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Hari Om @ Hero vs State of Uttar Pradesh.
CITATION(2021) 4 SCC 345
DATE OF JUDGMENT5, January, 2021
COURTSupreme Court of India 
APPELLANTHari Om @ Hero.  
RESPONDENTState of Uttar Pradesh. 
REFERRED Section 396, 412 I.P.C., Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST2 Act.
BENCHKrishna Murari, Indu Malhotra, Uday Umesh Lalit.


The case of Hari Om vs. State of Uttar Pradesh is a significant judgment by the Supreme Court of India, delivered on January 5, 2021. It revolves around the acquittal of three individuals, Hari Om alias Hero, Sanjay alias Sonu, and Saurabh alias Sanju, who were previously sentenced to severe penalties, including the death sentence for Hari Om, for their involvement in a dacoity and murder case under Section 396 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Supreme Court bench, comprising Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, Indu Malhotra, and Krishna Murari, granted the benefit of doubt to the accused, leading to their acquittal and an order for their release. This case underscores the importance of the benefit of doubt in the Indian legal system, especially in cases involving the death penalty.


  1. Smt. Nirdosh devi aged 40, her niece Kumari Poonam aged 18, her son Ashish aged 12 and her nephew Anshul aged 10, were murdered at night, in the year 2008. 
  2. The six accused namely Sanjay alias Sonu, Saurab alias Sanju, Hari Om alias Hero, Haseen khan, Rafique alias Bhaiye alias Farid, Rijwan, were tried for committing offences punishable under sections 396 (dacoity with murder), 412 (dishonestly receiving stolen property), Section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Act, Charges under Section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959.
  3. In the trial court, all six accused were acquitted of all charges except under Section 396 of the IPC.
  4. The Allahabad High Court affirmed the death sentence for Hari Om and the life sentence for Sanjay alias Sonu and Saurabh alias Sanju.
  5. The three accused named Haseen Khan, Rijwan, and Rafique alias Bhaiye were acquitted.
  6. The prosecution filed for an appeal challenging the convictions and sentence stated above.


  1. Whether the High Court was justified in affirming the death sentence and life sentences? 
  2. Whether the apex court’s decision to acquit all three of them was justified? 


  1. The appellant challenged and argued in the apex court against the affirmation of conviction of death sentence imposed upon him by the High Court in the judgement and order passed dated on 03.3.2017. 
  2. The appellant argument was based on questioning the reliability and admission of the evidences, such as the inconsistent nature of the testimonies specifically of the police  witness 5 Ujjwal who was not even mentioned in the chargesheet as a relevant or material witness; the chargesheet also mentioned Dr. Stayapal Singh as one of the relevant witnesses however the prosecution failed to examine him. 
  3. The appellant contested the procedure of the fingerprints linking him to the crime scene, raising doubt in the procedure followed by the forensics in collecting and analysing the fingerprints; it was also observed by the appellant that there was no medical evidence recorded in any form that witness number 5 Ujjwal was given any medical attention as a result of throttling. 
  4. The appellant highlighted the acquittal of co-accused persons by the High Court, pointing towards discrimination, and how it impacts his own conviction under section 396 of IPC. 
  5. The appellant also noted down to the court how parcha number 2, a part of the papers pertaining to the investigation, made reference to the statement provided by witness number 5 Ujjwal which was recorded while investigation. However, police witness number 10, Gautam also the in-charge of the investigation accepted that the mentioned parcha was not in his handwriting and the witness was not able to recall when questioned as to who wrote it.  


  1. The High Court affirmed the Trial Court’s conviction and death sentence of the three appellants namely Hari om alias Hero, Saurab alias Sanju, Sanjay alias Sonu and acquitted the other three namely Haseen Khan, Rijwan, Rafique alias Bhaiye, and chose to dismiss the appeal. 
  2. The respondent interrogated two witnesses and questioned fifteen witnesses and offered pertinent evidence to support its case.
  3. The respondent stated that the testimony given by the police witness 5 Ujjwal can be of reliability as the statement given by the witness 5 corroborated on material grounds. 


