//Suspicion no substitute for proof: apex court

Suspicion no substitute for proof: apex court

The Hindu Legal Correspondent, 29 Nov 2006

Acquits man sentenced to death on charge of murdering wife

# There should be nexus between crime and conduct of accused
# Case not proved beyond reasonable doubt

New Delhi: "Suspicion, however grave, cannot be a substitute for proof," the Supreme Court has held acquitting a convict sentenced to death on the charge of murdering his wife. He was ordered released forthwith.

A Bench consisting of Justices S.B. Sinha and Markandey Katju, quoting an earlier judgment, said: "The circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn should be fully established; the facts so established should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused, that is to say, they should not be explainable on any hypothesis except that the accused is guilty; the circumstances should be of a conclusive nature."

Writing the judgment, Justice Sinha said, "there must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the act must have been done by the accused."

The Bench said the conduct of an accused must have a nexus with the crime committed. It must form part of the evidence of his conduct either preceding, during or after the commission of the offence.

In the instant case, the prosecution alleged that Vikramjit Singh took his newly married wife Meena Rani in his car and murdered her in July 2002. In his statement under Section 313 Cr. PC, Singh told the trial court that he was innocent and that he was falsely implicated.

He said the car was waylaid by miscreants, who dealt him and his wife severe blows and she died in hospital. The sessions court convicted and sentenced him to death on the basis of circumstantial evidence and this was affirmed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Allowing Singh's appeal, the Bench said: "It may be that in a situation of this nature where the court may legitimately raise a strong suspicion that in all probability the accused was guilty of the commission of the heinous offence but applying the principle of law that suspicion, however grave, cannot be a substitute for proof, the same would lead to the only conclusion that the prosecution has not been able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt."