Case BriefsHigh Courts

   

Telangana High Court: In an appeal filed by the husband against the order of the Trial Court convicting him under Section 498-A of the IPC, the Single Judge Bench of G. Radha Rani, J. upheld the order of conviction by the Trial Court and held that contradictory dying declaration consisting of consistent statements regarding abuse and cruelty can be considered.

Background

In the present case, the husband (accused) poured kerosene on his wife (victim) and lit fire due to which she sustained 40% burn injuries and died in 2011 while undergoing treatment. On receipt of a call from the hospital, the Head Constable went there and recorded the victim’s statement. On requisition by the Police, the dying declaration of the victim was also recorded. After ten days, the victim intended to give a second dying declaration, therefore, the same was recorded on 18-07-2011. While undergoing treatment, the victim succumbed to burn injuries on 12-08-2011. The parents of the victim were examined, who stated that their son-in-law (accused) harassed their daughter (victim) for want of more dowry and after three days of the incident they were informed by their daughter that their son-in-law had poured kerosene in drunken condition on her and lit fire by closing the doors from inside.

As the death of the victim occurred within seven years of her marriage, the section of Law was altered from ‘woman burns' to Section 304-B of the IPC. After the investigation was completed, the charge sheet was filed against the accused for the offences punishable under Section 498-A and 304-B of the IPC. On considering the oral and documentary evidence on record, the Sessions Court acquitted the accused for the offence under Section 304-B. Further, the Trial Court found the accused guilty of the offence under Section 498-A of IPC and convicted and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of one year and fine of Rs. 1000. The accused preferred an appeal contending that the Trial Court failed to appreciate the conflicting versions given by the victim.

Submissions on behalf of the Appellant

Counsel for the appellant submitted that there were four dying declarations given by the victim and each one was an improvement over the other and when contradictory dying declarations were given by the victim, then the benefit of doubt should be given to the accused. Further, it was submitted that the victim in one of her dying declaration's stated that due to unbearable words, she poured kerosene on herself and set herself ablaze.

Question for Consideration

Whether the judgment of the Trial Court in convicting the accused for the offence under Section 498-A of IPC and sentencing him was in accordance with law or required any interference by this court?

Analysis, Law, and Decision

The Court noted that the accused and the victim got married in 2010 and at the time of the marriage, the accused demanded dowry, for which, the father of the victim gave Rs. 55,000 cash, gold, and household articles. Thereafter, the accused demanded additional dowry, for which a panchayat was held. Later, the victim's father was informed that his daughter was admitted to hospital due to burn injuries.

The Court noted that “the Trial Court had taken all the precautions while recording the statements but as there were improvements in the dying declarations, the Trial Court considered that the dying declarations were given by the victim on tutoring. Therefore, the Trial Court observed that in view of the vital discrepancies in the dying declarations, the same could not be accepted”.

The Court noted that the victim had claimed in the first two dying declarations that she poured kerosene on herself and lit fire due to abusive, vulgar, and harsh comments used by the accused. But in the later dying declarations, the victim stated that the accused had poured kerosene and lit fire to her and used to harass her for dowry.

The Court held that though the subsequent declarations were improvements of each other, one statement was consistent that the accused used to beat the victim after drinking and constantly demanded dowry using vulgar and abusive language. Thus, the offence of Section 498-A of the IPC would be attracted due to consistent statement about harassment and cruelty by husband driving the victim to commit suicide. Therefore, the Court opined that “there was no illegality in the observation of the Trial Court in concluding that the accused was guilty of the offence under Section 498-A of the IPC and so, the Court did not find any necessity to interfere with the sentence inflicted against the accused”. The Court dismissed the appeal and confirmed the conviction and sentence inflicted against the accused by the Trial Court.

[K. Rajkumar v. State of Andhra Pradesh, Criminal Appeal No. 677 of 2013, decided on 11-11-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

G.M. Vijay Kumar, Advocate, for the Appellant;

Public Prosecutor, for the Respondent.

Delhi High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

   

Delhi High Court: In an appeal filed by the accused challenging the order of conviction passed by the Trial Court for offences punishable under Section 302 IPC, Sections 25(1B)(a) and 27(1) Arms Act, 1959, Anish Dayal, J. upheld the order of conviction and sentence as that the guilt of the appellant for the murder of the deceased has been proved beyond reasonable doubt and duly supported by circumstantial evidence by the prosecution.

