Mere existence of motive cannot be sole ground for conviction: Bombay HC

Mumbai: In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court has held that a mere existence of motive cannot be a sole ground to convict a person in a criminal case. The HC also held that motive, be it however strong, cannot replace proof.

A bench of Justices Prasanna Varale and Virendrasingh Bisht accordingly set aside the conviction of a 27-year-old man, who allegedly killed his wife over a quarrel.

The man, who was convicted by a lower court at Kolhapur had challenged his life imprisonment sentence before the judges. He argued that the prosecution had no strong evidence apart from the "last seen together" testimony of a few villagers.

As per the prosecution case, the man doubted his wife's character and claimed that she was indulged into sexual relations with her brother-in-law.

The prosecution, stressed on the fact that the husband had strong motive to kill his wife since he doubted her infidelity. The prosecution alleged that since the accused was suspecting the infidelity of his wife, the very factor drove him to do away with the life of the deceased.

Having heard the contentions, the judges noted that motive is which impels a person to do a particular act. "There can be no action without a motive. Motive may create a very strong suspicion but it cannot take the place of proof. Mere possibility of existence of motive cannot make the accused guilty," the judges said.

"Mere existence of motive by itself is not an incriminating circumstance and it cannot give rise to an inference of guilt nor can it form the basis for conviction. Motive for the crime, even if adequate, cannot by itself sustain a criminal charge," the judges added.

The judges further said that in absence of other positive evidence, the prosecution's last seen together theory as well as motive cannot be proved.

"Therefore, practically, there is no evidence to establish any of the circumstances, which in such type of cases, need to be established by the prosecution and even if we assume for the sake of argument that the accused was harboring a motive to commit the murder of the deceased, that in itself, for want of other positive evidence, will not sail the prosecution through," the judges said.

The judges, accordingly ordered his forthwith release from Kolhapur central prison, since the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

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