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Appellate Courts ought not to routinely re-appreciate the evidence in a criminal case: Supreme Court

The SC on Aug 19, 2020 {Mohd. Anwar vs The State (N.C.T. of Delhi)} held in the present case the crime of robbery with hurt has been established by the testimony of PW-1 and the other evidence on record. It was held that the complainant (PW-1) had no motive to falsely implicate the appellate and/or to allow the real culprits to go scot-free. It was held that the refusal to participate in the TIP proceedings and the lack of any reasons on the spot, undoubtedly establish the appellant’s guilty conscience and ought to be given substantial weight. It was held that the three-day delay in registration of FIR, as projected by the appellant, is devoid of factual basis. It was held that the original record shows that the complaint was, in fact, registered within a few hours of the incident on 18.05.2001.

It was further observed by the SC Bench, comprising of Justice N.V. RAMANA, Justice S. ABDUL NAZEER & Justice SURYA KANT, that it must be highlighted that appellate Courts ought not to routinely re-appreciate the evidence in a criminal case. It was held that this is not only for reasons of procedure, expediency, or finality; but because the trial Court is best placed to holistically appreciate the demeanour of a witness and other evidence on record. It was held by the SC that given the concurrent finding of the Courts below on key aspects of the robbery, it does not find it a fit case for such re-appraisal of evidence.

It was held that pleas of unsoundness of mind under Section 84 of IPC or mitigating circumstances like juvenility of age, ordinarily ought to be raised during trial itself. It was held that belated claims not only prevent proper production and appreciation of evidence, but they also undermine the genuineness of the defence’s case.

It was held that mere production of photocopy of an OPD card and statement of mother on affidavit have little, if any, evidentiary value. It was further held that in order to successfully claim defence of mental unsoundness under Section 84 of IPC, the accused must show by preponderance of probabilities that he/she suffered from a serious-enough mental disease or infirmity which would affect the individual’s ability to distinguish right from wrong. Further, it was held that it must be established that the accused was afflicted by such disability particularly at the time of the crime and that but for such impairment, the crime would not have been committed. It was held that the reasons given by the High Court for disbelieving these defences are thus well reasoned and unimpeachable.

The SC held that given such inability of the appellant to establish juvenility or insanity, does not raise any doubt regarding guilt; and considering the detailed reasons accorded by the High Court, the reliable testimony of twelve witnesses as well as the leniency shown in sentencing, it sees no reasons to interfere with the impugned order(s). The appeal was accordingly dismissed.

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