the benefit of doubt must always be reasonable and not fanciful.= the evidence of the other prosecution witnesses (especially PWs 7, 26, 27, 29, 32 and 33) is homogeneous, consistent and reliable, and corroborates the testimony of PWs 1 and 2, which leads us to conclude that the chain of circumstances is complete and points solely at the guilt of the accused. In our considered opinion, the prosecution has proved the complicity of all the appellants in murdering Santhakumar by strangulating him and thereafter throwing the dead body at Tiger­Chola. It is worth recalling that while it is necessary that proof beyond reasonable doubt should be adduced in all criminal cases, it is not necessary that such proof should be perfect, and someone who is guilty cannot get away with impunity only because the truth may develop some infirmity when projected through human processes. The traditional dogmatic hypertechnical approach has to be replaced by a rational, realistic and genuine approach for administering justice in a criminal trial. Justice cannot be made sterile by exaggerated adherence to the rule of proof, inasmuch as the benefit of doubt 48 must always be reasonable and not fanciful

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 680­681 OF 2009
Pattu Rajan …..Appellant
Versus
The State of Tamil Nadu …..Respondent
WITH
Criminal Appeal Nos. 799­800 of 2009
Criminal Appeal No. 824 of 2009
Criminal Appeal Nos. 801­802 of 2009
Criminal Appeal Nos. 822­823 of 2009
J U D G M E N T
MOHAN M. SHANTANAGOUDAR, J.
The judgment dated 19.03.2009 passed in Criminal Appeal
No. 637 and 748 of 2004 passed by the High Court of Judicature at
1
Madras whereby the High Court convicted the accused appellants
for the abduction and murder of one Santhakumar, husband of the
complainant Jeevajothi (PW1), is called into question in these
appeals.

  1. The material facts leading to these appeals are as under:
    Accused No. 1 is the proprietor of a chain of hotels (Saravana
    Bhavan). Either upon the advice of an astrologer or having become
    besotted with PW1, Accused No.1 had evinced a keen desire to take
    PW1 as his third wife, though she was already married to
    Santhakumar (the deceased). In order to fulfil his desire, Accused
    No.1 used to financially help PW1, her family members and her
    husband. He used to talk to PW1 over the phone frequently, and
    also gave her costly gifts such as jewellery and silk sarees and even
    went to the extent of paying her medical bills. In a further bid to
    gain PW1’s love and affection, he frequently interfered in her
    personal matters. Once when she was ill, under the pretext of
    better treatment as advised by another doctor, Accused No. 1
    forcefully shifted her to another hospital, where he advised her not
    to have sexual relations with her husband and made her undergo a
    2
    series of tests. The deceased Santhakumar was instructed to get
    himself tested for AIDS and other such diseases, which he refused
    outright.
  2. On 01.10.2001, PW1 and her husband were abducted by
    Accused No.1 and his henchmen (including the appellants herein),
    for which a separate complaint (Ext. P3) was lodged by PW1 and a
    separate trial was conducted. Some of the accused therein were
    convicted. Separate appeals were also filed against the judgment of
    conviction for the incident of abduction. As they have been decided
    separately, we do not propose to discuss the said incident and
    offence in detail in these appeals.
  3. Accused No.1 took the help of the other appellants in order to
    eliminate the husband of PW1, for securing PW1 as his third wife.
    Subsequent to the incident of 01.10.2001 relating to abduction,
    Accused No. 2 contacted PW1 and told her that he regretted the
    previous events and suggested to PW1 to lodge a police complaint. A
    few days prior to the murder, Accused No. 2 instructed PW1 to tell
    her husband to come alone to a certain Sai Baba temple to meet a
    press reporter whom Accused No.2 personally knew in order to
    3
    highlight Accused No. 1’s wrongdoings. In other words, Accused
    No.2 posed himself as a well­wisher of PW1 and the deceased.
  4. On 18.10.2001, PW1 as well as her husband went to the Sai
    Baba temple as instructed by Accused No. 2. Soon after, two
    Ambassador cars bearing Registration Nos. TN 09 T 3224 (M.O.1)
    and TN 22 5202 (M.O.2), and a Tata Sumo vehicle bearing
    Registration No. TN 09 Q 1310 (M.O.3) came and halted behind the
    car in which PW1 and her husband were sitting. Accused Nos. 3
    and 4, armed with knives, got out of one of the cars and forced PW1
    and her husband to board the car of the accused in which Accused
    No.5 was sitting, and took them to Chengalpattu. At about 8.30
    p.m. on the same night, a Mercedes Benz bearing Registration No.
    TN 10 M 7755 (M.O.4) belonging to Accused No. 1 arrived with the
    parents of PW1 along with Accused No.1. Thereafter, PW2, the
    mother of PW1, informed PW1 that Accused No.1 was in the said
    Benz car, and wanted PW1 to leave her husband and meet Accused
    No.1 in the car. As PW1 resisted, Accused Nos. 3 and 4 forcibly took
    PW1 to the Benz car, and she was taken to Tiruchirappalli in the
    said car.
    4
  5. On 19.10.2001, PW1 was taken to PW9 by Accused Nos.5 and 8
    at Parappadi village, to remove the alleged influence of witchcraft
    (black magic) which was allegedly the cause of her being in love
    with Santhakumar. From there, she was taken to Veppankulam
    village to seek the advise of an astrologer (PW8). At the said place,
    an employee of Accused No.1, Janarthanam came and informed
    PW1 that her husband had escaped the clutches of the henchmen
    of Accused No.1 and his whereabouts were unknown.
    Subsequently, after spending the night at Hotel Ariyas at
    Tirunelveli, PW1 and her family, along with Accused Nos. 1, 5, 6
    and 8 returned to Chennai by train.
  6. After two days, Santhakumar spoke to PW1 over a phone call
    and stated that Accused No. 2 had told him about being given Rs. 5
    lakhs by Accused No.1 to kill him, but Accused No. 2 had let him go
    unharmed out of sympathy, and had asked him to escape to
    Mumbai and contact him from there after fifteen days. However,
    Santhakumar returned to PW1 upon her request. Subsequently, on
    21.10.2001, both of them approached Accused No.1 to seek his
    mercy, thus revealing that Santhakumar was still alive. Later on
    5
    the same day, when Accused No.2 told Accused No.1 a false story
    about how he and the other accused had killed Santhakumar and
    destroyed the evidence, on Accused No.1’s cue, Santhakumar and
    PW1 entered the room, much to the shock of Accused No.2.
    Disgraced and feeling betrayed, Accused No.2 started assaulting
    Santhakumar, and was joined by Accused Nos. 3 and 4. On
    24.10.2001, they took the couple to the office of the Deputy
    Commissioner of Police to withdraw the complaint relating to the
    incident of abduction which had been lodged earlier that month,
    and also made them sign a few blank papers. On the same day,
    Accused Nos. 5 and 6 took Santhakumar, PW1 and her family
    members in a Tata Sumo bearing Registration No. TN 10 M 7755
    belonging to Accused No. 1, again to remove the influence of black
    magic on PW1, after which they reached Tirunelveli.