The Trial Court sentenced the accused to life imprisonment for an offence punishable under Section 302 Penal Code, 1860 along with fine of Rs. 2000/-, rigorous imprisonment for one year for offence under Section 25(1B)(a) Arms Act and fine of Rs. 1000/-, rigorous imprisonment for 3 years for offence under Section 27(1) Arms Act and fine of Rs. 1000/-, additional rigorous imprisonment for 3 months in default of payment of fine.

The Court noted that the death of the deceased was clearly homicidal in nature caused due to firearm injury, as evident from the testimony of the doctor who conducted the postmortem. There were no direct eyewitnesses at the point of shooting the deceased, however, the res gestae evidence of PW-5 and PW-9 was consistent as they both heard a sound of a fire shot, girl standing on the ramp where she was shot and the boy hiding something under his shirt possibly the pistol as corroborated by other witness.

The Court further noted that the motive of the appellant for killing the deceased is also quite evident from the testimonies that the father of the deceased along with two others had beaten up the accused few years back as he was seen stalking and eve teasing the deceased. Moreover, on perusal of chain of facts and circumstance and as the accused absconded immediately after the incident of murder would be admissible as “relevant conduct” under Section 8 of Evidence Act, 1872.

The Court observed that the ballistic opinion clearly showed that the bullet lodged in the body of the deceased had been fired from that weapon as also it corresponded to the empty cartridge found in the recovered weapon which was found hiding in the attic of his room wrapped in a newspaper.

Placing reliance on Mohd. Inayatullah v. State of Maharashtra, (1976) 1 SCC 828, State of Maharashtra v. Damu, (2000) 6 SCC 269 and Bodhraj v. State of J&K, (2002) 8 SCC 45, the Court opined that while a mental fact disclosed by an accused in custody may not be admissible, disclosure leading to the recovery of a physical object or confirmation of a physical fact offers an admissible confirmation to the prosecution.

Thus, the Court concluded that culling out the essential ingredients of Section 27 of Evidence Act, 1872 in consonance with the principles articulated by the Supreme Court, the following aspects would need to be considered and factored in, while applying the doctrine of confirmation by subsequent events, embodied in section 27:

i) There must be “information” received from an accused.

ii) The accused must be in the custody of a police officer when such “information” is given.

iii) The said “information” was not within the knowledge of the police officer, when it was received from the accused.

iv) As a consequence of that “information”, a “fact” is discovered.

v) Only that part of the “information” which is the direct and immediate cause of discovery of the “fact” and is distinctly related to it, stands confirmed for the purposes of the prosecution.

vi) If the prosecution deposes to the “fact” based on that part of the “information” (as in (v) above), it will stand proved.

Applying the principles to the facts of this case, it would be evident that pursuant to the disclosure by the appellant, in custody, an information was received that first, the appellant committed the offence; second, the appellant ran to the house of Sheikh@Shekhu; third, the house of Sheikh@Shekhu is at Babu Park, Kotla Mubrak Pur; fourth, the appellant had given the country made pistol with a cover to Sheikh@Shekhu to keep/hide.

The Court noted that the first two pieces of information are not facts which can be “discovered” but are either confessional/inculpatory or un-discoverable facts. But the latter two pieces of information lead to two facts which are discovered i.e., that Sheikh@Shekhu lives in that address, he had a country made pistol in his possession and that the pistol was hidden in the attic in his house. Both these factual discoveries, not known to the police, are therefore probative and offer confirmation of the information given by the appellant, to that extent. This confirmation offers the prosecution case an important hook and clasp in the chain of circumstantial evidence, thus leading finally to proving guilt of the appellant beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court held the guilt of the appellant for the murder of the deceased has been proved beyond reasonable doubt and duly supported by circumstantial evidence by the prosecution.

[Vijay Saini v. State, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 3563, decided on 31-10-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case:

Mr. Sumeet Verma, Advocate with Mr. Mahinder Pratap Singh, Advocate for the Appellant;

Ms. Shubhi Gupta, APP for the State.


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this report together.

