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 BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case relating to Prevention of Corruption Act, the 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah*, JJ has partly allowed the appeal regarding quantum of sentence, while concurrent order of conviction by the Courts below was confirmed.

The appellant was convicted for offences under Sections 7, 13(2) read with 13(1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 whereby the Special Judge had sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of two years with fine of Rs 5,000; which was confirmed by the High Court of judicature at Madras.

Aggrieved and dissatisfied, the appellant contended that he was a senior citizen aged about 69/70 years and had been already dismissed from service on being convicted for the offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Therefore, it was prayed to reduce the sentence imposed to the sentence already undergone.

Considering the fact that, out of two years sentence imposed by the Special Court, confirmed by the High Court, the appellant had already undergone approximately one year and one month and that the appellant was a senior citizen aged about 70 years who had been already dismissed from service, the Court stated,

“The ends of justice would be met if the sentence of two years rigorous imprisonment as imposed by the learned Special Court, confirmed by the High Court, is reduced to that of one year and one month rigorous imprisonment.”[S. Sundara Kumar v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 21, decided on 13-01-2021]


*Justice M.R. Shah has penned this judgment

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: A Division Bench of S.K Mishra and Savitri Ratho JJ. dismissed the appeal and directed to adjudication application for remission within 60 days of the receipt of the application.

The facts of the case are the deceased-Urmila had married the appellant-accused in 1994 during which a sum of Rs 20, 000 gold chain, ring etc., were given as per the demand made from the side of the appellant. After the marriage, the appellant further demanded a sum of Rs 10, 000 and he used to assault Urmila and force her to bring the said amount as dowry. The matter was settled by village heads on many different occasions until one night, on 07-07-2003 appellant set Urmila on fire after forcibly opening the door while she was sleeping with her son. Urmila had sustained extensive burn injuries and succumbed to death after recording her dying declaration before Basanta Kumar Jena, Officer-in-charge of Binjharpur P.S. where the FIR was lodged. All the circumstantial articles were collected for forensic examination and investigation. The Additional Sessions Judge convicted the appellant based on upon the dying declaration of the deceased which has been established beyond all reasonable doubt as there was no eye witness to prove the contrary. Aggrieved by the conviction, the appellant-accused has filed the instant appeal assailing the said conviction under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 for acquittal or remission of sentence.

Counsel for the appellants Ramani Kanta Pattnaik and Savitri Ratho disputed the veracity of the dying declaration as the F.I.R. lodged implicates six persons including the appellant but in the dying declaration no such implication has been made out against five other persons, who happen to be the relations of the appellant. It was further submitted that no medical examination was conducted before the drying declaration was recorded to the effect that the deceased was in the right mental state to have recorded the same. It was further submitted that there is no independent corroboration of the dying declaration; it cannot be the sole basis of conviction and hence it is liable to be rejected.

Counsel for the respondents Subir Kumar Pallit submitted that if the dying declaration is accepted to be true and voluntary, conviction can be upheld on the basis of the uncorroborated testimony and uncorroborated dying declaration of the deceased. It was also submitted that it is a mere rule of prudence and not the ultimate test as to whether or not the dying declaration was truthful or voluntary. It was also argued that no format has been prescribed for recording a dying declaration.

The main issue in the instant case is whether the judgment of conviction recorded by the Additional Sessions Judge only on the basis of the dying declaration stands scrutiny or not.

The court relied on judgments Khushal Rao v. State of Bombay; [1958] S.C.R. 552 and Paniben v. State of Gujarat (1992) 2 SCC 474 wherein it was held that

“Though a dying declaration is entitled to great weight, it is worthwhile to note that the accused has no power of cross-examination. Such a power is essential for eliciting the truth as an obligation of oath could be. This is the reason the Court also insists that the dying declaration should be of such a nature as to inspire full confidence of the Court in its correctness. The Court has to be on guard that the statement of deceased was not as a result of tutoring, prompting or a product of imagination. The Court must be further satisfied that the deceased was in a fit state of mind after a clear opportunity to observe and identify the assailants. Once the Court is satisfied that the declaration was true and voluntary, undoubtedly, it can base its conviction without any further corroboration. It cannot be laid down as an absolute rule of law that the dying declaration cannot form the sole basis of conviction unless it is corroborated. The rule requiring corroboration is merely a rule of prudence”

