07 May 2121

No one can be convicted under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 based on only a thin piece of evidence - Supreme Court of India

Case : Mallappa v. State of Karnataka Criminal Appeal No. 1993 of 2010

Court : Supreme Court of India

Bench : Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Aniruddha Bose

Decided on : 07 May 2121

Relevant Statutes

Section 34 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

Brief Facts & Procedural History

1. There was a dispute between the appellant and the deceased for immovable property and sharing of canal water, this was also presented as a motive of the crime.

2. The deceased was sleeping in the front yard of his house at a little distance from his wife Bassamma and two daughters when he was assaulted. On the loud crying of the wife and daughter, Shivarayappa brother of the deceased woke up and saw the two accused running away. He called a local doctor, who declared the deceased to be dead. After that, they arranged a jeep and go to the Sindhnpur Police Station for reporting the incident.

3. They then filed a case in the Trial Court where the accused were found not guilty of the offence punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. They then appeal to the High Court where the judgment of the Trial Court was dismissed and were found guilty for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The accused appeal in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India challenging the judgment given by the High Court.

The Issue of the Case

Whether the judgment passed by the High Court of Karnataka on 11th June 2008 valid?

The Observations of the Court

1. Honourable Supreme Court of India observes that PW5's testimony, on the other hand, cannot be accepted in its whole. There are inconsistencies in PW5's deposition when it comes to seeing Mallappa at the scene of the crime. She indicated in her cross-examination, that the accused individuals were in front of Devendrappa's house when she observed them. That is PW3's as well as PW6's proof. Her contradictory testimony about Honappa's attendance at the place of occurrence on the night of the event may be discarded since it has no bearing on the case. However, her contradicting assertions about when and where she saw the appellant, as well as whether or not she observed him perpetrate the attack, are significant. In her cross-examination in chief, she testified that when she opened her eyes after hearing the sound "dhup," she observed A1 (the appellant) hitting her husband's head with a club, while A2 (Veerappa) stood alongside him. However, previously in her cross-examination, she said that she had been injured by the time she awoke. She stated she saw the suspect in front of Devendrappa's residence. This portion of her cross-examination deposition is otherwise consistent with the remainder of her cross-examination comments. Only one conclusion is feasible in this situation: she was not a witness to an actual incident of assault.

2. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that P.W.5's testimony of being an eyewitness to the incident has been called into question due to her conflicting remarks. Apart from the discovery of the club, the appellant's involvement, according to the prosecution, appears from him being spotted while fleeing away from the scene of the crime by the aforementioned three witnesses in the same area. Evidence as to whether that site is visible from the locations where PW Nos. 3 and 6 were at the relevant time cannot be dismissed as irrelevant.

3. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that Srinivas (PW­2), the seizure witness, said that the club was not broken in his evidence, which we have already printed. PW­1 also deposed on the spot panchanama, which was taken by the police on the morning, from the scene of the incident. He also says nothing about the club's shattered portion being seized. These two prosecution witnesses contradict PW­8, the inquest officer, who stated during his interrogation that the latter had seized a little piece of the wooden club. Dr. Venkatesh Y (PW­7), the autopsy surgeon, was not shown the club. From his deposition, it appears that this is not the case. The club is a common implementation that can be found at random in rural households across the country, and in the absence of any cogent evidence that the club seized was used to assault the deceased, the prosecution's story of establishing a commission of the offence through circumstantial evidence of the discovery of the weapon of assault fails.

4. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that even if the prosecution version that the PW3, PW5, and PW6 could and did observe the appellant sprinting in front of Devendrappa's house from the positions they were in at the time of the incident was adopted, all we would have had was two accused individuals running away. That would have been insufficient evidence to condemn someone under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which applies the res gestae concept.

The Decision Held by the Court

1. Honourable Supreme Court of India set aside the judgment of the High Court and upheld the judgment of the Trial Court i.e., the accused found not guilty of the offence punishable under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The sentence of the appellant was suspended and bail bonds were discharged.

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