In a recent judgement, a bench of justices P V Hardas and A R Joshi, while acquitting the four, observed that the prosecution had miserably failed to establish the offence against the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
"In cases resting on circumstantial evidence, it is incumbent for the prosecution to prove each and every circumstance on which it proposes to rely.
The circumstances, so proved, should be of incriminating nature and have a definite tendency of implicating the accused," the bench said.
The circumstances, so proved, should form a complete chain which should exclude every hypothesis of the innocence of the accused and unerringly point to his guilt.
In other words, chain of circumstances should be so complete as to lead to an inference that it is the accused, and the accused alone, who has committed the offence, the Judges noted.
"In this case, we find that the prosecution has not been able to establish a complete chain of circumstantial evidence which would exclude every hypothesis of the innocence of the accused.
The chain of circumstantial evidence falls short of leading to an inference that it is the accused who have committed the crime. In the circumstances, the appellants are entitled to be given the benefit of doubt," they observed.
The HC allowed the appeals and quashed the conviction of Dharam Singh, Tejasingh Bahadur, Tulai Kalu Singh and Meenbahadur Singh, who were awarded life sentence by the trial court for committing dacoity at Jaisingh Plastic Industry in suburban Andheri and murdering their employer Jamnadas Jaisingh on August 4, 2004.
Jamnadas stayed on upper floor of the factory with his family. The Judges observed that Maya, the mentally challenged daughter of the deceased, who was in the house when the victim was found lying dead, was not examined as an eyewitness.
Also, she had not disclosed to police the names of the accused whom she knew as the watchmen of the business premises owned by her father, they further noted.
The Judges opined that the prosecution had failed to establish that currency notes recovered from the accused was a stolen property and they had got them from the deceased.
"The prosecution had also failed to establish a nexus between the recovery of currency notes and the currency notes which had been stolen from the premises of the deceased."
The prosecution had not examined the finger print experts, the HC noted. "There is no evidence of lifting the finger print from the premises and also to show that specimen finger print of the accused had been obtained. Thus, even this vital piece of evidence was not proved by the prosecution."
Jamnadas was found dead in his house, where his hands were tied with a rope and mouth was stuffed. The neck was tied with a piece of cloth.
Police said they could not record the statement of his daughter Maya as she was in a state of shock. But they recorded the statement of an employee of the unit.
The police later arrested the accused and recovered currency notes of various denominations from their possession. They claimed the currency notes belonged to the deceased and had been stolen by the accused.