 Comprehensive principles regarding dying declaration are  

  • There is neither rule of law nor of prudence that dying declaration cannot be acted upon without corroboration. [Mannu Raja v. State of M.P; (1976) 3 SCC 104
  • If the Court is satisfied that the dying declaration is true and voluntary it can base conviction on it, without corroboration. [State of U. P. v. Ram Sagar Yadav; (1985) 1 SCC 552] 
  • The Court has to scrutinize the dying declaration carefully and must ensure that the declaration is not the result of tutoring, prompting or imagination. The deceased had opportunity to observe and identify the assailants and was in a fit state to make the declaration. [Ram Chandra Reddy v. Public Prosecutor; (1976) 3 SCC 618]
  • Where dying declaration is suspicious it should not be acted upon without corroborative evidence. [Rasheed Beg v. Sate of M P; (1974) 4 SCC 264]
  • Where the deceased was unconscious and could never make any dying declaration the evidence with regard to it is to be rejected. [Kake Singh v. State of M. P.; 1981 Supp SCC 25] 
  • A dying declaration which suffers from infirmity cannot form the basis of conviction. [Ram Manorath v. State of U.P.; (1981) 2 SCC 654]
  • Merely because a dying declaration does not contain the details as to the occurrence, it is not to be rejected. [State of Maharashtra v. Krishnamurthi Laxmipati Naidu; 1980 Supp SCC 455] 
  • Equally, merely because it is a brief statement, it is not be discarded. On the contrary, the shortness of the statement itself guarantees truth. [Surajdeo Ojha v. State of Bihar; 1980 Supp SCC 769] 
  • Normally the court in order to satisfy whether deceased was in a fit mental condition to make the dying declaration look up to the medical opinion. But where the eye witness has said that the deceased was in a fit and conscious state to make this dying declaration, the medical opinion cannot prevail. [Nanahau Ram v. State of M.P.; AIR 1988 SC 912]
  • Where the prosecution version differs from the version as given in the dying declaration, the said declaration cannot be acted upon. [State of U.P. v. Madan Mohan; (1989) 3 SCC 390]

Issue 1: Dying Declaration

The Court thus observed based on the examination of the deceased and her statements and other documents available on record that the all the evidence read together leaves no doubt in the mind of the Court that the dying declaration is true and voluntary.

The Court thus held that dying declaration was relied upon by the Additional Sessions Judge, who had the opportunity of observing the demeanor of the witnesses when the evidence was recorded and therefore, this is not a case where the dying declaration should be viewed with suspicious and hence the impugned judgment with respect to conviction must prevail.

Issue 2: Remission of Sentence

The Court observed that Remission consists of two types, one where remission is earned by a prisoner under the Prison Rules or other relevant rules based on his/her good behaviour or such other stipulations prescribed therein. The other remission is the grant of it by the appropriate Government in exercise of its power under Section 432 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The Court further relied on judgment Swamy Sraddananda v. State of Karnataka; (2008) 13 SCC 767  and observed that the only right of the convict i.e. recognized is a right to apply to the competent authority and have his case considered in a fair and reasonable manner.

The Court held that it is open for appellant to make an application to the proper authority in the State of Odisha, the Principal Secretary, Department of Home, Government of Odisha. So, we give liberty to the appellant to make an application to that effect to the concerned authority for remission of his sentence to the period already undergone.

In view of the above, appeal was dismissed.[Shyam Sundar Jena v. State of Orissa, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 934, decided on 16-12-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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

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

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

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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: P. Sam Koshy J., dismissed the petition stating that no interference is required at this juncture keeping in mind the settled position of law.

The facts of the case are such that Petitioner was working with the Respondents as Minig Sirdar, Grade-3. An FIR was lodged against the Petitioner and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a criminal case against him for the offence punishable under Sections 120-B, 420, 468, 471 of the Indian Penal Code i.e. IPC as well as under Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act i.e PCA and the Petitioner is being prosecuted before the Special Judge, CBI, Dhanbad. Meanwhile, the employer, i.e., the Respondents has initiated a departmental enquiry against the Petitioner which is under challenge in the present Writ Petition.

Counsel for the petitioners submitted that the witnesses in both the cases, i.e., the criminal case as also in the departmental enquiry, would be the same and in the event if the Petitioner is made to disclose his defence before the departmental authorities first, it may have an adverse bearing on the outcome of the criminal case wherein evidence would get adversely affected.

The court relied on judgment S. Sreesanth v. Board of Control for Cricket in India, 2019 (4) SCC 660 and Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited v. C. Nagaraju, 2019 (10) SCC 367 wherein it was held that “Acquittal by a criminal court would not debar an employer from exercising the power to conduct departmental proceedings in accordance with the rules and regulations. The two proceedings, criminal and departmental, are entirely different. They operate in different fields and have different objectives. In the disciplinary proceedings, the question is whether the Respondent is guilty of such conduct as would merit his removal from service or a lesser punishment, as the case may be, whereas in the criminal proceedings, the question is whether the offences registered against him under the PC Act are established, and if established, what sentence should be imposed upon him. The standard of proof, the mode of inquiry and the rules governing inquiry and trial in both the cases are significantly distinct and different. It is settled law that the acquittal by a Criminal Court does not preclude a Departmental Inquiry against the delinquent officer. The Disciplinary Authority is not bound by the judgment of the Criminal Court if the evidence that is produced in the Departmental Inquiry is different from that produced during the criminal trial. The object of a Departmental Inquiry is to find out whether the delinquent is guilty of misconduct under the conduct rules for the purpose of determining whether he should be continued in service. The standard of proof in a Departmental Inquiry is not strictly based on the rules of evidence. The order of dismissal which is based on the evidence before the Inquiry Officer in the disciplinary proceedings, which is different from the evidence available to the Criminal Court, is justified and needed no interference by the High Court.”

 In the case of Shashi Bhusan Prasad v. Inspector General, CISF, 2019 (7) SCC 797 wherein it was held that “19. We are in full agreement with the exposition of law laid down by this Court and it is fairly well settled that two proceedings criminal and departmental are entirely different. They operate in different fields and have different objectives. Whereas the object of criminal trial is to inflict appropriate punishment on an offender, the purpose of enquiry proceedings is to deal with the delinquent departmentally and to impose penalty in accordance with the service Rules. The degree of proof which is necessary to order a conviction is different from the degree of proof necessary to record the commission of delinquency. Even the rule relating to appreciation of evidence in the two proceedings is also not similar. In criminal law, burden of proof is on the prosecution and unless the prosecution is able to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, he cannot be convicted by a Court of law whereas in the departmental enquiry, penalty can be imposed on the delinquent on a finding recorded on the basis of ‘preponderance of probability’. Acquittal by the Court of competent jurisdiction in a judicial proceeding does not ipso facto absolve the delinquent from the liability under the disciplinary jurisdiction of the authority. This what has been considered by the High Court in the impugned judgment in detail and needs no interference by this Court.