  7. On 26.10.2001, at about 6.30 a.m., Accused No. 5 came to the
    room in which PW1 and her family members were staying in
    Tirunelveli and informed them that Accused No.1 had instructed
    Santhakumar to be brought to him. Unwilling to send him alone,
    PW1 also went along with Santhakumar and Accused No.5.
    6
    Accused No. 1 made PW1 and her husband get into his Tata Sumo
    (Registration No. TN 10 M 7755). This vehicle, being driven by
    Accused No. 9, with Accused Nos. 5 and 8, PW1 and Santhakumar
    seated within, was followed by another Tata Sumo (M.O.3). Upon
    reaching the Karai Illupu culvert, and upon a signal by Accused No.
    5, the other vehicle stopped, and Accused Nos. 2 to 4 and 6 alighted
    therefrom. Accused No.1 got out and grabbed Santhakumar by the
    collar, dragging him out. He pushed Santhakumar down and
    handed him over to Accused Nos. 2 to 4 and 6 and ordered them to
    “finish him off”. The Tata Sumo (M.O. 3) driven by Accused No. 7
    took Santhakumar along with the said accused towards Dindigul.
    Accused No. 1 and the other accused took PW1 back, and later
    brought her and her family back to Chennai.
  8. While PW1 was staying at her mother’s house at Velachery,
    Accused Nos. 5, 8 and other henchmen of Accused No.1 kept a
    constant vigil over the movements of PW1 and her family.
    Thereafter, at the instance of Accused No.1, PW1 and her family
    members were taken to an astrologer by the name of Ravi (PW4),
    and later, she was made to undergo certain rituals, conducted by
    7
    one Raghunatha Iyer, in the presence of the second wife of Accused
    No.1 at K.K. Nagar. Later, much to her shock, PW1 learnt that these
    rituals were traditionally conducted by the wife after the death of
    her husband. Therefore, upon growing gravely suspicious, she
    lodged the first information on 20.11.2001 stating that Accused
    No.1 and his henchmen had murdered her husband, and the same
    was registered as Crime No.1047 of 2001.
  9. The motive put forth by the prosecution for the commission of
    the offence is that Accused No.1 wanted to take PW1 as his third
    wife despite knowing that she was already married to the deceased
    Santhakumar. Accused No.1 made several failed attempts with the
    help of the other accused to sever the relationship between PW1
    and her husband. Ultimately, Accused No.1 committed the offence
    in question in order to eliminate the deceased so as to be able to
    marry PW1 without any obstruction.
  10. In the meanwhile, i.e. on 31.10.2001, prior to the lodging of
    the FIR, one forester by name Raman and Forest Guard Murugusen
    (PW26 and 27 respectively) of the Kodaikanal Range discovered the
    dead body of a male near the Tiger­Chola forest area. On seeing the
    8
    dead body, PW27 lodged the first information, Ext. P42, at
    Kodaikanal Police Station, which was registered as C.R. No. 559 of
    2001, recording the finding of an unidentified body and its
    unnatural death. The post­mortem was conducted on 01.11.2001
    by PW35 and thereafter, as the body remained unidentified, it was
    buried in the Hindu burial ground of the Kodaikanal Municipality
    by PW33, Anithalai, in the presence of PW32, Head Constable
    Sebastian. Meanwhile, the accused had surrendered and confessed
    to the commission of Santhakumar’s murder. Based on Accused
    No. 2’s confession that he and the other accused had killed the
    victim and thrown the dead body in the forest area of Tiger­Chola
    near a curve on the road, the investigation team proceeded to that
    place, and it was eventually determined that the dead body found
    by the forest officials was that of Santhakumar. The pre­burial
    photographs of the dead body clicked by the Kodaikanal Police
    (M.O. 11, 12, 13, 14) as well as the apparel found on the body of the
    deceased (M.O. 5, 6 and 8) were identified as Santhakumar’s by
    PW1 and her family, as well as by some of the accused. The dead
    body was exhumed by PW33 and two others, and was sent for a
    second post­mortem, which was conducted by PW38. During the
    9
    course of investigation, the procedure of superimposition of the face
    of the deceased was done by PW34, Dr. Jayaprakash, after which
    the dead body was concluded to be that of Santhakumar. After
    exhumation, the body was also identified by PWs 1 and 2 through a
    scar mark still visible on the waist.
    Charges were framed under various provisions of the Indian
    Penal Code (hereinafter referred to as “the IPC”) including Sections
    302, 364 and 201, and the trial was conducted.
  11. The Trial Court, upon evaluation of the material on record,
    convicted the accused appellants for the offences punishable under
    Sections 364, 304 Part I and 201 of the IPC. The accused appellants
    as well as the State appealed before the High Court, wherein the
    High Court while confirming the finding of guilt of the accused,
    modified the conviction for the offence punishable under Section
    304 Part I to Section 302 of the IPC. The Trial Court as well as the
    High Court concluded that the evidence of the prosecution
    witnesses, particularly that of PWs 1 and 2, along with the other
    supporting evidence, was believable and trustworthy; the motive for
    commission of the offence had been proved; the last seen
    10
    circumstance had been proved by the prosecution beyond
    reasonable doubt; and that the recovery of the dead body based on
    the statement of Daniel (Accused No.2) had also been proved. Both
    the Courts tested the evidence of PW1 on the touchstone of
    consistency with the tenor of the case. The Trial Court, which had
    the opportunity to observe the demeanor of PWs 1 and 2, held that
    the discrepancies and contradictions, if any, were minor in nature,
    and did not affect the credibility and consistency of the evidence of
    PWs 1 and 2.
  12. The Courts, relying on the evidence of the doctors PWs 35 and
    38, who conducted the two post­mortem examinations, concluded
    that the death was homicidal in nature, as the cause of death was
    found to be asphyxia due to throttling.
