June 22, 2023 In Uncategorized


In a recent case of Ramakant Murhari Aalat vs State of Maharashtra, Criminal Appeal No. 262 of 2016 and Hanmant @ Billa Vishwanath Aalat vs State of Maharashtra, Criminal Appeal No. 292 of 2016, a two Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court at Aurangabad, comprising of Justice Smt. Vibha Kankanwadi and Justice Abhay S. Waghwase, passed a Judgment dated 05-06-2023 and made observations regarding the principles to be followed in a criminal trial involving a case based on circumstantial evidence.


1) In the present case, one, Govind (Informant), brother of the Deceased- Vikas informed the Police at Chakur Police Station, Latur, Maharashtra that the Appellants i.e. Hanmant (Accused-1) and Ramakant (Accused-2) intentionally committed the murder of his brother i.e. the Deceased-Vikas by assaulting him with an axe, for maintaining illicit relations with the Accused-2’s wife.

2) The Informant further claimed that the Deceased used to stay with his wife and children at Village Latur and used to cultivate land in Village Bothi and for the said agricultural purposes, the Deceased used to commute between Latur and Bothi Villages and mostly stayed at the Accused-2’s house.

3) On one such occasion, when the Deceased was in the company of the Accused 1 and 2 on 06-07-2014, both the Accused allegedly assaulted the Deceased with an axe under suspicion of his illicit relations with the Accused-2’s wife.

4) Hence, an FIR was registered against the Appellants-Accused and they were charge-sheeted for commission of offences punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC) (Punishment for murder) read with Section 34 IPC (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).

5) During the trial before Ld. Sessions Court, Latur (Trial Court) in Sessions Case No. 108 of 2014, the Prosecution examined various witnesses and relied on documentary evidences to establish the offence against the Appellants-Accused.

6) The Trial Court convicted the Appellants-Accused, vide Order dated 29-02-2016 and sentenced them to suffer imprisonment for life.

High Court Observations

Aggrieved by the Trial Court Order dated 29-02-2016, the Appellants-Accused filed Criminal Appeal No. 262 of 2016 and Criminal Appeal No. 292 of 2016 before the Hon’ble Bombay High Court at Aurangabad. The High Court, vide Order dated 05-06-2023, made the following observations:

i) That in the present case, there is no direct evidence establishing the offence allegedly committed by the Appellants-Accused. Hence, the case is entirely based on circumstantial evidence including the Deceased’s clothes, axe and other articles seized from the place of occurrence, testimony of the Informant that he saw the Deceased sitting with the Appellants-Accused on 06-07-2014 evening in the agricultural field and on the following day, his brother was found dead at the same place.

ii) That in a case based on circumstantial evidence, the following golden principles have to be followed in a criminal trial:

(a) the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn “must or should be” fully established and not “may be” established by the Prosecution. It implies that the guilt has to be conclusively proved against the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

(b) the facts so established should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused.

(c) there must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the act must have been done by the accused.

(d) In the event that suspicion / fair doubt based on reasons and common sense is stronger than proof of guilt, the Court may grant benefit of doubt to the accused.

iii) Applying the aforesaid principles to the present case, the Bench held that the Prosecution has merely relied upon a vague statement of the Informant and other Witnesses who claimed that the motive behind committing the murder may have been the alleged affair between the Deceased and the Accused-2’s wife. However, the Prosecution failed to produce on record any further material in support of such allegation. Further, despite such suspicion, the Deceased and the Appellants-Accused met on the fateful evening of 06-07-2014 in the agricultural field to party. Hence, in the present case, there was very weak or no cogent evidence in support of the alleged illicit relations between the Deceased and the Accused-2’s wife, so as to establish the motive behind murder. Therefore, the most essential requirement in a case based on circumstantial evidence, i.e. motive was not established against the Appellants.

iv) Further, the Informant and another Witness claimed to have last seen the Deceased with the Appellants-Accused on 06-07-2014 evening before his death. The Bench made the following observations regarding the “last seen theory”:

It is held that “last seen theory” comes into play, only where the time gap between the point of time when accused and deceased were seen last alive and when deceased is found dead is so small that possibility of anyone other than accused being the author of crime becomes impossible. In absence of any other positive evidence to conclude that accused and deceased were last seen together, it would be hazardous to come to the conclusion in those cases.

v) But in the present case, as per the Informant, he saw the Deceased with the Appellants-Accused around 6 pm to 7 pm on 06-07-2014, whereas the Deceased was reported to be found dead at 8 am on the next day. Hence, the time gap between the point of time when the Appellants-Accused and the Deceased were seen last alive and when the Deceased was found dead is over 14 hours (approximately). Therefore, the “last seen theory” cannot be made applicable in this case, to establish the guilt against the Appellants-Accused.

vi) Further, as per the Autopsy Report, the Doctor failed to mention the tentative time of death and the Prosecution and the Defense failed to cross-examine the Doctor about this aspect. Hence, there is no substantive evidence on the point of time since death.


Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, the High Court held that the Prosecution failed to establish the motive and circumstances beyond reasonable doubt that would be sufficient to form a chain of credible evidence against the Appellants-Accused. Hence, as all circumstances are not forming a complete chain and the chain getting snapped at crucial places, therefore, the Bench allowed the Appeals filed by the Appellants-Accused, acquitted them and set aside the Trial Court Order dated 29-02-2016.

Harini Daliparthy

Senior Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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