Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., while upholding the decision of the trial court with regard to the acquittal of the accused, held that,

“There is an acquittal and therefore, there is double presumption in favour of accused.”

The present appeal was filed impugning an order and Judgment by Vth Adhoc Sessions Judge, Pune, acquitting 6 accused of offences punishable under Sections 498A, 306, 201 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Accused were charged with offences punishable under Sections 498A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 302 (punishment for murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender ) read with Section 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of IPC.

Jayshree (Deceased) on visiting her parental home on several occasions had informed of the ill-treatment and harassment she was being received from her matrimonial home on account of demand of money for buying a Motorcycle.

On hearing the same, Complainant (Jayshree’s father) made the in-laws of Jayshree realise that they should not ill-treat or harass Jayshree.  After a few days, on one morning Complainant received the message of Jayshree being dead.

Thereafter, Complainant alleged the accused of having ill-treated Jayshree on account of demand of money for the purchase of Motor Cycle and made her life miserable and thereafter murdered her. Base on the same, offence was lodged under Sections 498A, 302, 201 and 34 of Penal Code.

Trial Court altered the charge from Section 302 to 306 IPC on receiving an application for the same as the medical report stated that the cause of death was by hanging, i.e., suicide not murder.

After hearing the parties and on receiving the evidence pertaining to the case, Court passed the order of acquittal, which is impugned in the present appeal.

APP submitted that the accused were harassing and ill-treating the deceased by unlawfully demanding Hero Honda Motor Cycle. Jayshree on not being able to bear with the harassment on the part of the accused, therefore, abetted the commission of suicide by Jayshree. Hence all the accused have to be convicted.

Senior Advocate, Rajiv Patil while defending the impugned Judgment submitted that none of the witnesses can be taken to have proved the offence under Sections 498A or 201 or 306 of IPC.

Decision

High Court agreed with the respondent’s counsel on considering the evidence placed on record.

With regard to the evidence in regard to the allegation of demand of money for motor cycle, documents showing that the accused had bought the same before his marriage on taking a loan from the bank which was also repaid before the marriage have been placed on record.

Regarding Section 306 IPC, Court noted that no evidence had been placed on record to speak off. There was no evidence to suggest or indicate that the accused knew or had reason to believe that the deceased would commit suicide.

“Even if any acts or words uttered by the accused or their conduct are sufficient to demean or humiliate the deceased and even to drive the deceased to suicide, such acts will not amount to instigation or abetment of commission of suicide, unless it is established that the accused intended by their acts that the deceased must commit suicide. It is not enough if the acts of the accused cause persuasion in the mind of the deceased to commit suicide.”

In reference to the above, decision of Kerala High Court was cited, Cyriac v. Sub-Inspector of Police, Kaduthuruthy, 2005 SCC OnLine Ker 346, wherein it was held that,

“…it is not what the deceased ‘felt’, but what the accused ‘intended’ by her act which is more important.”

Thus, in Court’s opinion and on considering the evidence on record, prosecution failed to drive home the charge under Section 498A or Section 306 IPC.

Bench held that there is double presumption in favour of the accused,  firstly, the presumption of innocence available to the accused under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless they are proved guilty by a competent court of law. Secondly, accused having secured their acquittal, the presumption of their innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the trial court.

Hence, trial court’s decision cannot be held illegal or improper or contrary to law. [State of Maharashtra v. Vijay Maruti Bombale, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 5985, decided on 19-12-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a 2-decade old matter relating to culpability of the accused under Section 201 IPC pertaining to disappearance of evidence in the case of the murder of her husband, the bench of N. V. Ramana and P.C. Pant, JJ gave a split decision and placed the matter before the Chief Justice of India for referring it to a larger bench.

As per the facts of the case, the appellant had allegedly, owing to her extra-marital affair with the second appellant (main accused), hatched a plan to eliminate her husband and as an outcome the main accused killed the deceased in his own home. The trial court convicted the main accused under Sections 302 and 201 IPC, however, the appellant was convicted only under Section 201 IPC.  It was contended by the appellant that as the time of the commission of the offence, she was sleeping with her children and fearing that if she raises any alarm, her children may also be assaulted by the intruder, she remained silent. She further claimed that she had not eloped with the main accused but was kept hostage by him at various places under different names. She said that she remained silent as she feared that police and family members would not believe her due to her illicit relationship with the main accused.

N.V. Ramana, J, acquitting the appellant, held that the entire case of the prosecution rests upon circumstantial evidence except for the direct evidence of the daughter of the deceased and the appellant who said that the appellant was crying and begging the main accused not to kill her husband and that for a circumstantial evidence to result into conviction of an accused, it should be strong, convincing and unassailable. Stating that criminal trial can never be a fanciful flight of imagination, he said that while considering the charge under Section 201 of I.P.C, it is mandatory for the prosecution to prove that the accused actively participated in the matter of disappearance of evidence and with an intention to screen the offender. He, hence, held that remaining silent and absconding with the main accused and moving from one place to another place will not supply the evidence or fill the gap which is necessary to prove the ingredients under Section 201 of I.P.C.

P.C. Pant, J, on the other hand, was of the opinion that the fact the appellant’s brother and sister-in-law saw the main accused running away without a shirt from the house of accused and that the appellant did not return to the house when she was asked by her brother to pick up her elder daughter, cannot be ignored as these facts have been corroborated by other witnesses. She had also made false statements to her brother about the whereabouts of the deceased He also pointed out the fact that the elder daughter, had, in her statement mentioned that when she saw the main accused, along with another man, beat up her father, her mother took her and her sister to another room and that she did enter the room in which the fateful incident took place. Considering the aforementioned facts, he held that the appellant was guilty under Section 201 IPC. [Padmini Mahendrabhai Gadda v. State of Gujarat, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 749, decided on 17.07.2017]