Those held at crime scenes must prove innocence: SC

“Once the prosecution had brought home the evidence of the presence of the accused at the scene of the crime, then the onus stood shifted on the defence to have brought forth suggestions as to what could have brought them to the spot at that dead of night,” a Bench of Justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar said.

The court’s observation is significant since in every case, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution in the legal principles followed in the country. But in such circumstances, where the accused persons were found at the crime scene, it is they who have to come out with the reasonable explanation, the court said allowing an appeal against an Allahabad High Court verdict, which had overturned conviction and life term sentence awarded to two persons in a 31-year-old murder case.

“The accused were apprehended and therefore, they were under an obligation to rebut this burden discharged by the prosecution, and having failed to do so, the trial court was justified in recording its findings on this issue. The High Court committed an error by concluding that the prosecution had failed to discharge its burden. Thus, the judgment proceeds on a surmise that renders it unsustainable,” the court said.

It set aside the judgment passed by the High Court acquitting one Iqram and his accomplice, who were caught on the night of May 15, 1980, while scaling down the wall of a house by witnesses after committing the murder of victim Rashmi. “In the instant case, the circumstantial evidence is so strong that it points unmistakably to the guilt of the respondents and is incapable of explanation of any other hypothesis that of their guilt,” the court said.

In the judgment, the Bench also took exception to the adverse remarks made by the High Court against Suresh Kumar, ex-husband of the deceased, who was acquitted by the trial court. “We are of the considered opinion that it was not permissible for the High Court to castigate the accused Suresh Kumar with such observations holding him guilty of committing rape and subsequently murder of his ex-wife Rashmi,” the Bench said.
Saying that it is the right of the accused to be given an opportunity of explanation, Justice Chauhan, writing the judgment, asserted that the courts cannot appreciate any evidence against an accused without soliciting his or her response.

“No matter how weak or scanty the prosecution evidence is in regard to certain incriminating material, it is the duty of the court to examine the accused and seek his explanation on incriminating material that has surfaced against him.

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