Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: A Division Bench of Shree Chandrashekhar and Ratnaker Bhengra, JJ. acquitted the accused-appellant of the charge under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 on the ground that the prosecution has failed to prove by leading cogent and reliable evidence that the appellant has committed the crime.

The brief facts of the case are that the sole appellant, namely, Ratanu has been charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 and convicted and sentenced to R.I. for life. Initially, five accused persons were sent up for trial, however, other accused persons were acquitted on the ground that the informant has not named them as accused in her fardbeyan. The prosecution has examined six witnesses; the informant Anjela Dhanwaris PW-1, the uncle of the informant, Kushal Topno PW-3 and Nelem Topno PW-2, the wife of PW-3. The witness, namely, Uday Purty PW-4 was declared hostile. Dr Sukanta Sheet PW-5, conducted the post-mortem examination and found major injuries on Prabodh Dhanwar which were ante-mortem in nature caused by sharp and blunt objects. Aggrieved by the impugned judgment, the present appeal was filed. 

The counsel Kripa Shankar Nanda for the appellant has submitted that PW-1 is not reliable and trustworthy, there is no independent corroboration to the evidence of PW-1, the crime weapon and the blood-stained soil collected from the place of occurrence were not produced in the court, and other prosecution witnesses have turned hostile which causes serious doubt has clouded the prosecution’s case. It further relied on the judgment titled Bhimapa Chandappa Hosamani v. State of Karnataka, (2006) 11 SCC 323, the Supreme Court observed that before conviction of an accused is recorded on the basis of testimony of a single witness it must be found that testimony of such a witness is of such sterling quality that it leaves no doubt about the complicity and involvement of the accused in the crime. 

The prosecution has projected Anjela Dhanwar, daughter of the deceased, as an eye witness whose conduct during the incident makes her testimony suspicious.

The Court relying on the Supreme Court decision in Gopal Singh v. State of M.P., (2010) 6 SCC 407, held the testimony not trustworthy and reliable and, therefore conviction of the appellant under Section 302 of the Penal Code cannot be recorded. [Ratanu v. State of Jharkhand,  2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 2485, decided on 23-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: A Division Bench of Pramath Patnaik and Dr A. K. Mishra JJ. modified the conviction given by the trial court and convicted the accused under Section 304 Part-I Penal Code, 1860. 

The brief facts of the case are that the accused was charged under Section 302 IPC for having given a single blow to deceased mother. 

As per prosecution case, the accused and his wife quarreled and when mother intervened, the accused left the spot only to return later with a knife dealt a blow which struck to the right ear and the mother succumbed to her injuries. On investigation, accused was arrested, post mortem conducted and charge-sheet under Section 302 IPC submitted and consequently the accused faced trial by the Court of Session. 

Defence took the plea of denial simplicitor and examined none. The trial court appreciated the evidence of doctor and eyewitnesses and found the death of deceased to be homicidal in nature convicted and sentenced the accused. Aggrieved by the impugned judgment has filed the instant petition.

The counsel for the appellant, Ambika Prasad Ray, submitted that the manner in which the knife blow was inflicted to the mother is nothing but without premeditation and due to heat of passion, out of sudden quarrel and not in a cruel manner for which exception 4 of Section 300 IPC is attracted. 

He further requested the Court to convert the conviction to Section 304 Part-I of IPC. 

The counsel for the respondent, Zafarullah, did not dispute the factum of quarrel but stated that no such plea was taken before the Trial Court. 

After carefully perusing the evidence on record and hearing all the witnesses from both sides, the Court observed that the accused son had no animosity with the deceased mother, rather the incident had the genesis of quarreling between accused and his wife for which it could be said that there was no premeditation and no motive. The Court further observed that the trial Court has committed error in not appreciating the law in the right perspective whereas the material in abundance proves that the offence committed is culpable homicide not amounting to murder as defined under Exception 4 of Section 300 IPC and for that the accused is to be convicted under Section 304 Part-I IPC instead of Section 302 IPC. 

In view of the above, the appeal was allowed and sent back. [Santosh Toppo v. State of Odisha, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 59, decided on 29-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of S.M. Gavhane and T.V. Nalawade, JJ., while partially allowing the appeal, held that,

“…with regard to offence under Section 498-A IPC, prosecuton has to prove that the accused in furtherance of their common intention caused cruelty within the meaning of cruelty given under explanation A and B of Section 498-A IPC.”

The present appeal was filed to challenge the judgment and order of Sessions Judge that had passed conviction and sentence for offence punishable under Section 498-A read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860, along with punishment under Section 302 read with 34 IPC.

