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
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
"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