Op EdsOP. ED.

If I were “death” I would be inevitable but I am not death and I fight death every day. How do I do that? Well, I go out on the road and escape moronic drivers running over people, at home I hope to survive falling roofs, accidental fires, etc. Adding to other factors, if I am not a male foetus I hope I am able to beat death even before I am born. I try and survive thoughts of self-harm and suicide. So, I survive death every day in a million ways. Interestingly, the Government wants me to live too even though it may seem like they do not care. The laws and the Constitution very categorically promote living happily, so much so that an attempt to suicide is punishable with imprisonment. One can say they are granting the death wish sending him/her to jail. Peter Cook said “One should realise suicide is a criminal offense, in less enlightened times they would have hung you for it.”  While we are talking about life, we are focused on human life here, though animals have rights too they cannot sue the offending party. So, they do not get to fight death the way humans do.

Life, a precious gift

In Hinduism life and death are the gift of God and no human being has the right to take away the said gift; in Islam, human dignity stems from the belief that man is a creation of God – the creation that God loves more than any other. There is no debate that life is the most precious thing that the human world can possess.

It is ironic that once one enters the world, one loses control over one’s life, the Government takes over in the name of the God of course. No one reserves the right to end any life even one’s own, the right reserves with God and the almighty State. Governments yield powers which even God does not presume, therefore, they have taken up the responsibility of doing God’s work and enabled themselves to end lives under the procedure established by law. Arnaud Almaric said “ask no questions. Just shoot them all, and let God sort them out”. Well, it is a little more complicated than that, at least for now. Our Constitution provides for the “Rule of Law” and protection of life and personal liberty.

Going to primitive times, the trials were bizarre. Guilty or innocent, history is replete with trials that ensured the death of the undertrial. The times have evolved and so did the trials and the sentencing. The death penalties were frequent in the early 18th and 19th centuries. However, over the period death penalties have not been the norm. The courts have relied on the facts that life and death are acts of the divine and the divine’s authority has been delegated to the courts of law to be only exercised in exceptional circumstances with utmost caution. Therefore, the first and foremost effort of the courts should be to continue the life till its natural end. This delegated authority should be exercised cautiously under extreme judicial checks. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 makes it mandatory that “when the Court of Session passes a sentence of death, the proceedings shall be submitted to the High Court, and the sentence shall not be executed unless it is confirmed by the High Court”1. The High Court is duty-bound to ensure that only after concluding that no other punishment but for death will serve the ends of justice the death penalty shall be confirmed. This shows the seriousness and thoughtfulness that our legal system puts into a decision of death. Status quo ante in terms of life cannot be obtained, therefore, it is only fair that no such decisions are taken in haste.

Reformative, not retributive

It is never the endeavour of the State or the courts to take away life. The endeavour is to achieve an orderly society while protecting the rights and liberties of the citizens. The objective of the State, through laws and penalties, is to achieve deterrence, prevention, reformation and rehabilitation. Our penal system is reformative and not retributive. Wherever there seems a possibility of reformation, the courts may be inclined to not punish with a death sentence. We have witnessed some extremely gruesome crimes. Some were punished with death sentences, while a lot of them were given life sentences while a few may have walked out of jail with some punishment. Regardless of their outcomes the nation unanimously prayed for a death sentence in a number of these cases. But the judicious minds may not have concurred with the minds of ordinary citizens. After all, they deliver justice and not revenge. Francis Bacon2 said “revenge to be a kind of wild justice that offends the law and putteth the law out of office”. Many philosophers and jurists oppose capital punishment as they find death sentences to include an instinct of revenge which is barbarous. Capital punishment in modern jurisprudence will always be a matter of debate. Reformation and rehabilitation of a criminal is the primary object of punishment. The imposition of the death penalty nullifies that purpose. Retribution in the sense of vengeance is no longer an acceptable end of punishment. It is for these reasons noted jurists even opposed the hanging of those convicted in the infamous Nirbhaya case.3  Having said that, a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court4 had unanimously upheld the validity of capital punishment by reserving the death penalty. Law helps the element of retribution merge into the element of deterrence based on the philosophy of “gravest crime deserves the gravest punishment”. The Supreme Court held that a real and abiding concern for the dignity of human life postulates resistance to taking a life through law’s instrumentality. Therefore, that ought not to be done save in the rarest of rare cases when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed.5

Rarest of rare doctrine

Sentencing follows conviction, sentence is proportional to the degree of the crime. However, there is no straitjacket formula that can be applied in awarding punishment. Everything boils to the facts and circumstances of the case. Taking an example of Section 3026 of the Penal Code which states that “whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine”, shows that not all murders deserve a death sentence. Ordinarily, courts find life imprisonment to be sufficient, but the discretion lies with the judicial minds. The cases in which a death sentence can be given are a few with a peculiar set of facts being grave and gruesome thereby falling in the category of the rarest of rare crimes. The legislature in Section 354(3)7 mandates that in case of a death sentence the court must record special reasons which show that the sentence of life imprisonment shall not be a sufficient punishment.

Rarest of rare is an expression to convey the horrific and dastardly nature of the act. The actions which shake the conscience of human existence, which affect the very existence of our humanistic values. It is more to do with the perpetrator than the offense itself, when a convict would be a menace and threat to the harmonious and peaceful coexistence of the society. The perpetrators of such acts cannot be considered to be capable of being reformed and pose a threat to society at large. Though debatable and unproven, a death sentence is considered a deterring force in the prevention of crime. The rationale given by the courts is that when a crime shocks the collective conscience of the community, sympathy in any form would be misplaced. It would shake the confidence of the public in the administration of the criminal justice system irrespective of their personal opinion as regards desirability or otherwise of retaining the death penalty.8 However, should a court take into account the desires of the community, because the community does not always look for legally valid solution and maybe blinded by hate and emotions.

Determining rarest of rare

The Supreme Court, over some time, has put several cases in the rarest of rare category. But, the power to judge a case to be in that category is discretionary. There are parameters to hold it, but those parameters are subjective. The Supreme Court stated that a court may look into aggravating and mitigating circumstances while imposing the death penalty in its discretionary power. The Supreme Court stated that a balance sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances has to be drawn up and in doing so the mitigating circumstances have to be accorded full weightage and a just balance has to be struck between the aggravating and the mitigating circumstances before the option is exercised.9 This discretion may be arbitrary, while discretion and equity are the rightful prerogative of courts but in the matter of death, any discretion could lead to arbitrariness. What if something was considered rarest of rare a decade ago but has become not so rare owing to the decadent society. Would it be fair to let a man off a death sentence when someone had been hanged a few years ago with a unanimous verdict?

