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Based on the testimony of a single witness, the Supreme Court upholds the conviction of 8 men in a murder case.

Dikshita More ,
  24 March 2023       Share Bookmark

Court :
Hon’ble Supreme of India
Brief :

Citation :
Criminal Appeal No 1109/1110 of 2010

Case title:

Ravasahebgouda vs State of Karnataka

Date of Order:

16th March, 2023


Justice B R Gavai, Sanjay Karol & Vikram Nath


Petitioner: Ravasahebgouda etc.

Defendant: State of Karnataka


  • The only issue that needs to be decided is whether eight persons can be sentenced to life in prison on the basis of the testimony of a single witness, as the courts below have concurrently held. In light of the aforementioned context, it is our duty to determine whether or not the testimony of this single eyewitness, Yankappa Panchagavi (PW-1), is credible, reliable, truthful, and devoid of embellishments, improvements, or material inconsistencies that might cast doubt on it, as well as whether or not the prosecution has proven its case against all defendants beyond a reasonable doubt. We are asked to investigate all of this.
  • It is undisputed that a man named Satyappa was found dead in the village of Kaltippi, Jamakhandi Taluka, after having been shot in the open. It is also undeniable that a report was filed with Terdal Police Station, District Bagalkot, Karnataka, regarding the occurrence the same day, i.e., on August 13, 2004, at 4:00 p.m. It is also undeniable that the I.O. Shri Hanamappa Sangappa Keri (PW-32), who led the inquiry, arrived at the scene, made initial enquiries, started looking into the matter, and then found the body. He then sent it for a postmortem, which was carried out by Dr. Shabbir Patel, PW-27.
  • Notwithstanding the fact that 32 of the prosecution's witnesses had turned hostile, the trial court believed that the prosecution's case had been established beyond a reasonable doubt thanks to PW-1's unrefuted testimony and the unrefuted portion of testimony on the hostile witness, Shasappa Reddi (PW-7).
  • While agreeing with the trial court's grounds and conclusions, the High Court also noted the fact that the parties had previously been at odds over a land/boundary dispute. Only three of the defendants, Ravasaheb @ Ravasahebgouda (A-6), Yankappa Shivappa Naik (A-7) and Parappa @ Gulappa (A-8), have brought these two petitions by special leave to our attention.
  • In a nutshell, we may say that the dead passed away as a result of several wounds caused by sharp-edged weapons. For the sake of conciseness, we won't go into the wounds and injuries the dead experienced to various bodily parts since they were already noted above. The majority of the eyewitnesses to the incident or to the events leading up to it have not backed the prosecution. That does not imply that all of these witnesses' testimony would be immediately disregarded, with the accused's acquittal following as a logical consequence.
  • Unless in very exceptional circumstances or in the instance of a serious error made by the courts below, this Court would typically not interfere with the concurrent findings of fact when exercising its authority under Article 136 of the Indian Constitution. This Court would only intervene to correct legally incorrect decisions in cases where the High Court had disregarded "crying circumstances" and "proven facts," violated and incorrectly applied established criminal jurisprudence principles, refused to grant the accused persons the benefit of the doubt, etc. Also, we must refrain from interfering merely because doing so would lead to a different judgement, unless, of course, there are strong reasons to change the conclusions reached and that the accused was innocent or guilty.
  • After that, defendant No. 8 Parappa @ Gulappa hurled chilli powder in the victim's face of the deceased; accused Nos. 1 and 2 struck the victim with a jambia or jambe on the left side of the neck and chest; accused Nos. 3 to 7 struck the victim with a button knife on various body parts, causing the victim to pass away immediately. The accused soon escaped in the direction of Golabhavi village. When Shasappa Reddi (PW-7), Pandappa Sidareddi (PW-8), Shrishail (PW-11), and Ramappa (PW-12) came at the scene, the witness shouted out for assistance. Also, the nearby landowners Lakawwa Siddapur (PW-9) and Sushilawwa (PW-13) showed up. He had a complaint prepared by Hanamant Bhimappa Reddi (PW24), an advocate, and because he was illiterate, he attached his thumb impression and filed a report with the police.
  • Despite being hostile, PW-7 reported the appearance of accused Nos. 1, 2, and 3 on the site in his uncontested evidence.
  • Following the event, they were observed running in the direction of Golabhavi Village. In addition, he saw that the dead had had a number of wounds and that there was chilli powder on his body. Only at this point may it be noted that, despite their antagonistic demeanours in court, Lakkappa Siddapur (PW-9) and Ashok Mareguddi (PW-19) really made comparable declarations when they were approached by police, a fact that is, in any case, supported by other prosecution witnesses.
  • Given the foregoing, the affirmative is given in response to the queries regarding the testimony of PW-1, the only eyewitness, being credible, trustworthy, true, and believable. We must address the arguments raised at the bar in order to determine whether or not the testimony of a single eyewitness is sufficient to convict all eight defendants and sentence them to life in prison.
  • The learned senior counsel primarily cites Marudanal Augusti v. State of Kerala (1980) 4 SCC 425 in support of their arguments, focusing on the section where the learned Division Bench describes the 29-hour delay in the FIR's arrival at the Magistrate despite the fact that it was sent by express delivery as a "serious infirmity" and the most recent ruling in Chotkau v. State of U.P. (2022) SCC OnLine 1313. The claim that there is a delay in the FIR reaching the Magistrate has been supported by the citation of both of these cases.

