Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of Ramesh Sinha and Rajeev Singh, JJ., upheld the capital punishment of a man who murdered his wife and four minor daughters.

Appellant was charged for offence punishable under Section 302 of Penal Code, 1860.

Aggrieved by conviction and sentence, the accused preferred a Criminal Appeal from Jail. Also, the trial court made a reference for confirmation of the death sentence awarded to the accused.

Instant case was based on circumstantial evidence and the appellant had been convicted and sentenced to death by the trial Court for murdering his wife and children vide impugned judgment.

In respect to convict the person in a case of circumstantial evidence, the Supreme Court in the celebrated case of Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra, (1984) 3 SCC 116, laid down the conditions to be fulfilled before a case against an accused can be said to be fully established.

Hence, while dealing with circumstantial evidence, the onus is on the prosecution to prove that the chain is complete and the infirmity of lacuna in prosecution cannot be cured by false defence or plea.

In a case of circumstantial evidence, conditions precedent before conviction could be placed on circumstantial evidence, must be fully established such as:

(1) the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn should be fully established. The circumstances concerned ”must’ or ”should’ and not ”may be’ established;

(2) the facts so established should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused, that is to say, they should not be explainable on any other hypothesis except that the accused is guilty;

(3) the circumstances should be of a conclusive nature and tendency;

(4) they should exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved; and

(5) there must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the act must have been done by the accused.

In the present case, as is apparent from the evidence on record that there appears to be a motive for the appellant to commit the murder of his wife Sangeeta along with her children, which is established from the evidence of PW2-Chatra Pal Raidas, who is the real brother of deceased Sangeeta. PW2, in his deposition before the trial Court, stated that his sister Sangeeta, who used to come to his house and stayed there for about 1-2 months, had made a complaint to him about the illicit relationship of the appellant with Manju; Manju had become pregnant from the appellant; and the appellant wanted to marry with Manju, which was objected by his sister Sangeeta; and the appellant was adamant to marry with Manju, on account of which, the appellant committed the murder of his wife deceased Sangeeta along with four minor children, who was living along with the appellant in his house. P.W.2-Chatra Pal Raidas further stated that when Sangeeta had come to his house, she told about the aforesaid fact. He also stated, in his evidence, that ten days prior to the incident, the deceased Sangeeta had come to his house and in the presence of his neighbours, namely, Chailbihari and Balgovind, had also disclosed about the illicit relationship of the appellant with Manju. Thus, the motive to commit the murder of the deceased Sangeeta along with her children stood proved from the evidence of PW2 and there is no reason for him to depose falsely against the appellant.

It would also be pertinent to mention that another motive of the appellant to commit the murder of his wife and his children, as has been apparent from the evidence of P.W.1 and P.W.2, that the appellant, on taking advantage of the murder of his wife and children, wanted to get compensation from the State Government as earlier also the appellant had taken the compensation for the murder of his real brother Siyaram, which was paid by the State Government to the tune of Rs 4-5 Lakhs, and which was, in fact, given to the daughter of deceased Siyaram, namely, Gudiya but he managed to take the said compensation from Gudiya, who died on account of illness.

Prosecution proved beyond doubt that the appellant had a motive to commit the murder of his wife and his 4 minor children.

Bench stated that it would be apt to state the principles which would make an extra-judicial confession an admissible piece of evidence capable of forming the basis of conviction of an accused. These precepts would guide the judicial mind while dealing with the veracity of cases where the prosecution heavily relies upon an extra-judicial confession alleged to have been made by the accused.

The principles that come out are as follows:

  • The extra-judicial confession is a weak evidence by itself. It has to be examined by the court with greater care and caution;
  • It should be made voluntarily and should be truthful;
  • It should inspire confidence;
  • An extra-judicial confession attains greater credibility and evidentiary value, if it is supported by a chain of cogent circumstances and is further corroborated by other prosecution evidence;
  • For an extra-judicial confession to be the basis of conviction, it should not suffer from any material discrepancies and inherent improbabilities; and
  • Such statement essentially has to be proved like any other fact and in accordance with law.

