Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: After Maharashtra Government placed the documents relating to Special CBI Judge Loya’s death before the 2-judge bench of Arun Mishra and Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, JJ, the bench listed the matter after a week. However, the order peculiarly read:

“Let the documents be placed on record within seven days and if it is considered appropriate copies be furnished to the petitioners.
Put up before the appropriate Bench. “

The said order is interesting as it comes right after the 4 senior most judges of the Supreme Court after the Chief Justice of India held a press conference regarding the controversy over the assignment of cases. The judges had also released a letter addressed to CJI. Though no details were mentioned in the letter in order to avoid embarrassing the institution, the judges hinted during the press conference that the issue did involve the controversy over assignment of CBI Judge Loya’s death case.

In the said matter, a Maharashtra-based journalist has filed an independent plea seeking a fair probe into the mysterious death of CBI Judge Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, in which various police officers and the BJP President Amit Shah were named as parties. It has been alleged that Judge Loya did not die of natural causes but was murdered.

The highest Court of the nation has been marred by controversies off late as a lot of drama has ensued both, in and out of the Court. CJI had also met Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Jospeh earlier today in order to resolve the matter and a meeting is likely to take place tomorrow as well. [Tehseen Poonawalla v. Union of India, Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No.19/2018, order dated 16.01.2018]

[With inputs from ANI]

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 BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: After the father of the 7-year-old, who was found dead last week in a toilet of Ryan International School in Gurugram where he was a Class II student, filed a petition before the Court, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ issued notice to the Centre, Haryana Government and School authorities returnable within three weeks.

Pradyuman’s father had prayed before the Court to ensure absolute safety and security of each and every child studying in all the schools across the country and to command the authorities of the school managements and the promoters to take steps so that the safety and security is sustained and no one is affected. He also prayed for framing guidelines and also to take appropriate actions against the violators.

The Court noticed that the petition was not restricted to Ryan International school as it has a countrywide effect. [Barun Chandra Thakur v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1070, order dated 11.09.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and SA Bobde, J refused to interfere with the order in Vikas Yadav v. State of U.P., (2016) 9 SCC 541, where the court had imposed 25 years imprisonment, without remission, on Vikas and Vishal Yadav for brutally murdering their sister’s lover Nitish Katara. Vikas Yadav had sought review of the punishment imposed upon him.

On 03.10.2016, the bench of Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan, JJ  had noticed that the crime was committed in a planned and cold blooded manner with the motive that has emanated due to feeling of some kind of uncalled for and unwarranted superiority based on caste that has blinded the thought of “choice available” to a sister – a representative of women as a class. The deceased was burnt to such a point that his own mother could only suggest the identification from the small size of one unburnt palm with fingers of the hand that the body appeared to be that of her deceased son. terming the offence to be one of ‘honour killing’, the Court had said:

“Neither the family members nor the members of the collective have any right to assault the boy chosen by the girl.”

Vikas Yadav was also prosecuted in “Jesica Lal murder case” and he committed the crime in the present case while he was out on bail. [Vikas Yadav v. State of UP, REVIEW PETITION (CRL.) NOS.268-270 OF 2017, decided on 29.08.2017]

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 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: In the Swami Gadadharanand murder case, the bench of Kurian Joseph and A.M. Khanwilkar, JJ upheld the conviction of 2 Assistant Kotharis and one disciple of the Board of Trustees of the Swami Narayan sect of Vadtal Gadi Temple who killed the chairman of the Trust in the year 1998 when he proposed to transfer the Kotharis away from the Vadtal Temple as they feared being exposed of their misdeeds and maladministration.

