Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where a man, after being acquitted in a kidnapping case, had applied for the post of Constable in Central Industrial Security Force, the bench of Indira Banerjee and JK Maheshwari, JJ has held that the employer cannot be compelled to give appointment to such a candidate when the acquittal has been made on the basis of benefit of doubt.

“If a person is acquitted giving him the benefit of doubt, from the charge of an offence involving moral turpitude or because the witnesses turned hostile, it would not automatically entitle him for the employment, that too in disciplined force. The employer is having a right to consider his candidature in terms of the circulars issued by the Screening Committee. The mere disclosure of the offences alleged and the result of the trial is not sufficient. In the said situation, the employer cannot be compelled to give appointment to the candidate.”

Brief facts

  • The respondent was found involved in an offence of kidnapping for demand of ransom.
  • The Sessions Court acquitted him for the said charge because the complainant, who was abducted, turned hostile in the Court.
  • The respondent applied for the post of Constable in CISF and got selected through the Staff Selection Commission.
  • An offer of appointment for provisional selection to the post of Constable/GD was issued and the respondent was required to furnish the documents including attestation forms, certificate of character, character and antecedent certificate from local Station House Officer.
  • The respondent, while submitting the attestation form, specified the registration of the criminal case and acquittal from the charges in a trial by the competent court.
  • He was, however, not allowed to join training.
  • The Standing Screening Committee passed an order that respondent was not eligible for appointment.
  • The Madhya Pradesh High Court directed that the respondent be allowed to commence training with effect from 21.10.2013 and that he would be entitled for all consequential benefits including seniority, notional fixation of salary etc. but back wages were denied.

Analysis

The Court took the opportunity to explain the term ‘honourable acquittal’ and said that

if the acquittal is directed by the court on consideration of facts and material evidence on record with the finding of false implication or the finding that the guilt had not been proved, accepting the explanation of accused as just, it be treated as honourable acquittal.

“… if prosecution could not prove the guilt for other reasons and not ‘honourably’ acquitted by the Court, it be treated other than ‘honourable’, and  proceedings may follow.”

Th Court explained that the standard of proof required for holding a person guilty by a criminal court and enquiry conducted by way of disciplinary proceeding is entirely different. In a criminal case, the onus of establishing guilt of the accused is on the prosecution, until proved beyond reasonable doubt.   In case, the prosecution failed to take steps to examine crucial witnesses or the witnesses turned hostile, such acquittal would fall within the purview of giving benefit of doubt and the accused cannot be treated as honourably acquitted by the criminal court. While, in a case of departmental proceedings, the guilt may be proved on the basis of preponderance and probabilities, Hence, acquittal giving benefit of doubt would not automatically lead to reinstatement of candidate unless the rules provide so.

Applying these principles to the case at hand, the Court held that the respondent who wishes to join the police force must be a person of utmost rectitude and have impeccable character and integrity. A person having a criminal antecedents would not be fit in this category.

“The employer is having right to consider the nature of acquittal or decide until he is completely exonerated because even a possibility of his taking to the life of crimes poses a threat to the discipline of the police force.”

[Union of India v. Methu Meda, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 880, decided on 06.10.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice JK Maheshwari

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi, J. while holding the reason assigned by the Director-General of Police (DGP) while rejecting the claim of the petitioner to review the order of his suspension bad in law, directed the DGP to reconsider the matter.

The petitioner had preferred this writ petition for quashing the order of the Director-General of Police, Government of Jharkhand, whereby, the revision application preferred against the order passed by the Inspector General of Police had been affirmed.

The petitioner, a Sub-Inspector was alleged to have shot his wife dead and was charged with offences under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959. Pursuant to which the petitioner was suspended from service and a show cause notice was issued. Meanwhile, the Trial Court convicted and sentenced the petitioner to undergo life imprisonment in the said case and accordingly, the inquiry report was submitted in the departmental proceeding.

The petitioner assailed the impugned order on the ground that in the departmental proceeding, inquiry report was submitted only on the ground that the petitioner had been convicted by the Trial Court and without adducing any evidence in the departmental proceeding, the inquiry report was submitted without giving him any opportunity, hence, the same was against the principle of natural justice. Moreover, the petitioner was acquitted by the High Court in an appeal against the judgment of the Trial Court.

On the contrary, the State argued that the departmental proceeding and criminal proceeding are two different subjects and parameters of both the proceedings are different. Merely on the ground that the petitioner had been acquitted in the criminal case by the High Court, the case of the petitioner could not be considered for reinstatement.

Noticeably, when the inquiry report was submitted in the departmental proceeding, the petitioner was being treated in Ranchi Institute of Neuro-Psychiatry & Allied Sciences (RINPAS), for mental illness (Schizophrenia), which was why reply to the show-cause had not been received. Considering the stand taken by the State that the Director General of Police had rejected the revision application of the petitioner after acquittal by the High Court, on the ground that the High Court had not directed for reinstatement of the petitioner in service while acquitting the petitioner, the Bench stated that,

“It is well known that the High Court while acquitting the petitioner has decided the criminal case only and the authority concerned has to consider the reinstatement of the petitioner in service while passing a reasoned order.”

From the inquiry report, it transpired that the petitioner was being treated in RINPAS and the inquiry report had been submitted only taking into consideration that the petitioner had been convicted by the Trial Court. Hence, the Bench held that the reason assigned by the Director General of Police while rejecting the claim of the petitioner did not sound good.

In the light of above, the impugned order was quashed and the matter was remitted to the Director General of Police to consider the case of the petitioner afresh and pass a reasoned order.  [Anil Kumar Singh v. State of Jharkhand, W.P. (S) No. 6342 of 2017, decided on 10-09-2020]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Appearance by:

For the Petitioner: Mr. Diwakar Upadhyay, Advocate

For the Respondent-State: Mr. Rahul Kamlesh, A.C. to SC.-VI

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A Division Bench of Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ. took the liberty of disagreeing with one of the most famous lines penned down by the Bard of Avon (William Shakespeare), to suggest that “Much indeed is in a name“. The Supreme Court reiterated the necessity of referring to guidelines regarding inadequacies and deficiencies in criminal trials. The Court also took note of the Draft Rules of Criminal Practice, 2021 which dictate the manner in which depositions must be translated. The Court observed that:

“The practice of translating any relevant document must not differ so significantly across forums and submissions by parties to cast severe aspersions on evidence, which may otherwise be not warranted. Idiosyncrasies of colloquial terms, used for naming an accused, could well be the difference between conviction and acquittal of an accused. “

The Court felt constrained to note few errors (typographical or otherwise) with regard to the FIR, witness statements and supplementary statements, presented at different stages in the instant case. These documents had variations either in translation or transcription, when supplied to the Court. The confusion created by multiple versions of statements and depositions in the projection of either side compelled the Court to reiterate the necessity of referring to the guidelines. The Court quoted relevant portion from its earlier order in To Issue Certain Guidelines Regarding Inadequacies & Deficiencies in Criminal Trials, In re, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 329, which reflected the precise concerns which the Court faced in appreciating the evidence presented:

“The Court noticed common deficiencies which occur in course of criminal trials. … These related, amongst others, to the manner in which documents (i.e. list of witnesses, list of exhibits, list of material objects) referred to are presented and exhibited in the judgment, and the lack of uniform practices in regard to preparation of injury reports, deposition of witnesses, translation of statements, numbering and nomenclature of witnesses, labeling of material objects, etc. These very often lead to asymmetries and hamper appreciation of evidence, which in turn has a tendency of prolonging proceedings, especially at the appellate stages.”  

