Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: The Bench of Gita Mittal, CJ and Tashi Rabstan, J. dismissed the application filed to assail the decision passed by the Trial Court wherein the respondent was acquitted of the charges under Sections 376, 363 and 344 of the RPC for wrongfully restraining and raping the prosecutrix for several days.

The facts of the case are that an application was moved by the father of the prosecutrix alleging that his daughter referred to as the ‘prosecutrix’ was kidnapped by someone on 3-12-2015 and that she could not be traced. The prosecutrix was alleged to have been recovered on 15-12-2015 from a bus stand. The respondent was arrested in the matter based on the statement made by the prosecutrix. The case came before the Trial Court wherein it was held that the prosecutrix was aged between 18 to 20 years on the date of the offence and not a minor and hence the aspect of kidnapping from the custody of the lawful guardian, as was envisaged under Section 363 of the RPC, was not made out. The Trail Court thus acquitted the respondent of the first charge.  The second charge which was laid against the respondent was a commission of offences under Section 344 of the RPC with regard to the unlawful confinement of the prosecutrix for ten or more days and under Section 376 RPC for having raped her during this period. The Trial Court considered the entire evidence and found that the prosecutrix was in active contact of the respondent from September, 2015 and that she voluntarily left her home in his company to go with him on  3-12-2015 with her documents. Marriage was the solemnized. The applicant was acquitted since consent was shown.

The Court dismissed the appeal upholding the settled law that the appellate Court will not lightly interfere with the judgment of acquittal. [State v. Rajinder Paul Singh, 2019 SCC OnLine J&K 77, Order dated 30-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Vipin Sinha and Ifaqat Ali Khan, JJ. dismissed the appeal as the applicant failed to prove the alleged charges against the accused.

The applicant through his counsel Afzal Ahmad Khan Durrani has filed an application seeking leave to appeal against the judgment by means of which all the accused persons have been acquitted for the offence punishable under Sections 394/34, 302/34, 201, 120B and 411 IPC along with Section 25/5/35 Arms Act. He has stated that along with the body of the deceased silver ornaments were also found at the spot.

It was important to note that the silver ornaments costed about Rs 5,000 which was a very meagre amount to commit murder plus neither the court could find a reason as to why the accused would commit the murder along with the fact that no active participation of the accused could be proved.

The High Court stated that a witness could lie but not the circumstances and in this case chain of pieces of evidence furnished by those circumstances were far from complete which failed to prove the guilt of the accused. Here the Court reiterated the basic rule of criminal jurisprudence according to which if two views were possible on the evidence adduced in a case of circumstantial evidence, one pointing to the guilt of the accused and the other to his innocence, the Court should adopt a view which is favorable to the accused. Hence as the applicant failed to prove the charges against the accused the appeal was dismissed. [Mira Devi v. State of U.P., 2018 SCC OnLine All 3307, Order dated 04-07-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

“While the crime is important, the criminal is equally important insofar as the sentencing process is concerned.”

-Madan B. Lokur, J.

Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of Madan B. Lokur, S. Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta, JJ. commuted the death sentence awarded to the review petitioner to life imprisonment. The petitioner was convicted under Sections 376(2)(f), 377 and 302 IPC for rape and murder of a 3- year old girl. He was awarded death sentence by the trial court which was confirmed by Bombay High Court. Aggrieved thereby, he preferred an appeal before the Supreme Court which was dismissed. Now, the petitioner was before the Court for review of its judgment dismissing his appeal.

The Court was concerned with the order of death sentence awarded to the petitioner and focused its discussion on certain points including:

Circumstantial evidence

According to the petitioner, the case was based on circumstantial evidence. The Court held, “ordinarily, it would not be advisable to award capital punishment in a case of circumstantial evidence. But there is no hard and fast rule.”

Reform, rehabilitation and re-integration into society

Harking back to Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 684, the Court held that “Bachan Singh requires us to consider the probability of reform and rehabilitation and not its possibility or its impossibility… it is the obligation on the prosecution to prove to the court, through evidence, that the possibility is that the convict cannot be reformed or rehabilitated.”

DNA evidence

The Court laid stress on the usefulness of the advanced scientific technology and advised the prosecution to take advantage of it in such cases as the present one and stated, “where DNA profiling has not been done or it is held back from the Trial Court, an adverse consequence would follow for the prosecution.”

