Supreme Court discussed the test for circumstantial evidence and circumstances under which high court can interfere in case of acquittal under S. 378 CrPC

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Anwar Ali and another v The State of Himachal Pradesh

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1121 OF 2016 decided on 25th September, 2020.


BENCHAshok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy, M.R. Shah, JJ.


The accused was punished under Section 302/34, 392, 201 and 420 of Indian Penal Code for having committed the murder. The deceased body was sent for the post mortem. Subsequently, an information was received by the investigating agencies stating that one jeep was lying in an abandoned condition. Investigating officers took the jeep in custody with a document vide memo and, based on those documents and apprehension, accused was arrested. Hearing the case, trial court acquitted the accused as the case was based only on circumstantial evidence and the prosecution failed to establish and prove the complete chain of events. On appeal filed by the State, Hon’ble High Court reversed the trial court finding and convicted the accused. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied by the High Court judgment, appellants preferred the present appeal under S. 378 CrPC.


Whether, in light of circumstantial evidences and other facts of present case, the High Court is justified in reversing the order of acquittal passed by the learned trial courts?



The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of High Court and acquitted the accused affirming the decision of Trial Court.

View on Circumstantial Evidence

The Supreme Court acquitted the accused because the circumstantial evidence in order to sustain conviction was not complete and was not capable of only explanation regarding guilt of the accused. The Supreme Court relied upon Krishnan v. State (2008) 15 SCC 430 and said that in cases of circumstantial evidence, such evidence must satisfy the following tests:

(i) the circumstances from which an inference of guilt is sought to be drawn, must be cogently and firmly established;

(ii) those circumstances should be of definite tendency unerringly pointing towards guilt of the accused;

(iii) the circumstances, taken cumulatively, should form a chain so complete that there is no escape from the conclusion that within all human probability the crime was committed by the accused and none else; and

(iv) the circumstantial evidence in order to sustain conviction must be complete and incapable of explanation of any other hypothesis than that of the guilt of the accused and such evidence should not only be consistent with the guilt of the accused but should be inconsistent with his innocence.

View in cases of Appeal from Acquittal under S. 378 CrPC

The Supreme Court said that in an appeal against acquittal under Section 378 Cr.P.C, the High Court while dealing with such judgment should consider the entire evidence on record, so as to arrive at a finding as to whether the views of the trial court were perverse or otherwise unsustainable. The appellate High Court is entitled to consider whether in arriving at a finding of fact, the trial court had failed to take into consideration admissible evidence and/or had taken into consideration the evidence brought on record contrary to law. The appellate court should bear in mind the presumption of innocence while hearing matter on appeal, and only in exceptional cases where there are compelling circumstances, the court can interfere with the order of acquittal. The Supreme Court held that High Court in the present case was wrong in interfering with the findings of the fact recorded by the learned trial court.


The Supreme Court, allowing the appeal and, upholding the trial court decision held that since the prosecution failed to prove the motive of the accused and evidence induced in the case being circumstantial, the trial court was justified in recording the acquittal as the prosecution failed to prove the complete chain of event.

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