One of the observations in the infamous Nirbhaya case by the Supreme Court was where the victims are helpless women, children or old persons and the accused displayed depraved mentality, committing a crime in a diabolic manner, the accused should be shown no remorse and the death penalty should be awarded. However, in a recent case, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of a convict to life imprisonment whose 2-year-old niece fell prey to his savage lust and thereafter lost her life.10 This shows that how discretionary powers in matters of death sentence could be arbitrary. As the saying goes “Equity is as big as the Chancellor’s foot.” The Supreme Court has attempted to remove arbitrariness, yet the discretionary powers are wide. What constitutes the rarest of rare is not set in strict terms. What moved the society a decade ago may not affect the society to the same level as before. If capital punishment has to prevail, it must be under strict norms and set principles of law. One of the mitigating factors is the probability that the accused can be reformed and rehabilitated. If not, then the death sentence can be confirmed.

Conclusion

Articles 7211 and 16112 show that the framers of our Constitution had always intended it to be a part of our penal system. Therefore, capital punishments are not unconstitutional but they were aware of the seriousness and severity. It is for this reason, a remedy of clemency is provided enabling the executive of the State outside the purview of the judiciary. The judicial process is also carefully crafted in terms of the death penalty. The requirement of confirmation of a death penalty by the High Court is a step to ensure that there are no slips. However, the test of “the rarest of rare” is open to interpretation, which allows room for arbitrariness. The argument favour of capital punishment is that some people are beyond redemption and rehabilitation. But the biggest flaw in this argument is that one undermines the reformative capability of a human being. Buddhists believe anyone can attain enlightenment and the story of Angulimala is the prime example. Somewhere, it is the failure of the society to not tap into one’s highest potential, so we are punishing a soul for our failure? Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan said “even the worst sinner has a future, even the greatest saint has had a past”. In the end, the courts and the Judges are doing God’s work as God created life. Will ending a life before its natural course be God’s work? But why let a life prosper who endangers the lives of several others. It is a simple calculation, more than one life is more important than one life. So, it is done in the name of the greater good. Abraham Lincoln said “my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right”. I guess we will never know if by allowing capital punishment we are being on God’s side or are just doing the easy thing.


Advocate, Delhi High Court.

1 S. 366, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

2 Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban also known as Lord Verulam, was an English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England. His works are seen as developing the scientific method and remained influential through the scientific revolution.

3 <https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/indira-jaising-urges-nirbhayas-mother-to-follow-sonia-gandhis-example/article>.

4 Jagmohan Singh v. State of U.P., (1973) 1 SCC 20

5 Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 684

6 <http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/36kB36D7>.

7 When the conviction is for an offence punishable with death or, in the alternative, with imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term of years, the judgment shall state the reasons for the sentence awarded, and, in the case of sentence of death, the special reasons for such sentence. <http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/7S71Hz0t>.

8 Mukesh Kumar v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2017) 6 SCC 1

9 Mukesh Kumar v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2017) 6 SCC 1

10 Shatrughna Baban Meshram v. State of Maharashtra, (2021) 1 SCC 596

11 < http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/nA4c4Sy5>.

12 < http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/nA4c4Sy5>.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Ved Prakash Vaish and Vikas Kunvar Srivastav, JJ., expressed that:

“Justice demands that courts should impose punishment fitting to the crime. The courts must not only keep in view the rights of the criminal but also the rights of the victim of crime and the society at large while considering imposition of appropriate punishment.”

Appellant was convicted for the offence under Section 376 of the Penal Code, 1860, though he was acquitted for the offence under Section 506(2) of the Penal Code, 1860.

Father of the Prosecutrix had lodged a complaint that his daughter had gone for easement by the roadside and did not return to the house for a long time and on inquiry, his son Kalim Ahmad aged 13 years informed that Prem Chamar forcibly took the prosecutrix on his bicycle.

On reaching outside the village, he saw his daughter (prosecutrix) weeping who disclosed the entire incident and found the bloodstains on her undergarments and concluded that Prem Chamar had committed rape on his daughter.

In light of the above sequence of events, offence under Section 376 IPC was registered.

Trial Court found the appellant to be guilty of having committed the offence under Section 376 IPC and sentenced the appellant.

On being aggrieved with the above, appellant preferred the present appeal.

Analysis and Decision

“It is settled law that refusal to act on the testimony of the victim of sexual assault in absence of corroboration as a rule, is adding to insult to injury.”

 Bench further in light of the above expressed that, a girl or a woman in the tradition-bound non-permissive society of India would be extremely reluctant even to admit that any incident which is likely to reflect on her chastity had ever occurred.

“A woman or a girl who is raped is not an accomplice. Corroboration is not the sine qua non for conviction in a rape case.”

 Court referred to the decisions of Supreme Court in State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh, (1996) 2 SCC 384 and Takhatji Hiraji v. Thakore Kubersing Chamansingh, (2001) 6 SCC 145, Vijendra Singh v. State of U.P., (2017) 11 SCC 129, State of H.P. v. Gian Chand, (2001) 6 SCC 71, Aslam v. State of U.P., (2014) 13 SCC 350, State of Haryana v. Basti Ram, (2013) 4 SCC 200, Raju v. State of M.P., (2008) 15 SCC 133.

High Court stated that Supreme Court had observed in Raju v. State of M.P., (2008) 15 SCC 133, that it cannot be lost sight of that rape causes the greatest distress and humiliation to the victim but at the same time a false allegation of rape can cause equal distress, humiliation and damage to the accused as well. The accused must also be protected against the possibility of false implication. There is no presumption or any basis for assuming that the statement of such a witness is always correct or without any embellishment or exaggeration.

“Courts while trying an accused on the charge of rape, must deal with the case with the utmost sensitivity, examining the broader probabilities of a case and not get swayed by minor contradictions or insignificant discrepancies in the evidence of the witnesses which are not of a substantial character.”

 Bench noted that considering the statement of the prosecutrix (PW2), a girl of nine years, corroboration from an independent source of the evidence of prosecutrix is not required. The evidence of the prosecutrix establishes that the appellant committed rape on her.

Court opined that the trial court did not commit any mistake in convicting the appellant for the offence under Section 376 IPC. Accordingly, appellant’s conviction was upheld.

