Case BriefsForeign Courts

Pakistan Supreme Court: A Full Bench of Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, JJ. allowed an appeal seeking acquittal of a murder charge in the absence of satisfactory evidence.

The appellant was in receipt of a guilty verdict. He was indicted for committing the murder of his wife Kausar Bibi (deceased). The said verdict was affirmed by the High Court judgment which was challenged through this appeal. Prosecution case was structured on the statement of the deceased’s brother Muhammad Arshad, according to whom, the marriage of the appellant was on the rocks as deceased had not brought a dowry to accused-appellants expectations. Upon a message by the deceased, Muhammad Arshad visited her to take her back. However, their house was attacked that night and Kausar Bibi was killed. Upon indictment, appellant blamed dacoits to have murdered the deceased.  The trial Judge convicted the appellant under Section 302(b) of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 and sentenced him to death along with a direction to pay Rs 100,000.

Learned counsel for the appellant Nawab Ali Mayo, contended that the appellant should not be convicted merely upon his failure to satisfactorily explain as to what happened on that night. He further added that the presence of witnesses was extremely doubtful. He pleaded that it would have been unsafe to maintain conviction. Moreover, a co-accused was acquitted on the same grounds but the appellant was convicted.

Contrarily, the learned counsel for the respondent Mehmud ul Islam, vehemently defended appellant’s conviction on the ground that plea advanced by him was preposterous and was rightly rejected which in retrospect established his presence at the spot, thus there was no space to entertain any hypothesis of his innocence.

The Court observed that silence or implausible explanation could not equate with failure within the contemplation of Article 121 of Qanoon-e-Shahadat Order, 1984 which dealt with the exceptions of a case. Further, the appellant had not denied his presence, but these factors by itself could not hypothesize presumption of his guilt in the absence of positive proof. It was opined that suspicions are not a substitute for legal proof, and a suspect cannot be condemned on the basis of moral satisfaction in the absence of evidentiary certainty. Furthermore, the Court observed that convicting a co-accused on the same ground on which another accused has been acquitted, was wrong and it required immediate ratification. Thus, the Court allowed the appeal and ordered the immediate release of the appellant.[Muhammad Pervaiz v.  State, Criminal Appeal No. 37-L of 2016, decided on 06-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Anil Kumar Choudhary, J. disposed of an interlocutory application filed under Section 378(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for special leave to file the acquittal appeal.

Appellant had filed an acquittal appeal which challenged the acquittal of the accused persons in a complaint case by the impugned judgment. In the complaint, it had been mentioned that thirty days prior to the lodging of the complaint, all of the accused persons had brought the complainant to her paternal house and had repeatedly made demands for dowry. When her father expressed his helplessness, all of the accused had assaulted her and her aging father. However, none of the witnesses except the complainant herself had mentioned this occurrence in their deposition. Moreover, several witnesses had testified that the complainant’s husband had never visited her paternal house after their marriage. One of the complainant witnesses added that the demand for dowry as well as the assault incident had taken place in Delhi which was outside the jurisdiction of the trial court. Due to the many discrepancies in the evidence of the complainant, the trial court did not believe the statements made by the witnesses of the complainant and acquitted the accused persons of the case.

Sunita Kumari, learned counsel for the appellant, submitted that the trial court did not appreciate the evidence of the witnesses of the complaint properly. She added that since the deposition of the witnesses was recorded after ten years of lodging the complaint, some discrepancies would exist in the time and year mentioned and that the trial court relied upon these contradictions when it acquitted the accused persons. She contended that due to the long lapse of time, the witnesses of the complainant missed in testifying about the parts of the incidents mentioned in the complaint. However, the same could not be a circumstance due to which the entire case of the complainant was disbelieved. She maintained that the court had made an error by considering that her reasons for lodging the complaint were that she was neither ready nor willing to go to her matrimonial house and that she had inherited property from her father. The counsel asserted that the appellant should get special leave to present this appeal.

Praveen Kr. Appu, learned counsel on behalf of the respondents, defended the impugned judgment. He submitted that the trial court had correctly appreciated the evidence on record, had kept in view the discrepancies in the deposition of the witnesses and had rightly disbelieved the complainant. Resultantly, the impugned judgment did not require the interference of the Court in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, particularly when the impugned judgment was of acquittal of accused persons. Consequently, the special leave to present this appeal should not be granted to the appellant.

