“Doubt Always Belongs to the Accused”: Supreme Court Acquits in Murder Case

In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court of India has acquitted P. Sasikumar, who had been convicted by the Madras High Court for the brutal murder of a 14-year-old girl in 2014. The judgment, delivered by Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Prasanna B. Varale, emphasized the importance of proper identification procedures and the principle that doubt must always benefit the accused.

Background of the Case

The case dates back to November 13, 2014, when a 14-year-old girl was found murdered in her home in Salem, Tamil Nadu. The prosecution alleged that the crime was committed by two individuals: Yugadhithan (Accused No. 1) and Sasikumar (Accused No. 2). The motive, according to the prosecution, stemmed from Yugadhithan’s unreciprocated infatuation with the victim’s elder sister.

Legal Issues Involved

The main legal issue in the appeal was the identification of Sasikumar as one of the perpetrators. The prosecution’s case relied heavily on the testimonies of two witnesses (PW-1 and PW-5), who identified Sasikumar in court. However, no Test Identification Parade (TIP) was conducted during the investigation, which raised significant doubts about the reliability of the witness identifications.

Court’s Decision

The Supreme Court scrutinized the evidence and found several flaws in the prosecution’s case. The Court noted that both witnesses had seen Sasikumar for the first time on the day of the crime, and he was wearing a green monkey cap that covered most of his face. Given these circumstances, the Court held that a TIP was essential for a reliable identification.

Key Observations:

– On the Importance of TIP: “The relevance of TIP has been explained by this Court in a number of cases. In the facts of the present case, the identification of the accused before the court ought to have been corroborated by the previous TIP which has not been done”.

– On Witness Testimonies: “The High Court rightly dismisses the identification made by PW-1 for the reason that the appellant i.e., accused no.2 was a stranger to PW-1 and PW-1 had seen the appellant for the first time when he was wearing a monkey cap. However, the High Court has believed the testimony of PW-5 under similar circumstances, which we find erroneous”.

– On the Principle of Benefit of Doubt: “Doubt always belongs to the accused. The prosecution has not been able to prove the identity of the present appellant i.e. A-2 beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court set aside the Madras High Court’s order dated January 12, 2017, and directed the immediate release of Sasikumar, who had already spent about eight years in jail. The Court clarified that this decision pertains solely to Sasikumar and does not affect the case against Yugadhithan, who did not appeal his conviction.

Also Read

Case Details:

– Case Number: Criminal Appeal No. 1473 of 2024 (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 2756 of 2019)

– Appellant: P. Sasikumar

– Respondent: The State Rep. by the Inspector of Police

– Bench: Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Prasanna B. Varale

– Lawyers: Details of the lawyers representing the parties were not provided in the judgment.

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