Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of B. Veerappa and V. Srishananda, JJ., allowed the appeal in part and confirmed impugned judgment of conviction and order of sentence.

Background

The instant case is about the accused throwing acid on a girl as she refused to marry him. It caused grievous corrosive injuries on her face, back, hands and caused and thus, disfigured her face and body. A case was registered under Sections 326A, 326B and 307 of Penal Code, 1860 i.e. IPC. The Sessions Judge considered the oral and documentary evidence on record held that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, convicted the accused and sentenced him to undergo life imprisonment. Assailing this, the instant present appeal was filed.

Observations

The Court noting the increase in number of acid attack crimes and absence of suitable legislation in this regard in the  Penal Code, 1860 observed that the provisions of Section 326A of IPC came to be introduced by the Legislature by Act 13 of 2013, with effect from 03.02.2013. The object of the amendment is to provide stringent punishment for crimes against women and also to provide more victim-friendly procedure in the trial of such cases and the Committee recommended making a specific provisions to award adequate punishment for such offences which cause grievous hurt by acid attack and also attempt thereof.

The Court observed under the Constitution of India, which is called ‘Bhagavad Gita’, ‘right to life’ is the fundamental right guaranteed and it is the fundamental duty of the State to protect it. An ‘acid attack’ by the accused not only caused physical injuries, but left behind a permanent scar. It is a crime against basic human rights and also violates the most cherished fundamental rights guaranteed under Article-21 of the Constitution of India.

The Court quoted the great saint and scholar of our country – Swami Vivekananda stating “the best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of its women

The Court observed that the Court cannot shut its eyes to obnoxious growing tendency of young persons like accused resorting to use corrosive substances like acid for throwing on girls, causing not only severe physical damage, but also mental trauma to young girls. In most of the cases, the victim dies because of severe burns and septicemia or even if luckily survives, it will only be a grotesque disfigured person, who even if survives, lives with mangled flesh, “hideous zombie-like appearance and often blind if acid is splashed on face and suffer a fate worse than death”. The imposition of appropriate punishment is the manner in which the Court responds to society’s cry for justice against such criminals. Justice demands that the Courts should impose punishment befitting the crime so that the Courts reflect public abhorrence of the crime.

The Court observed that In the case on hand, when the accused is tried for specific offence carved out under the Indian Penal Code for the offence of acid attack, trial Court resorted to Section 307 of IPC, having regard to gravity of offence especially after effects of the acid attack cases discussed supra. The Legislature in its wisdom carved out a separate and distinct offence punishable under Section 326A of IPC., for an action wherein the acid is used as a weapon for attacking the innocent, as is referred to supra and prescribed suitable punishment. Therefore, the action of the accused can be traced to and punished only under Section 326A of IPC and the said action of the accused cannot be tried and punished under Section 307 of IPC along with Section 326A of IPC.

The Court held “learned Sessions Judge is not justified in convicting the appellant/accused for the offence punishable under Section 307 of IPC and sentencing him to undergo imprisonment for life and to pay a fine of Rs.50, 000/- with default clause in the facts and circumstances of the case.”

The Court held “learned Sessions Judge under Section 326A of IPC and sentencing him to undergo imprisonment for life and to pay a fine of Rs. 10, 00,000/- with default clause in the facts and circumstances of the case.”

[Mahesha v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine Kar 12987, decided on 22-07-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearances:

For appellants – Mr S G RAJENDRA REDDY

For Respondent- Mr S.RACHAIAH

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of B.P. Dharmadhikari and Prakash D. Naik, JJ. allowed an appeal by a convict who was convicted for murder and voluntary throwing acid by a trial court under Sections 302 and 326-B of Penal Code, 1860 (herein ‘IPC’), and commuted his death sentence holding that the possibility of reformation, rehabilitation and social reintegration of young age convicts into society could not be neglected.

The victim was selected as Nursing Officer in Military Nursing Services and was supposed to join Naval office at Colaba, Mumbai. The accused-appellant, who had proposed to the victim, was rebuffed by her; and thus he threw sulphuric acid on her at Bandra railway station and fled from there. The victim succumbed to her injuries. A Special Women’s Court convicted the appellant for the offence of murder and sentenced him to death.  Appellant was also convicted for the offence of voluntary throwing acid and sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for five years and to pay fine of Rs 5,000, in default to suffer rigorous imprisonment for six months. This was the first such case where an accused convicted for the acid attack was given the death penalty. Accused-appellant filed an appeal against this order.

