The Hyderabad High Court ruled that the proof in a criminal case must be beyond any reasonable doubt. Howsoever strong, a suspicion may be, it cannot be a substitute for proof, the court noted.
A division bench of the Court comprising Justice L Narasimha Reddy and Justice M S K Jaiswal said this in an appeal filed by Saidulu of Khammam district, an accused, who challenged an order passed by the I Additional Sessions Court which convicted the appellant for the offence of committing the murder of a woman. The lower court sentenced him to life imprisonment.
The brother of the deceased lodged a complaint before the Paloncha police, informing about death of his sister. He stated that his sister was married to one Ramesh about 15 years ago, and the latter deserted her after a female child was born out of the wedlock. The deceased was said to be living in a church by doing coolie work and the accused who was engaged for painting work in the church, got acquainted with the deceased and married her. They are said to be blessed with a girl child.
The complainant alleged that the accused and the deceased were residing as tenants and since three months prior to the date of submission of the complaint, the accused started harassing the deceased by suspecting her character. Despite convincing the accused, he smashed the head of the deceased with a cylinder and she died instantaneously.
Following the complaint, the police registered a case under Sections 498-A and 302 IPC and took up investigation. Later, the police filed the charge sheet and on the basis of the same, the trial court framed the charges. The prosecution examined some of the witnesses. No evidence was adduced by the defence. After the trial court convicted and sentenced the accused, the latter moved the High Court for relief.
The counsel for the appellant contended that there was neither direct nor circumstantial evidence in the case to connect the accused to the incident. The whole basis for submitting the complaint was the information said to have been furnished by the landlord of the deceased and the latter did not state anything on the basis of what was seen by him.
Though the medical evidence revealed that the death of the deceased occurred due to the injuries received on being hit by a cylinder, the principal question as to who caused the injuries was not at all answered by the prosecution. The trial court rested its conclusions on the alleged past conduct of the accused and that the same cannot be sustained in law, the counsel argued.
On the other hand, the additional public prosecutor said that there was a motive for the accused to kill the deceased on account of the fact that he suspected her character. Even the landlord narrated the facts as seen by him and the trial court had analysed the evidence on record on correct lines, the additional PP argued.
After hearing the arguments and perusing the material on record, the bench opined that the entire case turns upon circumstantial evidence.
Even the evidence of the landlord who was on an official duty at the time of the incident, would account for to the extent of furnishing of information about the death to brother of the deceased. Beyond that, the landlord did not witness the occurrence by himself, nor did he receive any direct information from any quarter. Besides, there is no evidence on record to indicate that the weapon with which the injuries on the body of the deceased were caused, has been recovered much less, at the instance of the accused, the bench pointed out.
With regard to the allegation of the complainant that the accused suspected the character of the deceased, the bench said “it is too difficult to believe that the accused was concerned about the character of the deceased. Reason is that the union between the accused and the deceased is itself, the result of an illicit intimacy. The trial court was naturally tempted to hold the accused as guilty on account of the fact that he alone was the person in the company of the deceased and his disappearance from the scene for quite some time naturally, makes the needle of suspicion, to point at him.”
The bench further said that it is of the opinion that the evidence on record is not sufficient even to make a beginning in the process of suspecting the role of the accused. It viewed that the conviction and sentence ordered by the trial court against the accused cannot be sustained in law. While setting aside the order of the lower court, the bench ruled that howsoever strong a suspicion may be, it cannot be a substitute for proof and that the proof in a criminal case must be beyond any reasonable doubt.