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Proving motive in a criminal trial is not necessary: HC

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Mumbai : In an interesting observation, the Bombay High Court held that it is not necessary in a criminal trial to prove the ‘motive’ and rather only proving of the ‘criminal act’ is required. The HC has also said that the criminal act of the offender itself is an expression of motive.

The observations were made by a division bench of Justice Rajendra Savant and Justice Sadhana Jadhav in a criminal appeal that was moved by Sohail Abdul Rashid Shaikh and Shakir Abdul Latif. The duo were booked for killing a Dadar-resident Madan Phatak.

According to the prosecution’s case, Phatak was a regular customer of a Colaba-based bar and used to visit there regularly. He had been friends with Sohail and the duo often would go there for dinner.


On April 14, 2000, Phatak had been to the said bar but did not return home. His family made all possible efforts to contact him but their efforts were in vain. Accordingly, a missing complaint was lodged with the Colaba police station.

During the course of investigations, the police was informed that Phatak was last seen with Sohail and three of his friends including Rashid. The police then arrested Sohail and after a thorough interrogation, he confessed to his crime. He also informed the police that they had disposed Phatak’s body at Tiger Point in Lonavla.

The prosecution’s case was entirely based on circumstantial evidence and after scrutinising the same, the Mumbai Sessions Court had in August 2003 sentenced Sohail and Rashid for life time imprisonment. They had challenged their conviction before the HC.

The judges heard Sohail’s appeal through advocate Shantanu Phanse who argued that the prosecution’s case was based only on circumstantial evidence. He also argued that the prosecution has failed to prove the motive for which, Sohail killed Phatak.

After hearing the submissions at length, in a brief verdict, Justice Jadhav has said, “In every case, it is not necessary that there should be a motive to cause homicidal death. The motive is a psychological factor which is in the mind of the accused and may not be apparent on the face of the record unless it culminates into action.”

“In a criminal trial it would not be necessary to prove the motive, but the criminal act of the offender itself is an expression of motive. The motive of the Accused person may not be known to any other person and therefore, it would be difficult to put forth the evidence as far as the motive is concerned,” Justice Jadhav held.

While confirming the life sentence of Sohail, the court said that the prosecution successfully proved his complicity by establishing the chain of circumstances which eliminated his innocence. However, the judges granted a ‘benefit of doubt’ to Rashid owing to insufficient material against him.