When the case is based on circumstantial evidence, motive assumes significance

Bombay High Court: While deciding criminal appeals filed against the judgment and order of conviction passed by the learned Trial Judge against the appellants-accused; a Division Bench comprising of V.K. Tahilramani, J and Dr. Shalini Phansalkar Joshi, J. quashed the impugned judgment and set aside the conviction and sentence of accused 1.

The appellants were convicted and sentenced for offences punishable under Sections 120(B), 302 and 201 read with 34 of the Penal Code. The accused were alleged to have murdered the deceased. During investigation, the role of Accused 1 and 2 in the alleged crime, transpired. However, no overt acts were attributed to Accused 1. Prosecution examined as many as twelve witnesses and the trial court convicted all the accused of the alleged offence.

The High Court perused the material available on record and found that the instant case was based on circumstantial evidence. There was no eyewitness to the incident. The Court was of the opinion though that the conviction can be based on circumstantial evidence alone, but for that the prosecution must establish the chain of circumstances, which consistently points to the accused and accused alone and is inconsistent with their innocence. It is further essential for the prosecution to cogently and firmly establish the circumstances from which inference of guilt of accused is to be drawn. These circumstances then have to be taken into consideration cumulatively. They must be complete to conclude that within all human probability, the accused and none else have committed the offence.

The Court was of the view that when the case is based on circumstantial evidence, motive assumes significance. In the instant case, the prosecution failed to even allege or to prove such motive. Mother of the deceased, in her cross-examination stated that the relations between the deceased and Accused 1 were cordial all the while. According to her evidence, there were quarrels between the deceased and other vegetable vendors. Thus, in there was absolutely no convincing, reliable or cogent evidence brought on record by the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

Allowing the appeals, the judgment of the trial court convicting the accused was quashed and set aside. [Ramesh Durgappa Hirekerur v. State of Maharashtra,  2017 SCC OnLine Bom 9109, dated 27.09.2017]

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