February 16, 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 12-02-2024 in the matter of Mallappa & Ors. vs. State of Karnataka, Criminal Appeal No. 1162 of 2011 and held that for a conviction to be upheld, the Court must establish that the Accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This requires the Court to be convinced that the Accused “must have” committed the offence rather than merely “may have”. This standard is set to safeguard the rights of the Accused and ensure that justice is served fairly and impartially.


i) That the aforesaid Appeal filed before the Apex Court by one, Mallappa, one Hanamanth, and one Dharmanna (Appellants) against the State of Karnataka (Respondent), challenged the Order dated 31.05.2010 of the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka (High Court), which allowed the Criminal Appeal No. 1363 of 2005 and reversed the Order of Acquittal passed by the Trial Court/Fast Track Court-I at Gulbarga (Trial Court) dated 24.03.2005 and held the Appellants guilty of the commission of murder of Marthandappa (Deceased).

ii) The Prosecution’s Case begins with Nagamma, the wife of Accused No. 5, alleging an illicit relationship between herself and the Marthandappa/ Deceased. This alleged affair caused strained relations between Marthandappa/Deceased and Accused No. 1 to 8. On 28.06.1997, Marthandappa/Deceased, along with witnesses PW3 and PW4, was traveling in a bullock cart from Aidbhavi village to Nagaral village for farming. As they reached the land of Balwantappa Channur around 4 P.M., Accused No. 1 to 8 emerged from hiding and halted the bullock cart.

iii) Further, the Accused No. 3, 4, and 6 were armed with axes, Accused No. 5 with a knife, and Accused No. 1, 2, 7, and 10 with clubs. They began by threatening Marthandappa/Deceased regarding his alleged illegal activities, accusing him of disrupting the peace of the village women. Subsequently, they attacked Marthandappa/Deceased. Thereafter, the Accused No. 3 struck him on the right leg with an axe, Accused No. 4 struck his stomach multiple times with an axe, Accused No. 5 assaulted him with a knife on the lip and back, and Accused No. 6 struck his temple, chin, and lap with an axe. The assault continued with Accused No. 7 hitting Marthandappa’s/Deceased’s head with a bullock-cart peg, while Accused No. 1, 2, and 8 assaulted his back with clubs.

iv) In fear for his life, PW-4 attempted to flee but was attacked by Accused No. 3 with an axe on his head, back, and scrotum, rendering him unconscious. PW-3, an eyewitness, hid among jali trees, observing the assault. After the attackers left, PW-3 approached Marthandappa/Deceased and found him dead. He also noticed that the PW-4 lying unconscious with severe injuries. Fearing for his safety, PW-3 hid in the jali trees until nightfall and then made his way to Devpura. The next day, he informed Marthandappa’s/Deceased’s father (PW-2) about the incident. Later on, the PW-2 visited the scene, discovered Marthandappa’s/Deceased’s body, and informed the authorities.

v) After completing the investigation, the Investigating Officer filed the charge-sheet before Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC), Shorapur on 29.09.1997. The JMFC issued the Order of Committal on 19.01.1998, and the Accused persons appeared before the Principal Sessions Judge, Gulbarga on 22.03.2002. The Prosecution’s case further details the medical examinations, post-mortem, seizure of weapons, and arrests of the Accused individuals based on evidence and statements gathered during the investigation. Subsequently, charges were framed against the Accused, for committing offences under Sections 147 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 (Punishment for rioting)148 IPC (Rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 IPC (Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 302 IPC (Punishment for murder), 307 IPC (Attempt to murder), and 504 IPC (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace).

vi) Thereafter, the Trial Court’s evaluation of the evidence, it acquitted all the individuals under Section 235 Code of Criminal Procedure (P.C.), 1973 (Judgment of acquittal or conviction). Aggrieved by the decision of the Trial Court Respondent filed an Appeal before the High Court. The High Court later reviewed the Acquittal Order, convicting A3 to A5 (present Appellants) through an Order dated 31.05.2010, while upholding the Acquittal of Accused Nos. 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8.


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

A) The Court found that PW3’s eyewitness testimony was not credible and deemed his behaviour following the alleged murder as unnatural. Despite witnessing the assault on the deceased and PW4, PW3 chose to hide behind bushes until sunset out of fear, which the Court found to be implausible.

