Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: The Bench comprising of Goutam Bhaduri, J. allowed an appeal concerning the defamatory publication made against two doctors in a newspaper.

In the present case, it has been stated that the appeal was filed against the judgment and decree passed by Additional District Judge, Manendragarh, wherein suit for damages of Rs 1,00,000 was dismissed for alleging defamatory publication in newspaper on the ground that justification of truth exists on the published news item and after dismissal, this appeal value was reduced to Rs 50,000 for damages.

Facts of the case are that, the two doctors namely Dr PP.K. Niyogi and Dr C.P. Karan have acquired reputation and name by their work of extending different medical help to people. Defendant Praveen Nishi, was a Publisher, Printer & Chief Editor of newspaper namely Ghoomta Darpan, who had published a piece of news that the doctors are committing dacoity with the poor in a piece of news. Further, it was published that the plaintiffs without any reason used to give the injection to the patients and recover Rs 40-50/- fees along with tests, sonography etc. Therefore, plaintiffs stated because of the said publication, plaintiff’s image was tarnished.

Defendant had averred that the publication of news was made in the public interest and in all bonafide without any intention of damaging the reputation of plaintiffs. Court framed three issues and dismissed the suit.

As stated by Mr Nishikant Sinha & Mr Shakti Raj Sinha, Advocates for the appellant, the plaintiffs refused to give an advertisement to the newspaper of the defendant, as revenge, false publication of the news was made without any proof thereof. Further stated that, the evidence categorically shows that the damage was done to the reputation to which truth was absent.

“Mere levelling the allegation against the doctor without any substance or proof, the presumption cannot be drawn that it was in the discharge of a public duty.”

Reliance was placed on the decision of the Supreme Court in Sewakram Sobhani v. R.K. Karanjia, Chief Editor, Weekly Blitz; (1981) 3 SCC 208, in which it was held that:

“The truth of an allegation does not permit a justification under the first exception unless it is proved to be in the public good. Question whether or not it was for public good is a question of fact like any other relevant fact in issue.”

Thus, the High Court stated that the aforesaid principle would go to show that the said privilege which has been claimed by the defendant as the editor cannot be accepted consequently it can be completely insulated by presumption or justification or truth. The defence which has been raised by the respondent that it was in public interest in a defamatory damages suit may not be squarely applicable and accepted. Besides that, there was no evidence on record that such public interest exists. The evidence is an opinion.

“Justification or truth never existed for which the suit was dismissed by the Court below.”

The appeal was allowed and suit decreed for Rs 50,000 as against damages. [P.K. Niyogi v. Praveen Nishi, 2018 SCC OnLine Chh 680, decided on 03-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Bench of R.K. Gauba, J. acquitted the appellants of offence under Sections 304-B and 120-B IPC while convicting them under Sections 498-A read with Section 34 IPC.

The appellants were alleged to be guilty of causing death Sudha (deceased). Sudha was living in her matrimonial home with the appellants. On 08-12-1999, she suffered burn injuries in an accident. She ultimately succumbed to the injuries. It was alleged that the appellants had assaulted Sudha and set her ablaze after pouring kerosene oil on her. The appellants were tried and convicted by the trial court under Sections 304-B, 120-B and 498-A read with 34 IPC. The appellants who were represented by M.L. Yadav, Advocate, filed the present appeal against the order of the trial court.

The High Court perused the entire record. After observing severe lacunae in prosecution evidence, it noted that the critical issue was whether there was sufficient material to raise presumption under Section 113-B of Evidence Act to hold appellants guilty under Section 304-B. The Court found that the evidence indicated Sudha suffered injuries by accidental burning. Reference was made to Pushpender Singh v. State, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 12748 which discussed broad principles regarding Section 113-B (presumption as to dowry death). The Court observed the present case was missing live and proximate link necessary to give rise to a presumption under Section 113-B. Also, the charge under Section 120-B IPC were held not proved. Accordingly, an appeal was partly allowed and the appellants were acquitted of the charges under Sections 304-B and 120-B. Further, the conviction under Sections 498-A read with 120-B was modified to conviction under Sections 498-A read with 34 IPC. [Shiv Ram v. State(NCT of Delhi), 2018 SCC OnLine Del 13127, dated 07-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of S.S. Shinde and A.S. Gadkari, JJ., allowed a criminal appeal filed against the judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for murder under Section 302 IPC.

The appellant and the deceased were living in a live-in-relationship. Both were married to different spouses. The allegation against the appellant was that on the fateful day, he attacked the deceased with a hammer on her head and this resulted in her death. It was alleged by the prosecution that the appellant was fed up by the frequent bickering between him and the deceased as she did not allow him to meet his wife and children. Thus, the appellant attacked the deceased and murdered her. The appellant was tried and convicted by the trial court under Section 302. Aggrieved thereby, the instant appeal was filed.

The High Court, at the outset, noticed that appellant’s conviction was based on circumstantial evidence. It was reiterated that for basing a conviction on circumstantial evidence, it is necessary that all the circumstances must point towards guilt only of the accused and nothing else. Furthermore, the main ground for the conviction was that appellant failed to rebut the presumption under Section 106 Evidence Act exclusively within his knowledge. The Court made reference to Shambhu Nath Mehra v. State of Ajmer, AIR 1956 SC 404, wherein it was held that Section 106 is not a substitute for the burden of proof that rests upon the prosecution. It was noted that in the instant case there was no evidence on record even to remotely suggest that the appellant was in fact last seen in the company of the deceased either at the time of noticing the dead body or prior thereto. In absence of such evidence, the Court held that the failure of the appellant to offer any explanation under Section 106 could not be used against him to base his conviction. The Court further held that the case of the prosecution was based on mere presumption the appellant being in the same room with the deceased at the time of her death. In view of the aforesaid appellant’s conviction was set aside, and the appeal was allowed. [Ulhas Sudam Gorhe v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 3389, decided on 12-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench of the Delhi High Court comprising of S.P. Garg, J., allowed a criminal appeal, setting aside the conviction of the appellant under Section 489B and 489C of the IPC.