Bench stated that the accused had strong motive to commit the murder of his wife at the time of the incident, the appellant and the five deceased were the only occupants in the house, in which they were living together; after the arrest of the appellant at his pointing out the weapon of murder and his blood stained clothes were recovered which he had concealed; soon after the incident, the appellant made an extra judicial confession before PW3 and PW 4 admitting his guilt.

From the totality of circumstances and entire evidence on record, it was proved that no one else but the appellant alone committed the murder of his wife and four minor daughters.

Hence, trial court’s order was upheld.

‘Death Sentence’ awarded under Section 302 of IPC

It is true that capital punishment has been the subject-matter of great social and judicial discussion and catechism.

The ratio laid down by the Supreme Court in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 684 and Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab, (1983) 3 SCC 470 continue to serve as the foundation-stone of contemporary sentencing jurisprudence though they have been expounded or distinguished for the purpose of commuting death sentence, mostly in the cases of

  • conviction based on circumstantial evidence alone;
  • failure of the prosecution to discharge its onus re: reformation;
  • a case of residual doubts;
  • where the other peculiar ”mitigating circumstances outweighed the ”aggravating circumstances.

In the instant case, the accused/convict Ramanand has committed the murder of his wife and four minor innocent daughters aged about 7 years, 5 years, 3 years and the youngest one aged about one and a half month. It transpires from the evidence on record that the criminal act of the accused/convict was actuated to pave a way to marry one lady, namely, Manju, who was already married. It was the deceased Sangeeta (wife of the appellant), who opposed his marriage with Manju but the accused/convict was adamant to marry with Manju at any cost and in order to marry with Manju, accused/convict murdered not only murder his own wife but also his own four innocent minor daughters aged between one and half month to eight years in a most brutal and barbaric manner without their no-fault and without any rhyme or reason. Before murdering the deceased, the accused/convict had also chopped off various parts of their bodies and inflicted severe incised wounds as is evident from the post-mortem report.

Further, the Court added that the special reasons assigned by the trial Court for awarding extreme penalty of death were that the murder was horrifying as the accused-appellant was in a dominant position; victim was helpless being children aged about 7, 5, 3 years and the youngest one was just one and a half-month-old and the murder was premeditated and pre-planned one with a motive and committed in a cruel, grotesque and diabolical manner. The accused is a menace to the Society and, therefore, imposition of lesser sentence than that of death sentence, would not be adequate and appropriate.

Hence, the Court agreed with trial court and the instant case rightly falls in the category of ‘rarest of rare case’ warranting capital punishment.

Bench confirmed the appellant’ sentence under Section 302 IPC.[State of U.P. v. Ramanand, 2021 SCC OnLine All 451, decided on 9-07-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Counsel for Appellant: – Govt. Advocate, Amicus Curaie, Rajesh Kumar Dwivedi

Counsel for Appellant: – Jail Appeal, Rajesh Kumar Dwivedi

Counsel for Respondent : – Govt. Advocate

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Surendra P. Tavade and Ranjit More, JJ., while dealing with a case in regard to homicidal death upheld the decision of the trial court which was in challenge before the Bench.

In the present case, appellant preferred the appeal against the Judgment passed by Additional Sessions Judge wherein the appellant was charged for the offence punishable under Section 302 of Penal Code, 1860.

Facts

Informant who was the brother-in-law of the deceased had given his two-wheeler to the deceased on his request as he had to visit the appellant’s factory. Deceased had informed the informant that he would return back within a short period. But on failure of his return, informant inquired the workers of the factory about the deceased’s visit and came to know that the deceased did not visit the factory that evening.

Later on the next day of the said event, the informant received a call from appellant’s father-in-law who further informed him that appellant had killed Zuber (deceased) and had locked the shutter of his factory. On receiving the said information, informant enquired the same with the accused who confessed the same.

Thereafter, informant took the appellant to the Police Station and further appellant took the police to the factory where he had killed Zuber and directed towards his dead body. Appellant was arrested and after the completion of trial was punished under Section 302 IPC.

Trial Court relied on the extra-judicial confessions along with the circumstantial evidence.

