Supreme Court of India
Ilangovan vs The State Of Tamil Nadu on 2 September, 2020Author: N.V. Ramana

Bench: N.V. Ramana, S. Abdul Nazeer, Surya Kant









1. The present appeal is directed against the Judgment dated

06.01.2010 passed by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court

whereby the appellant­accused’s appeal was partly allowed and his

conviction under Section 302, IPC was modified into one under

Section 304 Part II, IPC and sentence was reduced to 5 years’ rigorous

imprisonment along with fine. The conviction and sentence imposed

upon the appellant under Section 324, IPC was confirmed by the High

Court and both the sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

Signature Not Verified The facts necessary for the disposal of the appeal are as follows:
Digitally signed by
Vishal Anand
Date: 2020.09.18
17:03:46 IST

the brother of the complainant allegedly had an illicit relationship with

the daughter of accused no. 4, which resulted in enmity between the

two families. On 26.01.2002, the accused persons allegedly came in

front of the house of the complainant and a fight took place between

the two groups. The present appellant attacked the complainant with

an iron rod, while the other 3 accused allegedly attacked other

members of the family with sticks. The deceased, on hearing the noise,

attempted to intervene, and was attacked by the present appellant on

the head with the iron rod, which ultimately resulted in her death.

3. The Trial Court convicted the appellant under Sections 324 and

302, IPC and sentenced him to 2 years rigorous imprisonment and

imprisonment for life, respectively. The other accused were acquitted

as the charges against them were not proved beyond reasonable

doubt. On appeal, as mentioned above, the High Court modified the

conviction under Section 302, IPC, and sentence imposed thereunder,

to one under Section 304 Part II, IPC, on the ground that the case of

the appellant fell under Exception 4 to Section 300, IPC, that is, there

was a free fight between the two parties.

4. Heard the learned counsel appearing for the appellant – accused

and the learned counsel appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu at

length today.

5. The learned counsel appearing for the appellant submitted that

the High Court erred in convicting the appellant by solely relying upon

the testimonies of the relatives of the deceased. The learned counsel

further submitted that the appellant should have been acquitted by

giving him the benefit of doubt, particularly when the Trial Court

disbelieved the prosecution’s case and acquitted the co­accused.

6. On the other hand, the learned counsel for the State submitted

that the High Court has considered all the evidence on record and

rendered a well­reasoned judgment which does not merit any

interference by this Court.

7. With respect to the first submission of the counsel for the

appellant, regarding the testimonies of related witnesses, it is settled

law that the testimony of a related or an interested witness can be

taken into consideration, with the additional burden on the Court in

such cases to carefully scrutinize such evidence [See Sudhakar v.

State, (2018) 5 SCC 435]. As such, the mere submission of the

counsel for the appellant, that the testimonies of the witnesses in the

case should be disregarded because they were related, without

bringing to the attention of the Court any reason to disbelieve the

same, cannot be countenanced.

8. The counsel for the appellant next submitted that the benefit of

doubt extended to his co­accused should also have been extended to

him. According to him, once the co­accused were acquitted, the

appellant should also have been acquitted. However, there is no such

principle of law, that requires automatic acquittal of an accused

because of the acquittal of the co­accused. The same is a settled

position of law, which has been reiterated by this Court in numerous

judgments, including the case of Yanob Sheikh v. State of West

Bengal, (2013) 6 SCC 428, wherein it was held­

“24. … Where the prosecution is able to establish
the guilt of the accused by cogent, reliable and
trustworthy evidence, mere acquittal of one
accused would not automatically lead to acquittal
of another accused. It is only where the entire case
of the prosecution suffers from infirmities,
discrepancies and where the prosecution is not able
to establish its case, the acquittal of the co­accused
would be of some relevancy for deciding the case of
the other.”
(emphasis supplied)