Prior history of the convict or criminal antecedents

After considering various earlier decisions, the Court held that mere pendency of one or more criminal cases against a convict cannot be a factor for consideration while awarding sentence.

In the instant case, the Court was of the opinion that the prosecution was remiss in not producing the available DNA evidence which lead to an adverse presumption against the prosecution. The trial court was in error in taking into consideration, for the purposes of sentencing, the pendency of two similar cases against the petitioner. Looking at the crimes committed by the appellant and the material on record including his overall personality and subsequent events, the Court commuted the sentence of death awarded by the petitioner while directing that he should not be released from custody for the rest of his normal life. the review petition was disposed of accordingly. [Rajendra Pralhadrao Wasnik v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2799, decided on 12-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Ajay Kumar Tripathi and Vinod Kumar Sinha, JJ. declared that there were no reasons that added up to convict the accused.

The appellants were convicted under Section 302 read with Sections 34 and 201 of the Penal Code, 1860 to undergo rigorous imprisonment for life. The prosecution had accused the appellants for being involved in the murder of the deceased and giving due reliance upon the fact that the deceased was the wife of the appellant-son along with the fact that the death happened within 3 years of marriage, the onus was upon the appellants as per Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act to explain the above contention. It was to be noted that in the post-mortem report the cause of death was strangulation but, neither any eyewitnesses were placed on record nor was there any link to establish the said act along with the fact that there was no motive with the appellant to kill the deceased.

Accordingly, the Court was of the view that there was only circumstantial evidence placed before them and hence the appellant cannot be charged solely on that basis.[Galmuni Ram v. State of Bihar,2017 SCC OnLine Pat 3377, decided on 11-11-2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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

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

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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of John Michael Cunha, J., decided a criminal petition filed under Section 439 CrPC, wherein the petitioners- Accused 2 and 3, were enlarged on bail, holding that the circumstantial evidence against the petitioners placed on record was not sufficient to extend the custody of the petitioners.

The petitioners were booked under Sections 143, 147, 148, 302, 323, 363, 506 read with Section 149 IPC. It was alleged that the petitioners caused death of the deceased. Learned counsel for the petitioners submitted that the case against the petitioners was based on suspicion. And the evidence collected by the prosecution was too week to connect the petitioners to the alleged crime. He submitted that the investigation in the case was complete and hence, the petitioners may be enlarged on bail.

The High Court perused the record and found that the case of the prosecution was based on circumstantial evidence. The circumstance relied on by the prosecution was the last seen theory. However, there was no clear material as to the motive behind the alleged crime. Therefore, taking into consideration all the facts and circumstances, the Court held that it was not proper to extend the custody of the petitioners solely by way of punishment. Accordingly, the petitioners- accused 2 and 3, were enlarged on bail. [Jameer v. State of Karnataka, Crl. Petition No. 100086 of 2018, order dated 23.3.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Sanjay Karol, Acting CJ and Ajay Mohan Goel, J., decided a criminal appeal filed by the State, wherein the order of acquittal passed in favor of the accused by the trial court was upheld.

The respondent was one of the accused in a criminal case registered under Sections 302 and 201 read with Section 34 IPC. The accused was alleged of murder of the deceased with whom he had strained relations due to pending litigation. The trial court acquitted the accused on the ground that the prosecution was not able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. Aggrieved thus, the State filed the instant petition.

The High Court perused the record and found that there was no eyewitness to the alleged incident and the prosecution case was wholly based on circumstantial evidence. The Court referred to a Supreme Court decision in Vijay Thakur v. State of H.P., (2014) 14 SCC 609 to discuss the law regarding circumstantial evidence. The Court observed that the said case carved out following principles relating to circumstantial evidence, on the basis of which guilt of the accused can be proved:

1. Circumstances from which the guilt is to be drawn must be fully established;

2. The facts so established should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused, that is to say, they should not be explainable on any other hypothesis except that the accused is guilty;

3. Circumstances should be of a conclusive nature and tendency;

4.There must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the act must have been done by the accused.