Allahabad High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: In an appeal filed under Section 378 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) against the judgment passed by the trial court, acquitting Mukhtar Ansari of all charges under Sections 353, 504, 506 the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), Dinesh Kumar Singh, J. has convicted Mukhtar Ansari for offences under Sections 353, 504, 506 IPC and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 2 years with fine of Rs. 10,000/- for offence under Section 353 IPC. Further, for an offence under Section 504 IPC, he is sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 2 years with fine of Rs. 2,000/- and for the offence under Section 506 IPC, rigorous imprisonment for 7 years with fine of Rs 25,000/-.

In the present case, the complainant was a jailer in the prison where former Uttar Pradesh M.L.A Mukhtar Ansari is a prisoner, in 2003 some people had come to meet Mukhtar Ansari and the complainant ordered for their frisking, on which Mukhtar Ansari got highly annoyed and abused him and took revolver from one of the persons and pointed it towards the complainant and gave him death threats.

The Court observed that Mukhtar Ansari has reputation of most dreaded criminal and mafia don who had more than 60 cases of heinous offences to his credit, and no one can dispute his credibility of striking terror and fear in the minds and heart of the people including the Government officials. Further, during his incarceration in jail, he had committed several heinous offences including elimination of his political rivals, kidnapping/abduction, usurping private and public properties, amassing wealth and properties from proceeds of crime. Even inside the jail, his people would come to meet him without any hindrance created by any jail staff and the warden opened the gate and allowed the people to meet Mukhtar Ansari, out of his fear and terror.

The Court further observed that the complainant did not have any enmity with Mukhtar Ansari, and it appears that he was trying to enforce rules inside the jail and, therefore, ordered that no visitor should be allowed to meet the prisoners unless permission is granted.

It was also observed that one of the witnesses in his examination-in-chief, had said that Mukhtar Ansari got highly enraged by the fact that the Jailer was not allowing visitors who had come to meet him inside the jail without permission and he took out a revolver from one of the visitors who and extended verbal threats of killing the complainant. However, the said witness was not cross examined on 12.12.2003 when his examination- in- chief took place. Thus, the Court accepted the submission of the complainant that when the said witness was influenced by Mukhtar Ansari, an application came to be filed to recall the said witness, which was allowed by Trial Court, and then the witness to some extent did not support the prosecution case in his cross examination.

The Court placed reliance on the ruling in Dayaram v. State of M.P., (2020) 13 SCC 382, wherein it was held that “even if the witnesses were declared hostile during their cross-examination, their testimony, prior to cross-examination can be relied upon” and further took note of the ruling in Ramesh v. State of Haryana, (2017) 1 SCC 529, wherein it was held that “evidence of a hostile witness cannot be totally rejected but requires its closest scrutiny and portion of evidence which is consistent with the case of the prosecution or defence may be accepted”. Thus, viewed that evidence of a witness who has supported the prosecution case in examination-in-chief does not get effaced or washed off the record altogether and in such a situation, it is the duty of the Court to examine the evidence carefully and find that part of evidence which can be accepted and be acted upon. Thus, there is no legal bar for conviction upon the testimony of hostile witness, given in examination-in-chief, if it is corroborated by other reliable evidence.

The Court observed that Criminal case is built on edifice of evidence which is admissible in Law and referred to the decision in Swaran Singh v. State of Punjab, (2000) 5 SCC 668, wherein the Court observed that “criminal cases can be adjourned again and again till the witness gets tired or gives up. Adjournments are taken till the witness is no more or is tired. This results in miscarriage of justice. The witness is not treated with respect in the Court”.

Placing reliance on the ruling in Radha Mohan Singh v. State of U.P., (2006) 2 SCC 450, the Court observed that law is very clear that appellant court should not interfere with the judgment and order of acquittal unless the said judgment is perverse, or the view taken by the learned Trial Court is impossible view. Further, it is well settled that testimony of hostile witness does not get effaced completely and washed off record, and it is for the Court to closely scrutinize the testimony of such witness in the facts and circumstances of the cases and take into consideration while convicting or acquitting the accused on that part of the testimony which supports the prosecution case and can be relied on for convicting the accused.

It was also observed that “the witness who was given threats of life by pointing a revolver by Mukhtar Ansari, has fully supported the prosecution case in all respects in his examination-in-chief. Further, he does not have any enmity with Mukhtar Ansari, and there was no reason to falsely implicate him. Thus, there is no reason to disbelieve his testimony given in examination-in-chief and his testimony in cross examination which takes place after he could have been won over, does not appear to be credible”.

