Accused acquitted of offence under Section 302 convicted under Section 201 IPC on abject failure to offer any explanation about their conduct: SC

Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of A.M. Khanwilkar and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ., partly allowed a criminal appeal filed by murder convicts challenging the judgment of Allahabad High Court whereby the appellants were convicted under Sections 302 and 201 IPC.

One Zahida Begum and her son were murdered. She was the second wife of Appellant 3. Appellants 1 and 2 were sons of Appellant 3 from his first wife. In January 2004, the police received the missing complaint of Zahida and her son. On enquiry, Appellant 1 confesses to murdering them along with the other two appellants and also assisted the police in recovery of the dead bodies form the septic tank at back of the house. All the three appellants lived together in the house from which the bodies were recovered. The appellants were charged, tried and convicted by the trial for offences punishable under Sections 302 and 201 IPC. On an appeal, the High Court upheld the conviction while modifying the punishment. Aggrieved thereby, present appeal was filed.

The Supreme Court, on perusal of the record, held that as far as Appellant 1 was concerned, no error could be found with the judgment of upholding conviction and order of sentence passed by the High Court against him. However, as for Appellants 2 and 3, the Court held that there was no such evidence as to prove the offence of murder against them beyond a reasonable doubt. It was reiterated that confession an accused, by itself cannot form the basis for conviction of the co-accused. Further, however, the Court held that the fact that they could not be convicted for offence punishable under Section 302does not extricate them from the offence under Section 201 for causing the disappearance of evidence. The Court said say so because it was proved that Zahida and her son were residing along with the appellants in the same house. It is also an established fact that they had suddenly gone missing for over two months. No efforts were made by Appellants 2 and 3 to trace them nor did they think it necessary to report that fact to the local police. No explanation whatsoever was offered as to why they did not report about the sudden disappearance. Even though they could not be made liable for the murder for want of legal evidence in that regard, they would certainly be guilty of having committed offence under Section 201 as established from proved circumstances coupled with their abject failure tooter any explanation, much less cogent explanation, about their conduct. The appeal was disposed in the terms above. [Asar Mohammad v. State of U.P.,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2179, decided on 24-10-2018]

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