Gujarat High Court

Gujarat High Court: In a criminal application under section 389 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, (‘CrPC'), the convicts sought suspension of conviction and life sentence order by the Central Bureau of Investigation (‘CBI') Court under Sections 302, 331, 348 and 177 read with Section 120 B of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC'). The Division Bench of S.H. Vora and S.V. Pinto*, JJ., suspended the life sentence order of the CBI Court and ordered the release of applicants.

Factual Matrix

The Commanding Officer of Air Force Station, Jamnagar issued a search order of the residential quarters of the deceased Air Force cook (‘deceased'), who was suspected of illegal possession of liquor, as on the night of 09/10-11-1995, a theft of 94 liquor bottles had taken place from CSD Canteen of Air Force Station, Jamnagar. one broken glass bottle was seized from the outside compound of the residential quarter of the deceased. The deceased was brought to the main guard room by Air Force Police for further queries. On 14-11-1995 at around 00:15 hours, the deceased was taken to Station Sick Quarters (‘SSQ'), Jamnagar, and he was declared dead by the Duty Medical Officer of SSQ.

Thereafter, the deceased's wife lodged a First Information Report (‘FIR') before local police against various Air Force officials. Chargesheet was filed under Sections 302, 331 and 114 of the IPC and 7 accused. The case was preferred to CBI by the Court on the application of the deceased's wife and CBI was directed to re-investigate the death of the deceased. Later, the convicts were sentenced to life imprisonment. Aggrieved by the order of the CBI Court, the convicts preferred an application before the Court on grounds of illegality and erroneous findings of the CBI Court.

Court's Decision

The Court noted that the first charge-sheet which was filed against seven accused persons for the offence registered at Jamnagar Police Station, did not disclose the involvement or the name of the applicants and the applicants had preferred a discharge application before the Court and the applicants were discharged for the offence punishable under Sections 304, 331 and 114 of the IPC by the order dated 12-10-2000. The order was challenged by the defendant's wife before the Supreme Court and where it was dismissed on the ground of delay and merits. The Court noted that the CBI Court had failed to consider this fact while sentencing the convicts. The Court also noted the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, according to which the convicts were not members of the search party, and the deceased was not brought to the guard room on the convict's motorcycle. The Court said that in the entire evidence, there was no prima-facie evidence to show that the applicants had custody of the deceased at any time prior to him being taken to hospital on 14-11-1995 at 00:15 hours.

The Court said that there was also no evidence as to the meeting of minds of the convicts along with the other co-accused persons at any point of time to suggest any conspiracy and in the absence of any evidence, the judgment of the CBI Court suffered from patent infirmities and the findings were erroneous, based on presumptions and assumptions.

Thus, the Court set aside the CBI Court's sentencing order and directed the release of the convicts on bail after furnishing bail bond of Rs. 50,000/-. Another hearing was pending before the Sessions Courts, therefore, certain conditions for bail were imposed on the convicts by the Court.

[Mahendra Singh Sheravat v. State of Gujarat, 2023 SCC OnLine Guj 1213, Order Dated: 05-05-2023]

*Judgment Authored by: Justice S.V. Pinto

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