Apart from the strong motive for committing the murder of Gadadharanandji and the criminal conspiracy hatched in that behalf and executed, the following factors led to the conviction of the accused persons in the present case:

  • the presence of Gadadharanandji at Vadtal Temple complex on the day of incident, the evidence that he was last seen together with Accused No.3, who hasn’t filed an appeal against the order of the High Court, going from Vadtal Temple complex in a car,
  • the recovery of a dead body in village Barothi in the neighboring state of Rajasthan on the next day of disappearance of the deceased,
  • the disclosure made by Accused No.3 about the location as to where the dead body was dumped by him in a village at Barothi,
  • the discovery of the fact after subsequent medical examination that the dead body so recovered was of none other than that of the deceased,
  • the disclosure made by Accused No.5 of the location where the deceased was strangled at Navli Temple complex, the conduct of Accused No.3 in misleading the investigating agencies,
  • the burning of the vehicle used in the commission of the crime and then filing of a false insurance claim which was rejected by the insurance company,

The Court said that the aforementioned factors leave no manner of doubt about the involvement of the appellants in the commission of the crime and hence, the life imprisonment awarded by the High Court does not warrant any intereference. The Court said that there need not be any direct evidence to establish the kind conspiracy involved in the present case. It can be a matter of inference drawn by the Court after considering whether the basic facts and circumstances on the basis of which inference is drawn have been proved beyond all reasonable doubts and that no other conclusion except that of the complicity of accused to have agreed to commit an offence is evident. The Court said that there is no legal evidence, in the present case, to give benefit of any doubt to the Appellants. [Charandas Swami v. State of Gujarat, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 361, decided on 10.04.2017]


Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Explaining the Exception 4 under Section 300 IPC that provides for ‘death caused in a sudden fight’, the bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and R.K. Agrawal, JJ said that the number of wounds caused during the occurrence is not a decisive factor but what is important is that the occurrence must have been sudden and unpremeditated and the offender must have acted in a fit of anger.

The Court said that where, on a sudden quarrel, a person in the heat of the moment picks up a weapon which is handy and causes injuries, one of which proves fatal, he would be entitled to the benefit of this Exception provided he has not taken any undue advantage or acted in a cruel manner.

In the present case, there was dispute between the complainant and his relatives on one side and accused persons on the other side regarding their turn of irrigating their fields and hence, both the parties had gone to the court of Executive Magistrate, Faridkot for the settlement of the said dispute. Suddenly both the sides started quarrelling and had a heated exchange of words as the appellant-accused objected to the presence of one of the relative of the complainant and not a party to the proceedings and took out a Kirpan and assaulted the relative of the complainant.

Considering the facts of the case, the Court noticed that the injuries caused were the result of blow with a small Kirpan, which is used by ‘Amritdhari Sikhs’ as a spiritual tool and it cannot be presumed that the accused had intended to cause the inflicted injuries. The Court hence held that the act of the appellant-accused was not a cruel act and the accused did not take undue advantage of the deceased. The scuffle took place in the heat of passion and all the requirements under Section 300 Exception 4 of the IPC have been satisfied. Therefore, it was said that the benefit of Exception 4 under Section 300 IPC is attracted to the fact situations and the appellant-accused is entitled to this benefit. [Surain Singh v. State of Punjab, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 364, decided on 10.04.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Before the Aurangabad Bench of Bombay High Court, a woman convicted by trial court for murdering her husband by setting him on fire appealed against the conviction. The accused got married to the deceased husband and had a son out of the wedlock and since the day of marriage, the quarrels between the couple were common. There was a quarrel between both on 31st March, 2011 over some issue and on the same night at around 3:30 am, the accused set the deceased ablaze by pouring kerosene over him.

The two brothers of accused who lived in the same house heard their brother screaming and saw the accused on fire and the accused running away. He was taken to civil hospital where his dying declaration was recorded and henceforth, the accused was charged under Section 302 IPC. In her statement under Section 313 CrPC before trial court, she denied the evidence and witnesses of prosecution saying that the deceased might have committed suicide out of frustration from family quarrels.

In dying declaration, deceased stated that due to quarrel took place during the night, on 1st April 2011 at about 3.00 to 3.30 a.m., his wife accused poured kerosene on his person and set him ablaze in heat of anger, as a result he sustained burn injuries. In another dying declaration, recorded by Executive Magistrate in question answer form, he stated that the accused in a heat of anger, poured kerosene on his person and set him on fire. On the other hand, the accused contended that the FIR was lodged after 5 hours of the incident and the dying declarations were result of tutoring.

