Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of MM Shantanagoudar and Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ has held that it cannot be laid down as an absolute rule of law that a dying declaration cannot form the sole basis of conviction unless it is corroborated by other evidence. It was held that:

“A dying declaration, if found reliable, and if it is not an attempt by the deceased to cover the truth or to falsely implicate the accused, can be safely relied upon by the courts and can form the basis of conviction. More so, where the version given by the deceased as the dying declaration is supported and corroborated by other prosecution evidence, there is no reason for the courts to doubt the truthfulness of such dying declaration.”

The Court was hearing a matter wherein the deceased had died after the accused stabbed him during a quarrel relating to land dispute. He gave a statement to the Doctor when he was taken to primary care and that statement, in which the victim narrated the occurrence including the names of the assailants, was treated as a dying declaration. The Trial Court had, upon appreciation of the material on record, acquitted all the accused and held that the dying declaration of the victim was unreliable.

Noticing that the Trial Court had given more weightage to the minor variations found in the evidence   of the prosecution witnesses as compared to the information found in the dying declaration, the Court said:

“The courts cannot expect a victim like the deceased herein to state in exact words as to what happened during the course of the crime, inasmuch as it would be very difficult   for   such   a   victim, who has suffered multiple grievous injuries, to state all the details of the incident meticulously and that too in a parrot­like manner.”

The Court also said that the Trial   Court   was wrong in assuming that   the   Investigation   Officer   in collusion   with   the   doctor   wilfully   fabricated   the   dying declaration. It said:

“It is needless to state that the Investigation Officer and the doctor are independent public servants and are not related either to the accused or the deceased.  It is not open for the Trial Court to cast aspersions on the said public officers in relation to the dying declaration, more particularly when there is no supporting evidence to show such fabrication.”

[Laltu Ghosh v. State of West Bengal, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 236, decided on 19.02.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Writing down a 338-page-long verdict, the 5-judge Constitution Bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar, Dr. DY Chandrachud, Dr. AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, JJ held:

“Parliamentary Standing Committee Report or any Parliamentary Committee Report can be taken judicial notice of and regarded as admissible in evidence, but it can neither be impinged nor challenged nor its validity can be called in question.”

CJI, writing for himself and Khanwilkar, J said:

“The Constitution itself being a dynamic, lively and ever-changing document adapts to the paradigm of epochs. That being the situation, it is also for this Court to take a fresh look and mould the existing precepts to suit the new emerging situations.”

He further concluded:

  • Where the fact is contentious, the petitioner can always collect the facts from many a source and produce such facts by way of affidavits, and the Court can render its verdict by way of independent adjudication.
  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee report being in the public domain can invite fair comments and criticism from the citizens as in such a situation, the citizens do not really comment upon any member of the Parliament to invite the hazard of violation of parliamentary privilege.

Chandrachud, J, writing for himself and Sikri, J said:

“As a matter of principle, there is no reason or justification to exclude the report of a Parliamentary Standing Committee from the purview of the judicial process, for purposes such as understanding the historical background of a law, the nature of the problem, the causes of a social evil and the remedies which may provide answers to intractable problems of governance.”

He, however, added that no Member of Parliament or person can be made liable for what is stated in the course of the proceedings before a Parliamentary Committee or for a vote tendered or given.

Bhushan, J, in his detailed judgment explained that the Parliamentary Committee Reports cannot  be  treated  as  conclusive  or binding of what has been concluded in the Report. He said:

“By acceptance of a Parliamentary Committee Report in evidence does not mean that facts stated in the Report stand proved. When issues, facts come before a Court of law for adjudication, the Court is to decide the issues on the basis of evidence and materials brought before it and in which adjudication Parliamentary Committee Report may only be one of the materials, what weight has to be given to one or other evidence   is   the   adjudicatory   function   of   the   Court which may differ from case to case.”

[Kalpana Mehta v. Union of India,  2018 SCC OnLine SC 512, decided on 09.05.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Order of conviction and sentence passed against the accused-appellants by the trial court under Section 302 of IPC was set aside in a criminal appeal by a Division Bench of Prashant Kumar Mishra and Ram Prasanna Sharma, JJ.

The appellants were accused of murdering the deceased and were tried, convicted and sentenced under Section 302 IPC by the trial court. Learned counsel for the appellants submitted that the case of prosecution was based on the alleged extra-judicial confession made by appellants, but the same was not substantiated by any of the prosecution witnesses.

The High Court, after perusal of the record, found that there was no eyewitness to the incident and the case of prosecution was based on circumstantial evidence. The statement of the witnesses did not support the case of the prosecution. Further, the prosecution tried to establish extra-judicial confession on the basis of statement of PW 10, but her version was not stable right from the beginning of investigation. The Court observed that the extra-judicial confession is admissible if it inspires confidence and is made voluntarily. However, in the instant case, it was held that, the statement regarding extra-judicial confession made by PW 10 could not be acted upon as it was unstable and contradictory. The Court held that on an overall assessment of the evidence adduced by the prosecution, it could not be established that the appellants committed murder of the deceased, and the finding arrived at by the trial court were not sustainable in law. Hence the appeal was allowed and the conviction and sentence awarded by the trial court was set aside. [Dindayal v. State of Chhattisgarh,  2018 SCC OnLine Chh 385, dated 6-4-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the issue relating to admissibility of the certificate issued by Gram Panchayat Secretary as a proof of citizenship, the bench of Ranjan Gogoi and RF Nariman, JJ held that the said document can be used to establish a linkage between the holder of such certificate and the person(s) from whom legacy is being claimed after it clears a 2-step verification process. The steps include:

  • authenticity of the certificate itself.
  • the authenticity of the contents thereof.

