The Supreme Court has ruled that in fratricidal killings even if close relatives resile from their testimony, the accused can be still be convicted as there is always a tendency to protect one's near and dear ones.
"We are not surprised that the mother of the deceased and the appellant (sister) had been cited as a PW (prosecution witness) but had instead appeared in court as defence witness, as this is a common tendency in fratricides.
"Particularly where parents are involved as witnesses in as much that after tempers cool and there is time for reflection they find that while one child has been murdered and the other faces the prospect of serving a long sentence on their evidence which will without a doubt be believed, invariably makes them resile from their police statements," a bench of Justices H S Bedi and R M Lodha said in an order.
The apex court passed the order while upholding the conviction of Raja Gounder who murdered his brother over a property dispute in front of the deceased's wife, mother and sister.
Though the sister and mother subsequently turned hostile, the sessions court and the Madras High Court held him guilty for the murder following which he appealed in the apex court.
The bench said that in this case the mother and the sister not only turned hostile for obvious reason, but the deceased's wife would have no reason to implicate Gounder as she would be the last person to save the actual killer of her husband.
It rejected the argument of the defence that there was a 13 hours delay in lodging the FIR by PW1 (wife).
"A young woman would have been in great distress and had first sent information to her parents in their village some distance away and had thereafter, left for the police station to lodge the report. We find that the conduct of the PW1 was perfectly compatible with the behaviour of a young widow who had seen a brutal attack of her husband.
"It is true that no independent witness has been examined but in the background that a dispute existed within the family, independent witnesses would not ordinarily be available. We, thus, have absolutely no reason to doubt the evidence of PW1 as she would be the last person to involve the appellant in a false case leaving out the real assailants," the bench said dismissing the appeal.