Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court:  A 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran, and MR Shah, JJ has commuted the death sentence of a convict, Manoj Suryavanshi, in the 2011 Chhattisgarh triple murder case to life imprisonment and said that the convict should be kept in jail for at least 25 years.

A Bilaspur court had on May 5, 2013, sentenced Suryavanshi to death for murdering and hiding the bodies of three children in 2011, a decision which was upheld by the Chhattisgarh High Court on August 8, 2013. The three children, namely Vijay Dhiver (8), Ajay Dhiver (6) Sakshi Dhiver (4), were found dead in a field in Bilaspur district on February 11, 2011. Suryavanshi was working as a labourer at the house of Shivlal Dhiver, the complainant and father of the victims, when his wife — Sumrit Bai — went missing. Suryavanshi suspected that she had eloped with the younger brother of Dhiver, following which he killed the children.

A special leave petition was filed in the Supreme Court in the matter on September 9, 2013.

(Source: ANI)

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Noticing that where death sentence could be one of the alternative punishments, the courts must be completely vigilant and see that full opportunity at every stage is afforded to the accused, the 3-judge bench of UU Lalit, Indu Malhotra and Krishna Murari, JJ has laid down the below mentioned norms to ensure the same.

  • In all cases where there is a possibility of life sentence or death sentence, learned Advocates who have put in minimum of 10 years practice at the Bar alone be considered to be appointed as Amicus Curiae or through legal services to represent an accused.
  • In all matters dealt with by the High Court concerning confirmation of death sentence, Senior Advocates of the Court must first be considered to be appointed as Amicus Curiae.
  • Whenever any counsel is appointed as Amicus Curiae, some reasonable time may be provided to enable the counsel to prepare the matter. There cannot be any hard and fast rule in that behalf. However, a minimum of seven days’ time may normally be considered to be appropriate and adequate.
  • Any learned counsel, who is appointed as Amicus Curiae on behalf of the accused must normally be granted to have meetings and discussion with the concerned accused.

The Court was hearing a case where the Amicus Curiae was called upon to defend the accused at the stage of framing of charges on the very day he was appointed. The Court was, hence, certain of the fact that the Amicus Curiae did not have sufficient time to go through even the basic documents, nor the advantage of any discussion or interaction with the accused, and time to reflect over the matter. Thus, even before the Amicus Curiae could come to grips of the matter, the charges were framed. Not only this, but the trial itself was concluded within a fortnight thereafter and the accused was awarded death sentence in the offence relating to murder of a 9-year-old girl.

The Court, hence, said that though expeditious disposal is undoubtedly required in criminal matters and that would naturally be part of guarantee of fair trial, however, in the pursuit for expeditious disposal, the cause of justice must never be allowed to suffer or be sacrificed.

“What is paramount is the cause of justice and keeping the basic ingredients which secure that as a core idea and ideal, the process may be expedited, but fast tracking of process must never ever result in burying the cause of justice.”

It was hence, held that the Trial Court on its own, ought to have adjourned the matter for some time so that the Amicus Curiae could have had the advantage of sufficient time to prepare the matter. The approach adopted by the Trial Court may have expedited the conduct of trial, but did not further the cause of justice. In the process, the assistance that the appellant was entitled to in the form of legal aid, could not be real and meaningful.

“the entire trial was completed in less than one month with the assistance of the prosecution as well as the defense, but, such expeditious disposal definitely left glaring gaps.”

The Court, hence, set aside the conviction and directed a de novo consideration of the matter.

[Anokhilal v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1637, decided 18.12.2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A bench headed by Justice N V Ramana has declined to entertain a plea of P Rajagopal, the founder of South Indian food chain ‘Saravana Bhavan’, seeking more time on medical grounds to surrender for serving life imprisonment in a murder case. The Court dismissed the plea, saying his illness was not raised before the court during the hearing of the appeal in the case.

Rajagopal was to surrender on July 7 to serve life term for murdering an employee in October 2001 to marry his wife. The Court had dismissed appeals of nine convicts, including Rajagopal, and upheld the Madras High Court verdict awarding life term to them.