  13. Shri Sushil Kumar, learned senior counsel for the appellants
    took us through the entire material on record and submitted that
    the circumstances relied upon by the prosecution have not been
    proved in accordance with law. He argued that the High Court and
    the Trial Court have merely proceeded on assumptions and
    conjectures, and the motive for commission of the offence has not
    11
    been proved, in addition to the fact that the evidence relating to the
    recovery of the dead body is shaky. He laid more stress on the
    argument that the first information in the present case (Ext. P1)
    registered on 20.11.2001 could not have been registered at all,
    inasmuch as there cannot be a second FIR relating to the same
    incident. According to him, the incident as found in the first
    information report dated 20.11.2001 is merely a continuation of the
    earlier offence of abduction which had taken place on 01.10.2001,
    which had generated proceedings pursuant to the first information
    lodged on 12.10.2001. Thus, according to him, the FIR in the
    present case would only assume the character of a statement
    recorded under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure
    (hereinafter “the Cr.P.C”), and the proceedings in this matter would
    stand vitiated. He further submitted that the first information of the
    abduction case dated 12.10.2001 had been marked and relied upon
    in the present matter as Ext. P3 and its use as a substantive piece
    of evidence was illegal. It was also argued that the evidence relating
    to the last seen circumstance as deposed by PW1 was not put to the
    accused while examining them under Section 313 of the Cr.P.C,
    and therefore, such portion of evidence could not be made use of by
    12
    the prosecution against the accused. Learned counsel also
    submitted that the identification of the body merely on the basis of
    a superimposition test was improper, in the absence of a DNA test.
    Per contra, Shri Balaji Srinivasan, the learned Additional
    Advocate General appearing on behalf of the State, argued in
    support of the judgments of the Courts below.
  14. We do not find any force in the arguments of the learned
    Senior Advocate for the appellants that the incident of murder in
    the case in hand is merely a continuation of an earlier offence, i.e.
    Crime No. 1030 of 2001 relating to the abduction of PW1 and the
    deceased Santhakumar, which occurred on 01.10.2001.
    Undoubtedly, factors such as proximity of time or place, unity
    of purpose and design and continuity of action, in respect of a
    series of acts, have to be considered in order to determine whether
    such acts form part of the same transaction or not (See State of
    A.P. v. Cheemalapati Ganeswara Rao, (1964) 3 SCR 297). A
    quick overview of the sequence of unfolding of the incident of
    murder in question and the prior incident of abduction would show
    13
    that the above factors cannot be said to be satisfied in this case.
    Even when the two FIRs Ext. P1 and P3 are read together, it
    becomes clear that the first incident of abduction began and ended
    on 01.10.2001. The crime of abduction commenced when the
    victims (PW1 and the deceased) were forced into captivity on the
    said date, and was completed on the same day immediately after
    the victims were released. In respect of the said incident, the first
    information came to be lodged on 12.10.2001 by PW1. During the
    investigation of the said case, on 24.10.2001, the accused brought
    the deceased, PW1 and her family members to Tirunelveli. The
    present crime came to be committed on 26.10.2001, whereby PW1
    and her husband, Santhakumar were taken away in a car, and on
    the direction of Accused No.1, Accused Nos. 2 to 4, 6 and 7 forcibly
    took away Santhakumar by separating him from his wife,
    committed his murder and threw away his body at the Tiger­Chola
    forest area within the jurisdiction of Kodaikanal Police Station.
    Evidently, the time and place of occurrence of the two
    incidents are different. Even the number of accused involved in the
    incidents is different. No continuity of action can be gathered from
    14
    the sequence of events either. It may be noted that the motive for
    commission of both the offences may be the same, inasmuch as
    they were committed to enable Accused No. 1 to marry PW1, but
    merely because of their common motive, the second offence cannot
    be said to be in continuation of the first incident, in light of there
    being distinct intentions behind the two offences. The first offence
    was committed with the intention to abduct the deceased and PW1,
    the purpose for which was merely to threaten and pressurize them.
    In contrast, the intention behind the second offence was to murder
    the deceased with a view to permanently get rid of him. Therefore, it
    is evident that unity of purpose and design between the two
    offences is also absent. Thus, it is amply clear that the incident of
    murder is entirely separate and distinct from the earlier incident of
    abduction.
  15. Undisputedly, the first information pertaining to the incident
    of abduction, after passing through various stages and various
    police officers, ultimately came to be registered as an FIR on
    09.11.2001 in the jurisdictional Police Station. Nevertheless, the
    fact remains that the offence of abduction was completed on
    15
    01.10.2001 itself and the first information came to be lodged on
    12.10.2001.
  16. There cannot be any dispute that a second FIR in respect of an
    offence or different offences committed in the course of the same
    transaction is not only impermissible but also violates Article 21 of
    the Constitution. In T.T. Antony v. State of Kerala, (2001) 6 SCC
    181, this Court has categorically held that the registration of a
    second FIR (which is not a counter case) is violative of Article 21 of
    the Constitution. It is relevant to note paragraphs 19, 20 and 27 of
    the said decision in that regard:
    “19. The scheme of CrPC is that an officer in
    charge of a police station has to commence
    investigation as provided in Section 156 or 157
    CrPC on the basis of entry of the first information
    report, on coming to know of the commission of a
    cognizable offence. On completion of investigation
    and on the basis of the evidence collected, he has to
    form an opinion under Section 169 or 170 CrPC, as
    the case may be, and forward his report to the
    Magistrate concerned under Section 173(2) CrPC.
    However, even after filing such a report, if he comes
    into possession of further information or material,
    he need not register a fresh FIR; he is empowered to
    make further investigation, normally with the leave
    of the court, and where during further investigation
    16
    he collects further evidence, oral or documentary, he
    is obliged to forward the same with one or more
    further reports; this is the import of sub­section (8)
    of Section 173 CrPC.
  17. From the above discussion it follows that
    under the scheme of the provisions of Sections 154,
    155, 156, 157, 162, 169, 170 and 173 CrPC only
    the earliest or the first information in regard to the
    commission of a cognizable offence satisfies the
    requirements of Section 154 CrPC. Thus there can
    be no second FIR and consequently there can be no
    fresh investigation on receipt of every subsequent
    information in respect of the same cognizable
    offence or the same occurrence or incident giving
    rise to one or more cognizable offences. On receipt of
    information about a cognizable offence or an
    incident giving rise to a cognizable offence or
    offences and on entering the FIR in the station
    house diary, the officer in charge of a police station
    has to investigate not merely the cognizable offence
    reported in the FIR but also other connected
    offences found to have been committed in the course
    of the same transaction or the same occurrence and
    file one or more reports as provided in Section 173
    CrPC.
    x x x x x x x x x x
  18. A just balance between the fundamental
    rights of the citizens under Articles 19 and 21 of the
    Constitution and the expansive power of the police
    to investigate a cognizable offence has to be struck
    by the court. There cannot be any controversy that
    sub­section (8) of Section 173 CrPC empowers the
    police to make further investigation, obtain further
    evidence (both oral and documentary) and forward a
    17
    further report or reports to the Magistrate.