XXX XXX XXX

  1. The judgment in G.M. Tank case (supra) on which the learned counsel for the appellant has placed reliance was a case where this Court had proceeded on the premise that the charges in the criminal case and departmental enquiry are grounded upon the same sets of facts and evidence. This may not be of any assistance to the appellant as we have observed that in the instant case the charge in the criminal case and departmental enquiry were different having no nexus/corelationship based on different sets of facts and evidence which has been independently enquired in the disciplinary proceedings and in a criminal trial and acquittal in the criminal proceedings would not absolve the appellant from the liability under the disciplinary proceedings instituted against him in which he had been held guilty and in sequel thereto punished with the penalty of dismissal from service.

 Based on facts, observations and authoritative judgments Court held that it would not be proper to exercise its extraordinary power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to interfere with the disciplinary proceedings initiated against the Petitioner.

In view of the above, petition was dismissed.[Prayag Prasad v. South Eastern Coal Fields Limited, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 1449, decided on 24-11-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India, in order to ensure effective prosecution leading to conviction in cases of sexual assault on women, has prepared a ‘Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on Collection & Processing of scientific/forensic evidences.’ The SOP, prepared in consultation with medical experts, has been sent to the States/UTs for issuing instructions to all the officers concerned for implementation.

The SOP has been divided into seven sections of key operating procedures. These are: victim care, promptness and examination, collection of samples, collection of blood and urine samples, genital and anal evidence, handing over samples to FSL and general. It can be accessed through the link: https://nhrc.nic.in/acts-and-rules/standard-operating-procedure-sop-collection-processing-scientificforensic-evidences

The Commission has come out with this SOP after it observed that in many cases of alleged rape and sexual assault, there is a substantial delay in medical examination, collection & processing of scientific/forensic evidences of the victim of sexual assault. The exhibits are forwarded to the Forensic Science Laboratory, FSL after much delay and by that time, the samples deteriorate/autolyse and become unsuitable for examination. This delay adversely affects the investigation for effective prosecution leading to a conviction.

The NHRC has expressed the hope that this Standard Operating Procedure if implemented in letter & spirit by the concerned authorities, will definitely help improve the system of medicolegal investigation in cases of sexual assault on women in the country.


National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 16-12-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: S.K. Sahoo J. allowed the appeal in part setting aside conviction under Sections 376/511, 354 and 457 of  Penal Code, 1860 and upholding conviction under Section 448 IPC.

The facts of the case are such that on 03-10-1989 at about 9.30 p.m. while the victim/informant was sleeping with her younger brother in one room of her house and her elder brother Jubaraj Nag and his elder brother’s wife Jayanti Nag were sleeping in the adjacent room, the appellant entered into the room where the victim was sleeping by opening the bamboo door of the victim’s room, disrobed her saree and attempted to commit rape on her. Hearing hullah of the victim, the elder brother and his wife came inside her room. The appellant tried to conceal himself underneath a raised platform inside the bedroom but the victim, as well as his elder brother, assaulted him by firewood. Due to tussle of the appellant with the victim, the bangles of the victim were broken and were lying underneath the cot. Then the brothers of the appellant came and took him to their house. FIR was lodged against the appellant under Sections 457 and 354 of the Penal Code, 1860 i.e. IPC. The appellant Satrughana Nag faced trial in the Court of learned Additional Sessions Judge, Titilagarh for offences punishable under Sections 376/ 511, 354 and 457 of the IPC. The learned trial Court vide impugned judgment and order dated 17-03-1990, found the appellant guilty of the offences charged and sentenced him accordingly. Aggreived by the same, instant appeal was filed.

Counsel for the appellants submitted that there are certain improbability features in the prosecution case which create doubt that the appellant attempted to commit rape on the victim rather the victim appears to be a consenting party and when she was caught in a compromising position with the appellant by her family members, she reacted and brought false accusation against the appellant just to save her own skin.

Counsel for the respondents submitted that evidence of the victim is clear, cogent and trustworthy, that in itself is sufficient to convict the appellant.

The Court based on the evidence put on record and the witnesses submissions observed that it is the settled principle of law that if the statement of the prosecutrix is found to be worthy of credence and reliable, then it requires no corroboration and the Court can act on such testimony and convict the accused. There may be compelling reasons in some cases which may necessitate looking for corroboration to the statement of the prosecutrix. The evidence of the prosecutrix is more reliable than that of an injured witness. Minor contradictions or insignificant discrepancies in the statement of the prosecutrix should not be a ground to discard her version, if it inspires confidence. Corroboration to the testimony of the prosecutrix is not a requirement of law but a guidance of prudence under the given circumstances. The very nature of offence makes it difficult to get direct corroborating evidence.

