Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Vivek Thakur J. allowed the appeal and compensated the appellants because of false denial on thepart of respondents regarding compromise deed.

The facts of the case are such that the Bus Stand Hamirpur is adjacent to the house of the appellants  and is separated by brick wall over a retaining wall and on 30.3.2017 at about 8 AM his scooty was parked in his courtyard adjacent to retaining wall whereupon brick wall of Bus Stand was existing and at that time when respondent 2 was parking his bus towards petrol pump of HRTC located at Bus Stand Hamirpur, the bus had hit the wall and with its impact wall collapsed and debris had fallen on scooty of appellant. The incident was informed to the police wherein respondent 2 entered into a compromise and a compromise deed was reduced into writing which was signed by respondent 2 and appellant and also by witnesses and therefore, report with police was not recorded formally. Later, a claim petition for recovery of damages was filed which was dismissed. Aggrieved by the said dismissal order instant appeal was filed for re-evaluation of evidence and witnesses.

Counsels for the respondents have denied the occurrence as well as causing of damage to scooty and compromise in the matter by respondent 2 was also denied.

The Court observed that denial of execution of a document is one thing, whereas, objection with respect to admissibility or mode of proof is another thing. Even where execution of a document has been denied, a party has a right to raise objection with respect to admissibility as well as mode of proof at the time of its production and exhibition.

The Court observed that in the present case, at the time of accepting the documents i.e. compromise no objection with respect to admissibility of these documents and mode of proof was raised. Therefore, these documents are to be considered to have been placed on record in accordance with law and are to be admitted in evidence. However, genuineness, correctness of contents and relevancy thereof may be determined by Court by taking into consideration the contents thereof or other material on record

The Court relied on judgment P.C. Thomas v. P.M. Ismail, AIR 2010 SC 905 and observed that once a document has been admitted in evidence and marked as an exhibit, the objection that it should not have been admitted in evidence or that mode adopted for proving the documents is irregular, cannot be allowed to be raised at any stage subsequent to marking of document as exhibit.

The Court thus held “all grounds in reference regarding damage probability caused to scooty and compromise arrived at between appellant and respondent No.2 has been established on record. However, evidence to quantify the damage for which appellant is entitled has not been established by leading cogent and reliable evidence.”

In view of the above, appeal was partly allowed.

[Sahil Kumar v. HRTC, 2021 SCC OnLine HP 4568, decided on 13-05-2021]

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Counsel for appellants: Mr. P.M. Negi,

Counsel for respondents: Mr. Vikas Rajput and Mr. Arun Raj

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a 38 year old case relating to murder the 3-Judge Bench of Rohinton Fali Nariman, Hemant Gupta* and B.R. Gavai, JJ., had held

“The ossification test conducted in year 2020 when the appellant was 55 years of age cannot be conclusive to declare him as a juvenile on the date of the incident.”

The instant appeal had been preferred against the order of High Court of Judicature at Allahabad, wherein the Court had dismissed the appeal filed by the appellant against his conviction under Section 302 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860. The appellant had reached the Supreme Court with the contention that he was juvenile on the date of incident i.e. 20-07-1982. In support of plea of juvenility, he had relied upon family register maintained by the Panchayat, Aadhaar Card and an order passed by the High Court in the year 1982 by which the High Court had granted him bail on the basis of report of the Radiologist that the age of the appellant at that time was between 15½ – 17½ years.

Later on, perusal to an order of Supreme Court a Medical Board consisting of five doctors was constituted which had opined in the report dated 08-09-2020 that at present the age of applicant was around 40-55 years. Relying on the said report the High Court opined that,

“The occurrence took place on 20-07-1982 i.e. 38 years ago. When age of the appellant is determined on all hypothetical calculations i.e. (55-38=17 years) (40-38= 2 years) and taking the average of difference between maximum and minimum age i.e. 48-38 = 10 years, then it falls below 17 years.”

The Bench reiterated legal position that plea of juvenility could be raised at any stage even after finality of the proceedings before the Court. However, the Bench further observed that There were minor variations in law as the Rule 12(3) (a)(i) and (ii) of Rules, 2007 had been clubbed together with slight change in the language and Section 94 of the new Act did not contain the provisions regarding benefit of margin of age to be given to the child or juvenile as was provided in Rule 12(3)(b) of the Rules.

Reliance was placed on Mukarrab v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2017) 2 SCC 210, wherein the Supreme Court while observing that, a blind and mechanical view regarding the age of a person could not be adopted solely on the basis of the medical opinion by the radiological examination, had held that,

“The ossification test cannot be regarded as conclusive when the appellants have crossed the age of thirty years.”