Facts

The Court was deciding an appeal filed against the judgment of the Bombay High Court whereby the appellant’s conviction in a murder case was upheld. The crime was committed in January 2009, when a group of ten-twelve persons murdered one Balu by attacking him with dangerous weapons. The FIR was filed by one Arun who tried to save Balu but was himself injured in the assault. Notably, the appellant was not named in the FIR but was described by his build and appearance. He faced trial with other co-accused and was convicted for several offences under the Penal Code, 1860. The High Court upheld his conviction. Aggrieved, the appellant approached the Supreme Court.

Discussion and Observations

Main argument of the appellant was that he was not amongst the accused named in the FIR, and as the prosecution did not arrange for Test Identification Parade, his identity as an accused could not have been clearly established.

Considering the record, the Court found that while the FIR did not disclose name of the appellant as one of the accused, however, the eye-witnesses identified the appellant in supplementary statements. They named the appellant and ascribed specific role in the attack. The appellant was identified as Lalu who assaulted with a sword. He first injured Arun who tried to save Balu, and after that assaulted Balu with the sword.

Notably, the eye-witnesses referred the appellant ‘Lala’ as ‘Lalya’ at several places. On this, the Court opined that the colloquial variation was no so far removed so as to render the identification unreliable, particularly when no other person by such name was amongst the accused group. The Court, however, made a very interesting remark:

“Much indeed is in a name as in this case if we may take the liberty of disagreeing with one of the most famous lines penned down by the Bard of Avon, ‘What’s in a name’. “

The Court was of the view that though the FIR was silent on the name of the appellant, it could not throw out the prosecution case on such a basis as other reliable evidence was available in the case. It was observed:

“The FIR is certainly the starting point of the investigation, but it is well within the rights of the prosecution to produce witness statements as they progress further into the investigation and unearth the specific roles of accused persons. The FIR as is known, only sets the investigative machinery, into motion.”

The eye-witnesses ascribed the same specific role to the appellant and narrated the events in same chronology, without material discrepancies. In view of such positive identification by the eye-witnesses, the Court was of the view that Test Identification Parade was not necessary, as the identity of the appellant was known to the witnesses. The Court said that appellant’s conviction was not vitiate on this ground. Reliance was placed on Munshi Singh Gautam v. State of M.P., (2005) 9 SCC 631.

Conclusion and Decision

The Court concluded that identity of the appellant as one of the members of the attacking group and his specific role in the assault was established beyond doubt. There was cogent evidence that the appellant was part of the conspiracy in assault which led to death of Balu and injuries to Arun. As such, the conviction of the appellant could not be faulted.

In the result, the Court found no grounds to interfere with the judgment of the High Court, and consequently dismissed the appeal. [Lala v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 631, decided on 24-8-2021]


Tejaswi Pandit, Senior Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: P. Velmurugan, J., addressed a matter revolving around the offence under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.

A complaint was filed for an alleged offence under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. Judicial Magistrate found the respondent guilty of offence under Section 138 NI Act.

The appellate Judge while allowing the respondent’s appeal set aside the conviction and acquitted the respondent for the offence punishable under Section 138 NI Act, for which he was prosecuted before the trial court.

Appellant’s case was that the respondent had borrowed a sum of Rs 90,000 from the appellant and in order to discharge the debt issued a cheque which returned when presented to the bank with endorsement “drawers signatures differs”.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench noted that on statutory notice sent by appellant, respondent responded stating that he had denied the execution of the cheque.

Another significant fact was that the appellant did not prove that there was a transaction between the appellant and the respondent.

High Court remarked that,

When the cheque was returned for the reason that the signature differs, and the respondent/accused has taken a stand that the complainant is a stranger to the accused, it is for the appellant/complainant to establish the case and the appellant has not proved the same, and if once, execution of cheque is proved, the presumption under Sections 118 and 139 of the Negotiable Instruments Act can be drawn and the accused has to rebut the presumption that there is no legally enforceable debt and cheque has not been issued for legally enforceable debt.

 Hence, in the present matter, complainant could not establish the execution of the cheque and borrowal of money by the respondent.

Therefore, in Court’s opinion the appellate Court’s decision had no perversity and Bench found no compelled circumstances or reason to interfere with the Judgment of acquittal.

In view of the above-stated facts and circumstances, criminal appeal was dismissed. [S. Ashok Kumar v. S. Boopal,  2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2325, decided on 22-04-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Appellant : Mr. M. Marudhachalam

For Respondent: Mr. L.Mouli

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Division Bench of Ashwani Kumar and Arvind Srivatava, JJ., acquitted the death convicts in Senari Massacre incident that took place on 18-03-1999. The Bench stated,

“There remains no doubt that the time of occurrence was dark, the site of unfortunate massacre was beset with mayhem with villagers making desperate attempts to seek refuge in a place and position in which they would remain unseen by the miscreants lest they fell prey to their barbarism. In such a state of complete chaos, witnesses hiding in different corners of the village have claimed to identify one or more accused persons without any indication as to the source of light save the torches being carried by the miscreants.”

Senari Massacre

The undisputed facts of the case were that on 18-03-1999 at 7:30 PM hundreds of armed miscreants entered the village Senari. They searched out persons allegedly belonging to Ranveer Sena, took them to Thakurbadi at the outskirts of the village and murdered 34 of them. A large number of accused persons were charge-sheeted and out of them 38 persons faced the present trial. The Trial Court made a reference for confirmation of death sentence of main accused.

Contentions raised by the Appellants

Assailing the impugned judgment of conviction and order of sentence, counsel for the appellants, Mr. Surendra Prasad Singh submitted that there was no Test Identification Parade (TIP) to pinpoint the assailants during investigation. Further the witnesses had claimed to identify the miscreants in the flashing of torch lights carried by the miscreants and such dock identification could not be made basis of a conviction. Relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in Chhannu Lal Verma v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2019) 12 SSC 438, wherein it had been held that “death sentence should not be imposed unless there is not a single mitigating factor and that evidence has been led by the prosecution to prove that there is no chance of rehabilitation”; the counsel contended that the appellants belong to a depressed class and in view of the surrounding circumstances, it was not a fit case for imposition of death sentence.

Analysis and Observations by the Court

Whether failure to Conduct TIP would make subsequent identification of accused in the Court inadmissible?