The Court further observed on the issue of whether victim was a consenting party or not and stated that law is well settled that even in the absence of a specific defence of consent being taken by an accused charged with the offence of rape, if the evidence on record indicates that the victim was a consenting party, then the Court can always take the view that the sexual intercourse with the prosecutrix was not against her will but with her consent. Whether there was consent or not, is to be ascertained only on a careful study of all relevant circumstances. An inference as to consent can be drawn only basing on evidence or probabilities of the case. ‘Consent’ is stated to be an act of reason coupled with deliberation. It denotes an active will in mind of a person to permit the doing of the act complained of. If the victim fails to offer sufficient resistance, the Court may find that there was no force or threat of force or the act was not against her will. ‘Consent’ does not mean submission under the influence of fear or terror. There must be an exercise of intelligence based on knowledge of its significance and moral quality and there must be choice between resistance and assent. If the woman resists to a point whereafter further resistance would be useless or until her resistance is overcome by force or violence, submission thereafter is not consent. Verbal resistance apart, the woman can give effective obstacles by means of hands, limbs and pelvic muscles. Resistance by any or more of these will amount to resistance in the eye of law. A mere act of helpless resignation in the face inevitable compulsion, acquiescence, non-resistance or passive giving in, when volitional faculty is either clouded by fear or vitiated byduress, cannot be deemed to be a consent, as envisaged in law.

The Court thus held that the victim’s version in the Court was of rape but when it is compared with the one given during investigation, certain irreconcilable discrepancies are noticed. The evidence regarding actual commission of rape is at variance from what was recorded by police during evidence. Therefore, the victim cannot be said to be a truthful witness. It was further held that coming to the charge of attempt to commit rape, the reaction of the victim at the time of occurrence and immediately thereafter are very relevant features, but its absence is not always a decisive factor. As per examination and records it is clear that there were many opportunities earlier for the victim to raise shout and protest but she did not do that.

In view of the above, the conviction of the appellant under Sections 376/511 and 354 of IPC was held to not be sustainable in the eye of law however; there are enough materials to make out an offence of house18 trespass as defined under Section 442 of IPC which is punishable under Section 448 of IPC.

The court thus allowing the appeal in part held conviction of the appellant under Sections 376/511, 354 and 457 of  IPC is hereby set aside, instead the appellant is convicted under Section 448 of the IPC and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for the period already undergone by him.[Satrughana Nag v. State of Odisha, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 885, decided on 11-12-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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

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

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

Analysis, Law and Decision

Section 395 IPC | Punishment for Dacoity:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Anoop Chitkara, J., setting aside the conviction against the petitioner, discussed the effect of compromise between the parties in cases attracting Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 and the cases of compounding of offence under the same.

Background

The petitioner stands convicted under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, vide order dated 26-07-2018 by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Shimla. Application under Section 389 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, was made by the petitioner before the Sessions Judge, which stands dismissed in default by order dated 07-01-2019. The petition hereby was moved invoking Inherent powers of the High Court under Section 482 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, against the said conviction. 

Observations

The Court reiterating the objective of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, said, “The jurisprudence behind the N.I. Act is that the business transactions are honoured. The legislative intention is not to send the people to suffer incarceration because their cheque was bounced. These proceedings are simply to execute the recovery of cheque amount by showing teeth of penalty loss.”  Considering the peculiar facts of the present case and the power of Court to interfere in matters like such, the Court observed, “This Court has inherent powers under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which are further supported by Section 147 of the N.I. Act to interfere in this kind of matter where parties have paid the entire money and where the complainant does not object to clear all the proceedings.” Reliance was placed on Shakuntala Sawhney v. Kaushalya Sawhney, (1980) 1 SCC 63, wherein the Supreme Court held, “The finest hour of Justice arise propitiously when parties, despite falling apart, bury the hatchet and weave a sense of fellowship or reunion.”  With respect to the compromise made and its effect over the FIR, the Court said, “(…) It is a fit case where the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure read with 147 of Negotiable Instruments Act, is invoked to compound the offence and consequently to quash the above-mentioned FIR and consequent proceedings” The Court further reproduced the guidelines as laid down by Damodar S. Prabhu v. Sayed Babalal H., (2010) 5 SCC 663, with respect to the compounding of offences under the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

Decision

While setting aside the impugned order of conviction by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, the Court directed the petitioner to be released from the prison with immediate effect.[Gaurav Sharma v. Ishwari Nand, 2020 SCC OnLine HP 2464, decided on 13-11-2020]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has up this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Vinay Joshi, J., altered the conviction for rape and penetrative sexual assault to an act of aggravated form of sexual assault punishable under Section 10 of the POCSO Act in light of touching the breast of the child.

Appellant aged 67 years was convicted under Sections 376 and 450 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 4 and 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO).

Accused was acquitted from the charge of committing offence punishable under Section 377 IPC.  Accused challenged the conviction in the instant appeal.

Informant was residing along with his family members, including his daughter/victim girl aged 8 years. Two sons of the informant had been to their school and the minor victim was alone at the house as she was ill. In the afternoon the informant returned to his house for lunch and found that the house was locked from within, therefore, he peeped from the window and saw that appellant by lifting frock of the victim was moving his hand on her neck, cheek and chest.

Later, the informant shouted to open the door and hurriedly left the place. Victim disclosed that the accused moved his hand on her body, kissed her as well as put his finger in his anal part.

In regard to the above reference, informant lodged a report against the said incident.