In appeal, the Court observed that the dying declarations were proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt and came to the conclusion that the Appellant did commit the offence, as alleged by the prosecution. The Court further observed the dying declarations carefully and said that it appeared that the accused-Rani, in a heat of anger, due to quarrel took place in the night, poured kerosene on the person of Vaijinath and set him on fire. The Court elucidated that it was abundantly clear that, neither there was premeditation on the part of the accused, nor there was preparation for such commission of offence and the offence was the result of a sudden anger and quarrel on a trifle issue. The Court decided to take into account these mitigating circumstances noticed by it, it held that the offence committed by appellant would fall under Exception 4 of Section 300 IPC. The Division Bench accordingly set aside the conviction under Section 302 and convicted the appellant under Section 300 IPC and sentenced a rigorous imprisonment of 7 years. [Rani @ Anjali v.  State of Maharashtra, 2017 SCC OnLine Bom 175, decided on 17.02.2017]


Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: While disposing of bail petitions of accused persons who were being prosecuted under Sections 302, 307, 143, 147, 148, 149, 120-B and 153-A of the Penal Code, 1860, for their involvement in an incident where a mob killed a person and injured another, the Single Bench of Mridula Bhatkar, J. granted bail to the accused persons on the ground that they had no personal animosity towards the deceased person.

The Court observed that the fault of the deceased was only that he belonged to another religion and considered this fact ‘in favour’ of the applicants/accused. The Court also noted the accused did not have criminal record and that it appeared that the accused were provoked in the name of religion to commit the murder. The incident relates to a mob which attacked two persons only because they were Muslims. The mob prior to this incident attended a meeting of Hindu Rashtra Sena where inflammatory speeches were delivered on account of defiling of statute of King Shivaji Maharaj. Thereafter, the applicants/accused, armed with weapons, spotted two persons on the road, whom they ascertained to be Muslim by their appearance, and attacked them with hockey sticks and stones. The Court granted bail to the accused persons on conditions that the accused furnish P.R. bond of sum of Rs 40,000 and some other conditions. [Vijay Rajendra Gambhire v. State of Maharashtra, Bail Application No. 2092 of 2016, decided on 12/01/2017]

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: In the review petition filed in the Soumya Rape and Murder case where the Court had set aside the death sentence awarded to the accused by the Kerala High Court, the 3-Judge Bench of Ranjan Gogoi, P.C. Pant and U.U. Lalit, JJ issued notice to Justice Markandey Katju, former Supreme Court Judge and requested him to appear in Court in person and participate in the proceedings on 11.11.2016 as to whether the judgment and order dated 15.09.2016 suffers from any fundamental flaw so as to require exercise of the review jurisdiction.

Justice Katju had, in a blog published on Facebook, expressed his views that the Supreme Court has grievously erred in law by not holding Govindaswamy guilty of murder. He had said that the Court had overlooked is that Section 300 IPC, which defines murder, has 4 parts, and only the first part requires intention to kill. If any of the other 3 parts are established, it will be murder even if there was no intention to kill. It is regrettable that the Court has not read Section 300 carefully. The judgment needs to be reviewed in an open court hearing. Taking note of the said post, the Bench said that such a view coming from a retired Judge of this Court needs to be treated with greatest of respect and consideration.

Justice Katju by a post on his Facebook page said that he would be delighted to appear and discuss the matter in open court, but would only like the Judges to consider whether, being a former Supreme Court Judge he is debarred from appearing by Article 124(7) of the Constitution. If the Judges hold that it does not debar him, he would be happy to appear and place his views.

On 15.09.2016, the Court had held that no case of murder was made out against Govindaswamy. It was held that regarding keeping of the deceased in a supine position for commission of sexual assault, the Court held that to hold that the accused is liable under Section 302 IPC what is required is an intention to cause death or knowledge that the act of the accused is likely to cause death. The intention of the accused in keeping the deceased in a supine position was for the purposes of the sexual assault. Further, the fact that the deceased survived for a couple of days after the incident and eventually died in Hospital would also clearly militate against any intention of the accused to cause death by the act of keeping the deceased in a supine position. [Sumathi v. Govindaswamy, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1145, decided on 17.10.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the infamous Nitish Katara Murder case, the Bench of Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan, JJ  upheld the order of the Delhi High Court imposing a punishment of imprisonment of 25 and 20 years for the offence under Section 302 IPC on Vikas and Vishal Yadav and Sukhdev Yadav, respectively, and 5 years for offence under Section 201 IPC, however, the High Court’s stipulation that both the sentences would run consecutively was modified and it was directed that both the sentences would run concurrently.

