Case BriefsForeign Courts

South Africa High Court, Kwazulu-Natal Division: The Division Bench of Lopes and Radebe, JJ. while allowing the appeal reduced the sentence for murder and conviction for robbery was converted into the theft.

In the present case, the appellant, Mthobisi Mtho Mgidi was convicted of one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances and one count of murder and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment on the count of robbery, and life imprisonment on the murder count by the Umlazi Regional Court.

The facts surrounding the conviction are as follows: One night, the appellant and his friend Sikhakhane were walking along the road in a drunken state. Along the road, they met the deceased and he was too in a drunken state. While Sikhakhane was ahead of Mgidi, he heard someone calling him and he looked back and saw Mgidi stabbing the deceased with a knife. Sikhakhane then went up to Mgidi and pushed him away from the deceased and saw him covered in blood, and carrying a belt and either shoes or takkies which Sikhakhane stated belonged to the deceased. Sikhakhane and Mgidi’s mother testified where it was found that Sikhakhane had no knowledge of the circumstances under which Mgidi obtained possession of the knife and that Mgidi’s mother also saw his blood-stained clothes and knife.

Mgidi testified that he could not recall what happened that day and he ran away from his home after knowing that the police is looking for him.

The Counsel for the appellant, N.B. Dlamini submitted that the State bore the onus of proving criminal capacity and had failed to discharge that onus. He referred to a Judgment of Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa, The Director of Public Prosecutions, Kwazulu-Natal v. Ramdass [2019] ZASCA 23 in which the accused was acquitted of both robbery and murder because it was found that the State had not proved that he had the necessary criminal capacity.

Counsel on behalf of the State, N. Dube submitted that Ramdass (accused in the abovementioned case) pertinently raised the defences, whereas in the present matter Mgidi pleaded not-guilty, because he could not recall having committed the offences and the memory of Mgidi was selective, because he remembered things which had taken place shortly before and after the incident. It was further submitted that in S v. Chretien 1981 (1) SA 1097 (A) at 1108C, it was mentioned that the fact that a person cannot remember what they did, does not mean that they were not criminally responsible.

The Court after analyzing the facts and circumstances of the case, observed that the evidence of the State witnesses clearly established that alcohol played a role in the unfolding events, it is clear that Mgidi was of sound enough mind to procure the knife with which he assaulted the deceased. The appellant remembered his interaction with his mother after arriving at home, and his actions in crying and then fleeing, indicate that he must have known what he did. In the circumstances of the present case, there is no evidence that the violence occasioned to Mr Khanyile by Mr Mgidi was instigated with the intention of depriving him of his property. In those circumstances, Mr Mgidi should have only been convicted of the murder of Mr Khanyile and the theft of a belt and a pair of takkies. The murder was neither planned nor premeditated.

The conviction for robbery was set aside, and replaced with a conviction on one count of theft and sentenced to undergo two years’ imprisonment on the conviction of theft. The appeal against conviction on the murder charge was dismissed and its sentence succeeded and a sentence of twelve years’ imprisonment was imposed. [Mthobisi Mtho Mgidi v. State, Case No. AR212 of 2017, decided on 31-05-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a ghastly case involving rape and murder of 2 children, the 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, Surya Kant and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ has refused to review their verdict in Manoharan v. State, (2019) 7 SCC 716, upholding  the conviction of the accused. In the said judgment, the bench had unanimously upheld the conviction, but gave 2:1 verdict on quantum of punishment.

While Nariman and Surya Kant, JJ awarded death penalty, Khanna, J did not think that this case was fit for a death penalty and hence, commuted it to imprisonment for life i.e. till convict’s natural life with a stipulation that he would not be entitled to remission under Sections 432 and 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  • In October 2010, accused Mohanakrishnan & Manoharan kidnapped a 10-year-old girl & her 7-year-old brother while they were preparing to leave for school.
  • The children were taken to a remote area and rape was committed on the girl.
  • Attempt was made to kill both the children by feeding them poisonous cow dung powder mixed in milk. However, the children took only a small amount of the milk and didn’t die.
  • The children were then thrown away alive in the Parambikulam-Axhiyar Project canal.
  • Both the accused were arrested but Mohanakrishnan was later shot dead in an encounter.

MITIGATING FACTORS CONSIDERED BY THE COURT IN THE REVIEW PETITION

Lack of adequate opportunity to place on record material/evidence of mitigating circumstances

After re-visiting the mitigating circumstances against aggravating circumstances, as well as a report commissioned by this Court during the course of appeal and submitted by the jail superintendent, the Court held that the conduct of the Petitioner is merely satisfactory and he has not undertaken any study or anything else to show any signs of reformation.

Backward socioeconomic circumstances

There is nothing to support the arguments that the accused is a helpless, illiterate young adult who is a victim of his socioeconomic circumstances. Far from being so, it is clear through the version of events that the accused had the presence of mind to craft his own defence and attempt to retract his confession through an elaborately written eleven page letter addressed to the Magistrate and had further received adequate legal representation.