Thus, the Court observed that the Trial Court had completely ignored the evidence of that hostile witness given in examination-in-chief and had only considered his cross examination. Thus, the approach of the trial Court is palpably erroneous and against the well settled legal position, hence, the impugned judgment and order passed by the Trial Court is unsustainable. Further, the complainant was discharging public/official duty on the date, time and place of the incident and as Mukhtar Ansari used criminal force by pointing pistol towards him with intent to prevent and deter the complainant from discharging his duty as a Jailer, therefore, offence of assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duties under Section 353 IPC, is clearly proved against Mukhtar Ansari and he is convicted for committing the said offence.

Moreover, Mukhtar Ansari abused the complainant and insulted him knowing that it would undermine the authority of the Jailer and would cause breach of peace inside the jail and outside inasmuch as if a public servant can be humiliated and abused, then authority of public functionary would get diminished, and people would not respect the lawful authority. Therefore, Mukhtar Ansari was also found guilty under Section 504 IPC i.e. intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace, and as Mukhtar Ansari took pistol from a visitor and pointed towards the complainant and threatened him for his life. Thus, he is also guilty for criminal intimidation under Section 506 IPC.

[State of UP v. Mukhtar Ansari, 2022 SCC OnLine All 654, decided on 21.09.2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case:

Counsel for Appellant:- Government Advocate

Counsel for Respondent:- Advocate Abhishek Misra

Advocate Karunesh Singh

Advocate Satendra Kumar

Tripura High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: In a criminal revision petition filed for examining the legality, validity and propriety of the impugned judgment passed by the Trial Court and the Appellate Court, wherein the Court sentenced the petitioner under Section 448 of the Penal Code (IPC) to suffer rigorous imprisonment for 3 months and further sentenced him under Section 354 of IPC to suffer Imprisonment for one year and to pay a fine of Rs. 3,000/- with default stipulations, T. Amarnath Goud, J. has set aside the findings of the Courts below and observed that the discrepancies found in this case appeared to be abnormal in nature and is not expected from a normal person. Thus, due to the presence of some serious contradictions and inconsistencies in the statements during trial, it was very difficult to believe the projected case against the petitioner.

In this case, on 14.07.2014 at about 4.00pm the victim and her child were alone in the house, when the petitioner entered their dwelling and hit and pushed the victim on the ground and tore her clothes and outraged her modesty. The victim cried out for help, but the petitioner pressed her mouth and applied force upon her. Hearing her hue and cry, Tapan Tripura came to the spot and before he could enter the room of the victim, the accused-person immediately fled away from there. The police registered the case under Section 448/354 of IPC.

The petitioner argued that the Courts below committed erred in the matter of correctness, legality and propriety while passing the judgments and sentence to the petitioner. Further, the findings of the Courts below are not tenable because they did not discuss a single word of the cross-examination of the informant witnesses and the defence of the petitioners. The Courts below misconceived and misunderstood the legal position of law and as such, came to a wrong finding of convicting the petitioner.

The Court took note of the statements given by Tapan Tripura wherein he stated that on 14.07.2014 at about 4.00pm he was coming out to the road and at that time, he heard hue and cry from the victim’s house and saw that the accused person was coming out from the said house. But, during cross examination this witness has stated as follows: “at that time the victim did not tell me anything and I also did not ask her anything. Later, in the evening I came to learn that the petitioner had entered the dwelling of the informant and outraged the modesty of his wife (victim)by touching her on the chest”.

The Court observed that during examination-in-chief Tapan Taparia supported the fact that the victim told him that the Petitioner had touched her on the chest. Further, the Court took note of another statement of the witness given to the police wherein, he stated that “at that time, I thought that quarrel was going on between husband and wife and for that reason the petitioner had gone out of their house”. But later, the witness clarified in the evidence that he had heard about the incident from the victim and from his elder uncle.

The Court viewed that “the petitioner is a neighbour of the complainant and not just a stranger who, by taking advantage of an empty house, entered in and tried to outrage the modesty of the victim. The petitioner is known to all and more particularly, he was a neighbour of this locality. He is not just an unknown person to them. Thus, Section 448 of IPC does not attract in this case”.