Contentions

Advocate Subhash Jha, represented the appellant and submitted that extra-judicial confession is a weak type of evidence. To corroborate the extra-judicial confession no other circumstances were proved. The entire prosecution case was based on circumstantial evidence. Hence he prayed for acquittal for the appellant.

J.P. Yagnik, APP for the Respondent-State, submitted that, Subsequent conduct of the appellant of showing remorse for his acts and all the other facts stated above supported the extra-judicial confession.

For a crime to be proved, it is not necessary that the crime must be seen to have been committed and must in all circumstances to be proved by direct, ocular evidence, by examining before the Court those persons who had seen its commission. Thus offence can be proved by circumstantial evidence also.

Reference to the decision in Sharad Birdhi Chand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra, (1984) 4 SCC 116 was made, wherein while dealing with circumstantial evidence it was held that, onus was on the prosecution to prove that the chain is complete and the infirmity of lacuna in the prosecution cannot be cured by a false defense or plea.

Another significant point to be noted in the present case, medical officer categorically opined that death is not due to strangulation, but by throttling; so there is no doubt regarding the cause of death of the deceased. Thus it rightly proved the homicidal death of the deceased.

Decision

High Court on perusal of the facts and circumstances of the case noted that prosecution established the homicidal death of the deceased. Appellant had made voluntary extra-judicial confessions which were corroborated by other circumstances namely taking the police and witnesses to the premise where the incident occurred.

Thus, the prosecution proved the chain of circumstances that lead to the homicidal death of the deceased, said circumstances unerringly pointed out the guilt of the appellant.

Hence trial court had rightly held the appellant guilty and in view of such findings, the High Court dismissed the appeal. [Mohammad Ismail Noormohammad Madana v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 238, decided on 12-02-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of R. Banumathi and Indira Banerjee, JJ. while deciding an appeal against the conviction of appellant under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 reiterated the law regarding the evidentiary value of extra-judicial confessions.

The appellant was convicted for misappropriation of money entrusted to him as a public servant. He worked in United Commercial Bank and was accused of making fake account entries and thereby causing wrongful loss to the Bank. When the fraud came to light, a committee of two officers was deputed to hold preliminary enquiry which recommended investigation in the matter. Subsequently, an FIR was registered, trial held and the appellant was convicted under Sections 13(1)(c) and 13(2) of the PC Act along with Section 477-A IPC. The conviction of the appellant was based on the extra-judicial confession submitted by the appellant to the committee of two officers mentioned above. The judgment of the trial court was confirmed by the Himachal Pradesh High Court.

The Supreme Court, on perusing the record, was of the view that conviction of the appellant did not require any interference. Referring to Madan Gopal Kakkad v. Naval Dubey, (1992) 3 SCC 204, it was reiterated that extra-judicial confession of accused need not in all cases be corroborated. The rule of prudence necessarily does not require that each and every circumstance mentioned in the confession must be separately and independently corroborated. If the Court is satisfied that the confession is voluntary, the conviction can be based upon the same. In the instant case, trial court as well as the High Court concurrently held that the confession statements were voluntarily made and the same could form the basis for conviction. The Supreme Court did not find any reason to interfere. Therefore, the conviction of the appellant was upheld. However, considering the passage of time, as the occurrence was of the year 1992-94,  the sentence imposed was reduced to three years from five years. The appeal was disposed of accordingly. [Ram Lal v. State of H.P.,2018 SCC OnLine SC 1730, decided on 03-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: The conviction and sentence awarded to the appellants in a criminal case for the offences punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC, was set aside by a Division Bench comprising of Ajit Singh, CJ and Prasanta Kumar Deka, J.
The appellants were accused of committing sexual assault on the deceased and subsequently killing her. They were booked under the above said sections of IPC and convicted by the trial court. The conviction of the appellants was based on the alleged extra judicial confession made by them. The appellants challenged the said decision of the trial court.
The High Court inter alia found that the alleged extra judicial confession was made in police custody. Sections 25 and 26 have to be strictly construed. Such confession, according to the Court, was inadmissible in light of Section 26 of Evidence Act. Further, the averments of the alleged extra judicial confession were not proved in light of the post-mortem report. It was alleged that the appellants had confessed that they raped the deceased and then killed her. However, in the PMR, no such fact was recorded. Therefore, the conviction and sentence awarded to the appellants was quashed and set aside. [Dulu Basak v. State of Assam,  2018 SCC OnLine Gau 320,  order dated 02-05-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Order of conviction and sentence passed against the accused-appellants by the trial court under Section 302 of IPC was set aside in a criminal appeal by a Division Bench of Prashant Kumar Mishra and Ram Prasanna Sharma, JJ.

