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Supreme Court: Failure to Retrieve Dead Body Does Not Entitle Accused to Benefit of Doubt [Read Judgment]

Author: Astha Srivastava, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi

Supreme Court has ruled that failure of the police to recover the dead body will not be solely responsible to render the prosecution case doubtful entitling the accused for acquittal on the basis of benefit of doubt. 

In the case of Sanjay Rajak vs. State of Bihar, The victim was a school going child of the age of 5-6 years. As per the allegations put, he is said to have been kidnapped from his school, by the co-accused Balram. The Appellant and the co-accused were last seen together with the victim. In the confessional statement made by them, they had accepted that after killing the child they had buried the corpse in the bed of River Saryu at Chhapra. The Police didn’t even made an effort to recover the body. The belongings of the deceased victim were recovered from the house of the appellant. The failure to take any step for the recovery of body leaves it open to doubt whether any such incident of kidnapping had occurred or not.

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The Parents of the victim had further deposed that ransom calls were being made by Balram. Acquittal of co-accused Balram is irrelevant in the nature of the evidence available against the appellant, the Learned Counsel for the state submitted.

In another case of Sevaka Perumal and another vs. State of Tamil Nadu, the Corpus Delicti (dead body) was not found and yet the conviction was upheld observing that:

In a trial for murder it is not an absolute necessity or an essential ingredient to establish Corpus Delicti. The fact of death of the deceased must be established like any other fact. Corpus Delicti in some cases may not be possible to be traced or recovered. Take for instance that a murder was committed and the dead body was thrown into flowing tidal river or stream or burnt out. It is unlikely that the dead body may be recovered. If recovery of the dead body, therefore is an absolute necessity to convict an accused, in many a case the accused would manage to see that the dead body is destroyed etc. and would afford a complete immunity to the guilty from being punished and would escape even when the offence of murder is proved. What, therefore, is required to base a conviction that the offence of murder is that there should be reliable and acceptable evidence that the offence of murder, like any other factum of death was committed and it must be proved by direct or circumstantial evidence, although the dead body may not be traced……

Likewise in the case of Lohit Kaushal vs. State of Haryana, the appellant was made an accused on the confession of a co-accused.

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In the present petition, rejecting the submission, the bench said that, in this case, the failure of the police to recover the dead body is not much of consequence in the absence of any explanation by the appellant both with regard to the victim last seen with him coupled with the recovery from his house of the belongings of the deceased. It added:

“It is not an invariable rule of criminal jurisprudence that the failure of the police to recover the corpus Delicti will render the prosecution case doubtful entitling the accused to acquittal on benefit of doubt. It is only one of the relevant factors to be considered along with all other attendant facts and circumstances to arrive at a finding based on responsibility and probability based on normal human prudence and behaviour. In the facts and circumstances of the present case, the failure of the police to recover the dead body is not much of consequence in the absence of any explanation by the appellant both with regard to the victim last being seen with him coupled with the recovery from his house of the belongings of the deceased”.

To Read Judgment: Click Here!

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