Sentence

With regard to the question of sentence, Court stated that it may be mentioned that the protection of society by stamping out criminal activity is an essential function of State.

The facts and given circumstances of each case, the nature of the crime, the manner in which it was planned and committed, the motive for commission of the crime, the conduct of convict and all other attending circumstances are relevant facts for imposing appropriate sentence.

Hence, the object of sentencing is that the offenders do not go unpunished and the justice be done to the victim of crime and society. It is, therefore, 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.

Therefore, in the instant case, Court held that the interest of justice would be met if the sentence imposed by trial court would be modified to that of rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and to pay a fine of Rs 2,000.

Concluding the decision, Court in view of the above discussion dismissed the appeal. [Prem Chamar v. State of U.P., Criminal Appeal No. 1078 of 2012, decided on 22-01-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: N.Anil Kumar, J., allowed the instant revision petition against the concurrent findings of the Trial Court and the Appellate Court.

The facts of the case are such that, on 24-10-1998 the accused was found in possession of 2.5 litres of illicit arrack in contravention of the Kerala Abkari Act, 1077 (“the Act”). The Trial Court convicted and sentenced the accused to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of one year and also to pay a fine of Rs1,00,000, and in default of payment of fine to undergo simple imprisonment for six months. Against which, the petitioner preferred an appeal before the Court of Additional Sessions Judge. The Appellate Court while retaining the sentence of fine; reduced the substantive sentence of rigorous imprisonment for one year to rigorous imprisonment for six months.

In the instant case, the petitioner had challenged the impugned judgment of the Appellate Court. The counsel for the petitioner, V. Rajendran, submitted that the petitioner had already undergone the sentence imposed in this case. The Court, on recording the submission, directed the Superintendent, Central Prison, Kannur to furnish the detail of sentence undergone by the petitioner. The Superintendent of Prison submitted that the accused was released from prison after completion of sentence and default sentence for failure to pay fine.

On going through the evidence on record, the Court found no legal infirmity or perversity to set aside the concurrent conviction imposed by the two Courts. Thus, the Court confirmed the conviction concurrently imposed by the Trial Court as well as the Appellate Court. While dismissing the revision petition the Court directed that no further coercive steps shall be initiated against the petitioner anymore. [Prabhakaran Chirangodan v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 7728, decided on 22-12-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Arvind Singh Chandel J., allowed the appeal and reduced the sentence to the period already undergone by the petitioner for an offence punishable under Section 498-A Penal Code, 1860.

The facts of the case are such that about 1 ½ year prior to the date of incident marriage of the present Appellant was solemnized with the deceased Anuradha Mishra. After marriage, Appellant, as well as his relatives, used to torture the deceased on account of demand of dowry, due to which she committed suicide on 19-12-2002 and thereafter morgue was lodged consequent to which offence was registered. After completion of the trial, Trial Court acquitted the co-accused and present Appellant for the charges under Section 304- B of Penal Code, 1860 i.e. IPC however, Trial Court convicted the Appellant for the offence punishable under Section 498-A IPC and sentenced him. Aggrieved by the same, the present appeal was filed.

Counsel for the appellant submitted that Appellant has already undergone about 13 months out of total jail sentence of 03 years, he has no criminal antecedent and he is facing the lis since 2002, i.e., for about 18 years. Therefore, the jail sentence awarded to the Appellant may be reduced to the period already undergone by him.

Counsel for the respondents submitted that opposed the appeal and supported the impugned judgment.

In view of the facts and submissions the Court held that “out of total jail sentence of 03 years, the Appellant has undergone about 13 months, he is facing the lis since 2002 and there is no criminal antecedent against him, I am of the view that the ends of justice would be met if, while upholding the conviction imposed upon the Appellant, the jail sentence awarded to him is reduced to the period already undergone by him.”

 In view of the above, appeal was allowed.[Rajesh Mishra v. State Of Chhattisgarh, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 1303, decided on 14-01-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Saurabh Shyam Shamshery, J., while addressing a criminal appeal observed that “Conviction for “Dacoity” of less than five persons is not sustainable in the absence of finding that five or more persons were involved in the crime”. 

Three appellants filed the criminal appeal under Section 374 of the Criminal Procedure Code against the judgment and order dated 11-03-1983, wherein appellants Balbir and Lalaram were convicted under Section 395 of Penal Code, 1860 and Mohar Pal under Sections 395 read with 397 IPC.

Trial Court held that the appellants committed dacoity in the house of Raj Kumar.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Section 395 IPC | Punishment for Dacoity:

Whoever commits dacoity shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Section 397 | Robbery, or dacoity, with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt:

If, at the time of committing robbery or dacoity, the offender uses any deadly weapon, or causes grievous hurt to any person, or attempts to cause death or grievous hurt to any person, the imprisonment with which such offender shall be punished shall not be less than seven years.

“Dacoity” is defined in Section 391 IPC, which is reproduced as under:

“391. Dacoity.–When five or more persons conjointly commit or attempt to commit a robbery, or where the whole number of persons conjointly committing or attempting to commit a robbery, and persons present and aiding such commission or attempt, amount to five or more, every person so committing, attempting or aiding, is said to commit “dacoity”.

Supreme Court in the decision of Raj Kumar  v. State of Uttaranchal (Now Uttarakhand): (2008) 11 SCC 709, held that 

“…conviction of an offence of robbery, there must be five or more persons. In absence of such finding, an accused cannot be convicted for an offence of dacoity.”

“In a given case, however, it may happen that there may be five or more persons and the factum of five or more persons is either not disputed or is clearly established, but the court may not be able to record a finding as to the identity of all the persons said to have committed dacoity and may not be able to convict them and order their acquittal observing that their identity is not established. In such case, conviction of less than five persons–or even one–can stand. But in absence of such finding, less than five persons cannot be convicted for an offence of dacoity.”

Hence, in view of the above decisions, Court stated it clear that in case there is a conviction of less than five persons under Sections 395/397 IPC, trial court must arrive at a finding that there was the involvement of five or more persons.

In absence of the above-stated finding, no conviction could be made out under the aforestated Sections.

Prosecution completely failed in the present case, either to prove the participation of five or more persons in the commission of the offence or establish their identity.

