No conviction if there is any doubt about prosecution claim:SC

"We are of the view that in a case relating to circumstantial evidence, the court should see the circumstances very carefully before arriving at a finding of guilt of the person concerned and yet if there is any doubt which is inconsistent with the innocence of the accused, the benefit should go to the accused," a bench of justices Asok Kumar Ganguly and Deepak Verma said in a judgement.

The apex court passed the judgement while altering the conviction of Yomeshbhai Pranshankar Bhatt to Section 304-Part II(culpable homicide not amounting to murder) from 302 IPC(murder) for setting ablaze his maid-servant at the latter's house following an altercation in Vadodara.

According to the prosecution, Bhatt had gone to the house of his maid servant and set her ablaze after she refused to join duty as he was reportedly paying her a measly Rs 375 per month.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment by the sesssions court and the Gujarat High Court dismissed his appeal, after which he appealed in the apex court.

The apex court noted that in the present case neither there was any direct evidence against Bhatt nor was there any pre-mediation on his part to commit the offence which occured on the spur of the moment due to apparent provocative remarks of the deceased.

The bench said the deceased's husband Prosecution Witness no 1 and sister-in-law PW 2 had turned hostile during the trial with the husband maintaining that his wife had developed a suicidal tendency.

"Both PW 1 husband of the deceased and PW 2 Kanta Ben, who made arrangements for taking the deceased for medical treatment, were declared hostile. PW 1, the husband of the deceased, in his evidence submitted that the deceased had suicidal tendencies in the past.

"In the instant case, it is clear that the appellant had no pre-meditation to kill the deceased or cause any bodily harm or injury to the deceased. Everything has happened on the spur of the moment. The appellant must have lost self-control on some provocative utterances of the deceased. These possibilities cannot be ruled out, having regard to the evidence of PW.1," the bench said.

The apex court however, said the fact that kerosene was sprinkled on the deceased by the appellant possibly cannot be disputed in view of concurrent finding by both the courts and materials on record.

"Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case and in the light of defence of the deceased, this court holds that the case falls under Section 304 Part II and the appellant has already suffered imprisonment for 11 years 2 months.

"In that view of the matter, this court holds that the sentence which has already been undergone by the appellant is more than sufficient under Section 304 Part II," the bench said.

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