Further, the court took note of the evidence of witnesses, particularly of Sri Tapan Tripura and observed that the version of the informant and Tapan Tripura is an improved version comparing to the complaint, and since the complaint itself is not specific for attracting Section 354 of IPC and as the petitioner has already suffered three months jail custody, the Court released him by setting aside the judgment of the Courts below.

Moreover, the Court has observed that the way prosecution has projected this case and due to the presence of some serious contradictions and inconsistencies in the statements in course of trial, it was very difficult to believe the projected case against the petitioner. Further, it viewed that “it is a settled proposition of law that the charge framed against the accused person must be established and proved beyond any shadow of doubt and suspicions, however, grave in nature, should not amount to proof”. Thus, the Court set aside the findings arrived at by the courts below.

[Nithuram Tripura v. State of Tripura., 2022 SCC OnLine Tri 620, decided on 13.09.2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

A. Acharjee, Advocate, for the Petitioner;

Additional Public Prosecutor S. Debnath., Advocate, for the Respondent.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In an appeal directed against the judgment and order upholding conviction of the appellant for the offence under Section 20(b)(ii)(C) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act), the bench of Ajay Rastogi * and C.T. Ravi Kumar, JJ has reduced the sentence after observing that the appellant was an illiterate senior citizen on the date of the incident, was having no criminal record, and was from a rural background, completely unknown to the law and unaware of what was happening around her.

The trial Court had sentenced the appellant to 15 years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1 Lakh and in default, to further undergo rigorous imprisonment of 3 years. The Supreme Court has reduced the sentence to 12 years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1 lakh and in default, to further undergo rigorous imprisonment of six months.

In this case the appellant along with her two children was charged under Section 20(b)(ii)(C) of the NDPS Act for having joint possession of the commercial quantity of illegal ‘Ganja'(Cannabis)of 05 quintal and 21.5 kilogram, which was, as alleged, in their joint knowledge. The trial Court acquitted the other four persons of all the charges and held the appellant guilty under the NDPS Act, as she was in possession of the house from where the psychotropic substance was recovered.

The Court noted that the order of acquittal against the four co-accused persons was never a matter of challenge at the instance of the prosecution. Further, the appellant preferred an appeal before the High Court against the impugned judgment but the High Court, examining the conviction on merits, took note of the bare facts regarding the compliance of Sections 42, 50 and 55 of the NDPS Act, and since the psychotropic substance was recovered from the residence of the appellant, considered it to be the basis for upholding conviction and sentence of the appellant.

Moreover, the Court viewed that

“neither the trial Court nor the High Court has considered that the lady was illiterate and a senior citizen, was indeed residing but completely unknown to law, with two grown up children, with no previous background of being involved in any kind of criminal cases at any point of time in her lifetime”.

The Court observed that all five accused persons faced trial, but unfortunately the appellant alone was held guilty, and the trial Judge, without examining in totality of the matter and taking the other salient facts into consideration, sentenced her to 15 years’ rigorous imprisonment. It further observed that the minimum sentence prescribed under the NDPS Act for such offence under Section 20(b)(ii)(C) is 10 years which may extend to 20 years with a fine of Rs. 1 lakh which may extend to Rs. 2 lakhs, and while imposing higher than the minimum punishment, the factors which are to be taken into consideration have been provided under S. 32-B of the NDPS Act, however, the trial Judge as well as the High Court have not taken those factors into consideration. Thus, in the given facts and circumstances, the Court, while upholding the conviction of the appellant, and considering her old age, reduced her punishment.

[Budhiyarin Bai v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 992, decided on 10.08.2022]

*Judgment by: Justice Ajay Rastogi

Bombay High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: While deliberating upon the instant appeal challenging the conviction and sentence under Section 376, IPC [rape], the Division Bench of A.S. Gadkari and Milind N. Jadhav, JJ., observed that, once the Trial Court has concluded that the prosecution has proved the offence of rape beyond reasonable doubt, then there is no reason to deviate from the statutory position and award a lesser sentence than what is prescribed by the statute.

Facts and Legal Trajectory of the case: Victim X (deaf and dumb), her husband (blind) and the accused with his family, lived jointly in her matrimonial home. The victim came to her paternal home, wherein she narrated her ordeal before her mother via sign language and gestures. She revealed that the appellant had ravished her on 16-11-2005 and threatened her with dire consequences if she divulged the details to anyone. The mother of the victim then lodged a report with Lasalgaon Police Station.