Special Judge framed charge under relevant provisions of IPC and POCSO Act further on the appreciation of evidence held that the prosecution succeeded in proving the offence punishable under Sections 376 and 450 IPC, Sections 4 and 6 of the POCSO Act.

The prosecution case, in short, is about rape and aggravated penetrative sexual assault by the accused on a minor victim aged 8 years.

Analysis and Decision

Bench stated that the act of accused of touching the breast of the victim with sexual intent amounts to an aggravated form of sexual assault, which is punishable under Section 10 of the POCSO Act.

Since the medical evidence nowhere supported that there was insertion or penetration of finger into the anal region, it is doubtful whether the accused penetrated his finger into the anal region of the victim.

If two view emerges from the situation, the view favourable to the accused would take precedence. On mere assumption or possibility, the accused cannot be convicted.

 All the sexual assaults on children below 12 years amount to an aggravated form of sexual assault.

With regard to the age of the accused, which is near about 70 years, the imprisonment of 5 years would meet the ends of justice. From the set of circumstances laid down, it is clear that the house-trespass was merely in order to commit an offence punishable with imprisonment, which is punishable under Section 451 of the Penal Code, 1860.

In view of the above, criminal appeal as partly allowed.

Conviction under Section 376 of IPC and Sections 4 and 6 of the POCSO Act, is hereby quashed and set aside, instead the accused was convicted for the offence punishable under Section 10 of the POCSO Act and.

Further, instead of conviction under Section 450 IPC, the appellant is convicted for the offence punishable under Section 451 of the IPC.

Hence appellant will be entitled to set off under Section 428 of the CrPC. [Tukaram Ashruji Khandare v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 2802, decided on 22-10-2020]


Advocate for the appellant, R.V. Gahilot and H.R. Dhumale, A.P.P. for the respondent.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case dating back to 1989, relating to the adulteration of Dalda Vanaspati Khajoor Brand Ghee, wherein the company was absolved of all charges but prosecution against it’s nominated office Nirmal Sen continued, the 3-judge bench of L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta* and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has held that in the absence of the Company, the Nominated Person cannot be convicted or vice versa.

In the present case, the Trial Court did not pass any order to convict the Company but convicted the appellant Nirmal Sen. The Madhya Pradesh High Court, however, set aside the order of conviction and remitted back the matter to the trial court for passing fresh orders against the appellant Nirmal Sen and the Company. The reasoning given for the same was that if the Company is acquitted of the charges, the said benefit will also directly go to the appellant/Nominated Officer. It also noticed that there was a glaring and patent defect in the judgment of the trial court as well as in the judgment of the appellate court.

Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing on behalf of the appellant/Nominated Officer argued that the appellant was charged for the violation of Section 2(ia)(m) read with Section 7(i) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (the 1954 Act). Such violation attracted a sentence of not less than six months and up to 3 years and a fine of Rs.1,000/- under Section 16(1)(a)(i), whereas under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (the 2006 Act), the punishment of such adulteration which is related to only higher melting point is fine of Rs.5 lakhs and Rs.1 lakh under Sections 3(1)(zx) and 3(1)(i) respectively.

The Court, however, did not find any merit in the aforementioned argument and said that though the 1954 Act has been repealed by Section 97 of the 2006 Act, however, the punishments imposed under the 1954 Act have been protected. It noticed that in terms of Section 6 of the General Clauses Act, 1897, unless different intention appears, the repeal of a statute does not affect any investigation, legal proceeding or remedy in respect of any such right, privilege, obligation, liability, penalty, forfeiture or punishment and any such investigation, legal proceeding or remedy may be instituted, continued or enforced, and any such penalty, forfeiture or punishment may be imposed as if the Repealing Act or Regulation had not been passed.

“But in the 2006 Act, the repeal and saving clause contained in Section 97 (1)(iii) and (iv) specifically provides that repeal of the 1954 Act shall not affect any investigation or remedy in respect of any such penalty, forfeiture or punishment and the punishment may be imposed, “as if the 2006 Act had not been passed”.”

It was, hence, held that in view of Section 97 of the 2006 Act, as also under Section 6 of the General Clauses Act, 1897, the proceedings would continue under the Act.

“No benefit can be taken under the 2006 Act as the prosecution and punishment under the 1954 Act is protected.”

Senior Advocate Siddhartha Luthra, appearing for the Company, argued that the order of remand by the High Court to the trial court against the Company cannot be sustained for the reason that such an order was passed without giving an opportunity of hearing, as contemplated under Section 401(2) of the Code. The Court found strength in this argument and held the course adopted by the High Court to remand the matter to the trial court after more than 30 years to cure the defect which goes to the root of the trial, though permissible in law, was not justified.

It explained that Clause (a) of Sub-Section (1) of Section 17 of the 1954 Act makes the person nominated to be in charge of and responsible to the company for the conduct of business and the company shall be guilty of the offences under clause (b) of Sub-Section (1) of Section 17 of the Act. Hence, Clauses (a) and (b) are not in the alternative but conjoint. Therefore, in the absence of the Company, the Nominated Person cannot be convicted or vice versa.

Since the Company was not convicted by the trial court, the finding of the High Court to revisit the judgment was found to be unfair to the appellant/Nominated Person who has been facing trial for more than last 30 years.

“Therefore, the order of remand to the trial court to fill up the lacuna is not a fair option exercised by the High Court as the failure of the trial court to convict the Company renders the entire conviction of the Nominated Person as unsustainable.”