Since the medical report in support of the bail order was not available, the Bench stated that such order granting bail could not be conclusive determination of age of a person.

Determination of Age in the absence of conclusive Proof

First attempt to determine the age was by assessing the physical appearance of the person when brought before the Board or the Committee. In case of a person around 18 years of age, the ossification test could be said to be relevant for determining the approximate age of a person in conflict with law. However, when the person was around 40-55 years of age, the structure of bones could not be helpful in determining the age.

In Arjun Panditrao Khotkar v. Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal, (2020) 7 SCC 1, the Supreme Court had held that in context of certificate required under Section 65B of the Evidence Act, 1872, as per the Latin maxim, lex non cogit ad impossibilia, “law does not demand the impossible”. Thus, when the ossification test could not yield trustworthy and reliable results, such test could not be made a basis to determine the age of the person concerned on the date of incident. Therefore, in the absence of any reliable trustworthy medical evidence to find out age of the appellant, the Court stated that the ossification test conducted in year 2020 when the appellant was 55 years of age cannot be conclusive to declare him as a juvenile on the date of the incident.

Noticing that an application was submitted by the appellant himself for obtaining an Arms Licence prior to the date of the incident, where he had given his date of birth as 30-12-1961 which would make him of 21 years of age on the date of the incident i.e. 20-07-1982, the Court opined that,

“The appellant could not be treated to be juvenile on the date of incident as he was more than 21 years of age as per his application submitted to obtain the Arms Licence.”

Non Applicability of Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus in India

The Supreme Court in Ilangovan v. State of T.N., (2020)10 SCC 533, held, “The doctrine of Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus merely involves the question of weight of evidence which a court may apply in a given set of circumstances but it is not what may be called “a mandatory rule of evidence”. Therefore, merely because a prosecution witness was not believed in respect of another accused, the testimony of the said witness could not be disregarded qua the present appellant as the said maxim was not applicable in India. Further, it was not necessary for the prosecution to examine all the witnesses who might have witnessed the occurrence.

Hence, in the light of above considerations and the fact that the Trial Court as well as the High Court had appreciated the entire evidence to return a finding of guilt against the appellant, the instant appeal was dismissed.

[Ram Vijay Singh v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 142, decided on 25-02-2021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

*Judgment by: Justice Hemant Gupta

Know Thy Judge| Justice Hemant Gupta

Appearance before the Court by:

For the Appellant: Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan and Advocate Pranav Sachdeva

For the Respondent: Advocate Goel

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud*, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, JJ has summarised the principles relating to conduct of a Test Identification Parade (TIP) and has held that

“… the identification in the course of a TIP is intended to lend assurance to the identity of the accused. The finding of guilt cannot be based purely on the refusal of the accused to undergo an identification parade.”

The Court was hearing a case where two men were convicted for killing a final year LLB student of Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the India Penal Code and have been sentenced to imprisonment for life. The appellants had refused to undergo a TIP and it was contended that an adverse inference should be drawn against the appellants for refusing to submit themselves to a TIP.

Test Identification Parade: Principles summarised

  1. The purpose of conducting a TIP is that persons who claim to have seen the offender at the time of the occurrence identify them from amongst the other individuals without tutoring or aid from any source. An identification parade, in other words, tests the memory of the witnesses, in order for the prosecution to determine whether any or all of them can be cited as eyewitness to the crime;
  2. There is no specific provision either in the CrPC or the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 which lends statutory authority to an identification parade. Identification parades belong to the stage of the investigation of crime and there is no provision which compels the investigating agency to hold or confers a right on the accused to claim a TIP;
  3. Identification parades are governed in that context by the provision of Section 162 of the CrPC;
  4. A TIP should ordinarily be conducted soon after the arrest of the accused, so as to preclude a possibility of the accused being shown to the witnesses before it is held;
  5. The identification of the accused in court constitutes substantive evidence;
  6. Facts which establish the identity of the accused person are treated to be relevant under Section 9 of the Evidence Act;
  7. A TIP may lend corroboration to the identification of the witness in court, if so required;
  8. As a rule of prudence, the court would, generally speaking, look for corroboration of the witness’ identification of the accused in court, in the form of earlier identification proceedings. The rule of prudence is subject to the exception when the court considers it safe to rely upon the evidence of a particular witness without such, or other corroboration;
  9. Since a TIP does not constitute substantive evidence, the failure to hold it does not ipso facto make the evidence of identification inadmissible;
  10. The weight that is attached to such identification is a matter to be determined by the court in the circumstances of that particular case;
  11. Identification of the accused in a TIP or in court is not essential in every case where guilt is established on the basis of circumstances which lend assurance to the nature and the quality of the evidence; and
  12. The court of fact may, in the context and circumstances of each case, determine whether an adverse inference should be drawn against the accused for refusing to participate in a TIP. However, the court would look for corroborating material of a substantial nature before it enters a finding in regard to the guilt of the accused.

