Case BriefsForeign Courts

Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka: This appeal was filed before a Bench of Mahinda Samayawardhena, J., for ejectment of defendants from the land of the plaintiff.  

Facts of the case were that the plaintiff filed this action against defendants for a declaration of title to the land, ejectment of the defendants from the land and for damages. Defendants opposed plaintiff’s action and claimed that the plaintiff was holding property in trust for defendants, thus defendants had acquired prescriptive title to the land. Plaintiff’s action was dismissed by District Judge and passed judgment in favour of defendants to have prescribed to the land. Hence, this appeal was filed. District court had come to a finding that the defendants came into the land with the leave and licence of the plaintiff and from the date on which they came into possession of the land, they have started prescriptive possession against the plaintiff. 

Court of Appeal found the above finding of District Judge to be untenable. Permissive possession, however long it may be, was not prescriptive possession and to claim it, compelling cogent evidence was required. The time when an individual started adverse possession is a sine qua non for claim of prescription. Court noted that when the legal title to the premises is admitted or proved to be in the plaintiff, the burden of proof is on the defendant to show that he is in lawful possession. Since, defendant in the instant case had failed to discharge the onus to prove, the judgment of District Judge was set aside[Mohamed Shariff Mohamed Sanoon v. Mohamed Yoosuf Junaid, Case No. CA/417/1998/F, decided on 18-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: This appeal was filed before a 2-Judge Bench comprising of Sujoy Paul and Nandita Dubey, JJ., against the order passed by trial court convicting appellant for the commission of offences under Sections 302 and 201 of Penal Code and sentencing her to life imprisonment.

Facts of the case were such that the deceased was the husband of appellant whose dead body was found inside a trunk in their house. After which trial took place where appellant was convicted and sentenced for the murder of her husband. Trial Court mainly relied on the testimony of deceased daughter and medical evidence on record which showed throttling as the reason for deceased death. The contention raised by Chetan Jaggi, Advocate appearing as amicus curiae for appellant was that there were no eye-witness and the sentence was passed on the basis of circumstantial evidence where the incident was not pre-planned.

High Court after going through the testimony of daughter of deceased, postmortem report viewed that deceased died due to throttling. Court found no explanation by the appellant as to how the dead body got into the trunk in a room only in access of appellant and deceased and once the prosecution has been able to show that at the relevant time, the room was in exclusive possession of the deceased and appellant, the burden of proof lies on the appellant under what circumstances the death of her husband occurred. Appellant failed to discharge this onus to prove. Therefore, the appeal was dismissed and it was found that the trial court had rightly convicted the appellant under Sections 302 and 201 of Penal Code. [Sudama Bai v. State of M.P., 2018 SCC OnLine MP 904, decided on 10-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of S.S. Shinde and A.S. Gadkari, JJ., allowed a criminal appeal filed against the judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for murder under Section 302 IPC.

The appellant and the deceased were living in a live-in-relationship. Both were married to different spouses. The allegation against the appellant was that on the fateful day, he attacked the deceased with a hammer on her head and this resulted in her death. It was alleged by the prosecution that the appellant was fed up by the frequent bickering between him and the deceased as she did not allow him to meet his wife and children. Thus, the appellant attacked the deceased and murdered her. The appellant was tried and convicted by the trial court under Section 302. Aggrieved thereby, the instant appeal was filed.

The High Court, at the outset, noticed that appellant’s conviction was based on circumstantial evidence. It was reiterated that for basing a conviction on circumstantial evidence, it is necessary that all the circumstances must point towards guilt only of the accused and nothing else. Furthermore, the main ground for the conviction was that appellant failed to rebut the presumption under Section 106 Evidence Act exclusively within his knowledge. The Court made reference to Shambhu Nath Mehra v. State of Ajmer, AIR 1956 SC 404, wherein it was held that Section 106 is not a substitute for the burden of proof that rests upon the prosecution. It was noted that in the instant case there was no evidence on record even to remotely suggest that the appellant was in fact last seen in the company of the deceased either at the time of noticing the dead body or prior thereto. In absence of such evidence, the Court held that the failure of the appellant to offer any explanation under Section 106 could not be used against him to base his conviction. The Court further held that the case of the prosecution was based on mere presumption the appellant being in the same room with the deceased at the time of her death. In view of the aforesaid appellant’s conviction was set aside, and the appeal was allowed. [Ulhas Sudam Gorhe v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 3389, decided on 12-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Vipin Sanghi and P.S. Teji, JJ, upheld the conviction and sentence passed by the trial court under Sections 498-A and 302 while acquitting him from charges under Section 304-B IPC.