[Hindustan Unilever Ltd. v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 905, decided on 05.11.2020]


*Justice Hemant Gupta has penned this judgment 

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 BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: M.G. Uma, J., setting aside the conviction order by the fast track Court, allows compromise between the parties.

The appellant-accused in the present case has been tried and convicted by the fast track Court against the offences punishable under Sections 324, 325, 504, 506 and 307 of Penal code, 1860

Counsel for the complainant submitted that the dispute between the complainant and the accused has been compromised and hence the charges may be compounded and the appellant-accused be acquitted accordingly. Additional Advocate General opposed the application stating that the offences under Sections 324 and 307 IPC are not compoundable. Supreme Court decision in, Yogendra Yadav v. State of Jharkhand, (2014) 9 SCC 653 and Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303 was relied on by the counsel for the appellant, wherein it was held, “High Courts can quash criminal proceedings under section 482 even though the offence alleged is non-compoundable if parties have amicably settled their dispute and victim has no objection. Further, this would depend on the fact of each case. Offences which involve moral turpitude, grave offences like rape, murder cannot be effaced by quashing proceedings because they have harmful effect on society and are not restricted to two individuals or groups.”

Further, the earlier order of the present Court was referred, where the decision in S.S. Joshi v. State of Haryana, 2003 Crl. L.J. 2028 was obeyed, allowing a compromise petition by setting aside the judgment of conviction by the trial court.

The Court while setting aside the conviction of the accused allowed the compounding of offences and ordered the deposition of fine as ordered by the trial court.[Yesaiah v. State of Karnataka, Criminal Appeal No. 2603/2012, decided on 3-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Analysis and Decision

Police Officials Testimony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Question:

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

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

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

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

Two necessary ingredients of a ‘deadly weapon’:

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

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

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

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

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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Suresh Kumar Gupta, J., while addressing the present jail appeal held that,

“…in cases involving sexual assault/rape, it is generally difficult to find any corroborative witnesses, except the victim herself and therefore, the evidence of the victim is sufficient for conviction unless there exist compelling reasons for seeking corroboration.”

Appellant has been convicted and sentenced under Section 376 of Penal Code, 1860 for 10 years rigorous imprisonment alongwith a fine of Rs 20,000 and in default of payment of fine, two years additional imprisonment, under Section 342 IPC for six months imprisonment alongwith fine of Rs 500 and in default of payment of fine fifteen days additional imprisonment and under Section 506 IPC for 2 years rigorous imprisonment alongwith fine of Rs 1000 and in default of payment of fine, one-month additional imprisonment. All the sentences shall run concurrently.

Trial Court held the accused guilty and convicted him for the charged offences as aforesaid.

Counsel for the appellant Deepak Rana and AGA for the State is Sri Jai Prakash Tripathi.

Bench observed that it is a settled principle of law that in cases involving sexual assault/rape, it is generally difficult to find any corroborative witnesses, except the victim herself and therefore, the evidence of the victim is sufficient for conviction unless there exist compelling reasons for seeking corroboration. Thus, a conviction can be sustained on the sole testimony of the prosecutrix, if it inspires confidence.

In Gagan Bihari Samal v. State of Orissa, (1991) 3 SCC 562 Supreme Court of India whilst observing that corroboration is not the sine qua non for conviction in a rape case, held as follows :

In cases of rape, generally, it is difficult to find any corroborative witnesses except the victim of the rape. It has been observed by this Court in Bharwada Bhoginbhai Hirjibhai v. State of Gujarat,(1983) 3 SCC 217.

Further, it is also a well-settled principle of law that the testimony of child witness can be relied upon along with other circumstances and corroborative evidence to convict the accused. Undoubtedly, the settled proposition of law that the evidence of child witness is required to be scrutinised and appreciated with great caution.

Court in view of the well-settled law examined whether the evidence adduced by the prosecution, particularly the testimony of the victim is trustworthy, credible and can be relied upon.

Victim clearly stated that she was misled by the accused/appellant Jonny and he took away her to his house and committed rape upon her by extending threat. The statement of PW-2 has also been corroborated by the mother of the victim PW-1.

Further, there are catena of Judgments of the Supreme Court of India that it is necessary for the Court to have a sensitive approach when dealing with the cases of rape.

In the Supreme Court decision of State of Punjab v. Ramdev Singh, (2004) 1 SCC 421  it was held that,

Sexual violence apart from being a dehumanizing act is an unlawful intrusion on the right of privacy and sanctity of a female. It is a serious blow to her supreme honour and offends her self-esteem and dignity.

It degrades and humiliates the victim and where the victim is a helpless innocent child or a minor. It leaves behind a traumatic experience. A rapist not only causes physical injuries but more indelibly leaves a scar on the most cherished possession of a woman i.e. her dignity, honour, reputation and not the least her chastity. Rape is not only a crime against the person of a woman, it is a crime against the entire society.

Bench stated that it has been established that in the absence of a family member of victim, the accused/appellant fraudulently called the victim to his house. On being called the victim reached the house where appellant forcefully committed rape. In these facts and circumstances in an ordinary procedure it cannot be said to be a case of false implication.

Prosecution by cogent and credible evidence is able to prove the charge under Section 376 IPC against the appellant.

In the present matter, victim is a minor and an adult committed rape on a girl of tender age, deterrent punishment is called for, taking a lenient view is out of the question.