Facts of the case were that the deceased was married to accused 1 about five months before the incident. While the deceased and accused 1 were cohabiting, the deceased sustained 86% burn injuries on 17-11-2007.

Later, dying declarations were recorded in which it was stated that since the marriage accused were harassing the deceased and asking her to bring Rs 10,000 from her parents. On account of the same, the deceased was assaulted and harassed.

On 16-11-2007, accused had beaten her by fist and kick blows and stick and on the morning of 17-11-2007, her father-in-law and mother-in-law caught hold her and her husband poured kerosene on her person and set her on fire by lighting the match stick and thus attempted to commit her murder.

Advocate for the appellants/accused 1 submitted that when both the dying declarations were recorded the deceased was not in a position to make a statement due to 86% burns suffered by her. Further, he stated that both the written dying declaration are not voluntary and trustworthy.

APP submitted that there was no material to show that dying declarations were the result of the product of imagination, tutoring or prompting.

Analysis & Decision of the Court

High Court stated that the death of the accused was not natural.

Looking to the defence of the accused and case of the prosecution it is to be seen whether the death of the deceased is homicidal, suicidal or accidental and if the death of deceased is homicidal whether the accused are responsible for causing burns to the deceased and to her death.

Nothing was found in favour of the accused in the cross-examination of medical officer. Court also noted that the contents of the dying declarations were not specifically put to the accused in the statement under Section 313 CrPC and as such no opportunity was given to the accused to explain the circumstances appearing against them in both the dying declarations.

Further Court found that kerosene residues were present on the burnt clothes of the deceased. If the deceased would have caught fire accidentally no kerosene would have been found on the clothes on her person. Evidence of the defence witness is not believable and sufficient to state that the deceased sustained burns accidentally.

Thus, accused 1 was responsible for causing burn injuries to the deceased and ultimately to cause her death.

Findings of the trial court that the prosecution has proved offence under Section 302 IPC against accused 2 & 3 father-in-law and mother-in-law of deceased is not correct and sustainable.

Hence in the above view, the appeal was partly allowed. [Dadarao v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 346, decided on 03-03-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Surendra P. Tavade and Ranjit More, JJ., while dismissing the present appeal upheld the trial court’s decision for an offence punishable under Sections 302, 392 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Reason for appeal to be preferred

Appellant – Original accused challenged the Judgment and conviction order passed by Additional Sessions Judge of wherein the appellant was convicted for the offence punishable under Sections 302, 392 read with 397 IPC.

Facts

First informant was deceased’s daughter and worked at a sugarcane juice stall. Balli used to clean the sugarcane at informant’s place and take the same to informant’ Juice Stall. On one day, Balli when did not reach the stall, informant called the deceased to know whether the servant Balli had proceeded to the shop, to which her mother replied that his work was not over yet, and he may stay for some time and then attend the shop.

When the informant reached her house in the night, she found her mother lying in the pool of blood, with knife pierced in her chest and a deep injury on the neck.

Later, FIR was registered and during investigation through the call records, it was found that appellant was moving in the vicinity at the time of the incident. Police on searching for the appellant found him at his native place and was further arrested.

 Trial Court held the appellant guilty for the offence punishable under Sections 449, 397 and 302 of IPC.

Contentions

Counsel for the appellant submitted that prosecution did not prove the chain of circumstances to prove the guilt of the appellant.

Adding to the above, it was also submitted that there could be a possibility of involvement of third person committing offence and appellant was wrongly convicted for the offences.

APP submitted that discovery of ornaments, blood-stained cloths from the possession of the appellant unequivocally proved involvement of the appellant in the crime.

Further appellant’s counsel submitted that even it was proved that the appellant was found in possession of stolen articles, he could not be held guilty for the charge under Section 302 IPC and at the most, he will be held guilty under Section 392 IPC.

Decision

High Court noted that the appellant had contacted PW-17 and shown him the gold articles, further the said articles were seized from the appellant. After the incident, appellant went to his native place and showed gold ornaments to PW-17.

Appellant was found in possession of the gold articles immediately after the incident. He also produced clothes that were stained with blood. Another circumstance to be noted against the appellant was that he was seen in the vicinity of the scene of offence before the incident and during the time of the incident.

This, in view of the above, trial court’s decision is upheld and the present appeal is to be dismissed. [Girvarsingh Bhagwatsingh Devda v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 315decided on 25-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of M.G. Sewlikar and T.V. Nalawade, JJ., upheld the decision of the trial court to convict the accused under Section 302 of Penal Code and held that,

“ A person who pours kerosene on someone and sets him on fire has no right to say that he had no knowledge that this act of his would cause death or would cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.”

