- Apprentice Lawyer
The Supreme Court on Tuesday acquitted a person who had been convicted and sentenced to death by a trial court and the Allahabad High Court for the offence of dacoity with murder under Section 396 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) [Hari Om v. State of UP].
The Court also acquitted two other persons sentenced to life imprisonment for the same offence.
The verdict passed to this effect reads,
"We do not find the material on record sufficient to record conviction of accused Hari Om for the offence under Section 396 IPC, and he must be held entitled to benefit of doubt."
The judgment was rendered by a three-judge Bench of Justices UU Lalit, Indu Malhotra and Krishna Murari.
The incident which led to the case happened in 2008, when Nirdosh Devi, her 18-year-old niece Poonam, 12-year-old nephew Ashish, and 10-year-old nephew Anshul were found murdered in their house.
The trial court had tried six accused, out of which three were acquitted. Hari Om, Sanjay @ Sonu, and Saurabh @ Sanju were convicted for the offence under Section 396. Hari Om was sentenced to death while Sanjay and Saurabh were awarded life imprisonment.
The Allahabad High Court confirmed the conviction and sentence awarded by the trial court, resulting in the appeal before the Supreme Court.
Amicus Curiae BH Marlapalle submitted before the Supreme Court that there were glaring inconsistencies in the testimony of one of the main witnesses, Ujjwal, who was the 5-year-old son of Nirdosh Devi and the lone survivor.
Marlapalle pointed out that there was no evidence suggesting that the fingerprints were correctly lifted from the house of the deceased, and were duly preserved before sending them for the fingerprints expert’s opinion.
It was also argued that the only material against the accused Sanjay and Saurabh was that their sample fingerprints tallied with those lifted from the house of the deceased. In the absence of any substantive evidence, this fact alone would be insufficient to sustain their conviction and sentence, he contended.
The Supreme Court accepted these arguments.
The Court noted inconsistencies regarding his testimony of Ujjwal, which did not match with the FIR and other records. The Court, therefore, discarded his testimony.
The testimonies of other witnesses were also not free from doubt, the Court noted.
Importantly, the Court also adverted to the fact that the sample fingerprints of the accused Hari Om did not match with any of the fingerprints taken from the house of the deceased.
In view of the above, it proceeded to acquit Hari Om.
With regard to the other two accused, the only evidence was that their fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime on glasses which were used to drink water. The fingerprints were lifted from the house of the deceased by Constable Dharmender Singh.
The Court, however, noted that there was nothing to indicate what method was applied to lift the fingerprints from the glasses allegedly used by the accused when they were offered water.
Besides this, Constable Dharmender Singh was not examined by the prosecution. Further, the Court noted that there was nothing on record regarding the competence of Dharmender Singh, and whether he was adequately trained, or was an expert in lifting the fingerprints from material such as glasses.
"Even if we accept that fingerprints lifted from the house of the deceased could be associated with the said two accused, that by itself, in the absence of any substantive piece of evidence, cannot be made the basis of their conviction. These accused are therefore entitled to the benefit of doubt", the Court ruled.
Hence, Saurabh and Sanjay were also acquitted.