Investigation and medical examination were conducted, and witnesses were examined. The appellant was arrested and the chargesheet was filed. The matter came up before Additional Sessions Judge, Niphad, Nashik whereby the appellant was convicted for offences punishable under Sections 376 and 503, IPC. The Trial Court had observed that appellant/accused has been facing trial for 6-7 years and is 60 years old therefore leniency has been shown while sentencing him. Via Trial Court’s order dated 13-02-2013, the appellant/accused was sentenced to 5 years’ rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 1000.

Aggrieved with the afore-stated conviction and sentence, the appellant knocked on the doors of the High Court. Meanwhile the State of Maharashtra filed an appeal to enhance the sentence given by the Trial Court. The High Court too registered a suo-motu petition issuing a notice to the Additional Sessions Judge, Niphad, Nashik concerning the quantum of sentence.

Contentions: The counsel of the appellant contended that the prosecutrix had filed a false case and that the accused/appellant was not present in the house at the time of the alleged crime. The counsel also argued that the case was a means to an end i.e., to affect a partition of the family field and property. It was also argued that there was a substantial delay of 3 days in filing the FIR.

Per contra, the respondents contended that the appellant/ accused is the brother-in-law of the victim and on the day of the crime, all the family members had gone out, except the victim, her blind husband and the accused. It was submitted that the appellant’s crime has been proved beyond reasonable doubt. The respondents thus urged the High Court to enhance the 5-year sentence given to the appellant as per Section 376 as it stood prior to the amendment in 2018.

Observations: Perusing the facts and the contentions presented, the Court made the following observations-

  • It was noted that the Trial Court adopted a proper procedure while recording the victim’s evidence through an expert witness- in this case, an impartial translator/ interpreter. The Court also noted that the testimony of the victim through the interpreter did not shake during the cross-examination by the appellant’s counsel. It was observed that the elaborate cross-examination, however, did not disprove the incident in favour of the appellant.

  • Pointing out that the defense case relied mostly on a property dispute going within the family, the Court observed that no woman would take the risk of leveling a charge such as of rape, only on the pretext of property. “No woman would put at stake her life by making such a serious allegation against her family member unless and until such a heinous act has taken place”. The Court further stated that the answers given by the victim during her cross-examination vis-a-vis the property dispute, cannot be the ground or reason to discard her evidence. Upon examining the proceedings before the Trial Court, the Division Bench was satisfied that the prosecution had proved the guilt of the accused (appellant) beyond reasonable doubt. “The victim is a helpless, deaf and dumb married woman, whose privacy has been shattered by the appellant”. It was observed that rape is not merely a physical assault but it destructs the whole personality of a helpless woman.

  • It was observed that the appellant’s misuse of his position of trust to commit such a horrific crime has shocked the conscience of the Court

  • Moving onto the issue of sentence, the Court observed that the Trial Court erred in its reasoning behind awarding 5 years’ rigorous imprisonment to the appellant. The Court pointed out that given the facts of the case and the horrific manner in which the appellant had abused the victim, the rationale applied by the Trial Court is flawed as it is against the statute.

  • Pointing out that prior to amendment of Section 376 in 2018, the provision had stated that “whoever commits rape shall be punished with Rigorous Imprisonment of either description for a term not less than 7 years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine”. The Court observed that the instant matter falls under Section 376(1).

Decision: With the afore-stated observations, the Court convicted the appellant in view of Section 235, CrPC for the offence punishable under Section 376. IPC. The appellant’s sentence was enhanced to 7 years’ rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs. 25,000.

[Madhukar Makaji Mudgul v. State of Maharashtra, 2022 SCC OnLine Bom 1674, decided on 19-08-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Ashish Satpute, Advocate, for the Appellant;

H.J. Dedhia, APP, Advocate, for the Respondent.


*Sucheta Sarkar, Editorial Assistant has prepared this brief.

Orissa High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

   

Orissa High Court: In an appeal filed challenging the Trial court ruling, convicting the accused under Section 302 of Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC') a Division Bench of S Muralidhar CJ., and R K Pattanaik J. upheld conviction under Section 302 IPC by examining circumstantial evidence in detail and directed cancellation of his bail bonds and surrender forthwith, as the appellant was enlarged on bail during the pendency of the proceedings.