The present appeal was preferred against the conviction under Sections 302, 323 and 506 of Penal Code, 1860.

Facts

Appellant/accused was a liquor addict and one evening when he came to home, the deceased (wife) asked him why he consumed liquor after which the appellant/accused abused her and said that he would get rid of her.

On the night of the above-stated incident, when the deceased and her son went off to sleep, accused/appellant poured kerosene on the deceased and ignited the match stick and threw it at her and ran out of the house. Thereupon, accused/appellant poured water on her and extinguished the fire.

Two dying declarations were recorded wherein the deceased stated the same story as above, after which offences under Sections 307, 323, 504 and 506 of IPC were registered. Offence was converted under Section 302 of Penal Code as the deceased breathed her last.

Analysis

Sessions Judge found that both the dying declarations were voluntary and truthful.

“Principle on which dying declaration is admitted in evidence is based on the legal maxim “Nemo Moriturus Praesumitur Mentire”: i.e. the man will not meet his maker with a lie in his mouth. It is based on the principle that in the face of death, all the worldly aspirations of a man do not exist. It is unlikely that a person who is on death bed would falsely implicate an innocent.”

Principles of governing the dying declaration are enumerated in the case of Paniben v. State of Gujarat, (1992) 2 SCC 474.

Law on the dying declaration is that if the Court is satisfied that the dying declaration is true and made voluntarily by the deceased, conviction can be based solely on it, without any further corroboration. When the dying declaration suffers from some infirmity, it cannot alone form the basis of conviction.

Dying declaration is enshrined in Section 32 of the Evidence Act as an exception to the general rule contained in Section 60 of the Evidence Act.

Court noted that the dying declaration was recorded and signed by the victim when the doctor declared her to be in a fit state to do so. Thus, both the dying declarations appear to be truthful and voluntary.

Bench observed that, accused had failed to explain the circumstances in which the incident occurred. Prosecution proved both the dying declarations. It also proved the presence of the accused at the time of incident and also proved that kerosene was detected on the clothes of the accused.

Having regard to the above, trial court did not commit any error in placing reliance on both the dying declarations and recording the conviction against the accused under Section 302 of IPC.

Counsel Shri Chatterji for the accused had contended that the accused had no intention of doing the said act i.e. the intention to murder as he had poured water on the person of the deceased soon after she was engulfed by fire.

For the above argument, Court stated that,

The act is so inherently dangerous that a man of ordinary intelligence can also contemplate that setting a person on fire would entail death or would cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.

Thus, the High Court on noting the above held that the prosecution has proved that the death is homicidal. Bench also cited the Supreme Court’ decision in Suraj Jagannath Jadhav v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1608, wherein it was held that,

“Even assuming that the accused had no intention to cause the death of the deceased, the act of the accused falls under clause Fourthly of Section 300 IPC that is the act of causing injury so imminently dangerous where it will in all probability cause death.”

Hence, in view of the above, appeal is dismissed. [Navin Bhimrao Bansode v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 284, decided on 17-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Ranjit More and Surendra P. Tavadae, JJ., while disposing of the present appeal altered the conviction under Section 302 to Section 304 Part-II of Penal Code, 1860.

The Judgment and order of the Sessions Judge who had convicted the appellant under Section 302 IPC was challenged.

The facts pertinent to the case are that, the appellant was addicted to liquor and in the influence of the same he used to abuse and assault the deceased (Sarika). On the night of the incident, appellant picked up a quarrel on a petty ground and poured thinner on the person of Sarika and set her on fire. Later, appellant himself tried to extinguish the fire by putting water on the person of Sarika and took her to the hospital.

On the basis of the statement of Sarika, crime initially came to be registered under Section 307 of IPC. During the treatment, Sarika succumbed to injuries. After the post-mortem was performed, the offence under Section 302 IPC was added by the Investigating Officer. Later the appellant as arrested.

Advocate for the appellant submitted that the prosecution heavily relied on two written dying declarations and one oral dying declaration of the deceased. He further states that there are major flaws in recording the two dying declarations and they are concocted. Defence of the appellant is more probable than the prosecution theory.

Adding to his submissions, he stated that the appellant had no intention to kill his wife. Therefore the case falls under Section 304 Part-II of IPC.

APP for the State submitted that the dying declarations are consistent and there no flaws in recording the same. Thus, the same can form the basis for conviction under Section 302 IPC. Adding to his submission, APP stated that prior to the incident the appellant had threatened to kill his wife by setting her on fire and with this, it cannot be said that he had no intention of killing his wife.

The entire theory of prosecution depends on dying declarations alleged to have been given by the deceased immediately after the incident. Sarika (deceased) had disclosed her brother that the appellant poured thinner and set her on fire by a match stick. She also stated that the appellant had threatened that if she disclosed the name she would be killed.

