Courts of law should not be carried away by sentimentalities, conjectures, or the status of an accused as a habitual offender, the Madras High Court recently had occasion to caution (R Marimuthu @ Samikannu and anr. v The State and ors.).
Justice K Murali Shankar seen while acquitting two men accused of snatching a gold chain, after finding various loopholes in the police investigation and inconsistencies in witness statements.
“Generally, the Courts of law shall not be carried away by mere sentimentalities or the conjunctures or surmises or the status of the accused as habitual offender but bound to proceed on the basis of legal evidence alone,” Justice Shankar said.
The case concerned the theft of a gold chain which took place in 2008. The complainant alleged that two men on a two-wheeler had snatched her gold chain while she was en route from a bus stop.
Two men were arrested by the police in connection with this case on the basis of suspicion. The prosecution submitted that the stolen gold thali was also recovered from a jeweller based on the confession of one of the accused. Pertinently, based on the confession, three cases were registered against the accused in three different police stations.
The two were convicted by the trial court, following which their conviction and sentence under Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) were confirmed by a Sessions Court. The two accused, thereafter, challenged both lower court orders by way of a criminal revision petition.
The High Court, in turn, acknowledged that a revision case is not the same as an appeal case, and that the Court’s role in this matter was confined to examining the legality, propriety and correctness of the concurrent findings of the lower courts in convicting and sentencing the accused.
“There is absolutely no scope for re-appreciation of entire evidence once again. But at the same time, if the appreciation of evidence is tainted with the perversity, that can be interfered with,” Justice Shankar observed.
The Court eventually found that this was a fit case to interfere, given that there was material to indicate that the police may have colluded to implicate the accused.
“…. a serious doubt arises that after arresting the accused, the Sub-Inspectors of Police, Pasupathipalayam Police Station and Vangal Police Station, who were alleged to be the members of the special team, after due deliberation, consultation and discussion with Velliyanai Police, have implicated the accused with the case pending in Velliyanai Police Station and that after coming to know about the arrest of the accused and the alleged recovery, the Velliyanai Police after conducting the name-sake investigation, filed the final report. Considering the above, this Court has no hesitation to hold that the investigation is tainted,” the Court said.
The Court arrived at this conclusion upon considering the following, among other, factors:
- The accused were not identified by the complainant herself. Rather, the complainant was called to the police station where the police officers told her that the two accused had snatched her chain. No test identification parade was conducted either.
- The Court was told that the two accused had already been acquitted in two other cases foisted on them on the basis of the confession.
- The Judge found, on perusing these documents, that the confession statement and the seizure mahazars for the recoveries made for cases in two different police stations were all authored by the same person, stated to be the Sub-Inspector of Police at Velliyanai Police Station.
- Whereas four occurrence witnesses were cited by the police, only two were examined in court. The testimony of these two witnesses also contained inconsistencies.
- It is settled law that confession statement cannot be marked or exhibited in toto and that only the portion, which discloses a new fact alone can be admitted in evidence under the Evidence Act. The remaining portion is legally inadmissible in evidence. In this case, however, the entire confession statement was marked as evidence.
- Even assuming that the alleged recovery of the gold chain was made, there is no material to connect the accused with such recovery as the confession alleged to have been made by the first accused was not proved in accordance with law.
Therefore, the Court concluded that the prosecution had failed miserably in proving their case. Justice Shankar further opined that the trial court and the appellate court had not appreciated the evidence available in this case in its proper legal perspective.
The Judge proceeded to allow the criminal revision plea and acquitted both the accused of all charges.