The Court explained:

“The latter process of verification is bound to be an exhaustive process in the course of which the source of information of the facts and all other details recorded in the certificate will be ascertained after giving an opportunity to the holder of the certificate.”

The Court was hearing a batch of appeals against the order of the Gauhati High Court had held the Gram Panchayat certificate, submitted under ‘illustrative list of documents admissible’ as a supporting document, to be invalid in law.

Noticing that the Gram Panchayat Certificate merely acknowledges the shifting of residence of a married woman from one village to another, the Court made it clear that the said certificate by itself and by no means establishes any claim of citizenship of the holder of the certificate but will only its holder to establish a link between the holder and the person from whom legacy is claimed.

The Court, however, said:

“If the document and its contents is to be subjected to a thorough search and probe we do not see why the said certificate should have been interdicted by the High Court, particularly, in the context of the facts surrounding the enumeration and inclusion of the documents mentioned in the illustrative list of documents, as noticed above.”

Stating that the said document can in no manner be considered a ‘private document’, the Court held that Gram Panchayat Certificate can, however, be acted upon only to establish a linkage between the holder of such certificate and the person(s) from whom legacy is being claimed. It was made clear that the certificate will be put to such limited use only if the contents of the certificate are found to be established on due and proper enquiry and verification. [Rupajan Begum v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1411, decided on 05.12.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench of Dipak Misra and R.F. Nariman, JJ referred the matter relating to referring and relying upon the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee in a litigation filed before this Court either under Article 32 or Article 136 of the Constitution of India, before a Constitution Bench regard being had to the substantial question of law relating to interpretation of the Constitution involved.

The Court also asked the Constitution Bench to decide as to was as to whether such a Report can be looked at for the purpose of reference and, if so, can there be restrictions for the purpose of reference regard being had to the concept of parliamentary privilege and the delicate balance between the constitutional institutions that Articles 105, 121 and 122 of the Constitution conceive.

The Court was hearing the petition relating to action taken by the Drugs Controller General of India and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) pertaining to approval of a vaccine, namely, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)  for preventing cervical cancer in women and the experimentation of the vaccine was done as an immunization by the Governments of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, before bifurcation, and the 81st Report dated 22nd December, 2014 of the Parliamentary Standing Committee was brought into the notice of the Court

The Court was of the prima facie opinion that the Parliamentary Standing Committee report may not be tendered as a document to augment the stance on the factual score that a particular activity is unacceptable or erroneous. It was opined that the view of a member of the Parliament or a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee who enjoys freedom of speech and expression within the constitutional parameters and the rules or regulations framed by the Parliament inside the Parliament or the Committee is not to be adverted to by the court in a lis. Explaining the nature of the reports, the Court said that the reference to Constituent Assembly debates, reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee and the speeches made in the Parliament or for that matter, debates held in Parliament are only meant for understanding the Constitution or the legislation, as the case may be. It is quite different than to place reliance upon Parliamentary Standing Committee report as a piece of evidence to establish a fact. [Kalpana Mehta v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 390, decided on 05.04.2017]

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the petition seeking setting aside the appointment of K.V. Chaudhary as Central Vigilance Commissioner and T.M. Bhasin as Vigilance Commissioner on the ground that these persons are not of impeccable integrity and also seeking order directing investigation into the incriminating material seized in the raids conducted on the Birla and Sahara Group of Companies in question, the Court said that the materials which have been placed on record either in the case of Birla or in the case of Sahara are not maintained in regular course of business and thus lack in required reliability to be made the foundation of a police investigation..

The bench of Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy, JJ said that the Court has to be on guard while ordering investigation against any important constitutional functionary, officers or any person in the absence of some cogent legally cognizable material. When the material on the basis of which investigation is sought is itself irrelevant to constitute evidence and not admissible in evidence, it will not be safe to even initiate investigation. There has to be some relevant and admissible evidence and some cogent reason, which is prima facie reliable and that too, supported by some other circumstances pointing out that the particular third person against whom the allegations have been levelled was in fact involved in the matter or he has done some act during that period, which may have co-relations with the random entries. If the same is not done, then the process of law can be abused against all and sundry very easily to achieve ulterior goals and then no democracy can survive in case investigations are lightly set in motion against important constitutional functionaries on the basis of fictitious entries, in absence of cogent and admissible material on record, lest liberty of an individual be compromised unnecessarily.

Noticing that the materials placed on record in the present case are random sheets and loose papers and their correctness and authenticity, even for the purpose of income mentioned therein have been found to be un-reliable having no evidentiary value, by the concerned authorities of income tax, the Court said that the complaint should not be improbable and must show sufficient ground and commission of offence on the basis of which registration of a case can be ordered. [Common Cause v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 41, deiced on 11.01.2017]