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SC gives benefit of doubt to accused in 1985 murder case

ANI | Updated: Jan 26, 2023 16:11 IST

New Delhi [India], January 26 (ANI): Supreme Court has given the benefit of the doubt to two men facing proceedings over the last 35 years in a 1985 murder case, which set aside the Allahabad High Court order confirming their conviction in the case.
A bench of justices S Ravindra Bhat and Dipankar Datta set aside a trial court decision dated January 29, 1986, and Allahabad High Court judgement dated July 9, 2014.
"This Court is of the opinion that the charge that the appellants had murdered Narayan, cannot be said to have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt; hence, they were and are entitled to the benefit of the doubt," the court said.
"The trial court's judgment of conviction and order of sentence contained in its decision dated 29th January 1986 being unsustainable, stands set aside; consequently, the impugned judgment and order dated 9th July 2014 passed by the High Court, upholding the conviction and sentence, to stands set aside," the court said.
The court said that the appellants having been lodged in the correctional home since the appellate judgment and order were made shall be set free immediately, if not wanted in any other case.
Two men Munna and Sheo Lal were convicted of murder by Additional Sessions Judge, Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, on January 29 1986, which the Allahabad High Court confirmed on July 9, 2014.
Two men moved the Supreme Court against the Allahabad High Court Judgement.

Narayan, the father of Ram Vilas, was murdered on the morning of September 5, 1985, in a village in the district of Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh. A written complaint was lodged soon thereafter by Ram Vilas leading to the registration of an FIR under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. Munna Lal, Sheo Lal, Babu Ram, and Kalika were accused of committing such murder. Upon completion of the investigation, a charge sheet under section 302 was filed before the concerned court against each of the four accused. Kalika and Babu Ram had passed away during the pendency of the matter.
Ram Vilas, son of the deceased, had stated that on the date of the fateful incident, he along with his father Narayan after ploughing their field had reached the field of someone else when the 4 accused persons suddenly came out from the field. The accused Munna Lal, Sheo Lal, Babu Ram and Kalika, were armed with 'bandook' (gun), 'kanta' (sharp edged weapon), 'tamancha' (locally made gun), and 'lathi' (stick) respectively.
They were hurling abuses and exhorting to kill Narayan. Narayan received gunshot injuries from Munna Lal and Babu Ram, whereas Sheo Lal and Kalika inflicted blows on him by kanta and lathi, respectively, the deceased son stated.
"Mere defects in the investigative process by itself cannot constitute a ground for acquittal, it is the legal obligation of the Court to examine carefully in each case the prosecution evidence dehors the lapses committed by the Investigating Officer to find out whether the evidence brought on record is at all reliable and whether such lapses affect the object of finding out the truth," the court said.
It further said that being conscious of the above position in law and to avoid erosion of the faith and confidence of the people in the administration of criminal justice, this
Court has examined the evidence led by the prosecution threadbare and refrained from giving primacy to the negligence of the Investigating Officer as well as to the
omission or lapses resulting from the perfunctory investigation undertaken by him.
"The endeavour of this Court has been to reach the root of the matter by analysing and assessing the evidence on record and to ascertain whether the appellants were duly found to be guilty as well as to ensure that the guilty do not escape the rigours of the law. The disturbing features in the process of investigation, since noticed, have not weighed in the Court's mind to give the benefit of doubt to the appellants but on proper evaluation of the various facts and circumstances, it has transpired that there were reasons for which PW-2 might have falsely implicated the appellants and also that PW-3 was not a wholly reliable witness," the top court said.
"There is a fair degree of uncertainty in the prosecution story and the courts below appear to have somewhat been influenced by the oral testimony of PW-2 and PW-3, without taking into consideration the effect of the other attending circumstances, thereby warranting interference," the top court said. (ANI)