Remorse

Accused’s advocate argued that the retraction letter shows that he stopped the co-accused from committing rape and this is evident of the fact that he has remorse which entitles him to commutation, if not acquittal. The Court, however, held that the retraction was extremely belated and only a defence to shield himself. Further, medical evidence has proved that rape was committed on the deceased girl. It is hence factually incorrect to state that the Petitioner prevented the co-accused from raping the girl and is nothing more than a belated lie at the end of the trial.

Young age and aged parents

Mere young age and presence of aged parents cannot be grounds for commutation. Such young age poses a continuous burden on the State and presents a longer risk to society, hence warranting more serious intervention by Courts.

Criminal Record

The Court refused to give leeway of the lack of criminal record, considering that the current crime was not just one offence, but comprised of multiple offences over the series of many hours.

The bench held that the present case is essentially one where two accused misused societal trust to hold as captive two innocent school-going children, one of whom was brutally raped and sodomised, and thereupon administered poison and finally, drowned by throwing them into a canal. It was not in the spur of the moment or a crime of passion; but craftily planned, meticulously executed and with multiple opportunities to cease and desist.

Nariman and Surya Kant, JJ, hence, held

“We are of the view that the present offence(s) of the Petitioner are so grave as to shock the conscience of this Court and of society and would without doubt amount to rarest of the rare.”

While Khanna, J agreed with his learned brothers on the dismissal of review petition and upholding of the conviction of the accused, on the question of sentence, he held,

“I do not see any good ground and reasons to review my observations and findings in the minority judgment.”

[Manoharan v. State, REVIEW PETITION (CRL.) NOS. 446-447 OF 2019, decided on 07.11.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Rajiv Narain Raina, J. allowed the petition to grant furlough to the petitioner and quashed the impugned order passed by the District Magistrate disallowing the same. 

The instant petition was made with the prayer that the petitioner be granted the benefit of furlough for a period of two weeks to enable him to meet his family members. The petitioner was convicted under Section 302 of the Penal Code.

The application of the petitioner for furlough was rejected on the grounds that the petitioner had recently availed parole period from 12.06.2019 to 28.06.2019. The District Magistrate, Karnal refused to recommend furlough to the petitioner to meet his family. The Divisional Commissioner, Karnal Division, Karnal by applying the provisions of Section 6 (1) of the amended Act of 2012 of the Haryana Temporary Good Conduct Prisoners (Temporary Release) Act, 1988 supported the stance of the District Magistrate.

The Court observed that there was no report in the impugned order stating that the release of the petitioner on furlough would involve a breach of the security of the State or he would pose a danger to society or create law and order problems. The court also noted that the petitioner had already undergone about 10 years and 5 months as under trial and after his conviction. Moreover, the petitioner had already availed the benefit of parole in the month of June, 2019 and he surrendered in time after the parole period was over.

After considering the aforementioned facts and taking into account the aforesaid relevant consideration, the court deemed it appropriate to grant the benefit of furlough to the petitioner for a period of two weeks.

In view of the above-noted facts, the instant petition was allowed with the direction that the District Magistrate concerned, would impose such conditions as may be required to secure the presence of the petitioner in jail after the period of furlough, is over and done with and the temporary release would not be misused. [Deepak Sharma v. State of Haryana, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 2089, decided on 19-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: A Division Bench of Rajiv Sharma and Harinder Singh Sindhu, JJ., disposed of the appeal of a person who was convicted and punished for murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 by the trial court.

The appellant herein was convicted by the trial court under Section 302 of IPC which was later converted to Section 304 Part-II of IPC. The appellant had already undergone 10 years and 12 days of imprisonment and prayed for a lenient view towards the quantum of sentence.

The Court recorded a finding stating that the appellant had inflicted simple injuries on the respondent. Relying on Shailesh Jasvantbhai v. State of Gujarat, (2006) 2 SCC 359 and Jameel v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2010) 12 SCC 532, the Court held that the sentence must be awarded for an offence; and the circumstances affecting the offence must be analyzed by the court on the basis of their relevance. 

Also, the sentencing system of the courts must consider: (i) nature and gravity of offence, (ii) motive and manner of commission of offence, (iii) weapons used, and (iv) conduct of accused. 

Taking into account the facts and circumstances of the case, the Court preferred a lenient view and sentenced the appellant to the period of imprisonment already undergone by him, thus releasing him and disposing of the case.  [Mohan Singh v. State of Punjab, IOIN CRA-D-122-DB of 2004, decided on 22-07-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

NHRC notice to the Chief Secretary and DGP, Uttar Pradesh in connection with a death in police custody after a brutal assault in Pilkhua, Uttar Pradesh

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that in Pilkhua, Uttar Pradesh, a man died in police custody on the 13-10-2019 after he was brutally assaulted during interrogation in connection with a murder case.

He was allegedly kicked, punched, hit with planks of wood, given electric shocks and pierced with a screwdriver. A purported video of the victim’s dead body shows deep bruise marks on his posterior and left arm and stab wounds all over the body.

The Commission has observed that going by the contents of the media reports, it appears to be a glaring instance of violation of human rights of an individual in police custody for which accountability rests on the police force of the State. Accordingly, it has issued a notice to the Director-General of Police, Uttar Pradesh calling for a detailed report on the matter. He has also been directed to mention in the report action taken against the erring police officials and the steps taken to prevent such incident in future by the State police.

