Finding of guilt based on communal considerations is unconstitutional

Madras High Court: While deciding an appeal filed under Section 374 of CrPC, the Division Bench comprising S. Nagamuthu, N. Seshasayee, JJ. has held that the proof of guilt of an accused should be reached on the basis of the evidence on record and any finding of guilt based on socio-economic and communal background of the accused is unconstitutional.

According to the prosecution, on 02.01.2010 around 11.00 p.m., the accused trespassed into a temple in Kancheepuram district and committed robbery of Rs.500 from the hundi kept inside the temple. When one Mr. Subramani, who was sleeping in front of the temple, tried to raise alarm, the accused attacked him with a wooden reaper and a crowbar, which resulted in his death. On 14.09.2010, the Inspector of Police arrested all the five accused. It was stated that from the disclosure statements made by the respective accused, a crowbar, a wooden reaper, a silver eye cap, a knife, and a Pooja plate were recovered, and at the instance of the second accused a gold thali was recovered from a pawn broker. Based on the above materials, the trial court convicted all the five accused of the offences punishable under Sections 302, 397, and 450 IPC.

The Court noted that there was no mention of any gold thali, silver eye cap or pooja plate in the FIR, and it was not explained as to why for about nine months the missing of these properties was not disclosed by anyone. Moreover, no link was established between the recovered weapons and the crime, and therefore the statements of the respective accused would not fall under Section 27 of the Evidence Act. The High Court also strongly condemned the trial Court’s conclusion that the accused would have committed the crime as the traditional occupation of their community was theft, and remarked that the trial court had convicted the accused not on any legal ground but on mere surmises. The appeal was accordingly allowed and all the five accused were acquitted. [Raja v. State, 2017 SCC OnLine Mad 1514, decided on 15-2-2017]

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