SC: Mere deficiencies in investigation can’t be the sole basis for concluding bias

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 26th October 2020, in the matter of Rajesh Dhiman v. State of Himachal Pradesh & Gulshan Rana vs. State of Himachal Pradesh pronounced that although in some cases, certain actions (or lack thereof) by the Investigating Officer might indicate bias; but mere deficiencies in investigation or chinks in the prosecution case can’t be the sole basis for concluding bias.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

The earlier position of law which allowed the solitary ground of the complainant also being the investigating officer, to become a spring board for an accused to be catapulted to acquittal, has been reversed. Instead, it is now necessary to demonstrate that there has either been actual bias or there is real likelihood of bias, with no sweeping presumption being permissible.(Para 10)

Although in some cases, certain actions (or lack thereof) by the Investigating Officer might indicate bias; but mere deficiencies in investigation or chinks in the prosecution case can’t be the sole basis for concluding bias. (Para 11)

The expression “reasonable doubt” is a well­defined connotation. It refers to the degree of certainty required of a court before it can make a legally valid determination of the guilt of an accused. These words are inbuilt measures to ensure that innocence is to be presumed unless the court finds no reasonable doubt of the guilt of the person charged. Reasonable doubt does not mean that proof be so clear that no possibility of error exists. In other words, the evidence must only be so conclusive that all reasonable doubts are removed from the mind of an ordinary person. (Para 14)

Non­ examination of independent witnesses would not ipso facto entitle one to seek acquittal. Though a heighted standard of care is imposed on the court in such instances. (Para 18)

There is no gainsaid that High Courts are well within their power to reverse an acquittal and award an appropriate sentence; though they cautiously exercise such powers in practice. Illustratively, a few permissible reasons which would necessitate such interference by the High Court include patent errors of law, grave miscarriage of justice, or perverse findings of fact. (Para 19)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_26-Oct-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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