No Negative Inference Against Prosecution Due to Withheld Witnesses Rules Supreme Court


LI Network

Published on: December 17, 2023 at 11:50 IST

The Supreme Court dismissed a criminal appeal while emphasizing that the absence of eyewitnesses doesn’t automatically lead to an adverse inference against the prosecution.

Justices Abhay S. Oka and Pankaj Mithal asserted, “It is not axiomatic that in every case where the eyewitnesses are withheld from the court, an adverse inference must be drawn against the prosecution. The totality of the circumstances must be considered for concluding whether an adverse inference could be drawn.”

Addressing the issue of eyewitnesses being close relatives of the deceased, the Court maintained that there is no justification for disregarding their testimony. However, it emphasized that such evidence may necessitate closer scrutiny. Following a meticulous examination, the Court found the eyewitnesses’ version to be of exceptional quality.

Building on this conclusion, the Court stated, “When independent witnesses are available who are not connected with the rival parties, and the prosecution omits to examine them by confining its case to examining related witnesses, an adverse inference can undoubtedly be drawn against the prosecution. When the evidence of the eyewitnesses is of sterling quality, an adverse inference need not be drawn. Quality is more important than quantity.”

In the specific case under consideration, three individuals were convicted for the killing of the deceased and assaulting prosecution witnesses.

The main accused, who shot the fatal bullet, was convicted under Section 302 of the IPC. However, the two other accused (appellants) faced convictions under the same provision read with Section 34 of the IPC. Their appeals were dismissed by the Patna High Court, leading to the matter reaching the Supreme Court.

The Court noted that accused No. 3 was charged solely under Section 302, with Section 34 not applied. The question before the Court was whether the convictions of the appellants, who were not the main assailant, could be upheld when Section 34 wasn’t applied to the principal accused.

The Court clarified that while Section 34 was unnecessary for accused No. 3, it was required for the appellants due to their shared common intention with accused No. 3. The Court upheld their sentences and instructed them to surrender before the Trial Court.

Moreover, the Court mentioned that the appellants, upon meeting the criteria for permanent remission, could be considered by the State Government, following the applicable remission policy.


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