspector received the report from the Government Regional Prohibition and Excise Laboratory and stated that the seized samples were diluted arrack and unfit for human consumption. Thereafter, the Inspector of Prohibition and Excise filed the charge-sheet. The Trial Court found the petitioners guilty for the offences punishable under Section 7(A) read with Section 8(e) of the Act.
Subsequently, aggrieved by the judgment of the Trial Court, an appeal was filed whereby the concurrent view was expressed by the Appellate Court in all aspects of the matter. Thus, aggrieved and dissatisfied with impugned judgment dated 22-07-2008, where the petitioners were sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of one-year and to pay a fine of Rs. 10,000, in default of which the Petitioner would have to undergo further three months rigorous imprisonment.
Thus, the petitioners preferred the present revision petition. The petitioners submitted that except the samples, the police failed to produce the contraband before the Court, and except the evidence of the official witnesses who were interested, nothing else was placed on record and also, their witness was ignored without any reason.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court opined that being a revisional Court, it could not substitute its opinion simply because another view was possible. Unless there was any blatant mistake or error on the face of the record which might lead to miscarriage of justice, the Revisional Court should not exercise its diligence over the matter. This Court could not touch the factual aspects of the matter and reappreciate the evidence on record unless it was specifically warranted in a particular case, and when it was accepted that the Courts failed to exercise the jurisdiction which they were supposed to exercise but erred in exercising it.
The Court opined that there was no force in the petitioners’ contention that conviction could not be recorded against the petitioners simply because the respondent’s witnesses were official witnesses. There was no hard and fast rule to rely upon the evidence of any witnesses who deposed before the Court as the test in truthfulness in their evidence.
The Court further opined that in the present case, both Respondent Witness 1 and Petitioners’ Witness 1 being village servants acted as the mediators at the time of seizure of the property and Respondent Witness 1 corroborated with the evidence of other two witnesses regarding seizure of the property from the possession of the petitioners by the excise officials. However, Petitioner Witness 1, deposed completely and diametrically opposite to Respondent Witness 1’s version. The Court also noted that nothing had been elicited in the cross examination of Petitioner Witness 1 to discard his testimony, wherein he stated that not only in this case but also, in several cases, the police obtained his signatures on the blank paper and nothing was done in his presence by the police regarding seizure of the property from the possession of the accused.
The Court took note of the petitioners contention that evidence of Petitioner Witness 1 was discarded by the Trial Court because there was no summons issued from the Court, but the witness voluntarily appeared and deposed in favour of the petitioners. The Court opined that there was no mandate under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (‘CrPC’) that witness had to appear before the Court to give evidence only on receipt of summons. On request of the either party, the Court might issue summons to inform the witness about the date of the case to give their evidence.
The Court further opined that at the same time, the Court could not ignore the right of the accused to place his evidence before the Court in defence under Section 315 of the CrPC. The Court observed that the Petitioner had not produced any witness to surprise the respondent as Petitioner witness 1 was their witness, but they choose not to examine him. The Court relied on Pothabathula Abbulu v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 2021 SCC OnLine AP 1793 and opined that the impugned judgment warranted interference of this Court in the present revision petition because when two views were possible in a criminal case, the view favourable to the accused had to be considered. In the present case, Petitioner witness 1 blatantly rejected the respondent’s case by stating that the excise officials obtained his signatures not only in this case but also in several other cases.
Thus, considering the contradictory evidence of the witnesses, the Court took them out for consideration and accordingly, set aside the conviction and sentence passed against the petitioners and stated that the fine amount, if paid should be returned to the petitioners.
[Boya Gopal v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 2023 SCC OnLine AP 3558, Order dated 21-06-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Petitioners: Butta Vijaya Bhasker, Advocate;