Hence, Court held that the appellant’s conviction and the sentence are repugnant to the letter and spirit of Sections 391 and 396 IPC, therefore it cannot be sustained and trial court’s decision was set aside in the view of the said reasoning.[Balbir v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 845, decided on 09-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: N.S. Dhanik, J., partly allowed a criminal revision which was preferred against the Judgment and order passed by the District and Sessions Judge whereby he had confirmed the judgment and order passed by Chief Judicial Magistrate and also against the judgment and order passed by Chief Judicial Magistrate in a Criminal Case under Section 3/7 of the Essential Commodities Act, whereby the revisionist were convicted for the offence punishable under Section 3/7 of the Essential Commodities Act and sentenced to undergo one-year simple imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs 5,000.

The informant lodged an FIR alleging therein that on information, the informant came to know that two Nepali people who often smuggling the cement, compost, kerosene oil, etc from Tankpur to Nepal upon their motorcycles. The informant along with other police officials reached the Gandhi Park and seeing two persons who were tying the plastics canes in their motorcycles outside the warehouse of Naresh Chandra Gupta. Both tried to run away, but they were arrested on the spot. From the possession of the accused persons, Jaricanes were recovered and on asking regarding the said recovery, they told that they had purchased the Kerosene oil from the Naresh Chandra Gupta (present revisionist) and 20 litres kerosene oil was also recovered from the warehouse of Naresh Chandra Gupta. After investigation, the charge sheet against the accused revisionist for the offence punishable under Section 3/7 of the Essential Commodities Act was filed. The Counsel for the revisionist, Mr. Bhuwanesh Joshi submitted his arguments only on the quantum of sentence. He submitted that the revisionist had served about 27 days in the jail and that he was a poor person and the matter relates back to the year 2008.

The Court while partly allowing the revision modified and reduced the sentence to three months considering the contention that matter related back to the year 2008 and ends of justice would be sub-served if the jail sentence of the revisionist is reduced adjusting the period already undergone by him, although the sentence of the fine was enhanced from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000.[Naresh Chandra Gupta v. State of Uttarakhand, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 550, decided on 16-09-2020]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Vibhu Bakhru, J., in the present petition observed that,

“A deadly weapon is one, which is lethal and is likely to cause death when used in the manner in which it is intended. By its very nature, a deadly weapon is one, which is likely to result in a fatality.”

Appellant was convicted of the offences punishable under Sections 393/398 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 25/27 of the Arms Act, 1959.

The present appeal has been filed impugning the judgment for the above-stated conviction and order of sentence.

It has been submitted that the accused was armed with a pistol which he placed on the complainant’s temple and asked him to hand over whatever he had.

While the accused was fleeing from the spot, two patrolling police officials pursued and apprehended him and the police officials snatched the pistol carried by the accused.

Analysis and Decision

Police Officials Testimony

Bench while analysing the facts and submissions in the present case stated that merely because witnesses from the general public that had allegedly assembled at the spot, were not examined does not mean that the testimony of the police officials is required to be discarded.

Supreme Court’s decision in Kalpnath Rai v. State, (1997) 8 SCC 732  was referred in the above context, wherein following was the Court’s proposition:

“There can be no legal proposition that evidence of police officers, unless supported by independent witnesses, is unworthy of acceptance.”

Further, there wasno doubt on the fact that a country made pistol (katta) was recovered from the accused also the fact that he was apprehended while he was fleeing from the spot has also been established.

Question to be determined is whether the appellant’s conviction under Sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act is maintainable?

The country made pistol (katta) recovered from the appellant was designed to discharge a projectile and therefore, even though it may have fallen into disrepair it, nonetheless, falls within the definition of a ‘firearm’ within the meaning under Section 2(e) of the Arms Act.

Further the Court observed that the possession of ammunition is a punishable offence under Section 25 of the Arms Act. The use of such ammunition is punishable under Section 27 of the Arms Act.

Thus, there is little doubt that the appellant is guilty of committing an offence punishable under Sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act.

Next issue to be examined is whether the country made pistol (katta) can be termed as a “deadly weapon” under Section 398 IPC?

Section 398 IPC states that if an offender is armed with a deadly weapon at the time of robbery or dacoity, the same would constitute an offence under Section 398 IPC.

Key Question:

Whether the country made pistol (katta) can be termed as a “deadly weapon” even if it is in a state of disrepair?

Court stated that in order for any weapon to be termed as deadly, it should one which is capable of or likely to cause death if used in the manner in which it is intended to be used.

There may be a large number of instruments or objects, which can be used in a lethal manner, however, if they are not intended or meant to be used in that manner, they cannot be understood to be weapons for the purposes of Section 398 of the IPC.

Bench also noted that there are a large number of instruments which if used in a particular manner, may result in a fatality. A pen is not a deadly weapon and merely carrying the said writing instrument, at the time of committing robbery or dacoity, would not constitute an offence punishable under Section 398 of the IPC.

Two necessary ingredients of a ‘deadly weapon’:

first, that it should be a weapon and capable of being used as such

second, that it must be inherently lethal and if used in the intended manner is likely to result in death.

Hence in view of the above analysis, it can be construed that even though the country made pistol recovered from the appellant constitutes a firearm, it cannot be considered as a deadly weapon.

In the present matter, at the material time, the pistol could not be used to inflict any fatal injury, if used in the manner in which it was meant to be used — that is, for the purpose of firing a bullet — on account of it being in disrepair.

Thus the impugned judgment convicting the appellant under Section 398 of the IPC was set aside and his sentence was also reduced.[Sonu v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1213, decided on 15-09-2020]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Islamabad High Court: The Bench of Athar Minallah, C.J., Aamer Farooq and Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, JJ., while observing that the right to a fair trial is the foundation of the rule of law and criminal justice system and its essence is to assure to every party that he or she, would be treated fairly and justly by an impartial and independent judicial forum; held that another opportunity should be extended to the Government of India to consider taking appropriate measures to ensure effective compliance with the judgment of the International Court of Justice wherein it had ordered Government of Pakistan to review and reconsider Kulbhushan Jadhav’s conviction and sentence and provide him with consular access. The Court also extended its assurance to Jadhav that his rights, especially that of fair trial is a vital factor while reviewing his sentence.       

Following the decision of the ICJ, the Govt. of Pakistan had promulgated the International Court of Justice (Review and Reconsideration) Ordinance, 2020 to meet its obligations regarding giving effect to the judgment. As per Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan’s Report, Jadhav had reiterated his earlier stance and has preferred to pursue the remedy of clemency instead of invoking his right under the Ordinance of 2020. Attorney General further reported that the Government of India has been duly informed regarding the proceedings of this Court held on 03-08-2020 in pursuance of which concerned officials gave a detailed briefing to Jadhav regarding his right to avail the statutory remedy provided under the Ordinance of 2020. It was noted that the Govt. of India’s response is awaited.

