Acquitting a man accused of murder of his wife, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said in a case of circumstantial evidence, motive plays an important link to complete the chain of circumstances, especially when death takes within four walls of the house.

A bench comprising Justices R.F. Nariman and B.R. Gavai said: “Though in a case of direct evidence, motive would not be relevant, in a case of circumstantial evidence, motive plays an important link to complete the chain of circumstances.” The top court noted that the prosecution has utterly failed to prove motive beyond doubt and the important link to complete the chain of circumstances is totally absent in the present case. “It is well settled that where on the evidence two possibilities are available or open, one which goes in favour of the prosecution and the other which benefits an accused, the accused is undoubtedly entitled to the benefit of doubt”, observed the top court.

The verdict from the top court came on an appeal filed by Shivaji Chintappa Patil challenging the Bombay High Court order, which maintained the conviction and sentence passed by trial court for offences punishable under Section 302 of the IPC. Patil was charged with the murder of his wife. The prosecution alleged Patil was addicted to liquor and used to abuse and beat the deceased forcing her to get money from her mother. On March 23, 2003, the couple had gone to sleep in their room. Next morning, the accused told his brother, who resided with him in another part of the house, that his wife had committed suicide by hanging. The trial court convicted him and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

The top court noted that though the death took place within four-walls of the house, it cannot lose sight of the fact that although the same may be considered to be a strong circumstance, but that by alone in the absence of any evidence of violence on the deceased cannot be held to be conclusive.

“In the present case, we are of the considered view that let alone establishing chain of events which are so interwoven to each other leading to no other conclusion than the guilt of the accused, the prosecution has failed even to prove a single incriminating circumstance beyond reasonable doubt.”, said the top court.

The top court allowed the appeal by the accused and set aside the conviction and sentence passed by the trial court as affirmed by the High Court. “The appellant is acquitted of all the charges and he is directed to be released forthwith if not required in any other case”, said the top court.