"Mystery of the Missing Ring”: Calcutta HC acquits murder accused after noting that no missing ring was ever produced
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"Mystery of the Missing Ring”: Calcutta HC acquits murder accused after noting that no missing ring was ever produced

While acquitting six men accused of having murdered a lawyer to acquire an antique ring, the High Court observed, "suspicion howsoever high cannot take the place of proof."

Meera Emmanuel

The Calcutta High Court recently acquitted six men accused of having murdered a lawyer, allegedly to covet an antique ring. (Amit Singh @ Amit and ors. vs. The State of West Bengal).

The corpse of the deceased lawyer, Shyam Prasad, was found in his apartment, in a kneeling position, with both his hands tied behind and his mouth gagged. Witnesses claimed to have seen Prasad alive last on August 14, 2007. When foul smells emanated from his apartment, the authorities were notified. His body was found on August 16, 2007.

The investigation pinned the blame on one Amlan and his associates. Amlan was said to have become acquainted with Prasad at a race-course, where Prasad told him about an antique ring in his possession that he wished to sell.

Later, Amlan and an associate are said to have warned Prasad against selling the ring through anyone else but himself, failing which he would face dire consequences.

After Prasad’s death came to light, witnesses said that they had seen a black car parked in front of Prasad’s house on August 14. They also said that on the same day, Prasad was seen calling up some boys to his apartment. During investigation, the police concluded that the black car was lent out to Amlan on August 14.

The police proceeded to charge Amlan and his associates for Prasad’s murder, with the foundation of their case being the allegedly stolen ring. A trial court convicted the six men and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

The High Court, however, found no credence in the theory, particularly given that the prosecution never produced the ring, nor was it able to prove that the ring existed at all. It observed,

“Motive of the crime, that is, theft of the antique ring is also shrouded in mystery. There is no evidence how the deceased had acquired the antique ring. Deceased does not appear to have financial strength to purchase a valuable ring. If the ring were a family heirloom, if the ring was a precious one, the fact that it was missing would have certainly been noticed."

The failure of the prosecution to explain the missing ring also led the Bench of Justices Suvra Ghosh and Joymalya Bagchi to even commence its judgment by remarking,

The case may be aptly titled: 'The Mystery Of The Missing Ring.'

The Court eventually found that the circumstantial evidence in the case was weak and that the testimony relied on by the prosecution was unreliable and inconsistent.

“The ring was never recovered and no charge under section 379 IPC was also levelled against the appellants. These gaps in the prosecution case remain unbridged. Though one cannot deny the fact that the deceased met his brutal end on the fateful day, poor investigation and unreliable witnesses not only failed to unravel the missing ring but also failed to salvage the prosecution case.”

Calcutta High Court

The Bench proceeded to caution that in cases involving circumstantial evidence, the Courts must be circumspect to “do not fall prey to the urge of making intelligent cases dehors evidentiary foundation in the righteous endeavour to nail the offender.”

“Pursuit of truth in a court of law is founded on forensic principles and admissible evidence. Moral inference of guilt cannot be a substitute to a finding of culpability based on lawful evidence. Since time immemorial courts have been warned not to base on vague inferences and conjectures howsoever enticing they may appear to be…”

Calcutta High Court

The High Court, therefore, acquitted the six accused, remarking that,

"… suspicion howsoever high cannot take the place of proof and I am constrained to hold that the appellants are entitled to the benefit of doubt and may be acquitted of the charges levelled against them."
Calcutta High Court

[Read the Judgment]

Amit Singh and ors v State of West Bengal.pdf
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