Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: In an appeal filed against the conviction of the appellants by the trial court under Section 307 IPC, a Single Judge Bench comprising of Arvind Singh Chandel, J., altered the conviction from Section 307 to Section 308 IPC.

The appellants were alleged to have assaulted the complainant by causing head injury to him. It was alleged that they had an enmity with the complainant and therefore on the day of the incident, they assaulted him with a danda. The appellants were charged under Section 307 IPC for an attempt to murder. The appellants challenged the decision of the trial court.

The High Court on considering the record found that the enmity between the parties arose out of certain money dispute. The Court found that the assault was made in the crowd. It was observed that if the intention to make the assault had been to commit murder, the appellants would not have committed the assault in a crowd. Further, as was evident from the medical report, only one grievous injury was caused on the head of the complainant. However, according to the medical expert, the injury was not dangerous to life. Had the intention of making the assault been to commit murder, the appellants would have caused more than one injury. In such circumstances, the intention to cause murder, a necessary ingredient to prove the offence under Section 307, was absent. The Court was of the view that the offence committed would fall under Section 308 (attempt to culpable homicide) since the appellants were aware that such injury could cause the death of the complainant. The appeals were partly allowed and the conviction was altered from Section 307 to Section 308. [Devi Singh v.  State of M.P.,2018 SCC OnLine Chh 513, dated 18-5-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A criminal appeal challenging the judgment of the trial court, whereby the appellant was convicted of offence under Prevention of Corruption Act, was allowed by a Single Judge Bench comprising of M.G. Giratkar, J.

The appellant, who was working in the Office of District Dairy Officer, was accused of taking bribe from the complainant, who was the Chairman of Janta Milk Dairy Society. The Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), along with the complainant, laid trap and caught the appellant for taking bribe of Rs. 1000. Appellant was charged and convicted by the trial court for the offences under Section 13(1)(d)(i)(ii) read with Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988. The appellant challenged the said decision.

The High Court perused the record and found that no specific allegation was made that the appellant took the amount of bribe from the accused. The panch witness did not by themselves saw the appellant taking the bribe. The appellant contended that he was falsely implicated in the case by his senior officer. Even the complainant stated in his evidence that he filed the complaint with ACB on behest of the said senior officer. The Court observed that burden of proof is not so heavy on the accused as it is on the petitioner. An accused just has to prove a probable defence. In the facts of the instant case, where evidence was not such that could prove appellant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the Court held that the appellant succeeded in putting up a probable defence that he was falsely implicated at the behest of his senior officer. Therefore, the appeal was allowed and the impugned order was set aside. [Sadashiv v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 983, dated 10-5-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The sentence of the appellant who was convicted for kidnapping and rape, was reduced to the period already undergone by him, by a Single Judge Bench comprising of K.K. Sonawane, J.

The appellant was accused of forcibly taking away the prosecutrix (victim), who was a minor at the time of incident. She was taken away on the pretext of marriage and the appellant had sexual intercourse with her a number of times during that period. The appellant was charged under Section 361 read with Section 363, Sections 366 and 376 IPC. He was convicted by the trial court for the offences charged under. The appellant challenged the order of the trial court.

On considering the record, the High Court found that at the relevant time, the victim was 14 years of age. It was proved by the School Leaving Certificate signed by the Headmaster of the School. The evidence led by the prosecution and the statement of witnesses proved that the appellant kidnapped the victim and therefore committed the offence under Section 361 read with 363 IPC. Further, the fact of the appellant having sexual intercourse with the victim was proved by the medical report. And since the victim was below 16 years of age, therefore, her consent doesn’t count and the appellant was guilty of offences under Sections 366 and 376. However, the facts remained that the victim never raised alarm as to her kidnapping, never informed or tried to contact her family, lived with the appellant as husband and wife, and also that the appellant was a youngster, 24 years old, at the time of commission of the offence. The High Court finally upheld the conviction of the appellant; however, his sentence was reduced to the period already undergone by him in light of the mitigating circumstances as noted hereinabove. Thus, the appeal was partly allowed. [Bapu v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 920, dated 03.05.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: Conviction of the appellant under Section 302 IPC was modified to Section 304(1) by a Division Bench comprising of Sangeet Lodha and Virendra Kumar Mathur, JJ.

