NEW DELHI: Use of force can be legitimate if children see their parents being assaulted, the Supreme Court has said while acquitting two brothers accused of hitting their neighbours who had beaten up their parents, causing the death of their father later.
"The appellants can legitimately claim right to use force once they saw their parents being assaulted and when actually it has been shown that due to such assault and injury, their father subsequently died," a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh said.
The apex court said when the prosecution has suppressed the genesis and origin of the occurrence of the incident, the only possible course left open was to grant benefit of doubt to the accused persons.
The court also set aside the conviction and two-year sentence of the brothers, residents of Rajasthan who were held guilty of attempt to commit culpable homicide.
The two men were convicted by the trial court for the offence of attempt to murder, but the Rajasthan High Court had held them guilty of attempt to commit culpable homicide.
Challenging their conviction, the two men had claimed that the prosecution's case was false and brought witnesses in their defence to show that members of the prosecution party had beaten their father, leading to his death.
Their mother and others had also received injuries in the incident which was proved by a doctor.
The apex court said the high court drew correct inferences from a Supreme Court judgment but proceeded to convict the appellants on the "misconceived ground" that since both parties had withheld the origin and genesis of the occurrence and since it cannot be determined as to who was the aggressor, the case had to be decided against the accused, treating it as one of free fight between the parties.
"The aforesaid view of the high court is devoid of legal merits. Once the court came to a finding that the prosecution has suppressed the genesis and origin of the occurrence and also failed to explain the injuries on the person of the accused including death of father of the appellants, the only possible and probable course left open was to grant benefit of doubt to the appellants," it said.
The court further said that adverse inference must be drawn against the prosecution for not offering any explanation, much less a plausible one, on injuries caused to the accused, as also their father.
"Drawing of such adverse inference is given a go-bye in the case of free fight mainly because the occurrence in that case may take place at different spots and in such a manner that a witness may not reasonably be expected to see and therefore explain the injuries sustained by the defence party.
This is not the factual situation in the present case.
"Therefore, we have no hesitation in allowing the appeal and acquitting the appellants of all the charges. We order accordingly.
"They shall be released from jail custody forthwith, if not required in any other case. The appeal is allowed," the bench ordered.