B) Further, the PW3 claimed he could only catch a bus the next day at 6:00 A.M., despite buses plying the route between Lingasgur, Shorapur, and Gulbarga, rendering his account artificial. Although PW3’s relatives resided in Nagaral village, merely 4 km away from the scene, he did not inform them, which the Court considered unusual. Furthermore, PW3 failed to inform people at Devpura or on the bus he travelled in about the incident, taking more than 18 hours to inform the deceased’s father, PW2. The Court deemed this delay suspicious.

C) Despite being conscious of the need to get PW4 treated, PW3 made no genuine effort to do so, and the Court found inconsistencies in PW4’s testimony regarding his consciousness and treatment. Discrepancies were found in PW4’s father’s name as recorded in the MLC register and wound certificate. Discrepancies between the timing of the incident as mentioned in the FIR and the wound certificate raised doubts about the credibility of PW3 and PW4’s testimonies, leading the Trial Court to find their evidence incredible, thus resulting in the Acquittal of the Accused.


I) After re-evaluating the evidence, the High Court affirmed that the post-mortem report corroborated the prosecution’s assertion that Marthandappa’s death was a result of homicide. It emphasized the reliability of PW-4’s testimony, considering him an injured witness whose narrative of the assault was consistent and supported by medical documentation, indicating his unconscious state following the attack. The Court also highlighted PW-3’s decision to inform PW-2 about the incident, deeming it reasonable given the circumstances.

II) Regarding the involvement of the Accused, while insufficient evidence led to the Acquittal of A1, A2, A7, and A8, the Court found compelling evidence against A3 to A6. Their actions were consistent with the injuries documented in medical reports, resulting in their conviction for offences under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code.


Aggrieved by the Order dated 31.05.2010 of the High Court, the Respondent filed Criminal Appeal No. 1162 of 2011 before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, thereby challenging the High Court Order that reversed the Trial Court Order dated 24.03.2005.


(1) Whether the High Court was justified in reversing the Trial Court’s Acquittal and convicting the Accused under Section 302 of the IPC.

(2) Whether the Trial Court’s findings were plausible and if there were legal or factual errors warranting reversal.


1) The Apex Court emphasized the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that an accused is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. This presumption is reinforced when a case ends in acquittal, signifying a higher threshold to overturn the decision.

2) Further, the Bench held that the Appellate Courts must exercise caution when re-evaluating evidence, especially in cases of acquittal. They should thoroughly consider the reasons behind the Trial Court’s decision and be slow to interfere if two plausible views exist based on the evidence.

3) Subsequently, the Supreme Court acknowledged the possibility of multiple plausible views in criminal cases and underscored the need to prioritize the one favouring the innocence of the accused. This principle helps reinforce the presumption of innocence. In the present case discussed, the Prosecution heavily relied on the testimonies of witnesses PW-3 and PW-4, along with medical reports. However, the Trial Court found inconsistencies and deficiencies in their testimonies, raising doubts about their credibility.

4) The Apex Court scrutinized the testimonies of PW-3 and PW-4, highlighted inconsistencies and unnatural conduct after the alleged incident. For example, despite claiming to witness the assault, PW-3’s actions afterwards, such as not seeking help for the injured PW-4, seemed suspicious.

5) The medical evidence presented, including the injuries documented on PW-4, was deemed insufficient to corroborate the severity of the alleged assault described by the witnesses.

6) The Bench criticized the High Court for failing to adequately address the doubts raised by the Trial Court regarding witness credibility and inconsistencies in testimonies. Further, the Apex Court emphasized the importance of comprehensive evidence appreciation and warned against partial or selective analysis.

7) The Supreme Court discussed the principles of circumstantial evidence and emphasized the need for conclusive circumstances that exclude every hypothesis except the guilt of the accused.


Based on the aforementioned facts, the Apex Court found that the High Court erred in reversing the Acquittal without identifying any illegality or error in the Trial Court’s Order. Further, the inconsistencies and deficiencies in the Prosecution’s Case, as highlighted during the Appeal, cast reasonable doubt on the guilt of the Accused. Therefore, the Appellants were acquitted of all charges, and the Trial Court’s original decision was reinstated. The Court emphasized the importance of comprehensive evidence evaluation, adherence to legal principles, and the presumption of innocence in criminal proceedings.


Sakshi Raghuvanshi

Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer



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