Perusing the existing the scenario, the Bench observed that, “We are of the opinion that these proceedings and judicial review, on the basis of the judgment of the International Court, may not be meaningful and effective if Commander Jadhav and the Government of India decide not to exercise the course of action highlighted in the judgment of the International Court”. Concluding the Order and fixing the next proceeding on 06-10-2020, the Bench issued following directions to ensure effective review and reconsideration so as to give effect to the judgment of the International Court-

  • Attorney General shall ensure that copy of this order is provided to Jadhav
  • of Pakistan shall once again convey the orders passed in this petition to the Govt. of India to enable the latter to consider taking appropriate measures in order to ensure compliance with the judgment of the ICJ.
  • The Registrar of the Court to send to the learned amici curiae copies of the petition and documents placed on the record, so that they can assist this Court on the status of compliance with the judgment of the ICJ in the event that Jadhav or the Govt. of India decide against availing the remedy provided under the Ordinance of 2020

[Secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice v. Federation of Pakistan, Misc. Petition No. 01 of 2020, decided on 03-09-2020]


Sucheta Sarkar, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Anubha Rawat Choudhary J., upheld the findings of the impugned judgment and modified the sentence to meet the ends of justice.

The facts of the case are that the complainant was a sole owner of a piece of land acquired by the complainant from its erstwhile owner namely, Sokra Gope by virtue of a registered deed of sale dated 29-03-1972 becoming the absolute owner of the land. It was further alleged that the petitioner started dumping iron ore, boulders, etc. on a portion of the said piece of land and had diminished the value of cultivable land and caused a loss of more than Rs 10,000. It was also alleged that the complainant was deprived from using the agricultural land for cultivation.  A complaint under Section 427 and 447 IPC was made and Court of Judicial Magistrate Ist class convicted the petitioner and Sessions Judge affirmed the said judgment dated 18.07.2013. Hence instant revision petition has been filed challenging the judgment dated 18.07.2013.

Counsel for the petitioner, Gouri Debi submitted that the court of the impugned judgment has failed to properly consider the sale-deed. It was further contended that the present case is a civil dispute and not a criminal dispute as it relates to the title of land.

Counsel for the respondents, Ravi Prakash submitted that the learned courts have duly considered both the sale-deeds of the complainant as well as the defense. It was also submitted that there is no scope of re-appreciation of the evidence and hence there is no illegality or perversity in the impugned judgments.

The Court observed

“The act i.e. dumping of iron ore over the complainant’s land certainly intimidate him and would cause annoyance so the basic ingredients of the criminal trespass is present in this facts and circumstances of the case so accused is also liable to be convicted for the offence committed under Section 447 IPC.”

After hearing the arguments and witnesses being cross-examined thoroughly, Court held that both the sale-deeds were in connection with the same property. It was further held that the basic ingredients of Sections 427 and 447 were satisfied and the petitioner’s actions caused wrongful loss to the complainant and the land became infertile and was not useful for cultivation. It was further held that as the basic ingredients of offence were present in the case, hence merely because there is a dispute in connection with land, it will not be a civil dispute.

In view of the above, the petition was disposed off and sentence modified.[Md. Kausar Ali v. State of Jharkhand, 2020 SCC OnLine Jhar 742, decided on 20-08-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: A Full Bench of Priyantha Jayawardena, L.T.B. Dehideniya and S. Thurairaja, JJ., dismissed an appeal.

The Second Suspect – Appellant (Appellant) was originally charged under Section 368 (a) of the Penal Code by the Magistrate of Embilipitiya on the 1st of December 2012, for theft of five cows and a buffalo where he had pleaded guilty and the Magistrate had sentenced him to 6 months rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 1500, in default one-month simple imprisonment, aggrieved by which he had filed an appeal in the High Court and submitted that the sentence was excessive and, that he should be given a non – custodial sentence. The High Court had dismissed the appeal giving reasons. Thus, the instant appeal. The facts were not disputed and the appellant had pleaded guilty the appeal was regarding the bargaining of the sentence.

The Court while dismissing the appeal stated that after the perusal of the judgment of the magistrate and the records it was found that according to the fingerprint record the Appellant had a previous conviction and the High Court had found him guilty under Section 140 and Section 300 of the Penal Code and had sentenced him for 6 months and 2 years respectively and the same was suspended for a period of 10 years and it would be violation of law if the appellant expects magistrate to impose another suspended sentence when he was already serving a suspended sentence pending against him. Consequently, the Court directed the implementation of the sentence. [Mohamed Irupan Impar v. Officer-in-Charge , 2020 SCC OnLine SL SC 1 , decided on 29-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: A Division Bench of Mir Alfaz Ali and Nani Tagia, JJ., allowed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for the offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC.

The appellant was alleged to have murdered his son after a quarrel took place between the two. Apparently, there was no direct evidence against the appellant and his conviction was based on circumstantial evidence. The trial court held that the deceased was found dead in the house of the appellant and the appellant did not offer any explanation as to how the death of the deceased was caused. Thus, basically relying on the said circumstance, the conviction of the appellant was recorded putting a reverse burden on the appellant under Section 106 (burden of proving fact especially within knowledge) of the Evidence Act. Aggrieved by the order of the trial court, the appellant filed the instant appeal.

While perusing the record, the High Court noted that evidently, the body of the deceased was found in the rented house of the tenant of the appellant. Also, when the dead body was recovered and people came to the place of occurrence, the appellant was found in his own house in an inebriated condition. When the police came, then only, he came out on being called by the police. The trial court observed that the appellant was found inside the house where the occurrence took place, but, there was no evidence on record to support such observation, and as such, this finding of the trial court appear to be perverse.

Regarding the law on Section 106, the High Court observed:

“In a criminal trial burden is always on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt and Section 106 of the Evidence Act is not intended to relieve the prosecution of its burden. Only when prosecution proves certain fact from which reasonable inference can be drawn regarding certain other facts, which unless explained by the accused by virtue of his special knowledge, tend to inculpate the accused, in such circumstance the accused owe an explanation, otherwise section 106 of the Evidence Act does not put any burden on the accused to prove his innocence.”