True it is that identification of an accused in the court of law is substantive evidence whereas the evidence of identification in TIP though a primary evidence, it can be used only to corroborate the identification of the accused in the court of law. In Sheo Shankar Singh v. State of Jharkhand, (2011) 3 SCC 654, the Supreme Court observed that the CrPC does not oblige the investigating agency to necessarily hold a TIP.  In State of Maharashtra v. Sukhdeo Singh, (1992) 3 SCC 700, it had been held by the Supreme Court that the “…identification at a test identification parade in the case of total strangers, it is not safe to place implicit reliance on the evidence of witnesses who had just a fleeting glimpse of the person identified or who had no particular reason to remember the person concerned, if the identification is made for the first time in Court.” On a perusal of the ratio laid down by the Supreme Court, the Bench held that ordinarily an accused should not be convicted on the testimony of witnesses identifying for the first time in court without any corroboration. However, in appropriate cases, in exception to the general rule, if a witness has any particular reason to remember about the identity of an accused or the accused is known to a witness from before, the Court may rely on such identification without other corroboration.

Whether Conviction can be based on the testimony of Single Witness in Carnage cases?

So far as conviction of an accused on the testimony of a single witness was concerned, the Bench opined that the general principle of law is that conviction may be based on the testimony of single witness without any corroboration, if the evidence of the solitary witness is fully reliable, trustworthy and inspires confidence. However, with reference to carnage cases, in view of the peculiarity of the circumstances, as they generally involve large number of victims, witnesses and the accused persons, the Supreme Court had held in Binay Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar, (1997) 1 SSC 283, that, “When the size of the unlawful assembly is quite large (as in this case) and many persons would have witnessed the incident, it would be a prudent exercise to insist on at least two reliable witnesses to vouchsafe the identification of an accused as a participant in the rioting.”

Hence, the Bench held that there is no rule of law for universal application that conviction cannot be sustained on the evidence of solitary witness and that the corroboration, unless required by the statute, is a rule of prudence and not rule of law. However, the Bench added,

“Even though the quality of evidence is paramount, when the size of the assembly is quite large and many persons have witnessed the incident, it would be useful to adopt the test of consistency of more than one witness so as to remove any doubt about the identity of the accused persons as a member of the assembly in question.”

 Further, from the ratio laid down by the Supreme Court in the aforementioned cases, it would also be evident

Findings of the Court

Observing that, the appellants had not challenged the homicidal death of 34 persons and injuries sustained by five persons, the Bench said, it had rightly been submitted on behalf of the appellants that the FIR, though contained name of 16 persons, the appellants were not amongst them. Having analyzed the testimony of the witnesses in respect of each of the convicts and after considering the case of each convict separately, the Bench opined that the time of occurrence was dark, the site of unfortunate massacre was beset with mayhem with villagers making desperate attempts to seek refuge in a place and position in which they would remain unseen by the miscreants. In such a state of complete chaos, witnesses have claimed to identify one or more accused persons without any indication as to the source of light save the torches being carried by the miscreants. Moreover, the witnesses have claimed that the miscreants were more or less identically clad, some in police uniforms, some others in the local outfits. Also, almost all the P.Ws, who claimed identification, had done so at the time of occurrence from a distance i.e., they claimed to identify the miscreants from their respective hiding places. Other witnesses who claimed to identify inspire confidence, Their evidence on other counts have been found doubtful. Furthermore, the miscreants have been identified in the dock for the first time more than seven years and extended up to about 16 years after the occurrence. The circumstances in which the identifications were made, make such identification rather weak without any corroboration.

Another important factor was the manner in which the appellants were deprived of their statutory right to be heard, as provided under Section 313 of the CrPC. Section 313 (1)(b) casts a duty on the Court to give an opportunity to the accused to explain the incriminating material against him. In State of U.P. v. Md. Iqram, (2011) 8 SSC 80, the Supreme Court had held: “…The attention of the accused must specifically be brought to inculpatory pieces of evidence to give him an opportunity to offer an explanation if he chooses to do so. Therefore, the court is under a legal obligation to put the incriminating circumstances before the accused and solicit his response.” Hence, the Bench opined that,

“The accused persons have been subjected to seven standard and identical questions even though the witnesses against them were disparate; this sort of examination goes against the essence of Section 313. Thus, the material not put to the accused cannot be taken into consideration for convicting them.”

In the backdrop of above mentioned, after appreciating evidence adduced during trial, the Bench reached to the findings that there was a real and reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the appellants. Accordingly, the impugned judgment and order of sentence passed in Sessions Trial so far as the appellants in these appeals were concerned were set aside. The appellants Bachesh Kumar Singh, Budhan Yadav and Gopal Sa, Butai Yadav, Satendra Das, Lalan Pasi, Dwarik Paswan, Kariman Paswan, Gorai Paswan and Uma Paswan, Mungeshwar Yadav, Vinay Paswan and Arvind Paswan were directed to be released and the reference made by the Trial Court under Section 366 of the CrPC was rejected.

[State of Bihar v. Bachesh Kumar Singh, 2021 SCC OnLine Pat 1011, decided on 21-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

For the Appellants: APP Mayanand Jha, APP
For the Respondents: Amicus Curiae Surya Nilambari

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Setting aside the conviction of a man under Sections 7 and 13(2) read with 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah has reminded the Courts to take utmost care in scanning the evidence before recording conviction under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act.

“Once conviction is recorded under provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act, it casts a social stigma on the person in the society apart from serious consequences on the service rendered.  At the same time it is also to be noted that whether the view taken by the trial court is a possible view or not, there cannot be any definite proposition and each case has to be judged on its own merits, having regard to evidence on record.”

In the present case, the accused, working as Sanitary Inspector in Madurai Municipal Corporation, was charge-sheeted for the offence under Sections 7, 13(2) read with 13(1)(d) of the Act for an amount of Rs.500/¬ and a cell phone as illegal gratification from one Thiru. D. Gopal, who was working as Supervisor in a Voluntary Service Organisation called Neat And Clean Service Squad (NACSS), which was given sanitation work on contract basis in Madurai Corporation.

While the Trial Court acquitted the accused, the Madras High Court convicted him. It was argued by the accused that the well reasoned judgment of the trial court, which was rendered by appreciating oral and documentary evidence on record, was reversed by the High Court without recording valid and cogent reasons.

Having regard to material contradictions that were put forth before the Court, the Supreme Court noticed that acquittal is a “possible view”. Even assuming another view is possible, same is no ground to interfere with the judgment of acquittal and to convict the appellant for the offence alleged.

The trial court has disbelieved witnesses by recording several valid and cogent reasons, but the High Court, without appreciating evidence in proper perspective, has reversed the view taken by the trial court.  Further, the High Court also has not recorded any finding whether the view taken by the trial court is a “possible view” or not, having regard to the evidence on record.

“Though the High Court was of the view that PW-2, 3 and 5 can be believed, unless it is held that the view taken by the trial court disbelieving the witnesses is not a possible view, the High Court ought not have interfered with the acquittal recorded by the trial court.”

In view of the material contradictions, the prosecution has not proved the case beyond reasonable doubt to convict the appellant. It is equally well settled that mere recovery by itself cannot prove the charge of the prosecution against the accused.

“Mere recovery of tainted money, divorced from the circumstances under which such money and article is found is not sufficient to convict the accused when the substantive evidence in the case is not reliable.”

The Court was, hence, of the view that the demand for and acceptance of bribe amount and cell phone by the appellant, is not proved beyond reasonable doubt. Having regard to such evidence on record the acquittal recorded by the trial court is a “possible view” as such the judgment of the High Court is fit to be set aside.