The appellant was accused of causing the death of his wife by setting her ablaze. It was alleged that he used to drink and beat his wife and on the day of the incident he kicked her in the stomach, poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze. In this appeal, the appellant did not contend the finding of guilt against him, however, he contended that the conviction may be altered from Section 302 to Section 304(1) on the ground that he had no intention to cause the murder of his wife.

The High Court perused the record and found that the appellant was under the influence of intoxication at the time of the incident. The incident took place after a quarrel. The appellant also had a few burn injuries which might have been due to the reason that he tried to save her. The time gap between the incident and the death of the wife was almost one and a half month. Even the post-mortem report suggested that the cause of death of the deceased were multiple. In such facts and circumstances, the Court held that the intention of causing murder could not be attributed to the appellant. Neither the motive was proved. At best, he could be attributed with the knowledge that his act will cause such bodily injury that may cause death which was an element of an offence under Section 304(1) IPC. Accordingly, the conviction and sentence of the appellant was altered as mentioned hereinabove. [Bhagwan Lal v. State of Rajasthan, 2018 SCC OnLine Raj 1193, dated 15-5-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Murlidhar and I.S. Mehta, JJ., dismissed an appeal against conviction for offence under Section 302 r/w 34 IPC wherein the appellants were sentenced to life imprisonment with fine of Rs 5000 each.

The appellants had been found guilty of murdering a youth by inflicting multiple stab injuries. Two of the accused-appellants had been arrested on the basis of statements of the brothers of the deceased PW 4, PW 5 and PW 6 whereas, the third accused had surrendered voluntarily and at his instance, the murder weapon was recovered. The FSL report confirmed presence of human blood of the same blood group as the deceased on the murder weapon as well as on the clothes of the two accused-appellants arrested.

The Court found that each link in the chain of circumstance had been proved beyond reasonable doubt and with the complete chain of circumstance so proved pointing unerringly to the guilt of the three appellants and no one else. The Court, unable to find any legal infirmity in the impugned judgment of the trial Court or the order on sentence, dismissed the appeals. [Parvesh v. State,  2018 SCC OnLine Del 9055, decided on 17-05-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: An appeal was filed by the appellant against the order of his conviction and sentence under Section 307 IPC passed by the trial court. A Single Judge Bench comprising of Ram Prasanna Sharma, J. reduced the sentence awarded to the appellant by the trial court while upholding his conviction.

The appellant was convicted on the charge of attempt to murder under Section 307 of IPC. Learned counsel for the appellant submitted that in the facts of the case, at most a case of causing simple injury was made out, and no offence under the said section could be said to have taken place. Per contra, learned counsel for the State submitted that the decision of the trial court was in accordance with law and was not liable to be interfered with.

The Court heard the counsel for the parties and perused the record. The Court found that the appellant inflicted injury on the back of the victim with a deadly weapon (knife) and therefore, looking at all the surrounding facts, the offence under Section 307 was duly proved against the appellant as rightly held by the trial court. However, on the issue of quantum of sentence, the High Court found favour with the submission made by the counsel for the appellant. Considering the fact that the offence took place more than twenty years ago, the Court reduced the sentence awarded to the appellant by the trial court, to the period of sentence already undergone by him i.e. three and a half years. Hence, the appeal was partly allowed in the above terms. [Nanhu v. State of MP (Now State of Chhattisgarh),  2018 SCC OnLine Chh 408, dated 10-04-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: The Conviction of Accused 1-appellant in a criminal case for offences punishable under Sections 302 and 201 read with Section 34 of IPC, was upheld by a Division Bench comprising of Sanjay Agrawal and R.C.S. Samant, JJ.

Accused 1 was found guilty of the above-mentioned offences and convicted by the trial court accordingly. The allegation against him was that he along with Accused 2 had murdered the deceased-his uncle, on account of some dispute. According to the prosecution, on enquiry by the villagers regarding whereabouts of the deceased, Accused 1 confessed that he had killed the deceased along with Accused 2 and buried the dead body in his field. Accused 1 denied the allegations and challenged the judgment and order passed by the trial court.

The question before the High Court was whether the accused could have been convicted on basis of the extra-judicial confession made by the accused. The Court perused the record and found that the fact of confession made by Accused 1 was corroborated by other evidence including witness statement, recovery of dead body, recovery of clothes, FSL report, opinion of the medical expert, etc. The Court was of the view that all the incriminating material on record collected by the prosecution against the accused, on being examined and scrutinized proves that the extra-judicial confession made by Accused 1 had evidentiary value to connect him with the crime in question. Further, the evidence of extra-judicial confession was sufficient, in light of the corroboration as mentioned hereinabove, to bring home the guilt of Accused 1.

