Bench dismisses State's appeal against acquittal of four persons

Existence of a strong motive alone is not sufficient to convict a person in a murder case because “motive is a double-edged weapon, which can be used even to implicate innocent persons,” the Madras High Court Bench here has said.

A Division Bench, comprising Justices Chitra Venkataraman and T. Sudanthiram, made the observation while dismissing the State's appeal against the acquittal of four persons in a murder case registered by Eruvadi police station in Tirunelveli district on August 19, 1999.

Mr. Justice Sudanthiram said that an appellate court must bear in mind that in a case of acquittal, there would always be a double presumption in favour of the accused. Firstly, the presumption of innocence would be available to the accused under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence. Secondly, the accused having secured his acquittal, the presumption of his innocence would be further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the trial court verdict.

“If two reasonable conclusions are possible on the basis of the evidence on record, the appellate court should not disturb the finding of acquittal recorded by the trial court… It is not possible for the court to make a presumption, which will be unfavourable to the accused,” the judges said. In the present case, the trial court had given eight reasons, such as prosecution's failure to prove that there was enough light at the place of occurence, for acquitting the four individuals. “Some of the reasons are not acceptable but most of them are possible and plausible.”

According to prosecution, N. Meenakshisundaram, a plantain trader, killed his nephew K. Kanthiah in 1994. Later, he approached the High Court and obtained a stay of the trial in the case pending against him before a lower court.

Irked by the stay, Kanthiah's brothers K. Ganesan and K. Chelladurai and their accomplices K. Pramasivam and B. Diraviam waylaid Meenakshisundaram at Sirumazhanchi and killed him on the spot.

The Bench agreed that the first two accused had strong motive to do away with Meenakshisundaram, but did not think it appropriate to reverse their acquittal as there were several inconsistencies in evidences adduced by witnesses in the case.