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]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench of V. Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra, JJ gave a split decision on the question as to whether a person can be convicted under Section 109 IPC for abetment if the charges of conspiracy under Section 120-B IPC fail.

As per V. Gopala Gowda, J, for Section 109 of IPC, it is not enough to show a conspiracy as it has to be taken a step further. He said that it needs to be proved that an act is committed in furtherance of that conspiracy. Once the charge under Section 120-B of IPC falls, in order to convict the accused under Section 302 read with Section 109 IPC, or Section 365 read with Section 109 IPC, what is needed to be established is the happening of some overt act on the part of the accused.

However, on the other hand, Arun Mishra, J disagreed with the abovementioned view and said that under section 109 IPC, the abettor is liable to the same punishment which may be inflicted on the principal offender if the act of the latter is committed in consequence of the abetment. The offence of conspiracy under section 120-B IPC is different. Section 120-A is bare agreement to commit an offence which has been made punishable under section 120B. The punishment for these two categories of crimes is also quite different. Section 109 IPC is concerned only with punishment of abetment for which no express provision has been made in the IPC. An offence of criminal conspiracy on the other hand is an independent offence which is made punishable under section 120-B IPC for which a charge under section 109 is unnecessary and inappropriate. He, hence, said that when charge under section 109 IPC has been found established, mere acquittal under section 120-B is of no avail to the accused. Charges which were framed were specific ingredients of section 109 IPC and the acquittal under section 120-B of IPC cannot help the accused as offences of both sections are separate. [Somasundaram v. State, 2016 SCC Online SC 1006, decided on 28.09.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The matter where the appellants had challenged the order cancelling the admissions to Medical Institutes in the wake of the VYAPAM Scam, has been placed before the Chief Justice of India owing to the split decision given by the bench of J. Chelameswar and A.M. Sapre, JJ on the issue that whether Article 142 of the Constitution be invoked in order to allow the appellants to complete their education to satisfy the demands of justice as the future of 634 students was at stakes.

Chelameswar, J, considering that the knowledge of these appellants would be simply rendered useless for the society in the sense their knowledge cannot be utilized for the welfare of the society, said that the appellants be allowed to complete their education. However, he added that it would serve the larger public interests, by making the appellants serve the nation for a period of five years as and when they become qualified doctors, without any regular salary and attendant benefits of service under the State, nor any claim for absorption into the service of the State subject of course to the payment of some allowance (either in cash or kind) for their survival. He also suggested that they serve the Indian Armed Services and that they be handed over the certificates of their medical degrees only after they complete the abovementioned five years.

Sapre, J., on the other hand, said that no case was made out for passing any directions under Article 142 of the Constitution as grant of any equitable relief may be construed as awarding premium to the appellants of what they did. It would demoralize the meritorious students who could not secure the admission on their merit due to the appellants’ entry in the Colleges by illegal means. He, however, said that the State may consider permitting the appellants and other candidates alike the appellants to appear in the competitive examination whenever it is held and consider granting age relaxation to those candidates who crossed the age limit, if prescribed. He was of the view that it is the collective responsibility of the Government (Central/States), educational bodies/Institutions to ponder over and evolve a uniform policy in a comprehensive manner to firmly deal with such activities in the larger public good. [Nidhi Kaim v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 547, decided on 12.05.2016]