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Solitary ground of the complainant also being the investigating officer is not available for acquittal in absence of bias: SC

The SC on Oct 26, 2020 {Rajesh Dhiman vs State of Himachal Pradesh} held that reasonable doubt does not mean that proof be so clear that no possibility of error exists. It was held that the evidence must only be so conclusive that all reasonable doubts are removed from the mind of an ordinary person.

It was further observed by the SC Bench, comprising of Justice N.V. RAMANA,  Justice SURYA KANT & Justice HRISHIKESH ROY, that the earlier position of law which allowed the solitary ground of the complainant also being the investigating officer, to become a spring board for an accused to be catapulted to acquittal, has been reversed. Instead, it was held that it is now necessary to demonstrate that there has either been actual bias or there is real likelihood of bias, with no sweeping presumption being permissible.

It was held that the   appellants   have   at   no   stage claimed that there existed any enmity or other motive for the police to falsely implicate them and let the real culprits walk free. Further, it was held that such a huge quantity of charas could not have been planted against the appellants by the police on its own.

Further, it was held that not only the alternative version projected by the appellants is vague and improbable, but it escapes comprehension how non investigation of a defence theory disclosed only at an advanced stage of trial, could indicate bias on part of the police.

It was held that as correctly appreciated by the High Court in detail, non examination of independent witnesses would not ipso facto entitle one to seek acquittal. It was held that though a heighted standard of care is imposed on the court in such instances but there is nothing to suggest that the High Court was not   cognizant   of this duty. It was held that rather, the consequence of upholding the trial Court’s reasoning would   amount   to   compulsory   examination   of   each   and   every witness attached to the formation of a document. It was held that not only is the imposition of such a standard of proof unsupported by statute but it is also unreasonably onerous.

The SC held that there is no gainsaid that High Courts are well within their power to reverse an acquittal and award an appropriate sentence; though   they   cautiously   exercise   such   powers   in   practice. It was held that illustratively, a few permissible reasons which would necessitate such interference by the High Court include patent errors of law, grave miscarriage of justice, or perverse findings of fact.

It was held that the   safeguards   for search   of   a person would not extend to his bag or other article being carried by them. Given how the narcotics have been discovered from a backpack. The SC does not find any merit in these appeals which were accordingly dismissed.

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