Further, it is to be noted that the sum and substance of the first written dying declaration shows that deceased disclosed the cause of the incident as a quarrel over a petty count. The second dying declaration was recorded by the Special Executive Magistrate.

While going through both the declarations, they both appear to be consistent and there seems to be no scope for concoction. The first oral dying declaration was made by Sarika to her brother and thereafter, Police and Special Executive Magistrate recorded Sarika’s statement with the opinion of Medical Officer. Nothing was brought on record to establish that the dying declarations were concocted.

APP relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in Kalu Ram v. State of Rajasthan, (2000) 10 SCC 324; wherein it was held that the conduct cannot be seen divorced from totality of circumstances.

Decision

In the present case, it is established on record that due to quarrel between the appellant over a petty issue he poured thinner on the person of deceased and set her on fire. Taking into consideration the same it cannot be said that the appellant out of control did act of setting his wife on fire but subsequently he extinguished the fire by showing his remorse towards the act of setting fire. Therefore, the appellant had no intention to kill his wife and the said act cannot fall into the purview of Section 302 IPC but it squarely falls under the provisions of Section 304 Part-II IPC.

Thus, relying on the ratio of the decision in Kalu Ram v. State of Rajasthan, (2000) 10 SCC 324, Court was inclined to alter the conviction punishable under Section 302 to 304 Part-II IPC. [Avinash Baburao Rayate v. State of Maharashtra, Criminal Appeal No. 873 of 2010, decided on 31-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: A Division Bench of Shree Chandrashekhar and Ratnaker Bhengra, JJ. dismissed a criminal appeal challenging the order of trial court wherein the appellant was convicted under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Appellant herein was accused of murdering his wife on the basis of ‘fardbeyan’ of the informant, who is the deceased’s father. The deceased and the appellant were married; the deceased had returned to her maternal home due to disputes with the appellant. On the fateful night, the informant hearing cries of his daughter rushed to her room. When the deceased told him that her husband had stabbed her, the informant and his chased the appellant for some distance, but he escaped.

The Court noted that that minor inconsistency, exaggerations or embellishments in testimonies of eyewitnesses would not throw the prosecution’s case into the winds. As none of the witnesses had seen the accused stabbing the deceased, Court relied on Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, wherein the court may presume existence of any fact which it thinks is likely to have happened, regard being had to the common course of natural events, human conduct and public and private business, in their relation to the facts of the particular case.

The Court applied the principle of res gestae, under Section 6 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 which provides that statement of a victim given immediately after the occurrence is a relevant fact, and admissible in evidence. The Court relied on Rattan Singh v. State of H.P., (1997) 4 SCC 161 wherein it was held that statement of deceased can be admitted under Section 6 of the Evidence Act on account of its proximity of time to the act of murder.

Keeping in mind the aforementioned state of affairs, the Court held that the prosecution had proved the charge under Section 302 of IPC against the appellant.

As such, the Court found no merit in the appeal, dismissed it. [Kandan Soren v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 1943, decided on 03-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of P.N. Deshmukh and Pushpa V. Ganediwala, JJ., allowed a criminal appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for committing the offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC and for the offence of cruelty to women punishable under Section 498-A IPC. 

The appellant was convicted for the murder of his wife. It was alleged by the prosecution that the appellant used to ill-treat and harass the deceased after consuming liquor. The deceased died as a result of a hundred percent burn injuries. The conviction of the appellant was based on the dying declaration of the deceased recorded in the hospital. Aggrieved by his conviction, the appellant filed the instant appeal. 

The High Court considered the submissions made by R.M. Daga, Advocate appearing for the appellant, and S.P. Deshpande, Additional Public Prosecutor representing the State. 

Perusing the order of the trial court, the high court noted that the order convicting the appellant was based only on the dying declaration of the deceased. Considering the post mortem report, the Court found that the deceased died of hundred percent burn injuries.  In such circumstances, the Court was of the opinion that a bare perusal of the dying declaration would reveal the deceased’s thumb impression thereon with clear ridges, which creates a doubt in the case of the prosecution. 

Moreover, no medical officer was examined by the prosecution to bring on record the fact of the physical and mental state of the deceased before and after recording the statement, nor there is anything on record to establish that in spite of any attempts made by the prosecution, no presence of concerned medical officer could be obtained. Reliance was placed on the decision of the Supreme Court in State of H.P. v. Jai Lal, (1999) 7 SCC 280. wherein it was held that the report of an expert witness cannot be accepted as it is unless the expert witness has been examined and in the absence of examination of the medical expert, the certificate given by him cannot be read into evidence. It was also held that medical witness is an expert witness and his evidence stands on a different pedestal than an ordinary witness.    

