Anil s/o Shamrao Sute and Anr. v. State of Maharashtra
Citation: (2013) 12 SCC 441
Before Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India, comprising of Aftab Alam J.
and Ranjana P. Desai J.
A-1(Anil) and A-2 (Ashok) along with A-3 (Baba), A-4 (Kishor), A-5 (Shankar) and
A-6 (Mayabai) were charged for the murder of one Vijay Lambat (deceased) under
sections 147, 148, 302 r/w section 149, and 302 r/w section 34 of
the IPC after an F.I.R. was lodged by the wife (PW 3- Meena) of the deceased.
The prosecution posed the facts as follows- The deceased was driver and on the
night of 13th December 1991, both the deceased and PW 3 were at their home. At
around 20:00, A-1, A2 and A-5 came to their house, gave money to PW3 and asked
her to bring liquor for them. PW 3 resisted but then sent her son to get liquor
from nearby house. After drinking liquor, they insisted the deceased to go out
with them for paan. Despite the latter's resistance, they took him out to the
courtyard forcibly and A-1 and A-2 stabbed the deceased with knifes, in the
A-6 (mother of the deceased), held the deceased on ground during the
stabbing. PW 3 tried to stop the act but was shoved away by the accused. PW 3
then lodged F.I.R. in Wardha Police Station and the deceased was rushed to the
hospital but was declared dead on spot.
This is an appeal against the conviction of Appellants A-1 and A-2 in a murder
trial, where they were convicted under sections 302 r/w 34 of the IPC, by the
Sessions Court. They were sentenced to life imprisonment, and a fine of Rs.
500/- each. A-1 and A-2 approached the Bom H.C. via an appeal which was later
dismissed. Hence, appellants A-1 and A-2, aggrieved by the order of the H.C.,
have filed appeal before S.C.
- Whether A-1 and A-2 could be held liable for the murder of the deceased
u/s 302 r/w 34 of the IPC?
- Whether the statement given by PW 3 (Meena-wife) in the FI.R.,
Examination-in-Chief and in the Cross Examination is credible?
The Supreme Court allowed the present appeal because the prosecution's case
wholly relied on the statements made by PW 3 (Meena, wife of deceased) in the
F.I.R. However, PW 3's statements fundamentally differed from that given in FI.R.
to those during Cross and Chief Examination before the Court. Hence, it could
pass the test of credibility.
Any conviction based on half-truths and varied evidence endures a great deal of
risk as it is not free of all reasonable doubt and does not inspire confidence.
There exists worthy suspicion on the involvement of A-1 and A-2 in the murder of
the deceased but the same cannot be equated with proof beyond reasonable doubt.
Presentation of evident and irreproachable evidence is the prerequisite for
conviction. The same not fulfilled herein, hence accused were given benefit of
doubt and acquitted.
The Supreme Court in this heavily relied on the principle set in the Narsappa v.
State of Karnataka case and held that the statements made by the Prosecution
Witness 3(Meena � wife of the deceased) in the F.I.R. was materially different
and disconnected to those made during the Chief and Cross Examination before the
Court in as much as she stated in F.I.R. that A-1, A-2 and A-6 were involved in
the murder of her husband. However, she later changed her statement during
Examination before the Court and involved A-3 also. She asserted that A-1 and
A-2 only dragged the deceased out of the house but it was A-3 who stabbed him.
Since these discrepancies in the statements made cannot be ignored and since the
whole case of the prosecution rests on the statement of PW 3, it cannot be
proved beyond reasonable doubt that A-1 and A-2 murdered the deceased, even
though there exists a strong suspicion of their involvement in the act of
killing the deceased. The Court hence, gave the benefit of the doubt to the
appellants and acquitted them of charges u/s 302 r/w 34 of the IPC.
The Court furthermore, held that since the panchas in the case have turned
hostile the Prosecution cannot place reliance on the credibility of evidence
i.e., discovery of weapons at the scene of crime. The Supreme Court hence,
reversed the judgement of the Bom H.C.
Relevance and Explanation:
This case deals with a very important doctrine that is the sine qua non of
criminal law i.e., innocent until proven guilty, beyond reasonable doubt. No
person can be convicted of an offence if the Prosecution fails to prove the
criminal liability of the accused beyond any ounce of doubt or suspicion, that
any reasonable man can have. Mere suspicion of the accused's involvement in the
crime committed, however strong it maybe, cannot be equated with proof.
