Raju, J. -
(1.)The three accused in Sessions Case No. 11 of 1997 on the file of the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Nagai Quaide-e-Milet District in Tamil Nadu. Ezhil (A-1), Saravanan (A-2) and Mohammed Iqbal (A-3), are the appellants before us. They have been charged for offences under Sections 364, 392 and 302 read with Section 34, IPC, and Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code. After trial and on consideration of the evidence and materials placed on record, the learned Trial Judge found the first accused guilty under Sections 364, 302, 392 and 201, IPC, the second and third accused guilty under Sections 364, 302 read with Section 34, 392 read with Section 34 and 201, IPC. So far as the question of sentence is concerned, the Trial Judge imposed death sentence on the first accused for the offence committed under Section 302, IPC. For the offences committed by the accused Nos. 1 to 3 under Section 364, a rigorous imprisonment for a period of ten years was imposed. For the offence committed by accused Nos. 2 and 3 under Section 302 read with Section 34, IPC, they were awarded life imprisonment. For the offence committed under Section 392 by the first accused and accused Nos. 2 and 3 for the offence committed by them under Section 392 read with Section 34, IPC, they were awarded rigorous imprisonment for ten years. For the offence under Section 201, IPC, the accused were awarded rigorous imprisonment for five years. The sentences awarded as above, except death sentence, were ordered to run concurrently. So far as the charge under Section 120B, IPC, is concerned, the learned Trial Judge held the same to be not proved against the accused.
(2.)Thereupon, the accused filed Criminal Appeal Nos. 410, 482 and 492 of 1997, which were taken up for disposal along with R.T. No. 4 of 1997 for confirmation of the death sentence imposed on the first accused. A Division Bench of the High Court thought fit to set aside the conviction of the accused under Sections 364 and 201 of IPC. The conviction and sentence imposed by the Trial Court for the offence under Sections 302 and 392, IPC, was upheld, with a modification that all the accused shall stand convicted under Section 392, IPC, read with Section 34, IPC., while choosing not to interfere with the quantum of punishment for the offence under Section 392, IPC. So far as the offence under Section 302, IPC, is concerned, while modifying the death sentence against the first accused into one of rigorous imprisonment for life, such sentence imposed by the Trial Court upon accused Nos. 2 and 3 came to be affirmed. Hence, the above appeals.
(3.)Shri S. Muralidhar, learned counsel for the appellants, strenuously contended that the various circumstances noticed by the courts below to indict the accused of the offences found guilty cannot be said to be proved or substantiated beyond reasonable doubt and even the circumstances found substantiated do not go to form the necessary link to constitute a chain inevitably leading to the guilt of the accused of the offences charged with and held proved. According to the learned counsel, not only there is a strong and reasonable doubt about the case of prosecution, but the stand of the accused reasonably and plausibly explains away the circumstances noticed to hold them guilty and consequently the appellants are entitled to an order of acquittal in our hands. Shri S. Balakrishnan, learned senior counsel appearing for the respondent-State, while relying upon the findings of the courts below, contended that the decisions recorded against the accused for the various offences were on a proper and objective consideration of all the relevant materials and the reasons assigned in support thereof were based on overwhelming material available on record and this Court may not be pleased to interfere with the same in this appeal filed invoking the jurisdiction of this Court under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.