February 24, 2024 In Uncategorized


A two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Bela. M. Trivedi and Justice Satish Chandra Sharma passed a Judgement dated 20-02-2024 in the matter of Kalinga @ Kushal vs State of Karnataka by Police Inspector Hubli, Criminal Appeal No. 622 of 2013 and held that to overturn an Order of Acquittal in an Appeal, it is necessary to establish that the decision of the Trial Court was either perverse or illegal, or that the Court failed to fully comprehend the evidence on record, or that the view taken by the Trial Court was not a possible view. Further, the Bench held that in criminal cases, the guilt must be proved beyond reasonable doubt, otherwise the benefit of doubt should go in favour of the Accused and as such, the Accused should be acquitted.


i) That the Appeal above mentioned filed before the Apex Court by one, Kalinga @ Kushal, (Appellant) against the State of Karnataka by Police Inspector Hubli, (Respondent), challenged the Order dated 28.03.2011 passed by the High Court of Karnataka (Circuit Bench at Dharwad) (High Court), which allowed the Criminal Appeal No. 130/2005, and reversed the Order of Acquittal passed by the Ld. ASJ-01, Dharwad (Hubli) (Trial Court) dated 30.04.2004.

ii) On 03.11.2002, around 11 A.M., the Son of PW-1 (Hrithik) went missing while playing. A missing Complaint was lodged by PW-1 at PS Vidyanagar, Hubli, Karnataka, around 10 P.M., which was registered as Crime No. 215/2002.

iii) Further, on 14.11.2002, the Appellant, who is also the brother of PW-1, appeared at PW-1’s house in a drunken state and mentioned the missing incident of Hrithik. On the morning of 15.11.2002, the Appellant confessed to PW-1, PW-1’s mother, and wife that he had murdered Hrithik and thrown his body in a well. Subsequently, PW-1 took the Appellant to Police Station, Vidyanagar to file a Complaint, leading to the registration of the FIR.

iv) At the Police Station, the Appellant confessed to the Crime, and his statement was recorded. Thereafter, he then led the police, along with PW-1 and others, to the well where he claimed to have disposed of the body. The body of a child was found in the well, leading to further investigation.

v) The Prosecution charged the Accused under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 including Sections 201 IPC (Causing disappearance of evidence), 302 IPC (Punishment for murder), 363 IPC (Kidnapping) and 364 IPC (Kidnapping or abducting to murder).

vi) The Trial Court vide Order dated 30.04.2004, acquitted the Accused, citing reasons such as lack of eyewitnesses, reliance on circumstantial evidence, inconsistencies in witness testimonies, and discrepancies in the Prosecution’s case.

vii) The State appealed the Trial Court’s decision to the High Court, which partially allowed the Appeal and convicted the Appellant based on the voluntary confession, the discovery of the body at his instance, and other evidence.

viii) The High Court disagreed with the Trial Court’s assessment of the evidence and found the Appellant guilty based on his voluntary confession, despite minor discrepancies in witness testimonies.


The Trial Court acquitted the Accused persons based on the following reasons, as follows:

I) The Prosecution’s case relied entirely on circumstantial evidence and lacked eyewitness testimony to support the allegations. The credibility of the Appellant’s extra-judicial confession was questioned due to inconsistencies in witness testimonies and discrepancies in the version of events provided by PW-1.

II) The statements made by PW-1, especially in the Complaint (Ex.P1) and during the trial, differed significantly, raising doubts about the reliability of his testimony.

III) Despite claiming the presence of his wife and mother during the confession, PW-1 failed to produce them as witnesses, casting doubt on the authenticity of his confession.

IV) The discrepancies regarding the manner and place of the Appellant’s arrest raised questions about the voluntariness of the confession made at the police station.

V) The PW-1’s inaction upon receiving information from other witnesses about the child’s whereabouts before the confession undermined the Prosecution’s case. The discrepancies between the clothes described by PW-1 and those found on the Deceased’s body added to the uncertainty surrounding the case.

VI) The Trial Court rejected the ‘Theory of Last Seen’, as presented by the Prosecution, due to doubts about the credibility of the witnesses involved.


A) The High Court, vide Order dated 28.03.2011, reversed the decision of acquittal made by the Trial Court. The High Court conducted a re-appreciation of the entire evidence presented in the case. Further, the High Court evaluated the Prosecution’s case, which largely relied on circumstantial evidence.

B) The High Court found that the Prosecution failed to establish a coherent chain of circumstances through circumstantial evidence. The High Court identified numerous inconsistencies, contradictions, and doubts in the Prosecution’s case.

C) The High Court concluded that the inconsistencies in the Prosecution’s case were not minor and raised reasonable doubts about the guilt of the Accused. The High Court emphasized the need for proof beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases.

D) Based on its assessment, the High Court set aside the acquittal and restored the Trial Court’s Order.


Aggrieved by the Order dated 28.03.2011 of the High Court, the Respondent filed Criminal Appeal No. 622 of 2013 before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, thereby challenging the High Court Order that reversed the Trial Court Order dated 30.04.2004.

1) The Supreme Court meticulously evaluated the Extra-Judicial Confession made by the Appellant. Unlike the Trial Court, the Apex Court found the confession to be voluntary and credible. The Bench highlighted the consistency in the Appellant’s Confession and emphasized the importance of the information leading to the discovery of the Deceased’s body.

2) Further, the Bench while acknowledging the absence of direct eyewitness testimony, the Supreme Court placed significant weight on the Circumstantial Evidence presented by the Prosecution. The Apex Court noted that while Circumstantial Evidence alone may not suffice, but in conjunction with a voluntary confession, it formed a compelling case against the Appellant.

3) The Apex Court addressed the discrepancies in the testimonies of witnesses, particularly that of PW-1. Unlike the Trial Court, the Bench deemed minor inconsistencies as immaterial, focusing instead on the core elements of the confession and its corroboration with other evidence. Contrary to the Trial Court’s scepticism regarding the manner of arrest and confession, the Supreme Court found no substantial grounds to doubt their legality or voluntariness. Further, the Bench emphasized the importance of procedural regularity while acknowledging the absence of concrete evidence to suggest coercion or manipulation.

4) Consequently, the Bench rejected the Last-Seen Theory concerning the involvement of other Accused parties. The Apex Court concurred with the Lower Courts’ assessment that the evidence linking them to the crime was insufficient and unreliable.


Based on the aforementioned facts, the Apex Court held that the Acquittal Order can only be reversed if it is found to be illegal, or perverse, or if the Trial Court has not fully considered the evidence. The Court has emphasized the “two views theory” and has stressed that if there is any doubt, the presumption of innocence should always favour the Accused. The Court has further criticized the High Court for taking a cursory view of the case, noting doubts about the cause of death, identity, and reliability of the post-mortem report. The Court, thus, concluded that the evidence only raised suspicion against the Appellant/Accused, which is not enough for conviction.

The Supreme Court, therefore, allowed the Appeal filed by the Appellant/Accused and thereby, reversed the Order of the High Court to the extent of setting aside of the Appellant’s Conviction.


Sakshi Raghuvanshi

Legal Associates

The Indian Lawyer

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