Consequently, the judgment of the trial court convicting Accused 1 of the abovesaid offences was upheld and the appeal was dismissed. [Meher Singh Dugga v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2018 SCC OnLine Chh 364, decided on 24-03-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Tarlok Singh Chauhan, J., decided a criminal petition filed for quashing the judgment and order of conviction and sentence passed against the petitioner by the trial court for offence punishable under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, wherein the said judgment and order was quashed in light of compromise between the parties.

The case of the petitioner was that subsequent to the passing of the above mentioned judgment, the petitioner had paid the entire amount in question to the complainant, and therefore he prayed that the impugned order should be quashed. The complainant was present before the Court and stated that he had received the entire amount in question and he had no objection if the said order passed against the petitioner is set aside.

The High Court held that it was not powerless in such situations and it had adequate powers not only under Section 397 read with 401 or Section 482 of CrPC, but also under Section 147 of the NI Act to accept the settlement entered into between the parties and quash the proceedings in the case against the accused. It was observed that such power have been conferred to subserve the ends of justice, however, it has to be exercised with circumspection. The Court further held that the present was not a case which could be stricto sensu said to be an offence against the State. Therefore, it was a case where the continuation of criminal case against the petitioner would put him to great oppression and prejudice and extreme injustice would be caused to him if the impugned judgment was not set aside. Accordingly, the Court ordered that the order of conviction and sentence passed against the petitioner by the trial court shall be quashed. [Inder Singh v. Sesu, 2018 SCC OnLine HP 272, decided on 23.3.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Ravi Malimath and Dr. H.B. Prabhakara Sastry, JJ., decided a criminal appeal filed under Section 374 (2) CrPC, wherein the judgment of conviction and sentence passed by the trial court against the petitioner was set aside in the light of material discrepancies in the evidence led on behalf of the prosecution.

The petitioner was accused in a criminal case registered under Sections 302 and 201 IPC. The complaint was filed by the father of the deceased wherein it was alleged that the accused- his neighbor, took the deceased with him on the pretext of finding him a job. However, on reaching a certain spot near a canal- the crime scene, the accused pushed the deceased in the canal thus committing murder of the deceased. The prosecution led evidence and examined as many as 22 witnesses. It was submitted that the motive behind the alleged offence was the enmity between both the families. It was also alleged that during investigation, a button of a shirt was recovered at the instance of the accused from the crime scene which was alleged to be that of the deceased. Based on such evidence and submissions, the trial court convicted the accused and passed the sentence accordingly. Aggrieved thus, the accused filed the instant petition.

The High Court perused the entire evidence on record and found that the evidence led on every point, on which conviction of the accused was based; was full of discrepancies. There was no consistency in the statement of witnesses and the unbroken chain of evidence necessary to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt was missing. The Court was of the view that the findings made by the trial court were not based on proper appreciation of evidence and were perverse. The only fact of alleged recovery of the shirt button was not sufficient to prove guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. In the facts and circumstances of the case, benefit of doubt ought to have been given to the accused.

Accordingly, the order of the trial court convicting and sentencing the accused-petitioner was set aside and the petitioner was acquitted of the alleged charges. [Kumara alias Puttabasappa v. State of Karnataka, Crl. Appeal No. 911 of 2012, dated 17.2.2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench comprising of L.Nageswara Rao and Navin Sinha, JJ. held that in the absence of conclusive and consistent proof of circumstantial chain of evidence which lead to the only “hypothesis of guilt” against the accused then, only circumstance of last seen cannot be made basis of conviction.

In the case where the accused were charged with rape and murder of the deceased whose severed body was found on the railway track after she was seen in the house of one of the accused persons, the Gauhati High Court held them guilty for causing death in furtherance of common intention, under Section 302/34 and for tampering with evidences, under sec 201 of Penal Code 1860 and awarded life imprisonment for the same. Prosecution relied on blood samples, postmortem certificate and last seen theory to form chain of evidence.

