Punjab and Haryana High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

   

Punjab and Haryana High Court: While deciding the instant appeal preferred by the appellant against the judgment of conviction and order of sentence passed by the Sessions Court whereby the appellant was held guilty of murder of her own daughter, the division bench of Sureshwar Thakur and N.S. Shekhawat, JJ., acquitted the appellant on benefit of doubt saying that the view taken by the Sessions Court is certainly not a possible and plausible view.

On 29/30-10-2009, the appellant was held guilty under Sections 302 and 201 of the Penal Code, 1860 and was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for life plus 3 months and to pay a fine. The present appeal is filed with a prayer to set aside the impugned judgment of conviction and order of sentence dated 29/30.10.2009 and to acquit him of the charges.

Facts:

The appellant, after consuming alcohol, hit her wife during a quarrel. The eldest daughter tried to intervene and hit her father with a stick (Danda). The appellant, outraged by this action, throttled the girl to death. The appellant told everyone that his daughter died due to heart attack and made a hurry to cremate her.

While bathing the girl before cremating her, as per the rituals, injuries and the mark of throttling was found on the neck of the girl. The appellant was told not to perform the cremation and to wait for investigation and postmortem, but he carried the girl to the cremation ground and cremated her anyways.

FIR was registered on 09-09-2008 and the ashes and bones of the girl was collected by the Police on 11-09-2008 from the cremation ground. The Stick (Danda) was also recovered which was kept concealed in bushes near a canal. On these grounds, the Sessions Court held the appellant guilty under Sections 302 and 201 of the Penal Code, 1860. While deciding the matter, the Sessions Court relied on the testimonies of the witnesses.

Issues:

Whether the material witnesses produced by the prosecution are reliable and trustworthy? Whether the death of Gurpreet Kaur was homicidal?

Observation and Analysis:

After perusal of the entire evidence and the documents on record, the Court said that it does not agree with the view taken by the Sessions Court as there were many serious infirmities in the case of the prosecution and consequently, no reliance can be placed on the prosecution witnesses to hold the appellant guilty of the charges under Sections 302 and 201 of IPC.

The Court said that to prove the charge under Section 302 of IPC, the prosecution is obliged to prove that the death was homicidal, and the prosecution failed in discharging the said burden.

The Court said that “Still further, no post-mortem examination of the dead body was conducted, and it is unsafe to hold only on the basis of oral testimonies of the witnesses that the death was homicidal in the instant case.”

The Court further said that in absence of any medical reports, forensic report or any other related evidence, it cannot be held that the death in the instant case was homicidal.

The Court observed the ruling in Paramjeet Singh v. State of Uttarakhand, (2010) 10 SCC 439 wherein it was held “the burden of proof in a criminal trial never shifts and it is always the burden of the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt on the basis of acceptable evidence. In fact, it is a settled principle of criminal jurisprudence that the more serious the offence, the stricter the degree of proof required, since a higher degree of assurance is required to convict the accused. The fact that the offence was committed in a very cruel and revolting manner may in itself be a reason for scrutinizing the evidence more closely, lest the shocking nature of the crime induce an instinctive reaction against dispassionate judicial scrutiny of the facts and law.”

The Court thus, held that the conclusions drawn by the Sessions Court are wholly unsustainable and contrary to the settled principles of law and extended benefit of doubt to the appellant. Accordingly, the judgment of conviction and order of sentence dated 29/30-10-2009, passed by the Sessions Court was set aside and the appellant stands acquitted.

[Surinder Pal v. State of Punjab, 2022 SCC OnLine P&H 2354, decided on 6-09-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case:

Ms. Meena Bansal, Advocate, for the Appellant;

Ms. Ishma Randhawa, Additional Advocate General, for the Respondent.

Tripura High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

   

Tripura High Court: The Division Bench of Amarnath Goud and Arindam Lodh, JJ. allowed an appeal which was filed against the judgment of Sessions Judge convicting the appellant under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).

Marriage ceremony was solemnized in between the deceased Sima and the accused s. The complainant, father of the deceased alleged that since for the last ten years after marriage, the petitioner's daughter (wife of accused) was subjected to cruelty both physically and mentally. On 07-04-2017, the complainant came to know from his son that his daughter was no more alive. Accordingly, the complainant along with others visited the rented house of his deceased daughter and found his daughter in hanging condition with some blood stain on her face and nose. He alleged that the accused murdered his daughter and after murder, he hung her body and committed this heinous offence due to the abatement of his brother. On receipt of the said complaint, FIR under section 498-A, 302, 109 of IPC was registered.

The Trial Court had found that though the prosecution was able to prove their case against accused but the evidence on record was not sufficient to come to a conclusion that accused was instigated by the brother and thereby, committed any offence as charged against him. Thus, the instant appeal.

Senior counsel appearing for the appellant emphasized that it is a case of suicide but it is not the case of homicide. Addl. P.P. appearing for the state stated that the medical evidence is not a conclusive proof in the present case but it has been corroborated by the statement of the land lady and the minor daughter that the accused was present in the hut. He has further submitted that the corroboration, the last seen together, the special knowledge is the case of the prosecution.