It was argued by the appellant that the fixed term imposed by the High Court curtails the power of remission after fourteen years as envisaged under Section 433-A CrPC. The High Court had not directed that the sentence under Section 201/34 IPC shall run first and, thereafter, the fixed term sentence will commence. State had contended that the Court should modify the sentence and direct that the appellants shall suffer rigorous imprisonment for the offence punishable under Section 201/34 IPC and, thereafter, suffer the fixed term sentences. The Court, however, refused to do so and instead directed that the sentence imposed for the offence punishable under Section 201/34 IPC shall run concurrently with the sentence imposed for other offences by the High Court.

It was also contended that there was a non-application of mind by the High Court while imposing the sentence, for two accused persons have been sentenced for twenty-five years and Sukhdev, the other appellant, has been sentenced to twenty years. The Court, however, rejected this contention and said that the High Court, while dealing with Vikas Yadav and Vishal Yadav had opined that they had misused the process of law while in jail and in their conduct there is no sign of any kind of remorse or regret. As far as the Sukhdev is concerned, the High Court had taken his conduct in jail which had been chastened and punishment was imposed once. The High Court had taken note of the fact that Sukhdev was the employee of the father of Vikas Yadav and he is a married man with five children and on account of his incarceration, his family is in dire stress. On the basis of these facts and circumstances, the High Court had drawn a distinction and imposed slightly lesser sentence in respect of Sukhdev and hence, the imposition of fixed term sentence on the appellants by the High Court cannot be found fault with.

In the present case, deceased was murdered by the appellants for his involvement with their sister. The Court said that crime was committed in a planned and cold blooded manner with the motive that has emanated due to feeling of some kind of uncalled for and unwarranted superiority based on caste that has blinded the thought of “choice available” to a sister – a representative of women as a class. The deceased was burnt to such a point that his own mother could only suggest the identification from the small size of one unburnt palm with fingers of the hand that the body appeared to be that of her deceased son. The identification had to be confirmed by DNA testing. It is demonstrable about the criminal proclivity of the accused persons, for they have neither the respect for human life nor did they have any concern for the dignity of a dead person.

Terming the offence to be one of ‘honour killing’, the Court said that one may feel “My honour is my life” but that does not mean sustaining one’s honour at the cost of another. Neither the family members nor the members of the collective have any right to assault the boy chosen by the girl. Her individual choice is her self-respect and creating dent in it is destroying her honour. And to impose so called brotherly or fatherly honor or class honor by eliminating her choice is a crime of extreme brutality, more so, when it is done under a guise, it is a vice, condemnable and deplorable perception of “honour”, comparable to medieval obsessive assertions.

Vikas Yadav was also prosecuted in “Jesica Lal murder case” and he committed the crime in the present case while he was out on bail. [Vikas Yadav v. State of U.P.2016 SCC OnLine SC 1088 , decided on 03.10.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where the appellant was accused to have caused the deaths of his wife and five daughters, the Court, by a 2:1 majority, acquitted the appellant due to lack of evidence against him.

The crucial points that were before the Court for consideration are as follows:

  • The house in question which opened in a gali was bolted from inside on the fateful night.
  • The appellant was found lying unconscious in a room where there were five dead bodies with another dead body in the adjoining room.
  • A knife, which could possibly have caused injuries to the deceased, was lying next to his left hand.
  • He had offered no explanation how the incident had occurred and as such a presumption could be drawn against him under Section 106 of the Evidence Act.

U.U. Lalit abd Ranjan Gogoi, JJ, who gave the majority view, said that the prosecution did not place on record the material indicating what made him unconscious; what was the probable period of such unconsciousness and whether the appellant was falsely projecting it. Hence, the explanation that he knew nothing as he was unconscious cannot be called, ‘absence of explanation’ or ‘false explanation’. Further, regarding the bolted door of the house, it was said that though the door of the house which opened in the gali was stated to have been bolted from inside, the rooms were not locked and the possibility of a person/persons other than the inmates of the house getting into the house cannot be ruled out. Also, the prosecution did not gather the finger prints either in the house or even on the iron knife which was allegedly used for committing the offence in question. If the finger prints on the knife were to be that of the appellant alone, such factor could certainly have weighed against the appellant.

