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During fire, it takes a person lot of courage to get back into house to save somebody, not doing so may be morally wrong but cannot be a circumstance to hold a person guilty of Murder: SC

The SC on August 10, 2021 {Parubai vs. The State of Maharashtra} observed that the High Court has held   the   appellant   guilty   more   on   preponderance   of probability   rather   than   reaching   a   conclusion   beyond reasonable doubt. Though it has employed the phrase ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ in its concluding paragraph, the reasoning preceding the same are only conjectures and surmises.

It was also held by the Bench, comprising of Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice Hemant Gupta that even   if   the   chemical analysis report referring to the frock is accepted there is nothing   on   record   to   connect   that   the   appellant   was responsible for the sprinkling of the kerosene or for the kerosene to have come in contact with the frock of Nikita which is said to have been recovered from the place of occurrence. Therefore, it was held that the   circumstance   that   the appellant was not injured in the incident cannot be the basis to rely on the presence of kerosene stains on the frock   as   a   circumstance   that   she   had   set   fire   by sprinkling kerosene.

Further the SC held that mere suspicion would not be sufficient, unless   the   circumstantial evidence   tendered   by   the prosecution leads to the conclusion that it “must be true” and not “may be true”. In that backdrop, it was held that a perusal of the judgment passed by the Session’s Court as well as the High Court in the instant   case, for   its   ultimate   conclusion   has   made suspicion   the   reason   for   rendering   conviction   without there being any strong basis. It was held that the suspicion, however strong, cannot take the place of proof.  

It was held that if in the middle of the night for whatever reason there was fire and if the appellant   had   woken   up   and   noticed   it   a   little earlier, the natural conduct is to run out of the house instead of going into the house which is burning to check on the other inmates. It was held that it takes a person lot of courage or be overdriven with compassion to get back into the house to   save   somebody   else   and   not   doing   so   may   be considered as morally wrong for not coming to the aid of fellow   human   being   in   distress,   but   it   cannot   be   a circumstance to hold a person guilty of a crime which is as serious as murder unless the other circumstances in the   chain   point   to   the   accused   so   as   to   lead   to   an irresistible conclusion of being guilty.

It was held that if the appellant was responsible for causing the fire with the intention to kill Mandabai, would not she have closed the door after coming out of the house to ensure that   she   does   not   come   out. It was held that  the   High   Court   holding   the   appellant   guilty   of pouring kerosene around the deceased and her children and setting them on fire since the appellant had failed to explain the reason for eruption of fire in view of such obligation   to   explain   under   Section   106   is   also   not sustainable   in   the   present   circumstance. In the instant case, it was held since the other circumstances in the chain are not established, the same cannot be held against the appellant. It was held on the other hand,   the   case   itself   is   that   the   fire   had   erupted   at midnight when the appellant and others were sleeping and she come out shouting. It was held that the explanation for the cause of fire by the appellant would have arisen only if there   was   any   other   evidence   to   the   effect   that   the appellant was already awake and was outside even before the fire erupted.

In   the   result, the   judgment   dated   12.10.2017 passed by the High Court affirming the conviction and sentence ordered by the Sessions Court were set aside. The appellant Parubai who was on interim bail was set at liberty and her bail bond stood discharged. The appeal was, accordingly, allowed by the SC.

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