Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: The order of acquittal of accused persons passed by the trial court was upheld in an appeal by a Division Bench comprising of Prashant Kumar Mishra and Ram Prasanna Sharma, JJ.

The accused persons were tried for offences punishable under Sections 148 and 341, 294, 323, 307, 506 (2) all read with Section 149 IPC. During investigation, the injured persons were sent for medical examination and it was found that injuries sustained by them were only simple injuries. The statement of witnesses did not support each other. From the records it could be only said that some incident appeared to have taken place on issue of giving side to the truck or wrong parking of the truck.

The High Court considered the record in detail and was of the view that it was not a case where the accused persons formed unlawful assembly to achieve the common object with intention to committing the crime. And since the accused persons did not form any unlawful assembly, each of them was responsible for his own act. However, from the evidence it was not clear as to which accused had caused which particular injury to the injured persons. The Court found the story of the prosecution to be an exaggeration of facts. The Court held that in such circumstances and lack of clarity in evidence as to acts attributable to accused persons, the trial court was right in acquitting the accused persons of the charges framed. The Court held that the evidence was not clear so as to record a finding of guilt against the accused persons.

Accordingly, the acquittal appeal filed by the State was dismissed and the order of acquittal of the accused persons passed by the trial court was upheld. [State of Chhattisgarh v. Gurudeep,  ACQA No. 340 of 2010, decided on 13-03-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Chander Bhusan Barowalia, JJ., dismissed a criminal appeal filed by the State against the judgment of acquittal of the accused persons passed by the trial court, holding that the statement of the prosecutrix did not inspire confidence.

The accused persons were acquitted by the trial court, of offences punishable under Section 376(ii)(g) read with Section 34 IPC. Learned Additional Advocate General argued that the evidence of prosecution was clear to prove the guilt of the accused persons beyond shadow of doubt but the trial court ignored the evidence. Per contra, learned counsel for the accused persons submitted that the trial court’s decision was fully justified and need no interference.

The High Court perused the record and found that the medical examination report did not support the case of the prosecution. The statement of the prosecutrix regarding injuries sustained during the alleged sexual assault did not find support from the medical examination report. Further, the said report stated that there was nothing suggestive of a recent vaginal penetration. No sign of struggle on the body of the prosecutrix were found. Also the statement of other witnesses did not support prosecution’s case. The Court was of the view that the accused persons could not be convicted on the sole uncorroborated testimony of the prosecutrix. Entire prosecution evidence was in contrast to the deposition made by the prosecutrix; even the scientific evidence was not in consonance with her testimony. The Court was of the view that the testimony of the prosecutrix did not inspire confidence and was not reliable.

In light of above facts and circumstances, the Court dismissed the appeal and upheld decision of the trial court acquitting the accused persons. [State of H.P. v. Ranvir Kumar, Cr. Appeal No. 167 of 2010, decided on 16.3.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: The present appeal was decided by the Bench of Akhil Kureshi and A.Y. Kogje, JJ., filed by the accused against the order of the lower court in which the accused was awarded 6 months rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs 1 lakh for offences under Sections 302, 114 and Section 504 of the Penal Code, 1860.

The lower court had given its judgment based on the FIR filed by the mother of the deceased with the alleged facts that on 21-9-2012, both the accused at 8.45 a.m. had come to the deceased’s house and started abusing her son (deceased) saying that he was not giving their land, thereafter dragging him towards the field, and then inflicted a blow with a plough on his thigh and further assaulted him with multiple grievous injuries, as a result of which he died. The accused, i.e. the father and the son, in this matter, appealed before the High Court that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges of murder beyond reasonable doubt. The learned advocate from the respondent in the present case contended that the witnesses who were examined being ‘interested witnesses’ cannot be relied upon and their versions cannot be taken into consideration to convict the appellants, since there were discrepancies in the statements by the eyewitnesses. Also, the prosecution had failed to prove that the murder weapons belonged to the respondent.

The Court relied on the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Chandrappa v. State of Karnataka,  (2007) 4 SCC 415 and held that since the prosecution has failed to establish the motive behind the offence beyond reasonable doubt, this would lead to dismissal of the appeal and quashed and set aside the judgment of the lower court. The Court acquitted the appellants of all the charges by granting them the benefit of doubt. [Navinbhai Kaliyo Vithalbhai Baria v. State of Gujarat, Criminal Appeal No. 815 of 2014, decided on 30-11-2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan: The appellate court had allowed the appeal of the respondent-complainant under Sections 372 and 378 CrPC and set aside the acquittal of the appellant recorded by the trial court and convicted the appellant under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. This decision of the learned appellate court was challenged by the appellant.

Learned counsel for the appellants contended that the learned Sessions Judge had no jurisdiction to entertain the appeal against acquittal preferred by the respondent complainant. Drawing attention of the Court to the Hon’ble Division Bench Judgment dated 2.12.2014 rendered in the case of Dhanne Singh v. State of Rajasthan, 2014 SCC OnLine Raj 5499, he urged that the only remedy available to the complainant was to file an application for grant of leave to appeal before the High Court under Section 378(iv) CrPC. He further contended that the impugned judgment is per se without jurisdiction and bad in the eye of law and thus deserved to be set aside.

