SC: No legal presumption can be attached to veracity of Court records emanating during trial

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 26th October 2020, in the matter of Raveen Kumar v. State of Himachal Pradesh observed that although there is no need to separately prove the court records emanating during trial but no legal presumption can be extended to the veracity of the contents of such documents.

Questions before the Hon’ble Supreme Court/ Court’s observations:

What is the scope and essence of the High Court’s appellate jurisdiction against a judgment of acquittal?

There is no difference of power, scope, jurisdiction or limitation under the CrPC between appeals against judgments of conviction or of acquittal. An appellate Court is free to re­consider questions of both law and fact, and re­appreciate the entirety of evidence on record. There is, nonetheless, a self­restraint on the exercise of such power, considering the interests of justice and the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence. Thus, in practice, appellate Courts are reluctant to interfere with orders of acquittal, especially when two reasonable conclusions are possible on the same material. (Para 11)

There is no legal necessity to re-appreciate the entire evidence merely on the premise that the high Court has convicted the appellant for the first time in exercise of its appellate jurisdiction. (Para 14)

What is the extent of reliance upon a document with which the other side was not confronted with during cross­examination?

A Court should be over­ cautious to place reliance on a piece of evidence with which the concerned witness has not been confronted despite an opportunity to do so. Although there is no need to separately prove the court records emanating during trial but no legal presumption can be extended to the veracity of the contents of such documents. (Para 16) 

The reply filed in court proceedings, at best, can be treated as an admission which must not only be proved, but also the opposite party must be confronted with it at the stage of cross examination. (Para 16)

Whether non­ examination of independent witnesses vitiates the prosecution case? 

Lack of independent witnesses are not fatal to the prosecution case. However, such omissions cast an added duty on Courts to adopt a greater­degree of care while scrutinising the testimonies of the police officers, which if found reliable can form the basis of a successful conviction. (Para 16)

Law on minimum mandatory sentence, both at the time of commission of the offence and at the stage of appeal, prohibits any imprisonment lower than a term of ten years. (Para 24)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_26-Oct-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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