The Court observed that the trial court had taken into account all the contradictions in the depositions of the witnesses and had made a record of the same.  It also noted the “lack of specific evidence regarding any occurrence having been taken place about the incident mentioned in para-12 of the complaint regarding which there is specific allegation made in the complaint”. It relied on the case of State of U.P. v. Wasif Haider, (2019) 2 SCC 303, where it was held that the appellate court would only interfere where there existed perversity of facts and law. Hence, the court held that this was not a fit case where a special appeal could be granted to the appellant. Therefore, the interlocutory application was rejected on the basis of lack of merit and the acquittal appeal was also dismissed.[Nazma Khatoon v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 771, decided on 04-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Hari Pal Verma, J. dismissed the appeal application against the judgment passed by the Additional Sessions judge.

An application was filed by the State for the grant of leave to appeal against the judgment passed by the Additional Session Judge whereby the respondent-accused was acquitted of the charges leveled under Section 3(1)(xi) of the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 but was convicted and sentenced under Sections 341, 354-A, 354-D and 506 of the Penal Code.

The allegations made against the accused were that when complainant alighted from the bus, the respondent intercepted her and started harassing her sexually. However, when the complainant screamed, many persons gathered there on the spot and the complainant was rescued from his clutches. The complainant was frightened and when she was proceeding towards her office, the accused suddenly appeared and extended threat to her life and the family members of the complainant. He also threatened to kill her child after the kidnapping.

The counsel argued that respondent extended threat to the complainant to kill her child after kidnapping attracts offence under Section 506 IPC for which a maximum sentence of 7 years is provided.

The Court opined that the offence under Section 506 of the Penal Code, 1860 had to be read in totality as it was in one incident that the accused had allegedly threatened the complainant, no extended punishment can be provided for the same. With regard to punishment under Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, as no proper evidence was given, the order of acquittal was lawful. Thus the application was dismissed as being devoid of merit. [State of Haryana v. Ankit, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 1044, decided on 03-07-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Pakistan Supreme Court: A Full Bench of Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, JJ. allowed the appeal by the accused against the order given by Lahore High Court and set aside his conviction and sentence.

Appellant herein was tried alongside two persons Abdul Razzaq and Sakina Bibi who were co-accused for committing the murder of one Khalil Ahmed. The accused were presented before the Additional Sessions Judge who acquitted them. The said order was challenged in Lahore High Court wherein the appellant stood convicted under Section 302(b) of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 and was sentenced to imprisonment for life. This order was under challenge in the present appeal.

Learned counsel for the appellant Shahid Azeem, ASC, contended that High Court should not have reversed the appellant’s acquittal after he extended benefit of doubt to co-accused. Further, it was contended that the acquittal order given the trial court was on the basis of the evidence presented and was not open to any exceptions.  

The Court noted that the reasons given by the learned trial Judge to acquit the accused from the charge which included – improbability of witnesses’ presence; their enmity with the accused, and contradictions in their disposition, were observed to be genuine. It was further opined that acquittal carries with it a double presumption of innocence and it could be reversed only when finding blatantly perverse. It could not be set aside merely on the possibility of contra view. 

It was held that High Court did not act according to settled principles of law and thus appeal was allowed, and impugned judgment given by High Court was set aside. The appellant was acquitted from the charge and was ordered to be released if not required in any other case.[Muhammad Shafi v. State, Criminal Appeal No. 48-L of 2016, decided on 07-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: R.P. Dholaria, J. whilst partly allowing the appeal reduced the sentence of the appellant.

In the present case, the deceased, Deepali committed suicide by setting herself on fire on 22-10-2014. The deceased’s marriage took place four months prior to the incident and since then the accused father-in-law picked up a quarrel for the promised dowry of Rs 30,000 of which Rs 10,000 had already been by paid by the deceased’s mother. The other two accused – husband and mother-in-law did not appeal.

Counsel for the appellant father-in-law, Shubha Tripathi confined to only challenging the conviction and pointed out that the appellant has already undergone a sentence of roughly five years and no acquittal is to be sought. The appellant’s prime concern is for a reduced sentence.