The Court held that in a suit where the jurisdiction to entertain a challenge to an order of acquittal in a complaint case is questioned, the complainant can only avail the remedy of filing an application for grant of leave to appeal against the judgment of acquittal in the High Court under Section 378(iv) CrPC and opined that the Sessions Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the victim’s appeal under Section 372 CrPC when the acquittal was recorded in a complaint case.

The Bench of Sandeep Mehta, J. set aside the impugned judgment dated 30.10.2015 passed by the learned District and Sessions Judge, Dungarpur and upheld the acquittal of the appellant recorded by the trial court vide judgment dated 19.9.2013. [Praveen Kumar v. The State of Rajasthan, 2017 SCC OnLine Raj 2209, decided on 9.8.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Stating the importance of medical evidence, especially in a murder trial, the Bench of P.C. Ghose and R.F. Nariman, JJ said that where the medical evidence is such that it does not give any clear opinion with respect to the injuries inflicted on the body of victim or deceased, as the case may be, the possibilities that the injuries might have been caused by the accused are also ruled out. Such medical evidence is also very important in assessing the testimony of eye-witnesses and in determining whether the testimony of eye-witnesses can be safely accepted.

In the present case, the accused had killed his close relative in a field allegedly over a land dispute, the High Court of Bombay had acquitted the accused as the prosecution had failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Upholding the decision of the High Court, the Court said that apart from contradictory testimonies of the witnesses, non-examination of the material witness on whose field the crime was committed, unexplained 6 days delay in lodging FIR; no opinion given by doctor in the post-mortem report or his deposition about the cause of death raise substantial doubt in the prosecution story. The Court said that the unfortunate man succumbed to injuries but the substantial doubts, mentioned above, confer a right upon the accused-respondents to be held not guilty.

Emphasising upon the importance of expert opinion, the Court said that expert’s opinion should be demonstrative and should be supported by convincing reasons. Court cannot be expected to surrender its own judgment and delegate its authority to a third person, however great. If the report of an expert is slipshod, inadequate or cryptic and information on similarities or dissimilarities is not available in the report of an expert then his opinion is of no value. Such opinions are often of no use to the court and often lead to the breaking of very important links of prosecution evidence which are led for the purpose of prosecution. [Machindra v. Sajjan Galpha Rankhamb, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 443, decided on 19.04.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the matter where the accused, along with a group of co-accused persons, each armed with deadly weapons fired a gunshot in the abdomen of the deceased after a quarrel thereby resulting into his death, the Court set aside the conviction of the accused on the ground that the investigation in the matter was carried out in a lackluster manner.

The Court said that normally, when a culprit perpetrates a heinous crime of murder and takes away the life of a human being, if appropriate punishment is not awarded to that offender, the Court will be failing in its duty. However, the Investigating Officer, dealing with a murder case, is expected to be diligent, truthful and fair in his approach and his performance should always be in conformity with the police manual and a default or breach of duty may prove fatal to the prosecution’s case.

The Court said that, in the present case, no doubt, an innocent man has lost his life at the hands of another man, but merely the seizure of gun and cartridges from the appellant, the ongoing enmity between the parties on account of various criminal litigations and the altercation and exchange of heated words between the rival groups on the morning of the same day, cannot establish the guilt of accused beyond reasonable doubt. Also, when there are material exaggerations and contradictions, which inevitably raise doubt which is reasonable in normal circumstances and keeping in view the substratum of the prosecution case, it cannot be inferred beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant had caused the death of the deceased.

The bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and N.V. Ramana, JJ, said that the investigation was carried out with unconcerned and uninspiring performance. There was no firm and sincere effort with the needed zeal and spirit to bring home the guilt of the accused. Also, considering the fact that the accused has already undergone nine years’ of imprisonment and the Court said that it is a fit case inviting interference by this Court. [Mahavir Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2016 SCC Online SC 1250 , decided on 09.11.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Holding that an accused was not entitled to acquittal on the mere ground that the investigation of the matter had been carried out by the very police officer who had also registered the crime, the Supreme Court observed that in the instant case  the search of the appellant at the time of his apprehension was conducted in the presence and under the instructions of a Gazetted Officer. Further, the extracts of depositions of other prosecution witnesses revealed that the said complainant officer was not the only one involved in the investigation.

The Bench comprising of V. Gopala Gowda and Uday Umesh Lalit, JJ.  upheld the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s order dismissing the appeal filed by the appellant against his conviction under the provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 for being in possession of  1 kg of opium without any permit or licence. Relying on  State v. Rajangam, (2010) 15 SCC 369 wherein the Supreme Court had acquitted the accused on similar ground, the appellant had contended that the investigation was improper and he was entitled to acquittal.

Distinguishing the case on facts, the Court held that the principle as laid down in Megha Singh v.  State of Haryana, (1996) 11 SCC 709 which was followed in State v. Rajangam, (2010) 15 SCC 369 does not get attracted in the instant case. In Megha case, the search had not been  conducted in the presence of a Gazetted Officer, as is required under the statutory provisions unlike the instant case.  [Surender  v. State of Haryana, 2016 SCC Online SC 49 , decided on 19.01.2016]