Presently the appellant is incarcerated for more than 7 years. Conviction of the appellant is confirmed under Sections 376, 342 & 506 IPC. So on the point of conviction, the appeal is dismissed.

On the quantum of the sentence, this Court thinks that the end of justice would be met if the appellant is sentenced to imprisonment which he has already undergone.

In view of the above, the appeal is finally disposed of. [Jonny v. State of U.P., Jail Appeal No. 343 of 2018, decided on 03-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Vibha Kankanwadi, J., upheld the Special Court’s decision for conviction of a person accused of having committed unnatural intercourse with a 9 year old child.

Appellant had been accused for the offence punishable under Section 4 of the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences Act.

Accused had committed unnatural intercourse with the minor victim who was 9 years old.

After the above stated incident the victim and his father went to the police station and lodged a report.

Special Judge framed charged for the offence punishable under Section 377 of Penal Code, 1860 and Section 4 of POCSO Act. After the trial, Special Judge held the accused guilty for offence punishable under Section 4 of POCSO Act.

Accused aggrieved with the above, filed the present appeal.

Bench while observing the matter, noted that the medical officer stated that there was no sign of recent tears, no abrasion, contusion or any injury to the private part, though the ultimate conclusion that he stated was “findings are consistent with entry of penis into anus”.

Special Judge did not consider the fact that victim’s father and the accused had some enmity, and on the said basis it could have been drawn that there was possibility of false implication of the accused. The child could have been tutored. 

Withe regard to the enmity aspect between the parties, Court’s opinion was that, even if for the sake of arguments it is accepted that there is such civil dispute; yet, the gravity does not appear to be so that with the help of a small child, the father would level such kind of allegations against the accused.

Further medical officer’s statement was also noted wherein following was stated, not found any recent tears, stains due to semen, blood, faecal matters around the anus or there was no injury or no mark of violence, yet, he has stated that when he had digitally examined the anus, he had found the tone of the sphincter to be hypotonic.

Thus, when the medical evidence supported the victim and there was nothing in the cross examination of the victim to discard his evidence or brand it as unbelievable or untrustworthy, then the facts stated were sufficient to come to the conclusion that the accused committed the offence.

Therefore, Special Court was justified in holding that the prosecution had proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt and proceeded to convict him.

Present appeal was dismissed in the above-view. [Mahesh Sambhaji Chafle v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 705 , decided on 12-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: A Division Bench of Shree Chandrashekhar and Ratnaker Bhengra, JJ. acquitted the accused-appellant of the charge under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 on the ground that the prosecution has failed to prove by leading cogent and reliable evidence that the appellant has committed the crime.

The brief facts of the case are that the sole appellant, namely, Ratanu has been charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 and convicted and sentenced to R.I. for life. Initially, five accused persons were sent up for trial, however, other accused persons were acquitted on the ground that the informant has not named them as accused in her fardbeyan. The prosecution has examined six witnesses; the informant Anjela Dhanwaris PW-1, the uncle of the informant, Kushal Topno PW-3 and Nelem Topno PW-2, the wife of PW-3. The witness, namely, Uday Purty PW-4 was declared hostile. Dr Sukanta Sheet PW-5, conducted the post-mortem examination and found major injuries on Prabodh Dhanwar which were ante-mortem in nature caused by sharp and blunt objects. Aggrieved by the impugned judgment, the present appeal was filed. 

The counsel Kripa Shankar Nanda for the appellant has submitted that PW-1 is not reliable and trustworthy, there is no independent corroboration to the evidence of PW-1, the crime weapon and the blood-stained soil collected from the place of occurrence were not produced in the court, and other prosecution witnesses have turned hostile which causes serious doubt has clouded the prosecution’s case. It further relied on the judgment titled Bhimapa Chandappa Hosamani v. State of Karnataka, (2006) 11 SCC 323, the Supreme Court observed that before conviction of an accused is recorded on the basis of testimony of a single witness it must be found that testimony of such a witness is of such sterling quality that it leaves no doubt about the complicity and involvement of the accused in the crime. 

The prosecution has projected Anjela Dhanwar, daughter of the deceased, as an eye witness whose conduct during the incident makes her testimony suspicious.

The Court relying on the Supreme Court decision in Gopal Singh v. State of M.P., (2010) 6 SCC 407, held the testimony not trustworthy and reliable and, therefore conviction of the appellant under Section 302 of the Penal Code cannot be recorded. [Ratanu v. State of Jharkhand,  2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 2485, decided on 23-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Sandeep Sharma, J. compounded and quashed the impugned judgments and acquitted the petitioner of the charge framed under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881

The brief facts of the case are that the respondent-complainant instituted a complaint under Section 138 of the Act against the present petitioner-accused, alleging he lent sum of Rs 1,00,000 to the petitioner-accused to buy a car. The petitioner accused with a view to discharge his liability issued a cheque in favour of the complainant which was dishonored on its presentation on account of insufficient funds. Since petitioner-accused failed to make the payment within the stipulated period despite issuance of legal notice, respondent/complainant initiated proceedings under Section 138 of the Act. 

The trial Court held the petitioner-accused guilty under Section 138 of the Act and sentenced him accordingly. Being aggrieved, accused preferred an appeal in the court of learned Sessions Judge, Una, which also came to be upheld by the trial court. Hence the present petition seeking acquittal and setting aside of the judgments of conviction recorded by the courts.

