‘Last seen together’ cannot be sole basis for conviction: Gujarat High Court

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Ahmedabad: Observing that evidence of “last seen together” cannot be the sole basis of conviction and that the time between the disappearance of a person and the discovery of their body is considerably long and that, therefore, courts must seek corroboration, the Gujarat High Court recently acquitted a person overturning his life sentence for murder.

According YOU, the case is from Panchmahal district in Gujarat. In 2013, a magistrate’s court in Godhra convicted Pintoo Bariya of the murder of Chhatrabhai Bariya, with whom he was last seen on the evening of December 24, 2011.

Pintoo reportedly tried to mediate between Chhatrabhai and his ex-wife, who was Pintoo’s cousin. However, Chhatrabhai’s body was found two days later. As the deceased was last seen with Pintoo, he and two other people were charged with Chhatrabhai’s murder.

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Pintoo challenged the verdict of the Sessions Court through lawyer Pratik Barot in the Gujarat High Court. After hearing the case recently, the High Court acquitted him because the case was based on circumstantial evidence and the chain of events could not be completed by the prosecution, reported YOU.

Moreover, the bloodstains found on the sword discovered by the accused did not correspond to the blood type of the deceased. Three panch who witnessed the accused’s discovery of the sword had become hostile. Separately, the autopsy report revealed that the wounds inflicted on the body of the deceased did not appear to have been inflicted by a sword, added the YOU report.

Autopsy reports also revealed that the death could have taken place on the afternoon of December 26, 2011.

The bench of Judge VM Pancholi and Judge RM Sareen was of the view that the onus is on the prosecution under Section 101 of the Evidence Act to prove that the deceased had been in the company of the accused for two days since his disappearance.

The court further stated that only after proving this, the charge could have been transferred to the accused under Section 106 of the Act and he could be sentenced on the basis of the last seen theory together.

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There were three witnesses who supported the story of the last time together, on the basis of which the conviction took place.

The HC bench quashed the conviction and said: “The mere invocation of the ‘last seen together’ theory, without facts or evidence in a case will not suffice to shift the onus or charge as provided by the section 106 of the Evidence Act, on the accused. , unless the prosecution first establishes a prima facie case. Where the links in the chain of circumstances itself are not complete and the prosecution is unable to establish a prima facie case, leaving open the possibility that the event could have happened in some other way, the burden is not on the accused and the benefit of the doubt will have to be given to the accused.

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