BENEFIT OF DOUBT IN FRIVOLOUS INVESTIGATION ACCRUES IN FAVOUR OF THE ACCUSED: SUPREME COURT IN STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH V. WASIF HAIDER & ORS.

“The accused cannot be expected to relinquish his innocence at the hands of an inefficacious prosecution, which is ridden with investigative deficiencies” the Supreme Court laid down in a recent judgement in the case of State of Uttar Pradesh v. Wasif Haider & Ors.

Facts of the Case:

  1. On 16.03.2001 the police personnel were on duty at the parade crossing, when S.O., P.S. Moolganj, Kanpur (“Complainant”) came to know that a crowd of around 200-300 rioters were causing rampage and destruction at the Chaubey Gola Temple. Immediately, the complainant accompanied by the police force and A.D.M (Finance and Revenue) Sri Chandra Prakash Pathak (“the deceased”), and half a section of Provincial Armed Constabulary [“PAC”] proceeded towards the scene of occurrence. The rioters started firing upon them resultantly injuring the deceased and one Mr Ram Chandra. In order to control the law and order situation, the police were compelled to fire in their defence. When the police party reached the mosque, the rioters had already fled away. Finally, the police registered F.I.R. against 200-300 unknown rioters.
  2. The dead body of the deceased was sent for post-mortem examination and the investigation commenced. A bullet which was recovered from the ashes of deceased was sent for Forensic examination.
  3. The police arrested accused 1 to 4 namely Wasif Haider (on 04.08.2001), Mumtaz alias Maulana (on 02.08.2001), Hazi Atiq (on 17.09.2001) and Safat Rasool (on 18.09.2001). Thereafter the Test Identification Parade (“TIP”) was held on 27.09.2001 at District Jail, Kanpur. Subsequent to the completion of the investigation, the charge sheet was submitted.
  4. By order dated 22.01.2004, the Additional Sessions Judge, Kanpur (“trial court”), while relying upon the version of prosecution, rejected the defence of the accused and convicted them.
  5. Aggrieved by the order of the trial court, the accused appealed before the High Court of Allahabad. The High Court acquitted the accused respondents and set aside the order of trial court as the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and further observed that the case of the prosecution was ridden with flaws in the investigation.
  6. Aggrieved by the impugned order passed by the High Court acquitting all the accused, the State of Uttar Pradesh filed Criminal Appeal before the Supreme Court.

The decision of the Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court concurred with the judgement passed by the High Court opining that the present case is ridden with multiple investigative laches and flaws which goes to the root of the matter. It has given a detailed reasoned order giving seven reasons for its order:

  1. There was a delay in conducting the TIP and moreover, no explanation for the same has been provided by the prosecution which creates a considerable doubt about the genuineness of the TIP.
  2. The post-mortem report describes that there were only two wounds in the body of the deceased, one being the entry and the other being the exit wound. However, it is alleged that a bullet was recovered from the ashes of the deceased. The Forensic Lab Report shows that this bullet was charred and blistered. This recovery of the bullet from the ashes of the deceased is irreconcilable with the post-mortem report which allegedly states an exit wound, implying that the bullet had already left the body. The aforesaid fact raises suspicion on both the Post Mortem report and the F.S.L. report as they are incompatible with each other.
  3. The prosecution has failed to establish that the bullet allegedly recovered from the ashes of the deceased 20 days later was indeed fired from the pistol recovered from accused respondent Wasif Haider.
  4. The prosecution failed to ascertain the place of incidence with precision.
  5. The prosecution failed to examine Mr Ram Chandra, the orderly of the deceased who was also injured in the same incident and had suffered a gunshot injury.
  6. The prosecution has also failed to adduce any independent witness.
  7. The prosecution has absolutely failed to substantiate the charges framed under Section 307 of IPC, by means of evidence.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court relied on its Judgement passed in Kailash Gour and Ors. v. State of Assam, (2012) 2 SCC 34 wherein it has held that:

“The prosecution, it is axiomatic, must establish its case against the accused by leading evidence that is accepted by the standards that are known to criminal jurisprudence regardless whether the crime is committed in the course of communal disturbances or otherwise.”

The Apex Court held that the cumulative effect of the aforesaid investigative lapses has fortified the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused and hence the benefit of doubt arising out of such faulty investigation accrues in favour of the accused.

The Apex Court dismissed the instant criminal appeal opining that there exists no perversity in the judgement of the High Court of Allahabad.

Mr Prakul Thadi is a Company Secretary and Cost Accountant and holds a Masters degree in Law. He co-founded VirtuaLaw in 2017 and is currently the Chief-Editor of the blog at VirtuaLaw. After having gained an industry experience of 3 years he’s currently pursuing Graduate Insolvency Programme (GIP) at the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA), Manesar. His interests spread across varied fields of law and majorly corporate laws.