    In Narang case [Ram Lal Narang v. State (Delhi
    Admn.), (1979) 2 SCC 322 : 1979 SCC (Cri) 479] it
    was, however, observed that it would be appropriate
    to conduct further investigation with the permission
    of the court. However, the sweeping power of
    investigation does not warrant subjecting a citizen
    each time to fresh investigation by the police in
    respect of the same incident, giving rise to one or
    more cognizable offences, consequent upon filing of
    successive FIRs whether before or after filing the
    final report under Section 173(2) CrPC. It would
    clearly be beyond the purview of Sections 154 and
    156 CrPC, nay, a case of abuse of the statutory
    power of investigation in a given case. In our view a
    case of fresh investigation based on the second or
    successive FIRs, not being a counter­case, filed in
    connection with the same or connected cognizable
    offence alleged to have been committed in the
    course of the same transaction and in respect of
    which pursuant to the first FIR either investigation
    is under way or final report under Section 173(2)
    has been forwarded to the Magistrate, may be a fit
    case for exercise of power under Section 482 CrPC
    or under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution.”
  19. However, the aforementioned principles of law may not be
    applicable to the facts of the incident on hand, as the crimes
    underlying the two FIRs are distinct and different. The offence
    punishable under Section 302, in the present case, was committed
    during the course of investigation of the case in the first FIR, i.e.
    18
    relating to the crime of abduction. We are of the considered opinion
    that the allegations and offences under this present FIR relating to
    the murder of the deceased are substantially distinct from the
    information lodged in Crime No. 1030 of 2001 relating to abduction.
    We are unable to accept the argument of Shri Sushil Kumar that at
    the most, further investigation could have been made by the police
    in the earlier crime registered relating to abduction since the
    murder has allegedly taken place during the subsistence of
    investigation of the crime of abduction. As mentioned supra, the
    facts and circumstances of the matter clearly indicate that the
    offence of abduction committed by the appellants and the offence of
    murder were two different and distinct offences, and therefore,
    there is no question of further investigation to be made in the crime
    of abduction by the investigating agency relating to the offence of
    murder which was committed during the subsistence of the
    investigation relating to abduction. Further investigation, as
    envisaged under Sub­section 8 of Section 173 of the Cr.P.C,
    connotes investigation of the case in continuation of an earlier
    investigation with respect to which the chargesheet has already
    been filed. In case a fresh offence is committed during the course of
    19
    the earlier investigation, which is distinct from the offence being
    investigated, such fresh offence cannot be investigated as part of
    the pending case, and should instead be investigated afresh. It is
    pertinent to note that the facts on hand are similar to the facts in
    the case of Awadesh Kumar Jha v. State of Bihar, (2016) 3 SCC
    8, wherein this Court held that the case arising out of a second FIR,
    if relating to a separate transaction, cannot be investigated along
    with a previous FIR under the clause ‘further investigation’ as
    contemplated under Sub­section 8 to Section 173 of the Cr.P.C.
  20. In Rameshchandra Nandlal Parikh v. State of Gujarat,
    (2006) 1 SCC 732, earlier judgments of this Court including T.T.
    Antony (supra) were considered, and it was held that in case the
    FIRs are not in respect of the same cognizable offence or the same
    occurrence giving rise to one or more cognizable offences, and have
    not been alleged to have been committed in the course of the same
    transaction or the same occurrence as the ones alleged in the first
    FIR, there is no prohibition on accepting the second FIR. In this
    respect, in the case of Nirmal Singh Kahlon v. State of Punjab,
    (2009) 1 SCC 441, this Court observed thus:
    20
    “67. The second FIR, in our opinion, would be
    maintainable not only because there were different
    versions but when new discovery is made on factual
    foundations. Discoveries may be made by the police
    authorities at a subsequent stage. Discovery about a
    larger conspiracy can also surface in another
    proceeding, as for example, in a case of this nature. If
    the police authorities did not make a fair
    investigation and left out conspiracy aspect of the
    matter from the purview of its investigation, in our
    opinion, as and when the same surfaced, it was open
    to the State and/or the High Court to direct
    investigation in respect of an offence which is distinct
    and separate from the one for which the FIR had
    already been lodged.”
  21. We may also refer to the following observations made by this
    Court in the case of Babubhai v. State of Gujarat, (2010) 12 SCC
    254, while considering a similar question:
    “20. Thus, in view of the above, the law on the
    subject emerges to the effect that an FIR under
    Section 154 CrPC is a very important document. It is
    the first information of a cognizable offence recorded
    by the officer in charge of the police station. It sets
    the machinery of criminal law in motion and marks
    the commencement of the investigation which ends
    with the formation of an opinion under Section 169
    or 170 CrPC, as the case may be, and forwarding of a
    police report under Section 173 CrPC. Thus, it is
    quite possible that more than one piece of
    information be given to the police officer in charge of
    21
    the police station in respect of the same incident
    involving one or more than one cognizable offences.
    In such a case, he need not enter each piece of
    information in the diary. All other information given
    orally or in writing after the commencement of the
    investigation into the facts mentioned in the first
    information report will be statements falling under
    Section 162 CrPC.
  22. In such a case the court has to examine the facts
    and circumstances giving rise to both the FIRs and
    the test of sameness is to be applied to find out
    whether both the FIRs relate to the same incident in
    respect of the same occurrence or are in regard to the
    incidents which are two or more parts of the same
    transaction. If the answer is in the affirmative, the
    second FIR is liable to be quashed. However, in
    case, the contrary is proved, where the version in
    the second FIR is different and they are in
    respect of the two different incidents/crimes, the
    second FIR is permissible. In case in respect of
    the same incident the accused in the first FIR
    comes forward with a different version or
    counterclaim, investigation on both the FIRs has
    to be conducted.”
    (emphasis supplied)
    In light of the aforementioned settled legal proposition, we
    have no hesitation in holding that the separate first information
    lodged in this case is just, legal and proper.
  23. Furthermore, it is no doubt true that the first information
    relating to the crime of abduction dated 12.10.2001 was marked in
    22
    the case on hand relating to murder. However, we cannot accept the
    contention that the same has been used as a substantive piece of
    evidence in this matter. This is because the said document was
    practically used only as supportive material to show the motive for
    the accused to commit the crime.
  24. Coming to the merits of the matter, it is pertinent to note that
    the prosecution mainly relied upon three circumstances to prove
    the guilt of the accused, i.e. motive, the last seen circumstance and
    the recovery of the dead body at the instance of the accused. An
    additional link in the chain of circumstances is the non­explanation
    by the accused about the last seen circumstance in their statement
    recorded under Section 313 of the Cr.P.C. Clearly, there is no
    direct evidence in this matter and the whole case rests on
    circumstantial evidence.
    Before we undertake a consideration of the evidence
    supporting such circumstances, we would like to note that the law
    relating to circumstantial evidence is well settled. The Judge while
    deciding matters resting on circumstantial evidence should always
    tread cautiously so as to not allow conjectures or suspicion,
    23
    however strong, to take the place of proof. If the alleged
    circumstances are conclusively proved before the Court by leading
    cogent and reliable evidence, the Court need not look any further
    before affirming the guilt of the accused. Moreover, human agency
    may be faulty in expressing the picturisation of the actual incident,
    but circumstances cannot fail or be ignored. As aptly put in this oftquoted phrase: “Men may lie, but circumstances do not”.
