Supreme Court: Unsafe to Convict Accused Based on Uncorroborated Testimony of Accomplice

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The SC observed that it is unsafe to convict an accused only based on the uncorroborated testimony of his accomplice. The bench comprises of Justices R. F. Nariman, K.M. Joseph, and V. Ramasubramaniam. They held that an accomplice, to be believed by the Court, must be corroborated by the material facts.

Brief Facts of the Case

A 2-judge bench of Justices V. Gopala Gowda and Justice Arun Mishra presided over the case. They referred to the murder and abduction case of AIADMK leader M.K. Balan. The 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, KM Joseph, and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ agreed with Justice Mishra’s opinion. They upheld the conviction. Justice V. Gopala had held that for Section 109 of IPC, it is not enough for conspiracy as it has to take a step further. He said that it needs to prove that an act committed is in furtherance of that conspiracy. Whereas Justice Arun Mishra held that u/s 109 IPC, the abettor is liable to the same punishment. That is, which may be inflicted on the principal offender if the act of the latter is committed. That is in consequence of the abetment.

Arguments by the State

The accused made confessional statements u/s 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. These statements gave information which led to recoveries. The case of the prosecution was that the accused abducted and took the deceased to a factory. A large amount of money-motivated them to commit this crime because of a large amount of money. On non-acceptance of the demand of the accused, the accused killed the deceased on the factory’s first floor. The cremation of his body took place at the Corporation cremation ground on 01.01.2002. The accused roped in Prosecution Witness 33-an employee of a Government Hospital. It was for getting a false death certificate to prove the same. Further, a fictional name and a fake address were used to get the death certificate of the accused.

Arguments by the Appellant

The defence counsel submitted that the criminal conspiracy charges are incorrect. The Trial Court had acquitted the appellant and the co-accused of that charge. Then, he said that the prosecution based their case on the conspiracy of the co-accused, A-12. Since the acquittal of A-12 of the charge, the case of the prosecution failed.

The prosecution case was on the testimony of two accomplices of the appellant. Since they are accomplices, they are not trustworthy witnesses. The settled law is that the Court would not act on the depositions of accomplices. It cannot be done unless found reliable. Furthermore, there should be corroboration of their testimony from other reliable evidence.

Court’s Observations

Section 113 read with illustration (b) of Section 114 has a combined result. The Courts have evolved a rule with time. It is unsafe to convict an accused of the testimony of his accomplice. The evidence of an accomplice must point out the involvement of a particular accused. This link between the accomplice and the accused is of crucial significance.

The testimony would be enough if the other relevant evidence combined with it. This would make out a case against the accused.

Court’s Decision

The Court upheld the conviction of the appellant. They further agreed with the decision given in the 2-judge bench by Justice Arun Mishra.


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