In such view of the matter, the High Court allowed the appeal and set aside the order of the trial court conviction the appellant. [Pravin v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 95,  decided on 07-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: A Division Bench of Mir Alfaz Ali and Nani Tagia, JJ., allowed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for the offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC.

The appellant was alleged to have murdered his son after a quarrel took place between the two. Apparently, there was no direct evidence against the appellant and his conviction was based on circumstantial evidence. The trial court held that the deceased was found dead in the house of the appellant and the appellant did not offer any explanation as to how the death of the deceased was caused. Thus, basically relying on the said circumstance, the conviction of the appellant was recorded putting a reverse burden on the appellant under Section 106 (burden of proving fact especially within knowledge) of the Evidence Act. Aggrieved by the order of the trial court, the appellant filed the instant appeal.

While perusing the record, the High Court noted that evidently, the body of the deceased was found in the rented house of the tenant of the appellant. Also, when the dead body was recovered and people came to the place of occurrence, the appellant was found in his own house in an inebriated condition. When the police came, then only, he came out on being called by the police. The trial court observed that the appellant was found inside the house where the occurrence took place, but, there was no evidence on record to support such observation, and as such, this finding of the trial court appear to be perverse.

Regarding the law on Section 106, the High Court observed:

“In a criminal trial burden is always on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt and Section 106 of the Evidence Act is not intended to relieve the prosecution of its burden. Only when prosecution proves certain fact from which reasonable inference can be drawn regarding certain other facts, which unless explained by the accused by virtue of his special knowledge, tend to inculpate the accused, in such circumstance the accused owe an explanation, otherwise section 106 of the Evidence Act does not put any burden on the accused to prove his innocence.”

Referring to the facts of the instant case, the Court held:

“In the present case evidently prosecution has not been able to prove any fact, from which an adverse inference could be drawn to attribute culpability to the appellant, in absence of any explanation. As already indicated above, the findings of the learned trial court, that the deceased was found with the appellant in his house was perverse. Once, these findings are discarded, there are no other materials on record to attribute any special knowledge to the appellant in respect of the death of the deceased.”

Accordingly, the appeal was allowed and the conviction and sentence awarded to the appellant was set aside. [Tunu Urang v. State of Assam, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 5528, decided on 19-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of B.P. Dharmadhikari and Sandeep K. Shinde, JJ., dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the trial Judge whereby the appellant-accused were convicted under Section 302 IPC for murdering the deceased.

The appellants, represented by Dr Yug Mohit Chaudhary, submitted that the deceased hurled abused for the sister of one of the appellants. Consequently, the appellants lost self-control and at the spur of the moment, they hit the deceased with danda and an iron rod, which resulted in his death. It was contended that in such circumstances, the conviction of the appellants may be modified to that under Section 304 Part II, with suitable modifications in punishment.

Attention of the Court was invited to the disclosure statement under Section 27 of the Evidence Act made by Accused 1, to show that he pointed out what transpired on the night of the incident. The appellants relied upon the Supreme Court decision in Murli v. State of Rajasthan, 1995 Supp (1) 39, to submit that such disclosure under Section 27 of the Evidence Act can be pressed into service by accused in defence.

Perusing the record, the High Court noted that the defence had made no attempt to bring on record, any such abuses as were claimed by them now. It was held that the defence of abuse in the name of appellant’s sister by the deceased was never raised and had not been established.

On the point of law, the Court observed: “Stray sentences appearing in disclosure memorandum Exhibit 17, therefore, cannot be allowed to be utilized to build such defence in present facts.”

Furthermore, the decision of the Supreme Court relied on by the appellants was distinguished as in that case there were some other evidence on record which corroborated the statement of the accused.

In such view of the matter, the High Court held that there the impugned order does not need to be interfered with. the appeal was, therefore, dismissed. [Atikul Habibul Rehman Shaikh v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 5013, decided on 2-12-2019]

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 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

Bombay High Court: P.N. Deshmukh and Pushpa V. Ganediwala, JJ. allowed an appeal filed against the order of the Sessions Judge whereby the appellant was convicted under Section 302 IPC for murder of one Pancham (deceased).

As per the prosecution case, the deceased failed to pay the loan he had taken from the brother of the appellant which led to the appellant assaulting the deceased, which resulted in his death. R.M. Patwardhan, Advocate for the appellant contended that the evidence of the eye-witnesses was not at all convincing and were totally contrary to each-other on material aspects. He prayed that the appellant may be acquitted. Per contra, S.A. Ashirgade, Additional Public Prosecutor appearing for the State, submitted that there was direct evidence against the appellant which was duly corroborated. He, thus, prayed for dismissal of the appeal.