[N. Vijayakumar v. State of Tamil Nadu, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 53, decided on 03.02.2021]


*Justice R. Subhash Reddy has penned this judgment

Appearances before the Court by

For accused: Senior Advocate S. Nagamuthu

For State: Advocate M. Yogesh Kanna

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Bechu Kurian Thomas, J., allowed the instant appeal against the impugned order of Additional Sessions Court, whereby the Sessions Court had held the appellant guilty for the offence under Sections 8(2) and 55(a) of the Abkari Act.

On 17-07-2001, the accused was found in possession of 700 ml of arrack for sale in a hotel name “Santhosh” ran by him. The contraband was seized and the crime was registered under Sections 8(2) and 55(a) of the Abkari Act against the accused. Thereafter, the Sessions Court convicted the accused and sentenced him with imprisonment for one year and a fine of Rs 1,00,000, in default of which rigorous imprisonment for three months was awarded.

Counsel for the appellant, T. Madhu submitted that the prosecution case suffered from a fatal flaw as no forwarding note had been produced in evidence. Also, there was unexplained delay in producing the contraband alleged to be seized from the accused which suggested a further flaw, thereby, entitling the accused for acquittal.

The respondent stoutly opposed abovementioned contentions and submitted that in the instant case, the contentions raised had no bearing.

The Court observed that though the date of arrest of the accused and the date of seizure of the contraband was 17-07-2001, the contraband was produced before the Court only on 23-07-2001 after the delay of six days. The prosecution had not explained the delay in production of the contraband before the Court nor had they explained as to who was in custody of the contraband during the said period. It had been deposed by the prosecution that there was no hurdle in producing the contraband before the court. Therefore, the abovementioned irregularities had created doubt on the veracity of prosecution case. The Court cited Gopalan v. State of Kerala, 2016 (3) KLT SN 24, wherein it was held that in the absence of the forwarding note, the prosecution had failed to establish the link connecting the accused with the contraband seized and the sample analysed. The absence of the forwarding note is undoubtedly fatal to the prosecution case. Since in the instant case, the prosecution had not produced the forwarding note, the prosecution had failed to prove the guilt of the accused and accordingly the accused was held entitled to be acquitted.

In the view of above, the Court set aside the impugned judgment. [Sivadasan Pillai v. State of Kerala, CRL.A.No.642 of 2007, decided on 21-12-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud*, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, JJ has summarised the principles relating to conduct of a Test Identification Parade (TIP) and has held that

“… the identification in the course of a TIP is intended to lend assurance to the identity of the accused. The finding of guilt cannot be based purely on the refusal of the accused to undergo an identification parade.”

The Court was hearing a case where two men were convicted for killing a final year LLB student of Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the India Penal Code and have been sentenced to imprisonment for life. The appellants had refused to undergo a TIP and it was contended that an adverse inference should be drawn against the appellants for refusing to submit themselves to a TIP.


Test Identification Parade: Principles summarised


  1. The purpose of conducting a TIP is that persons who claim to have seen the offender at the time of the occurrence identify them from amongst the other individuals without tutoring or aid from any source. An identification parade, in other words, tests the memory of the witnesses, in order for the prosecution to determine whether any or all of them can be cited as eyewitness to the crime;
  2. There is no specific provision either in the CrPC or the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 which lends statutory authority to an identification parade. Identification parades belong to the stage of the investigation of crime and there is no provision which compels the investigating agency to hold or confers a right on the accused to claim a TIP;
  3. Identification parades are governed in that context by the provision of Section 162 of the CrPC;
  4. A TIP should ordinarily be conducted soon after the arrest of the accused, so as to preclude a possibility of the accused being shown to the witnesses before it is held;
  5. The identification of the accused in court constitutes substantive evidence;
  6. Facts which establish the identity of the accused person are treated to be relevant under Section 9 of the Evidence Act;
  7. A TIP may lend corroboration to the identification of the witness in court, if so required;
  8. As a rule of prudence, the court would, generally speaking, look for corroboration of the witness’ identification of the accused in court, in the form of earlier identification proceedings. The rule of prudence is subject to the exception when the court considers it safe to rely upon the evidence of a particular witness without such, or other corroboration;
  9. Since a TIP does not constitute substantive evidence, the failure to hold it does not ipso facto make the evidence of identification inadmissible;
  10. The weight that is attached to such identification is a matter to be determined by the court in the circumstances of that particular case;
  11. Identification of the accused in a TIP or in court is not essential in every case where guilt is established on the basis of circumstances which lend assurance to the nature and the quality of the evidence; and
  12. The court of fact may, in the context and circumstances of each case, determine whether an adverse inference should be drawn against the accused for refusing to participate in a TIP. However, the court would look for corroborating material of a substantial nature before it enters a finding in regard to the guilt of the accused.

Examination of ballistics expert – When not necessary


The failure of the prosecution in a given case, to examine a ballistics expert has to be assessed bearing in mind the overall context of the nature of the evidence which is available. When direct evidence of an unimpeachable character is available and the nature of injuries is consistent with the direct evidence, the examination of a ballistics expert need not be insisted upon as a condition to the prosecution proving its case. On the other hand, where direct evidence is not available or there is doubt in regard to the nature of that evidence, the failure to examine the ballistic examiner would assume significance.


Discussion and ruling on facts


Scrutinising the evidence in the present case, the Court noticed the following aspects:

  • PW4, deceased’s father, in the course of his cross examination stated that the deceased had been facing trial in 2-3 cases and that he was a surety for his son. He claimed to be ignorant of the fact that the deceased was a coaccused with one of the appellants Rajesh, under Sections 454 and 380 of the, inspite of being the deceased’s surety in the same.
  • Similarly, PW5, deceased’s brother, during the course of his cross-examination, professed that he did not know whether the deceased was the co-accused with Rajesh. But he later deposed that, that he and his father PW4 used to go to court when Sandeep and Rajesh were being produced on various dates of hearing.

The Court, hence, noticed that the contention of the appellants that the refusal to undergo a TIP is borne out by the fact that Sandeep and Rajesh were known to each other prior to the occurrence and that PW4, who is a prime eye-witness, had seen Rajesh when he would attend the court during the course of the hearings, cannot be brushed aside.

Consequently, in a case, such as the present, the Court would be circumspect about drawing an adverse inference from the facts, as they have emerged. In any event, the identification in the course of a TIP is intended to lend assurance to the identity of the accused. The finding of guilt cannot be based purely on the refusal of the accused to undergo an identification parade. Hence,

“… in this backdrop, a refusal to undergo a TIP assumes secondary importance, if at all, and cannot survive independently in the absence of it being a substantive piece of evidence.”

Further noticing that the prosecution has failed to establish its case beyond reasonable doubt, the Court acquitted the appellants, giving them the benefit of doubt. The appellants have already undergone over 12 years of imprisonment. The Court, hence, directed that they shall be released and their bail bonds be cancelled unless they are wanted in connection with any other case.