The appellants were accused of murdering the deceased and were tried, convicted and sentenced under Section 302 IPC by the trial court. Learned counsel for the appellants submitted that the case of prosecution was based on the alleged extra-judicial confession made by appellants, but the same was not substantiated by any of the prosecution witnesses.

The High Court, after perusal of the record, found that there was no eyewitness to the incident and the case of prosecution was based on circumstantial evidence. The statement of the witnesses did not support the case of the prosecution. Further, the prosecution tried to establish extra-judicial confession on the basis of statement of PW 10, but her version was not stable right from the beginning of investigation. The Court observed that the extra-judicial confession is admissible if it inspires confidence and is made voluntarily. However, in the instant case, it was held that, the statement regarding extra-judicial confession made by PW 10 could not be acted upon as it was unstable and contradictory. The Court held that on an overall assessment of the evidence adduced by the prosecution, it could not be established that the appellants committed murder of the deceased, and the finding arrived at by the trial court were not sustainable in law. Hence the appeal was allowed and the conviction and sentence awarded by the trial court was set aside. [Dindayal v. State of Chhattisgarh,  2018 SCC OnLine Chh 385, dated 6-4-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: The Conviction of Accused 1-appellant in a criminal case for offences punishable under Sections 302 and 201 read with Section 34 of IPC, was upheld by a Division Bench comprising of Sanjay Agrawal and R.C.S. Samant, JJ.

Accused 1 was found guilty of the above-mentioned offences and convicted by the trial court accordingly. The allegation against him was that he along with Accused 2 had murdered the deceased-his uncle, on account of some dispute. According to the prosecution, on enquiry by the villagers regarding whereabouts of the deceased, Accused 1 confessed that he had killed the deceased along with Accused 2 and buried the dead body in his field. Accused 1 denied the allegations and challenged the judgment and order passed by the trial court.

The question before the High Court was whether the accused could have been convicted on basis of the extra-judicial confession made by the accused. The Court perused the record and found that the fact of confession made by Accused 1 was corroborated by other evidence including witness statement, recovery of dead body, recovery of clothes, FSL report, opinion of the medical expert, etc. The Court was of the view that all the incriminating material on record collected by the prosecution against the accused, on being examined and scrutinized proves that the extra-judicial confession made by Accused 1 had evidentiary value to connect him with the crime in question. Further, the evidence of extra-judicial confession was sufficient, in light of the corroboration as mentioned hereinabove, to bring home the guilt of Accused 1.

Consequently, the judgment of the trial court convicting Accused 1 of the abovesaid offences was upheld and the appeal was dismissed. [Meher Singh Dugga v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2018 SCC OnLine Chh 364, decided on 24-03-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: While deciding a criminal petition, a Single Judge Bench of Rathnakala, J. enlarged the petitioner on bail holding that there was no impediment to allow the petition.

The petition was filed under S. 439 of CrPC praying to enlarge the petitioner on bail in a criminal case for offences punishable under Sections 120B, 201, 302  IPC. The allegation was that the accused invested money with the deceased. Since the deceased was not able to return the money, the accused decided to finish him off. The accused strangulated the deceased and assaulted him with lethal weapons.

The Court after considering the record and the submissions made by the parties, held that the extra judicial confession alleged to be made by the petitioner before CW3 was a matter which was to be subjected to cross-examination during trial. Further, there were no eyewitnesses to the incident.

In light of the above circumstances, the Court held that there was no impediment to allow the petition. Accordingly, the petitioner was enlarged on bail subject to the conditions imposed. [Ravi v. State of Karnataka, Criminal Petition No. 5891 of 2017, dated September 21, 2017]