The present Appellant alongwith Bidyadhar Pradhan, were charged with the offence under Section 109 read with Section 302 IPC on the grounds of abetting the murder of Bhagabati Pradhan. After analyzing the evidence, the Trial Court convicted the present Appellant while acquitting the co-accused. Assailing this order, the present appeal was filed.

The Court noted that this is a case of circumstantial evidence. Placing reliance on Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra, (1984) 4 SCC 116 Krishnan v. State, (2008) 15 SCC 430 and G. Parshwanath v. State of Karnataka, (2010) 8 SCC 593, the Court reiterated the conditions to be fulfilled before conviction could be based on circumstantial evidence.

The first circumstance is regarding the quarrel that took place the previous night between the Appellant, the co-accused, on one hand and the deceased and her family on the other. The Court thus noted that no doubt the witnesses are related to the deceased but such relation, by itself, would not result in their testimonies being discarded if they are otherwise truthful and consistent with each other.

It was further noted that based on the evidence of witnesses, it not only supplies the motive for the offence, but also proves the fact that immediately prior to the occurrence on that very evening, the accused had threatened to finish off the deceased. As regards the recovery of evidence, the Court was of the view that it has been more than adequately proved by the IO himself by producing the relevant record. Even, the opinion of the doctor is more than sufficient for the Court to conclude that the death was homicidal in nature.

The Court remarked “the fact that the weapon of offence did not have bloodstains will not matter if all other circumstances form a continuous chain and clearly point to the guilt of the Appellant and no one else.”

The Court held that the evidence is not only consistent with the guilt of the appellant but is also inconsistent with his innocence. Thus, no error can be found in the impugned judgment of the trial Court holding the appellant guilty of the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC.

[Tapan Kumar Pradhan v. State of Orissa, 2022 SCC OnLine Ori 2447, decided on 11-08-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Basudev Pujari, Advocate, for the Appellant;

Mr. Pravat Kumar Muduli, Additional Government Advocate, Advocate, for the Respondent.


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this report together.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Allowing the review petition in the 34-year-old road-rage case involving cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu that resulted into the death of one 65-yer-old Gurnam Singh, the bench of AM Khanwilkar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, JJ has imposed a sentence of one-year rigorous imprisonment on Sidhu in addition to the fine of Rs.1,000/- imposed in the order dated 15.05.2018.

In 1988, Sidhu got into a fight with the deceased over his right to way at a traffic light in Patiala. Sidhu had pulled the deceased out of his vehicle and inflicted fist blows. The incident eventually culminated in the death of Gurnam Singh. The Court, however, held that Sidhu had voluntarily caused hurt to Gurnam Singh punishable under Section 323 IPC.

While dealing with the review petition, the Court noticed that some material aspects which were required to be taken note of appear to have been somehow missed out at the stage of sentencing, such as the physical fitness of Sidhu as he was an international cricketer, who was tall and well built and aware of the force of a blow that even his hand would carry. The blow was not inflicted on a person identically physically placed but a 65-year-old person, more than double his age.

The Court observed that Sidhu cannot say that he did not know the effect of the blow or plead ignorance on this aspect.

“It is not as if someone has to remind him of the extent of the injury which could be caused by a blow inflicted by him. In the given circumstances, tempers may have been lost but then the consequences of the loss of temper must be borne.”

The Court went on to state that to some extent it had been indulgent in ultimately holding Sidhu guilty of an offence of simple hurt under Section 323 of the IPC.

Observing that the hand can also be a weapon by itself where say a boxer, a wrestler or a cricketer or an extremely physically fit person inflicts the same, the Court said that,

“When a 25-year-old man, who was an international cricketer, assaults a man more than twice his age and inflicts, even with his bare hands, a severe blow on victim’s head, the unintended consequence of harm would still be properly attributable to him as it was reasonably foreseeable. That it would cause the death of a person is another matter since the conviction is only under Section 323 of the IPC. Even though any harm might not be directly intended, some aggravated culpability must be attached if the person suffers a grievous hurt or dies as a result thereof.”

On the aspect of sentencing, the Court said that a disproportionately light punishment humiliates and frustrates a victim of crime when the offender goes unpunished or is let off with a relatively minor punishment as the system pays no attention to the injured’s feelings.