The acquittal of the appellant was based on the reasoning that the circumstances mentioned above do not form a complete chain of evidence and that the law regarding appreciation of cases based on circumstantial evidence is clear that the chain of evidence must be so complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved namely the guilt of the accused.

However, as per P.C. Pant, J, the prosecution had not failed to prove the case. He considered the fact that the mother of the appellant, who was present in the house at the time of the commission of the offence, had said that her son had killed the other members of her family and the same was corroborated by the neighbours. Regarding the fact that the appellant’s mother turned hostile, the judge said that the reason as to why she has turned hostile is not difficult to be found out as she was going to lose the only son left with her. Also, the wife of the appellant had, on an earlier occasion, mentioned it before one of the witnesses that the accused used to complain that his family has become large with daughters only which makes it clear that the appellant had the motive for committing murder.

He also added that normally, it is not the duty of the accused to explain how the crime has been committed. But in the matters of unnatural death inside the house where the accused had his presence, non-disclosure on his part as to how the other members of his family died, is an important reason to believe as to what has been shown by the prosecution through the evidence on record is true. Simple reply by the accused in his statement under Section 313 CrPC that he did not know as to how the incident happened, particularly when he was in the house, does certainly make easier to believe the truthfulness of the evidence that has been adduced by the prosecution in support of charge against him. He, hence, said that considering all the facts, circumstances and the established principle of law laid down by this Court, in the present case, sentence of imprisonment for life would meet the ends of justice. [Dhal Singh Dewangan v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 983, decided on 23.09.2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: Applying the principle of rarest of rare case, the Court upheld the decision of trial Court and confirmed death sentence awarded to the accused for committing rape and murder of 8-year-old girl.

The present case was filed by the State of Rajasthan for confirmation of the capital punishment awarded by the learned District & Sessions Judge, Pratapgarh vide judgment dated 18.9.2015 in Sessions Case No.149/2013 to the accused for committing offence under Section 302 Penal Code and under Section 3 read with Section 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.

The Court stated that the accused has crushed all the parameters of trust by committing rape and murder of a 8 year old yound girl who treated accused as maternal uncle. It is also evident that the deceased tried to resist but helpless girl was killed by the accused appellant, therefore, it is not only a case of murder and harassing sexually of young girl of 8 years but it is a case in which all the parameters of trust are crushed by the accused. The accused murdered helpless minor girl only to satisfy his physical desire.

The Court upon consideration of the entire evidences and the fact that accused has crushed all limits of trust and committed offence under Section 302 IPC and under the provisions of POCSO Act, confirmed death sentence awarded by the learned trial court. [State vs Prahlad, 2016 SCC OnLine Raj 5842, decided on September 1, 2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Deciding an interesting question of law as to whether consecutive life sentences can be awarded to a convict on being found guilty of a series of murders for which he has been tried in a single trial, the 5 judge bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ, Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla, A.K. Sikri, S.A. Bobde and R. Banumathi, JJ answered the question in negative and held that while multiple sentences for imprisonment for life can be awarded for multiple murders or other offences punishable with imprisonment for life, the life sentences so awarded cannot be directed to run consecutively. Such sentences would, however, be super imposed over each other so that any remission or commutation granted by the competent authority in one does not ipso facto result in remission of the sentence awarded to the prisoner for the other.

The matter in which the aforementioned question arose was that the appellants were tried for several offences including an offence punishable under Section 302 IPC for several murders allegedly committed by them in a single incident. They were found guilty and sentenced to suffer varying sentences, including a sentence of imprisonment for life for each one of the murders committed by them and the sentence of imprisonment for life for each one of the murders was directed to run consecutively.