If there exists any ounce of reasonable doubt after the Prosecution has
presented its case and witnesses, no Court can convict a person in that case.
Clear and unimpeachable evidence is the prerequisite for conviction of an
accused. In cases of improper, unclear, or material differences in the evidence
given by the Prosecution exists, the Court is bound to confer benefit of the
doubt to the accused and to provide subsequent acquittal to the persons accused.
The Supreme Court in this case after hearing the arguments from both sides
concluded that A-1 and A-2 cannot be convicted u/s 302 r/w 34 of the IPC as the
evidence presented and relied upon by the Prosecution was marred with unclarity
and was hence not credible or reliable.
The PW 3 narrated different stories of
how the incident occurred on the night of 13th December 1992, each in the F.I.R.,
during Chief and then during cross examination before the Court. She
contradicted many of her earlier statements. Statements made by PW 3 is also not
worthy of corroboration as it does not inspire confidence. Furthermore, the
Panchas also turned hostile, hence the credibility of the evidence of presence
of murder weapons on the crime scene stood vitiated.
In view of the above the Court upheld the principle of 'innocent until proven
guilty beyond reasonable doubt' and gave benefit of the doubt to the appellants.
The onus to prove the guilt of the accused beyond any possibility of reasonable
doubt lies on the Prosecution. Since, the same has not been done here, the
appellants cannot be convicted as the evidence is not clear and unimpeachable.
Other Supporting Case-Laws:
Analysis and Conclusion:
Shabab Khan v. State:
The Del H.C. held that the witness statements made by the prosecution witnesses did not possess credence as there were material discrepancies made in the statements. Therefore, it ordered for acquittal of accused by giving them benefit of the doubt.
Narsappa v. State of Karnataka:
The accused were seen carrying the dead body of the deceased. However, the S.C. in this case held that this statement does rise strong suspicion with regards to involvement of the accused in the commission of crime however, suspicion cannot take the place of proof. Since, the Prosecution failed to prove criminal liability beyond reasonable doubt the accused stand acquitted.
The Supreme Court in this case analysed the statements made by the prosecution
witness 3 (wife of the deceased) and concluded that there were major
discrepancies in the statements made by her during F.I.R. and those made before
the Court during Chief and Cross examination.
The Court relied on the decision
made in the case of Narsappa v. State of Karnataka
 and came to the
conclusion that such discrepancies could not be overlooked considering that
these statements formed the basis for the entire case of Prosecution. Since the
evidence itself was not adequate and there was unclarity in the evidence
presented by the Prosecution the Court very rightfully conferred the benefit of
the doubt to the appellants/accused in this case.
The Court hence ordered for their acquittal as the Prosecution gave no proper
and adequate evidence to prove that all accused were members of an unlawful
assembly u/s 149 of the IPC and were unable to prove any overt act done on part
of the other accused i.e., A-4, A-5, and A-6 rendering the application of
section 34 invalid. Furthermore, the Panchas also turned hostile, hence the
credibility of the evidence of presence of murder weapons on the crime scene
It therefore, reversed the decision of the Bom H.C. that ordered for their
conviction and allowed the appeal.
The Supreme Court was brilliant in upholding the principle of 'proving beyond
reasonable doubt' in this case and setting the principle that, 'clear and
unimpeachable evidence is the prerequisite for conviction'. However, in during
the pendency of this case A-3 (Baba), was murdered and hence the Prosecution was
unable to record his statement.
These, acts should have been taken into
consideration by the Court and the Court should have initiated inquiry into the
murder of A-3 that occurred during the pendency of the proceedings. While it is
true that the Court when determining criminal liability of an accused is only
concerned with the presentation, adequacy and credibility of evidence, however,
it should not ignore the shortcomings that lead to the weakening of the
credibility of the Prosecution and its witnesses and the events that propagate
such shortcomings should be enquired upon.
- Punishment for rioting
- Armed with deadly weapons while rioting
- Punishment for murder
- Unlawful assembly
- Common intention
- Narsappa v. State of Karnataka, (2007) 10 SCC 770
- Anil v. State of Maha, Cr. Appeal No. 186 of 1996, decided on 21-09-2007 (Bom)
- 2013 SCC OnLine Del 2167
- Supra note 6