Libertatem Magazine

Supreme Court Upholds Conviction of Murder Accused 

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On the fateful night of 23.2.1996, the Complainant’s wife and mother had attended a marriage of the neighbor and reached home. Buddhi Singh and Achhar Singh, along with some other villagers entered the house of the Complainant armed, with weapons to kill the Complainant. Buddhi Singh killed Swaraa Devi (mother of the Complainant) with an axe and Achhar Singh hit Beli Ram(father of the Complainant) with an axe causing grievous injuries. The Complainant managed to flee from his house via rooftops and complained to the pradhan of Gram Panchayat’s Head regarding the gruesome incident, who advised him to complain to the police. The Complainant due to unavailability of transport travelled 24kms to reach the police station and register a complaint. The Trial Court in its wisdom acquitted the accused on the basic premise of exaggeration of circumstances due to the previous animosity between the parties and inability to fix culpability of the accused due to the presence of a group of people attacking the accused at the time of the incident. The High Court reversed the Trial Court’s decision by appreciating the evidence on record by claiming that consistent evidence was present to convict Buddhi and Achhar Singh. The High Court convicted both of them but acquitted the rest 5 that were charge-sheeted by the police. Against the order of the High Court, an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court

The contention of the Appellants 

Placing reliance on the Murugesan v State, the Appellant contended that as long as the Trial Court view was a possible view, High Court’s scrutiny was uncalled for. Further placing relying on Aruvelu v State, they contended that merely because the Appellate Court view was more probable, the Trial Court’s judgment would be flipped for that sole reason. The other contention was that an exaggerated version of the prosecution could not be relied upon keeping in mind the past animosity between the parties. It was further contended that the axe which was used as a murder weapon was found in a public place, thus, absolving the accused of any culpability. The other contention raised by the Appellants was that there was a marriage at Buddhi Singh’s place at the time of the incident and why did he leave the marriage to kill the Complainant and his family. Further, they expressed doubts over the prosecution witnesses and their testimonies.

The contention of the Respondents 

Placing reliance on Sheikh Hasib v State of Bihar, they contended that FIR could no be considered as evidence and could only be used to corroborate or contradict the maker of the FIR and not the witnesses. They further contended that witnesses could not be questioned merely because they were related to the deceased as laid down in Kishan Chand v State of U.P. They further contended that minor discrepancies or exaggerations could not invalidate the testimonies of the witnesses as laid down by Leela Ram v State of Haryana.

The decision of the Court 

The Court upheld the decision of the High Court.

The reasoning for the decision 

The Court refuted the argument of the Appellants that Trial Court’s view could not be interfered with if there was a possible view by ruling that the High Court should not interfere if 2 views were possible, but this precautionary principle could not be stretched to the contours of appeal and further held that there was no bar on the High Court to reappreciate evidence in case of appeal. The Court further refuted the argument of the Appellants that the witness statements were exaggerated by ruling that the Court must separate the grain from the chaff and despite the exaggeration, there was a consistent stand of witnesses that Buddhi Singh attacked the deceased with the axe. The Court further stated that exaggeration contained some truth and it was up to the Court to decipher it. The Court negatived the contention of Appellants that axe was found in a public place thus it did not belong to Buddhi Singh by reminding that the place of incidence was located amidst a farming community of Himachal Pradesh, where tools like axes were a common feature in everyone’s home. 

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