Punjab and Haryana High Court: While deciding the instant appeal preferred by the appellant against the judgment of conviction and order of sentence passed by the Sessions Court whereby the appellant was held guilty of murder of her own daughter, the division bench of Sureshwar Thakur and N.S. Shekhawat, JJ., acquitted the appellant on benefit of doubt saying that the view taken by the Sessions Court is certainly not a possible and plausible view.
On 29/30-10-2009, the appellant was held guilty under Sections 302 and 201 of the Penal Code, 1860 and was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for life plus 3 months and to pay a fine. The present appeal is filed with a prayer to set aside the impugned judgment of conviction and order of sentence dated 29/30.10.2009 and to acquit him of the charges.
The appellant, after consuming alcohol, hit her wife during a quarrel. The eldest daughter tried to intervene and hit her father with a stick (Danda). The appellant, outraged by this action, throttled the girl to death. The appellant told everyone that his daughter died due to heart attack and made a hurry to cremate her.
While bathing the girl before cremating her, as per the rituals, injuries and the mark of throttling was found on the neck of the girl. The appellant was told not to perform the cremation and to wait for investigation and postmortem, but he carried the girl to the cremation ground and cremated her anyways.
FIR was registered on 09-09-2008 and the ashes and bones of the girl was collected by the Police on 11-09-2008 from the cremation ground. The Stick (Danda) was also recovered which was kept concealed in bushes near a canal. On these grounds, the Sessions Court held the appellant guilty under Sections 302 and 201 of the Penal Code, 1860. While deciding the matter, the Sessions Court relied on the testimonies of the witnesses.
Whether the material witnesses produced by the prosecution are reliable and trustworthy? Whether the death of Gurpreet Kaur was homicidal?
Observation and Analysis:
After perusal of the entire evidence and the documents on record, the Court said that it does not agree with the view taken by the Sessions Court as there were many serious infirmities in the case of the prosecution and consequently, no reliance can be placed on the prosecution witnesses to hold the appellant guilty of the charges under Sections 302 and 201 of IPC.
The Court said that “Still further, no post-mortem examination of the dead body was conducted, and it is unsafe to hold only on the basis of oral testimonies of the witnesses that the death was homicidal in the instant case.”
The Court further said that in absence of any medical reports, forensic report or any other related evidence, it cannot be held that the death in the instant case was homicidal.
The Court observed the ruling in Paramjeet Singh v. State of Uttarakhand, (2010) 10 SCC 439 wherein it was held “the burden of proof in a criminal trial never shifts and it is always the burden of the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt on the basis of acceptable evidence. In fact, it is a settled principle of criminal jurisprudence that the more serious the offence, the stricter the degree of proof required, since a higher degree of assurance is required to convict the accused. The fact that the offence was committed in a very cruel and revolting manner may in itself be a reason for scrutinizing the evidence more closely, lest the shocking nature of the crime induce an instinctive reaction against dispassionate judicial scrutiny of the facts and law.”
The Court thus, held that the conclusions drawn by the Sessions Court are wholly unsustainable and contrary to the settled principles of law and extended benefit of doubt to the appellant. Accordingly, the judgment of conviction and order of sentence dated 29/30-10-2009, passed by the Sessions Court was set aside and the appellant stands acquitted.
[Surinder Pal v. State of Punjab, 2022 SCC OnLine P&H 2354, decided on 6-09-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case:
Ms. Meena Bansal, Advocate, for the Appellant;
Ms. Ishma Randhawa, Additional Advocate General, for the Respondent.