A notice has also been issued to the Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh to ensure the safety and security of the victim’s family, mainly the minor boy of the deceased, who has undergone a huge traumatic time during alleged torture and death of his father in the police custody. The detailed reports from both the authorities are expects within four weeks.

The Commission has further observed that it is beyond comprehension as to how the men in uniform have perpetrated such heinous torture and barbaric atrocious act on a helpless man in their custody, whereas it is incumbent upon them to protect life and limbs of the individual detained or arrested. On the contrary, unwarranted violence by the police personnel inflicting enormous torture resulted in death of the victim.

The Commission has also observed that it has repeatedly cautioned the men in uniform not to indulge in unlawful actions including atrocities against accused persons, much less an innocent, while such person is in their custody. It has, time and again, sensitized the police force to engage with detainee with proper human behaviour while in public duty and aggressive nature of the police must be avoided, otherwise right to life and liberty, which is fundamental edifice of the rule of law, will be trampled down.

Therefore, the Commission has said that it is of the view that there is a need for thorough probe into the matter to identify and punish the guilty as the precious human life has come to a tragic end. Moreover, the traumatic condition of the minor boy of the victim is also a cause of concern who has suffered a huge physiological, physical and mental agony which needs to be taken care of by the State.

According to the media reports, the victim Pradeep Tomar left home in Uttar Pradesh’s Pilkhua telling his wife that his younger brother’s motorcycle had a tyre puncture, and that he would be home soon after helping out. The victim took his 11-year-old son along. He was picked up on the way by the police for questioning.

Reportedly, victim’s son said that the policemen first abused him and then started beating him. The victim kept begging them not to beat him and asked them what he had done wrong but they kept hitting him. The 11 year old son of the victim was also slapped by the police too and even put a gun in his mouth before warning him not to speak to anyone else about what he had seen.

The policemen were, reportedly, drunk and the son of the victim fell at their feet and asked them to leave his father but they tortured him so much that he defecated and urinated. Even when he was taken to the local hospital, he was not given any treatment as he was locked in a room. The news reports also state that the policemen including SHO of Pilkhua were subsequently suspended and in a set of directives to Hapur police order was passed ensuring safety of those arrested in connection with alleged crime.


National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 16-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Siddharth Mridul and Anu Malhotra, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed against the Judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for murder under Section 302 read with Sections 120-B and 34 IPC.

Sunil Dalal, Devashish Bhadauria and Jaskaran Singh, Advocates representing the appellant, inter alia, raised a challenge to the credibility of the prosecution witnesses who turned hostile. It was contended that the appellant was falsely implicated in the case.Per contra, Radhika Kolluru, Additional Public Prosecutor representing the State, supported the impugned judgment.

The High Court relied on Govindaraju v. State, (2012) 4 SCC 722, for the proposition that evidence of hostile witness ought to stand effected altogether, and that the same can be accepted on careful scrutiny, to the extent found dependable, and duly corroborated by other reliable evidence available on record. Relying further on Mrinal Das v. State of Tripura, (2011) 9 SCC 479, the High Court observed: “The legal position that obtains is that, the evidence of a hostile witness remains admissible, and is available for a Court to rely on the dependable part thereof, as found acceptable and duly corroborated by other reliable evidence, available on record. Whether the testimony of a hostile witness subject to scrutiny may be relied for nullified would depend on the circumstances of each case. It could be used for corroboration or he corroborated and relied upon or nullified for the availability of better evidence.”

In light of above principle, the Court perused the evidence of the hostile witnesses and held that their testimonies could have relied on the instant case to the extent to which they were dependable and corroborated by the evidence.

Similarly, appellant’s contentions regarding lack of proof of motive and discrepancy in evidence were also rejected, and it was held that no interference was warranted in the impugned judgment. Accordingly, the conviction and sentence awarded by the trial court was upheld and the appeal was dismissed.[Ashok v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 10192, decided on 20-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: A Division Bench of Prashant Kumar Mishra and Gautam Chourdiya, JJ. allowed a criminal appeal and quashed the order of the trial court whereby the accused-appellant was convicted and sentenced for committing the murder of the deceased.

The accused was charged for murdering the deceased with whom he was in an illicit relationship. He was convicted by the trial court on the basis of circumstantial evidence — mainly, the positive opinion of Fingerprints Expert. Aggrieved thereby, the accused filed the present appeal.

A.K. Gupta, Advocate for the accused-appellant, contended that the chain of circumstantial evidence was not so complete as required to prove the guilt of the accused. Per contra, Santosh Bharat, P. representing the State supported the impugned order.

The High Court relied on the Supreme Court decision in Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra, (1984) 4 SCC 116. It was observed: “When we examine the circumstantial evidence available in the case vis-a-vis the defects in the investigation, it is seen that the report of the Fingerprints Expert though is positive for the prosecution but there is no proof as to who collected the finger prints from the spot. The prosecution has not filed the memo of obtainment of fingerprints from the spot.”