Referring to the facts of the instant case, the Court held:

“In the present case evidently prosecution has not been able to prove any fact, from which an adverse inference could be drawn to attribute culpability to the appellant, in absence of any explanation. As already indicated above, the findings of the learned trial court, that the deceased was found with the appellant in his house was perverse. Once, these findings are discarded, there are no other materials on record to attribute any special knowledge to the appellant in respect of the death of the deceased.”

Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and the conviction and sentence awarded to the appellant was set aside. [Tunu Urang v. State of Assam, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 5528, decided on 19-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Joymalya Bagchi and Suvra Ghosh, JJ. upheld the conviction of the appellants for the commission of the offence punishable under Section 21(c) read with Section 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

The prosecution case is based on the recovery at two places. Firstly, 3.5 kgs of heroin was recovered from the first appellant and 50 kgs of heroin was recovered from the rented house in the possession of the second appellant. The first appellant was sentenced to death and the second appellant was sentenced with rigorous imprisonment for 30 years and to pay a fine of Rs 3 lakhs in default to suffer rigorous imprisonment for one year or more. Aggrieved by these orders, first appellant filed the instant death reference which was clubbed with the appeal filed by the second appellant against his conviction.

Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee, representing the appellants, prayed for the acquittal of the appellants and argued that seizure of possession of 3.5 kgs of heroin is vitiated in law as it is not as per the terms of Section 50 of the Act. Also, the primary witness did not recognise the second appellant. Furthermore, the appellants denied making statements under Section 67 of the NDPS Act during their examination under Section 313 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The prosecution relied on the Supreme Court case of Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 684 and argued that death penalty ought to be awarded in the present case as the first appellant has been convicted of the possession of narcotic substance above commercial quantity on two occasions and in spite of commutation he has been convicted for the second time. It also argued that Section 50 of the Act doesn’t apply as the seizure was under the terms of Section 43 of the Act.

The Court upheld the contentions of the prosecution and held that the possession of the 3.5 kgs and 50 kgs of heroin by appellants had been proven beyond doubt. The Court followed the Bachan Singh case and made a balance sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances to see if it had any alternative other than imposing the death penalty on the first appellant.

The Court held that Section 31 A of the NDPS Act provided for the death penalty in certain cases and the imposition of it may or may not deter others from committing similar crimes in the future. It modified the sentence imposed on the first appellant with the alternative sentence of rigorous punishment for 30 years and to pay a fine of Rs 3 lakh rupees in default to suffer rigorous imprisonment for three years more. The sentence imposed on the second appellant was upheld. The death sentence was discharged and the sentence appeal was allowed with the aforesaid modification.[State of West Bengal v. Ansar Rahman, 2019 SCC OnLine Cal 5189, decided on 26-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Tirthankar Ghosh, J., reversed the order of the trial court (as confirmed by the first appellate court) whereby the petitioner was convicted and sentenced for committing an offence under Section 40(2) read with Section 51(1-A) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

The petitioner was accused of unlawfully possessing various wildlife material including tiger skin, elephant tusks, baby rhino born and tiger nails. All this material was seized during the search conducted by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence. The petitioner was charged under provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act. At the conclusion of the trial, he was convicted and sentenced as mentioned above. His appeal against the order of the trial court was also dismissed by the appellate court. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner filed the instant revision petition.

It may be noted, that during the investigation, the accused was summoned under Section 108 of the Customs Act, 1962, and his statement was recorded in response to enquiries which were made in presence of a senior intelligence officer.

While perusing the record and considering submissions made on behalf of the parties, the High Court noticed that the statement of the accused-petitioner recorded under Section 108 of the Customs Act was made the foundation of his conviction by the trial court. Relying on Noor Aga v. State of Punjab, (2008) 16 SCC 417 and State of Gujarat v. Anwar Osman Sumbhaniya, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 282, the High Court rejected the approach of the trial court and observed: “The statement under Section 108 of the Customs Act which has been made the foundation for conviction by the Ld. Courts below, firstly is a very weak piece of evidence, as no Court can rely upon a statement of the accused until and unless the same is corroborated by material particulars. Moreover, the said statement under Section 108 of the Customs Act were made before the DRI Authorities which can be used in a prosecution under the Customs Act and using the same as a foundation for an offence under the 1972 Act is against the settled principles of law. 

In such view of the matter, the High Court allowed the revision petition and acquitted him of the charges as aforementioned. [Quasim Ali v. Sajal Baran Das, 2019 SCC OnLine Cal 5130, decided on 23-12-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

The Special Judge CBI, Vyapam Cases, Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh) has sentenced the three accused, therefore the candidate Amit Gaur, the impersonator Nitish Kumar and the middleman Pankaj Kuma, all to undergo seven years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs 3000 each.

CBI had registered a case on 15.12.2015 and taken over the investigation of the case from the Madhya Pradesh Police on orders dated 09.07.2015 & 11.09.2015 of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. It was alleged that unfair means were used in the Madhya Pradesh Police Constable Recruitment Test-2012 (PCRT-2012) conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (VYAPAM) involving candidate Amit Gaur (resident of Morena, MP) who had arranged and used the impersonator Nitish Kumar@ Montu Kumar (resident of Bihar) through racketeers/middlemen namely Pankaj Kumar (resident of Bihar) & Nemi Chand (resident of Morena, MP), for passing the written examination of PCRT-2012. The impersonator Nitish Kumar@Montu Kumar was caught while appearing in the said examination at a school in Piplani, Bhopal on 30.09.2012 in place of the candidate Amit Gaur. The two middlemen who were involved in this crime were identified/traced during the investigation.

After investigation, a charge sheet was filed against the accused persons in June 2016 before the Designated Court.

The Trial Court found the three accused guilty and acquitted one person.


Central Bureau of Investigation

[Press Release dt. 17-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Anubha Rawat Choudhary, J. allowed the interim application of the appellant by granting bail on the basis that the co-accused in similar cases have already been granted bail. 

Firstly, the appellant, in this case, has been charged with Dacoity, punishable under Section 395 of the Penal Code. The appellant and the co-accused were convicted and sentenced by the Additional Sessions Judge, II, Palamau at Daltonnganj, in Sessions Trial Case No. 152 of 2018, arising out of Sadar (Satbarwa) Police Station Case No. 132 of 2017 corresponding to G.R. No. 2129 of 2017. 