The appellant had been convicted by the trial court based on circumstantial evidence, where the prosecution had linked all the circumstances by presenting evidence which pointed towards the guilt of the accused. Based on the testimonies of various witnesses, who were cross-examined by the defense but remained unshaken in their stand, the accused was held guilty under Section 498-A IPC. The High Court upheld the conviction and sentence on this count.

On the question of conviction under Section 302/304-B, the Court found enough circumstantial evidence on record for conviction under Section 302 but not for conviction under Section 304-B. Evidences on record were the murder weapon, the fact that the accused and deceased were home alone at the time of death, the fact that the crime took place in the dead of the night along and the post-mortem reports. Moreover, the appellant had alleged that some unknown trespassers had killed his wife, however, he failed to substantiate his allegations. Section 106 of the Evidence Act puts the onus of proof on the person having special knowledge surrounding the circumstances of an occurrence, and since, on that night, the only person besides the deceased in the house was the accused, he is the master of such knowledge. Therefore, the appellant has failed to discharge the onus put upon him.

Consequently, the conviction and sentence under Sections 302 and 498-A IPC were upheld and conviction under Section 304-B was reversed. The appeal was disposed of with modifications. [Dilip @ Deepak v. State,   2017 SCC OnLine Del 11854, decided on 13.11.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: In an appeal before the High Court, the appellants challenged their conviction by Sessions Judge in murder case of wife of one of the appellants under Sections 302 read with Section 34 IPC. In the present case, the deceased Basanti Bai died in the intervening night in 2006 at their village. During investigation, statements of the witnesses were recorded. The trial court after considering the material available on record by the impugned judgment convicted and sentenced the accused-appellants to imprisonment for life.

After going through the facts of the case, the Court heard the counsel for the appellant who pleaded that firstly, the cause of the death of deceased had yet not been established as the doctor in her post-mortem report had mentioned that she died due to asphyxia that may also be caused due to any general disease and thus, death cannot be called homicidal. Secondly, he told the Court that the witnesses adduced by the prosecution are hearsay witnesses, which is not legally admissible. Thirdly, he pleaded that there had been not even a single witness from the village where the incident took place, thus weakening the stand of the prosecution to a great extent.

The Court considered the fact that all the evidences taken into consideration by the trial court are the evidence of relatives of deceased and whatever had ever been spoken by the deceased during visit of their house had been reproduced by them before the Court thus, failing to be legal as per Section 60 of Evidence Act which states that oral evidence must always be direct to be admissible. To support its observation, the Court cited Kalyan Kumar Gogoi v. Ashutosh Agnihotri (2011) 2 SCC 532 in which the Supreme Court had explained reasons as to why hearsay witnesses were not admitted like truth comes in diluted and diminished form this way and the witness in such cases will not have any responsibility on him and so on.

The Court went on to say that as the evidence upon which the inference of trial court is based is admissible, the other aspects of the matter needed to be examined in depth. The Court noticed that none of the 13 witnesses examined belonged to the village where deceased died. The Court observed that in such cases of hearsay evidence, Section 106 of the Evidence Act may be attracted if a reasonable inference can be drawn regarding the existence of certain other facts, unless the accused by virtue of special knowledge regarding such facts failed to offer any explanation which might drive the court to draw a different inference and its purpose is not to relieve the prosecution to prove the burden of guilt. But in the present case, out of all the witnesses, no one stated that the appellant was inside the house at the time of the incident.

The Bench of Ram Prasanna Sharma, J. on minute scrutiny of the facts and examined witnesses said that that suspicion however grave cannot take the place of proof and that the prosecution just in order to succeed on a criminal charge cannot afford to lodge its case only on the basis of “may be true” but has to essentially elevate it to the grade of “must be true”. [Shankarlal v. State of Chattisgarh, 2017 SCC OnLine Chh 1138, decided on 6-10-2017]