It was then noticed that the memo of obtaining fingerprints of the accused did not carry the date, or the signature of the accused, or signature of the person who classified and tested it. It was observed further: “More importantly, if on the date of obtaining the impressions, the accused was in judicial custody, the said impressions could not have been obtained without an order from the Magistrate. Thus, the document does not satisfy the test of legal and procedural sanctity in either of the terms. If on the said date the accused was in police custody then the document should carry the signatures of witnesses as well as the accused and if he was in judicial custody there should have been permission from the concerned Magistrate. Since, it is not proved that the admitted fingerprints said to be of the accused were obtained from him while he was in custody, the report of the Fingerprint Expert is not such evidence which can be relied upon as one of the circumstances in the chain of circumstantial evidence to establish the guilt of the accused.”

Similarly, laches were noted in other evidence as well and it was held that the prosecution had failed to knit together the chain of circumstantial evidence so as to lead to only one conclusion — guilt of the accused. Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and the conviction of the accused was set aside.[Kishan Singh Parvana v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2019 SCC OnLine Chh 95, decided on 29-07-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Canada: A Full Bench of Wagner, CJ. and Abella, Moldaver, Karakatsanis, Côté, Brown and Rowe, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed by accused to restore his acquittal.

In the present case, the deceased woman was found dead in the hotel bathroom of the appellant. She had bled to death from an 11 cm gash inside her vagina. Appellant was arrested and charged with first degree murder. He denied using a sharp object and asserted that the deceased consented to the sexual activities in question or at least he honestly believed that she did. The jury acquitted the appellant of first degree murder and the included offence of manslaughter. On appeal by the Crown, the Alberta Court of appeal concluded that the trial judge had made several serious errors that had affected the jury’s ability to assess the evidence and correctly apply the law to the facts of the case. It allowed the Crown’s appeal and ordered a re-trial on both first degree murder and manslaughter. The accused then appealed to restore his acquittal.

The appellant contended that the issues raised by the Crown, in appeal to the Court of appeal, of after-the-fact conduct were different from the issues he was originally tried on. He argued that the Crown’s failure to object to this portion of the charge should have prevented the Court from dealing with these issues.

It was observed by the Court that the Appellate Court could raise new issues to avert the risk of injustice. It was not doubtful that adequate procedural fairness was afforded to the parties as they were given sufficient notice and an adequate opportunity to make submissions. It was also observed that Section 276 of the Criminal Code, RSC 1985, prohibited the evidence of prior sexual activity, which could lead to reason, based on sexual history, that the complainant would have been more likely to consent to the sexual activity in question, or is less worthy of belief in general.  The Alberta Court of Appeal in this case, labelled the deceased as “Native prostitute”, this was in violation of Section 276 regime. This error had effects on the defence of honest but mistaken belief in communicated consent, upon which accused relied.

It was opined that the trial judge’s instruction relating to after the fact conduct were confusing and misleading. In his own testimony, the appellant had admitted to lying, disposing of evidence and providing contradictory explanations to numerous people after the commission of offence. He also concocted and fabricated multiple stories and excuses. Trial Judge stated that it was up to the jury to decide upon the usage of the said circumstantial evidence, and that they were entitled to consider the evidence of the admitted lies and discarding of evidence as after-the-fact conduct but it was also instructed to the jury that it could not use the evidence for those very purposes. Therefore, the trial judge did not leave it open to the jury to consider the impact of the after-the-fact conduct evidence to properly decide whether appellant’s narrative was credible or not.

It was held that the trial judge’s error in permitting evidence of prior sexual activity to be admitted was in clear contravention of Section 276 of the Act and it could reasonably have had a material bearing on the jury’s deliberations as a whole due to which a new trial on both murder and manslaughter was directed. The appeal was hence, dismissed.[R. v. Barton, 2019 SCC OnLine Can SC 15, decided on 24-05-2019]

Bail Application
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Vivek Singh Thakur, J. contemplated a petition filed under Section 482 of CrPC, where the petitioner arrived at a compromise with the respondent for quashing of the FIR filed under Sections 279 and 337 of IPC along with allegations under Motor Vehicle Act, 1988.

Factual matrix of the case was that the complainant-respondent was crossing the road and he was hit by a motorcycle which was driven by the petitioner. The complainant fell unconscious and he did not know the main cause of the accident. He subsequently lodged an FIR on the basis of the information which was supplied by the people present at the site of the accident. The contention of the complainant was that it is not known to him that how the accident had occurred and as to whether petitioner was at fault or not and that after the accident petitioner along with his family had approached him in his village and had taken care of his injuries and further that petitioner was a young graduate engineer and even if had it been fault on his part, he would have forgiven him, as he was feeling guilty for hitting him with his Motor Cycle, therefore, he did not intend to continue criminal proceedings against him and had prayed for compounding the case.

The submissions of the petitioner had also been made he had stated that he was feeling guilty for hitting the complainant and therefore had repentance for the same and had apologized to the complainant, who had agreed to forgive him. He undertook to be more careful in the future. He further deposed that at the time of the accident he was not in possession of documents of the vehicle as well as driving license, but now he possesses the same. He had also stated that he has deposed in the Court out of his free will, consent and without any coercion, pressure or threat.

