Supreme Court acquits a murder accused after 42 years quashing Allahabad HC judgment

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While hearing the Ram Singh vs. The State of U.P. case on February 21, 2024, the Supreme Court (SC) of India acquitted a murder accused, nearly after 42 years, after noting that the co-accused had been acquitted on the same evidence by the trial court. The bench observed “We are of the view that the appellant should be given the benefit of doubt as according to us, the prosecution could not prove his guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. Any lingering doubt about the involvement of an accused in the crime he is accused of committing, must weigh on the mind of the court, and in such a situation, the benefit of doubt must be given to the accused.” 

A two-judge bench of the SC constituting Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice Abhay S. Oka was hearing an appeal filed by the appellant (Ram Singh) against the Allahabad High Court judgment or order confirming the conviction and sentence imposed by the Trial Court. The Trial Court convicted Ram Singh for the offence under Section 301 read with Section 302 of the IPC and Section 307 of the IPC. He was sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life for the offence under Section 301/302 IPC and imprisonment for 5 years for the offence under Section 307 IPC, both sentences were to be run concurrently. 

In this case, Shri Radhey Lal (PW-1) lodged the first information before the Police Station in Kanpur District at midnight stating that he and his brother Desh Raj were sitting in the open space in front of the entrance door of his house during the evening hours. His mother Dulli was sitting close by on a cot. On another cot, neighbors Lala Ram (PW-3) and Man Singh PW-2) were sitting. According to the informant, at about 08:00 PM, appellant Ram Singh accompanied by one Lala Ram came to his residence. He further stated that both of them were residents of his village. Ram Singh was holding a country-made pistol in his right hand. As per the version in the first information, Lala Ram had instigated Ram Singh by loudly saying that these people were creating disturbances; so kill them. Ram Singh fired on the informant but he slipped below the cot. The bullet hit the left breast of his mother Dulli who cried aloud saying that she was dead. Mother died immediately due to the gunshot wound.

The trial court convicted the appellant under the aforesaid provisions of IPC and sentenced him accordingly. The co-accused Lala Ram, son of Dhanna Ram Yadav, was acquitted. The appeal filed by the appellant before the High Court was dismissed. Consequently, his conviction and sentence were confirmed. The matter was, therefore, presented before the Supreme Court. After hearing the matter, the SC noted, “it is evident that there are glaring inconsistencies in the prosecution version which have been magnified by the absence of the testimony of the material witnesses and the ballistic report coupled with the non-recovery of the weapon of crime”. The bench concluded that the appellant should be given the benefit of doubt as the prosecution was not able to prove his guilt before reasonable doubt. It set aside the conviction and sentence of the accused as well as quashed the order and judgment of the Additional Sessions Court and High Court.