[Rajesh v. State of Haryana,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 900, decided on 03.11.2020]


*Justice DY Chandrachud has penned the judgment 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee, JJ has held that the conclusion of the criminal trial does not conclude the disciplinary enquiry.

Background of the case


A police constable, who was tried and acquitted in a murder case, had challenged his dismissal from service after a disciplinary enquiry. The Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court granted the respondent reinstatement in service with no back wages for the seventeen years that elapsed since his termination. The State had, hence, challenged the reinstatement before the Supreme Court.

  • On 13 August 2002, the respondent proceeded on leave and had to report back on duty on 16 August 2002. He failed to do so and eventually reported for work on 19 August 2020.
  • On 15 August 2002, one Daulat Singh lodged a written complaint in relation to the death of his brother Bhanwar Singh, caused by an accident with an unknown vehicle. However, it appeared during the course of the investigation that the death was homicidal. The respondent, along with 2 co-accused was arrested on 9 September 2002.
  • The respondent was tried for the offence of murder and was acquitted by the Sessions Court on 8 October 2003.
  • Departmental proceedings were also initiated against the respondent wherein the charges that were leveled against the respondent were:
    • Over-staying leave by a period of three days beyond the leave that was sanctioned;
    • Not seeking an extension of leave from the superior officer;
    • Involvement in the murder of Bhanwar Singh (the respondent was alleged to have run away from the scene of offence and tried to give it the colour of an accident);
    • Getting additional leave sanctioned by suppressing the correct reason on a misrepresentation to the superior officer; and
    • Conduct which has hurt the image of the police department.
  • In the finding of the Disciplinary enquiry it was noticed that the Court had not completely acquitted the said constable rather acquitted by giving him the benefit of doubt.

“From this it is clear that the Hon’ble Court has not acquitted charged constable in free form. Thus, I found said charge as completely proved due to which the image of police has blurred.”

What the Supreme Court said


On effect of acquittal in criminal trial on disciplinary proceedings

Though the acquittal brought finality to the question as to whether he had committed the offence of murder punishable under the Penal Code, however, the disciplinary enquiry stood on a broader footing. The disciplinary proceedings related not merely to the involvement of the respondent in the murder, but to the violation of service rules and the impact of his conduct on the image of the police force. Hence, the verdict of the criminal trial did not conclude the disciplinary enquiry.

Noticing that the disciplinary enquiry was not governed by proof beyond reasonable doubt or by the rules of evidence which governed the criminal trial, the Court said,

“True, even on the more relaxed standard which governs a disciplinary enquiry, evidence of the involvement of the respondent in a conspiracy involving the death of Bhanwar Singh would be difficult to prove. But there are circumstances emerging from the record of the disciplinary proceedings which bring legitimacy to the contention of the State that to reinstate such an employee back in service will erode the credibility of and public confidence in the image of the police force.”

On proof of misconduct in disciplinary proceedings

The standard of standard of proof in disciplinary proceedings is different from that in a criminal trial

In Suresh Pathrella v. Oriental Bank of Commerce, (2006) 10 SCC 572, a two judge Bench differentiated between the standard of proof in disciplinary proceedings and criminal trials in the following terms:

“ …the yardstick and standard of proof in a criminal case is different from the disciplinary proceeding. While the standard of proof in a criminal case is a proof beyond all reasonable doubt, the proof in a departmental proceeding is preponderance of probabilities.”

Further, the involvement of a member of the police service in a heinous crime, if established, has a direct bearing on the confidence of society in the police and in this case, on his ability to serve as a member of the force. Such an individual is engaged by the State as a part of the machinery designed to preserve law and order. The State can legitimately assert that it is entitled to proceed against an employee in the position of the respondent in the exercise of its disciplinary jurisdiction, for a breach of the standard of conduct which is expected of a member of the state police service.

“Confidence of the State in the conduct and behaviour of persons it has appointed to the police is integral to its duty to maintain law and order.”

On judicial review over disciplinary matters

In exercising judicial review in disciplinary matters, there are two ends of the spectrum. The first embodies a rule of restraint. The second defines when interference is permissible.

Rule of restraint:

“The determination of whether a misconduct has been committed lies primarily within the domain of the disciplinary authority. The judge does not assume the mantle of the disciplinary authority. Nor does the judge wear the hat of an employer.”

Deference to a finding of fact by the disciplinary authority is a recognition of the idea that it is the employer who is responsible for the efficient conduct of their service. Disciplinary enquiries have to abide by the rules of natural justice. But they are not governed by strict rules of evidence which apply to judicial proceedings. The standard of proof is hence not the strict standard which governs a criminal trial, of proof beyond reasonable doubt, but a civil standard governed by a preponderance of probabilities. Within the rule of preponderance, there are varying approaches based on context and subject. The first end of the spectrum is founded on deference and autonomy – deference to the position of the disciplinary authority as a fact finding authority and autonomy of the employer in maintaining discipline and efficiency of the service.

Interference when permissible

“The ultimate guide is the exercise of robust common sense without which the judges’ craft is in vain.”

At the other end of the spectrum is the principle that the court has the jurisdiction to interfere when the findings in the enquiry are based on no evidence or when they suffer from perversity. A failure to consider vital evidence is an incident of what the law regards as a perverse determination of fact. Proportionality is an entrenched feature of our jurisprudence. Service jurisprudence has recognized it for long years in allowing for the authority of the court to interfere when the finding or the penalty are disproportionate to the weight of the evidence or misconduct.

Judicial craft lies in maintaining a steady sail between the banks of these two shores which have been termed as the two ends of the spectrum. Judges do not rest with a mere recitation of the hands-off mantra when they exercise judicial review. To determine whether the finding in a disciplinary enquiry is based on some evidence an initial or threshold level of scrutiny is undertaken. That is to satisfy the conscience of the court that there is some evidence to support the charge of misconduct and to guard against perversity. But this does not allow the court to re-appreciate evidentiary findings in a disciplinary enquiry or to substitute a view which appears to the judge to be more appropriate. To do so would offend the first principle i.e. the rule of restraint.

[State of Rajasthan v. Heem Singh, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 886, decided on 29.10.2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Giving benefit of doubt to the accused convicted under Section 302 IPC r/w Section 34 IPC, the 3-judge bench of SK Kaul, Anirudhha Bose and Krishna Muraji, JJ reiterated that Court can and may act on the testimony of single eye-witness provided he is wholly reliable.

“… the prosecution has miserably failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond doubt the appellants therefore must be given benefit of doubt.”

The Court was heading the matter where the appellants were convicted for killing the deceased by giving him hockey and knife blows. The Trial Court came to the conclusion that the prosecution had brought home the guilt of the accused persons and accordingly sentenced them to Life Imprisonment.

Before the Supreme Court, it was argued by the defence that

  • The knife which was recovered had a blunt tip, as such, the injuries as mentioned in the post mortem report were not possible to be caused by the said knife. Even, this knife was not shown to the doctor to seek his opinion whether injuries were possible by the said blunt knife or not.
  • Recovery of hockey at the instance of the appellant was not even believed by the Trial Court.
  • the conviction and sentence of the appellants based upon the sole testimony of one eye witness, whose conduct was unnatural and inconsistent with the ordinary course of human nature making his presence at the site of incident extremely doubtful, is highly unsafe without corroboration from other piece of evidence.
  • The other two eye witnesses have turned hostile and nothing could be elicited from their cross-examination by the prosecution.

