Case BriefsHigh Courts

Sikkim High Court: A Bench of Vijay Kumar Bist, C.J., and Meenakshi Madan Rai, J., dismissed an application filed against the judgment of the Special Judge (POCSO) whereby the appellant was convicted for the offences punishable under various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Penal Code for raping a minor girl.

It was alleged that the appellant raped the victim in a jungle near her school when she went there for collecting fruits. The victim was aged 13 years at the time of the incident. The appellant was tried, convicted and sentenced for raping the victim by the trial court. Aggrieved thereby, he preferred the present appeal.

Gulshan Lama, Advocate (Legal Aid Counsel) for the appellant relied on the statement of doctors to challenge the impugned judgment. Per contra, Thimlay Dorjee Bhutia, Additional Public Prosecutor supported the impugned judgment.

The High Court noted that the Forensic Laboratory Report stated that human semen was found on victim’s underwear. Considering the report with statements of the victim and her friend, the Court found the victim’s statement trustworthy.

Explaining the law, the Court observed, “Section 29 of the POCSO Act provides that where a person is prosecuted for committing or abetting or attempting to commit any offence under Sections 3,5,7 and 9 of the POCSO Act, the Special Court shall presume, that such person has committed or abetted or attempted to commit the offence, as the case may be, unless the contrary is proved. In this case, the appellant failed to prove that he has not committed the offence as alleged by the minor victim. Section 30 of the POCSO Act provides that the accused has to establish beyond reasonable doubt that had no culpable mental state.”

Stating that the appellant made no effort to rebut the presumption of culpable mental state, the Court dismissed the appeal. [Lakpa Dorjee Tamang v. State of Sikkim, Crl. A. No. 33 of 2017, dated 21-2-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: The Bench of H.C. Mishra and Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi, JJ. allowed the appeals while setting aside the judgment of conviction and order of sentence convicting and sentencing the appellants.

In the pertinent case, the dispute was over land and its illegal possession wherein the accused were held guilty of murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code and the Trial Court even sentenced the accused accordingly. The Court was approached because there were discrepancies in the FIR and the statements provided by the prosecution witnesses, where they first stated that the occurrence had taken place in the hut and they could not see which accused was armed with what weapon. Subsequently, in evidence, the place was changed to the land in question and improvements were made on the details as to which accused was armed with what weapon and the person who assaulted. Also, the Investigation Officer (IO) was not examined because of which the necessary implications could not be taken from the IO. Even the Doctor conducting the post-mortem examination was not examined in the case.

The Court in the interest of justice looked into the case diary with the help of the learned senior counsel, Mr V.P. Singh, where it became apparent that the non-examination of the IO has vitally prejudiced the defence in the case and even the place of occurrence has not been properly proved in the case. The Court further believed that, the benefit of doubt should be extended to the appellants in the absence of the evidence of the IO and the Doctor. Therefore, the Court set aside the conviction and sentence ordered by the 1st Additional Sessions Judge and discharged the appellants from their respective liabilities.[Manik Singh v. State of Jharkhand, Cr. Appeal (D.B.) No. 512 of 2008, Order dated 11-03-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Pakistan: The Division Bench of Dost Muhammad Khan and Qazi Faez Isa, JJ. allowed an appeal against order convicting a person for the offence of defiling Quran, for lack of any evidence in support of offence.

Appellant herein was alleged to have desecrated the Holy Quran and was charged for an offence under Section 295-B of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (PPC). It was alleged that he had masturbated in the centre of a mosque and then smeared his semen on the Holy Quran. Allegedly this act was seen by one Muhammad Akhtar who was deaf and dumb. The trial Court convicted the appellant and Lahore High Court affirmed the said order. Aggrieved thereby, a jail petition was filed, which was converted into an appeal by this Court.

The Court noted that the FIR, in this case, was lodged with an inexplicable delay of five days. The interpreter of Muhammad Akhtar’s sign language who, himself was a witness had not been administered any oath, which was contrary to Section 543 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. There were disagreements between witnesses regarding the date of occurrence of the offence.

It was observed that the purported confession of the accused before panchayat was after he had been kept in the custody of complainants, and beaten by them. Further, eleven pages were removed from the Holy Quran and only those pages were sent for chemical examination. Though it was confirmed that there were semen stains on the pages, no effort was made for the DNA test and semen matches. It was, thus, opined that the prosecution failed to act independently and fairly in the present case.