Examination of ballistics expert – When not necessary

The failure of the prosecution in a given case, to examine a ballistics expert has to be assessed bearing in mind the overall context of the nature of the evidence which is available. When direct evidence of an unimpeachable character is available and the nature of injuries is consistent with the direct evidence, the examination of a ballistics expert need not be insisted upon as a condition to the prosecution proving its case. On the other hand, where direct evidence is not available or there is doubt in regard to the nature of that evidence, the failure to examine the ballistic examiner would assume significance.

Discussion and ruling on facts

Scrutinising the evidence in the present case, the Court noticed the following aspects:

  • PW4, deceased’s father, in the course of his cross examination stated that the deceased had been facing trial in 2-3 cases and that he was a surety for his son. He claimed to be ignorant of the fact that the deceased was a coaccused with one of the appellants Rajesh, under Sections 454 and 380 of the, inspite of being the deceased’s surety in the same.
  • Similarly, PW5, deceased’s brother, during the course of his cross-examination, professed that he did not know whether the deceased was the co-accused with Rajesh. But he later deposed that, that he and his father PW4 used to go to court when Sandeep and Rajesh were being produced on various dates of hearing.

The Court, hence, noticed that the contention of the appellants that the refusal to undergo a TIP is borne out by the fact that Sandeep and Rajesh were known to each other prior to the occurrence and that PW4, who is a prime eye-witness, had seen Rajesh when he would attend the court during the course of the hearings, cannot be brushed aside.

Consequently, in a case, such as the present, the Court would be circumspect about drawing an adverse inference from the facts, as they have emerged. In any event, the identification in the course of a TIP is intended to lend assurance to the identity of the accused. The finding of guilt cannot be based purely on the refusal of the accused to undergo an identification parade. Hence,

“… in this backdrop, a refusal to undergo a TIP assumes secondary importance, if at all, and cannot survive independently in the absence of it being a substantive piece of evidence.”

Further noticing that the prosecution has failed to establish its case beyond reasonable doubt, the Court acquitted the appellants, giving them the benefit of doubt. The appellants have already undergone over 12 years of imprisonment. The Court, hence, directed that they shall be released and their bail bonds be cancelled unless they are wanted in connection with any other case.

[Rajesh v. State of Haryana,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 900, decided on 03.11.2020]

*Justice DY Chandrachud has penned the judgment 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, SA Nazeer and Surya Kant, JJ has held that in order to successfully claim defence of mental unsoundness under Section 84 of IPC, the accused must show by preponderance of probabilities that he/she suffered from a serious-enough mental disease or infirmity which would affect the individual’s ability to distinguish right from wrong.

“Mere production of photocopy of an OPD card and statement of mother on affidavit have little, if any, evidentiary value.”

Further, it must be established that the accused was afflicted by such disability particularly at the time of the crime and that but for such impairment, the crime would not have been committed.

The Court was hearing a matter where three accused were held to be guilty of robbery with attempt to cause grievous hurt by the Trial Court.  One of the accused contended that he was merely 15 years old at the time of occurrence and was undergoing treatment for a mental disorder at a government hospital. He supported his claim through a copy of an OPD card and the testimony of the appellant’s mother who stated that he sometimes had to be kept chained at home to prevent harm to himself and others. The High Court took notice of the appellant’s age being 21 years at the time of recording of his Section 313 Cr.P.C. statement in March 2004 and concluded that the appellant would therefore have been an able-minded major at the time of incident in May, 2001.

At the outset, the Supreme Court noticed that pleas of unsoundness of mind under Section 84 of IPC or mitigating circumstances like juvenility of age, ordinarily ought to be raised during trial itself. Belated claims not only prevent proper production and appreciation of evidence, but they also undermine the genuineness of the defence’s case.

The Court took note of the fact that no evidence in the form of a birth certificate, school record or medical test was brought forth; nor any expert examination has been sought by the appellant. Instead, the statement recorded under Section 313 CrPC shows that the appellant was above 18 years around the time of the incident, which is a far departure from the claimed age of 15 years.

