Bhagwan Jagannath Markad&Ors Vs State of Maharashtra

“The principle of criminal jurisprudence that the burden of proof is always on the prosecution and the accused is presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty.”

Case name:Criminal Appeal No. 1516 of 2011
Case number:Supreme Court of India
Court:Supreme Court of India
Bench:Shri Justice V. Gopala Gowda Shri Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel
Decided on:OCTOBER 04, 2016
Relevant Act/Sections:Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Sections 147,149,302,324,326) Indian Evidence Act (Sections 27, Criminal Procedure Code (Sections 162
  2. In the present case, according to the prosecution, one Bibhishan Vithoba Khadle has been murdered and six persons have been injured being Indubai, PW11 Dagadu Gopinath Koyale, PW18 Chaturbhuj Khade, PW15 Bibhishan Kshirsagar, Gopinath Mahadev Koyale and PW12 Kernath Koyale in the attack by the accused. As per the FIR lodged by PW10 Satyabhama, the deceased and all the injured people along with others were present in their house on the date of 13.11.1988 at 12 noon when all the accused came there to attack her husband.
  3. Accused No.3 put the house on fire on account of which everyone came out. Then, all the accused persons attacked the victims family with knives, sticks, barchis, iron rods, axes, swords etc. PW11 fell down on the account of beating and became unconscious. Accused no. 3-7 then caused beating to the deceased Bibhishan Vithoba Khade. The occurrence was a result of the enmity of party faction in Panchayat and Co-operative Society elections. It was also mentioned that one of the injured and the deceased person were carried on a bullock cart to the main road and thereafter they were carried in the jeep. The procedural history is:
  4. After the registration of FIR, investigation was carried out and charge-sheet was submitted before the court. The accused denied the charge. However, accused no.5 stated that PW11 Dagadu told him that he should not contest the election to which he replied that PW11 had been Sarpanch for 10-12 years and thus, accused should be allowed to become Sarpanch which caused the assault.
  5. The prosecution relied upon the eyes witness account rendered by several PWs also, it relied on the findings of PW4 and PW5 who were doctors who conducted the post-mortem and the treatment respectively. However, the trial court rejected the prosecution version for reasons being that recovery was not admissible as the location of the articles recovered was already known, the prosecution did not examine Indubai and Gopinath, motive was not established and that all the material witnesses are either related or otherwise interested and their testimony could not be accepted in absence of corroboration in material particulars.
  7. The High Court observed that acquital by the trial court was based on omissions and contradictions which were not material and did not affect the veracity of the prosecution case. Learned counsel on behalf of the appellants argued that judgment of acquittal rendered by the trial court was certainly a possible view on appreciation of evidence and the High Court could not reverse the same as there was no perversity.
  8. It was also submitted that since the incident was 28 years old, some of the appellants have become very old and ought not to be convicted at this stage.
  10. Whether the trial court’s acquittal of the accused people justified?
  11. Whether the High court was justified in convicting some of the accused?
  12. Whether a cryptic message can be treated as an FIR?
  • The court found that it is accepted principle of criminal jurisprudence that the burden of proof is always on the prosecution and the accused is presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty. The prosecution has to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and the accused is entitled to the benefit of the reasonable doubt. The doubt which the law contemplates is not of a confused mind but of prudent man who is assumed to possess the capacity to “separate the chaff from the grain”. The degree of proof need not reach certainty but must carry a high degree of probability.
  • While appreciating the evidence of a witness, the court has to assess whether read as a whole, it is truthful. In doing so, the court has to keep in mind the deficiencies, drawbacks and infirmities to find out whether such discrepancies shake the truthfulness. Section 155 of the Evidence Act enables the doubt to impeach the credibility of the version of a witness by proof of former inconsistent statement. Section 145 of the Evidence Act lays down the procedure for contradicting a witness by drawing his attention to the part of previous statement which is to be used for contradiction.
  • The court found that a relation may not conceal the actual culprit.  The evidence may be closely scrutinized to assess whether an innocent person is falsely implicated Mechanical rejection of evidence even of a ‘partisan’ or ‘interested’ witness may lead to failure of justice. It is well known that principle “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” has no general acceptability. A judge presides over the trial not only to ensure that no innocent is punished but also to see that guilty does not escape.
  • In Anand Mohan versus State of Bihar while referring to Section 154 Cr.P.C., this Court observed that every cryptic information, even if not signed by the person giving the information, cannot be treated as FIR. The information should sufficiently disclose the nature of the offence and the manner in which the offence was committed.
  • In Sk. Ishaque v. State of Bihar [(1995) 3 SCC 392] Gulabi Paswan gave a cryptic information at the police station to the effect that there was a commotion at the village as firing and brickbatting was going on and this Court held that this cryptic information did not even disclose the commission of a cognizable offence nor did it disclose who were the assailants and such a cryptic statement of Gulabi Paswan cannot be treated to be an FIR within the meaning of Section 154 CrPC.
  • The court referred to the above settled principles as the trial court has adopted perverse approach in rejecting the entire evidence comprising of injured eye witnesses when one person has been killed and six others have been injured. The said accused himself is injured which proves that he was present at the scene of occurrence. Except for some contradictions, the version of eye witness PWs 10,11,15,12 and 18 is consistent. There is no reason to reject the said version. Of course, the court has to be cautious in appreciating evidence and rule out exaggeration.
  • Applying the above principles to the present case, it is clear that all the five eye witnesses have named A1 to A7. Other accused have not been named by PW11 and PW18. By way of abundant caution, we give benefit of doubt to A10 and A11 for the reason that PW10 has attributed specific role only to A1 to A7.
  • In view of the above facts, the court partly allowed to the extent that appellant no.7 and 8 are given benefit of doubt and are acquitted. They be released from custody, if not required in any other case. Appeal of other appellants is dismissed.
  • However, appellant no.5 and 6 will continue to remain on bail for one month and if they make an application for remission of the remaining sentence on the ground of advanced age within one month, they will continue to remain on bail thereafter till the decision of the said application by the appropriate authority.
  • If their application for remission is not accepted, they will surrender to serve out the remaining sentence.

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