In the instant case, the Court was of the view that the prosecution was not able to complete the chain of circumstances so as to exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved. The case of the prosecution was not proved beyond reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the appeal filed by the State was dismissed and the trial court’s order of acquitting the appellant was upheld. [State of H.P. v. Mahinder Kumar, 2017 SCC OnLine HP 1856, order dated 11.12.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of S. Murlidhar and I.S. Mehta JJ., set aside the conviction and sentence of the petitioners convicted under Section 302/24 of the IPC. The matter lay before the High Court via an appeal against the judgment and order of the learned Addl. Sessions Judge whereby the petitioners were condemned to life imprisonment along with fine of Rs. 5000 each.

The accused were allegedly seen drinking with the deceased by the deceased’s brother (PW 15) on the intervening night between 10th and 11th June 1999. The following morning, the deceased’s body was found lying atop a rickshaw along with a blood-smeared knife not far from the body along with a chappal. The post-mortem report conclusively pointed towards homicide with a sharp weapon which could be the knife collected from the crime scene.

The learned Addl. Sessions Judge had passed the conviction on the basis of circumstantial evidence forming a complete chain of events by which the guilt of the accused could not be denied. However, the court found material discrepancies in the testimony of the PW 15. First off, PW 15, being an interested witness had to examined carefully. He had talked about a “Chander ki Garage”, where allegedly the deceased had been drinking with the accused, which was not visited or enquired about by the IO. The recorded statement of PW 15 also gave the impression that his statement was recorded after the dead body had already been found as PW 15 states to have started looking for the accused instead of his brother in the morning. Barring the shaky testimony of PW 15 there was also no other proof showing that there was previous enmity between the accused and the deceased, hence removing motive from the equation. The Court stated that though the evidence of ‘last seen’ may evoke suspicion, it does not, in the surrounding circumstances attain the status of proof. Petition allowed. [Chhatar Pal v. State, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 6678, decided on 18.01.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: While deciding criminal appeals filed against the judgment and order of conviction passed by the learned Trial Judge against the appellants-accused; a Division Bench comprising of V.K. Tahilramani, J and Dr. Shalini Phansalkar Joshi, J. quashed the impugned judgment and set aside the conviction and sentence of accused 1.

The appellants were convicted and sentenced for offences punishable under Sections 120(B), 302 and 201 read with 34 of the Penal Code. The accused were alleged to have murdered the deceased. During investigation, the role of Accused 1 and 2 in the alleged crime, transpired. However, no overt acts were attributed to Accused 1. Prosecution examined as many as twelve witnesses and the trial court convicted all the accused of the alleged offence.

The High Court perused the material available on record and found that the instant case was based on circumstantial evidence. There was no eyewitness to the incident. The Court was of the opinion though that the conviction can be based on circumstantial evidence alone, but for that the prosecution must establish the chain of circumstances, which consistently points to the accused and accused alone and is inconsistent with their innocence. It is further essential for the prosecution to cogently and firmly establish the circumstances from which inference of guilt of accused is to be drawn. These circumstances then have to be taken into consideration cumulatively. They must be complete to conclude that within all human probability, the accused and none else have committed the offence.

The Court was of the view that when the case is based on circumstantial evidence, motive assumes significance. In the instant case, the prosecution failed to even allege or to prove such motive. Mother of the deceased, in her cross-examination stated that the relations between the deceased and Accused 1 were cordial all the while. According to her evidence, there were quarrels between the deceased and other vegetable vendors. Thus, in there was absolutely no convincing, reliable or cogent evidence brought on record by the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

Allowing the appeals, the judgment of the trial court convicting the accused was quashed and set aside. [Ramesh Durgappa Hirekerur v. State of Maharashtra,  2017 SCC OnLine Bom 9109, dated 27.09.2017]

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

Bombay High Court: In an appeal filed against the decision of the Trial Court convicting the appellant for murder under S. 302 of the Penal Code of 1860, a Division Bench comprising of T.V. Nalawade and Sunil K. Kotwal, JJ, set aside the conviction and acquitted the accused of the offence of murder. The Court stated that merely because the first informant, brother-in-law of the deceased gave the FIR and because he deposed that he saw the accused or appellant running away from the location where the deceased’s body was recovered, a case was registered against the appellant and based only on suspicion, he was convicted.

