In a pivotal ruling, the Supreme Court, led by Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti, has redefined the interpretation of the term ‘custody’ as articulated in Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act. The Court’s verdict asserts that ‘custody’ does not solely connote formal arrest but encompasses any form of restriction, surveillance, or restraint imposed by the police on an individual. Disagreeing with the previous judgment in Rajesh v. State of MP, the Court stressed its obligation to adhere to the Constitution Bench’s decision in State of U.P. v. Deoman Upadhyaya, emphasizing the applicability of Section 27 even when the person providing information was not formally under arrest.
This expansive interpretation of ‘police custody’ by the Supreme Court aims to prevent potential police manipulation, ensuring that the provisions of Sections 25 to 27 of the Evidence Act are not circumvented through delayed filing of FIRs or arrests.
The recent case of Perumal Raja @ Perumal versus State, where the appellant was implicated based on information given while detained in another murder case, underscored the Court’s affirmation of the conviction under Section 302 of the IPC. The Court leaned on precedents emphasizing that the recovery of a deceased body, led by information from the accused, holds substantial incriminating value. Additionally, the appellant’s failure to provide an alternative explanation during the statement under Section 313 of the CrPC was deemed as supporting the adverse inference, reinforcing the prosecution’s case.
In a decisive stance, the Court upheld the appellant’s conviction, asserting that the judgment of acquittal lacked substantive relevance and evidentiary strength to exonerate the accused.
This landmark judgment not only reinterprets the legal scope of ‘custody’ under the Evidence Act but also solidifies the admissibility of information provided during police restraint or surveillance. The ruling underscores the significance of information obtained during such circumstances, further fortifying the evidentiary weight of disclosures made by individuals under police observation or restriction.
By broadening the understanding of ‘custody,’ the Supreme Court’s ruling aims to curtail potential abuse of police powers and ensures that crucial information provided under police surveillance or restriction remains admissible in legal proceedings, thereby strengthening the prosecution’s case in criminal trials.
This pivotal decision marks a significant shift in the legal landscape concerning the admissibility of information obtained while under police observation, bolstering the prosecution’s ability to use such disclosures as crucial evidence in criminal trials.
The judgment, through Its nuanced interpretation of ‘custody,’ emphasizes the importance of preventing potential manipulations by law enforcement agencies while underscoring the substantial weight of information provided even when an individual is not formally arrested.
In essence, the Supreme Court’s ruling redefines the contours of ‘custody’ under the Evidence Act, providing a robust framework that ensures the inclusion of disclosures made under police surveillance or restriction in criminal proceedings, thereby strengthening the evidentiary value of such information.