But the main issue in the instant petition was that the State contended that accused was not entitled to invoke inherent jurisdiction of this Court to exercise its power on the basis of compromise arrived at between the parties with respect to an offence not compoundable under Section 320 CrPC, reliance was placed on Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303, where the Supreme Court explained the power of the High Courts under Section 482 CrPC. and had held that, “these powers are to be exercised to secure the ends of justice or to prevent abuse of process of any Court and these powers can be exercised to quash criminal proceedings or complaint or FIR in appropriate cases where offender and victim have settled their dispute and for that purpose no definite category of offence can be prescribed.” However, it was also observed that Courts must have due regard to nature and gravity of the crime and criminal proceedings in heinous and serious offences or offence like murder, rape and dacoity, etc. should not be quashed despite victim or victim family have settled the dispute with the offender. Jurisdiction vested in High Court under Section 482 CrPC is held to be exercisable for quashing criminal proceedings in cases having overwhelming and predominately civil flavor particularly offences arising from commercial, financial, mercantile, civil partnership, or such like transactions, or even offences arising out of matrimony relating to dowry, etc., It was also held that no category or cases for this purpose could be prescribed and each case has to be dealt with on its own merit but it is also clarified that this power does not extend to crimes against society.

The Court observed that though Section 279 is not compoundable under Section 320 of CrPC, however the contentions in Gian Singh’s case where the power of the High Court under Section 482 CrPC was not inhibited by the provisions of Section 320. the Court further observed that the type of offence dealt in the instant petition was not expressly barred or prohibited by the general view for compounding hence, the petition was allowed. [Rohit v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2019 SCC OnLine HP 1333, decided on 22-08-2019]

Case Briefs

Supreme Court: The bench of Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has directed the State of Uttar Pradesh to airlift the Unnao rape survivor by air-ambulance to Delhi and transfer her to AIIMS today itself after consulting with the Doctors at Lucknow.

The counsel appearing for the family members of the survivor had submitted before the Court that since the survivor has developed Pneumonia and hence, she should be shifted to AIIMS.

Regarding the lawyer of the survivor, who is in critical condition, the Court said,

“In case the family members of the lawyer of the victim make a similar request to the State authorities at 5 Lucknow by 3.00 p.m. today, he shall also be airlifted along with the victim, following the same procedure as laid down for the victim.”

On July 28, a truck rammed into the vehicle in which the Unnao rape survivor, her counsel and two aunts were travelling to Raebareli. While she and her lawyer sustained grievous injuries, her aunts were killed on the spot.

The Uttar Pradesh Police filed a case of murder against BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar and nine others in connection with the accident. Meanwhile, the BJP has expelled MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar amidst the controversy.

[IN RE ALARMING RISE IN THE NUMBER OF REPORTED CHILD RAPE INCIDENTS, Suo Motu Writ Petition (Crl.) No(s).1/2019, order dated 05.08.2019]


Also read:

Unnao rape case: All cases transferred to Delhi; Probe to be completed within maximum 14 days

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a ghastly case involving rape and murder of 2 children, the 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, Surya Kant and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ upheld the conviction of the accused but gave 2:1 verdict on quantum of punishment.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  • In October 2010, accused Mohanakrishnan & Manoharan kidnapped a 10-year-old girl & her 7-year-old brother while they were preparing to leave for school.
  • The children were taken to a remote area and rape was committed on the girl.
  • Attempt was made to kill both the children by feeding them poisonous cow dung powder mixed in milk. However, the children took only a small amount of the milk and didn’t die.
  • The children were then thrown away alive in the Parambikulam-Axhiyar Project canal.
  • Both the accused were arrested but Mohanakrishnan was later shot dead in an encounter.

QUANTUM OF PUNISHMENT

MAJORITY VIEW BY NARIMAN AND SURYA KANT, JJ

Considering the serious nature of the crime, Justice Nariman, writing for himself and Surya Kant, J said that there is no doubt that aggravated penetrative sexual assault was committed on the 10 year old girl by more than one person. The 10 year old girl child (who was below 12 years of age) would fall within Section 5 (m) of the POCSO 48 Act. He further said,

“There can be no doubt that today’s judgment is in keeping with the legislature’s realisation that such crimes are on the rise and must be dealt with severely.”

It was noticed that the crime in the case at hand was extremely shocking as a young 10 year old girl has first been horribly gangraped after which she and her brother aged 7 years were done away with while they were conscious by throwing them into a canal which caused their death by drowning. The Court also noticed that no remorse has been shown by the Appellant at all and given the nature of the crime it is unlikely that the Appellant, if set free, would not be capable of committing such a crime yet again.

The Court, hence, confirmed the death sentence imposed on the appellant.

MINORITY VIEW BY KHANNA, J

While Khanna, J said that he would uphold the appellant’s conviction, he did not think that this case was fit for a death penalty and would, hence, commute it to imprisonment for life i.e. till his natural life with a stipulation that the appellant would not be entitled to remission under Sections 432 and 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Noticing that the appellant had confessed to his crime and that confession is a ground to mitigate the sentence, Khanna, J said,

“to confess to such acts of crime and misdeeds before all and everyone, including the Magistrate could only mean that the appellant had felt shame, remorse and alienation from the society.”