Prosecution argued

  • Two Courts have recorded concurrent finding of guilt of the accused appellants based on the testimony of an eye witness which they found to be reliable and there exists no legal impediment for conviction on the basis of the same.
  • Evidence of a hostile witness is not to be discarded as a whole and relevant parts thereof which are admissible in law can be relied upon by the prosecution.
  • The conviction cannot be assailed merely because of some lacuna in investigation and any failure or omission of the investigating officer cannot render the prosecution case doubtful or unworthy of belief, in a case where the prosecution case is fully established by direct testimony of eye witness duly corroborated by medical evidence.

Considering the submissions and material on record, the Court noticed,

“There is no legal impediment in convicting a person on the sole testimony of a single witness. That is the logic of Section 134 of the Evidence Act, 1872. But if there are doubts about the testimony, Courts will insist on corroboration. It is not the number, the quantity but quality that is material. The time honoured principle is that evidence has to be weighed and not counted. On this principle stands the edifice of 8 Section 134 of the Evidence Act. The test is whether the evidence has a ring of truth, is cogent, credible and trustworthy or otherwise.”

The Court said that in the facts and circumstances of the case this was serious lapse on the part of the investigating officer. Though normally minor lapses on the part of the investigating officer should not come in the way of accepting eye witness account, if otherwise reliable. But in the circumstances of the case at hands where the conduct of sole eye witness is unnatural and there are various other surrounding circumstances which make his presence at the site of incident doubtful, such a lapse on the part of the investigating officer assumed significance and is not liable to ignored.

It was, hence, held,

“… ordinarily this Court could be reluctant to disturb the concurrent view but since there are inherent improbabilities in the prosecution story and the conduct of eye witness is inconsistent with ordinary course of human nature we do not think it would be safe to convict the appellants upon the incorroborated testimony of the sole eye witness.”

[Amar Singh v. State (NCT of Delhi),  2020 SCC OnLine SC 826, decided on 12.10.2020]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: A Bench of Buwaneka Aluwihare, LTB Dehideniya and P Padman Surasena, JJ., dismissed an appeal filed aggrieved by the decision of the Provincial High Court of Western Province holden at Panadura which had set aside the judgment of the learned Magistrate and ordered a retrial to be conducted against the Appellant. Thus, the instant appeal was filed.

The Accused-Appellant was charged in the Magistrate’s Court under Section 314, Section 314 read with 102, Section 333, Section 343, Section 380 read with Section 102 and Section 409 read with Section 102 of the Penal Code. Magistrate at the conclusion of the trial acquitted the Appellant from all of the above charges. Being aggrieved the Respondent had appealed to the Provincial High Court which had set aside the judgment of the Magistrate and ordered a retrial to be conducted against the Appellant.

The Court while dismissing the appeal affirmed the judgment of the High Court stating that after considering the facts and having perused all the evidence it was clear that the Magistrate had not taken into consideration the evidence adduced by the defence before he came to the conclusion that the prosecution has not proved its case. Moreover, it also appeared that the Magistrate had failed to assess, evaluate and appreciate the evidence adduced in the trial as a whole. They based their conclusion on the following quotation from the Indian case of State of U.P. v. M.K. Anthony, (1985) 1 SCC 505 where the Supreme Court of India had held that

“while appreciating the evidence of a witness, the approach must be whether the evidence of the witness read as a whole appears to have a ring of truth. Once that impression is formed, it is undoubtedly necessary for the court to scrutinize the evidence more particularly keeping in view of the deficiencies, drawbacks and infirmities pointed out in the evidence as a whole and evaluate them to find out whether it is against the general tenor of the evidence given by the witness and whether the earlier evaluation of the evidence is shaken as to render it unworthy of belief. Minor discrepancies of trivial matters not touching the core of the case, hyper-technical approach by taking sentences torn out of context here or there from the evidence, attaching importance to some technical error committed by the investigating officer not going to the root of the matter would not ordinarily permit rejection of the evidence as a whole.”

[Dehigaspe Patabandige Nishantha Nanayakkara v. Kyoko Kyuma, SC Appeal No. 123 of 2012, decided on 07-08-2020]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Sanjay K. Agrawal, J. refused the application for grant of leave to appeal against acquittal and dismissed the petition in limine.

The factual matrix of the case is that the respondents on 4-5-2013 at 7.15 p.m. entered into the prohibited area without permission and violated the promulgated order of the Government and thereby committed the offence under Section 188 IPC.

The counsel Vikram Sharma appearing for the petitioner submitted that the Judicial Magistrate First Class was absolutely unjustified in acquitting the respondents of the offence under Section 188 IPC on the ground that despite sufficient opportunity, no witnesses were examined to support the case of the prosecution as no reasonable opportunity was granted to adduce evidence.

The Court relied on the judgment titled C. Muniappan v. State of T.N., (2010) 9 SCC 567 and Babita Lila v. Union of India, (2016) 9 SCC 647 held that the offence under Section 188 IPC can be taken cognizance of by the Magistrate under Section 190 CrPC except in accordance with Section 195(1)(a)(i) CrPC and unless complaint in writing is filed by the public officer concerned, on the basis of police report, offence under Section 188 IPC cannot be taken cognizance of by the jurisdictional Magistrate. He further held that this principle has to be given a strict interpretation and not a liberal one and hence trial of the respondents for the offence under Section 188 IPC on the basis of police report and charge-sheet filed subsequent thereto by the State police was absolute without jurisdiction and without authority of law.

In view of the above, application for grant of leave to appeal against acquittal stands refused and the petition dismissed.[State of Chhattisgarh v. Rikki Sahu, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 110, decided on 14-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Sikkim High Court: A Division Bench of Bhaskar Raj Pradhan and Arup Kumar Goswami, JJ. while upholding the Judgment of acquittal passed by Special Judge (POCSO), held that,

A delicate balance is required to be maintained between the judicial perception of the anguish of the victim and the presumption of innocence of the accused and an inequitable tilt either way may not render sound justice.

Sole testimony of minor prosecutrix was that she was sexually assaulted by respondent that was disbelieved by Special Judge (POCSO).

Assistant Public Prosecutor submitted that the sole testimony as stated above had not been demolished during the cross-examination and as such the Special Judge erred in discarding it.

Complainant (PW-1) with whom the minor prosecutrix was staying for the last 4 months had filed the FIR against the respondent. In the FIR it was stated that when complainant enquired from the minor prosecutrix, she was informed that respondent had been assaulting and raping her for a very long time.

Gynaecologist opined that clinical and cytopathological report was not suggestive of recent forceful sexual intercourse. She admitted that hymen can tear and rupture from so many other things besides sexual intercourse.

Minor Prosecutrix further stated that although PW-1 and her husband slept together in the same house but nobody noticed the respondent sexually assaulting her and whenever she tried to raise an alarm he used to put his hand on her mouth.