The Court observed from the facts and circumstances of the case that the grave allegations were levelled against the husband and mother-in-law alone. Therefore, it reduced the sentence to the extent of 5 years rigorous imprisonment for the offence punishable under Sections 304-B read with 114 IPC. [Aakash Madhukarbhai Egole v. State of Gujarat, 2019 SCC OnLine Guj 1288, decided on 01-07-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Kenya High Court, Nyahururu: R.P.V. Wendoh, J. passed a judgment directing acquittal of an accused in the absence of sound circumstantial evidence.

A child was found dead in Nyahururu, Kenya. The reason for the death was found to be strangulation leaving a dark swollen mark around the neck of the deceased child. The police was called and the investigating officer noticed that the younger brother of the deceased child also had the same swollen mark on his neck, however, he never bothered to interrogate that child. The deceased used to live with father, brother and father’s second wife as the mother of the deceased had parted from his father and he was under the custody of the father. Police suspected David Wang’ondu Githiru, father of the deceased for the murder but when they tried arresting him, he started to run with an intention of escaping from the scene.

Learned counsel for the prosecution, Mutembei called upon nine witnesses who testified the death of the deceased and the swollen mark present on his neck. One of the witnesses also testified the presence of the same mark on the neck of the younger brother of the deceased. The testimony of the witnesses created a chain of events which somewhat placed accused as the probable murderer.

Learned counsel for the defendant, Kihoro contended before the Court that the circumstantial pieces of evidence brought before the Court were hollow as it did not answer as to who killed the child. He further argued that when the accused reached his home on that evening, the child informed him that he was sick. However, the accused had no money at that time so he started to arrange money. Around 3:00 a.m. the next day, he was taken to the hospital but he had died by that time.

The Court after hearing both the sides observed that the case turns on purely circumstantial evidence. It was opined that for the Court to rule a conviction on such evidence, events leading to the death of deceased must form a chain so closely knit together without any breakage or interruption. But, the present case did not give a very strong circumstantial evidence whose final outcome could be relied upon. The Court thus reiterated the judgment passed in Sawe v. Republic, (2003) KLR 364 in which it was opined that “Suspicion, however strong, cannot provide basis for inferring guilt which must be proved by evidence beyond reasonable doubt.”

Thus, the Court in absence of the proof beyond reasonable doubt acquitted the accused. [Republic v. David Wang’ondu Githuru, 2018 SCC OnLine Ken 1, decided on 24-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Chander Bhusan Barowalia, J. dismissed a petition finding no merit in the appeal as when two reasonable conclusions are possible on the basis of the evidence, the appellate court should not disturb the finding of acquittal recorded by the trial Court.

In the present matter, the appellants alleged that they had found a person carrying a plastic can in his right hand. The person on seeing the police party got perplexed and on suspicion, he was arrested. During his personal search, he was found in conscious and exclusive possession of one plastic can, containing three bottles of illicit liquor. After separating one nip as a sample, both the nips as well as sample were sealed. The prosecution, in order to prove its case, examined as many as six witnesses. Statement of the accused was recorded under Section 313 CrPC, wherein he denied the prosecution case and claimed innocence. Additional Advocates General, Shiv Pal Manhas and P.K Bhatti with Raju Ram Rahi, Deputy Advocate General argued that the prosecution has proved the guilt of the accused beyond the shadow of reasonable doubt.

While H.K.S. Thakur, counsel for the respondent argued that the alleged quantity of three bottles of illicit liquor stated to be recovered from the respondent is a concocted story, as no independent witness was associated by the police. And even the Investigating Officer in his statement has specifically stated that he did not find it appropriate to associate any independent witness.

