calcutta high court

Calcutta High Court: A Division bench comprising of Joymalya Bagchi and Gaurang Kanth,* JJ., invoked Section 106 of the Evidence Act, which places the burden on the accused to explain certain facts within their special knowledge when the prosecution has established related facts and held that the appellant failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for the death and injuries of his wife. The Court observed that,

“…when the presence of the Appellant is proved beyond doubt in the room where his wife was murdered, the onus shifted on the Appellant to explain how his wife died, especially when the postmortem report reveals the cause of death to be asphyxia, due to strangulation, ante mortem and homicidal in nature.”

Brief Facts

The appellant challenged his conviction under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and sentenced to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 5000/-, with a default provision of three months’ rigorous imprisonment, in the present appeal, which was based on the judgment and order dated 14-09-2017 passed by the Additional Sessions Judge.

The prosecution alleged that on 22-01-2015, at approximately 8:00 a.m., the complainant (deceased’s brother) was informed by the appellant-deceased’s husband about the death of the deceased (his wife). The complainant, along with another brother, rushed to the matrimonial home of the deceased, where they found her dead on the floor of her room. No medical assistance had been provided to the deceased by the appellant or his family.

The complainant filed a written complaint at Baraboni Police Station on 23-01-2015, leading to the filing of a case under Sections 498-A/302/34 of the IPC against the appellant and his family. The prosecution contended that the appellant and his family had tortured the deceased physically and mentally, depriving her of proper food and medical care.

Procedural History

A charge sheet was filed against the appellant under Sections 498-A/302/34 of the IPC and against the co-accused under Section 498-A of the IPC. During the trial, the appellant’s bail application was rejected, leading to the examination of his minor sons by the investigating officer, resulting in a supplementary charge sheet. After trial, the appellant was convicted under Section 302 of the IPC but acquitted under Section 498-A/34 of the IPC. The co-accused were acquitted of all charges. The appellant challenged his conviction in this appeal, contending that the Prosecution failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.

Parties’ Contentions

The appellant contended that the deceased had tuberculosis (T.B.) at the time of her death and that her death was caused by a hyoid bone fracture due to induced vomiting and severe coughing. It was contended that the Prosecution had not proven its case beyond reasonable doubt.

The Prosecution contended that the case was a clear instance of murder, supported by evidence indicating that the appellant was present in the same room as the deceased at the time of her death.

Court’s Assessment

The Court observed that the evidence presented by various witnesses established that the appellant and the deceased had a strained relationship, with witnesses testifying to physical and mental torture inflicted upon the deceased. The postmortem report confirmed the cause of death as asphyxia due to strangulation, homicidal in nature, and revealed fractures in the laryngeal cartilage and hyoid bone.

The Court observed that while the appellant claimed that the deceased had T.B., but the evidence indicates that she had received treatment for it, years prior to her death. The Court found that the Appellant failed to provide a plausible explanation for the severe fractures on the deceased’s body. The Court observed that there were contradictions in the testimony of the appellant’s minor son, and there is no corroborating evidence supporting appellant’s claim of innocence.

Court’s Decision

In light of the evidence presented, the Court upheld the conviction and sentence of the Appellant, finding him guilty of murdering his wife beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the conviction and sentence of the appellant. The period of detention endured by the appellant during investigation, inquiry, and trial would be set off from the substantive sentence imposed, following Section 428 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

[Ajoy Mudi v. State of W.B., 2023 SCC OnLine Cal 2636, order dated 05-09-2023]

*Judgment by Justice Gaurang Kanth

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Debasish Roy, Mr. Avik Ghatak, Mr. S K Dasgupta, Counsel for the Appellant

Mr. Swapan Banerjee, Mr. Suman De, Counsel for the Respondent/State

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