Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of N.V. Ramana and M.M. Shantanagoudar, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed by the State of U.P. against the judgment of Allahabad High Court whereby it had reversed the decision the decision of trial court and acquitted the accused of charges under Sections 302 and 307 read with 149, Section 148 IPC and Section 7 of Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1932.

The accused persons were alleged to have participated in rioting and injuring the deceased (a senior official) with fire shots which resulted in his death. The accused were tried and convicted by the trial court for the offences mentioned above. However, on appeal by the accused persons, the High Court reversed the conviction and acquitted them. Aggrieved thereby, State of U.P. filed the instant appeal.

On perusal of the record, the Supreme Court was of the view that the judgment of the High Court needs no interference. The Court noted several laches in the investigation which went to root of the matter and resulted in acquittal:

  • Unexplained delay of 55 days in conducting Test Identification Parade.
  • Suspicion over post-mortem report and FSL report being incompatible with each other.
  • Doubtful recovery of pistol from accused.
  • Prosecution’s failure to ascertain with precision the place of incidence.
  • Non-examination of crucial witness (the other injured person in the incident) and failure of adducing independent witness.

Observing that suspicion however grave, cannot take place of proof, the Court gave benefit of doubt to the accused and upheld the High Court’s judgment of acquittal. The appeal filed by the State was dismissed. [State of U.P. v. Wasif Haider,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2740, decided on 10-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of C. Hari Shankar, J. allowed a criminal appeal filed against the judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted under Section 18(b) of the Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

The appellant challenged his conviction contending the non-compliance of provisions of Section 50 of the Act. It was an admitted fact that after apprehending the appellant, he was searched by the raiding party in which opium was recovered from his possession. It is pertinent to note that as per Section 50, a person to be searched under Sections 41, 42 or 43 NDPS Act has to be searched in presence of a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate. The prosecution, per contra, submitted that the appellant, before the search, was apprised of his right to be searched by a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate; however, he waived off that right.

The High Court, for adjudication of the matter, perused the cases decided by the Supreme Court including Dilip v. State of M.P.,(2007) 1 SCC 450; State of Rajasthan v. Parmanand, (2014) 5 SCC 345 and Arif Khan v. State of Uttarakhand, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 459Relying on the said cases, the Court held that compliance with the provisions of Section 50 was mandatory. In the instant matter, it was held there was non-compliance with the said provisions and therefore the search and alleged recovery of opium was vitiated in toto. The appellant was, therefore, held to be entitled to an acquittal from all the charges. The appeal was allowed and the judgment impugned was set aside. [Dharambir v. State,2018 SCC OnLine Del 12305, dated 13-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Md. Mumtaz Khan, J. allowed a revision petition against the order of the Magistrate whereby the petitioner’s complaint filed under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 was quashed.

The complaint filed by the petitioner was quashed in the exercise of power under Section 204(4) CrPC for want of requisites. Additionally, the Magistrate had also passed an order of acquittal of the accused under Section 256. The petitioner was asked to submit the requisites necessary to issue summons against the accused. However, after giving repeated opportunities, there was no submission of requisites by the petitioner. Even the show cause notice was not responded to. Resultantly, the Magistrate passed the above-mentioned order. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner preferred the instant revision.

The High Court perused the record and was of the view that the order impugned was not sustainable. It was noted that one of the requisites to be submitted was the processing fee. Section 204(4) provides for dismissal of the complaint for non-payment of process fee. Moreover, the matter was at the stage of issue of summons. The accused had neither appeared in the case nor it was at the stage of evidence. Thus, the Magistrate was in error for exercising power under Section 256 and recording acquittal. Furthermore, as far as an order under Section 204(4) was concerned, the petitioner had shown sufficient cause for not being able to submit the requisites. The reason was shown to be fraud played by its advocate for which complaint had been registered with the police and also a complaint was given to the Bar Council. A copy of both the complaints were produced before the Court. The Court was of the view that one could not be allowed to suffer for fault of the advocate. In the opinion of the Court, the order impugned required interference. Therefore, in light of the above, the order passed by the Magistrate under Sections 204(4) and 256 CrPC was quashed. The complaint was restored to the file. The revision was allowed accordingly. [ACME Paints and Resin (P) Ltd. v. Deb Paints (P) Ltd., 2018 SCC OnLine Cal 7054, dated 28-09-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of M.M. Shantanagoudar, J., delivering a judgment for himself and L. Nageswara Rao, J., disposed of a criminal appeal by modifying the conviction of the appellant by setting aside his conviction under Section 302 IPC while upholding the conviction under Section 326.