The Court after considering the facts and circumstances and the arguments advanced found that “when independent witnesses were available on spot the Investigating Officer should have associated them. However, the Investigating Officer simply stated that he does not find it proper to associate independent witnesses. The non joining of the independent prosecution witnesses when they were available, makes the prosecution case doubtful with respect to recovery of three bottles of illicit liquor”. The Court further relied on K. Prakashan v. P.K. Surenderan, (2008) 1 SCC 258 and T. Subramanian v. State of T.N., (2006) 1 SCC 401. Further, it took into consideration the principles culled out in Chandrappa v. State of Karnataka, (2007) 4 SCC 415 that, “If two reasonable conclusions are possible on the basis of the evidence on record, the appellate court should not disturb the finding of acquittal recorded by the trial court” amongst other things.[State of Himachal Pradesh v. Joban Dass, 2019 SCC OnLine HP 646, decided on 21-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: Rumi Kumari Phukan, J. dismissed an application seeking leave to appeal against an Assistant Sessions Judge’s order of acquittal, holding that the forum for preferring such an appeal would be the Court of Sessions Judge and not the High Court. 

The petitioner (herein) in the instant case alleged before the trial court that the accused persons had forcefully kidnapped his daughter while she was returning from college. She was also kept confined by them. As a result, the petitioner registered complaint under Section 366 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860. Learned Assistant Sessions Judge acquitted all the accused persons. Aggrieved by this order of acquittal the petitioner preferred the present application under Section 378(3) of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 seeking leave to file an appeal against the acquittal order.

The counsel for the petitioner, A.T. Sarkar, placed reliance upon the decision rendered in Satyapal Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (2015) 15 SCC 613, while preferring appeal under 378(3) of CrPC. He contended, “even though the victim has a right to prefer an appeal against the order of acquittal u/s 372 CrPC but same can be filed only after obtaining leave of the Court as required under sub-section 3 of Section 378 CrPC.” 

The Court after perusing the legal provisions and pronouncements observed, “it appears that there is a confusion in the mind of the petitioner that he has to seek for leave to prefer the appeal in view of the decision in Satypal Singh case.” It was further observed, “As the appeal sought to be preferred against the order of the learned Assistant Sessions Judge so the appeal will lie to the Court of learned Sessions Judge.” Thus, the Court taking into consideration the bona fide nature of application by quoting the provision under Section 378(3) of CrPC, opined that the petitioner was not debarred to prefer the appeal to which he was entitled under the statute. The Court held, “the petitioner herein being the informant has a right to prefer an appeal u/s 372 (proviso) CrPC and he being the informant in the GR Case he cannot be equated as complainant within the purview of Section 378 (3) of CrPC and no leave is required to prefer such appeal.”

In light of the above, the Court dismissed the instant appeal but granted him liberty to prefer an appeal in the Court of concerned Sessions Judge.[Akhtar Mirza v. State of Assam, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 2295, decided on 14-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: The Bench of Chander Bhusan Barowalia, J. allowed a petition while setting aside the Judgment of conviction passed by the learned trial Court.

In the pertinent case, the appellant was convicted and sentenced for commission of offences punishable under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC. The chain of events as alleged were that after the marriage with the deceased (wife of the appellant), he started ill-treating and humiliating her on account of the reason that she has not brought sufficient dowry. It was also alleged that the appellant was not satisfied with the deceased as she could not give birth to a child. And that on account of cruelty meted out to the deceased by the appellant, ultimately, she consumed a heavy dose of Barbiturate, owing to which, she fell unconscious. The decease had epileptic and an overdose of the medicines was found in the Vicera report. Further, it was claimed that no medical assistance was provided to her. Certain documents were also presented before the Court for the same.

Although all such allegations were denied by the accused along with the other witnesses who all happened to be her friend and relatives. They also proved that they were living happily as they had even adopted a child.

The Court after analyzing the evidence found that the dates when the deceased fell unconscious had a disparity as were mentioned in a different set of documents.

It was also found in the evidence that the deceased was taking medicines regularly and after she fell unconscious, she was taken to PGI, Chandigarh, where she ultimately died. And the origin of documents was also suspicious on which the other party placed heavy reliance. The evidence also showed that the couple had adopted a daughter, who was studying in good school. The photographs placed on the file depicted that the couple was living happily. Therefore, the judgment of conviction passed by the learned trial Court was set aside and the appellant was acquitted of the charges.[Mahesh Gautam v. State of H.P., 2019 SCC OnLine HP 404, decided on 04-04-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Abhay Manohar Sapre and Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ acquitted a man convicted for the offence of rape and said that the Session Court and the Patna High Court were not justified in convicting the appellant for an offence punishable under Section 376 IPC and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years.

