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Motive as a circumstance assumes importance for conviction

Bombay High Court

Mumbai: Observing that in cases based on circumstantial evidence, motive as a circumstance assumes importance, the Bombay High Court has acquitted four persons given life terms for murder after the prosecution failed to establish motive behind the killing.

A division bench of justices P V Hardas and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi acquitted Tanaji Raut, Datta Gaikwad, Sani Shinde and Gorakh Jadhav who were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in October 2006.

The four were convicted for the murder of Babulji Jain, owner of Vandana Jewellers in suburban Chembur. According to the prosecution, on February 28, 2004, the victim was found in a stolen Tata Sumo car at suburban Vikhroli with multiple stab wounds on his chest by a patrolling police van.

Following investigation, police arrested Tanaji after recovering his blood stained shirt from near the vehicle and later arrested the three other accused.

The high court, after perusing the facts and circumstances of the case, held that there is no evidence which would link the accused with the commission of the crime.

“The prosecution has utterly failed to establish any motive for the appellants (convicted accused) to have committed the crime. The prosecution has not been able to place on record any evidence that the appellants bore some grudge against the deceased or that the deceased had advanced any money to the appellants,” the court said.

“In our opinion, this is a major flaw in the prosecution case as the case against the appellants is based on circumstantial evidence. In cases based on circumstantial evidence, motive as a circumstance assumes importance and is one of the important circumstances,” the bench held.

The court further held that though failure to establish motive by itself would not be fatal to the prosecution case and conviction can still be upheld, but only if the other evidence and circumstances unerringly establish guilt of the accused.

“In our opinion, mere finding of a shirt near the scene of the incident, minus the other linked evidence, would not establish the involvement of the accused persons,” the court said while acquitting the four and ordering for them to be released from jail.

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