The Supreme Court ruled that the Judge is not expected to be a passive umpire but is supposed to actively participate in the trial, and to question the witnesses to reach a correct conclusion.
All the appeals arise out of the common judgment and order passed by the High Court of Delhi at New Delhi, in the Death Sentence whereby the High Court while affirming the sentence of death and other sentences imposed on the Appellants-accused by the Additional Sessions Judge had dismissed the criminal appeals filed by the Appellants-accused. The Trial Court vide the Order had convicted all the three Appellants-accused for the offences punishable under Sections 365/34, 367/34, 376(2)(g), 302/34 and 201/34 IPC, however had acquitted all the three from the charge under Section 377/34 IPC.
Amicus Curiae Sonia Mathur and Senior Advocate Sirajudeen, appearing for the appellants, submitted that the identity of any of the Appellants-accused in the alleged abduction of the victim was not established.
They contended that the circumstances under which the possession of red coloured Tata Indica Car was recovered from the appellant Rahul, and the circumstances under which all the three accused were arrested, were not proved.
They further submitted that the recoveries made from the scene of offence allegedly at the instance of the appellants were also not proved.
ASG Aishwarya Bhati, submitted that there being concurrent findings of the facts and convictions recorded by the Trial Court and the High Court after fully appreciating the evidence on record, the Court may not disturb the same considering the gravity of the offences for which the appellants were charged.
The three judges bench of The Chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Bela M. Trivedi said that as per the settled legal position, in order to sustain conviction, the circumstances taken cumulatively should form a chain so complete that there is no escape from the conclusion that within all human probability, the crime was committed by the accused only and none else.
“The circumstantial evidence must be complete and incapable of explanation of any other hypothesis than that of the guilt of the accused and such evidence should not only be consistent with the guilt of the accused but should be inconsistent with his innocence” the court added.
The court observed that no conviction should be based merely on the apprehension of indictment or condemnation over the decision rendered. Every case has to be decided by the Courts strictly on merits and in accordance with law without being influenced by any kind of outside moral pressures or otherwise.
It was reminded by the bench that Section 165 of the Indian Evidence Act confers unbridled powers upon the trial courts to put any question at any stage to the witnesses to elicit the truth.
In the instant case, material witnesses examined by the prosecution having not been either cross-examined or adequately examined, and the trial court also having acted as a passive umpire, the court found that the Appellants-accused were deprived of their rights to have a fair trial, apart from the fact that the truth also could not be elicited by the trial court.
The bench acquitted the appellants-accused from the charges levelled against them by giving them a benefit of doubt, and they are directed to be set free forthwith if not required in any other case.
Case title: Rahul v/s State of Delhi Ministry of Home Affairs & Anr.
Citation: Criminal appeal no. 611 of 2022