Factual Background:

Prosecutrix alleged that the appellant, December 14, 1997, entered into her house when she was alone and threatened her by showing pistol and committed rape on her. The prosecution examined, prosecutrix’s husband and a neighbour, apart from examining the prosecutrix herself. Both the Courts below based their conclusions on the evidence of the aforementioned 3 witnesses.

Grounds for acquittal:

  • the complainant was not examined by the Doctor after the alleged incident.
  • in absence of any medical examination done, the prosecution did not examine any doctor in the trial in support of their case;
  • it was not disputed that similar type of complaints were being made in past by the complainant ag and such complaints were later found false;
  • it was also not disputed that there was enmity between the appellant and the husband of the prosecutrix, due to which their relations were not cordial;
  • it had also come in evidence that the prosecutrix was in habit of implicating all the persons by making wild allegations of such nature against those with whom she or/and her husband were having any kind of disputes;
  • there was no eye witness to the alleged incident and the one, who was cited as witness, was a chance witness on whose testimony, a charge of rape could not be established;
  • so far as the husband of the complainant, is concerned, he admitted that he was away and returned to village the next day morning of the incident.

Ruling:

Noticing that there was no evidence adduced by the prosecution to prove the commission of the offence of rape by the appellant on the prosecutrix and the evidence adduced was not sufficient to prove the case of rape against the appellant, Court set the accused free.

[Ganga Prasad Mahto v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 417, decided on 26.03.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dr. AK Sikri, SA Nazeer and MR Shah, JJ has acquitted 6 death row convicts and has directed reinvestigation in a crime that was committed in June, 2003.

The Court was hearing the case where 5 people were brutally killed and a woman was raped. However, the accused were falsely implicated in the matter as they were all nomadic tribes coming from the lower strata of the society and are very poor labourers.

Lapse on part of investigating agency:

Noticing that an injured prime witness identified four named persons from the album of the photographs of notorious criminals but nothing was  on record whether those four persons were arrested or not or any further investigation was carried out with respect to those four persons, the Court said that there was a serious lapse on the part of the investigating agency, which has affected the fair investigation and fair trial, and therefore, the fundamental rights of the accused guaranteed under Articles 20 & 21 of the Constitution of India have been violated. It said:

“The benefit of the lapse in investigation and/or unfair investigation cannot be permitted to go to the persons who are real culprits and in fact who committed the offence.”

The Court, hence, directed the Chief Secretary, Home Department, State of Maharashtra to:

  • look into the matter and identify such erring officers/officials responsible for failure of a prosecution case, on account of sheer negligence or because of culpable lapses, real culprits are out of the clutches of law and because of whose lapses the case has resulted into acquittal in a case where five persons were killed brutally and one lady was subjected to even rape.
  • take departmental action against those erring officers/officials, if those officers/officials are still in service. The instant direction shall be given effect to within a period three months from the date of the order.

The Court also directed the prosecution to conduct further investigation under Section 173(8) against those four persons identified by the injured prime witness so that real culprits should not go unpunished.

Compensation to falsely implicated persons:

The Court also took note of the statement of a psychiatrist who had examined one of the accused who was subsequently found to be a juvenile. The juvenile had clearly opined that he has lived under sub-human conditions for several years. He was kept in isolation in solitary confinement with very restricted human contact and under perpetual fear of death. He was only allowed to meet his mother, and that too only infrequently. He was not even allowed to mix with other prisoners. Therefore, all the accused remained under constant stress and in the perpetual fear of death. As they were facing the death penalty, they might not have availed any other facilities of parole, furlon etc. All of them who were between the age of 25-30 years (and one of the accused was a juvenile) have lost their valuable years of their life in jail. Their family members have also suffered. Considering the aforesaid facts and circumstances, the Court directed:

“The State of Maharashtra to pay a sum of Rs.5,00,000/- to each of the accused by way of compensation, to be deposited by the State with the learned Sessions Court within a period of four weeks from today and on such deposit, the same be paid to the concerned accused on proper identification.”

