New Delhi, Apr 9 (PTI) After 45 years, the Supreme Court today acquitted four persons in a “brutal” murder case giving them the benefit of doubt, while holding one guilty of the ghastly crime.

The top court upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of a village “strongman” for the murder in which the dead body was cut into two pieces and thrown at different places.

A bench comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and Mohan M Shantanagoudar said the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt against convict Kameshwar Singh.

It, however, gave benefit of doubt to Tarkeshwar Singh, Bahadur Ram Kahar, Bikarma Dusadh and Nagina Koiri and ordered their release.

The apex court was hearing an appeal filed against Patna High Court order which had confirmed the life imprisonment granted by a trial court to all the five convicts.

On October 14, 1973, seven accused persons killed one Gupteshwar Singh at around midnight in Sasaram district of Bihar. The police had later recovered the dead body cut into two pieces, head and rest of the body apart, and thrown at different places to destroy evidence.

The accused were charge-sheeted, tried, convicted and sentenced by the trial court. In the meanwhile, two of the accused died.

The High Court later affirmed the judgment of conviction and sentence for the five accused, who, thereafter, approached the Supreme Court against the order.

While ordering the release of four, the top court said though the evidence on record created suspicion about their participation, “but any amount of suspicion may not take the place of proof”.

“It is no doubt true that one man alone could not have committed such a ghastly crime by separating the dead body into two pieces. He must have taken the assistance of others.

“The prosecution has come out with seven names including Kameshwar Singh, but so far as the other accused are concerned, particularly in respect of the other appellants (except Kameshwar Singh), except the omnibus and vague evidence that they were also present and they also joined hands with the accused – Kameshwar Singh, no other specific and reliable material has come on record. Common object is also not proved,” it said.

The bench said that it was the duty of the court to find out the truth.

“This is the very object for which courts are created. To search it out, the court has to disperse the suspicious cloud and dust out the smear of dust, as all these things clog the very truth. So long as chaff, cloud and dust remain, the criminals are clothed with this protective layer to receive the benefit of doubt.” The apex court said it was a solemn duty of the courts, “not to merely conclude and leave the case the moment suspicions are created. It is the onerous duty of the court, within permissible limits to find out the truth.” “It means, on one hand that no innocent man should be punished, but on the other hand to see no person committing an offence should go scot free. If in spite of such effort suspicion is not dissolved, it remains writ at large, benefit of doubt has to be credited to the accused. The evidence is to be considered from the point of view of trustworthiness and once the same stands satisfied, it ought to inspire confidence in the mind of the court to accept the evidence,” it said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.