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Non Recovery Of Weapon And Absence Of Ballistic Report: Supreme Court Explains The Impact On Criminal Charges

Ifrah Murtaza ,
  28 February 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
Hon’ble Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
Criminal Appeal No. 206 of 2024

Case title:

Ram Singh v. The State of U.P. 

Date of Order:

21st February 2024

Bench:

Hon’ble Mr. Justice Abhay Oka 

Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ujjal Bhuyan 

Parties:

Appellant: Ram Singh 

Respondent: State of UP

SUBJECT: 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Supreme Court’ or ‘the Court’) was presented with a case involving a charge of murder. The appellant and another person were accused of trying to murder one Radhey Lal but shooting his mother Dulli dead in the scuffle. Several eyewitnesses to various aspects were claimed to be present at the scene of the crime. The trial court acquitted the appellant’s accompanist but convicted him under sections 302 and 304 of the IPC. The appellant appealed against this order in the High Court which was dismissed. The appellant has now appealed in this Court arguing that there was not enough material against him to not be granted acquittal. The Supreme Court heard the matter. 

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC):

Section 301

Section 302

Section 307

Section 34

The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC): 

Section 313

OVERVIEW:

  •  An incident occurred on 19.08.1982 where Radhey Lal’s mother was shot dead in his and his family’s presence. 
  • Radhey Lal (Informant) claimed that Ram Singh entered his residence, accompanied by Lala Ram, and tried to shoot him at Lala Ram’s instigation. 
  •  However, Ram Singh slipped below the cot and accidentally shot the informant’s mother Dulli, immediately killing her.
  • The 2 men then fled the scene which was witnessed by the Informant’s brother Desh Raj and some neighbours. Some other people who lived close by and came out hearing the gunshot, saw the accused running away.
  • Radhey Lal lodged an FIR before Bhognipur police station in Kanpur district (U.P.), where he accused the appellant Ram Singh of firing a country-made pistol intended for him, at his mother. 
  • The police charged the appellant under sections 301, 302, and 307/34 of the IPC and his accompanist under section 307/34 of IPC. 
  •  Various accounts of the incidents were provided by the witnesses with some stating that Ram Singh fired the shot while some mentioned instigation by Lala Ram. 
  •  The appellant claimed that the accounts of the witnesses varied from one another. Significant discrepancies were found in the testimonies provided regarding the sequence of events and positioning of the accused. 
  • Upon consideration of the inconsistencies in the case, accused number Lala Ram, was acquitted, and accused number 1 Ram Singh (appellant) was convicted and sentenced by the trial court accordingly. 
  • The appellant had appealed against the said order in the High Court which was dismissed and conviction & sentence were reaffirmed.  
  • The appellant has now appealed in the Supreme Court against the order of the High Court.

ISSUES RAISED:

  • Whether the appellant had been proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt?
  • Whether the evidence produced was sufficient to establish appellants involvement in the crime in question?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT:

  • The witness testimonies were inconsistent and therefore could not be relied on.
  • The witnesses were taking out previously existing political rivalry with the appellant.
  •  The appellant had been falsely implicated. 
  • Crucial and material witnesses were not examined. 
  •  The alleged weapon used in the crime was not recovered. Additionally, the pellets found at the crime scene and extricated from the body of the deceased were not sent for ballistic examination. 
  • Without any weapon being presented as evidence, no connection can be established between the crime and the appellant. 
  •  The Trial Court had erred in its judgment. Even though both the accused had similar evidence against them, only the appellant was convicted.  
  • The lower courts had erred in their judgments as there was insufficient evidence against the appellant. 

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT:

  • There were several witnesses to the crime. 
  • The inconsistencies in the testimonies were a result of the traumatic nature of the crime. 
  • Ocular evidence indicates the firing being done by the appellant. 
  • Considering the gruesome nature of the crime, the conviction by the lower courts was justified. 
  • There were insufficient grounds requiring the Supreme Court’s interference in the previous orders. 

JUDGEMENT ANALYSIS:

  • It was established that the gunshot was fired by the appellant in retaliation to the village Pradhan Election dispute. The appellant had personal motives behind the act.
  • The Court acknowledged the severe discrepancies that existed in the witness testimonies. 
  • Furthermore, the omission of examination of the 2 most crucial witnesses, i.e., Dinesh Raj and Sunder Lal, was a grave misstep. 
  • An adverse inference was drawn against the prosecution for not examining material witnesses. 
  • The key evidence to the case, i.e. the weapon of offence, was not recovered and therefore not presented before the court by the police. 
  • The details of the post-mortem report did not align with the testimonies provided. 
  •  It was observed that the prosecution had failed to comment on the absence of the weapon and ballistic report.
  •  The Court relied on the judgment in the case of Munna Lal v. State of UP, and opined that the absence of a weapon or ballistic report puts a dent in the prosecution’s case securing the grant of benefit of doubt to the appellant.
  • Although relying on the ruling of Gurucharan Singh v. State of Punjab, the Supreme Court observed that the necessity of a ballistic expert’s testimony was specific to each case and sometimes that direct evidence is so strong, the need for consistent expert testimony does not arise. 
  • However, the Court also opined that when the direct evidence is not reliable or consistent, the testimony of a ballistic expert is essential. 
  • The Court has the ultimate power to necessitate a ballistic expert testimony at its discretion. 
  • Citing the ruling of Sukhwant Singh v. State of Punjab, the Supreme Court held that the opinion of the ballistic expert holds great significance in cases that involve injuries caused by firearms. 
  • Failure to produce a ballistic expert testimony adversely affects the prosecution case’s credibility. 
  • The Court granted the appellant the benefit of doubt and set aside the impugned order of the lower court. 

CONCLUSION:

The Supreme Court in this instant case opined that the prosecution had filed to prove the appellant’s guilt in the absence of material evidence. Moreover, the appellant deserved to be granted the benefit of the doubt, especially considering that his co-accused had been acquitted based on the same set of evidence. The Court set aside the impugned orders of the trial court and High Court and directed that the appellant be released from jail immediately unless required in any other case. The appellant was acquitted of all charges against him. 

 
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