The counsel Dheeraj K. Vashishat for the petitioner informed the Court that parties have resolved to settle their dispute amicably inter-se for a total sum of Rs 1,15,000 and Rs 15,000 stands already paid, remaining amount shall be paid on or before 18.2.2020. It was further submitted by learned counsel for the parties that entire sum of Rs 1,15,000 stands received by the respondent complainant in terms of compromise arrived inter-se between them. 

The counsel Leena Guleria for respondent states that since amount in terms of compromise arrived inter-se parties stands received by the complainant, the complainant shall have no objection in case prayer made on behalf of the petitioner for compounding the offence is accepted. Respondent-complainant (Rahul Kumar), who is present in Court stated on oath that he of his own volition and without there being any external pressure has entered into compromise stated to have no objection in case petitioner is acquitted of the charge under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. 

The Court while exercising power under Section 147 of the Act and relying on the Judgment titled Damodar S. Prabhu v. Sayed Babalal H., (2010) 5 SCC 663, wherein it has been categorically held that, while exercising power under Section 147 of the Act, Court can proceed to compound the offence even after recording of conviction.

Consequently, in view of the above, the present matter was compounded and impugned judgments quashed and set-aside and the petitioner-accused was acquitted of the charge framed against him under Section 138 of the Act.

In view of the above, the petition was disposed of. [Satish Kumar v. Rahul Kumar, 2020 SCC OnLine HP 338, decided by 03-03-2020]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Court of Appeal of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: A Division Bench of K.K. Wickremasinghe and K. Priyantha Fernando, JJ., dismissed an appeal filed to set aside the judgment of the High Court.

The prosecutrix had testified that, the incidents had taken place about two years prior to testifying when she was in Grade 8 and the appellant had abused her for 5-6 times. The prosecutrix had narrated these incidents to her mother who took her to the police station and as per the prosecution evidence, the incident had taken place three months prior to making the police complaint. The JMO had testified that no injuries were found but the possibility of sexual abuse cannot be excluded as per the short history was given by the prosecutrix. The appellant had denied committing the offence and contended that he was being falsely implicated by his wife as he had caught her with her paramour. He further submitted that his wife lodged a complaint at the police station asking for the custody of the children and he had denied the same after which the wife had challenged him that she would send him to the prison and would take the custody of the children.

The counsel for the appellant AAL K. Kugaraja contended that the prosecution had failed to establish the date of offence to which the counsel for the respondent Sudarshana De Silva, submitted that the prosecutrix had clearly stated that the incident took place in the latter part of 2007. The accused-appellant had been indicted under three charges for committing Grave sexual abuse on his daughter, an offence punishable under Section 365B (2) (b) of the Penal Code, 1860 as amended. The Trial Court had convicted the accused-appellant and had sentenced him to 18 years of rigorous imprisonment along with fines aggrieved by which this appeal was filed.

The Court while dismissing the appeal explained that the Judgment of the High Court was well reasoned as when the victim is a small child and is abused by someone who is associated to him/her on a daily basis its nearly impossible to specify the exact same date of offence and also the evidence of the prosecution was corroborated by other witnesses as well and the High Court was satisfied with the trustworthiness of the evidence so there was no reason to disturb the findings of the trial court.[Kurundukara Hakuruge Ariyadasa v. Attorney General, C.A. Case No: HCC-0384 of 2017, decided on 05-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: V.M. Deshpande, J. allowed an appeal against the judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted under Section 305 (abetment of suicide of child or insane person) of the Penal Code, 1860.

The appellant’s son had committed suicide by hanging himself. He left behind a suicide note wherein he had mentioned that his father, the appellant, was habitual to drinking. According to the prosecution, the deceased was under great stress due to the appellant’s behavior and, therefore, committed suicide. The appellant faced trial and was convicted as aforesaid. Aggrieved thereby, he filed the instant appeal.

The High Court referred to Section 107 (abetment of a thing) as well as Sections 305 and 306 and noted that the law on abetment to commit suicide is well crystallised by numerous decisions of the Supreme Court. It was also stated that the only difference between Sections 305 and 306 IPC is that Section 305 is a punishing section for abetting the suicide of an insane or a child, whereas Section 306 is a punishing section for the accused who abetted any other person to commit suicide. However, said the Court: “The parameters for deciding the fact under Section 305 and 306 IPC are identical.”

The Court noted various admitted facts on record and observed: “The admitted position also speaks that the mother of the deceased was a psychic patient having nothing to do with the drinking of the appellant. Therefore, he used to be always under depressing conditions. Different persons may react differently to the same situation. Therefore, merely because the deceased by writing a note mentioning about the drinking habit of his father and committed suicide, in my view, it cannot be treated as an abetment, especially when the prosecution evidence falls short to show that there used to be ill-treatment at the hands of the appellant under the influence of liquor to the deceased so as to drive the deceased to take the extreme step of his life.”

The Court was of the view that the trial court had swayed away with the fact that the deceased boy committed suicide for an admitted position that the appellant was a drunkard. However, according to the Court: “Merely drinking can never be an abetment for a person to commit suicide.”

Accordingly, on the representation of the entire prosecution case, the Court allowed the instant appeal and set aside the conviction of the appellant as recorded by the trial court. [Ramrao Kisan Rathod v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 29, decided on 04-01-2020]