Last Updated: January 14, 2023, 09:46 IST
The Calcutta High Court recently acquitted two men convicted in an acid attack case by the trial court, holding that the suspicion of the prosecution in the matter was not sufficient to incriminate the accused.
The bench of Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice Ajay Kumar Gupta said: “On the basis of suspicious circumstances, the appellant cannot be held guilty. Suspicion, howsoever high, cannot take place of proof of guilt.”
The court found that in the present case, there were contradictory versions of the incident as well as hostile witnesses which marred the prosecution’s case.
The order was passed in the appeal moved by one Jiten Barman who, along with one Gajen Jana, had been convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison by the trial court in 2015.
As per the prosecution case, Barman and Gana had attacked the two victims inside their house at around 2am on the night on August 10, 2013.
The complainant in the case had alleged that Barman and Gana used to tease her sister and when she refused Barman’s marriage proposal, he, along with his friend, threw acid on the victims who were sleeping together.
Charges against Barman and Gana were framed under Section 450/326A/307/34 of the Indian Penal Code by the Sessions Court which, on the basis of oral evidence of the witnesses and documents exhibited by the prosecution, convicted the duo.
Barman filed an appeal before the high court against the trial court’s judgment though Gana did not. Barman’s counsel argued that the trial court had erred in the judgment which had been passed on the basis of surmises and conjectures only.
He contended that none of the witnesses had seen the two convicts at the place of the incident or committing the offence as alleged and only on the basis of some previous incidents of teasing, the victims had suspected that the two convicts had attacked them.
However, the state counsel argued that there was a clear motive for the convicts to throw acid on the victims and Barman had also threatened one of the victims that he would disfigure her in such a manner that “no man of the world would marry her”.
Upon considering the evidence and judgment delivered by the trial court, the division bench of the high court found that the trial court had relied on the version of witnesses, mainly victims as well as doctors. However, most of the witnesses had turned hostile.
Even the family members of victims who were present at the place of occurrence did not support the case of the prosecution, the bench noted.
The bench pointed further out that the present case was not based on direct evidence rather the prosecution had relied on circumstantial evidence.
It is well settled that in a case resting on circumstantial evidence, the circumstances put forward must be satisfactorily proved and those circumstances should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused, the bench stated.
The bench highlighted that in the present case, only two circumstances had been proved by the prosecution. Firstly, the victims suffered acid burn injuries and secondly, Jiten Barman and his friend Gajen Jana used to tease the victims.
Therefore, pointing out that no other evidence was brought on record and none of the witnesses had seen the convicts at the place of occurrence, the court opined that though the victims suffered acid burn injuries, but the actual culprit was not brought on record by the prosecution.
How the appellant and his friend (the convicts) entered the room at night where the victims were sleeping and how they threw acid on them is not clear from the prosecution witnesses. Their suspicion or belief does not constitute proof, the court concluded.
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