The Supreme Court has made a significant decision, setting aside a judgment by the Karnataka High Court that had found a man guilty of murder and reversing his earlier acquittal by a trial court. This ruling effectively upholds the lower court’s decision, stating that it would be “unsafe to sustain the conviction of the man on such circumstantial evidence when the chain of events is clearly incomplete.”

Background of the Case

A bench of Justices Vikram Nath and Ahsanuddin Amanullah considered an appeal filed by R Sreenivasa against the High Court’s judgment dated October 20, 2010, which had convicted him of the murder of Krishnappa in January 2002.

Discrediting Circumstantial Evidence

The Supreme Court discarded reliance on circumstantial evidence, including the “last seen” theory. A trial court in Bengaluru had previously acquitted Sreenivasa and another accused in the murder case, as the prosecution had failed to prove the “last seen” evidence.

Motive Behind the Murder

According to the prosecution, the motive for Krishnappa’s murder was his alleged intimacy with the sister of one of the accused. It was also alleged that both accused individuals had poured petrol over the victim’s body in an attempt to destroy evidence.

Defense Arguments

Sreenivasa pointed out that, according to the chargesheet, it was the other accused who had gone to Krishnappa’s house and taken him away two days before the incident. He argued that the “last seen” evidence could not be relied upon based on an extrajudicial confession by a witness who had turned hostile during the trial. Additionally, he emphasized that the victim’s wife had testified to cordial relations between her family and Krishnappa, negating the theory of animosity. Sreenivasa also noted that the woman had not lodged a complaint when her husband went missing for two to three days.

Discrepancies in the Statements

Upon reviewing the records, the Supreme Court bench identified a “major discrepancy” between the charges framed by the court and the statements of witnesses. The court noted that while the specific allegation was that the other accused had taken Krishnappa away from his house, the victim’s wife and brother stated during deposition that it was Sreenivasa. This inconsistency raised doubts about the “veracity and authenticity of such statements.”

The Supreme Court also highlighted the fact that the victim had agreed to go to Sreenivasa’s house late at night, despite the alleged strong animosity between the two parties. This appeared “highly improbable” to the court. The bench further pointed out that the deceased had been missing for more than two days, yet neither his wife nor his brother had reported him missing. The court questioned why the deceased’s family had not taken any steps to locate him, especially considering their cordial relations and the absence of animosity.

Insufficient Evidence

In light of these discrepancies and the absence of other corroborative evidence, the Supreme Court concluded that there was no definitive evidence of “last seen.” Furthermore, the long gap between the last sighting and the recovery of the body cast doubt on the completeness of the “chain of circumstances.” Therefore, the court determined that it could not definitively infer the appellant’s guilt based on the available evidence.

In a significant decision, the Supreme Court has emphasized the importance of concrete evidence in criminal cases. This ruling underscores the principle that a conviction must be based on solid and complete evidence to ensure justice is served.

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