The Court concluded that punishment for an offence under Section 295-B PPC is imprisonment for life, therefore, it was necessary that the prosecution and the trial Court had proceeded with caution. Unfortunately, in this case even the basic parameters of proof required in a criminal case were completely disregarded.

In view of the absence of any tangible evidence, innumerable contradictions, the abject failure of the prosecution to act independently, and violation of criminal procedural laws, the conviction and sentence of appellant was held unsustainable and accordingly set aside.[Muhammad Mansha v. State, Criminal Appeal No. 617 of 2017, Order dated 15-01-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: Rumi Kumari Phukan, J., allowed a criminal appeal and acquitted the appellants who were convicted under Section 304 Part-II IPC by the trial court.

The appellants were accused of killing one Abul Hussain. On the basis of FIR filed by Abul’s parents, a case was registered and they were charge-sheeted under Section 302 and 149 IPC. The trial court did not find any intention or motive on appellant’s part to commit murder. However, they were convicted for culpable homicide not amounting to murder punishable under Section 304 Part-II IPC. Aggrieved thereby, the appellants filed the present appeal.

A.Y. Chaudhary, Advocate for the appellants contended that there was no chain of facts to establish the hypothesis of appellants’ guilt. Per contra, B.J. Dutta, Additional Public Prosecutor, appearing for the State supported the trial court’s judgment.

The High Court noted that the trial court basically relied on the fact that Abul accompanied Bapan (one of the accused) while other accused were along with him.  This according to the Court, may be one of the circumstances for the prosecution, but there was no chain of facts as regards the other incriminating circumstances. It was observed that, “from the totality of the evidence on record, it can be held that the evidence is totally insufficient to hold the present appellant to be guilty under any of the offence, while the deceased died due to drowning as per the report of the Medical Officer. Although there is genuine ground of suspicion on the part of the informant but there is a lack of legal evidence to sustain the conviction of the accused persons.” In such view of the matter, the Court held that the appellants deserved to be acquitted. Therefore, the appeal was allowed. [Akbar Hussain Laskar v. State of Assam, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 1027, decided on 05-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Bench of A.S. Oka and A.S. Gadkari, JJ. modified the judgment of trial court and altered the appellant’s conviction under Section 302 (punishment for murder) to Section 326 IPC (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means).

The deceased, Farukh Shaikh had two wives. He doubted that the appellant and his cousin Saddam (co-accused who was a juvenile) had affairs with his wives. The appellant and Saddam were accused of having injuries to Farukh by giving him blows with a wooden log and stick. Thereafter, Farukh was admitted to Civil Hospital. Dr Appasaheb Ingale, the expert Surgeon informed Farukh’s relatives that his condition was serious who were not willing to continue with his treatment in Civil Hospital. They shifted Faruk to a Neurosurgical Centre against medical advice where he developed a cardiac arrest and expired. The appellant was tried and convicted for murder under Section 302. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant filed the present appeal.

Dr Yug Mohit Chaudhary, counsel for the appellant submitted that the nature of injuries got aggravated by shifting Farukh against medical advice and the real cause of death was not “head injury” but “cardiac arrest”. Per contra, J.P. Yagnik, Additional Public Prosecutor supported the judgment of the trial court.

The question before the High Court was —“what offence the appellant had actually committed?”

The High Court relied heavily on the statement of Dr Ingale who stated that Farukh died due to “cardiac arrest”. According to the Court, “there are so many reasons to develop a cardiac arrest”. The Court found it difficult to hold that Farukh died due to assault caused by the appellant and Saddam. The Court observed, “In view of the evidence of Dr Appasaheb V. Ingale, it is clear that it is due to the causation i.e. shifting of Farukh Shaikh from Civil Hospital, Sangli to another hospital of Dr Sanjeev M. Kukarni, the patient ultimately expired due to ‘cardiac arrest’. As noted earlier, there is no direct co-relation of the head injury with the said cardiac arrest in view of admission given by Dr Sanjeev M. Kukarni.” Thus, the Court held, that the appellant was liable for causing grievous hurt to Farukh and his act would fall within the ambit of Section 326 and he could not be held guilty under Section 302. The impugned judgment was accordingly modified. [Akram Khalil Ahmed Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 333, decided on 27-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: This criminal appeal was filed before the Bench of Ratnaker Bhengra, J., against the judgment of conviction and order of sentence passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Fast Track Court.