    As mentioned supra, the circumstances relied upon by the
    prosecution should be of a conclusive nature and they should be
    such as to exclude every other hypothesis except the one to be
    proved by the prosecution regarding the guilt of the accused. There
    must be a chain of evidence proving the circumstances so complete
    so as to not leave any reasonable ground for a conclusion of
    innocence of the accused. Although it is not necessary for this
    Court to refer to decisions concerning this legal proposition, we
    prefer to quote the following observations made in Sharad
    Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra, (1984) 4 SCC 116
    (SCC p. 185 para 153­154):
    24
    “153. A close analysis of this decision would show that the
    following conditions must be fulfilled before a case against
    an accused can be said to be fully established:
    (1) the circumstances from which the conclusion of
    guilt is to be drawn should be fully established.
    It may be noted here that this Court indicated that the
    circumstances concerned “must or should” and not “may
    be” established. There is not only a grammatical but a
    legal distinction between “may be proved” and “must be or
    should be proved” as was held by this Court in Shivaji
    Sahabrao Bobade v. State of Maharashtra 1973 CriLJ
    1783 where the following observations were made:
    “Certainly, it is a primary principle that the
    accused must be and not merely may be guilty
    before a Court can convict and the mental distance
    between ‘may be’ and ‘must be’ is long and divides
    vague conjectures from sure conclusions.”
    (2) the facts so established should be consistent
    only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the
    accused, that is to say, they should not be
    explainable on any other hypothesis except that
    the accused is guilty,
    (3) the circumstances should be of a conclusive
    nature and tendency,
    (4) they should exclude every possible hypothesis
    except the one to be proved, and
    (5) there must be a chain of evidence so complete
    as not to leave any reasonable ground for the
    conclusion consistent with the innocence of the
    accused and must show that in all human
    25
    probability the act must have been done by the
    accused.
  25. These five golden principles, if we may say so,
    constitute the panchsheel of the proof of a case based on
    circumstantial evidence.”
  26. In order to satisfy our conscience, we have independently
    considered the evidence on record in its entirety in view of the
    aforementioned principles. However, as we do not wish to burden
    this judgment by reiterating the depositions of all the witnesses on
    record in detail, we deem it fit to discuss only the important aspects
    highlighted by some of the prosecution witnesses in their testimony.
  27. It would be appropriate to begin with the testimony of PW1,
    the wife of the deceased. She has deposed in detail as to how
    Accused No.1 wanted to marry her and how he often tried to lure
    her through undue favours. She has deposed that as Accused No.1
    wished to take her as his third wife, he wanted to separate her from
    her husband. Whenever PW1 or her family were in need of money,
    Accused No.1 would generously help them. He even used to talk to
    PW1 over the phone regularly, and used to interfere in her personal
    matters unwarrantedly. She has narrated elaborately about the
    26
    prior incident of abduction as well. As far as the matter on hand is
    concerned, she has deposed that on 24.10.2001, PW1, her parents
    and the deceased were taken by Accused No.1 and the other
    accused to different places and they ultimately reached Tirunelveli.
    In the early hours of 26.10.2001, Accused No.5 asked the deceased
    to meet Accused No.1. PW1, being reluctant to send the deceased
    alone with Accused No. 5, went along with her husband to meet
    Accused No. 1, who made PW1 and the deceased get into the vehicle
    bearing Registration No. TN 10 M 7755 (driven by Accused No. 9)
    along with himself and Accused Nos. 5 and 8. On the way, upon
    the signal of Accused No. 5, Accused Nos. 2, 4 and 6 got down from
    a vehicle (M.O. 3) which had been following behind, and took away
    the deceased. Accused No. 1 further instructed these accused to
    “finish him off”, definitely intending to instruct them to kill the
    deceased. Thereafter, PW1 was forcibly taken back by Accused No.1
    and later was made to undergo different rituals, which made her
    suspect the murder of her husband and led her to lodge a
    complaint regarding the same.
    27
    PW1 has also deposed about the identification of the clothes
    worn by the deceased at the time of leaving her company, on which
    basis she identified the clothes on the discovered dead body to be
    those of Santhakumar’s. She also identified his personal belongings
    that were recovered from Accused No.6. She has deposed about the
    exhumation of the dead body and her identification of the dead
    body based on the scar on the left side of her husband’s waist. She
    has meticulously deposed about the role of each of the appellants in
    the crime. In the cross­examination, she has also explained the
    delay in lodging the first information by deposing that she could not
    file the complaint before 20.11.2001 though her husband was
    abducted on 26.10.2001 because she was under the constant
    surveillance of Accused No. 1 and his henchmen and could only
    free herself after 06.11.2011. Also, importantly, in the first incident
    (being the incident of abduction, i.e. Crime No. 1030 of 2001), her
    husband had been spared by Accused No. 1, and on a subsequent
    occasion also, he had been spared by Accused No. 2. Thus, she
    was hopeful that her husband would escape on this occasion as
    well. She also admitted in the cross­examination that her mother
    28
    had informed her that if she married Accused No.1, he would set up
    a business for their family and also pay them Rs. 10 Lakhs.
    Though PW1 was cross­examined at length, the defence could
    not discredit her evidence on material particulars. Minor variations
    pointed out by the defence, as such neither affect the prosecution
    version nor PW1’s evidence in its entirety.
  28. In effect, PW1 has deposed about the aspect of motive, the last
    seen circumstance as well as the identification of the personal
    belongings of the deceased and his dead body. She is the witness
    who saw the deceased in the company of the accused for the last
    time before his death. While the date on which she saw the
    deceased with the accused was 26.10.2001, the dead body was
    found on 31.10.2001, i.e. within five days of the incident, and as
    per the post­mortem report given by PW35, Dr. A. Sivakumar, the
    victim appeared to have died 3­5 days prior to the examination,
    which was conducted on 02.11.2001. This fact is well corroborated
    by the examination­in­chief of PW35 as well.
  29. The evidence of PW1 is fully supported by the evidence of PW2,
    the mother of PW1. PW2 has deposed about the conduct of
    29
    Accused No.1 towards her family members, as well as the
    dishonourable motive of Accused No.1 to marry PW1 and make her
    his third wife. She has fully corroborated the evidence of PW1
    regarding the events of the day of the incident as well as the
    preceding days. She has testified to the fact that Accused No.5
    came to their room in Tirunelveli and asked the deceased to go
    along with Accused No.1. However, PW1 also went along with them,
    but she returned to the room alone, crying, and revealed that the
    accused had beaten the deceased and taken him away. She has
    also deposed about Accused No.1 taking PW1 to an astrologer, and
    for removing the influence of black magic, etc.; and that she was
    present during the exhumation of the body and had identified the
    dead body of her son­in­law by the scar mark on his waist. She had
    also identified the belongings of the deceased. In her crossexamination, she denied the suggestion made to her by the defence
    that PW1 had falsely lodged the complaint to extract money from
    Accused No.1. She has also explained the delay in filing the FIR,
    stating that her house was being monitored by Accused No.1 and
    his aides and that she was hoping that the deceased would return
    30
    safely, as he had previously. The evidence of PW2 fully corroborates
    the evidence of PW1.
