13. That brings us to the question whether the appellants could be given the benefit of doubt having regard to the nature of the evidence adduced by the prosecution against them. We do not think that the appellants have made out a case for grant of any such benefit. It is true that the prosecution is required to establish its case beyond a reasonable doubt, but that does not mean that the degree of proof must be beyond a shadow of doubt. The principle as to what degree of proof is required is stated by Lord Denning in his inimitable style in Miller v. Minister of Pensions (1947) 2 ALL ER 272:
“That degree is well settled. It need not reach certainty, but it must carry a high degree of probability. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond a shadow of a doubt. The law would fail to protect the community if it permitted fanciful possibilities to deflect the course of justice. If the evidence is so strong against a man as to leave only a remote possibility in his favour which can be dismissed with sentence ‘of course, it is possible but not in the least probable,’ the case is proved beyond reasonable doubt….
It is true that under our existing jurisprudence in a criminal matter, we have to proceed with presumption of innocence, but at the same time, that presumption is to be judged on the basis of conceptions of a reasonable prudent man. Smelling doubts for the sake of giving benefit of doubt is not the law of the land.”
14. Reference may also be made to the decision of this Court in Sucha Singh & Anr. v. State of Punjab (2003) 7 SCC 643 where this Court has reiterated the principle in the following words:
“…….Exaggerated devotion to the rule of benefit of doubt must not nurture fanciful doubts or lingering suspicion and thereby destroy social defence. Justice cannot be made sterile on the plea that it is better to let a hundred guilty escape than punish an innocent. Letting the guilty escape is not doing justice according to law. (See Gurbachan Singh v. Satpal Singh AIR 1990 SC 209). Prosecution is not required to meet any and every hypothesis put forward by the accused. A reasonable doubt is not an imaginary, trivial or merely possible doubt, but a fair doubt based upon reason and common sense. It must grow out of the evidence in the case. If a case is proved perfectly, it is argued that it is artificial; if a case has some flaws inevitable because human beings are prone to err, it is argued that it is too imperfect. One wonders whether in the meticulous hypersensitivity to eliminate a rare innocent from being punished, many guilty persons must be allowed to escape. Proof beyond reasonable doubt is a guideline, not a fetish.”
15. In the totality of the above circumstances and having regard to the fact that the Trial Court as also the High Court have examined all aspects of the matter and minutely looked into various facets of the case set up by the prosecution and that by the defence including the defence evidence adduced at the trial, we see no reason to interfere.