The Court noted that PW-21 who had conducted the postmortem examination was inexperienced and had no special knowledge in forensic segments and even the medical evidence had not been categorically confirmed with regard to the death of the deceased. The Court thus observed that mere presence of the accused persons and the last seen of offence along with the child in the hut with the deceased woman (wife) in a hanging position cannot draw an inference and the circumstantial evidence cannot be connected that the husband had killed the wife.

The Court allowed the appeal holding that the prosecution failed to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt against the accused person.

[Akhil Das v. State of Tripura, CRL.A.(J)57 of 2020, decided on 20-07-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr P.K. Biswas, Advocate, for the Appellant(s);

Mr P. Majumder, Mr S. Ghosh, Addl. P.P., Mr J. Majumder, Advocate, for the Respondent(s).


*Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of KM Joseph and S. Ravindra Bhat*, JJ has reiterated the factors to be considered while deciding the question of whether in a given case, a homicide is murder, punishable under Section 302 IPC, or culpable homicide, of either description, punishable under Section 304 IPC.

The Court explained that the use of the term “likely” in several places in respect of culpable homicide, highlights the element of uncertainty that the act of the accused may or may not have killed the person. Section 300 IPC which defines murder, however refrains from the use of the term likely, which reveals absence of ambiguity left on behalf of the accused. The accused is for sure that his act will definitely cause death.

“It is often difficult to distinguish between culpable homicide and murder as both involve death. Yet, there is a subtle distinction of intention and knowledge involved in both the crimes. This difference lies in the degree of the act. There is a very wide variance of degree of intention and knowledge among both the crimes.”

The following two cases are noteworthy for understanding the difference between the two terms:

State of Andhra Pradesh v Rayavarapu Punnayya, 1976 (4) SCC 382

In the said case, the Court noticed that the confusion between “murder” and “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” is caused, if courts losing sight of the true scope and meaning of the terms used by the legislature in these sections, allow themselves to be drawn into minute abstractions. Hence, the safest way of approach to the interpretation and application of these provisions seems to be to keep in focus the keywords used in the various clauses of Sections 299 and 300.

It explained,

“In the scheme of the Penal Code, “culpable homicide” is genus and “murder” its specie. All “murder” is “culpable homicide” but not vice- versa. Speaking generally, “culpable homicide” sans “special characteristics of murder”, is “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”. For the purpose of fixing punishment, proportionate to the gravity of this generic offence, the Code practically recognises three degrees of culpable homicide. The first is, what may be called, “culpable homicide of the first degree”. This is the greatest form of culpable homicide, which is defined in Section 300 as “murder”. The second may be termed as “culpable homicide of the second degree”. This is punishable under the first part of Section 304. Then, there is “culpable homicide of the third degree”. This is the lowest type of culpable homicide and the punishment provided for it is, also, the lowest among the punishments provided for the three grades. Culpable homicide of this degree is punishable under the second part of Section 304.”

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Pulicherla Nagaraju v State of Andhra Pradesh, (2006) 11 SCC 444

The Court laid down the considerations that should weigh with courts, in discerning whether an act is punishable as murder, or culpable homicide, not amounting to murder and observed that the Court should proceed to decide the pivotal question of intention, with care and caution, as that will decide whether the case falls under Section 302 or 304 Part I or 304 Part II.

“Many petty or insignificant matters – plucking of a fruit, straying of cattle, quarrel of children, utterance of a rude word or even an objectionable glance, may lead to altercations and group clashes culminating in deaths. Usual motives like revenge, greed, jealousy or suspicion may be totally absent in such cases. There may be no intention. There may be no premeditation. In fact, there may not even be criminality. At the other end of the spectrum, there may be cases of murder where the accused attempts to avoid the penalty for murder by attempting to put forth a case that there was no intention to cause death.”

Hence, it is for the courts to ensure that the cases of murder punishable under Section 302, are not converted into offences punishable under Section 304 Part I/II, or cases of culpable homicide not amounting to murder are treated as murder punishable under Section 302.

The intention to cause death can be gathered generally from a combination of a few or several of the following, among other, circumstances;

  1. nature of the weapon used;
  2. whether the weapon was carried by the accused or was picked up from the spot;
  3. whether the blow is aimed at a vital part of the body;
  4. the amount of force employed in causing injury;
  5. whether the act was in the course of sudden quarrel or sudden fight or free for all fight;
  6. whether the incident occurs by chance or whether there was any premeditation;
  7. whether there was any prior enmity or whether the deceased was a stranger;
  8. whether there was any grave and sudden provocation, and if so, the cause for such provocation;
  9. whether it was in the heat of passion;
  10. whether the person inflicting the injury has taken undue advantage or has acted in a cruel and unusual manner;
  11. whether the accused dealt a single blow or several blows. The above list of circumstances is, of course, not exhaustive and there may be several other special circumstances with reference to individual cases which may throw light on the question of intention.

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[Mohd. Rafiq v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 731, decided on 15.09.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice S. Ravindra Bhat

Know Thy Judge| Justice S. Ravindra Bhat

For Appellant: Advocate Ritu Gangele

For State: Advocate Gopal Jha