Noticing that indifference to the rights of the victim of crime is fast eroding the faith of the society in general and the victim of crime in particular in the criminal justice system, the Court observed,

“The society cannot long endure under serious threats and if the courts do not protect the injured, the injured would then resort to private vengeance and, therefore, it is the duty of every court to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in which it was executed or committed.”

[Jaswinder Singh v. Navjot Singh Sidhu, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 652, decided on 19.05.2022]

Counsels

For Complainant: Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra

For Sidhu: Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where a man was convicted for killing his wife on the suspicion of her infidelity and was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for life, the bench of L. Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai, JJ has refused to go into the question of propriety of specifying rigorous imprisonment while imposing life sentence and has held that imprisonment for life is equivalent to rigorous imprisonment for life.

While there are several judicial precedents where the Supreme Court has held that imprisonment for life has been regarded as equivalent to rigorous imprisonment for life, the verdict in Naib Singh v. State of Punjab, (1983) 2 SCC 454 makes this position amply clear.

In the aforesaid case, the Petitioner was originally sentenced to death for committing an offence of murder under Section 302 IPC. Later, the death sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life by the Government of Punjab. After having undergone sentence of 22 years, Naib Singh filed a Writ Petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India challenging his continued detention. One of the points argued by the Petitioner relates to sentence of imprisonment for life not to be equated to rigorous imprisonment for life.

The Court, in the said judgment, held,

“… in view of the authoritative pronouncements made by the Privy Council and this Court in Kishori Lal case [Kishori Lal v. Emperor, AIR 1945 PC 64 : 72 IA 1 : 219 IC 350] and Gopal Godse case [Gopal Vinayak Godse v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1961 SC 600 : (1961) 3 SCR 440 : (1962) 1 SCJ 423 : (1961) 1 Cri LJ 736] respectively, it will have to be held that the position in law as regards the nature of punishment involved in a sentence of imprisonment for life is well settled and the sentence of imprisonment for life has to be equated to rigorous imprisonment for life.”

[Md. Alfaz Ali v. State of Assam, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 719, order dated 14.09.2021]


For Petitioner: Advocate Ajay Marwah

For State: Advocate Debojit Borkakati

High Courts

Delhi High Court: Refusing to award death sentence to Vikas and Vishal Yadav in the sensational Nitish Katara murder case, the Court extended the life imprisonment to 25 years of actual imprisonment without consideration of remission, and fine of Rs. 50 Lakh each along with rigorous imprisonment of 10 years under Sections 364/34 IPC which will run concurrently with the sentence given under Section 302/34 IPC. The Court, stating that the removal of all sources of identification and burning of the body beyond identification was part of single premeditated plan executed by the defendants, awarded rigorous imprisonment for 5 years with fine of Rs. 2 lakh and said that the said sentence will run consecutively to the 25 years of actual imprisonment awarded to the defendants. The Court said that the depravity in the mindset and planning of the crimes, brutality in its execution, post crime conduct during investigation and trial detailed above point to one essential fact that a life sentence which means only 14 years of imprisonment was grossly inadequate in the present cases and that these defendants did not deserve remission of the life sentence imposed on them by application of Section 433A of the CrPC.

In the present case where the parties were represented by Sumeet Verma and Rajesh Mahajan, drawing a distinction between the punishments imposed upon Vikas and Vishal Yadav on one hand and on the third convict Sukhdev Yadav on account of his involvement being influenced by the fact that he was the employee of Vikas Yadav’s father and that he was not a person of substantial means, the Court awarded him life imprisonment of 20 years of actual imprisonment without consideration of remission along with a fine of Rs. 10, 000. The Court also considered the fact that Nilam Katara, the mother of the deceased, had not prayed for the enhancement of the sentence against him.

In the present case, the 2 judge bench of Geeta Mittal and J.R. Midha, JJ said that the meticulous planning and execution of the crime, the brutality with which it was executed and various other factors and circumstances certainly brought the present case in the category of ‘rarest of rare’ cases, however, the Court, referring to various judgments of the Supreme Court, dissuaded from invoking it’s jurisdiction to impose the death sentence considering the irreversibility of the death sentence and the possibility of any Judge on the Bench taking a different view. Vikas Yadav v. State of UP, , decided on 06.02.2015