JAVED SHAUKAT ALI QURESHI v. STATE OF GUJRAT
Date of Order:
SEPTEMBER 13, 2023
HON’BLE JUSTICE ABHAY S. OKA & HON’BLE JUSTICE SANJAY KAROL
APPELLANT– JAVED SHAUKAT ALI QURESHI
RESPONDENT–STATE OF GUJRAT
The case's focus is a criminal appeal in which numerous people were charged with criminal activity. The validity of the eyewitness testimony that was used to support the defendants' convictions is the case's main contention. The appellants questioned the identification process, the lack of a test identification parade, the size and chaos of the occurrence, and the veracity of the eyewitnesses given that they were police constables. The case also called into question whether a conviction may be obtained on the basis of just one reliable eyewitness account. In the end, the court reached its conclusion after taking into account the eyewitness accounts, the absence of supporting evidence, and concerns about equality among the defendants.
INDIAN PENALCODE,1860 (IPC) –
- Section 396–states that, if any one of five or more people who are concurrently committing dacoity also commits murder while doing so, each of those people will face the death penalty, life in prison, or harsh imprisonment for a term that may last up to 10 years, as well as being subject to a fine.
- Section 149–states that, every person who is a member of the same assembly at the time of the offense is guilty of the offense, according to the first part of Section 149 IPC, if any member of an unlawful assembly commits an offense while furthering the common objective of that assembly.
- Section 395 - anyone found guilty of dacoity faces a fine in addition to a life sentence or a term of harsh imprisonment that may last up to ten years.
- Section 307 - If an act with intent to cause death constitutes murder, the offender may face imprisonment for up to ten years and a fine, and if injured, life imprisonment.
- Section 435 - Aiming to inflict damage of $100 or, in the case of agricultural products, ten rupees by means of fire or an explosive substance.
- Section 201 - states that hiding or destroying evidence of a crime can result in fines, imprisonment, or both, depending on the severity of the crime. For crimes with a 10-year or life sentence, the penalty may include a fine or both.
In the case, an appellant is one of the defendants in an incident involving a sizable mob of 1000–1500 persons, mostly Muslims, who assembled at a certain area. Gitaben, the victim, was riding in an auto-rickshaw with six other people when a mob surrounded it. Gitaben was hurt during the assault, and her gold chain was taken. Even though Gitaben recognized one of the accused in court two years after the incident without the assistance of a test identification parade, the prosecution mainly relied on her testimony. The case also involved a number of accused parties, some of whom were acknowledged as being associated with the mob but who were not charged with any overt conduct.
Whether the conviction of the appellant and other accused could be upheld solely on the basis of the testimony of a single eyewitness (PW-2 Gitaben) in a case involving chain snatching, considering the circumstances of the incident, the absence of a test identification parade, and the presence of a large mob?
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT:
- The appellant was represented by Mr. M. Shoeb Alam, Advocate, who also served as the Amicus Curiae in the case.
- According to the appellant, the case heavily relied on PW-2, the only eyewitness to the incident, who was unreliable due to a number of factors, including their lack of prior familiarity, the chaotic nature of the incident, and the lack of an identification parade.
- It was argued that the eyewitness testimony was not supported by any direct or indirect evidence, making it risky to convict the appellant based solely on this testimony.
- The appellant cited the parity principle, arguing that since a co-accused had been cleared because of unreliable eyewitness testimony, the same standard ought to be applied in his case.
- The appellant claimed that denying him the same relief as co-accused individuals who were exonerated on the basis of comparable evidence would be a violation of his fundamental rights protected by Article 21 of the Constitution.
- The appellant emphasised that there was no test identification parade, which would have been a critical chance to confirm the eyewitness's identification of him as the perpetrator.
- The appellant argued that the incident happened quickly and in a chaotic setting, denying the eyewitness any opportunity to reliably identify the appellant as a participant in the crime.
- The appellant claimed that the eyewitness did not have enough time to notice and remember the distinguishing characteristics that could positively identify him as the perpetrator given the circumstances, including the large crowd and the brief duration of the incident.
- The appellant questioned the validity of the eyewitness' testimony, pointing out the possible impact of fear, confusion, and outside pressures following a mob attack, which may have affected her ability to correctly identify the appellant.
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT:
- The respondent argued that PW-2's testimony was credible and reliable because she was the only eyewitness to identify the appellant.
- They argued that the presence of a sizable crowd at the scene of the incident did not necessarily make PW-2's identification less credible.
- The respondent emphasised that no concrete evidence was presented to cast doubt on PW-2's credibility and that the absence of a test identification parade did not render the case inadmissible.
- It was argued that there was no need for corroboration because the trial court had correctly relied on PW-2's identification in court.
- The respondent made the observation that the nature of the crime, like chain snatching, frequently occurs quickly, leaving little time for careful observation, and this explained why PW-2 could only identify one accused.
- They argued that PW-2's testimony should not be affected by the High Court's rejection of PW-25 and PW-26's testimony.
- The respondent argued that the accused numbers 3 and 4 should be exempt from the principle of parity because they did not contest their convictions, in contrast to the accused numbers 1, 5, and 13.
- Furthermore, it was argued that the accused number 2 should not be included in the application of the parity principle because his special leave petition had already been summarily rejected.
- The identification of the appellant, accused no. 6, who was charged in connection with a chain-snatching incident, was the main issue at hand in this case. PW-2 Gitaben, the lone eyewitness who recognised the appellant as the offender, was the key witness in the case.
- The validity of this identification, however, was questioned. The accuracy of Gitaben's identification was questioned because it happened in court, a long time after the incident.
- Gitaben's testimony was questioned due to a number of different factors. First off, her lack of prior acquaintance with the appellant made it less certain that she was who she claimed to be. Second, it was difficult to identify the perpetrator because the incident occurred amid chaos and a sizable crowd.
- The case was also made weaker by the absence of a test identification parade. Given these facts, the court had to carefully consider whether Gitaben's testimony was credible and whether it offered enough proof to convict the appellant.
CONCLUSION:In summary, this case highlights the need of trustworthy evidence in criminal trials. A fair decision was guaranteed by the court's stress on corroboration and the parity principle. The court upheld the presumption of innocence and fairness by clearing the accused principally on the basis of dubious eyewitness testimony. This ruling underscores that convictions must be supported by substantial and reliable evidence in order to protect the rights of the accused and the fairness of the legal process. It reminds us that the strength of the evidence is crucial in judging guilt or innocence.