Presumption of innocence is a human right: SC
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Last Updated: Wednesday, December 28, 2011, 17:55
New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that it is fundamental right of an accused to be presumed innocent and he cannot be held guilty on the basis of suspicion however strong it may be.

"It is one of the fundamental principles of criminal jurisprudence that an accused is presumed to be innocent till he is proved to be guilty. It is equally well settled that suspicion howsoever strong can never take the place of proof," a three judge bench headed by Justice Dalveer Bhandari said.

The court passed the order while setting aside the conviction of four persons who were sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly killing three persons including two children in a communal violence after their house was set ablaze in December, 1992 in Assam..

"There is indeed a long distance between accused ?may have committed the offence? and ?must have committed the offence? which must be traversed by the prosecution by adducing reliable and cogent evidence. Presumption of innocence has been recognised as a human right which cannot be wished away," the bench said.

Questioning the conduct of police officer handling the case, the apex court, however, said the entire force cannot be condemned for this.

"That an accused is presumed to be innocent till he is proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is a principle that cannot be sacrificed on the altar of inefficiency, inadequacy or inept handling of the investigation by the police. The benefit arising from any such faulty investigation ought to go to the accused and not to the prosecution," the bench said.

The bench also said that it is wrong to question the integrity of entire police force because of fault of some its officials.

"So also there is no reason for us to generalise and say that there is an attempt not to register cases against assailants and when such cases are registered loopholes are intentionally left to facilitate acquittals or that the evidence led in the courts is deliberately distorted.

"No one can perhaps dispute that in certain cases such aberrations may have taken place. But we do not think that such instances are enough to denounce or condemn the entire force," the bench said.

"Suffice it to say that while the police force may have much to be sorry about and while there is always room for improvement in terms of infusing spirit of commitment, sincerity and selfless service towards the citizens, it cannot be said that the entire force stands discredited," the bench said.


First Published: Wednesday, December 28, 2011, 17:55

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