    It is evident from the above discussion that the evidence of
    PWs 1 and 2 with regard to the motive for commission of the
    offence, the last seen circumstance and recovery as well as the
    identification of the dead body is consistent with the case of the
    prosecution. We do not find any artificiality in their evidence. On
    the other hand, their evidence remains natural, consistent, cogent
    and probable, and thus we do not find any reason to disagree with
    the findings arrived at in that regard by the Trial Court as well as
    by the High Court.
  30. The testimony of PW7, the Village Administrative Officer
    working in the office of the Tehsildar, is also relevant and
    significant. As per the requisition of the Assistant Commissioner of
    Police, PW7 went to the Chennai Kotturpuram Police Station on
    30.11.2001. In his presence, Accused No.2 confessed to the
    Inspector of Police, PW42, that if taken to Kodaikanal, he would
    show the spot at Tiger­Chola where the dead body of Santhakumar
    was thrown. Accordingly, Accused No.2 was taken to the said place
    31
    on 01.12.2001 and he pointed out the place of disposal of the body,
    and also identified the dead body of the deceased from the
    photographs available with the police. PW7 further deposed that
    PWs 1 and 2, who came the next day, i.e., on 02.12.2001, also
    identified the dead body shown in the photographs, and the body
    was exhumed after 2 days, after completing the formalities. He also
    deposed that on 13.12.2001, Accused No.6 confessed that if taken
    to his colony at Saligramam Road, he would identify and produce
    the wallet (M.O.7) and gold chain (M.O.9) of the deceased, and the
    same were recovered at the instance of Accused No. 6. PW7 has
    also deposed about the recovery of one lungi (M.O. 15) from the
    Tata Sumo in which the deceased was last seen. Nothing material
    worth considering in favour of the defence has been extracted from
    the cross­examination of PW7.
    It was argued by Shri Sushil Kumar that the confession made
    by Accused No.2 before PW7 was not admissible in evidence. There
    cannot be any dispute that a confession made by the accused in
    police custody is an inadmissible confession. The confession herein
    cannot even be called an extra­judicial confession because of the
    32
    presence of the police. Be that as it may, if a confession is made by
    the accused before the police and a portion of the confession leads
    to the recovery of any incriminating material, such portion alone is
    admissible under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act. Since only
    such portion of the confession relating to the recovery of certain
    material objects was admitted in evidence and relied upon, such
    reliance was in accordance with law.
  31. The testimony of PWs 26, 27, 29, 32 and 33 pertains to the
    vital aspect of the recovery of the body of the deceased. PW26
    Raman, the forester, has deposed that while he was working with
    Forest Guard Murugesan (PW27) on 31.10.2001, they found a dead
    body lying at Tiger­Chola in an abyss in the forest. The body had a
    blue­coloured checked full­sleeved shirt and sandal­coloured pant
    with a black­coloured belt. After seeing the dead body, PW26 and
    PW27 went to the Kodaikanal Police Station and lodged the first
    information (Ext. P42) with regard to the discovery of the
    unidentified dead body. Thereafter, the police came to the spot
    along with a camera and took photographs of the dead body. PW27
    33
    has reaffirmed what has been stated by PW26 and has deposed that
    the dead body was taken to the hospital by the police for autopsy.
    PW29, the Sub­Inspector of Police of Kodaikanal Police
    Station, has deposed that on 31.10.2001, PWs 26 and 27 lodged the
    complaint which came to be registered on the same day. Thereafter,
    PW29 along with other personnel went to the concerned spot at
    Tiger­Chola, and saw the dead body of a male aged about 30 years
    wearing the aforementioned clothes. He took the photographs of the
    dead body from all angles and prepared the observation mahazar
    (Ext. P45) and panchnama of the dead body (Ext. P46). Thereafter,
    the dead body was sent to the government hospital for post­mortem
    examination. Since the body was unidentified and no relatives could
    be found, he asked Head Constable Sebastian (PW32) to bury the
    body in the municipality burial ground. He also told PW32 to mark
    the place where the dead body was buried. In the crossexamination, he has denied the suggestion that the pictures
    mentioned were merely photographs of the original photographs
    taken on the spot of discovery. Further, he has deposed that he
    conducted an inquest of the dead body and prepared the same
    34
    under the light of a Petromax. Although he saw a scar on the dead
    body, he did not mention the same in the observation mahazar. The
    colour of the shirt was seen as brown in the light of the Petromax,
    but on re­checking it in morning, he realized that it was actually
    blue, and thus struck it out and corrected it accordingly in the
    mahazar.
    PW32, the Head Constable, has reiterated what has been
    deposed by PW29. He was present during the burial of the dead
    body by PW33 Anithalai, and instructed him to place an identifier
    on the spot of burial. PW32 exhumed the dead body in the presence
    of the Tehsildar, upon whose direction, he kept the dead body at a
    place that was elevated. He also deposed that PW1, Jeevajothi,
    identified the dead body to be that of her husband and had left the
    place crying. PW32’s version as to the burial was corroborated by
    PW33, who has deposed that he buried the body and put the
    identification mark of a blue metal stone near the head to identify
    the place.
  32. We may also briefly discuss the testimony of PWs 35 and 38
    (the doctors who conducted the post­mortems of the deceased).
    35
    PW35 conducted the first post­mortem examination. He has stated
    in his examination­in­chief that the hyoid bone in the neck was
    found broken and the brain was found decomposed. He opined that
    the person could have died 3 to 5 days prior to the post­mortem
    examination. The hyoid bone in the neck could have been broken
    due to strangulation of the said person by using materials like a
    lungi. PW38, who conducted the second post­mortem examination
    upon exhumation of the dead body, was also present at the spot of
    exhumation. PW38 deposed that while the body was being
    exhumed, he had noticed that a wooden stick had been put up
    along with a small stone on the southern part of the place. He also
    deposed that there was an old injury scar on the right lower
    abdomen of the dead body, the hyoid bone was broken, and that the
    fracture found in the hyoid bone was ante­mortem, which was
    confirmed through a Bensidine test. He opined that the cause of
    death appeared to be compression of the neck.