Stating that the plea of mental disorder remains unsubstantiated, the Court noticed that no deposition was made by any witness, nor did the appellant himself claim any such impairment during his Section 313 CrPC statement. On the contrary, his conduct of running away from the spot of the crime evidence an elevated level of mental intellect. The answers recorded in response to the questions put forth by the Additional Sessions Judge at the Sec 313 CrPC stage are also not mechanical or laconic. For example, the appellant explains his refusal to participate in the TIP proceedings by alleging that his face had already been shown by the police to the complainant.

When the Court tried to get the appellant mentally examined, it was brought to its notice that the appellant who had been granted bail by this Court earlier, is untraceable. The appellant is not residing at his claimed address since the past eight years, and even the appellant’s own counsel fairly admitted to not having received any instructions from his client since the past ten years, The Court, hence, concluded that the plea of mental illness is nothing but a made-up story, and is far from genuine.

[Md. Anwar v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 653, decided on 19.08.2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: An important question of law relating to the Special Marriage Act, 1954 (hereinafter ‘Act’) has arisen before a Single Judge Bench comprising of JR Midha, J, for adjudication. The issue is whether the parties married under the Act can be permitted to challenge the jurisdiction of the Family Court to entertain and try a petition for dissolution of marriage under the Act.

The facts leading up to the petition were as follows. The petitioner and respondent were married under the Act on 20.08.1998. The respondent filed for divorce under Section 27(1)(a), (b) and (d) of the Special Marriage Act, 1954. The certificate of marriage was filed by the respondent along with the petition. The petitioner made conflicting statements via written statements corresponding to the fact whether the marriage was solemnized under the Act or some other personal law.

Reiterating the principles of the act, the Court observed that the Act provides a special form of marriage, registration and divorce. The Act being secular and separate from religious law, liberates individuals from traditional communal constraints of marriage. The Court further observed that under the Act, registration of marriage is compulsory and that the registration certificate of the marriage is conclusive evidence of solemnization of marriage under the Act. Therefore, the contention that the marriage in question was not solemnized under the Act cannot be said to be tenable. Therefore, finding that the Family Court has clear jurisdiction to entertain and try the respondent’s petition, dismissed the petition with costs along with an order to expedite the divorce proceedings and to ideally decide the same within one year. [M v. A,  2018 SCC OnLine Del 8005, decided on 23.03.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: An appeal against the order of acquittal filed by the State was decided by a Division Bench comprising of Prashant Kumar Mishra and Ram Prasanna Sharma, JJ., wherein acquittal of the respondents as ordered by the Sessions Judge was upheld.

The respondents were accused in a criminal case under Section 302 read with Section 32  IPC for the murder of one Tushkumar and his wife. The prosecution while trying to prove its case submitted that the relation between the respondents and the deceased were strained and they had threatened to kill him; corroborative piece of seizure of deadly weapons from the respondents was an incriminating circumstance against them. However, the trial court acquitted the respondents of the charges above-mentioned. Aggrieved thus, the State filed the instant appeal.

The High Court perused the record and found that there was no eyewitness to the incident; the case of the prosecution was based on circumstantial evidence. And even the chain of circumstances was not unbroken so as to link the respondents with the crime. The statements of prosecution witness at best created suspicion against the respondents. The case of the prosecution was entirely based on suspicion. The Court observed that however strong the suspicion may be, it can not take place of proof. The High Court was of the opinion that the view taken by the trial court was correct and did not warrant interference. The appeal filed by the State was accordingly dismissed. [State of Chhattisgarh v. Nabbu @ Bafataddin, ACQA No. 137 of 2010, order dated 13-02-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the Swami Gadadharanand murder case, the bench of Kurian Joseph and A.M. Khanwilkar, JJ upheld the conviction of 2 Assistant Kotharis and one disciple of the Board of Trustees of the Swami Narayan sect of Vadtal Gadi Temple who killed the chairman of the Trust in the year 1998 when he proposed to transfer the Kotharis away from the Vadtal Temple as they feared being exposed of their misdeeds and maladministration.

Apart from the strong motive for committing the murder of Gadadharanandji and the criminal conspiracy hatched in that behalf and executed, the following factors led to the conviction of the accused persons in the present case:

  • the presence of Gadadharanandji at Vadtal Temple complex on the day of incident, the evidence that he was last seen together with Accused No.3, who hasn’t filed an appeal against the order of the High Court, going from Vadtal Temple complex in a car,
  • the recovery of a dead body in village Barothi in the neighboring state of Rajasthan on the next day of disappearance of the deceased,
  • the disclosure made by Accused No.3 about the location as to where the dead body was dumped by him in a village at Barothi,
  • the discovery of the fact after subsequent medical examination that the dead body so recovered was of none other than that of the deceased,
  • the disclosure made by Accused No.5 of the location where the deceased was strangled at Navli Temple complex, the conduct of Accused No.3 in misleading the investigating agencies,
  • the burning of the vehicle used in the commission of the crime and then filing of a false insurance claim which was rejected by the insurance company,

