‘Last seen’ evidence admissible only when it attains the status of proof and not merely grounds for suspicion

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of S. Murlidhar and I.S. Mehta JJ., set aside the conviction and sentence of the petitioners convicted under Section 302/24 of the IPC. The matter lay before the High Court via an appeal against the judgment and order of the learned Addl. Sessions Judge whereby the petitioners were condemned to life imprisonment along with fine of Rs. 5000 each.

The accused were allegedly seen drinking with the deceased by the deceased’s brother (PW 15) on the intervening night between 10th and 11th June 1999. The following morning, the deceased’s body was found lying atop a rickshaw along with a blood-smeared knife not far from the body along with a chappal. The post-mortem report conclusively pointed towards homicide with a sharp weapon which could be the knife collected from the crime scene.

The learned Addl. Sessions Judge had passed the conviction on the basis of circumstantial evidence forming a complete chain of events by which the guilt of the accused could not be denied. However, the court found material discrepancies in the testimony of the PW 15. First off, PW 15, being an interested witness had to examined carefully. He had talked about a “Chander ki Garage”, where allegedly the deceased had been drinking with the accused, which was not visited or enquired about by the IO. The recorded statement of PW 15 also gave the impression that his statement was recorded after the dead body had already been found as PW 15 states to have started looking for the accused instead of his brother in the morning. Barring the shaky testimony of PW 15 there was also no other proof showing that there was previous enmity between the accused and the deceased, hence removing motive from the equation. The Court stated that though the evidence of ‘last seen’ may evoke suspicion, it does not, in the surrounding circumstances attain the status of proof. Petition allowed. [Chhatar Pal v. State, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 6678, decided on 18.01.2018]

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