The Appellant (Accused 1) was convicted for the murder of one Manjula and Kumari Radika. According to the prosecution, there was an ongoing property dispute between accused persons and the informant/injured, who was mother-in-law of the deceased Manjula. It was alleged the accused 1 assaulted the informant while Accused 2 and 3 assaulted the deceased persons with an axe. The assault resulted in death of the deceased persons and the informant was badly injured. The trial court, on appreciation of evidence, acquitted all the accused persons. However, in appeal filed by the State, the High Court of Karnataka reversed the decision of the trial court as far as Accused 1 was concerned and convicted him for the offence punishable under Section 302 and 326 IPC. Accused 1 filed an appeal against the decision of the High Court before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court appraised the entire record and found that the informant (PW 23) was the most important witness of the case. She attributed overt acts to the accused in the first statement as well as in deposition. It was only alleged that Accused 1 assaulted the informant; no act of assault on the body of the deceased persons was attributed to him, nor was it said that he instigated the other accused to assault the deceased. The Supreme Court categorically held that the finding of acquittal is to be interfered with by the appellate court only under special circumstances and at any rate if there are two views possible arising out the same facts.However, in the present case since it was not proved beyond reasonable doubt that Accused 1 was responsible for causing assault on the deceased persons, the High Court ought not to reverse the finding of acquittal as recorded by the trial court. Holding that the ingredients of murder were not proved beyond reasonable doubt against Accused 1, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the High Court as far as his conviction under Section 302 was concerned. However, the Court was convinced that Accused 1 was responsible of causing grievous injury to the informant; and thus, his conviction under Section 326 IPC, as ordered by the High Court, was upheld. As the appellant had already undergone a period of 11 years in jail, his sentence of 7 years under the said offence was set off against the period already undergone. The appeal was disposed of accordingly. [Jayaswami v. State of Karnataka, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 583, dated 01-06-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: In a Single Judge Bench decision comprising of P. Kalaiyarasan, J., accused was acquitted of the charges under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, confirming the decision of the first appellate court.

The brief facts of the case states that the complainant/ appellant had given an amount of Rs. 3, 50,000 to the accused for meeting his family expenses for which the accused had issued a cheque to the complainant. On the deposit of the said cheque it was returned with an endorsement “insufficient funds”. For the same stated contention a legal notice was issued in the name of the accused.

The trial court had convicted the accused under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, which further was reversed in the decision of the first appellate court; therefore, the complainant filed the criminal appeal. The contention of the accused was that the cheque was stolen and the same was misused in the year 2007 with some other cheques contained in a bag.

The Hon’ble High Court, on perusal of the records, in which exhibits were attached in regard to the complaint filed for the lost bag containing the cheques, held it as established that the criminal appeal stands dismissed as no evidence has been recorded against the accused and the decision of the first appellate court was confirmed. [Arul Mari Joseph v. Edward Raj, 2018 SCC OnLine Mad 1322, dated 11-04-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Chander Bhusan Barowalia, J., decided a criminal appeal filed by the State under Section 378 of CrPC challenging the order of acquittal of the accused persons passed by the trial court, wherein the said order was upheld holding that the prosecution failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.

The accused persons were alleged to have grievously injured the complainant. They were tried for the offences punishable under Sections 341, 323, 325 along with Section 34 IPC. However, the trial court acquitted all the accused persons.