The Court held that there exist no conclusive proof of corroboration of statement of investigation and the blood stains found on murder weapon couldn’t be established. The Court allowed the appeal and reversed the decision of High Court, stating that last seen together cannot be the only ground for holding accused guilty, a connectivity must be established, the circumstance of “last seen together” does not by itself and necessarily lead to the inference that it was the accused who committed the crime. It further stated that due to the lack of corroborative evidence the appellants are acquitted of the charges under Section 302, 201 read with 34 Penal Code 1860. [Anjan Kumar Sharma v. State of Assam, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 622, decided on 23.05.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench of P.C. Ghose and R.F. Nariman, JJ held that any person can be directed to give his finger prints or foot-prints for corroboration of evidence but the same cannot be considered as violation of the protection guaranteed under Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India. The Court however, added that non-compliance of such direction of the Court may lead to adverse inference, nevertheless, the same cannot be entertained as the sole basis of conviction.

In the present case, where a man was accused of killing his father-in-law, mother-in-law, their daughters and a pet dog, the State had appealed against the order of the Allahabad High Court where the co-accused was acquitted on the ground that adverse inference cannot be drawn by the Court on refusal to give specimen palm impression in spite of the order of the Court.

Prosecution had contended that human blood was found on the weapon of murder and clothes of both the accused and since comparison of finger-prints and foot-prints were not clear, the Trial Court directed both the accused to give fresh foot-prints and finger-prints. The counsel appearing for the co-accused contended that drawing adverse inference against the co-accused due to his refusal to give specimen palm impression was not justified as earlier palm impression report came in negative and application moved by the co-accused praying for sending footprints and fingerprints to some other laboratory was rejected by the Trial Court.

Upholding the decision of the High Court, the Court said that the basic foundation of the prosecution had crumbled down in this case by not connecting the co-accused with the incident in question. And when basic foundation in criminal cases is so collapsed, the circumstantial evidence becomes inconsequential. In such circumstances, it is difficult for the Court to hold that a judgment of conviction could be founded on the sole circumstance that recovery of weapon and other articles have been made. [State of U.P. v. Sunil, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 520, decided on 02.05.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where 5 appellants, convicted under Section 302 read with Section 149 IPC, had approached the Court with the plea of setting aside the order of conviction, the Court, rejected the plea and held that once it is found that the witnesses, who are eye witnesses, were present and they have truthfully narrated the incidence as it happened and their depositions are worth of credence, conviction can be based on their testimonies even if they were related to the deceased.

In the present case, the informant’s uncle was killed while saving him from the appellants who had intended to kill him over a property dispute. The appellants had argued that no independent witnesses were examined in the present case and all the witnesses who were examined were related to the deceased. The Court rejected the said contention and said that in the cross-examination or otherwise it has not even been brought out by the defence that there were other persons at the scene of occurrence who were independent persons. It was further noticed that there were six eye witnesses and three of them were injured eye witnesses, which is a weighty factor to show the actual presence of these witnesses at the scene of occurrence.

The Bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and N. V. Ramana, JJ. said that the credibility and trustworthiness of the eye witnesses could not be shaken by the accused persons. The only requirement, while scrutinising the interested witnesses, is to examine their depositions with greater caution and deeper scrutiny is needed and the same has been done by the Trial Court and the Patna High Court in the present case. [Kamta Yadav v. State of Bihar, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1112, decided on 06.10.2016]

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: While examining the circumstantial evidences in case of brutal murder of a young bride, the bench comprising of Prafulla C. Pant  and D. Y. Chandrachud JJ. held the appellants guilty for the murder along with the mother-in-law of the deceased, who had already been convicted for the offence.

The case involved the murder of the bride within 6 months of the marriage and subsequent chopping off of the body of the deceased into two parts that was thrown in a park.  The trial court having heard the matter had charged mother-in-law and both the appellants with murder with common intention under S 302 read along with S. 24 of the Penal Code, 1860 and convicted them accordingly. The judgment was appealed against the said order before the Madhya Pradesh High Court, which had passed an order dismissing the appeals. In the submissions made before the bench, the counsel for the appellants relied on Rajkumar v. State of M.P. (2004) 12 SCC 77 and maintained a plea of alibi and said that the accused were not present at their residence. They were instead at their workplace at the time of the crime and further the burden of proof lay on the prosecution to connect the accused with the crime.

