Nizam & Anr. V/s. State of Rajasthan

“Last seen theory” is an important link in the chain of circumstances that would point towards the guilt of the accused with some certainty.

Case name: Nizam & Anr. Vs. State of Rajasthan 
Case number: Criminal appeal number-413 of 2007
Court: The supreme court of india             Criminal appellate jurisdiction
Bench: JUSTICE DIPAK MISRA, JUSTICE R. BANUMATHI
Decided on: SEPTEMBER 04, 2015
Relevant Act/Sections: Sections 302 and 201 IPC, Section 313 CRPC, Article 136 of constitution
  • BRIEF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • The facts of the case is that deceased-Manoj was the helper on the truck No.MP-07-2627 and had gone to Pune and thereafter to Barar alongwith his first driver Raj Kumar   (PW-2) and second driver Ram Parkash (PW-1) and from Barar they loaded the truck with pipes for destination to Ghaziabad on 23.01.2001.  Accused-appellants Nizam and Shafique who were the driver and cleaner respectively on the truck No. DL-1GA-5943 also loaded their truck with pipes from the same company on the same day at Barar and started for Ghaziabad along with truck No.MP-07-2627. 
  • During this period drivers and cleaners of both the trucks developed acquaintance with each other.  While on the way to Ghaziabad, driver Raj Kumar (PW-2) of truck No.MP-07-2627 got into quarrel with some local persons and consequently Barar police detained him along with his truck. Faced with such situation, Raj Kumar (PW-2) instructed his second driver Ram Parkash (PW-1) to hand over the amount of Rs.20,000/to Manoj with instructions to give the money to the truck owner.  Accordingly, Manoj left for Gwalior with accused persons by the truck No.DL-1GA-5943 on 23.01.2001.
  • Dead body of deceased-Manoj was found on 26.01.2001 under suspicious circumstances in a field near village Maniya. On 26.01.2001 at about 3.00 O’clock, one Koke Singh (PW-13) went to collect the fodder and found a dead body lying in the field and the same was informed to Shahjad Khan (PW-4).  Based on the written information by Shahjad Khan (PW-
  • Case was registered in FIR No.16/2001 under Sections 302 and 201 IPC on 26.01.2001 at Thana-Maniya, District Dholpur. Gullu Khan (PW-16)-Investigating Officer seized the dead body and prepared a Panchnama.  One bilty  (Ex. P17) of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana Roadlines (Pune) and one receipt (Ex. P18) of Madhya Pradesh Government, Shivpuri Naka pertaining to truck No. DL-1GA-5943 were recovered from the pocket of trouser of deceased-Manoj and in the said bilty     (Ex.P-17), name of the driver was mentioned as Nizam and truck No.DL-1GA-5943 and some phone numbers.  Based on the 2clues obtaining in the bilty, accused Nizam and Shafique were arrested on 27.01.2001 and the truck No.DL-1GA-5943 was recovered. After due investigation, chargesheet was filed against the appellants-accused under Sections 302 and 201 IPC.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

  1. Additional Sessions Judge, Fast Track Court No.2, Dholpur held that the appellants-accused committed murder of deceased-Manoj to grab Rs.20,000/- and the prosecution has established the circumstances proving the accused-appellants guilty under Sections 302 and 201 IPC and sentenced each of them to undergo life imprisonment with a fine of Rs.2,000/- with default clause and two years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs.500/- with default clause respectively.
  2. Aggrieved by the verdict of conviction, appellants-accused preferred appeal before the High Court of Rajasthan, which vide impugned judgment dismissed the appeal thereby confirming the conviction of the accused-appellants and also respective sentence of imprisonment and fine amount imposed on each of them. Being aggrieved, the appellants have preferred this appeal.
  3. This appeal assails the correctness of the judgment dated 01.07.2005 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Rajasthan Jaipur Bench in Criminal Appeal No.1248 of 2002, whereby the High Court confirmed the conviction of the accused-appellants under Sections 302 and 201 IPC and sentence of life imprisonment imposed on each of them with a fine of Rs.2,000/- with default clause and also two years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs.500/- with default clause respectively.

DECISION HELD BY COURT:

  1. Whether in the facts and circumstances of this case, whether the courts below were right in invoking the “last seen theory.”