The counsels for the appellant, Trideep Pais, Vijay Hiremath, Anshu Raj Singh and Sanya Kumar, argued that the evidence of eyewitnesses was not consistent with each other. The counsels also asserted that the incident occurred in few seconds as stated by the witnesses who saw the appellant momentarily raising doubt about their ability to identify as the identification test was conducted after eight months from the date of the alleged incident. The prosecution claimed that CCTV footage was collected but the same was not relied upon or exhibited on the ground that footage was not clear. However, nothing was put on record to prove that CCTV footage was unclear. CCTV footage was not sent to Forensic Science laboratory (herein ‘FSL’) nor played in the Court. He also argued that the alibi of the appellant was not considered. The benefit of doubt ought to have been given to the appellant as no evidence was established to show the presence of the appellant on the train boarded by the victim. Moreover, assuming that charges of murder were proved, the trial court should not have awarded the capital punishment as the case cannot be termed as rarest of rare case. Therefore, he asserted that sentencing exercise undertaken by the trial court was improper and against the mandate. Further arguing against the death sentence, it was contended that the appellant had no intention of murdering victim but only wanted to injure her.

Learned Special Public Prosecutor A.M. Chimalkar, with Siddharth Jagushte and Tusshar Nirbhavne submitted that the prosecution had established the charges under Sections 302 and 326-B of IPC beyond all reasonable doubt. There was sufficient evidence to prove the guilt of the appellant. The trial court had analyzed the evidence in detail and had given findings of involvement of the appellant in the crime. The eyewitnesses gave an ocular account of the incident and there was no doubt to discard their evidence. The appellant was identified by the witnesses. Furthermore, he argued that the medical evidence supported the case of the prosecution. Learned Special Public Prosecutor submitted that the trial court was right to award death penalty. According to him, the evidence adduced indicate aggravating circumstances justifying no other punishment except the death penalty. The crime was brutal. The trial court examined the reasons for awarding death to the appellant and gave strong reasons for convicting the appellant and interference in the decision was not warranted.

The Court observed that prosecution had established its case beyond reasonable doubt and there was nothing to doubt the authenticity of the evidence and the witnesses examined. Reliance was laid upon S.K. Hasan v. State of Maharashtra, 2003 SCC OnLine Bom 1167 to state that when the appellant had taken a specific plea of alibi, the burden was on him to establish the same. The appellant had not led any evidence to substantiate his plea of alibi. So in the absence of establishing the plea of alibi for cogent evidence, a necessary consequence of adverse inference had to be drawn. The documentary evidence adduced by the prosecution formed a significant part of the case and proved his involvement in the crime.

However, it was opined that the age of the appellant was 23 years at the time of the commission of a crime and that there was a possibility to reform. The Court took note of the ruling in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 684 to hold that a death sentence can be awarded only in the rarest of rare cases, only if an alternative option was unquestionably foreclosed and only after full consideration of all factors keeping in mind that a sentence of death was irrevocable and irretrievable upon execution. The Court remarked, “It should always be remembered that while the crime is important, the criminal is equally important insofar as the sentencing process is concerned.” It took into consideration the material on record including overall personality, subsequent events to commute the sentence of death awarded to the appellant and directed that he should not be released from custody for rest of his normal life. Furthermore, the Court held that trial court relied on collective conscience to hold that the appellant deserved death penalty but ignored the fact that the appellant was of young age at the time of commission of offence and there was nothing to indicate that the appellant was beyond reformation and rehabilitation, as mandated in the case of Bachan Singh. Although the conviction of the appellant was confirmed, the death sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life. Hence, the appeal was partly allowed.[State of Maharashtra v. Ankur Narayanlal Panwar, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 968, decided on 12-06-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where the refusal to marriage proposal by a girl resulted into a house trespass by the accused carrying an acid bottle and pouring it over the head of the girl and the Hyderabad High Court had reduced the sentence of one year imposed by the Trail Court to the imprisonment already undergone by the accused i.e. 1 month,  the Court said that when a substantive sentence of thirty days is imposed, in the crime of present nature, that is, acid attack on a young girl, the sense of justice is not only ostracized, but also is unceremoniously sent to “Vanaprastha”.

The Court said that the case at hand is an example of uncivilized and heartless crime committed by the accused. It is completely unacceptable that concept of leniency can be conceived of in such a crime. A crime of this nature does not deserve any kind of clemency as it is individually as well as collectively intolerable. When there is medical evidence that there was an acid attack on the young girl and the circumstances having brought home by cogent evidence and the conviction is given the stamp of approval, there was no justification to reduce the sentence to the period already undergone. The bench said that it unfathomable whether the High Court has been guided by some unknown notion of mercy absolutely ignoring the plight and the pain of the victim; a young girl who had sustained an acid attack, a horrendous assault on the physical autonomy of an individual that gets more accentuated when the victim is a young woman or remaining oblivious of the precedents relating to sentence or for that matter, not careful about the expectation of the collective from the court, for the society at large eagerly waits for justice to be done in accordance with law.

Apart from setting aside the order of the High Court and restoring the sentence imposed by the Trial Court, the Court directed the accused to pay a compensation of Rs.50,000/- and the State to pay a compensation of Rs. 3 lakhs. It was further directed that if the accused fails to pay the compensation amount within six months, he shall suffer further rigorous imprisonment of six months, in addition to what has been imposed by the trial court. [Ravad Sasikala v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 175, decided on 27.02.2017]