The Sessions Court, on 10-04-2019 and 15-04-2019, ordered the accused and the co-accused to go under rigorous imprisonment for a period of seven years along with a fine of Rs 5000. In default of payment of fine, the appellant and the co-accused will be liable for another 6 months of simple imprisonment. 

Secondly, the appellant and the other co-accused have also been sentenced for rigorous imprisonment of 3 years along with a fine of Rs 3000, under Section 25(1-B) of the Arms Act, 1959, by the Sessions Court. In default of payment of fine, the appellant and the co-accused will be liable for simple imprisonment of 4 months. The court also clarified that all the sentences are to run concurrently.

The appellant prayed in the Interim Application No. 5115 of 2019 for suspension of sentence and a release on bail during the pendency of the case. The counsel for the applicant, Manoj Kumar, contends that the appellant has been awarded maximum punishment for 7 years and the appellant has already spent 2 years in jail in connection with the present case. The counsel for the appellant informed the Court that already an appeal regarding a similar case, of a co-accused has been put up in the Court and the Court has already granted bail to the co-accused, Nirantan Kumar Singh, order dated 25-09-2019. [Cr. Appeal (S.J.) No. 554 of 2019].

The counsel for the opposite party, Azeemuddin (APP), stated that the prayer for the bail should not be accepted because unlike the co-accused, the allegations against the appellant are direct. The Counsel requested the Court, in case the sentence is suspended, the appellant should be directed to deposit the fine along with the request that one of the bailors should be his father, pairvikar of the case.

The Court held that the appellant shall be granted the bail as he has already spent 2 years in jail, in connection to this case. Secondly, the appeals for bail of the co-accused have already been granted, hence, the appellant can also be granted bail on similar grounds. Hence, during the pendency of the appeal, the appellant was directed to be released on bail of Rs 25000 with two sureties of Rs 25000 each, one surety being the appellant’s father. The appellant was directed to submit a Xerox copy of his Aadhar Card and cell phone number, at the time of furnishing bail bonds. [Gulab Singh v. State of Jharkhand, Cr. Appeal(S.J.) No. 802 of 2019, decided on 05-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Sikkim High Court: Bhaskar Raj Pradhan, J., upheld the decision passed by the Sessions Judge while rejecting the present appeal filed.

In the present case, FIR was lodged by PW 1 complaining that her sister, i.e. the victim (PW 12) was burnt and bitten by the appellant. In lieu of the same case was registered under Section 307 of the Penal Code, 1860 against the appellant.

The  Sessions Judge framed the charge under Section 307 IPC and on the plea of “not guilty” the trial commenced.

At the time of the trial, Sessions Judge examined the appellant under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Sessions Judge delivered the impugned judgment holding the appellant guilty as charged.

Present appeal challenges the conviction and sentence.

C. Sharma, was the Counsel for the appellant and Thupden Youngda, learned Additional Public Prosecutor, represented the State-respondent.

Victim stated that appellant, who she was in a relationship with, had a fight with her and started damaging the furniture after which she called the police. Appellant picked up the kerosene jar, poured kerosene oil over her and burnt her after lighting a matchbox. Eyewitness tried to douse the fire by putting water and thereafter took the victim to the hospital.

Defence alleged that she had pressurised the appellant to marry him and so they had a discussion and in a fit of anger, poured kerosene upon herself, lighted a matchbox and set herself on fire.

Dr Simmi Rasaily (PW 13) who examined the victim found burn injuries and recorded in her report that there was kerosene smell on her body, which corroborates victim’s deposition.

Deposition of the victim was adequately corroborated by both oral and material evidence. Failure of PW 1 to give certain details about her visit to see the victim at the hospital does not dislodge the fact that she had lodged the FIR after visiting the victim. Further, the only issue raised by the Appellant’s Counsel that required examination is an alleged failure of the prosecution to produce the eyewitness.

“In a criminal trial, an accused person is considered innocent until proven guilty. It is for the prosecution to establish its case beyond all reasonable doubt.”

It was further noted that P. Dewan (DW 1) had recorded the statement of the eyewitness during the appellant’s departmental inquiry which must be given credence.

However, whether what P. Dewan heard and the eyewitness stated in her statement was the truth could have been found only if she had been produced as a witness and subjected to cross-examination. Evidence of P. Dewan is, therefore, hearsay to that extent. Therefore, there is no credible evidence led by the defence to create enough doubt in the mind of the Court to defeat the prosecution case.

High Court with respect to the above stated that the defence evidence does not make probable his innocence in view of the overwhelming evidence led by the prosecution.

Further adding to its observation, Court stated that the victim’s deposition cannot be doubted, her testimony has its own significance.

Therefore, in the present case prosecution has established its case that it was only the appellant who had poured kerosene over the victim and burnt her with the knowledge that if he by that act caused death, he would be guilty of murder and consequently, by such an act, the victim was hurt.

Appeal is rejected in the above terms and Sessions Judge’s judgment of conviction and order on sentence, both have been upheld. [Deepen Pradhan v. State of Sikkim, 2019 SCC OnLine Sikk 195, decided on 30-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Manmohan and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, JJ., held that the appeal filed by the complainant (father of the deceased victim) against the judgment of the trial court, challenging the inadequacy of sentence awarded to the convict, was not maintainable.

The convict was sentenced to life imprisonment for the commission of offences under Sections 302 and 364-A IPC. The complainant (father of the deceased victim), feeling aggrieved by the inadequacy of sentence, filed the instant appeal contending that the sentence awarded to the convict should be sentenced to the death penalty.

C.L. Gupta, Advocate made contentions on behalf of the complainant. Per contra, Amit Gupta, APP, appearing for the State, argued that the appeal was not maintainable.

The High Court reiterated that it is settled law that an appeal is a creature of a statue and cannot lie under any inherent power. It was noted that the proviso to Section 372 CrPC (no appeal to lie, unless otherwise provided) confers upon the victim, the right to prefer an appeal against the order of the Criminal Court in the following three instances: (a) Acquittal of the accused person; (b) Conviction of the accused person for a lesse offence; and (c) Imposition of inadequate compensation.

Relying on a catena of decisions, including that of the Supreme Court in National Commission for Women v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2010) 12 SCC 599, the High Court restated: “An appeal by the victim under Section 372 CrPC, is not maintainable if it only challenges the order on sentence on the ground that it imposes inadequate punishment.”

