CHENNAI: “A man and woman, if left alone, will always go for sexual intercourse.” This is what a Kancheepuram judge said while awarding life imprisonment to a murder accused last year. The judge’s loose comments have drawn the ire of the Madras high court, which not only acquitted the accused but also decried the judge for arriving at “judicial conclusions purely based on surmises and conjunctures.”
In the March 13, 2012 order sentencing Kattu Raja, a factory watchman, for murdering a co-worker, the district and sessions judge-II of Kancheepuram had said: “A man and woman, if left alone, will always go for sexual intercourse. In this case, the accused and the deceased might have been left alone. At that time, the accused would have advanced sexual overtures towards the deceased. She might have refused. Still there might have been sexual intercourse between them. Again, the accused would have invited her for sexual intercourse, which she would have refused. This would have resulted in an ill-feeling.”
The order was quoted by the HC division bench of Justice K N Basha and Justice S Nagamuthu while acquitting Raja of all charges on April 30. Flaying the sessions judge for such loose comments, the bench said: “These observations of the trial court are based merely on conjectures. It is not understood as to how the court could come to a judicial conclusion that a man and woman, if left alone, will always go for sexual intercourse.”
Police arrested Raja in connection with the murder of Mageshwari of Karanithangal village, near Chennai, in June 2008. While Raja was a watchman in the factory, Mageshwari was working on production line and they were “seen moving closely frequently” by others.
The Kancheepuram sessions court found him guilty of the offence on the basis of the circumstantial evidence such as his proximity to the victim, his disappearance from the work spot for a few days after the murder and his confession to police admitting to the crime.
The division bench, however, rejected the trial court’s findings and said too much importance had been attached to the circumstantial evidence. “This is a case based on circumstantial evidence. It is a well established principle of law that in a case where the prosecution relies on circumstantial evidence, the circumstances projected should be proved beyond reasonable doubts.”
Expressing shock at the trial court’s reliance on confessions of Raja, the bench said, “The trial court has extracted the entire confession and in the concluding portion it says his confession had corroborated the evidence of other prosecution witnesses. This observation is really shocking. The court has relied entirely on the confession to come to the conclusion that the accused had illicit intimacy with the deceased. The court has relied on the confession by quoting it extensively, forgetting for a moment that Section 25 of the Evidence Act bars its admissibility.”
Setting aside the life term and ordering Raja’s release, the bench said: “Absolutely there is no evidence against Raja to prove any circumstances, even remotely pointing to the guilt of the accused. Mere suspicion based on surmises and conjunctures will not take the place of proof.”