‘An extrajudicial confession, being weak evidence, requires corroboration’; Calcutta High Court sets aside conviction under Section 302 IPC

Calcutta High Court

Calcutta High Court: In an appeal challenging the judgment of conviction under Section 302 IPC based on the principles of the Last Seen Theory, extrajudicial confession, subsequent conduct, and recovery of the alleged weapon, a division bench comprising of Chitta Ranjan Dash and Partha Sarathi Sen,* JJ., after analysing the circumstantial evidence, found it insufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court held that there was a break in the chain of evidence, leading to the appellant’s acquittal.

In the instant matter, the complainant lodged a written complaint with the Officer-in-Charge, Khardah Police Station, stating that his daughter was found murdered in their tenanted accommodation. The complainant suspected his grandson to be the accused, who was found wearing a blood-stained ‘gamcha’ when the deceased was discovered. Based on the complaint, the police started investigation, the appellant was charged under Section 302 IPC. The trial court convicted the appellant based on circumstantial evidence, including the last seen theory, extrajudicial confession, subsequent conduct, and recovery of the alleged weapon, under section 302 IPC and sentenced to suffer regressive imprisonment for life and to pay a fine of Rs.5,000/-. The appellant appealed against the judgment of conviction dated 03-09-2009 and the order of sentence dated 05-09-2009 passed by the Additional Sessions Judge.

The appellant argued that there were discrepancies in the prosecution’s case, such as the time gap between the last sighting of the accused and the discovery of the deceased’s body. The recovery of the alleged weapon lacked proper evidence, and the extrajudicial confession was not corroborated. On the other hand, the prosecution contended that the circumstantial evidence, including the last seen theory and extrajudicial confession, established the appellant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It was argued that the subsequent conduct of the appellant and the recovery of the alleged weapon supported the conviction.

The Court reviewed the evidence presented, including the autopsy report, witness testimonies, and forensic reports and noted that there is no doubt that the deceased’s death was natural, and the trial court is absolutely justified in coming to a conclusion that the death of the deceased is homicidal in nature. The Court noted discrepancies in the prosecution’s case, particularly regarding the extrajudicial confession and stated that the omission in complainant’s statement is in contradiction within the meaning of the proviso of Section 162 CrPC read with Section 145 of the Evidence Act which the trial court has failed to visualize. The Court asserted that “it is settled principle of law that an extrajudicial confession is well known to be a weak piece of evidence although in a given situation reliance thereon can be placed”.

The Court noted weaknesses in the prosecution’s evidence, including insufficient proof of the alleged offending weapon, recovery of the alleged weapon and doubts regarding the reliability of the last seen theory. The Court stated that “the conduct of the appellant being present at the spot immediately after the occurrence is a factor negativing any motive on his part. It might have so happened that when the appellant was in deep sleep, who was sleeping separately from the deceased though in the same room, the deceased might have been murdered by P.W.1 or any other person. So this circumstance cannot be taken as a circumstance of last seen or as a circumstance to suggest that it is only the appellant who had the opportunity to kill the deceased.” The Court found that the prosecution failed to establish a clear motive for the appellant’s alleged crime and the trial court was not justified in applying the principle of Section 8 of the Evidence Act against the present appellant in the said trial.

Considering the lack of concrete evidence connecting the appellant to the crime, the Court held that the circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution was deemed insufficient to establish the appellant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court set aside the judgment and order of conviction against the appellant and acquitted the appellant of the charge under Section 302 IPC. The appellant was discharged from his bail bond and set at liberty. The Court directed the relevant authorities to forward copies of the judgment to the trial court and the Calcutta High Court Legal Services Committee for further action.

[Dipjyoti Dhar v. State of W.B., C.R.A. No. 744 of 2009 with CRAN 1 of 2009 (Old No. CRAN 3017 of 2009), order dated 06-03-2024]

*Judgment by Justice Partha Sarathi Sen

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr.Navanil De, Amicus Curiae and Ms. Monami Mukherjee, Counsel for the Appellant

Mr. Prasun Kumar Dutta, APP, Mr. Santanu Deb Roy and Mr. Md. Kuttubuddin, Counsel for the Respondent/State

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