The High Court noted that there was an inordinate delay of as many as 4 days in recording the statement of eye-witnesses. The Court referred to State of H.P. V. Gian Chand, (2001) 6 SCC 71 and Dilawar Singh v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2007) 12 SCC 641, to note the effect of the delay in recording statements of witnesses under Section 161 CrPC. It was noted: “If the prosecution fails to satisfactorily explain the delay and there is a possibility of embellishment in the prosecution version on account of such delay, the delay would be fatal to the prosecution. However, if the delay is explained to the satisfaction of the Court, the delay cannot by itself be a ground for disbelieving and discarding the entire prosecution case.”

In the case on hand, the delay in recording the statements was nowhere explained. On facts of the case, it was held that testimonies of the witnesses was in a shadow of doubt and that the evidence failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Resultantly, the appeal was allowed and the appellant was acquitted of the offences charged with.[Sachin v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1080, decided on 21-06-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: A Division Bench of S. Talapatra and Arindam Lodh, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed against the decision of the Sessions Judge whereby the appellant was convicted and sentenced under Section 302 IPC for committing the murder of his wife.

The appellant was alleged to have poured kerosene on his wife and put her ablaze. He was accordingly convicted by Sessions Judge. Senior Advocate P.K. Biswas assisted P. Majumdar, Advocate representing the appellant challenged the dying declaration made by the deceased wife. It was argued that the dying declaration was not taken in accordance with the established principles of law and thus could not form the basis of recording conviction against the appellant. Per contra, A. Roy Barma, Additional Public Prosecutor appearing for the State submitted that the objections relate to some technical defects which should be ignored.

The High Court, on careful scrutiny of evidence, found that the signature or thumb impression of the victim could not be taken on the dying declaration as her hands were totally burnt. The Court put reliance on Inder Singh v. State (UT of Delhi), (1978) 4 SCC 161 and Pattu Rajan v. State of T.N. (2019) 4 SCC 771. It was stated: “There is no thumb rule that dying declaration must be certified by doctors. It can be said to be only a rule of prudence. In our considered view, if the person who records the dying declaration is convinced with the fitness of the victim at the time of recording the declaration in question, then, there is no reason to doubt the reliability or credibility of the dying declaration.”

The Court further observed: “Another important aspect to be borne in mind is that in our country, the Executive Magistrates or the Doctors are not adequately trained in such affairs. Keeping in mind the principle enunciated in Pattu Rajan case we are also of the considered view that the traditional dogmatic hyper-technical approach should be replaced by the realistic and traditional approach  for administering justice in a criminal trial.” In such conspectus, it was held that there was no reason to interfere with the impugned judgment and the appeal was, therefore, dismissed.[Khokan Sarkar v. State of Tripura, 2019 SCC OnLine Tri 197, decided on 25-04-2019]

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Jharkhand High Court: The Division Bench of Shree Chandrashekar and Deepak Roshan, JJ. dismissed a petition on the ground that prosecution has miserably failed to establish its case against the appellant.

The present prosecution case was based on the circumstantial evidence where there was no eye-witness to the actual occurrence in which the deceased (Birsu Oraon) was killed. And the Additional Judicial Commissioner held that the circumstances brought on record “make him believe” that the accused-appellant has caused the death of Birsu Oraon. The facts of the case being Birsu Oraon had gone to observe paddy crop, who was found dead by his brother, who later informed the villagers who rushed to the jungle. The witness-Chandari Kumari has deposed in the court that the accused-appellant and the deceased-Birsu Oraon had gone to Tand. Wife of the deceased has also spoken on similar lines.

Amrita Banerjee, the Amicus had raised two-fold contentions that (i) the circumstances referred by the learned Additional Judicial Commissioner, do not complete the chain of circumstances so as to convict the appellant under Section 302 of the Penal Code and (ii) suspicion howsoever strong cannot be a substitute for the legal evidence so as to convict an accused, more particularly, in a serious offence like murder. The case of Navaneethakrishnan v. State, (2018) 16 SCC 161 was referred to, to contend that the incriminating circumstances must be clearly established by the reliable and clinching evidence and the circumstances so proved must form a chain of events from which it can be safely inferred that it was the accused and accused alone who has committed the crime. On the other hand, Arun Kumar Pandey, the APP had contended that once the accused has failed to explain satisfactorily the incriminating circumstances put to him in his examination under Section 313 CrPC, that he was last seen together with the deceased-Birsu Oraon, and he has failed to lead any evidence to establish. And that the circumstances brought on record “make him believe” that the accused-appellant has caused the death of Birsu Oraon.