Daughter of the respondent told minor witness (PW-3) that the minor prosecutrix was a girl of immoral character. The minor prosecutrix deposed that she was deeply hurt and mentally affected after hearing this and started crying when the complainant (PW-1) saw her. At this moment, the minor prosecutrix told the complainant (PW-1) about the sexual assault.

Decision of the Court

Bench — keeping in mind the ambit and scope of the judicial examination in the present appeal against acquittal, stated that judgment of acquittal passed by the Special Judge is neither perverse nor against the weight of the evidence on record.

Special Judge had disbelieved the deposition of penetrative sexual assault made by the minor prosecutrix. Disbelief was fortified by the medical as well as forensic evidence.

Reasoning for the above decision

Defence had brought out the animosity between the complainant (PW-1) and the sole prosecutrix on the one side and the respondent and his daughter on the other. The negative result of both the medical and forensic evidence collected immediately after the alleged assault does not help the prosecution case further, more so, when she alleged forceful penetrative sexual assault.

Defence has also been able to bring out certain facts about the altercations and fight between them immediately preceding the lodging of the FIR.

All of the above leans towards the claim of innocence of the respondent.

Thus, in the above view, judgment of acquittal is upheld. [State of Sikkim v. Karna Bahadur Rai, 2020 SCC OnLine Sikk 33, decided on 14-03-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., while upholding the decision of the trial court with regard to the acquittal of the accused, held that,

“There is an acquittal and therefore, there is double presumption in favour of accused.”

The present appeal was filed impugning an order and Judgment by Vth Adhoc Sessions Judge, Pune, acquitting 6 accused of offences punishable under Sections 498A, 306, 201 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Accused were charged with offences punishable under Sections 498A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 302 (punishment for murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender ) read with Section 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of IPC.

Jayshree (Deceased) on visiting her parental home on several occasions had informed of the ill-treatment and harassment she was being received from her matrimonial home on account of demand of money for buying a Motorcycle.

On hearing the same, Complainant (Jayshree’s father) made the in-laws of Jayshree realise that they should not ill-treat or harass Jayshree.  After a few days, on one morning Complainant received the message of Jayshree being dead.

Thereafter, Complainant alleged the accused of having ill-treated Jayshree on account of demand of money for the purchase of Motor Cycle and made her life miserable and thereafter murdered her. Base on the same, offence was lodged under Sections 498A, 302, 201 and 34 of Penal Code.

Trial Court altered the charge from Section 302 to 306 IPC on receiving an application for the same as the medical report stated that the cause of death was by hanging, i.e., suicide not murder.

After hearing the parties and on receiving the evidence pertaining to the case, Court passed the order of acquittal, which is impugned in the present appeal.

APP submitted that the accused were harassing and ill-treating the deceased by unlawfully demanding Hero Honda Motor Cycle. Jayshree on not being able to bear with the harassment on the part of the accused, therefore, abetted the commission of suicide by Jayshree. Hence all the accused have to be convicted.

Senior Advocate, Rajiv Patil while defending the impugned Judgment submitted that none of the witnesses can be taken to have proved the offence under Sections 498A or 201 or 306 of IPC.

Decision

High Court agreed with the respondent’s counsel on considering the evidence placed on record.

With regard to the evidence in regard to the allegation of demand of money for motor cycle, documents showing that the accused had bought the same before his marriage on taking a loan from the bank which was also repaid before the marriage have been placed on record.

Regarding Section 306 IPC, Court noted that no evidence had been placed on record to speak off. There was no evidence to suggest or indicate that the accused knew or had reason to believe that the deceased would commit suicide.

“Even if any acts or words uttered by the accused or their conduct are sufficient to demean or humiliate the deceased and even to drive the deceased to suicide, such acts will not amount to instigation or abetment of commission of suicide, unless it is established that the accused intended by their acts that the deceased must commit suicide. It is not enough if the acts of the accused cause persuasion in the mind of the deceased to commit suicide.”

In reference to the above, decision of Kerala High Court was cited, Cyriac v. Sub-Inspector of Police, Kaduthuruthy, 2005 SCC OnLine Ker 346, wherein it was held that,

“…it is not what the deceased ‘felt’, but what the accused ‘intended’ by her act which is more important.”

Thus, in Court’s opinion and on considering the evidence on record, prosecution failed to drive home the charge under Section 498A or Section 306 IPC.

Bench held that there is double presumption in favour of the accused,  firstly, the presumption of innocence available to the accused under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless they are proved guilty by a competent court of law. Secondly, accused having secured their acquittal, the presumption of their innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the trial court.

Hence, trial court’s decision cannot be held illegal or improper or contrary to law. [State of Maharashtra v. Vijay Maruti Bombale, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 5985, decided on 19-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Anoop Chitkara, J., dismissed an appeal filed to challenge the acquittal of respondents-accused for carrying 600 bottles of country-made liquor without a license, where the Chief Judicial Magistrate had acquitted him giving reasons.

The daily diary report of the Police line in Hamirpur stated that on the morning of November 29, 2006, when the police party was present at a place known as Karer, then from the side of Salauni, one vehicle number bearing No. HP22A 8412 had arrived and it was stopped on suspicion. The vehicle had two people, the driver and one other person who ran away taking advantage of darkness. On checking the police had found 50 cartons, each carton contained 12 bottles of 750 ml each, in all 600 bottles of country-made liquor of Brand Una No. 1, out of which 5 bottles were taken out by the officials for sample and others were sealed, after which FIR was filed for the commission of offence punishable under Section 61 of the Punjab Excise Act as applicable to the State of H.P., also during investigation, the police arrested the absconding accused. After the completion of the investigation, police had filed a report under Section 173 (2) CrPC in the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate. After the recording of the prosecution evidence, the trial Court had put the incriminating circumstances to the accused in compliance with the provisions of Section 313 of CrPC; the accused denied all the circumstances but had not led any evidence in defence. The Court had dismissed the prosecution case and acquitted the accused of all charges thus the instant appeal was filed by the State.

The High Court while dismissing the appeal found the impugned Judgment well reasoned and explained that the point that the police had introduced an independent witness at a later stage as there was no mention of him in the daily diary report and in cross-examination also the prosecution witness admitted to the fact that he had seen 350 bottles in a gunny bag which were unsealed, and the prosecution had failed to prove in evidence that the quantity of bottles of liquor in question was 600.  [State of Himachal Pradesh v. Vipan Kumar, 2020 SCC OnLine HP 34, decided on 03-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Anoop Chitkara, J., dismissed an appeal filed challenging the acquittal of the accused of the commission of offences of criminal defamation, insult, threat and causing simple injuries.

A criminal complaint had been filed by one brother-in-law against the other stating that both their houses were adjacent to each other and in between, there was government land which was being used as a compound and a common path by both the parties. The complainant alleged that the accused kept on trying to encroach upon this government land and the complainant prevented him of doing the same but finally, the accused was successful in encroaching upon the land upon which complainant filed an application before the Tehsildar and they scheduled a demarcation. Before the demarcation could take place the accused started building pillars on the government land adjacent to the wall of the house of the complainant to which he objected but instead of stopping the work the accused got furious and hurled abuses on him followed by catching hold of his neck and pushing him and he fell off the stairs suffering injuries. The complainant further alleged that the accused proclaimed that the complainant’s mother had brought her daughter-in-law (his wife), in dowry to which the complainant warned him of using defamatory words. The Court had framed charges against the accused under Sections 323, 500, 504 and 506(1) of the Penal Code. The Court after examining all the witnesses from both the parties dismissed the complaint thus the instant appeal.