After a meticulous review, the court recognized the seriousness of the allegations and the need for substantial evidence to support convictions. The Supreme Court of India noted that there were contradictions and inconsistencies in the child witness’s testimony, which the prosecution primarily depends upon. Furthermore, there were questions regarding the accuracy of the accused’s deposition given the circumstances surrounding their identifications. The prosecution has the primary responsibility of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal jurisprudence. Any questions or concerns must always be in the accused’s favor. In this case, this Court deemed it prudent to grant the appellants the benefit of doubt, given the significant role played by the child witness and the associated doubts surrounding his testimony. As a result, the judgments and sentences awarded by the trail court were overturned. The appeal was accepted and the three accused were acquitted. 


After much profound consideration by the apex court, the court delivered the verdict on the conviction, acquitting all three of the accused namely Hari om alias Hero, Saurab alias Sanju, and Sanjay alias Sonu. The court made the decision to acquit all three of them on the bases that the court found inconsistencies in the nature of evidence and testimonies presented. The court stated that the police witness 5 Namely Ujjwal’s testimonies could be corroborated on the ground that the witness claimed his mother received a call at which point she opened the door and let the accused in, the witness also narrated the manner in which his mother and siblings were murdered which corroborated the medical evidence on record, as well the witness pointed out the location of the dead bodies which supported the site map, inquest panchanama and other material. However, the court observed that the evidence was inconsistent as discrepancies arose in the statement given by police witness 5 Ujjwal where he narrated the entire ordeal first to Shankar Lal (doodhwala) and Darogaji who were the first to arrive at the scene but the statement from the doodhwala was recorded after 26 days past the incident and there were no attempts made to trace Shanker Lal. The court also noted that an alleged chhuri (knife) was recovered from Hari Om accused of pointing it. Since failure of proper documentation of papers before the court, the court rejected the argument that such a recovery would be permissible under Section 27. However, it was noted that such a recovery is admissible under Section 8 the Act. It was also noted that Hari Om’s sample fingerprints did not match any of the prints taken from the deceased’s house. With all the accused acquitted under the provisions of IPC 412 and under the provisions of the Arms Act, there was nothing else to imply the involvement of Hari Om. The prosecution did not even try to prove whether the call received by Nirdosh Devi can be linked to Hari Om. Further scrutiny showed that police witness 2 Ompal Singh’s testimony in which he mentioned the time he saw accused Hari om again did not match up with the time of Nirdosh Devi’s call.  It was also observed by the court that accused Sanjay alias Sonu, Saurabh alias Sanju were unfamiliar faces to police witness 5 Ujjwal and were not subjected to any test identification. The evidence of police witness also contains inherent contradictions. The hon’ble court did not find evidence on record sufficient to convict Hari Om of the offence under section 396 IPC. Therefore, all the three accused were entitled for the benefit of doubt and were acquitted from all the charges.  


In conclusion, this case highlighted the fundamental tenet of justice the presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Albeit, the charges were severe, a conviction could only be reached if there was absolute clarity in the evidence. This Court was compelled to show caution due to the crucial witness’s inconsistent testimony and questions about its reliability. The appellants’ acquittal is a recognition of the lack of sufficient evidence to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It restates the judiciary’s grave obligation to guarantee that justice is administered based on evidence, diligence and honesty. By maintaining the presumption of innocence and giving the accused the benefit of the doubt, this Court demonstrated its dedication to justice. 


  1. SCC Online
  2. Hari Om @ Hero vs State Of U.P. on 5 January, 2021 (indiankanoon.org)
  3. Hari Om vs. State of U.P. | PDF | Witness | Appeal (scribd.com)
  4. https://rb.gy/vwjgq6  

This Article is written by Anoushka Chaturvedi student of FIMT, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi; Intern at Legal Vidhiya.

Disclaimer: The materials provided herein are intended solely for informational purposes. Accessing or using the site or the materials does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The information presented on this site is not to be construed as legal or professional advice, and it should not be relied upon for such purposes or used as a substitute for advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Additionally, the viewpoint presented by the author is of a personal nature.

1 Comment

Avinashc.gkp@rediffmail.com · May 20, 2024 at 6:09 am

Brilliant analysis. Keep it up.

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