New Delhi, Mar 14: The Supreme Court on Tuesday acquitted four convicted in a murder case and sentenced to life imprisonment, saying that “conviction of these accused purely on the basis of oral testimony of the interested witnesses, without sufficient corroboration, would not be sustainable”.
A bench of Justices B.R. Gavai, Vikram Nath, and Sanjay Karol said taking into consideration the delay in lodging the FIR, with the circumstance that three accused names were not mentioned in the contemporaneous documents, the possibility of the said accused being falsely implicated cannot be ruled out.
“In our view, the conviction of these accused purely on the basis of oral testimony of the interested witnesses, without sufficient corroboration, would not be sustainable,” said the bench.
Justice Gavai, who authored the judgment on behalf of the bench, said the witnesses in the case appear to be interested witnesses, inasmuch as they are close relatives of the deceased and that there was previous enmity between the two families, on account of election of sarpanch, has come on record.
Citing an apex court judgment, the bench said previous enmity is a double-edged sword and “on one hand, it can provide motive and on the other hand, the possibility of false implication cannot be ruled out”.
It observed that in the category of “wholly reliable” witness, there is no difficulty for the prosecution to press for conviction on the basis of the testimony of such a witness. In case of wholly unreliable witness, again, there is no difficulty, inasmuch as no conviction could be made on the basis of oral testimony provided by such a witness, it added.
“The real difficulty comes in case of the third category of evidence which is partly reliable and partly unreliable. In such cases, the court is required to be circumspect and separate the chaff from the grain, and seek further corroboration from reliable testimony, direct or circumstantial,” it noted. The bench also said that an FIR is a valuable piece of evidence, although it may not be substantial evidence.
According to the prosecution, in November 2006, Kartikram, Mangtin Bai, and Khomlal, were assaulted by a group of men. As a result of the assault, Kartikram died on the spot. An FIR was filed in the matter and after conclusion of the investigation, a charge sheet was filed against 12 accused persons before the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Baloda Bazar. Seven accused were released on completion of their sentence and another accused died during the pendency of the case.
The trial court in May 2008, convicted all the accused persons and the division bench of the Chhattisgarh High Court, in November 2014, dismissed the appeals filed by the accused persons. Three accused -- Nand Lal, Bhagwat, and Ramdular -- moved the apex court against the high court order. Another accused Naresh Kumar, also moved the top court, was represented by a counsel, who was appointed through the Supreme Court Legal Services Authority as an amicus curiae.