[Ankush Maruti Shinde v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 317, decided on 05.03.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court:  The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Navin Sinha and KM Joseph, JJ has clarified that  all pending criminal prosecutions, trials and appeals prior to the law laid down in Mohan Lal vs. State of Punjab, (2018) SCC Online SC 974 shall continue to be governed by the individual facts of the case, as the said judgment cannot be allowed to become a spring board by an accused   for   being   catapulted   to   acquittal,   irrespective   of   all   other considerations pursuant to an investigation and prosecution when the law in that regard was nebulous.

In the said judgment, the 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, R. Banumathi and Navin Sinha, JJ was dealing with the question as to whether in a criminal prosecution, it will be in consonance with the principles of justice, fair play and a fair investigation, if the informant and the investigating officer were to be the same person. It had held that:

“To leave the matter for being determined on the individual facts of a case, may not only lead to a possible abuse of powers, but more importantly will leave the police, the accused, the lawyer and the courts in a state of uncertainty and confusion which has to be avoided. It is therefore held that a fair investigation, which is but the very foundation of fair trial, necessarily postulates that the informant and the investigator must not be the same person. Justice must not only be done, but must appear to be done also. Any possibility of bias or a predetermined conclusion has to be excluded. This requirement is all the more imperative in laws carrying a reverse burden of proof.”

When the present matter came before the Court, it noticed the facts of the present case were different from that in the Mohan Lal case. In the present case, it was argued that the conviction must vitiate as the informant is also the investigating officer. Strong reliance was placed on the Mohan Lal verdict. The Court, however, noticed that the facts in Mohan Lal case were indeed extremely telling in so far as the defaults on part of the prosecution was concerned. In the said case, the paramount consideration being to interpret the law so that it operates fairly, the facts of that case did not show any need to visualise what all exceptions must be carved out and provided for.

In relation to the case at hand, the Court said that the facts in the present case were equally telling with regard to the accused. It added:

“There is a history of previous convictions of the appellant also. We cannot be oblivious of the fact that while the law stood nebulous, charge sheets have been submitted, trials in progress or concluded, and appeals pending all of which will necessarily be impacted.”

Stating that criminal jurisprudence mandates balancing the rights of the accused and the prosecution, the bench said:

“Individual rights of the accused are undoubtedly important. But equally important is the societal interest for bringing the offender to book and for the system to send the right message to all in the society — be it the law­abiding citizen or the potential offender. ‘Human rights’ are not only of the accused but, extent apart, also of the victim, the symbolic member of the society as the potential victim and the society as a whole.”

[Varinder Kumar v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 170, decided on 11.02.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of N.V. Ramana and M.M. Shantanagoudar, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed by the State of U.P. against the judgment of Allahabad High Court whereby it had reversed the decision the decision of trial court and acquitted the accused of charges under Sections 302 and 307 read with 149, Section 148 IPC and Section 7 of Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1932.

The accused persons were alleged to have participated in rioting and injuring the deceased (a senior official) with fire shots which resulted in his death. The accused were tried and convicted by the trial court for the offences mentioned above. However, on appeal by the accused persons, the High Court reversed the conviction and acquitted them. Aggrieved thereby, State of U.P. filed the instant appeal.

On perusal of the record, the Supreme Court was of the view that the judgment of the High Court needs no interference. The Court noted several laches in the investigation which went to root of the matter and resulted in acquittal:

  • Unexplained delay of 55 days in conducting Test Identification Parade.
  • Suspicion over post-mortem report and FSL report being incompatible with each other.
  • Doubtful recovery of pistol from accused.
  • Prosecution’s failure to ascertain with precision the place of incidence.
  • Non-examination of crucial witness (the other injured person in the incident) and failure of adducing independent witness.

Observing that suspicion however grave, cannot take place of proof, the Court gave benefit of doubt to the accused and upheld the High Court’s judgment of acquittal. The appeal filed by the State was dismissed. [State of U.P. v. Wasif Haider,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2740, decided on 10-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of C. Hari Shankar, J. allowed a criminal appeal filed against the judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted under Section 18(b) of the Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

The appellant challenged his conviction contending the non-compliance of provisions of Section 50 of the Act. It was an admitted fact that after apprehending the appellant, he was searched by the raiding party in which opium was recovered from his possession. It is pertinent to note that as per Section 50, a person to be searched under Sections 41, 42 or 43 NDPS Act has to be searched in presence of a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate. The prosecution, per contra, submitted that the appellant, before the search, was apprised of his right to be searched by a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate; however, he waived off that right.