In view of such a mandate of law, the High Court held that the instant appeal was not maintainable, which was, therefore, dismissed. [Pravinder Kansal v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 11508, decided on 27-11-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: A Full Bench of Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, CJ and Priyantha Jayawardena, PC, and Murdu N.B. Fernando, PC, JJ., allowed appeals filed by two appellants out of eight accused.

The two Accused-Appellant-Petitioners (hereinafter called Appellants) were charged along with six others in the Magistrate’s Court of Jaffna. They were charged for “Joining an Unlawful Assembly armed with any deadly weapon”, an offence punishable under Section 141 of the Penal Code; “Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt by dangerous weapons or means” while being members of an unlawful assembly, an offence punishable under Section 317 read with Section 146 of the Penal Code; and “Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt by dangerous weapons or means” punishable under Section 317 read with Section 32 of the Penal Code.

The Magistrate convicted all eight accused for the first two counts, after trial. The two appellants being aggrieved with the conviction and the sentence appealed to the High Court of Jaffna.

The High Court Judge affirmed the conviction and sentence. Thus the instant appeal was filed.

The Counsels for the appellants M.A. Sumanthiran, PC, J. Arulanantham and D. Mascarange contended that he would mainly address the issue of dock identification as there was no proper dock identification relating to two appellants and there was no sufficient evidence to establish the identity of the two appellants. There was no dispute that neither the victim nor any other witness, in this case, knew the two appellants.

The Court while allowing the appeal opinioned that the evidence was unsatisfactory and the conviction and sentence of the two appellants was set aside accordingly acquitted. [Rathnasingham Janushan v. Officer In-charge, SC (Spl) Appeal No. 07 of 2018, decided on 04-10-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Malaysia Court of Appeal: A Full Bench of Kamardin Hashim, Hanipah Farikullah, Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah, JCA dismissed the appeal filed by a person who was convicted for drug trafficking and affirmed the conviction and sentence of the death penalty by High Court.

The appellant was a Thai national female who was found in the possession of drugs and she was trying to hide it by sitting on it. When cops did the body check of appellant then drugs were found. She was charged under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1952. The learned trial judge invoked the statutory presumption under Section 37(da)(ix) of the Act based on the weight of the drugs which was more than 40 grams of Cocaine, and sentenced her to death penalty. The said order was challenged in this appeal.

The appellant argued that drugs could have been left by the previous guest and also there are chances that police may fabricate evidence against her but there was no reason for police to do that. She also emphasized that her luggage was scanned at the airport and nothing incriminating was found. But the argument was made that there is a possibility she got possession of drugs after she left airport. 

The respondent argued that they got information about drugs so they checked the room acting on that information they checked the room and drugs were found in that room. Drugs found were sent for check which confirmed the presence of cocaine in those things which further affirms the allegation on the appellant. Moreover, there will be no reason to defame a person who had just arrived in a country. 

The Court opined that High Court had analysed all the witness and was satisfied there was no break in chain of evidence to the drugs produced and identified by prosecution witness in court. The High Court Judge had relied on the conduct of appellant in concealing the drugs by sitting on them, which established that she had knowledge about it.

Giving due regard to appreciation of evidence by the High Court and circumstances of this case, the Court held the appellant guilty for trafficking charges without any reasonable doubt. The court also remarked that it is illogical for the person to leave such valuable drugs in the room. It was opined that there was no merit in the appeal and also the arguments made by the appellant. [Napalai Narapattarawong v. Public Prosecutor, 2019 SCC OnLine MYCA 3, decided on 24-09-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

South Africa High Court, Kwazulu-Natal Division: The Division Bench of Lopes and Radebe, JJ. while allowing the appeal reduced the sentence for murder and conviction for robbery was converted into the theft.

In the present case, the appellant, Mthobisi Mtho Mgidi was convicted of one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances and one count of murder and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment on the count of robbery, and life imprisonment on the murder count by the Umlazi Regional Court.

The facts surrounding the conviction are as follows: One night, the appellant and his friend Sikhakhane were walking along the road in a drunken state. Along the road, they met the deceased and he was too in a drunken state. While Sikhakhane was ahead of Mgidi, he heard someone calling him and he looked back and saw Mgidi stabbing the deceased with a knife. Sikhakhane then went up to Mgidi and pushed him away from the deceased and saw him covered in blood, and carrying a belt and either shoes or takkies which Sikhakhane stated belonged to the deceased. Sikhakhane and Mgidi’s mother testified where it was found that Sikhakhane had no knowledge of the circumstances under which Mgidi obtained possession of the knife and that Mgidi’s mother also saw his blood-stained clothes and knife.

Mgidi testified that he could not recall what happened that day and he ran away from his home after knowing that the police is looking for him.

The Counsel for the appellant, N.B. Dlamini submitted that the State bore the onus of proving criminal capacity and had failed to discharge that onus. He referred to a Judgment of Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa, The Director of Public Prosecutions, Kwazulu-Natal v. Ramdass [2019] ZASCA 23 in which the accused was acquitted of both robbery and murder because it was found that the State had not proved that he had the necessary criminal capacity.

Counsel on behalf of the State, N. Dube submitted that Ramdass (accused in the abovementioned case) pertinently raised the defences, whereas in the present matter Mgidi pleaded not-guilty, because he could not recall having committed the offences and the memory of Mgidi was selective, because he remembered things which had taken place shortly before and after the incident. It was further submitted that in S v. Chretien 1981 (1) SA 1097 (A) at 1108C, it was mentioned that the fact that a person cannot remember what they did, does not mean that they were not criminally responsible.

The Court after analyzing the facts and circumstances of the case, observed that the evidence of the State witnesses clearly established that alcohol played a role in the unfolding events, it is clear that Mgidi was of sound enough mind to procure the knife with which he assaulted the deceased. The appellant remembered his interaction with his mother after arriving at home, and his actions in crying and then fleeing, indicate that he must have known what he did. In the circumstances of the present case, there is no evidence that the violence occasioned to Mr Khanyile by Mr Mgidi was instigated with the intention of depriving him of his property. In those circumstances, Mr Mgidi should have only been convicted of the murder of Mr Khanyile and the theft of a belt and a pair of takkies. The murder was neither planned nor premeditated.

The conviction for robbery was set aside, and replaced with a conviction on one count of theft and sentenced to undergo two years’ imprisonment on the conviction of theft. The appeal against conviction on the murder charge was dismissed and its sentence succeeded and a sentence of twelve years’ imprisonment was imposed. [Mthobisi Mtho Mgidi v. State, Case No. AR212 of 2017, decided on 31-05-2019]