The appellants were convicted under Sections 304-B/120-B and under Section 498-A of Penal Code and sentenced to undergo RI of 7 years and RI of 3 years with a fine of Rs. 2000. Both the sentences were to run concurrently. Accused were alleged with torturing one Dipak Devi for dowry who was murdered on non-fulfillment of their dowry demand. FIR was registered and charge sheet was filed. Appellant contended that the deceased committed suicide which was not accepted by the Trial Court. Trial was held and concluded with the aforementioned conviction and sentence. Hence, this appeal was filed. It was found through the post mortem report that the death occurred due to asphyxia as a result of strangulation. It also stated that the deceased body was hanging from the roof and her feet were touching the ground suggesting that she was first killed and then her suicide was staged by the appellant.

High Court found that there was a history of serious cruelty on the deceased and the fact that her feet were touching ground show that she was killed and her suicide was faked by the appellants. Therefore, the conviction and sentence of the accused was sustained. [Surendra Mishra v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 159, dated 22-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. modified the order of sentence imposed on petitioner and directed that the sentences shall run concurrently and not consecutively.

Petitioner was alleged to have snatched a chain from a lade and threatening her with a weapon while fleeing. He was convicted under Section 382 read with Section 34 IPC and sentences to undergo 4 years rigorous imprisonment. He was also convicted under Section 25(1-B)(a) of the Arms Act and sentenced to undergo 1-year rigorous imprisonment. By the order on sentence, trial court directed both sentences to run one after the other, i.e. consecutively. This order was challenged in the present petition.

Archit Upadhyay, Advocate for the petitioner contended that the impugned order was erroneous and contrary to the settled position of law. He relied on Manoj v. State of Haryana, (2014) 2 SCC 153, wherein the Supreme Court interpreted Section 31 CrPC which relates ‘sentences in cases of conviction of several offences at one trial.’

The High Court noted that the offences committed by petitioner were part of the same transaction. The Court discussed the Manoj case while referring to Nagaraja Rao v. CBI, (2015) 4 SCC 302V.K. Bansal v. State of Haryana, (2013)  7 SCC 211Sharad Hiru Kolambe v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1581. It was observed by the High Court that “if the accused convicted of separate offences under IPC as also the Arms Act but they are part of the same transactions, the sentences shall run concurrently and not consecutively.” As such, the impugned order of the sentence was modified to run concurrently. Furthermore, it was found that the petitioner had already undergone the substantive sentence and was therefore directed to be released forthwith. [Irfan v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 6908, decided on 05-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Bench of Mukta Gupta, J. dismissed a petition filed against the judgment of Metropolitan Magistrate acquitting the respondent for the offence punishable under Sections 468 and 471 IPC.

Petitioner and respondent were real brothers involved in a dispute over the subject property. Respondent had filed a suit for permanent injunction in capacity of his mother’s attorney. He filed a copy of Power of Attorney purportedly executed by his mother by which he was authorised to file the suit and also a Sale Agreement to show ownership of his mother. However, this suit was dismissed. Subsequently, respondent filed another suit, this time claiming the subject property was owned by his father.

The petitioner submitted that by taking contradictory stands in two suits, respondent demonstrated that he filed forged and fabricated documents before the Court. Per Contra, respondent contended that there was nothing on record to show that the documents were forged.

The High Court held that the trial court was right in acquitting respondent of the charges of forgery for purpose of cheating. It was stated, “taking two contradictory stands in two separate suits regarding ownership of the same property does raise a presumption that the averments in one of the suits are false but, mere presumption is not sufficient for convicting the respondent for an offence of forgery.” It was observed that mere non-production of original documents or not producing the mother in Court would not lead to proof beyond reasonable doubt of the alleged forgery. In such view of the matter, the petition was dismissed. [Harish Chander Verma v. Mohinder Kumar Verma, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 6752, decided on 09-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Bench of M.G. Giratkar, J. dismissed a revision petition against the judgment of Judicial Magistrate (First Class) whereby the petitioner was convicted for offences punishable under Sections 380 and 457 IPC.