The Court held that “the only circumstance which has been proved by the prosecution is that the accused was last seen in the company of the deceased. This may be one of the circumstances, but not the only circumstance on the basis of which an accused can be convicted for the offence under Section 302 IPC. The law assumes that when a man is last seen in the company of the accused and soon thereafter his dead body has been recovered it may be the accused who has committed the crime, but then, if the accused has offered an explanation what has happened thereafter, he has discharged his onus. To hold that an accused must answer each and every incriminating circumstance during his examination under Section 313 CrPC, would be against the basic principle in law. We find that the prosecution has miserably failed to establish its case against the appellant”. The Court appreciated the efforts of Amrita Banerjee, the learned Amicus who had prepared notes on the prosecution evidence and ably assisted the Court arguing this criminal appeal on behalf of the appellant.[Chari Oraon v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 544, decided on 04-04-2019]

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Bombay High Court: A Bench of B.P. Dharmadhikari and Prakash D. Naik, JJ. allowed a criminal appeal and set aside the decision of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted under Section 302 IPC for murdering his wife.

The appellant was convicted on the basis of dying declaration recorded by his deceased wife. It was alleged that on the fateful day, the appellant and his wife had a quarrel after which he poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze. The wife untimely succumbed to burn injuries in hospital. Aggrieved by his conviction recorded by the trial court, the appellant filed the present appeal.

Neha Bhide, Advocate, representing the appellant contended that there were lacunae in the dying declaration, it was unreliable and a fake document. Per contra, V.V. Gangurde, APP, appearing for the State submitted that there was nothing to doubt the genuineness of the dying declaration.

The High Court noted that the infirmities in the dying declaration spoke volumes about its genuineness. It did not bear the endorsement of the Doctor as to whether the wife was in a fit state to make a statement. There were interpolations at more than one places in the declaration. There was no description as to whether the thumb impression was of the right hand or left hand. The Court observed: “A dying declaration can be the basis of conviction, if the Court comes to the conclusion that it represents truthful version. To pass the test of reliability a close scrutiny is necessary as the accused has no opportunity to cross examine the maker of dying declaration. It must inspire full confidence of the Court regarding its correctness and voluntariness and court must ensure that the statement was not the result of tutoring, prompting or product of imagination.” 

Holding that the dying declaration in the present case failed to pass the test of reliability, the Court was of the opinion that appellant deserved to be given benefit of doubt. Consequently,the appeal was allowed and the appellant was acquitted of charges as framed. [Ashwini Rammeher Sharma v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 803, decided on 08-04-2019]

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Allahabad High Court: This Jail Appeal was filed before the Division Bench of Sudhir Agarwal and Vivek Varma, JJ., under Section 383 CrPC which prescribed the procedure to be followed when an appellant is in jail.

The facts of the case were such that the appellant was alleged for commission of crime of murder under Section 302 of Penal Code, which the Trial Court found to be proven beyond reasonable doubt and had sentenced him to undergo life imprisonment with six months simple imprisonment for default in payment of fine on the basis of ocular evidence of material witnesses and medical evidence. Hence, this appeal before this Court.

Ravi Chandra Srivastava, learned Amicus Curiae on behalf of the appellant submitted that witnesses of prosecution were interested witness who were in close relationship with the deceased thus were not independent. Further, prosecution had failed to show motive behind the alleged crime in addition to the non-supported ocular version of events by witness. Whereas Rishi Chaddha, learned Additional Government Advocate for State submitted that FIR was corroborated by the medical evidence brought before Court. The instrument used to commit the crime was found with the accused and accused had a strong motive to kill the deceased.

High Court was of the view that the argument advanced by accused that the eye witness’s version of the events cannot be accepted as they were closely in relationship with the deceased i.e. wife, cannot be accepted in view of the evidence presented before the Court. If the evidence provided by eye-witness inspires confidence then the same cannot be discarded on the ground of their relationship with the deceased. Therefore, this appeal was dismissed. [Shishu Pal v. State of U.P., 2019 SCC OnLine All 2112, decided on 19-04-2019]

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Tripura High Court: A Bench of S. Talapatra and Arindam Lodh, JJ. allowed an appeal filed against the Judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for an offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC.

The appellant was alleged to have committed the murder of his wife. The trial court had observed that the appellant was found on the previous day of the incident as well as on a fateful evening in his rented house by the witnesses, and he alone committed his wife’s murder and none else. The plea of alibi taken as defence by the appellant was not accepted.

