Manismran Kaur

New Delhi, May 18, 2022: Setting aside the judgment of conviction of the appellants accused of negligence under Section 304A r/w Section 34 IPC, the Supreme Court has observed that for confirming the guilt of the accused, prosecution had to firstly prove negligence and then establish direct nexus between the negligence of the accused and the death of the victim.

Allowing the present appeal instituted against the judgment and order passed by the High Court of Karnataka, whereby the conviction of the appellants under Section 304 (A) read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code was confirmed, the Larger Bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana , Justice Krishna Murari  and Justice Hima Kohli observed that the conviction of the accused persons appeared to be wholly unjustified against the weight of the evidence adduced and said, “ While evaluating circumstantial evidence the jury should bear in mind that inference of guilt should be the only reasonable inference from the facts”.

Relevant facts of the case were that the victim was watching TV at his place and on hearing some disturbing sound he separated the wires which were mingled together. At this stage he felt an electric shock which resulted in his death because of electrocution. It was revealed in the enquiry that the second appellant, who was working under the supervision of the first appellant, had pulled the telephone wire while working on the DP pole which got detached and fell on 11 KV power line and electricity passed into the telephone wire of the victim, Sri Uday Shankar. 

The Apex Court opined that even if the stand of the appellants/ accused was accepted that they were working on the DP pole on the day of incident, the fact that still remained indigestible was that the alleged 11KV current passing through the telephone wire did not melt and with the alleged volts of current passing, the prosecution witnesses were able to detach themselves from the telephone instruments and survived. Thus, the Court placed no reliance on the evidence of the aforesaid prosecution witnesses.

It was further observed that the allegations against the appellants were highly technical in nature and in pursuance of the same no report or even inspection was conducted by a technical expert to assess the credibility of the averments made by the complainants. The Court further opined that the case was purely based on circumstantial evidence. For the same, reliance was placed on the case of Syed Akbar vs. State of Karnataka wherein this Court preceded on the basis that doctrine of res   ipsa   loquitur   stricto   sensu would   not   apply   to a criminal case as its applicability in an action for injury by negligence is well known. 

Thus, the Court opined that benefit of doubt should be given to the appellants-accused. Accordingly, the impugned judgment of conviction and sentence of the appellants was set aside and the appeal was allowed. 

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