The petitioner was charge-sheeted for committing theft of gold ornaments and cash at night. As per the prosecution, after lodging of complaint in the matter, the petitioner was immediately arrested and was found in possession of gold ornaments and cash of Rs 2500 complained to be stolen. The matter went to trial and the petitioner was convicted as mentioned above.

N.M. Gaidhane, Advocate for the petitioner submitted that there was no evidence against the petitioner to convict him. On the other hand, V.P. Gangane, Additional Public Prosecutor representing the State supported the judgment of the trial court.

The High Court noted that as per the independent witness, at the time of petitioner’s arrest gold articles and cash were seized from him and he was unable to explain the possession of those articles. The Court referred to Section 114 of the Evidence Act which provides that the court may presume the existence of certain facts. Illustration (a) of this section states that “a man who is in possession of stolen goods soon after the theft is either the thief or has received the goods knowing them to be stolen, unless he can account for his possession.” As in the present case, the petitioner was not able to rebut the presumption under Section 114 as he failed to account for the articles found in his possession immediately after the theft. Hence, his conviction was upheld while the sentence was modified for the period of imprisonment already undergone by him. [Imran Khan v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 46, dated 14-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The criminal revision was filed before a Bench of Aniruddha Singh, J., against the judgment and order passed by the Sessions Judge, Mathura where revisionist were convicted under Sections 325 read with 34 of the Penal Code.

Facts of the case were that FIR was filed against the revisionist alleging that they committed assault on one Lakshman who received only two injuries which were serious and the rest were simple injuries. The trial court had found the case to have been proved beyond reasonable doubt, thus by the impugned judgment and order, the sentence was awarded and the appeal was dismissed. Hence, this revision was filed. Revisionist submitted that the impugned order passed by the appellate court was illegal, arbitrary and without application of mind. High Court found no illegality or infirmity in the conviction by the appellant court which had given concurrent finding as trial court on the conviction.

High Court while considering the point of sentence observed the age, their belonging to rural areas and social and economic status of the revisionists, held that end of justice would be served if the revisionists are punished for the period of imprisonment already undergone with a fine of Rs 500. Therefore, impugned order passed by session judge was set aside. [Ganeshi v. State, 2018 SCC OnLine All 3365, order dated 01-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Manipur High Court: A Bench of Lanusungkum Jamir, J. set aside petitioner’s suspension order and held him to be entitled to full back wages from the date of suspension.

The petitioner was a peon in Chandel Treasury under Finance Department, Government of Manipur. While in service, he was convicted in a criminal case and sentenced to 2 years of rigorous imprisonment. Subsequently, the Director, Treasuries and Accounts, Manipur issued an order suspending him under sub-rule (2)(a) of Rule 10 of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965 in contemplation of disciplinary proceedings. Also, the petitioner was not paid even subsistence allowance since the date o his suspension. The present petition was filed in 2013 and till date, no counter affidavit was filed by the State.

The High Court noted that the suspicion order in contemplation of disciplinary proceedings against the petitioner was issued in view of his conviction as mentioned above. However, no disciplinary proceedings were initiated till date. The Court relied on Union of India v. Tulsiram Patel, (1985) 3 SCC 398 and observed, “It is also a settled principle of law that the conviction on criminal charge does not automatically entail dismissal, removal or reduction in the rank of the concerned Government servant.” It was noted that the petitioner was lingering in the state of suspension for 15 years and that too without any subsistence allowance. Opining that the State could not be permitted to treat the petitioner in such manner, the Court set aside the suspension order. The petitioner was held entitled to full back wages from the date of his suspension along with all consequential service benefits. [L. Ango Anal v. State of Manipur, 2018 SCC OnLine Mani 180, Order dated 13-12-2018]

Hot Off The PressNews

As reported by Dawn, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, who was awarded 10 years imprisonment in the Avenfield case, was awarded 7 years imprisonment in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills/ Hill Metal Establishment reference by the accountability court.

It has also been stated that Sharif has also been imposed with a fine of Rs 1.5 billion and $25 million, along with an acquittal in the Flagship Investment case.

According to the sources, it has been stated that the decision stated that in the Al-Azizia reference, “the accused has failed to discharge the burden of proof, therefore, convicted under Section 9(a) (5) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.”