  33. It is also relevant to note the testimony of PW36, the
    handwriting expert. During the course of investigation, the records
    of the various hotels in which the accused had stayed along with
    36
    the deceased, PW1 and her family were collected. PW36 compared
    the handwritings in the hotel records with the handwritings of the
    accused and opined the former to belong to Accused Nos. 4, 5, 6
    and 8. This supports the conclusion that the accused in fact took
    PW1 and her family members to various places as deposed by them.
  34. Shri Sushil Kumar also argued that a DNA test should have
    been conducted in order to identify the dead body, and
    identification merely on the basis of a superimposition test, which is
    not a tangible piece of evidence, may not be proper.
    One cannot lose sight of the fact that DNA evidence is also in
    the nature of opinion evidence as envisaged in Section 45 of the
    Indian Evidence Act. Undoubtedly, an expert giving evidence before
    the Court plays a crucial role, especially since the entire purpose
    and object of opinion evidence is to aid the Court in forming its
    opinion on questions concerning foreign law, science, art, etc., on
    which the Court might not have the technical expertise to form an
    opinion on its own. In criminal cases, such questions may pertain
    to aspects such as ballistics, fingerprint matching, handwriting
    37
    comparison, and even DNA testing or superimposition techniques,
    as seen in the instant case.
  35. The role of an expert witness rendering opinion evidence before
    the Court may be explained by referring to the following
    observations of this Court in Ramesh Chandra Agrawal v.
    Regency Hospital Limited & Ors., (2009) 9 SCC 709:
    “16. The law of evidence is designed to ensure that the
    court considers only that evidence which will enable it to
    reach a reliable conclusion. The first and foremost
    requirement for an expert evidence to be admissible is
    that it is necessary to hear the expert evidence. The test
    is that the matter is outside the knowledge and
    experience of the lay person. Thus, there is a need to
    hear an expert opinion where there is a medical issue to
    be settled. The scientific question involved is assumed to
    be not within the court’s knowledge. Thus cases where
    the science involved, is highly specialized and
    perhaps even esoteric, the central role of an expert
    cannot be disputed…”
    (emphasis supplied)
    Undoubtedly, it is the duty of an expert witness to assist the
    Court effectively by furnishing it with the relevant report based on
    his expertise along with his reasons, so that the Court may form its
    independent judgment by assessing such materials and reasons
    furnished by the expert for coming to an appropriate conclusion. Be
    38
    that as it may, it cannot be forgotten that opinion evidence is
    advisory in nature, and the Court is not bound by the evidence of
    the experts. (See The State (Delhi Adminstration) v. Pali Ram,
    (1979) 2 SCC 158; State of H.P. v. Jai Lal & Ors., (1999) 7 SCC
    280; Baso Prasad & Ors. v. State of Bihar, (2006) 13 SCC 65;
    Ramesh Chandra Agrawal v. Regency Hospital Ltd. & Ors.
    (supra); Malay Kumar Ganguly v. Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee &
    Ors., (2010) 2 SCC (Cri) 299).
  36. Like all other opinion evidence, the probative value accorded to
    DNA evidence also varies from case to case, depending on facts and
    circumstances and the weight accorded to other evidence on record,
    whether contrary or corroborative. This is all the more important to
    remember, given that even though the accuracy of DNA evidence
    may be increasing with the advancement of science and technology
    with every passing day, thereby making it more and more reliable,
    we have not yet reached a juncture where it may be said to be
    infallible. Thus, it cannot be said that the absence of DNA evidence
    would lead to an adverse inference against a party, especially in the
    39
    presence of other cogent and reliable evidence on record in favour of
    such party.
  37. This leads us to the question of the propriety of relying upon
    the superimposition test conducted in the instant case for
    identifying the deceased. As noted supra, the learned counsel for
    the appellants has argued that evidence pertaining to the use of the
    superimposition technique is not a tangible piece of evidence. We
    find ourselves unable to agree with this view. There cannot be any
    dispute that evidence on superimposition is also based on experts’
    opinion. We would like to note that the use of the superimposition
    technique in Indian investigations for identification purposes is not
    a new phenomenon. Notably, it has been employed in the
    investigations pertaining to the Nithari murders, the Russian
    murder incident in Goa in 2008, and even before that in the Morni
    Hill murder case and the Paharganj bomb blast case as far back as
    in 1996, and the Udhampur murder case in 2005 (See Modi, A
    Textbook of Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology, 26th edn., 2018,
    pp. 267­271). This Court itself has placed reliance on identification
    of the deceased through superimposition on several occasions (see
    40
    Shankar & Ors. v. State of Tamil Nadu, (1994) 4 SCC 478;
    Swamy Shraddananda v. State of Karnataka, (2007) 12 SCC
    288; Inspector of Police, Tamil Nadu v. John David, (2011) 5
    SCC 509; Mahesh Dhanaji Shinde v. State of Maharashtra,
    (2014) 4 SCC 292), clearly indicating that it is an acceptable piece
    of opinion evidence.
  38. It is relevant to note that all of the decisions of this Court cited
    in the above paragraph were based on circumstantial evidence,
    involving aspects such as the last seen circumstance, motive,
    recovery of personal belongings of the deceased, and so on, and
    therefore in none of the cases was the superimposition technique
    the sole incriminating factor relied upon to reach a conclusion of
    guilt of the accused. Indeed, in Mahesh Dhanaji Shinde (supra),
    the Court also had the advantage of referring to a DNA test, and in
    John David (supra), of referring to a DNA test as well as dental
    examination of the deceased, to determine the identity of the victim.
    This is in line with the settled practice of the Courts, which
    generally do not rely upon opinion evidence as the sole
    incriminating circumstance, given its fallibility. This is particularly
    41
    true for the superimposition technique, which cannot be regarded
    as infallible.
  39. In view of the above discussion, we hold that the High Court
    was justified in observing that a superimposition test cannot be
    taken as a conclusive one for the identification of a dead body,
    because by itself it may not conclusively establish identification.
    However, the High Court rightly accepted the expert testimony on
    this aspect since in the instant case, the superimposition test was
    merely one piece of evidence relied upon by the prosecution to
    corroborate the evidence of PWs 1 and 2 in order to strengthen its
    case.
  40. Moreover, it is evident from the testimony of PW34, Dr.
    Jayaprakash, who conducted the superimposition test, that the test
    was conducted by using three different methods, i.e. video
    superimposition, visual observation, and dental trait
    superimposition, and in spite of challenges to the reliability of such
    evidence, the Courts, after carefully assessing the methodology
    adopted, accepted the finding reached by PW34 regarding the
    42
    identification of the body, and we see no error in such conclusion
    reached by the Courts.