9. The question therefore is what the nature of the evidence against

the co­accused that were acquitted was, in comparison with the

evidence against the present appellant. A bare perusal of the judgment

of the Trial Court indicates that the nature and quality of evidence

against the appellant­accused was distinct from that which was

adduced against his co­accused. The Trial Court noted that the other

co­accused were the aunt (accused no. 2), mother (accused no. 3) and

grandfather (accused no. 4) of the present appellant. The Court noted

that accused no. 4 was 70 years old, and could not even stand

straight, let alone presumed to have caused any injury to one of the

witnesses. Further, with respect to the actions attributed to the

accused no. 2 and 3, the Trial Court held that they appear to be

exaggerations and an afterthought, as they were not even included in

the complaint. The Court ultimately held that apart from the fact that

the accused no. 2 to 4 were present at the scene of the occurrence,

there was no concrete evidence in the depositions of the eyewitnesses

to indicate that they caused injuries to the witnesses.

10. On the other hand, when it comes to the appellant, the evidence

against him is consistent, with the depositions in Court being in line

with the complaint and statements made before the police. The

appellant is the main accused, who is stated to have attacked the

complainant and caused him injuries as well as hit the deceased on

her head with an iron rod, resulting in her death. The allegations

against the appellant are in line with the chargesheet, the wound

certificate regarding the complainant and the post mortem report of

the deceased. It is for the above reasons that the Trial Court

distinguished between the prosecution’s case against the appellant

and the co­accused and we see no reason to interfere with the same.

11. The counsel for the appellant lastly argued that once the

witnesses had been disbelieved with respect to the co­accused, their

testimonies with respect to the present accused must also be

discarded. The counsel is, in effect, relying on the legal maxim “falsus

in uno, falsus in omnibus”, which Indian Courts have always been

reluctant to apply. A three Judge Bench of this Court, as far back as

in 1957, in Nisar Ali v. The State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1957 SC

366 held on this point as follows:

“9. It was next contended that the witnesses had
falsely implicated Qudrat Ullah and because of that
the court should have rejected the testimony of these
witnesses as against the appellant also. The well­
known maxim falsus in une falsus in omnibus was
relied upon by the appellant. The argument raised
was that because the witnesses who had also
deposed against Qudrat Ullah by saying that he had
handed over the knife to the appellant had not been
believed by the courts below as against him, the High
Court should not have accepted the evidence of these
witnesses to convict the appellant. This maxim has
not received general acceptance in different
jurisdictions in India nor has this maxim come to
occupy the status of a rule of law. It is merely a
rule of caution. All that it amounts to is that in
such cases the testimony may be disregarded and
not that it must be disregarded. One American
author has stated:

“…the maxim is in itself worthless; first in
point of validity … and secondly, in point of
utility because it merely tells the jury what
they may do in any event, not what they must
do or must not do, and therefore, it is a
superfluous form of words. It is also in
practice pernicious….” [Wigmore on Evidence,
Vol. III, para 1008]

10. The doctrine merely involves the question of
weight of evidence which a court may apply in a
given set of circumstances but it is not what may
be called “a mandatory rule of evidence”.”
(emphasis supplied)

This principle has been consistently followed by this Court, most

recently in Rohtas v. State of Haryana, (2019) 10 SCC 554 and

needs no reiteration.

12. The Trial Court, as mentioned above, has given specific reasons

for disbelieving the testimony of the witnesses with respect to the co­

accused, and extending the benefit of doubt to them, while convicting

the appellant on the strength of the evidence against him. We find no

infirmity in the approach of the Trial Court.

13. We also find that the High Court, in the impugned judgment, has

taken into account the submissions of the counsel for the appellant,

and considered the entire evidence, in order to come to the finding

that there was a free fight as the appellant also sustained injuries and

had even attempted to make a complaint. On the basis of the above,

the High Court modified the conviction and sentence imposed on the


14. The counsel for the appellant has not been able to point out any

infirmity in the findings of the High Court. We therefore see no reason

to interfere with the impugned Judgment passed by the High Court.

We find no merit in the appeal and the same is, accordingly,


15. Consequent upon the dismissal of the appeal, the bail granted to

the appellant by this Court on 19­7­2010 stands cancelled and he is

directed to surrender before the concerned Trial Court to serve out the

remaining period of sentence, failing which the concerned Police

Authority shall take him into custody for the purpose.



02nd SEPTEMBER, 2020.


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