The High Court perused the record as well as submissions made on behalf of the parties. After considering the witness statements, the Court was of the view that the prosecution evidence was not sufficient to prove the case against the accused persons beyond reasonable doubt. There were material contradictions in the statements of the complainant himself. Also, there was un-explained delay of more than fifty five hours in lodging the complaint. Nothing material came out from the statements of the witnesses and the evidence collected and produced by the prosecution was weak. The Court observed that when the judgment of the trial court was neither perverse, nor suffered from any infirmity or based on misappreciation of evidence; reversal thereof by the High Court was not justified. The High Court held that the trial court rightly acquitted the accused persons on proper appreciation of evidence on record.

Accordingly, the judgment impugned in the instant appeal was upheld and the appeal was dismissed. [State of H.P. v. Gopal Singh, 2018 SCC OnLine HP 355, dated 2.4.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: The order of trial court acquitting the accused of rape charges was upheld in an appeal by the State before a Division Bench comprising of Prashant Kumar Mishra and Ram Prasanna Sharma, JJ.

The accused was charged under Sections 376, 450 and 506 (B) of IPC. It was alleged that he committed forceful sexual intercourse with the prosecutrix after threatening her. The accused denied the allegations. The matter went to trial and after appreciating the evidence, the trial court acquitted the accused. The State filed the instant appeal against the said order.

The High Court perused the evidence available on record and found that the prosecutrix was a married women aged about 22 years. From her statement, it was clear that she did not resist during the alleged intercourse and also did not cry for help even when many other family members were present in the house at the time of alleged incident. Further, the medical evidence produced by the prosecution did not support the prosecutrix. The Court also found that there was a political rivalry between the uncle of the accused and father-in-law of the prosecutrix.

Considering all the circumstances, the High Court was of the view that the trial court has appreciated all the evidence in proper perspective and reached an opinion that it may be a case of consensual sex. The Court held that since the findings of the trial court were based on relevant facts, it would not be proper for it to disturb such findings. Accordingly, the order of acquittal passed by the trial court was affirmed and the appeal filed by the State was dismissed.  [State of Chhattisgarh V. Panchu Sahu, 2018 SCC OnLine Chh 288, decided on 20-3-2008]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: The order of acquittal of accused persons passed by the trial court was upheld in an appeal by a Division Bench comprising of Prashant Kumar Mishra and Ram Prasanna Sharma, JJ.

The accused persons were tried for offences punishable under Sections 148 and 341, 294, 323, 307, 506 (2) all read with Section 149 IPC. During investigation, the injured persons were sent for medical examination and it was found that injuries sustained by them were only simple injuries. The statement of witnesses did not support each other. From the records it could be only said that some incident appeared to have taken place on issue of giving side to the truck or wrong parking of the truck.

The High Court considered the record in detail and was of the view that it was not a case where the accused persons formed unlawful assembly to achieve the common object with intention to committing the crime. And since the accused persons did not form any unlawful assembly, each of them was responsible for his own act. However, from the evidence it was not clear as to which accused had caused which particular injury to the injured persons. The Court found the story of the prosecution to be an exaggeration of facts. The Court held that in such circumstances and lack of clarity in evidence as to acts attributable to accused persons, the trial court was right in acquitting the accused persons of the charges framed. The Court held that the evidence was not clear so as to record a finding of guilt against the accused persons.

Accordingly, the acquittal appeal filed by the State was dismissed and the order of acquittal of the accused persons passed by the trial court was upheld. [State of Chhattisgarh v. Gurudeep,  2018 SCC OnLine Chh 271, decided on 13.03.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Chander Bhusan Barowalia, JJ., dismissed a criminal appeal filed by the State against the judgment of acquittal of the accused persons passed by the trial court, holding that the statement of the prosecutrix did not inspire confidence.

The accused persons were acquitted by the trial court, of offences punishable under Section 376(ii)(g) read with Section 34 IPC. Learned Additional Advocate General argued that the evidence of prosecution was clear to prove the guilt of the accused persons beyond shadow of doubt but the trial court ignored the evidence. Per contra, learned counsel for the accused persons submitted that the trial court’s decision was fully justified and need no interference.