The High Court, for adjudication of the matter, perused the cases decided by the Supreme Court including Dilip v. State of M.P.,(2007) 1 SCC 450; State of Rajasthan v. Parmanand, (2014) 5 SCC 345 and Arif Khan v. State of Uttarakhand, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 459Relying on the said cases, the Court held that compliance with the provisions of Section 50 was mandatory. In the instant matter, it was held there was non-compliance with the said provisions and therefore the search and alleged recovery of opium was vitiated in toto. The appellant was, therefore, held to be entitled to an acquittal from all the charges. The appeal was allowed and the judgment impugned was set aside. [Dharambir v. State,2018 SCC OnLine Del 12305, dated 13-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Md. Mumtaz Khan, J. allowed a revision petition against the order of the Magistrate whereby the petitioner’s complaint filed under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 was quashed.

The complaint filed by the petitioner was quashed in the exercise of power under Section 204(4) CrPC for want of requisites. Additionally, the Magistrate had also passed an order of acquittal of the accused under Section 256. The petitioner was asked to submit the requisites necessary to issue summons against the accused. However, after giving repeated opportunities, there was no submission of requisites by the petitioner. Even the show cause notice was not responded to. Resultantly, the Magistrate passed the above-mentioned order. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner preferred the instant revision.

The High Court perused the record and was of the view that the order impugned was not sustainable. It was noted that one of the requisites to be submitted was the processing fee. Section 204(4) provides for dismissal of the complaint for non-payment of process fee. Moreover, the matter was at the stage of issue of summons. The accused had neither appeared in the case nor it was at the stage of evidence. Thus, the Magistrate was in error for exercising power under Section 256 and recording acquittal. Furthermore, as far as an order under Section 204(4) was concerned, the petitioner had shown sufficient cause for not being able to submit the requisites. The reason was shown to be fraud played by its advocate for which complaint had been registered with the police and also a complaint was given to the Bar Council. A copy of both the complaints were produced before the Court. The Court was of the view that one could not be allowed to suffer for fault of the advocate. In the opinion of the Court, the order impugned required interference. Therefore, in light of the above, the order passed by the Magistrate under Sections 204(4) and 256 CrPC was quashed. The complaint was restored to the file. The revision was allowed accordingly. [ACME Paints and Resin (P) Ltd. v. Deb Paints (P) Ltd., 2018 SCC OnLine Cal 7054, dated 28-09-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of M.M. Shantanagoudar, J., delivering a judgment for himself and L. Nageswara Rao, J., disposed of a criminal appeal by modifying the conviction of the appellant by setting aside his conviction under Section 302 IPC while upholding the conviction under Section 326.

The Appellant (Accused 1) was convicted for the murder of one Manjula and Kumari Radika. According to the prosecution, there was an ongoing property dispute between accused persons and the informant/injured, who was mother-in-law of the deceased Manjula. It was alleged the accused 1 assaulted the informant while Accused 2 and 3 assaulted the deceased persons with an axe. The assault resulted in death of the deceased persons and the informant was badly injured. The trial court, on appreciation of evidence, acquitted all the accused persons. However, in appeal filed by the State, the High Court of Karnataka reversed the decision of the trial court as far as Accused 1 was concerned and convicted him for the offence punishable under Section 302 and 326 IPC. Accused 1 filed an appeal against the decision of the High Court before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court appraised the entire record and found that the informant (PW 23) was the most important witness of the case. She attributed overt acts to the accused in the first statement as well as in deposition. It was only alleged that Accused 1 assaulted the informant; no act of assault on the body of the deceased persons was attributed to him, nor was it said that he instigated the other accused to assault the deceased. The Supreme Court categorically held that the finding of acquittal is to be interfered with by the appellate court only under special circumstances and at any rate if there are two views possible arising out the same facts.However, in the present case since it was not proved beyond reasonable doubt that Accused 1 was responsible for causing assault on the deceased persons, the High Court ought not to reverse the finding of acquittal as recorded by the trial court. Holding that the ingredients of murder were not proved beyond reasonable doubt against Accused 1, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the High Court as far as his conviction under Section 302 was concerned. However, the Court was convinced that Accused 1 was responsible of causing grievous injury to the informant; and thus, his conviction under Section 326 IPC, as ordered by the High Court, was upheld. As the appellant had already undergone a period of 11 years in jail, his sentence of 7 years under the said offence was set off against the period already undergone. The appeal was disposed of accordingly. [Jayaswami v. State of Karnataka, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 583, dated 01-06-2018]

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Madras High Court: In a Single Judge Bench decision comprising of P. Kalaiyarasan, J., accused was acquitted of the charges under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, confirming the decision of the first appellate court.