He also noticed that the appellant had retracted the last part of his confession as to his involvement in sexual assault, rape and throwing the children in the canal and said that the retraction does, however, substantially reiterate and accept the first portion of the confession, including his presence in the van, but states that the appellant had not raped the girl and had remained standing.

He said,

“The retraction by itself, I would observe, should not be treated as absence of remorse or repentance, albeit an afterthought or on advice propelled by fear that the appellant in view of his admission may face the gallows, and that the earlier confession made seeking forgiveness would be the cause of his death.”

Khanna, J also took note of the fact that the appellant was 23 years of age at the time of occurrence and he belongs to a poor family. The facts that he has aged parents and is a first-time offender were also taken into consideration.

He, hence, held,

“the present case does not fall under the category of ‘rarest of rare’ case i.e. there is no alternative but to impose death sentence. It would fall within the special category of cases, where the appellant should be directed to suffer sentence for life i.e. till his natural death, without remission/commutation under Sections 432 and 433 Cr.P.C.”

[Manoharan v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 951, decided on 01.08.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A.K. Chawla, J. disposed of a criminal appeal by modifying the conviction of the appellant under Section 307 (attempt to murder) of the Penal Code to that under Section 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means).

The appellant was assailing the judgment of the trial court whereby he was convicted under Section 307 for stabbing the injured with a knife. The prosecution case was that the injured had advanced a loan to the appellant, and on the day of the incident, when the injured went to his house asking for payment of the outstanding amount, the appellant attacked him with a knife. The appellant denied the prosecution case. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant preferred the present appeal under Section 374 CrPC.

Arvind Kumar, Sneha Upadhyay and Tilak Angra, Advocates for the appellant contended that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Per Contra, G.M.Farooqui, APP appearing for the State, supported the impugned decision.

The High Court was of the opinion that it was imperative to ascertain as to whether the appellant actually intended to murder the injured. It was observed: “Offence of an attempt to murder is a serious offence. In proving the commission of such an offence, the prosecution is required to prove the basic ingredients of murder short of death. Does the instant case get even close to such a situation, the Trial Court has not given any serious thought to it. The case in hand is not one, where, the prosecution even suggests that the appellant assaulted PW8 with any premeditated mind. Who first picked the knife and wherefrom, the prosecution equally failed to prove.”

In the opinion of the Court, the evidence on record was not sufficient to prove that the appellant had any intention to commit murder. In such circumstances, it was held that conviction of the appellant for commission of offence under Section 307 could not be sustained. Appellant, however, was held liable for commission of offence under Section 324 IPC. He was released on probation of good conduct. [Ramveer v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 9129, decided on 15-07-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Pakistan Supreme Court: A Full Bench of Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, JJ. allowed an appeal seeking acquittal of a murder charge in the absence of satisfactory evidence.

The appellant was in receipt of a guilty verdict. He was indicted for committing the murder of his wife Kausar Bibi (deceased). The said verdict was affirmed by the High Court judgment which was challenged through this appeal. Prosecution case was structured on the statement of the deceased’s brother Muhammad Arshad, according to whom, the marriage of the appellant was on the rocks as deceased had not brought a dowry to accused-appellants expectations. Upon a message by the deceased, Muhammad Arshad visited her to take her back. However, their house was attacked that night and Kausar Bibi was killed. Upon indictment, appellant blamed dacoits to have murdered the deceased.  The trial Judge convicted the appellant under Section 302(b) of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 and sentenced him to death along with a direction to pay Rs 100,000.

Learned counsel for the appellant Nawab Ali Mayo, contended that the appellant should not be convicted merely upon his failure to satisfactorily explain as to what happened on that night. He further added that the presence of witnesses was extremely doubtful. He pleaded that it would have been unsafe to maintain conviction. Moreover, a co-accused was acquitted on the same grounds but the appellant was convicted.

Contrarily, the learned counsel for the respondent Mehmud ul Islam, vehemently defended appellant’s conviction on the ground that plea advanced by him was preposterous and was rightly rejected which in retrospect established his presence at the spot, thus there was no space to entertain any hypothesis of his innocence.

The Court observed that silence or implausible explanation could not equate with failure within the contemplation of Article 121 of Qanoon-e-Shahadat Order, 1984 which dealt with the exceptions of a case. Further, the appellant had not denied his presence, but these factors by itself could not hypothesize presumption of his guilt in the absence of positive proof. It was opined that suspicions are not a substitute for legal proof, and a suspect cannot be condemned on the basis of moral satisfaction in the absence of evidentiary certainty. Furthermore, the Court observed that convicting a co-accused on the same ground on which another accused has been acquitted, was wrong and it required immediate ratification. Thus, the Court allowed the appeal and ordered the immediate release of the appellant.[Muhammad Pervaiz v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Pak SC 13, decided on 06-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of J.K. Maheshwari and Anjuli Palo, JJ. partly allowed a criminal petition filed by a person accused of rape and murder of his minor daughter, and commuted his death penalty to life imprisonment.

