State of Punjab vs Gurpreet Singh 2024 INSC 154 – Article 136 Constitution – Criminal Appeal – Close Relative Witness – FIR

Constitution of India, 1950; Article 136 – Criminal Appeal – Once the appellate court acquits the accused, the presumption of innocence as it existed before conviction by the Trial Court, stands restored, and this Court, while scrutinizing the evidence, will proceed with great circumspect and will not routinely interfere with an order of acquittal, save when the impeccable prosecution evidence nails the accused beyond any doubt – Where on consideration of the material on record, even if two views are possible, yet this Court, while exercising powers under Article 136 of the Constitution, will not tinker with an order of acquittal – principles guiding its intervention in acquittal orders under Article 136: (i) An intervention is warranted when the High Court’s approach or reasoning is deemed perverse. This occurs when the High Court, based on suspicion and surmises, rejects evidence or when the acquittal is primarily rooted in an exaggerated adherence to the rule of giving the benefit of doubt in favour of the accused. (ii) Another circumstance for intervention arises when the acquittal would lead to a significant miscarriage of justice. This refers to situations where the High Court, through a cursory examination of evidence, severs the connection between the accused and the crime – An erroneous or perverse approach to the proven facts of a case and/or ignorance of some of the vital circumstances would amount to a grave and substantial miscarriage of justice. In such a case, this Court will be justified in exercising its extraordinary jurisdiction to undo the injustice mete out to the victims of a crime. (Para 15-18) [In this case, SC restored conviction of one of the appellants]

Criminal Trial – Typically, a close relative is unlikely to shield the actual culprit and falsely implicate an innocent person. While it is acknowledged that emotions can run high and personal animosity may exist, merely being related does not provide a valid basis for criticism; instead, familial ties often serve as a reliable assurance of truth. (Para 29)

FIR – prompt lodging of an FIR helps dispel suspicions related to the potential exaggeration of the involvement of individuals and adds credibility to the prosecution’s argument. A promptly lodged FIR reflects the first­hand account of what happened and who was responsible for the offence in question. (Para 30)

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