The brief facts of the case states that the complainant/ appellant had given an amount of Rs. 3, 50,000 to the accused for meeting his family expenses for which the accused had issued a cheque to the complainant. On the deposit of the said cheque it was returned with an endorsement “insufficient funds”. For the same stated contention a legal notice was issued in the name of the accused.

The trial court had convicted the accused under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, which further was reversed in the decision of the first appellate court; therefore, the complainant filed the criminal appeal. The contention of the accused was that the cheque was stolen and the same was misused in the year 2007 with some other cheques contained in a bag.

The Hon’ble High Court, on perusal of the records, in which exhibits were attached in regard to the complaint filed for the lost bag containing the cheques, held it as established that the criminal appeal stands dismissed as no evidence has been recorded against the accused and the decision of the first appellate court was confirmed. [Arul Mari Joseph v. Edward Raj, 2018 SCC OnLine Mad 1322, dated 11-04-2018]

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Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Chander Bhusan Barowalia, J., decided a criminal appeal filed by the State under Section 378 of CrPC challenging the order of acquittal of the accused persons passed by the trial court, wherein the said order was upheld holding that the prosecution failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.

The accused persons were alleged to have grievously injured the complainant. They were tried for the offences punishable under Sections 341, 323, 325 along with Section 34 IPC. However, the trial court acquitted all the accused persons.

The High Court perused the record as well as submissions made on behalf of the parties. After considering the witness statements, the Court was of the view that the prosecution evidence was not sufficient to prove the case against the accused persons beyond reasonable doubt. There were material contradictions in the statements of the complainant himself. Also, there was un-explained delay of more than fifty five hours in lodging the complaint. Nothing material came out from the statements of the witnesses and the evidence collected and produced by the prosecution was weak. The Court observed that when the judgment of the trial court was neither perverse, nor suffered from any infirmity or based on misappreciation of evidence; reversal thereof by the High Court was not justified. The High Court held that the trial court rightly acquitted the accused persons on proper appreciation of evidence on record.

Accordingly, the judgment impugned in the instant appeal was upheld and the appeal was dismissed. [State of H.P. v. Gopal Singh, 2018 SCC OnLine HP 355, dated 2.4.2018]

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Chhattisgarh High Court: The order of trial court acquitting the accused of rape charges was upheld in an appeal by the State before a Division Bench comprising of Prashant Kumar Mishra and Ram Prasanna Sharma, JJ.

The accused was charged under Sections 376, 450 and 506 (B) of IPC. It was alleged that he committed forceful sexual intercourse with the prosecutrix after threatening her. The accused denied the allegations. The matter went to trial and after appreciating the evidence, the trial court acquitted the accused. The State filed the instant appeal against the said order.

The High Court perused the evidence available on record and found that the prosecutrix was a married women aged about 22 years. From her statement, it was clear that she did not resist during the alleged intercourse and also did not cry for help even when many other family members were present in the house at the time of alleged incident. Further, the medical evidence produced by the prosecution did not support the prosecutrix. The Court also found that there was a political rivalry between the uncle of the accused and father-in-law of the prosecutrix.

Considering all the circumstances, the High Court was of the view that the trial court has appreciated all the evidence in proper perspective and reached an opinion that it may be a case of consensual sex. The Court held that since the findings of the trial court were based on relevant facts, it would not be proper for it to disturb such findings. Accordingly, the order of acquittal passed by the trial court was affirmed and the appeal filed by the State was dismissed.  [State of Chhattisgarh V. Panchu Sahu, 2018 SCC OnLine Chh 288, decided on 20-3-2008]

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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,  2018 SCC OnLine Chh 271, decided on 13.03.2018]