Furthermore, the court barred him from holding public office for 10 years after completing the sentence.

[Source: Dawn]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge bench comprising of M.G. Giratkar, J. dismissed a revision petition filed against the judgment of Judicial Magistrate and confirmed by Additional Sessions Judge, Nagpur whereby the petitioner was convicted for offence punishable under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

The petitioner and the complainant were businessmen. They entered into a transaction whereby the complainant provided a hand loan of Rs 50,000 to the petitioner. The petitioner issued a cheque which was presented to the bank by the complainant on default of repayment of the amount. It was returned by the bank with remark “insufficient fund”. The complainant initiated legal proceedings which culminated in petitioner’s conviction as mentioned above.

Notably, the complainant did not adduce any evidence to show that the advanced Rs 50,000 to the petitioner. However, he held a cheque and an acknowledgment slip. The petitioner did not dispute his signatures on the documents.

The High Court relied on K. Bhaskaran v. Sankaran Vaidhyan Balan, (1999) 7 SCC 510 for the proposition that where signature on the cheque is admitted to be that of accused, the presumption envisaged in Section 118 of the Negotiable Instruments Act can legally be inferred that cheque was drawn for consideration on the date which it bears. Furthermore, Section 139 enjoins on the Court to presume that holder of the cheque received it for discharge of debt or liability and burden is on the accused to rebut this presumption. In the present case, nothing was brought on record to show that the accused did not receive Rs 50,000. Also, he did not deny his signatures on the cheque and acknowledgment. As such, the Court held that there was no illegality in the impugned judgment. Th revision petition was dismissed. [Amol v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 6682, dated 22-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of M.G. Giratkar, J. allowed revision petition and set aside appellant’s conviction under Section 497 IPC in light of Supreme Court decision in Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

The applicant was alleged to have had sexual relations with complainant’s wife. He was tried and convicted by the trial court for committing the offence of adultery under Section 497 IPC. His appeal thereagainst before the Additional Session Judge was dismissed. Hence, then he filed the present application for revision. It was prayed that in light decision in Joseph Shine where Supreme Court had held Section 497 to be unconstitutional, the present application ought to be allowed.

The High Court relied on A.S. Gauraya v. S.N. Thakur, (1986) 2 SCC 709 wherein it was held that a law declared by Supreme Court applies even to pending proceedings with retrospective effect. Hence, the Court gave retrospective effect to the law laid down in Joseph Shine to the proceeding pending before it. The Supreme Court in Joseph Shine held Section 497 IPC and Section 198 (2) CrPC to be violative of Articles 14, 15(1) and 21 and therefore unconstitutional. Therefore, in view of Joseph Shine, the conviction and punishment awarded to the applicant under Section 497 was quashed and set aside. [Rupesh v. Charandas,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 6292, dated 14-12-2018]

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 R.K. Gauba, J. directed partial retrial of a case while disposing of an appeal filed against the order of conviction and sentence awarded to the appellant by the trial court.

The appellant was alleged to have committed an offence of penetrative sexual assault on a ten-year-old child. He was sentenced and convicted by the trial court under Section 376(i)(2) IPC and Section of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. This was challenged by the appellant pleading that he was falsely implicated in the case and the charge against him was not proved.

The High Court perused the record and noted that a crucial witness in the case—- Dr Pallavi, the medical examiner who prepared MLC report of the victim– was not examined by the prosecution. It was noted that summons were sent for Dr Pallavi to appear in Court as a witness but in the summons, the court itself gave liberty to the hospital concerned to send some other doctor in place of Dr Pallavi in case she had left services of the hospital. Subsequently, some other doctor appeared before the court only for the purpose of proving Dr Pallavi’s handwriting and signature. As a matter of fact, there was no examination or cross-examination of the crucial witness. This course was not approved by the High Court as it may lead to a serious miscarriage of justice. It was held,

“No doubt, the prosecution may rely on the evidence of an alternative witness if the witness earlier cited has become unavailable or her presence cannot be secured without unreasonable delay. But the suggestion for alternative witness cannot come from the Court on assumption that the witness may not be readily available, not the least without an attempt being made to reach out to such witness.”