Explaining the law regarding the plea of alibi and burden of proof thereof, the High Court stated:

  “Latin word ‘alibi’ means ‘elsewhere’ and that word is used for convenience when an accused takes recourse to a defence line that when the occurrence took place he was so far away from the place of occurrence that it is extremely improbable that he would have participated in the crime. It is basic law that in a criminal case, in which the accused is alleged to have inflicted physical injury to another person, the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the accused was present at the scene and has participated in the crime. The burden would not be lessened by the mere fact that the accused has adopted the defence of alibi. The plea of the accused in such cases need be considered only when the burden has been discharged by the prosecution satisfactorily.”

Explaining further:

  “When the presence of the accused at the scene of occurrence is established satisfactorily by the prosecution through reliable evidence, normally the court would be slow to believe any counter-narrative to the effect that he was elsewhere when the occurrence happened. But if the evidence adduced by the accused is of such a quality and of such a standard that the court may entertain some reasonable doubt regarding his presence at the scene when the occurrence took place, the accused would, no doubt, be entitled to the benefit of reasonable doubt. For that purpose, it would be a sound proposition that in such circumstances, the burden on the accused is rather heavy. It follows, therefore, that strict proof is required for establishing the plea of alibi.”

In the present case, the prosecution had failed to prove appellant’s presence at the scene of the crime. Thus, there was no occasion to consider whether his plea of alibi could be considered or not. Accordingly, the impugned order was set aside and the appellant was set at liberty on the benefit of doubt. [Suman Nama v. State of Tripura, Crl. A. (J) No. 33 of 2015, decided on 03-05-2019]

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Punjab And Haryana High Court: The Bench of Rajiv Sharma and Kuldip Singh, JJ., dismissed the application filed under Section 378(4) CrPC against the Judgment passed by the Additional Sessions Judge acquitting the accused-respondents of the charges framed against them under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC and Section 25 of the Arms Act on the ground that it was a case of mere suspicion. 

The facts of the case were that the accused was suspected of the murder of his brother whose body was found lying near the railway track. However, the Additional Sessions Judge acquitted the accused. The Court said that in this case, the prosecution relied upon the confession made by both the accused in their disclosure statements. However, the confession made in the disclosure statement is not admissible in evidence. The prosecution also led evidence to prove the enmity between the accused and the deceased and for this purpose, they have examined the brother of the deceased and the father of the deceased. Their cross-examination showed that both of them had heard about the quarrel between the accused and the deceased on the Diwali day. However, the accused proved that he was away to Delhi on the Diwali day. Therefore, their statements regarding quarrel was discarded as hearsay. 

The Court held that this was a case of circumstantial evidence. The entire chain was not complete to point out that the accused were the only persons who could commit the crime. It was merely a suspicion. It is established law that suspicion, however strong, cannot take place of the positive proof and cannot be made the basis of conviction. The prosecution could not prove its case against the accused beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt. The Court thus did not find any illegality in the impugned Judgment. Accordingly, application under Section 378(4) CrPC. for grant of leave to appeal was dismissed. [Abdul Rahman v. State of Haryana, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 351, decided on 01-04-2019]

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Delhi High Court: Sunil Gaur, J., dismissed a set of petitions filed by the husband and in-laws of the deceased impugning the order whereby they were put on trial for the offence inter alia under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC.

As per the prosecution, the deceased had made a call to Police Control Room regarding she being beaten by her in-laws. When the police reached her house, she said that she would make a complaint to the Crime Against Women Cell on the next day. Next day, when the police again reached the spot, they found broken bangles and blood on the floor. The TV was switched on with full volume. The petitioners were absconding. the deceased was found hanging from the ceiling fan.

Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra assailed the impugned order and drew the Court’s attention to the alleged suicide note. It was pointed out that the deceased’s father had affirmed that the note was in the handwriting of the deceased. It was submitted that it was a case of suicide and there was no basis to frame a charge of murder.

The High Court was of the opinion, “No doubt, it is recorded in the post-mortem report that the cause of death, in this case, was asphyxia due to ante mortem hanging and the suicide note is in the handwriting of deceased, but this by itself cannot rule out the possibility of murder being committed by petitioners. It is so said because the suicide note is undated and the aspect of ante-mortem hanging cannot be considered in abstract…”

Noting that at the initial stage, only prima facie opinion is to be formed, the Court stated, “Whether death of deceased was homicidal or suicidal is an aspect which cannot be pre-judged at this initial stage. In any case, the presence of lividity over the back and other areas prima facie justifies framing of charge under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC.”

In such view of the matter, the Court found no merit in the petitions and therefore the same were dismissed. [Sukhbir Kataria v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7603, Order dated 12-03-2019]