The appellant had been arrested on account of possessing and trying to use as genuine, some fake currency notes while buying from a shop. The appellant had pleaded innocence. The Court analyzed the circumstances surrounding the arrest and noted that the accused possessed 7 more Rs. 500/- denomination notes at the time of arrest out of which one more was counterfeit while the rest were genuine. The fake notes were such that they had to be tested with an instrument to establish that they were fake. The appellant had offered to switch the note he had given to the shopkeeper with any other note in his possession. Also, the appellant had not tried to run away. There were also discrepancies during the investigation and during the examination of witnesses.

The Court, while noted the settled position that mere possession of a counterfeit currency note is not enough to establish the guilt. Further, nothing had come on record to show that the appellant had reasons to believe that the note used by him was counterfeit. Presumption of knowledge from mere possession can only be drawn if the notes were apparently counterfeit. Further, the Court relied on the judgment in M.Mammutti v. State of Karnataka, (1979) 4SCC 723 : AIR 1979 SC 1705 to state that only if counterfeit notes are of such nature that mere look at that them would not convince a person that it is counterfeit then no presumption of knowledge can be attributed to the person merely possessing them. In the light of the above reasons, the appeal was allowed, sentence set aside. [Sunder Lal v. State Govt. of NCT of Delhi, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 9079, decided on 16-05-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Acquitting the appellant of charges under Section 304-B read with 34 IPC, the Single Judge Bench of P.S. Teji, J. said that since the prosecution has failed to establish the necessary ingredient of dowry death i.e. cruelty or harassment meted out to the deceased by the appellant soon before her death, the presumption under Section 113-B of the  Evidence Act cannot be raised.

It was not in dispute that the deceased died due to burning within one year of her marriage and the bodily injuries resulted in death otherwise than under normal circumstances but the most important ingredient of Section 304-B that the deceased was subjected to cruelty and harassment on account of demand of dowry by her husband or any relative of her husband soon before her death could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution. The Court relied  on the ratio in Vipin Jaiswal v. State of A.P., 2013 STPL 198 SC where the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that in the absence of specific allegations like date, time and incident that too by public witnesses who were not found reliable and trustworthy, the prosecution had failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the deceased was meted with cruelty and harassment by the accused persons for or in connection with demand of dowry.

This Court further observed that it was necessary to establish the offence of Section 498-A IPC to prove the charges under Section 304-B IPC and thereafter the presumption under Section 113-B of the Evidence Act can be drawn. [Ramesh Chander v. State of Delhi, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 6473, decided on 21.12.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the appeal filed by the in-laws of the deceased upon being aggrieved by the conversion of their acquittal into conviction by the High Court under Sections 498A and 304B IPC, the Court said if the prosecution fails to demonstrate by cogent coherent and persuasive evidence to prove such fact, the person accused of either of the above referred offences cannot be held guilty by taking refuge only of the presumption to cover up the shortfall in proof.

The bench of Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy, JJ explained that the expression “dowry” is ordained to have the same meaning as in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The expression “cruelty”, contains in its expanse, apart from the conduct of the tormentor, the consequences precipitated thereby qua the lady subjected thereto. Be that as it may, cruelty or harassment by the husband or any relative of his for or in connection with any demand of dowry to reiterate is the gravamen of the two offences.

In the present case, where the deceased was found hanging from the fan, the Court noticed that the family of the in-laws of the deceased was sufficiently well-off and did enjoy appreciable reputation in the society and no demand as imputed had ever been made. Considering the failure of the prosecution to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, the Court said that the proof of cruelty or harassment by the husband or her relative or the person charged is the sine qua non to inspirit the statutory presumption, to draw the person charged within the coils thereof. The factum of unnatural death in the matrimonial home and that too within seven years of marriage therefore is thus ipso facto not sufficient to bring home the charge under Sections 304B and 498A of the Code against them. [Baijnath v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1287, decided on 18.11.2016]


Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Hearing the appeal by the husband and the in-laws of the victim of dowry death against the order of the High Court of Karnataka which had reversed the order of acquittal by the Trial Court, the bench of Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh, JJ upheld the order of the High Court and said that once the prosecution succeeds in establishing the component of cruelty leading to conviction under Section 498A, only in a rare case, the Court can refuse to invoke the presumption of abetment, if other requirements of Section 113A of the Evidence Act stand satisfied.

In the incident that occurred 2 decades ago, a 25-year-old women who had a 10-month old son and was mothering a life of twenty week in her womb committed suicide in the wake of dowry demands. However, the appellant had alleged that the suicide was an outcome of the victim being stopped from going to her mother’s place. The High Court, after going through the relevant oral and documentary evidence in the form of letters, conclude that the trial Judge failed to look for the relevant documents already available on the record.

The Court, agreeing with the High Court’s reasoning, held that the initial explanation that the deceased committed suicide because she was not permitted to go to her mother’s place does not inspire confidence and has rightly been rejected by the High Court as only for such a trivial matter, a hale and hearty young woman having a ten months old son and a pregnancy of twenty weeks is not at all expected to take her life. Also, no explanation was given by the accused for the injuries on the person of the victim. The Court, hence, upheld the order of the High Court and said that the order of the Trial Court was highly erroneous. [Satish Shetty v. State of Karnataka, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 589, Decided on 03.06.2016]