When an accused is held guilty of one of several offences but it is not clear as to which one of these offences he is guilty of, he shall be awarded the lowest punishment as if he is guilty of the least serious offence out of those offences. If, however, all the offences are punishable with the same amount of punishment, that same sentence will be passed against him.
The doubt is as to which of these offences he is guilty and not as to whether he has committed any offence at all. The intention of the provision is that one whose guilt has been fully established should not go unpunished on the ground that the penal provision his case falls under is uncertain.
In such cases where the question is as to whether he should be convicted for the aggravated or the mitigated form of the same offence, he must always be convicted for the mitigated form. There may be a case, for instance, where it is certain that either A or Â has murdered Z, and also that whoever out of them has caused the murder has been actively and intentionally aided by the other in that murder: but who committed the murder and who aided is impossible to ascertain. Under these circumstances, both A and Â shall be sentenced to the lesser punishment between the two offences.