No Ipso Facto Acquittal of Accused on Acquittal of Co-Accused: Supreme Court

On 30th September 2020, a Three-Judges Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Hon’ble Justice R. F Nariman, Hon’ble Justice Navin Sinha and Hon’ble Justice Indira Banerjee passed their Judgment in Subed Ali And Others Versus The State Of Assam.      

The Supreme Court held that the benefit of the doubt cannot be extended to the accused if there is credible proof against him.

Brief Facts of the Case:-

It was alleged that on 05.08.2005 the appellants had assaulted Abdul Motin and Abdul Barek. While Mr Motin died on the spot, Mr Barek succumbed at the hospital on the very same night.

Five people were arrested and tried by the court. The court acquitted Accused no. 3 and 5 but the others were convicted under Section 302/34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and were sentenced to life imprisonment. The accused filed an appeal before the High Court, which was dismissed.  

Aggrieved by order of the High Court, the appellants moved the Supreme Court.

Arguments Before the Supreme Court

The counsel for the appellants raised the following contentions before the court:-

  • The counsel submitted that as two of the accused were released because of the benefit of the doubt, the other accused should be released on the same ground.
  • It was also submitted that there were several inconsistencies in the statements of the eyewitnesses. 
  • As it was dark when the alleged crime took place, the testimony of the witnesses cannot be relied on.
  • Further it was submitted that Asgar Ali and Babulal had informed the prosecution witnesses that the assault was carried out by the accused. However, Asgar Ali and Babulal were not examined by the court.
  • The counsel further submitted that there were no allegations that the Appellant no.1 was armed or that he also took part in the assault.
  • I was also argued that no charges under section 34 of IPC were framed.

Arguments of the respondents:-

  • The counsel for the respondent stated that testimony of the eyewitnesses was consistent.
  • The benefit of the doubt cannot be extended to the appellants as there was reliable evidence against them.
  • It was also argued that common intent was established as the appellants were armed and were waiting for the victims to assault them.

Court’s Analysis:-

The court examined the post mortem reports of the two victims and noted the fact that a limb of one of them was chopped and there were several injuries on both the bodies. The report stated that the victims died because they were assaulted with sharp weapons.

Court opined that acquittal of two accused’s in the case cannot be used by the appellants in light of consistent nature of the evidence that is available against him.

On the issue that the trial court did not examine Babulal and Asgar Ali, the court opined that this fact was negated by the evidence provided by the investigating officer who deposed that no information was passed to him by Asgar Ali and Babulal.

Further on the issue raised by the counsel of the appellant that it was dark at the time of the crime, then the court ruled that the witnesses have provided a detailed account of the sequence of the crime. As witnesses and the accused were known to each other, the witnesses would have been able to identify the accused even if it was a little dark.

On the issue that appellant no.1 should be acquitted on the ground that there was no common intention, the court observed that just because an accused was not carrying weapons, common intent cannot be ruled out. Common intention can be inferred on the basis of testimony of eyewitnesses and on the fact that he was present at the place where the crime took place.

The court noted that the appellants waited for the accused and attacked them brutally when they came in contact with the accused. It was also noted that the whole incident was related to a dispute over money.

Based on the evidence, the testimony of witnesses and the circumstantial evidence, The court held that there was no reason for them to interfere with the conviction of the appellants as it was based on sound and credible evidence. 

The court dismissed their appeal.

Case Details.

Title: Subed Ali And Others Versus The State Of Assam

Case No. Criminal Appeal No.1401 OF 2012

Date of Order: 30.09.2020

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice RF Nariman, Hon’ble Justice Navin Sinha and Hon’ble Justice Indira Banerjee

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