December 15, 2023 In Uncategorized


A 3 Judge Bench comprising of Justice B.R. Gavai, Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Aravind Kumar passed a judgement in Sekaran Vs. State of Tamil Nadu in Criminal Appeal No. 2294 of 2010 on 12.12.2023 and held that mere absconding does not prove the intent or guilty mind of the accused. An Appeal was filed under Section 374(2)[1] of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 by the Appellant aggrieved by the decision of Principal Sessions Judge, Kanyakumari District where he was convicted for committing murder and was sentenced life imprisonment together with  fine of Rs.1000/-, in default to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 6 months. The Appellant was again convicted by the High Court of Madras under Section 304-Part II[2], of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment. Still dissatisfied, the Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.


The Victim Palas (now deceased) along-with his wife was returning from their work and stopped at a tea stall owned by Velukutti. Two more persons were present at that tea stall namely Ponnaian and Wilson (PW-2) and the Victim demanded Rs. 50 as his wages from the Appellant. The Victim, Palas was working under the Appellant as a ‘coconut cutting coolie’. Hearing this, the Appellant started abusing the Victim verbally and physically. The Appellant started assaulting the Victim by using a rubber stick that he brought from the back of the tea stall. Witnesses present at the spot separated the Appellant and Palas and by the blows of the Appellant, Palas fell on the ground. Appellant fled the spot. The Victim was brought to a nursing home and later shifted to a Government Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. The Victim died the next day and an FIR was registered against the Appellant under Section 302[3] of IPC.  The Sessions Court was of the view that prosecution was successful in establishing the charge against the Appellant. However, the High Court was also of the view that the death was caused due to the head injury caused by the Appellant but there was no deliberate intention of causing the death of the Victim.


A) Whether, the High Court was justified in returning a finding that the Appellant was guilty of the offence punishable under Section 304- Part II, IPC.

B) Whether, continuous absconding by the Accused, will amount to prove his guilty conscience?

Observation of Supreme Court:

The Bench observed that based on the evidence provided by the two doctors, there was no indication that the Victim was physically disabled to speak or that he disclosed being assaulted by the Appellant during any conversation. The absence of these medical documents led to a lack of corroboration regarding the cause of Victim’s head injury and the assertion that it was a result of the rubber stick blow, as well as the inability to determine if it could have been sustained from a fall from a tree.

The Bench also observed that the deposition of PW-1 (Devaraj), the younger brother of the victim and the first informant, created suspicion regarding the incident and was declared hostile as he mentioned about his unawareness of the occurrence. Moreover, it was clear to the Apex Court that filing of FIR was delayed by the PW-2 (Wilson) and PW-3 (Wife of Palas) because firstly- they were not advised to register an FIR by the doctors of the nursing home and secondly PW-2 was threatened by the Appellant and PW-3, wanted to save her husband.

The statements of PW-2 and PW-7 (Doctor at nursing home) contradicted each other. As per the statement of PW-2, the Appellant had hit the Victim however, the PW-7 (Doctor) stated that he was told that Victim was attacked by somebody.  All these statements and incidents made the prosecution case weak and to some extent unreliable.

Decision of the Supreme Court:

The Apex Court was of the view that it is not very unusual, for a person against whom an FIR has been lodged, to be absconding. Moreover, mere absconding by the Appellant after alleged commission of crime and remaining untraceable for such a long time itself cannot establish his guilt or his guilty conscience.

In such cases, abscondence can constitute relevant piece of evidence but its evidentiary value depends upon the surrounding circumstances. The Bench also noted that when considering the delay in lodging the FIR and thoroughly examining other evidence on record, the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate death of victim do not distinctly and unequivocally indicate the involvement of the appellant. The possibility of his false implication cannot be entirely ruled out. The Supreme Court held that prosecution failed to establish the accusation of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against the Appellant beyond a reasonable doubt. Consequently, the Supreme Court set aside the Judgement and Order dated 12.11.2009 by the High Court of Madras and thus extended the benefit of doubt to the Appellant and acquitted him.

The Apex Court through this judgement concluded that the Appellant’s mere disappearance following the alleged commission of a crime and prolonged absence do not necessarily prove his culpability or guilty conscience.  The Supreme Court followed the principle of giving benefit of doubt to the Accused persons where credibility of witnesses is questioned and there is lack of high value evidence. Hence the case becomes part of a larger narrative that shapes the course of criminal law in contemporary India.

Editor’s Comments:

Under the current criminal jurisprudence, a person is deemed to be guilty of his guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt. It is because of this rigorous rule many an accused goes caught free as the prosecution’s case generally has loop holes. However, in the present case the Court has observed that any person who is going a criminal trial or against whom an FIR is registered is very likely to abscond due to the sheer fear of being arrested. However, that is not to say that any person absconding will be deemed to be guilty of having committed a crime.


Arjav Jain


The Indian Lawyer and Allied Services


Edited by-

Sushila Ram Varma

Chief Consultant

The Indian Lawyer and Allied Services


[1] Appeals from convictions: Any person convicted on a trial held by a Sessions Judge or an Additional Sessions Judge or on a trial held by any other court in which a sentence of imprisonment for more than seven years 2 [has been passed against him or against any other person convicted at the same trial], may appeal to the High Court.

[2] Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder: Whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder shall be punished with 1 [imprisonment for life], or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death; or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both, if the act is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but without any intention to cause death, or to cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.

[3] Punishment for murder. — Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or 1 [imprisonment for life], and shall also be liable to fine.

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