Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Vipin Sanghi and P.S. Teji, JJ, upheld the conviction and sentence passed by the trial court under Sections 498-A and 302 while acquitting him from charges under Section 304-B IPC.

The appellant had been convicted by the trial court based on circumstantial evidence, where the prosecution had linked all the circumstances by presenting evidence which pointed towards the guilt of the accused. Based on the testimonies of various witnesses, who were cross-examined by the defense but remained unshaken in their stand, the accused was held guilty under Section 498-A IPC. The High Court upheld the conviction and sentence on this count.

On the question of conviction under Section 302/304-B, the Court found enough circumstantial evidence on record for conviction under Section 302 but not for conviction under Section 304-B. Evidences on record were the murder weapon, the fact that the accused and deceased were home alone at the time of death, the fact that the crime took place in the dead of the night along and the post-mortem reports. Moreover, the appellant had alleged that some unknown trespassers had killed his wife, however, he failed to substantiate his allegations. Section 106 of the Evidence Act puts the onus of proof on the person having special knowledge surrounding the circumstances of an occurrence, and since, on that night, the only person besides the deceased in the house was the accused, he is the master of such knowledge. Therefore, the appellant has failed to discharge the onus put upon him.

Consequently, the conviction and sentence under Sections 302 and 498-A IPC were upheld and conviction under Section 304-B was reversed. The appeal was disposed of with modifications. [Dilip @ Deepak v. State,   2017 SCC OnLine Del 11854, decided on 13.11.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: In an appeal filed against the decision of the Trial Court convicting the appellant for murder under S. 302 of the Penal Code of 1860, a Division Bench comprising of T.V. Nalawade and Sunil K. Kotwal, JJ, set aside the conviction and acquitted the accused of the offence of murder. The Court stated that merely because the first informant, brother-in-law of the deceased gave the FIR and because he deposed that he saw the accused or appellant running away from the location where the deceased’s body was recovered, a case was registered against the appellant and based only on suspicion, he was convicted.

Referring to the essential elements required to establish guilt through circumstantial evidence established by the Supreme Court in State of U.P. v. Dr. Ravindra Prakash Mittal, (1992) 3 SCC 300, the Court reaffirmed that: circumstances from which conclusion is drawn should be fully proved; circumstances should be conclusive; all established facts should be consistent with the hypothesis of guilt and inconsistent with the innocence of the accused; and circumstances should exclude possibility of guilt of any person other than the accused.

In addition to these, the Court added that “chain of evidence must be so complete”…that the “circumstances must show that in all human probability, the act must have been done by the accused.” In the present case, other probabilities have been created due to the first informant’s cross-examination which, according to the Court, raise questions against his account. Therefore, the conviction was set aside. [Bhagwat s/o. Narayan Mundhe v. State of Maharashtra, 2017 SCC OnLine Bom 6604, decided on 20.07.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where the appellant was accused to have caused the deaths of his wife and five daughters, the Court, by a 2:1 majority, acquitted the appellant due to lack of evidence against him.

The crucial points that were before the Court for consideration are as follows:

  • The house in question which opened in a gali was bolted from inside on the fateful night.
  • The appellant was found lying unconscious in a room where there were five dead bodies with another dead body in the adjoining room.
  • A knife, which could possibly have caused injuries to the deceased, was lying next to his left hand.
  • He had offered no explanation how the incident had occurred and as such a presumption could be drawn against him under Section 106 of the Evidence Act.

U.U. Lalit abd Ranjan Gogoi, JJ, who gave the majority view, said that the prosecution did not place on record the material indicating what made him unconscious; what was the probable period of such unconsciousness and whether the appellant was falsely projecting it. Hence, the explanation that he knew nothing as he was unconscious cannot be called, ‘absence of explanation’ or ‘false explanation’. Further, regarding the bolted door of the house, it was said that though the door of the house which opened in the gali was stated to have been bolted from inside, the rooms were not locked and the possibility of a person/persons other than the inmates of the house getting into the house cannot be ruled out. Also, the prosecution did not gather the finger prints either in the house or even on the iron knife which was allegedly used for committing the offence in question. If the finger prints on the knife were to be that of the appellant alone, such factor could certainly have weighed against the appellant.

The acquittal of the appellant was based on the reasoning that the circumstances mentioned above do not form a complete chain of evidence and that the law regarding appreciation of cases based on circumstantial evidence is clear that the chain of evidence must be so complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved namely the guilt of the accused.