Referring to the essential elements required to establish guilt through circumstantial evidence established by the Supreme Court in State of U.P. v. Dr. Ravindra Prakash Mittal, (1992) 3 SCC 300, the Court reaffirmed that: circumstances from which conclusion is drawn should be fully proved; circumstances should be conclusive; all established facts should be consistent with the hypothesis of guilt and inconsistent with the innocence of the accused; and circumstances should exclude possibility of guilt of any person other than the accused.

In addition to these, the Court added that “chain of evidence must be so complete”…that the “circumstances must show that in all human probability, the act must have been done by the accused.” In the present case, other probabilities have been created due to the first informant’s cross-examination which, according to the Court, raise questions against his account. Therefore, the conviction was set aside. [Bhagwat s/o. Narayan Mundhe v. State of Maharashtra, 2017 SCC OnLine Bom 6604, decided on 20.07.2017]

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 BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: While deciding upon the issue that whether an accused can be convicted only on the basis of suspicion and circumstantial evidence without any direct proof given by the prosecution, the Division Bench of V. Gopala Gowda and Amitava Roy, JJ., held that it would be unjustified to convict an accused only on the basis of suspicion and circumstantial evidence until and unless that evidences are corroborative with direct proof given by the prosecution. The Court thereby set aside the decision of High Court of Patna and held that an accused cannot be convicted until and unless all charges against him are proved beyond any reasonable doubt by the prosecution.

The appellant and deceased were husband and wife, while returning from their honeymoon the deceased went missing. The prosecution (parents of deceased) filed a complaint against appellant and his parents that they murdered the deceased due to non-fulfilment of their dowry demands. The High Court of Patna convicted appellant under Sections 304-B, 201 and 498-A of IPC. R. Basant, on behalf of appellant contended that the prosecution had failed to prove that the dead body recovered was that of deceased and cast doubts over the authenticity of the DNA test report. Also there were no evidences regarding any demand of dowry made by the appellant and treatment of the deceased with cruelty. However Subramonium Prasad, representing the respondents,  questioned the conduct of appellant for not giving the information of disappearance of his wife to the parents of deceased.

The Court relying on the Raj Kumar Singh v. State of Rajasthan, (2013) 5 SCC 722, observed that there is difference between “may proved” and “must be proved” and the accused cannot be convicted on the evidences which “may prove” his guilt without the presence of evidences which “must prove” the guilt of the accused. If two conclusions can be drawn from the case, one which refers to the guilt of accused and other which refers to an innocence of accused, then the Court should first follow the conclusion which refers to the innocence of accused. No accused should be convicted, till all the evidences presented by the prosecution, proves the guilt of an accused beyond any reasonable doubt. [Rajiv Singh vs. State of Bihar, 2015 SCC OnLine SC 1336, decided on 16.12.2015]

High Courts

Bombay High Court: In the present appeal against the conviction under Section 235(2) CrPC and Section 302 of IPC, the  Division Bench comprising of V. K. Tahilramani and B.P.Colabawala, JJ., on the basis of “Last Seen Together Theory”, recovery of deceased’s dead body, and the electric wire at the instance of the appellant-accused and an established motive of the appellant- accused, dismissed the case on basis of lack of merits and upheld the judgment and Order of the I/c Adhoc District Judge,

The case evolved from the disharmony in the relationship between the appellant- accused and his deceased wife. During the pendency of their divorce petition, the accused allegedly took his wife to a lodge, booked a room by using fake names for himself and his wife and in due course of their stay, the appellant-accused strangled his wife’s neck with an electric wire and caused her death.

The counsels for the appellant, Abhay Kumar Apte and V. V. Purwant, rendered no explanation or negation with respect to any of the components of the qualifying test whatsoever, except that the testimony of two witnesses should be considered unreliable due to the omissions made by both of them in their respective testimonies, which was ultimately denied by the Bench for being no help to the Court.

The present case which was based entirely on circumstancial evidence, the Bench relied heavily on the qualifying test laid down in Padala Veera Reddy v. State of Andhra Pradesh,1989 Supp (2) SCC 706, and in light of the decision, examined the present case in detail. On perusal the Court came to the conclusion that the prosecution has proved the guilt of the appellant-accused beyond reasonable doubt and rendered that the appellant- accused’s case qualifies all the tests and thus, cannot escape conviction awarded to him. Harish Ramesh Pulekar v. The State of Maharashtra, 2015 SCC OnLine Bom 2041, decided on 06.05.2015