  41. Therefore, we are of the opinion that the scientific evidence of
    PW34 was rightly believed by the Trial Court as well as by the High
    Court, and strengthens the evidence of PWs 1 and 2 regarding the
    identification of the body. Though a DNA test would have helped the
    Courts immensely in determining the reliability of the identification
    of the body of the deceased, in the presence of other reliable
    evidence on record in favour of the prosecution version on this
    aspect, we reject the contention that the non­conducting of a DNA
    test and the reliance on evidence regarding identification through
    superimposition is improper. This is all the more true since no
    material is forthcoming to the effect that the parents of the
    deceased were alive during the relevant period, so as to conduct
    comparative DNA tests.
  42. It is noteworthy to emphasise that based on the confession of
    Accused No.6, recoveries of a wallet containing a photograph of
    PW1, gold chain etc. were effected from his house, which, as
    43
    mentioned supra, also stand positively identified by PW1 and her
    family as belonging to the deceased.
  43. From the evidence of the witnesses discussed supra, it is amply
    clear that the dead body recovered from Tiger­Chola was identified
    by PW1 and her family members as Santhakumar’s, and the same
    body was exhumed from the burial grounds. It is evident from the
    depositions that the recovery of the dead body was made from the
    Tiger­Chola forest area, which is the same place to which Accused
    No. 2 led the investigation team based on his confession about
    disposal of the dead body. It is relevant to note at this juncture that
    merely because the actual recovery of the body happened before the
    accused lead the police to the scene, it does not, in the facts and
    circumstances of this case, negate the validity of the recovery based
    on a confession, in terms of Section 27 of the Evidence Act.
    In our considered view, the recovery of the body of the
    deceased at the instance of Accused No. 2 and the identification of
    the body as that of Santhakumar by PW1, her family as well as by
    the accused, on the basis of photographs, the clothes and
    44
    belongings of the deceased, and his scar, stand proved beyond all
    reasonable doubt.
  44. As mentioned supra, the evidence of PWs 1 and 2 proves the
    circumstance relating to the last seen evidence beyond reasonable
    doubt, apart from other circumstances. Both of them in their
    evidence (especially PW1), as mentioned supra, have consistently
    and cogently deposed that the deceased was last seen along with
    the accused, who took the deceased away upon the orders of
    Accused No. 1. No explanation, much less any plausible
    explanation has come from the accused in their statements under
    Section 313 of the Cr.P.C rebutting the strong evidence against
    them. Though the burden had shifted onto the accused to explain
    the said circumstance as to when they left the company of the
    deceased, no explanation was adduced in that regard by the
    accused herein. Hence, an adverse inference has to be drawn
    against the accused. It may be noted that such non­explanation by
    the accused provides an additional link in the chain of
    circumstances.
    45
    Furthermore, although it was argued by Shri Sushil Kumar
    that the evidence relating to the last seen circumstance as deposed
    by PW1 was not put to the accused while recording their statement
    under Section 313, such an argument cannot be accepted, since
    Question No. 22 and Question No. 30 specifically relate to the
    evidence of the last seen circumstance, and were put to Accused
    No.1. Same is the case with the other appellants. A perusal of the
    statements of the accused recorded under Section 313 also reveals
    that the relevant questions pertaining to taking Santhakumar along
    with PW1 in the car on 26.10.2001, detection of the decomposed
    dead body and the post­mortem thereof were all put to the accused
    so as to fully enable them to explain all the incriminating
    circumstances appearing against them in the evidence adduced by
    the prosecution. It is needless to observe that it has been
    established through a catena of judgments of this Court that the
    doctrine of last seen, if proved, shifts the burden of proof onto the
    accused, placing on him the onus to explain how the incident
    occurred and what happened to the victim who was last seen with
    him. Failure on part of the accused to furnish any explanation in
    this regard, as in the case in hand, or furnishing false explanation
    46
    would give rise to a strong presumption against him, and in favour
    of his guilt, and would provide an additional link in the chain of
    circumstances. (See Rohtash Kumar v. State of Haryana, (2013)
    14 SCC 434; Trimukh Maroti Kirkan v. State of Maharashtra,
    (2006) 10 SCC 681).
  45. It is also relevant to note that the bill book and cash book of a
    petrol pump at Palani (Ext. P32), where the Tata Sumo bearing
    Registration No. TN 09 Q 1310 (M.O.3) was refuelled, were also
    seized. This is very crucial evidence to show that the Tata Sumo in
    which the accused were travelling along with the deceased had in
    fact gone towards Kodaikanal, as is evident from the fact that fuel
    was filled from a petrol pump enroute to Kodaikanal at Palani on
    the relevant date.
  46. In our considered opinion, the overwhelming, consistent,
    cogent and reliable testimonies of PWs 1 and 2, along with the
    aforementioned corroborative evidence, conclusively prove the
    prosecution case. We reiterate that PWs 1 and 2 were steadfast in
    their testimony about the motive, the last seen circumstance,
    recovery of the dead body based on the confession of Accused No.2,
    47
    and about the identification of the dead body. We do not find any
    embellishment or exaggeration in the evidence of these witnesses.
    Moreover, the evidence of the other prosecution witnesses
    (especially PWs 7, 26, 27, 29, 32 and 33) is homogeneous,
    consistent and reliable, and corroborates the testimony of PWs 1
    and 2, which leads us to conclude that the chain of circumstances
    is complete and points solely at the guilt of the accused. In our
    considered opinion, the prosecution has proved the complicity of all
    the appellants in murdering Santhakumar by strangulating him
    and thereafter throwing the dead body at Tiger­Chola. It is worth
    recalling that while it is necessary that proof beyond reasonable
    doubt should be adduced in all criminal cases, it is not necessary
    that such proof should be perfect, and someone who is guilty
    cannot get away with impunity only because the truth may develop
    some infirmity when projected through human processes. The
    traditional dogmatic hypertechnical approach has to be replaced by
    a rational, realistic and genuine approach for administering justice
    in a criminal trial. Justice cannot be made sterile by exaggerated
    adherence to the rule of proof, inasmuch as the benefit of doubt
    48
    must always be reasonable and not fanciful. (See Inder Singh v.
    State (Delhi Administration), (1978) 4 SCC 161; State of H.P. v.
    Lekh Raj & Anr., (2000) 1 SCC 247; Takhaji Hiraji v. Thakore
    Kubersing Chamansing & Ors., (2001) 6 SCC 145; Chaman &
    Anr. v. State of Uttarakhand, (2016) 12 SCC 76).
  47. Having regard to the entire material on record and the totality
    of the facts and circumstances, we find that the evidence on record
    fully proves the case of the prosecution and that the Trial Court as
    well as the High Court evaluated the material on record in its
    proper prospective while coming to their conclusion. Thus, the
    judgment of the Trial Court as modified by the High Court need not
    be interfered with. Hence these appeals fail and stand dismissed.
    …………………………………….J.
    (N.V. Ramana)
    ……………………………………..J.
    (Mohan M. Shantanagoudar)
    ……………………………………..J.
    (Indira Banerjee)
    New Delhi;
    March 29, 2019.
    49