However, as per P.C. Pant, J, the prosecution had not failed to prove the case. He considered the fact that the mother of the appellant, who was present in the house at the time of the commission of the offence, had said that her son had killed the other members of her family and the same was corroborated by the neighbours. Regarding the fact that the appellant’s mother turned hostile, the judge said that the reason as to why she has turned hostile is not difficult to be found out as she was going to lose the only son left with her. Also, the wife of the appellant had, on an earlier occasion, mentioned it before one of the witnesses that the accused used to complain that his family has become large with daughters only which makes it clear that the appellant had the motive for committing murder.

He also added that normally, it is not the duty of the accused to explain how the crime has been committed. But in the matters of unnatural death inside the house where the accused had his presence, non-disclosure on his part as to how the other members of his family died, is an important reason to believe as to what has been shown by the prosecution through the evidence on record is true. Simple reply by the accused in his statement under Section 313 CrPC that he did not know as to how the incident happened, particularly when he was in the house, does certainly make easier to believe the truthfulness of the evidence that has been adduced by the prosecution in support of charge against him. He, hence, said that considering all the facts, circumstances and the established principle of law laid down by this Court, in the present case, sentence of imprisonment for life would meet the ends of justice. [Dhal Singh Dewangan v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 983, decided on 23.09.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: While deciding upon the issue that whether an accused can be convicted only on the basis of suspicion and circumstantial evidence without any direct proof given by the prosecution, the Division Bench of V. Gopala Gowda and Amitava Roy, JJ., held that it would be unjustified to convict an accused only on the basis of suspicion and circumstantial evidence until and unless that evidences are corroborative with direct proof given by the prosecution. The Court thereby set aside the decision of High Court of Patna and held that an accused cannot be convicted until and unless all charges against him are proved beyond any reasonable doubt by the prosecution.

The appellant and deceased were husband and wife, while returning from their honeymoon the deceased went missing. The prosecution (parents of deceased) filed a complaint against appellant and his parents that they murdered the deceased due to non-fulfilment of their dowry demands. The High Court of Patna convicted appellant under Sections 304-B, 201 and 498-A of IPC. R. Basant, on behalf of appellant contended that the prosecution had failed to prove that the dead body recovered was that of deceased and cast doubts over the authenticity of the DNA test report. Also there were no evidences regarding any demand of dowry made by the appellant and treatment of the deceased with cruelty. However Subramonium Prasad, representing the respondents,  questioned the conduct of appellant for not giving the information of disappearance of his wife to the parents of deceased.

The Court relying on the Raj Kumar Singh v. State of Rajasthan, (2013) 5 SCC 722, observed that there is difference between “may proved” and “must be proved” and the accused cannot be convicted on the evidences which “may prove” his guilt without the presence of evidences which “must prove” the guilt of the accused. If two conclusions can be drawn from the case, one which refers to the guilt of accused and other which refers to an innocence of accused, then the Court should first follow the conclusion which refers to the innocence of accused. No accused should be convicted, till all the evidences presented by the prosecution, proves the guilt of an accused beyond any reasonable doubt. [Rajiv Singh vs. State of Bihar, 2015 SCC OnLine SC 1336, decided on 16.12.2015]

High Courts

Bombay High Court: In the present appeal against the conviction under Section 235(2) CrPC and Section 302 of IPC, the  Division Bench comprising of V. K. Tahilramani and B.P.Colabawala, JJ., on the basis of “Last Seen Together Theory”, recovery of deceased’s dead body, and the electric wire at the instance of the appellant-accused and an established motive of the appellant- accused, dismissed the case on basis of lack of merits and upheld the judgment and Order of the I/c Adhoc District Judge,

The case evolved from the disharmony in the relationship between the appellant- accused and his deceased wife. During the pendency of their divorce petition, the accused allegedly took his wife to a lodge, booked a room by using fake names for himself and his wife and in due course of their stay, the appellant-accused strangled his wife’s neck with an electric wire and caused her death.

The counsels for the appellant, Abhay Kumar Apte and V. V. Purwant, rendered no explanation or negation with respect to any of the components of the qualifying test whatsoever, except that the testimony of two witnesses should be considered unreliable due to the omissions made by both of them in their respective testimonies, which was ultimately denied by the Bench for being no help to the Court.

The present case which was based entirely on circumstancial evidence, the Bench relied heavily on the qualifying test laid down in Padala Veera Reddy v. State of Andhra Pradesh,1989 Supp (2) SCC 706, and in light of the decision, examined the present case in detail. On perusal the Court came to the conclusion that the prosecution has proved the guilt of the appellant-accused beyond reasonable doubt and rendered that the appellant- accused’s case qualifies all the tests and thus, cannot escape conviction awarded to him. Harish Ramesh Pulekar v. The State of Maharashtra, 2015 SCC OnLine Bom 2041, decided on 06.05.2015