The Court while dismissing the appeal based it partly on the cross-examination of the witnesses where it was admitted that the accused had demolished the pillars when the scuffle came up which showed that the quarrel had come to an end and it could not be ruled out that the accused had also filed numerous complaints against the complainant and he had brought this matter after a month when the matter was settled earlier itself. The complaint and the evidence brought on record proved that the case suffered from major contradictions and the accused could be given the benefit of doubt and the court found that the judgment of the trial Court was well reasoned and was based on complete, correct and proper appreciation of evidence. [Kanshi Ram Panchhi v. Amar Chand, 2020 SCC OnLine HP 33, decided on 03-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Anoop Chitkara, J., dismissed an appeal filed to challenge the acquittal of the respondents-accused, for causing simple hurt and wrongful restraint. The appellant-State had come up before this Court seeking the conviction of accused, by filing the Criminal Appeal under Section 378 of the CrPC.

An FIR was filed by the complainant alleging that she was a farmer and while she was lopping leaves from her compound, Accused 1 and Accused 2, who was carrying a bamboo stick obstructed her from lopping the leaves and claimed that the land belonged to her. On the suspicion that the accused was going to beat her, she ran to her house and requested them that she did not want to quarrel and if the compound fell on their land then they could go for demarcation and if the land was found belonging to them then she would vacate her possession but the accused entered the house and started beating her with sticks. Her mother in law tried to stop the accused on which they started beating her also due to which she suffered several injuries. The medical examination of the complainant and the mother in law was conducted and the sticks were recovered from the accused and the trial court had framed charges under Sections 451 and 323 both read with 34 of Penal Code. The accused had denied all the offences but had not produced any evidence in their defense. The complainant during the cross-examination had admitted to the fact that a civil case was going on between them since 3 years, she also admitted later that at the time of the quarrel Balwant Singh, her daughter, two sons, her mother-in-law and members of the family of accused were also present The JMIC had acquitted both the accused of all the charges thus the instant appeal.

The Court while dismissing the appeal explained that the judgment of the trial court was a well-reasoned Judgment and was based on correct, complete and proper appreciation of evidence provided by the sole independent witness of the case who was the neighbor of the parties and he had stated that the accused Nirmala Devi was in his house and Seema Devi was in her own house. [State of H.P. v. Nirmala Devi, 2020 SCC OnLine HP 31, decided on 03-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby it had acquitted of the offences punishable under Sections 498-A, 306, 201 read with Section 34 Penal Code, 1860.

The accused were the in-laws of the deceased. The complainant (father of the deceased)and harassed her due to the non-fulfilment of their demand. Further, it was alleged that subsequent to the harassment, the accused persons murder the deceased. However, during the trial, the charge of murder against the accused persons was altered to that of the abetment of suicide. At the conclusion of the trial, the trial court acquitted all the accused. Aggrieved thereby, the State approached the High Court in the instant appeal.

The High Court considered the findings of the trial court and held that the offence under Section 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) was not established as the demand of money, such as alleged by the complainant, could not be proved by the prosecution.

Coming to the charge under Section 306 (abetment of suicide), the High Court, relying on Sanju v. State of M.P., (2002) 5 SCC 371, explained: “Here is the case of abetment by instigation. The word ‘instigate’ means to goad or urge or forward or to provoke, incite, or encourage to do an untoward act which that person would have otherwise not done. It is also well settled that in order to amount to abetment, there must be mens rea. Without knowledge or intention, there can be no abetment and the knowledge and intention must relate to the act said to be abetted, i.e., suicide, in this case. In order to constitute ‘abetment by instigation’, there must be a direct incitement to do the culpable act. The word ‘instigate’ denotes incitement or urging to do some drastic or unadvisable action or to stimulate or incite. Presence of mens rea, therefore, is the necessary concomitant of instigation.”

It was noted that in the instant case, “There is no evidence to suggest or indicate that the accused knew or had reason to believe that deceased would commit suicide. Even if any acts or words uttered by the accused or their conduct are sufficient to demean or humiliate the deceased and even to drive the deceased to suicide, such acts will not amount to instigation or abetment of commission of suicide, unless it is established that the accused intended by their acts that the deceased must commit suicide. It is not enough if the acts of the accused cause persuasion in the mind of the deceased to commit suicide.”

The offence under Section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) was also held to be not proved. Therefore, the order of the trial court was upheld and the instant appeal was dismissed. [State of Maharashtra v. Vijay Maruti Bombale, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 5985, decided on 19-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: R. Narayana Pisharadi, J. rejected this petition in which the petitioner prayed to file an appeal against the judgment passed by the trial court, for an offence punishable under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

This petition was filed by the petitioner to seek relief against the order of the trial court where the trial court acquitted the accused under Section 255(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Section 255(1) of CrPC states that if the Magistrate, after recording the evidence, finds that the accused is not guilty, he shall record an order of acquittal.

This petition was filed by the complainant in the trial court by the case S.T. No. 114 of  2017 on the file of the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Thodupuzha. The case was filed under the offence punishable under Section 138 of the NI Act. It consists of dishonour of cheque for insufficiency, etc., of funds in the account, punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years or with fine which may extend to twice the amount of the cheque.

During the trial, the prosecution as well as the accused, both were examined and documents were also marked, complying with the needs of Section 255 CrPC.

The facts of the present petition is that the petitioner wants to file an appeal because the trial court acquitted the accused under Section 255(1) CrPC on the ground that the cheque drawn by him was not on an account maintained by the accused himself, in the bank. Rather it was drawn on an account maintained by one Kavitha Chandrasekharan. The Manager of the Bank of the said account gave evidence that the said account did belonged to Kavitha Chandrasekharan. The counsel for the petitioner contended that the trial court should have charged the accused for an offence punishable under Section 420 of the Penal Code.

It was upheld in a Supreme Court judgment, Jugesh Sehgal v. Shamsher Singh, (2009) 14 SCC 683, that one of the basic ingredients of offence punishable under Section 138 of the Act is that the cheque shall be drawn on an account maintained in the bank in the name of the drawer himself. Hence, the Court here upheld the decision of the trial court.

After noting the contentions of the counsel for the petitioner, Latheesh Sebastian, and the counsel for the respondent, C.N. Prabhakaran, Senior Public Prosecutor, High Court held that the decision given by the Chief Judicial Magistrate was correct as the case did not satisfy all the ingredients that are needed to punish someone under Section 138 of the NI Act. Secondly, this Court also said that it was not necessary for the trial court to convert this case into a warrant case and start a de novo trial. Hence, the prayer for granting leave to file an appeal was rejected and the petition was dismissed. [Areeplavan Finance v. Chandrasekharan, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 5330, decided on 11-12-2019]

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]