The High Court perused the record and found that the medical examination report did not support the case of the prosecution. The statement of the prosecutrix regarding injuries sustained during the alleged sexual assault did not find support from the medical examination report. Further, the said report stated that there was nothing suggestive of a recent vaginal penetration. No sign of struggle on the body of the prosecutrix were found. Also the statement of other witnesses did not support prosecution’s case. The Court was of the view that the accused persons could not be convicted on the sole uncorroborated testimony of the prosecutrix. Entire prosecution evidence was in contrast to the deposition made by the prosecutrix; even the scientific evidence was not in consonance with her testimony. The Court was of the view that the testimony of the prosecutrix did not inspire confidence and was not reliable.

In light of above facts and circumstances, the Court dismissed the appeal and upheld decision of the trial court acquitting the accused persons. [State of H.P. v. Ranvir Kumar, 2018 SCC OnLine HP 251, decided on 16.3.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: The present appeal was decided by the Bench of Akhil Kureshi and A.Y. Kogje, JJ., filed by the accused against the order of the lower court in which the accused was awarded 6 months rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs 1 lakh for offences under Sections 302, 114 and Section 504 of the Penal Code, 1860.

The lower court had given its judgment based on the FIR filed by the mother of the deceased with the alleged facts that on 21-9-2012, both the accused at 8.45 a.m. had come to the deceased’s house and started abusing her son (deceased) saying that he was not giving their land, thereafter dragging him towards the field, and then inflicted a blow with a plough on his thigh and further assaulted him with multiple grievous injuries, as a result of which he died. The accused, i.e. the father and the son, in this matter, appealed before the High Court that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges of murder beyond reasonable doubt. The learned advocate from the respondent in the present case contended that the witnesses who were examined being ‘interested witnesses’ cannot be relied upon and their versions cannot be taken into consideration to convict the appellants, since there were discrepancies in the statements by the eyewitnesses. Also, the prosecution had failed to prove that the murder weapons belonged to the respondent.

The Court relied on the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Chandrappa v. State of Karnataka,  (2007) 4 SCC 415 and held that since the prosecution has failed to establish the motive behind the offence beyond reasonable doubt, this would lead to dismissal of the appeal and quashed and set aside the judgment of the lower court. The Court acquitted the appellants of all the charges by granting them the benefit of doubt. [Navinbhai Kaliyo Vithalbhai Baria v. State of Gujarat, Criminal Appeal No. 815 of 2014, decided on 30-11-2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan: The appellate court had allowed the appeal of the respondent-complainant under Sections 372 and 378 CrPC and set aside the acquittal of the appellant recorded by the trial court and convicted the appellant under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. This decision of the learned appellate court was challenged by the appellant.

Learned counsel for the appellants contended that the learned Sessions Judge had no jurisdiction to entertain the appeal against acquittal preferred by the respondent complainant. Drawing attention of the Court to the Hon’ble Division Bench Judgment dated 2.12.2014 rendered in the case of Dhanne Singh v. State of Rajasthan, 2014 SCC OnLine Raj 5499, he urged that the only remedy available to the complainant was to file an application for grant of leave to appeal before the High Court under Section 378(iv) CrPC. He further contended that the impugned judgment is per se without jurisdiction and bad in the eye of law and thus deserved to be set aside.

The Court held that in a suit where the jurisdiction to entertain a challenge to an order of acquittal in a complaint case is questioned, the complainant can only avail the remedy of filing an application for grant of leave to appeal against the judgment of acquittal in the High Court under Section 378(iv) CrPC and opined that the Sessions Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the victim’s appeal under Section 372 CrPC when the acquittal was recorded in a complaint case.

The Bench of Sandeep Mehta, J. set aside the impugned judgment dated 30.10.2015 passed by the learned District and Sessions Judge, Dungarpur and upheld the acquittal of the appellant recorded by the trial court vide judgment dated 19.9.2013. [Praveen Kumar v. The State of Rajasthan, 2017 SCC OnLine Raj 2209, decided on 9.8.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Stating the importance of medical evidence, especially in a murder trial, the Bench of P.C. Ghose and R.F. Nariman, JJ said that where the medical evidence is such that it does not give any clear opinion with respect to the injuries inflicted on the body of victim or deceased, as the case may be, the possibilities that the injuries might have been caused by the accused are also ruled out. Such medical evidence is also very important in assessing the testimony of eye-witnesses and in determining whether the testimony of eye-witnesses can be safely accepted.