In the instant case, the prosecutrix (since deceased) aged six years was the younger daughter of the appellant. She was residing with her mother and the appellant. The appellant was annoyed and having suspicion on his wife, Farida of questionable character. As he wanted to take revenge, he allured the prosecutrix with chocolates and used to commit unnatural intercourse and rape with his minor daughter. After committing the rape with the prosecutrix, he murdered her, hanged her from the ceiling with the help of a dupatta and then fled away from the spot. Police registered a case under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The DNA test report revealed that the DNA profile of appellant matched with the DNA profile present in the vaginal swab of the prosecutrix and sperms were also present in the vaginal swab. Due to the aforesaid evidence, police filed charge-sheet against the appellant under Sections 376, 377, 302 and 201 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Section 5(m) read with Section 6 of the Protection of Children from the Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Trial Court convicted the appellant and awarded him a death sentence. The matter was referred to this Court for confirmation of the death sentence under Section 366 (1) of CrPC. The appellant had challenged the findings recorded by the trial court by filing the separate appeal under Section 374 (2) of CrPC.

The learned counsel for the appellant, Surendra Singh and Siddharth Sharma argued that the dupatta which was used by the deceased for hanging herself was not examined at the time of postmortem. It was further contended that conviction could not be based only on the DNA and Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) reports. Hence, the impugned judgment was liable to be set aside and the appellant was entitled to be acquitted from the charges leveled against him.

The learned counsel for the respondent/State, Som Mishra contended that the Trial Court had properly evaluated the evidence available on record and rightly convicted the appellant and awarded sentence befitting the crime. Hence, the appeal filed by the appellant was liable to be dismissed and allowing the criminal reference, the death sentence may be confirmed.

The Court stated that in the rarest of the rare cases, death sentence ought to be awarded. For this, the Court relied on the judgment of Supreme Court in the case of Mofil Khan v. State of Jharkhand, (2015) 1 SCC 67, in which the Supreme Court had opined that the death sentence must be awarded where the victims were innocent children and helpless women, especially when the crime was committed in the cruelest and inhumane manner which was extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical and revolting.

The Court drew a balance sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances to determine if the death penalty was adequate punishment. Aggravating circumstances: (i) extremely brutal, diabolic and cruel act; (ii) victim being six years was a minor and helpless; (iii) no provocation because the accused was in a dominating position; (iv) injuries were grievous with respect to sexual assault particularly in a case where the victim was the daughter of the appellant. Mitigating circumstances: (i) it was a case of circumstantial evidence; (ii) no evidence that the accused had the propensity of committing further crimes causing continuous threat to the society; (iii) no evidence to show that the accused could not be reformed or rehabilitated; (iv) other punishment options were open; (v) accused was not a professional killer or offender having any criminal antecedent; (vi) accused being a major having family with him, the possibility of reformation could not be ruled out.

Thus, the Court held that in place of the death penalty, the appellant undergoes life imprisonment with a minimum of 30 years of imprisonment (without remission) and fine of Rs 20,000. In default of payment of fine, the appellant had to undergo further rigorous imprisonment for six months. The conviction and sentences awarded under Sections 201, 377, 376 of IPC as awarded by the trial court were held to be just and hence, hereby maintained.

The criminal appeal filed by the appellant was partly allowed.[Afjal Khan v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2019 SCC OnLine MP 1672, decided on 17-05-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

As reported by ANI, the United States of America has passed a bill unanimously, which would impose sanctions on Saudi officials who were involved in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

House of Representatives passed Saudi Arabia Human Rights and Accountability Act which requires — director of National Intelligence to publicly identify persons who were involved in the murder of Saudi journalist last year.

The said act requires the director of National Intelligence to publicly identify the persons involved in killing of Khashoggi and impose visa and travel sanctions on them.


[Source: ANI]

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

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The Court has convicted 12 persons for killing former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya in 2003.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra allowed the appeals of CBI and the Gujarat government challenging the High Court order by which the convicts were absolved of murder charges in the case. The Court, however, dismissed a PIL filed by NGO “Centre for Public Interest Litigation” (CPIL) seeking a court-monitored fresh probe in the Haren Pandya murder case.

It also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on CPIL for filing the PIL and said no further petition would be entertained in the case.

The Gujarat High Court, while acquitting the 12 persons of the charges of murder, had upheld the trial court’s decision that convicted them for criminal conspiracy, attempt to murder and offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). The trial court had awarded punishment ranging from five years to life imprisonment to the convicts.

Haren Pandya was the Home Minister in the then Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government. He was shot dead on March 26, 2003 near Law Garden in Ahmedabad during morning walk.

(Source: PTI)

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has refused to entertain a PIL seeking a direction to the Punjab government to set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the death of a government official whose body was found on railway track near Jalandhar Cantt station in November 2017.

The bench said that it was not inclined to entertain the plea and granted liberty to the petitioners to approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court with their grievances. It said,

“We are not inclined to entertain this petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, on the ground stated before the Court by the petitioner-in-person that as a law student the petitioner has no time to move the High Court.”

The plea, filed by three law students Deepali Vashishth, Prateek Raj and Anurag Mani, said that Rahul Bhatia was posted in the Regional Passport office at Jalandhar and on November 15, 2017, his body was found near the railway station. They said that Bhatia’s parents, who are residing in Delhi, were informed by the police about it but no proper investigation was carried out in the case. They have said in the plea that several complaints and representations were made to the top authorities but no action was taken in the matter by the police.