RATIO OF THE COURT:

  1. The court after taking in consideration Sunil Clifford Daniel vs. State of Punjab, (2012) 11 SCC 205, Sampath Kumar vs. Inspector of Police, Krishnagiri (2012) 4 SCC 124, Bodhraj @ Bodha And Ors. vs. State of Jammu & Kashmir, (2002) 8 SCC 45 and Mohd. Arif @ Ashfaq vs. State (NCT of Delhi), (2011) 13 SCC 621 observed that case of the prosecution is entirely based on the circumstantial evidence. In a case based on circumstantial evidence, settled law is that the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is drawn should be fully proved and such circumstances must be conclusive in nature.  Moreover, all the circumstances should be complete, forming a chain and there should be no gap left in the chain of evidence. Further, the proved circumstances must be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused totally inconsistent with his evidence
  2. Based on the evidence of PWs 1 and 2, courts below expressed the view that motive for murder of Manoj was the lust for the money which Manoj was carrying. Courts below based the conviction of the appellants on the circumstances “last seen theory” as stated by PWs 1 and 2 along with recovery of bilty and receipt by PW-6 on which the name of the accused person (Nizam) was printed.
  3. The appellants are alleged to have committed murder of Manoj for the amount which Manoj was carrying.  But neither the amount of Rs.20,000/- nor any part of it was recovered from the appellants.  If the prosecution is able to prove its case on motive, it will be a corroborative piece of evidence lending assurance to the prosecution case. But even if the prosecution has not been able to prove the motive, that will not be a ground to throw away the prosecution case. 
  4. Absence of proof of motive only demands careful scrutiny and deeper analysis of evidence adduced by the prosecution. Apart from non-recovery of the amount from the appellants, serious doubts arise as to the motive propounded by the prosecution.  By perusal of the evidence of Sudama Vithal Darekar (PW-17) it is clear that driver Raj Kumar came to the police station complaining that by five to seven people of other vehicle have robbed him and the money.
  5.  However, after investigation it was discovered that Raj Kumar gave false information and a case under Section 182 IPC was registered against him. Raj Kumar was produced before the Court and court imposed fine of Rs.1,000/- on him.  This fact was also verified from PW-16-investigating officer during his cross-examination.
  6. The court held that In case of circumstantial evidence, court has to examine the entire evidence in its entirety and ensure that the only inference that can be drawn from the evidence is the guilt of the accused.  In the case at hand, neither the weapon of murder nor the money allegedly looted by the appellants or any other material was recovered from the possession of the appellants.  There are many apparent lapses in the investigation and missing links:–(i) Non-recovery of stolen money; (ii) The weapon from which abrasions were caused; (iii) False case lodged by PW-2 alleging that he was being robbed by some other miscreants;   (iv) Non-identification of the dead body and (v) Non-explanation as to how the deceased reached Maniya village and injuries on his internal organ (penis). 
  7. Thus the court find many loopholes in the case of the prosecution.  For establishing the guilt on the basis of the circumstantial evidence, the circumstances must be firmly established and the chain of circumstances must be completed from the facts.  The chain of circumstantial evidence cannot be said to be concluded in any manner sought to be urged by the prosecution.
  8. Normally, this Court will not interfere in exercise of its powers under Article 136 of the Constitution of India with the concurrent findings recorded by the courts below. But where material aspects have not been taken into consideration and where the findings of the Court are unsupportable from the evidence on record resulting in miscarriage of justice, this Court will certainly interfere. 
  9. The court observed that Where time gap is long it would be unsafe to base the conviction on the “last seen theory”; it is safer to look for corroboration from other circumstances and evidence adduced by the prosecution. From the facts and evidence, we find no other corroborative piece of evidence corroborating the last seen theory. Finally the court held that In view of the time gap between Manoj left in the truck and the recovery of the body and also the place and circumstances in which the body was recovered, possibility of others intervening cannot be ruled out. In the absence of definite evidence that appellants and deceased were last seen together and when the time gap is long, it would be dangerous to come to the conclusion that the appellants are responsible for the murder of Manoj and are guilty of committing murder of Manoj.
  10. The “last seen theory” seems to have substantially weighed with the courts below and the High Court brushed aside many loopholes in the prosecution case.  None of the circumstances relied upon by the prosecution and accepted by the courts below can be said to be pointing only to the guilt of the appellants and no other inference. If more than one inferences can be drawn, then the accused must have the benefit of doubt.  In the facts and circumstances of the case, we are satisfied the conviction of the appellants cannot be sustained and the appeal ought to be allowed.
  11. The court observed that There are many apparent lapses in the investigation and missing links:–(i) Non-recovery of stolen money; (ii) The weapon from which abrasions were caused; (iii) False case lodged by PW-2 alleging that he was being robbed by some other miscreants; (iv) Non-identification of the dead body and (v) Non-explanation as to how the deceased reached Maniya village and injuries on his internal organ (penis). Thus we find many loopholes in the case of the prosecution.

DECISION HELD BY COURT:

  • In this case the judgement was given by JUSTICE R.BANUMATHI that the conviction of the appellants under Sections 302 and 201 IPC is set aside and the appeal is allowed. The appellants are in jail and they are ordered to be set at liberty forthwith if not required in any other case.  

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