The  Court upheld the law laid down in Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra (1984) 4 SCC 116 and examined the circumstantial evidences. In the judgment, it observed that the offence was committed at the house and that it could not have been committed by a single person, and the presence of outsider in the house was nobody’s case. The accused in their defense had also maintained that the deceased had gone to her relative’s place, subsequent to which she had been missing. This was found as a ‘blatant false plea’ given the murder was committed at home and relying on the earlier judgments, the plea acted additional link in the record against them. It was even observed that no report was lodged by the appellants regarding the homicidal death of the deceased. Therefore, given these observations, the theory of alibi was  not  accepted. Having re-appreciated all evidence and facts, the bench concurred with the courts below and held that the appellants had common intention in the murder and held that the impugned order required no interference. The appeals were therefore, dismissed. [Jamnadas v. State of M.P. 2016 SCC OnLine SC 625, decided on June 29, 2016]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of United States: The Court in a unanimous decision allowed the State’s writ of Certiorari and reversed and remanded the decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, effectively overturning the acquittal of the Respondent of the felony offense of domestic assault in Indian Country by a habitual offender 18 U.S.C § 117 (a). The Court considered the Constitutional validity of the use the Respondent’s earlier convictions in tribal-court proceedings as predicate offences to constitute the federal offence, given that he had, as an indigent, been uncounseled in such earlier proceedings.

The Respondent, Michael Bryant Jr., had several misdemeanour convictions for domestic assault,, resulting in terms of imprisonment shorter than one year, in proceedings before the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Court. In 2011, a federal grand jury in Montana indicted Bryant on two counts of domestic as­sault by a habitual offender, in violation of §117(a).. He was represented by appointed counsel as an indigent. This conviction was reversed by the Ninth Circuit.

The present Court, in an opinion given by Justice Ginsburg, distinguished Burgett v Texas 389 U.S. 109 (1967) which stated that a conviction obtained in violation of the Sixth Amendment could not be used either to support guilt or enhance punishment in a subsequent case, because the tribal convictions were not made infirm by a violation of the Sixth Amendment in the first place. Sixth Amendment challenges cannot be entered in tribal court proceedings as per Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land and Cattle Co. 554 U.S. 316; such proceedings are governed by procedural safeguards analogous to the Bill of Rights and Fourteenth Amendment given by the Indian Civil Rights Act 1968, wherein right to appointed counsel can be invoked only for sentences of 1 year or longer. The Court cited Nichols v. Unites States 511 U.S. 738, where it was held that an uncounseled misdemeanour conviction valid under Scott (Scott v. Illinois 440 U.S. 367, no constitutional right to appointed counsel if conviction result in fine or non-custodial punishment) because no prison sentence was imposed, would also be valid if used to enhance punishment at a subsequent conviction.

Justice Thomas, concurring, nevertheless expressed concern regarding the incoherence of the law and the lack of constitutional basis for the assumptions underlying the case- that the retained sovereignty of the tribes enabled the prosecution of tribal members in proceedings not subject to the Constitution, and that yet Congress can punish assaults by one Indian against another. [United States v. Bryant, 579 U.S.___(2016),decided 13-06-2016]

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Dealing with the question of admissibility of confessional statements so as to establish criminal conspiracy vide Section 120B of the Penal Code, 1860, a bench comprising of  Dr. A.K. Sikri and UU Lalit observed that the High Court’s approach of relying upon the confessional statements, otherwise inadmissible, with the aid of ‘other connected evidence’ is contrary to law.

The inadmissibility of these statements, as submitted by advocate Sushil Kumar on behalf of the Appellants was, in turn, established owing to the joint operation of Sections 25 and 26 of the  Evidence Act, 1872, whereby confession to a police officer and confession made by an accused in police custody do not stand proved as against him. The definition of the term ‘confession’ meanwhile, was restricted to “mean a direct acknowledgment of guilt and not the admission of an incriminating fact, howsoever grave or conclusive”. Extending its deliberation to Section 27 of the Evidence Act, 1872, the Court observed that it serves as a proviso to Sections 25 and 26 of the Evidence Act, stipulating that information received from an accused, while in police custody, may be used against him only to the extent that it has led directly to the discovery of a fact and provided that the information given must relate “distinctly” to the fact discovered.

While considering the question as to whether a confessional statement made by a co-conspirator in a separate case is relevant to prove the charge of conspiracy, the bench relied on the observations made and decisions laid down in Mohd. Khalid v. State of West Bengal (2002) 7 SCC 334 and Firozuddin Basheeruddin v. State of Kerala, (2001) 7 SCC 596 so as to declare that once the common intention has ceased to exist, as in the case of a post-arrest statement, any statement made by a former conspirator thereafter cannot be regarded as one made in reference to their common intention, Indra Dalal v. State of Haryana, 2015 SCC OnLine SC 523, decided on 29.05.2015