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Criminal Lawyer: SC acquits the accused in case of murder - chain of circumstances not complete.

Supreme Court of India

Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, Justice N. V. Ramana and Justice Ajay Rastogi

The SC {Umesh Tukaram Padwal & Anr. v. The State of Maharashtra} discarding circumstantial evidence and last seen theory, in the present case, has acquitted the appellant from the offence of murder.

It was held that the circumstance that the deceased was last seen on the morning of 11.07.2002 with Accused Nos. 1 and 2. In this regard, it is the consistent stand of the accused that the deceased, for reasons best known to him, disappeared from the Vasind Railway Station, about which Accused No. 1  had informed PW­1   on   the   same   day.   This   has   been   brought   out   in   the deposition of PW­1 as well as the first information he submitted. 

It was further held that there   is   nothing   on   record   to   show   that   the prosecution made an effort to collect any admitted writing of Accused No. 1 during the course of investigation and to compare the disputed writing of Accused No. 1 with the same. It was held, without there being proof of the similarity of the handwriting found in the diary seized under Ext. P­52 and any admitted writing of Accused No. 1, it is not open to the Court to presume that the handwriting in the entry found in the register is that of Accused No. 1. Thus, it was held that it appears   that   the   prosecution   pleads   on   the   basis   of   mere assumptions that the entries found in the register were made by Accused No. 1. The diary entries can therefore not be relied upon in any manner.

In addition, it was held if the body was fully decomposed, as PW­4 has deposed, the identification of the dead body also becomes doubtful.

It was further held that in   a   case   based   on   circumstantial   evidence,   the circumstances relied upon by the prosecution should be proved beyond reasonable doubt, and such proved  circumstances should form a complete chain so as not to leave any doubt in the mind of the Court about the complicity of the accused. It was held in the instant case, none of the circumstances relied upon by the  prosecution have   been   proved   beyond   reasonable   doubt,   and   there   is   no question of a complete chain of circumstances  being formed that would point towards the guilt of the accused. It was held that the benefit of doubt should therefore be granted in their favour. 

It was also held that neither Accused   No.   1   nor   Accused   No.   2   absconded   after   the disappearance of the deceased, and were found present in their respective houses. All in all, the material on record indicates that the accused did not have knowledge of the whereabouts of the deceased after his disappearance, and that Accused No. 1 had furnished an explanation as to how he parted with the deceased, on the very day of his disappearance. Therefore, it was held by the SC that  circumstance   of   the   deceased   being   last   seen  with   the accused therefore does not point towards their guilt. Accordingly, the appellants were acquitted by the SC, and the judgement of the courts below were set aside.

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