A bench comprising Chief Justice U.U. Lalit and justice Bela M. Trivedi noted that heavy reliance was placed by the prosecution on the extra judicial confession made by one of the accused through a letter addressed to one of the prosecution witnesses in the case.
“Apart from the fact that the extra judicial confession is a very weak piece of evidence, the High Court in the impugned judgment had refused to rely upon the same on the ground that neither the handwriting expert was examined nor any opinion of handwriting expert was proved by the prosecution,” noted the bench.
The apex court set aside the Madras High Court judgement passed in 2016, which affirmed the trial court verdict convicting and awarding life term to five persons in a murder case.
The top court said in the instant case, the prosecution had not examined the handwriting expert for proving the handwritings of an accused contained in the Inland letter allegedly addressed to the prosecution witness, nor any expert’s opinion was obtained.
The bench said in its opinion, the high court had rightly discarded the said piece of evidence with regard to the alleged extra judicial confession made by the accused.
“It cannot be gainsaid that when the extra-judicial confession is not duly proved, or does not inspire confidence or is not corroborated by any other reliable evidence, the conviction could not be based solely on such weak piece of evidence,” it said.
The top court noted: “At the outset, it may be stated that the entire case of prosecution rested on the circumstantial evidence. The law with regard to the appreciation of evidence when the case of the prosecution hinges on circumstantial evidence is very well-settled.”
It said the police placed heavy reliance on the theory of last seen together, one of the circumstances, by relying upon the evidence of two of the prosecution witnesses.
The top court said: “In the instant case, even if the theory of ‘last seen together’ propounded by the prosecution is accepted, then also it is difficult to draw an irresistible conclusion that the accused are guilty of the alleged offences, merely because they failed to explain as to under what circumstances the victim suffered death.”
The bench concluded that in the present case, since the super-imposition report was not supported by any other reliable medical evidence like a DNA report or post-mortem report, it would be very risky to convict the accused believing the identification of the dead body of the victim through the super-imposition test.
It was alleged that in July 2007, the accused had conspired and planned to commit dacoity of a car and commit murder of the driver of the vehicle. The victim was murdered and the body was buried in a pit. The police claimed the accused sold the car and shared the money.