Issue Raised:

The issue that came up before the Supreme Court was whether eight individuals should be sentenced to life in prison based on the testimony of a single witness?


  • Even though overt behaviour and active involvement can point to shared criminal intent, Section 149 criminal responsibility can still be imposed for simple attendance in an unlawful assembly. When there are several attackers in a case, it is impossible for the witness to explain how each one contributed to the outcome. It is not required for the prosecution to establish each member's involvement, particularly with regard to whatever act.
  • Referring to the ruling in Geeta Devi v. State of U.P. [2022 SCC OnLine 57] in Gurudutt Pathak v. State of U.P. [(2021) 6 SCC 116], this Court noted the law regarding this issue before observing that the High Court, as the First Appellate Court, must discuss/re-appreciate the evidence on file. Failing to do so is sufficient cause to send the case back for further review.
  • This Court does not overturn the contemporaneous factual conclusions of the lower courts unless there are extremely unusual circumstances or when the High Court has committed egregious legal errors. The restrictions under Article 136 are ones that one sets for oneself when one decides that one should not evaluate evidence in the ordinary process if there is no manifest error or if the decision that is the subject of the special leave is ex facie perverse.
  • The appellants' knowledgeable attorney wants this Court to rule that the learned Trial Court and the High Court erred in convicting the accused since PW-1's comments, which are indirect in relation to the number of accused, in no way provide a strong enough foundation for the conviction to stand. The learned Trial Court noted that the prosecution had established its case beyond a reasonable doubt based solely on the testimony of the complainant PW-1 and the supporting testimony of PW-7 (a hostile witness), after taking into account the arguments made by members of the Bar as well as the tangible items and exhibits that made up the case record.
  • It is a well-established legal principle that, without clearly manifested prejudice, any delay in the FIR reaching the Magistrate does not render the matter irretrievably lost [Bhajan Singh @ Harbhajan Singh vs. State of Haryana (2011) 7 SCC 421]. A court is "duty obligated to see the effect of such delay on investigation and even the credit worthiness of the investigation," according to the ruling in Chotkau (above). In the current instance, however, despite the bar's reliance on this concept, no argument has been presented to demonstrate that the accused has suffered any sort of prejudice. The Court will not be swayed by claims without sufficient support. Even the late receipt of the FIR by the relevant Magistrate cannot be used as evidence to doubt the prosecution's case. It is not a matter of failure to follow the rules, and the delay is not excessive enough to raise any questions. For a FIR that was immediately forwarded and received at 1.15 a.m. on August 13, 2004, at 4.45 p.m.
  • The main argument made was that it was excessive to rely on a single witness to convict as many as eight persons (now six, as the cases against two have been dropped due to their deaths). The answer to the Court's specific question about what the learned counsel can use to challenge the reliability of PW-1's testimony was that, when considering a number of outside factors as well as the testimony of other witnesses, the elements necessary to undermine the credibility are present, which, in our opinion, does not merit interference.
  • It would take credible doubt to be cast on the supporting evidence for the heightened scrutiny standard, as stated by this Court in Jagdish Vs. State of Haryana [(2019) 7 SCC 711], which was not the case. Both the confessions given by PW-7 in his main examination and, as was already noted earlier, the presence of any of the accused have not been contested. The testimony of PW-1 can without a doubt serves as the foundation for the conviction of the accused, taking into consideration the principles mentioned in Mrinal Das (above), Rohtash Kumar (supra), Karan Singh (supra), and Karunakaran (supra).
  • We have also taken note of the ruling in the illustrious Masalti case (previous), where four knowledgeable judges ruled that the prosecution need not provide proof of particular acts committed against specific individuals. We cannot, under the law, hold that the accused were wrongfully convicted by the lower courts because neither the number nor the appearance of the accused are in doubt. PW-1 is an interested witness since he is the deceased's brother. He is also cited before us as a reason for contesting the findings because he is the only witness relied upon by the learned Trial Court.
  • According to the legal stance taken in Harbans Kaur v. State of Haryana [(2005) 9 SCC 195], there is no legal principle that casts suspicion on a close relative's testimony only for that reason. There is a cautionary note struck in Bhaskarrao v. State of Maharashtra [(2018) 6 SCC 591], which is obviously pertinent, but we may also note this Court's statement in Rajesh Yadav v. State of U.P. [2022 SCC OnLine 150], where it has been stated that it is important to exercise caution.


As we have already shown, the lower courts did not find any reason to doubt PW-1's testimony. In reality, it has leaned on it in the exact opposite way. We are unable to concur with the learned counsel for the appellant in this matter given the rulings in State of Rajasthan v. Madan [(2019) 13 SCC 653, Bhagwan Jagannath Markad (supra),]. The aforementioned context, the arguments made, and the law considered and evaluated lead us to the conclusion that the current appeals lack merit and are, therefore, dismissed. If on bail, the accused is ordered to appear before the court in question right away.

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