Stating that the prosecution has fully proved that Rajagopal had murdered Santhakumar by strangulating him and thereafter throwing the dead body at Tiger­Chola, the Court said:

“It is worth recalling that while it is necessary that proof beyond reasonable doubt should be adduced in all criminal cases, it is not necessary that such proof should be perfect, and someone who is guilty cannot get away with impunity only because the truth may develop some infirmity when projected through human processes.”

The Court, hence, concluded that the chain of circumstances is complete and points solely at the guilt of Rajagopal.

(With inputs from PTI)


Read the full report on the Supreme Court judgment where P Rajagopal was found guilty for murdering his employee, here

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, MM Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee, JJ has upheld the conviction and sentence of life imposed upon Saravana Bhavan Owner P Rajagopal by the Madras High Court for the abduction and murder of his employee Santhakumar.

Factual Background

  • Rajagopal, either upon the advice of an astrologer or having become besotted with deceased’s wife (PW1), had evinced a keen desire to take her as his third wife.
  • He helped PW1 financially and gave her costly gifts to gain her affection.
  • He and his henchmen abducted Santhakumar in an earlier attempt to kill him. Rajagopal had ordered his henchmen to kill Santhakumar but he managed to escape.
  • Meanwhile, Rajagopal took PW1 to an astrologer to remove the alleged influence of witchcraft (black magic) which was allegedly the cause of her being in love with Santhakumar.
  • When Santhakumar contacted his wife after escaping, she convinced him to come back and later, he, along with his wife, went to seek Rajagopal’s mercy, thus revealing to him that he was still alive.
  • Rajagopal again made a plan to kill Santhakumar and abducted the couple. He then handed over Santhakumar to his henchmen and ordered them to ‘finish him off’. Rajagopal took off with PW1.
  • Rajagopal took PW1 and her family to an astrologer again where PW1 was made to undergo certain rituals in the presence of the Rajagopal’s second wife.
  • Later, much to her shock, PW1 learnt that these rituals were traditionally conducted by the wife after the death of her husband. This made her suspicious and she lodges and FIR.

Circumstantial evidence

The prosecution mainly relied upon three circumstances to prove the guilt of the accused, i.e. motive, the last seen circumstance and the recovery of the dead body at the instance of the accused.  An additional link in the chain of circumstances is the non­explanation by the accused about the last seen circumstance in their statement recorded under Section 313 of the Cr.P.C.

Noticing that there is no direct evidence in this matter and the whole case rests on circumstantial evidence, the Court said that the evidence of PWs 1 and 2 with regard to the motive for commission of the offence, the last seen circumstance and recovery as well as the identification of the dead body is consistent with the case of the prosecution.   The Court also took note of the fact that one of accused made a confession based on which, recoveries of a wallet containing a photograph of PW1, gold chain etc were effected from his house.

Ruling

Stating that the prosecution has fully proved that Rajagopal had murdered Santhakumar by strangulating him and thereafter throwing the dead body at Tiger­Chola, the Court said:

“It is worth recalling that while it is necessary that proof beyond reasonable doubt should be adduced in all criminal cases, it is not necessary that such proof should be perfect, and someone who is guilty cannot get away with impunity only because the truth may develop some infirmity when projected through human processes.”

The Court, hence, concluded that the chain of circumstances is complete and points solely at the guilt of Rajagopal.

[Pattu Rajan v. State of Tamil Nadu, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 444, decided on 29.03.2019]

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Modifying the order dated 09.07.2014 where the State Governments were restrained from exercising their powers of remission and commutation of sentence under Sections 432 and 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to life convicts, the 5 judge bench of HL Dattu, CJ and FMI Kalifulla, PC Ghose, AM Sapre and UU Lalit, JJ said that the said order shall apply to only certain cases, namely:

 

  • Where life sentence has been awarded specifying that the convict shall undergo life sentence till the end of his life without remission or commutation; and the convict shall not be released by granting remission or commutation till he completes a fixed term such as 20 years or 25 years or like.
  •  Where no application for remission or commutation was preferred, or considered suo motu by the concerned State Governments/authorities.
  • Where the investigation was conducted by any Central Investigating Agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation.
  • Where the life sentence is under any central law or under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 or any other similar offence.

 

However, it was held that the President of India and the Governors of the States may exercise their powers in this respect under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution, respectively. Union of India v. V. Sriharan2015 SCC OnLine SC 653, decided on 23.07.2015