Prosecution plays a pivotal role to prove guilt of an accused beyond reasonable doubt particularly in death cases which are homicidal. The conviction against an accused will sustain if the evidence is trustworthy and sufficient. If the prosecution fails to prove by cogent, reliable and unfaltering evidence that the death of a person is homicidal then the conviction against the accused will not stand before the appellate courts.
In one such a case before the High Court, the sole accused-appellant challenged the judgment of the trial court which found the accused guilty of the offences punishable under Sections 302 (punishment for murder) and other sections of IPC and sentenced him to undergo life imprisonment.
The case of the prosecution is that on the day of the incident, the son of the deceased heard sounds during that night and came out of the house and found his mother and his father (the deceased) in a pool of blood and in unconscious state due to head injuries. The son and others shifted them to government hospital for treatment. Father died in the hospital the next day while undergoing treatment for head injuries.
The police registered the case based on a complaint by the son. After regaining consciousness the mother gave statement to the police saying that the accused (son-in-law) came armed with a pestle and hit them on their heads for the reason that they were not sending their daughter to the matrimonial house. During investigation, the police recorded the statements of other family members of the deceased and neighbours. Later, the police apprehended the accused and also seized a pestle, and sent him to judicial remand.
Benefit of doubt
The counsel for the appellant-accused contended that there are no eye-witnesses to the alleged incident. The alleged arrest of the accused and recovery of pestle is all a concoction of the investigating officer. The probe is perfunctory and there is no evidence much less reliable evidence of required standard to base a conviction or to sustain the conviction of the accused for the offence with which he was charged. He was falsely implicated in the case by the family members of the deceased particularly his mother-in-law and his estranged wife as she is having matrimonial disputes with him. The trial court without properly examining the record and on assumptions and presumptions held that the prosecution brought home the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. In view of the alleged gaps in the prosecution case and that the prosecution case is not true and untrustworthy, the accused is entitled to a reasonable benefit of doubt, he argued.
On the other hand, public prosecutor contended that the evidence brought on record is sufficient to base a conviction and that the trial court rightly convicted the accused for the offences with which he is charged. The prosecution proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, he noted.After hearing the case and perusing the material on record, the High Court said that the postmortem report stated that the cause of death is head injury which might have been caused by a blunt object or due to hit or impact. It found that the wife of the deceased had given her statement to the police after five days from the day she regained consciousness. Unexplained delay in recording her statement by the police raised doubt as to veracity of prosecution case.
Besides, the prosecution failed to examine the material witness (wound certificate of the mother issued by doctor of a private hospital) which would have unfolded truth. Said omission not only fatal to prosecution case but also makes it unworthy of any credit.
The case sheets of the mother maintained in the private and government hospitals could have assumed importance as they are supposed to contain the dates of her admission into the said hospitals, her condition, inpatient treatment and so on. Medical evidence supports the first version of the prosecution that the deceased and his wife sustained injuries due to fall of a rafter from the roof of the cattle shed, the court observed.
The High Court allowed the appeal by setting aside the trial court order. It said that the trial court convicted the accused on evidence which is untrustworthy, insufficient and of doubtful nature by resorting to surmises and conjectures.
“This Court has no hesitation to hold that the sheet anchor of the prosecution case, is a fabricated document and that the alleged version of the woman ( wife of the deceased) therein is a deliberate concoction and that the said evidence is created to rope in the accused due to the disputes between him and his wife (daughter of the deceased)”, the Court said while setting aside the order of the trial court.