The Court, interpreting the provision under Section 31 of CrPC which deals with sentences in cases of conviction of several offences at one trial, held that the power of the Court to direct the order in which sentences will run is unquestionable in view of the language employed in Section 31 of the Cr.P.C. The Court can, therefore, legitimately direct that the prisoner shall first undergo the term sentence before the commencement of his life sentence. Such a direction shall be perfectly legitimate and in tune with Section 31. The converse however may not be true for if the Court directs the life sentence to start first it would necessarily imply that the term sentence would run concurrently. That is because once the prisoner spends his life in jail, there is no question of his undergoing any further sentence. [Muthuramalingam v. State, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 713, decided on 19.07.2016]

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]

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Deciding the case relating to murder of Manjunath, a sales officer with Indian Oil Corporation, who was shot dead when he went to inspect a petrol pump with a suspicion of malpractices and irregularities in the sales and supplies being carried out there, the bench of S.J. Mukhopadhaya and N.V. Ramana, JJ upheld the decision of the Allahabad High Court where 6 accused persons were sentenced to life imprisonment. The Allahabad High Court had commuted the death sentence awarded by Trial Court to one of the accused persons to life imprisonment and had acquitted 2 accused persons giving them benefit of doubt.

In the case where a 27 year old was brutally murdered for honestly carrying out his duties, the appellants contended that the confession made by the accused before the police is not admissible as per Section 25 of the Evidence Act, 1872 and hence, the conviction of the accused in the present case was improper. The Court rejected the said contention and explained that In the light of Section 27 of the Evidence Act, whatever information given by the accused in consequence of which a fact is discovered only would be admissible in the evidence, whether such information amounts to confession or not. Applying the doctrine of confirmation by subsequent events, the Court said that the doctrine is founded on the principle that if any fact is discovered in a search made on the strength of any information obtained from a prisoner, such a discovery is a guarantee that the information supplied by the prisoner is true.

Stating that where a case rests squarely on circumstantial evidence, the inference of guilt can be justified only when all the incriminating facts and circumstances are found to be incompatible with the innocence of the accused or the guilt of any other person, the Court held that in the present case, the prosecution had established beyond reasonable doubt the complete chain of events which points at the guilt of the accused and hence, dismissed the appeal. Pawan Kumar v. State of UP, 2015 SCC OnLine SC 204 decided on 11.03.2015

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: In a matter before the Court which is one of its kind, the bench of Dipak Mishra and U.U. Lalit JJ., has sought for the assistance of the Attorney General of India on a peculiar question as to whether a 40 year old man, convicted in a murder case, can be tried afresh as a juvenile for the offence which he committed when he was of 16 years age.

The matter came before the Court in an appeal raised by an Uttrakhand resident that he should be tried as a juvenile for a murder case registered against him 24 years ago. The Counsel for the appellant K.T.S Tulsi contended that there is no doubt that the accused, now aged 40 years of age, was a juvenile on the date of commission of the offence. The Counsel further contended that as per Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000,  when the Board is satisfied that the offence has been committed by a Juvenile, it may allow the Juvenile to go home after advice/admonition and counseling of the parents/guardian and the juvenile OR order the juvenile to perform community service OR direct the juvenile to be released on probation of good conduct and placed under the care of any parent, guardian or any other fit person/ institution for good behavior and well being of the Juvenile OR direct the juvenile to be sent to a special home. 

The Counsel for the State, Tanmaya Agarwal, contended that if a man of 40 or 45 years is sent for a punishment under Section 15 of the Act, it would be an exercise in futility, and a travesty of justice. If he is sent to a Special Home or Observation Home by the Juvenile Board, he would be absolutely misfit there because the Observation Homes are meant for young juveniles in praesenti. On which the Counsel for the appellant contended that when we go by the letter and the spirit of Section 7A of the Act, it makes clear that the claim of Juvenility may be raised before any Court and at any stage, even after final disposal of the case or even if the juvenile has seized to be so. Therefore the appellant as being a Juvenile on the date of commission of the offence shall be forwarded to the Juvenile Justice Board for passing appropriate order, and the sentence passed by the Court against him shall be deemed to have no effect and the trial against him should be vitiated and it should be sent for denovo trial before the Board.

Seeing the anomaly of the situation the Court directed for the Suggestion of the Attorney General in the matter and also directed him to address on whether the “issue of juvenility” can be agitated at “any stage of the proceedings”. Mumtaz v. State of U.P. (Now Uttarakhand), 2014 SCC OnLine SC 918 decided on November 19, 2014