Supreme Court Orders Release of Man, His Brother Accused of Wife’s Murder (20-05-2021)

New Delhi:  There can be no uniform or universal reaction on witnessing a crime and inferences must not be drawn on assumption, said the Supreme Court which has directed release of a man and his brother in connection with the murder of his wife two decades ago.

The top court said the alleged conspiracy theory to kill the wife only because she was not liked by her husband is far too improbable to accept since the prosecution failed to present any evidence to show the meeting of minds and common intention of all accused.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice R.F. Nariman set aside an order of the Allahabad High Court which convicted Surendra Kumar (brother in law) for murder and Ranveer (husband) for criminal conspiracy in murder case of his wife Kamla Rani.

The bench also comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy said Ramveer may not have been happy with his wife but this by itself does not establish that he hatched a conspiracy with his brother Surendra and his father Om Prakash (who died during trial), to kill Kamla Rani.

The simple fact of being unhappy with a person even if accepted, do not provide a strong enough motive to hatch a conspiracy to eliminate the person.

“But this aspect was ignored by the Court below to attribute motive for the murder. In our assessment the motive element in the chain of circumstances is not acceptable and the benefit of the broken link must be made available to the appellants, the bench said and added that “there can be no uniform or universal reaction for a crime witness and inferences must not be drawn on Court's assumption.”

The top court said it was of considered opinion that there are several missing components in the chain of circumstantial evidence and the High Court misdirected itself in finding support for conviction on such unclinching evidence.

The innocence of the appellants is a distinct possibility in the present matter and when two views are possible the benefit must go to the accused. The impugned judgment is accordingly set aside with direction for immediate release of both appellants, the bench said.

According to the prosecution, on August 8, 1993 Kamla Rani, after spending some days with her parents was returning back on the scooter driven by her brother-in-law Surendra.

On her way two armed robbers ambushed the scooter near the forested area and took Kamla Rani to the roadside sugarcane field and shot her from close range and robbed her of the gold and silver ornaments worn on her person.

Surendra then rode the scooter to village Phlawada to inform father of Kamla about the incident.

The scooter was left behind with Kamla Rani's father and Surendra then returned to his own village and informed his brother and other family members in the matrimonial home of the woman at Village Mahal.

Both brothers accompanied by their father, thereafter rushed to the police station.

Around the same time, two witnesses who were near the site of incident, after hearing the sound of firing went towards the field and they noticed two robbers removing ornaments from the body of Kamla Rani.

Since maltreatment of Kamla Rani in the matrimonial home was alleged in the FIR, the appellants were detained in the police lock up and four days later, the police formally arrested all three, on charge of conspiracy and murder.

The top court in its judgement said when confronted by the armed robbers, he may not have counter attacked to invite injury upon himself but this by itself can't be construed as suspicious conduct.

Yet his post incident conduct was found to be suspicious enough by the courts below, to link him with the murder. In the present case, no criminal act is attributed to Surendra and conspiracy between him and the two armed robbers is not shown.

Therefore to link the appellant with the murder is nothing more than a matter of surmises and conjectures, it said.

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20 May 2021