Mumbai: Observing that a person cannot be convicted merely on the basis of suspicion, the Bombay High Court has set aside a judgement of a Sessions Court which had altered the abetment to suicide charge and tried the accused for murdering his wife.
The court was hearing an appeal filed by Sachin Satpute, a Solapur resident, who was accused of abetting his wife`s suicide in 2005 and inflicting cruelty upon her.
The High Court, however, upheld the trial court`s judgement partly by allowing the conviction of Satpute and his family members under section 498-A IPC (cruelty). However, Satpute was acquitted by the court on Thursday from charges of murder and causing disappearance of evidence.
Satpute had married Vaishali in 2002. He had demanded Rs 50,000 from his wife for installing a water pipeline on his land and used to quarrel with her frequently. On February 10, 2005, she poured kerosene on her and committed suicide.
Meera Ankush Gadekar, the mother of the deceased, in her evidence, had stated that she suspected that the accused must have murdered her daughter.
Justices VM Kanade and PD Kode observed, "It is not possible to convict the accused only on the basis of the suspicion. As the result, we have no other option but to acquit the accused by giving them benefit of doubt."
The judges said they were of the view that prosecution has completely failed to establish the evidence against the accused beyond reasonable doubt. In the first place, after the post mortem was performed and the doctor reserved the cause of the death, it was the duty of the investigating officer to have first obtained the opinion of the doctor and then to have completed the investigation, the bench opined.
The investigating officer proceeded to probe the case without obtaining doctor`s opinion on the cause of death and as such the entire evidence which was collected shows that the witness deposed that the deceased had committed suicide. The trial court thereafter on its own altered the charge, after the doctor`s evidence was recorded.
The judges said that the prosecution has not adduced any evidence to show that the appellant was present when the incident took place. A neighbour had seen the deceased after she was set on fire, however, he (neighbour) was not examined. He could have thrown light on several facts, more particularly about the presence of the accused in the house either before the incident or subsequently, the judges remarked.
"The trial court convicted the appellant though there was no direct or circumstantial evidence to establish the guilt of the accused. In our view, the Sessions Court should have permitted the investigating officer to carry out further investigation," the High Court bench observed.
The bench further noted that the Sessions Judge should have asked the investigating officer whether he would like to make further investigation. Instead of doing that the court proceeded with the trial and as a result no other witness could be examined by the prosecution to establish that the accused has committed the said offence.
The High Court, however, held that the trial court was right in convicting Satpute and his family members under 498-A IPC (cruelty).
However, it felt that the trial court had erred in framing alternate charge of 306 IPC (abetment of suicide) after the charge of murder was framed. Such an alternate inconsistent charge should not have been framed by the trial court, the judges observed.