In the present case, the accused had killed his close relative in a field allegedly over a land dispute, the High Court of Bombay had acquitted the accused as the prosecution had failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Upholding the decision of the High Court, the Court said that apart from contradictory testimonies of the witnesses, non-examination of the material witness on whose field the crime was committed, unexplained 6 days delay in lodging FIR; no opinion given by doctor in the post-mortem report or his deposition about the cause of death raise substantial doubt in the prosecution story. The Court said that the unfortunate man succumbed to injuries but the substantial doubts, mentioned above, confer a right upon the accused-respondents to be held not guilty.

Emphasising upon the importance of expert opinion, the Court said that expert’s opinion should be demonstrative and should be supported by convincing reasons. Court cannot be expected to surrender its own judgment and delegate its authority to a third person, however great. If the report of an expert is slipshod, inadequate or cryptic and information on similarities or dissimilarities is not available in the report of an expert then his opinion is of no value. Such opinions are often of no use to the court and often lead to the breaking of very important links of prosecution evidence which are led for the purpose of prosecution. [Machindra v. Sajjan Galpha Rankhamb, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 443, decided on 19.04.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the matter where the accused, along with a group of co-accused persons, each armed with deadly weapons fired a gunshot in the abdomen of the deceased after a quarrel thereby resulting into his death, the Court set aside the conviction of the accused on the ground that the investigation in the matter was carried out in a lackluster manner.

The Court said that normally, when a culprit perpetrates a heinous crime of murder and takes away the life of a human being, if appropriate punishment is not awarded to that offender, the Court will be failing in its duty. However, the Investigating Officer, dealing with a murder case, is expected to be diligent, truthful and fair in his approach and his performance should always be in conformity with the police manual and a default or breach of duty may prove fatal to the prosecution’s case.

The Court said that, in the present case, no doubt, an innocent man has lost his life at the hands of another man, but merely the seizure of gun and cartridges from the appellant, the ongoing enmity between the parties on account of various criminal litigations and the altercation and exchange of heated words between the rival groups on the morning of the same day, cannot establish the guilt of accused beyond reasonable doubt. Also, when there are material exaggerations and contradictions, which inevitably raise doubt which is reasonable in normal circumstances and keeping in view the substratum of the prosecution case, it cannot be inferred beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant had caused the death of the deceased.

The bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and N.V. Ramana, JJ, said that the investigation was carried out with unconcerned and uninspiring performance. There was no firm and sincere effort with the needed zeal and spirit to bring home the guilt of the accused. Also, considering the fact that the accused has already undergone nine years’ of imprisonment and the Court said that it is a fit case inviting interference by this Court. [Mahavir Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2016 SCC Online SC 1250 , decided on 09.11.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Holding that an accused was not entitled to acquittal on the mere ground that the investigation of the matter had been carried out by the very police officer who had also registered the crime, the Supreme Court observed that in the instant case  the search of the appellant at the time of his apprehension was conducted in the presence and under the instructions of a Gazetted Officer. Further, the extracts of depositions of other prosecution witnesses revealed that the said complainant officer was not the only one involved in the investigation.

The Bench comprising of V. Gopala Gowda and Uday Umesh Lalit, JJ.  upheld the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s order dismissing the appeal filed by the appellant against his conviction under the provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 for being in possession of  1 kg of opium without any permit or licence. Relying on  State v. Rajangam, (2010) 15 SCC 369 wherein the Supreme Court had acquitted the accused on similar ground, the appellant had contended that the investigation was improper and he was entitled to acquittal.

Distinguishing the case on facts, the Court held that the principle as laid down in Megha Singh v.  State of Haryana, (1996) 11 SCC 709 which was followed in State v. Rajangam, (2010) 15 SCC 369 does not get attracted in the instant case. In Megha case, the search had not been  conducted in the presence of a Gazetted Officer, as is required under the statutory provisions unlike the instant case.  [Surender  v. State of Haryana, 2016 SCC Online SC 49 , decided on 19.01.2016]