Consequently, the conviction and sentence awarded to the appellant was set aside and the case was remanded back to the trial court directing that Dr Pallavi shall be summoned for examination. [Santosh Kumar v. State, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 12727, decided on 19-11-2018]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Canada: A five-judge Bench comprising of Wagner CJ and Abella, Côté, Rowe and Martin , JJ. while hearing Crown’s appeal against the decision of Court of Appeals, ruled that in the presence of admitted incriminating evidence on record, Court’s failure to compel a witness to answer a question related to such evidence would not have a bearing on conviction of the accused.

Respondent was convicted at trial of attempting to commit murder, uttering a threat to cause death, breaking and entering a place and committing attempted murder. The trial judge had relied on a few notes found in respondent’s residence, along with other evidence, to find him guilty of these offences. However, in an appeal to the Court of Appeals, the trial court order was set aside. Hence, the instant appeal was preferred by the Crown as a matter of right.

In the trial court, the defence counsel had raised a question to a witness in an attempt to find out as to who had written the two notes found in respondent’s residence. But the witness refused to answer this question. The main submission advanced on behalf of respondent was that the trial judge had erred in the way he addressed witness’ refusal to answer a vital question, and as such his conviction was liable to be set aside.

The Supreme Court, after appreciating the materials on record, noted that since the respondent had subsequently admitted to writing most of the incriminating statements in the notes found in his residence, therefore the trial judge’s failure to take further steps to compel the witness to answer the question put to him did not have an effect on the verdict. It was a proper exercise of the trial court’s discretion in continuing with the main proceedings and leaving the issue of potential contempt proceedings, against the aforesaid witness, for being taken up later in time.

It was observed that even if one assumed that the trial judge had committed an error in his addressal of witness’ refusal to answer the question put to him, any such error did not result in a substantial wrong or miscarriage of justice, and therefore respondent’s convictions were upheld as per Section 686(1) (b)(iii) of the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46. The Crown’s appeal was allowed and respondent’s conviction was restored. [Queen v. Alex Normore, 2018 SCC OnLine Can SC 37, decided on 19-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of Sanjay Karol, Chander Bhusan Barowalia, JJ. allowed an appeal filed against the order of conviction passed by the trial court, whereby accused was convicted under Section 20 of the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

The main issue that arose before the Court was whether the trial court was justified in holding that the prosecution had successfully proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court observed that if the statement of official witnesses are confidence inspiring, conviction of the accused can be based upon their un-shattered testimony. There were several discrepancies in the statements of the IO and other official witnesses such as- independent witnesses were available on the spot but they were not called, one official was not sure whether the option of being searched before a police officer was given to the accused or not whereas the IO stated that he had given options to the accused of being searched before a magistrate but he volunteered to get searched before the police. Hence, it can be reasonably concluded that there were several discrepancies in the statements of the official witnesses and those statements were not backed by any other evidence.

The Court held that after analyzing the statements of the officials vis-à-vis the evidence produced, it can be said that the prosecution had failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. The statement of police witnesses were not confidence inspiring and were found to be full of contradictions, at the same point of time, independent witnesses, which were abundantly available were not associated and seal was not produced in the Court. Resultantly, the appeal was allowed and the order of conviction passed by the trial court was set aside.[Neer v. State of H.P.,2018 SCC OnLine HP 1572, order dated 05-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single judge Bench comprising of K.L. Wadane, J. partly allowed a criminal appeal filed against the judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted under Sections 450 and 354-A IPC along with Section 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2000.

The appellant was accused of committing sexual assault on a minor victim on the pretext of giving her chocolate. the accusation and charges against the appellant stood proved in the trial court. Consequently, he was convicted as aforesaid and sentenced accordingly. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant preferred the instant appeal.

The High Court, after perusal of the record, partly affirmed the judgment of the trial court to the extent it convicted the appellant under Section 354-A IPC and Section 8 POCSO Act. However, regarding Section 450 IPC, it was observed that an accused can be convicted for the offence punishable under the said Section only if another offence for which he has been convicted is punishable with imprisonment for life; otherwise, the conviction under Section 450 IPC is bad in the eyes of law. Since in the instant case, the other offences for which the appellant was convicted were not punishable with imprisonment for life, the Court acquitted him from the offence punishable under Section 450 IPC. The appeal was disposed of in the terms above. [Hanumant v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine Del 12142, dated 29-09-2018]