The Court said that the aforementioned factors leave no manner of doubt about the involvement of the appellants in the commission of the crime and hence, the life imprisonment awarded by the High Court does not warrant any intereference. The Court said that there need not be any direct evidence to establish the kind conspiracy involved in the present case. It can be a matter of inference drawn by the Court after considering whether the basic facts and circumstances on the basis of which inference is drawn have been proved beyond all reasonable doubts and that no other conclusion except that of the complicity of accused to have agreed to commit an offence is evident. The Court said that there is no legal evidence, in the present case, to give benefit of any doubt to the Appellants. [Charandas Swami v. State of Gujarat, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 361, decided on 10.04.2017]


Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where the widow of Lt. Hari Kant Jha, a freedom fighter who was accused and arrested in a criminal case emanating from freedom struggle movement of 9th August, 1942, sought pension under Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980, the bench of Dipak Misra and R. Banumathi, JJ held that being an “absconder” is not synonymous to being “underground” and hence, the freedom fighter in the present case did not meet the eligibility criteria of either being an underground within the meaning of the Scheme for more than six months.

As per the Scheme, where primary evidence viz. records of the relevant period are not available, ‘Non-Availability of Record Certificate (NARC)’ from the concerned authority, in the form of secondary evidence becomes a pre-requisite for claiming “underground suffering”. The instructions require the State Government to issue NARC only after due verification from the concerned sources. The Scheme explicitly lays down that the claim of being “underground” can be proved either by documentary evidence by way of Court’s/Government’s orders proclaiming the applicant as an offender, announcing an award on his head, or for his arrest or ordering his detention; or, Certificates from veteran freedom fighters who had themselves undergone imprisonment for five years or more if the official records are not forthcoming due to their non-availability

The freedom fighter had remained absconding for a period of 2 years starting from 16.08.1942 to 14.10.1944. He was then arrested and discharged from the case on 25.01.1945. The appellant was, however, not able to produce the document supporting the claim of her husband being “undergound” for that period. In the case of appellant, Central Government stated that the appellant has not produced any acceptable record-based evidence duly verified by the State Government to establish the claimed ‘jail’ or ‘underground sufferings’ of Late Shri Hari Kant Jha. She has also not produced NARC from the competent authority as required and that thus, the eligibility criteria is not met. Also, the Central Government stated that the jail suffering of Shri Hari Kant Jha was only for thirteen days whereas the minimum jail suffering required to become eligible for pension is 6 months.

The Court held that the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980 is a document based Scheme and the documents required for eligibility for Samman Pension as mentioned in the Scheme are to be produced by the applicant in support of his claimed suffering, duly verified and recommended by the concerned State Government. Hence, due to the discrepancies and ambiguities relating to the documents and also due to non-production of NARC, benefit of the Scheme could not be extended to the appellant. [Jagdamba Devi v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 75, decided on 31.01.2017]


Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Dealing with a matter relating to illegal gratification, the 3-judge bench of H.L. Dattu, CJI and V. Goapa Gowda and Amitava Roy, JJ held that the proof of demand of illegal gratification is the gravamen of the offence under Sections 7 and 13(1); (d)(i)&(ii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 (Act) and in absence thereof, unmistakably the charge therefor, would fail. It was further said that mere acceptance of any amount allegedly by way of illegal gratification or recovery thereof, dehors the proof of demand, ipso facto, would thus not be sufficient to bring home the charge under these two sections of the Act.

In the present case it was alleged that the appellant, Assistant Director, Commissionerate of Technical Education, Hyderabad had demanded for effecting renewal of the recognition of his typing institute by way of illegal gratification of Rs. 500 in the year 1996. The Court took note of the fact that the prosecution was unable to prove the charges and consequentially, the High Court had acquitted the appellant of the charge under Section 7 of the Act and the State had accepted the verdict and has not preferred any appeal against the same. Hence, reiterating that suspicion, however grave, cannot take the place of proof and that the Court must ensure that miscarriage of justice is avoided and if in the facts and circumstances, two views are plausible, then the benefit of doubt must be given to the accused, the Court held that it would be wholly unsafe to sustain the conviction of the appellant under Section 13(1); (d)(i)&(ii) read with Section 13(2) of the Act in case of absence of proof. P. Satyanarayana Murthy v. Dist. Inspector of Police2015 SCC OnLine SC 814, decided on 14.09.2015