Read Judgment: Rajesh Prasad V. The State of Bihar & Anr.
New Delhi, January 13, 2022: The Supreme Court has recently referred to its judgment in State of U.P. v. Sahai and reiterated that it is only in rarest of rare cases, where the High Court, on an absolutely wrong process of reasoning and a legally erroneous and perverse approach to the facts of the case, ignoring some of the most vital facts, has acquitted the accused, that the same may be reversed by exercising jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution.
A Larger Bench of Justice B.V Nagarathna, Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice B.R Gavai further reiterated that an appeal cannot be entertained against an order of acquittal which has, after recording valid and weighty reasons, has arrived at an unassailable, logical conclusion which justifies acquittal, by relying on the decision of this Court in State of Haryana v. Lakhbir Singh.
It is the case of the prosecution that the accused Mahendra Ram, Upendra Ram, Munna Ram, Dhappu Ram, all being sons of Kishori Ram and Chandrabhanu Prasad, with two other unknown persons proceeded towards the informant viz., Rajesh Prasad (Appellant) and protested that as the informant had opposed their illegal activities, his entire family would be blown off by a bomb. Later, accused Munna Ram threw a bomb at the informant’s father Chhote Lal Mahto and accused Mahendra Ram threw another bomb against O.P. Verma and as a result thereof, both died on the spot. The accused, while fleeing away, threatened that their action was a result of opposition by the informant against the illicit sale of liquor by them and if anyone again obstructed their business, they would face similar consequences.
On receipt of the said information, a case was registered u/s 302/34, 120B of IPC and section 3/4 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908 against the accused. The case was transferred to the Court of Additional District Judge I, Munger and later on, to the Fast Track. Thereafter, the charge for the concerned offences was read over and explained to the accused to which they pleaded not guilty and claimed to be tried. Accordingly, the Fast Track Court passed an order of conviction & sentence against Upendra Ram, Munna Ram and Mahendra Ram, which was however set aside by the High Court.
After considering the submissions, the Apex Court found that the informant in his evidence, has resiled from what he had initially stated to the Police even though he claims to be an eyewitness to the occurrence.
Further, the Investigating Officer has also corroborated the fact that the informant had not stated anything about the bombs being thrown by Mahendra Ram, Upendra Ram.
Speaking for the Bench, Justice Nagarathna observed that the Fast Track Court has failed to appreciate the evidence of prosecution witnesses in their proper perspective and has further failed to recognize the fact that the appellant-informant did not at all support the case of the prosecution although he was the informant and hence, erroneously convicted the accused and sentenced two of them with death penalty and the third accused with imprisonment for life.
Thus, the High Court was, justified in reversing the judgment and order of conviction and sentencing the two of the accused, namely Munna Ram and Mahendra Ram with death penalty and imposing Upendra Ram to undergo life imprisonment, passed by the Fast-Track Court, added the Bench.
Accordingly, the Larger Bench culled out the circumstances from the various precedents, under which an appeal would be entertained by this Court from an order of acquittal passed by a High Court, which are as follows:
1. Where the approach or reasoning of the High Court is perverse or where incontrovertible evidence has been rejected by the High Court based on suspicion and surmises, which are rather unrealistic;
2. Where testimony of witnesses had been disbelieved by the High Court, on an unrealistic conjecture of personal motive on the part of witnesses to implicate the accused, when in fact, the witnesses had no axe to grind in the said matter;
3. Where the High Court applied an unrealistic standard of ‘implicit proof’ rather than that of ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ and therefore evaluated the evidence in a flawed manner;
4. Where the High Court rejected circumstantial evidence, based on an exaggerated and capricious theory, which were beyond the plea of the accused; or where acquittal rests merely in exaggerated devotion to the rule of benefit of doubt in favour of the accused;
5. Where the High Court acquitted the accused on the ground that he had no adequate motive to commit the offence, although, in the said case, there was strong direct evidence establishing the guilt of the accused, thereby making it unnecessary on the part of the prosecution to establish ‘motive.’;
6. Where acquittal would result is gross miscarriage of justice: or, where the findings of the High Court, disconnecting the accused persons with the crime, were based on a perfunctory consideration of evidence, or based on extenuating circumstances which were purely based in imagination and fantasy.