The plea also sought a direction to the authorities to ensure that in every case of death, where proceedings under section 174 of the CrPC is initiated, a charge sheet is submitted to the judicial magistrate after conducting probe. Section 174 of CrPC deals with inquiry by police in cases of suicide or unnatural deaths.

 

(With inputs from PTI)

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Pakistan: A Division Bench of Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, C.J. and Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, J. in the current order consolidated all the relevant precedents and the best practices pertaining to the Test Identification Parade so as to remove confusions regarding their legal position in future.

The case at hand pertained to an alleged abduction for ransom and murder and admittedly the case depended upon some pieces of circumstantial evidence. The appellant herein was convicted and sentenced for offences under Sections 302(b) and 347 read with Section 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7(a) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 (the Act). He was sentenced to death by the trial court. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant challenged his conviction and sentences before the High Court through an appeal which was partly allowed. The convictions and sentences of the appellant for the offences under Section 347 of PPC and Section 7(a) of the Act were set aside but his conviction for the offence under Section 302(b) PPC was upheld. The High Court reduced his sentence of death for the offence of murder to imprisonment for life. Leave to appeal was granted in this case in order to reappraise the evidence and the Supreme Court exercised this in the current case.

The Supreme Court while reappraising the evidences observed that prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. But the Court doubted the competence and capability of the Special Judicial Magistrate appearing before the Trial Court such that he disregarded the law declared by the Court in its precedents and made a very important piece of evidence reduced in worth due to which the prosecution had to suffer irretrievably. During the Test Identification Parade, he conducted more than one accused in one go which the Court observed was against law.

The Court relied on the precedents in the cases of Lal Pasand v.  State, PLD 1981 SC 142, Imran Ashraf v. State, 2001 SCMR 424, Ziaullah v. State, 2008 SCMR 1210, Bacha Zeb v. State, 2010 SCMR 1189, Shafqat Mehmood v.  State, 2011 SCMR 537, Gulfam v. State, 2017 SCMR 1189, Hakeem v. State, 2017 SCMR 1546 and Kamal Din v. State, 2018 SCMR 577, and held that identification of many accused persons in one line in one go during a test identification parade was improper. It observed, “it has been clarified by this Court on a number of occasions that every accused person is to be put to a separate test identification parade.”

 The Court also pointed that, “a test identification parade and correct pointing out of an accused person by an eyewitness therein is not a substantive piece of evidence and failure to hold a test identification parade is not always fatal to the prosecution’s case and a reference in this respect may be made to the cases of Muhammad Akram Rahi v. State, 2011 SCMR 87 and Ghazanfar Ali v State, 2012 SCMR 215.”

Thus, all the laws and practices regarding the Test Identification Parade were brought together by the Court in this order so as to remove any confusion regarding the same. The Court also held that henceforth serious steps would be taken in case of non-compliance or disregard of the requirements and safeguards mentioned.[Asfand Yar Khan v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Pak SC 11, decided on 22-02-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Pakistan Supreme Court: A Full Bench of Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, JJ. allowed a criminal appeal against a conviction order under Section 302 (b) of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 which was passed on the basis of confessional statements.

 Appellants herein were tried before trial court for committing murder of a minor. As the investigation progressed, the accused were hauled up by the police and produced before a Judicial Magistrate when they, one by one, confessed the guilt. They were convicted under Section 302(b) of PPC and sentenced to death. The conviction order was upheld by the Peshawar High Court. Hence, the instant appeal.

The counsels for the appellants, Khalid Mehmood and Zahoor Qureshi, contended that reliance on confessional statements by the Courts below was fraught with multiple errors, heavily impinging upon the principle of safe administration of criminal justice; according to him, the statements were inherently flawed; these were contradicted by prosecution’s own witness, a dichotomy that escaped notice of the courts below.

The Court noted that since the appellants had been handed down the ultimate corporal penalty which was irreversible in nature on the basis of their confessions, the said confessions warranted careful scrutiny.

It was noted that both the appellants appeared before the Magistrate one after another on the same date which was quite intriguing. Both of them conducted themselves in a comfortable unison even in an extreme crisis situation; and both were in tune with the prosecution, which reasonably excluded the hypothesis of voluntary disclosure, free from taints of inducement or persuasion. The Court observed that it appeared to be more of a negotiated settlement rather than a volitional representation as there was a remarkable similarity in both the statements, in terms of sequential order as well as the pattern these were reduced into writing.

The Court observed that The fate of the prosecution’s case is hinged upon confessional statements, made by the convicts before a Magistrate and it is on the basis of their disclosures that they have been handed down the ultimate corporal penalty, irreversible in nature and thus warrants most careful scrutiny.” On overall analysis of the prosecution’s case, it was held that the confessional statements could not be relied upon without potential risk of error. The Court held that, “In the absence of evidentiary certainty, it would be unsafe to maintain the convictions on moral satisfaction that certainly cannot equate with legal proof.”

In view of the above, the appellants were held entitled the benefit of doubt and their appeal was allowed, thus setting aside the impugned judgments.[Muhammad Azhar Hussain v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Pak SC 10, decided on 02-05-2019]