Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: The Division Bench of A.M. Shaffique and P. Somarajan, JJ. was hearing a death reference tagged along with a criminal appeal filed by the accused challenging order of the Sessions Judge vide which he was convicted and sentenced to be hanged by the neck till his death for offences under Sections 376, 302, 449 and 392 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The accused respondent trespassed into the house of a minor girl aged 15 years, raped and murdered her; and thereafter committed theft of a gold necklace and a gold ring from her body. The Court observed that there was no eye-witness to the incident and the case rested purely on circumstantial evidence. However, scientific material showed that the DNA found in spermatozoa taken from victim’s vagina matched with the DNA profile of the accused. This clearly proved that the accused had raped the victim. Further, the missing chain and ring were recovered from a financier where the accused had pledged the same under a different name. Thus, the prosecution had proved all circumstances forming the chain beyond a reasonable doubt and the only hypothesis that could be arrived at by the Court was that the accused was involved in the crime.

It was noted that this was a case where the victim was subjected to forcible sexual intercourse, and lust and greed of the accused had resulted in rape and murder of a minor girl. However, the accused did not have any criminal antecedents; there was no pre-meditation and intention to commit crime would have developed all of a sudden. The offence might have been committed in a sudden rush of blood i.e., to commit robbery and rape. The accused, aged 29 years at the time of the incident, had married twice and had children.

In view of all the facts, it was opined that instead of the death penalty, the punishment of life imprisonment would meet the ends of justice. However, taking into account gravity of the offence, the Court relied on the dictum in Swamy Shraddananda (2) v. State of Karnataka, (2008) 13 SCC 767 and held that no remission be granted to the accused for a period of 25 years. [State v. Rajesh Kumar, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 43, Order dated 08-01-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Abhay Manohar Sapre, J. delivered the judgment for himself and Uday U. Lalit, J. wherein the appeal filed by the convict under Sections 294, 353, 504 read with Section 34 IPC, was allowed in part. The appeal was filed against the judgment of the Bombay High Court which  upheld his conviction and sentence awarded by the trial court.

As per the prosecution case, the appellant (Sarpanch of the village) along with the co-accused (Member of Gram Panchayat) reached the Zilla Parishad primary school. They asked PW-1, the teacher, as to why he was not regular and punctual. The explanation given by PW-1 did not satisfy the appellant. PW-1 was asked to bring the book of circle-in-charge which  was refused by PW-1. Thereafter, PW-1 was held from the collar of his shirt and beatings were given to him. The appellant along with the co-accused was tried and convicted for the charges as mentioned above by the trial court. An appeal was preferred to the High Court which acquitted the co-accused but the appeal so far it concerned the appellant herein was dismissed. Aggrieved thus, the appellant filed the present appeal.

The Supreme Court considered the factual matrix and was of the opinion that the sentence awarded to the appellant deserved to be modified. For reaching such conclusion, the Court gave relevance to four facts which are enumerated hereinafter:

  • Firstly, the appellant had already undergone a sentence of one month in prison out of three months imprisonment awarded to him.
  • Secondly, the appellant was old and the incident seemed to have occurred at spur of the moment.
  • Thirdly, he had no criminal antecedents.
  • Lastly, fairly, he did not deny the commission of the act and did not challenge his conviction.

The appeal was, thus, allowed in part. The punishment of imprisonment awarded by the trial court and upheld by the High Court was altered. The sentence of imprisonment was reduced to the period already undergone by the appellant. However, the fine of Rs 800 was increased to Rs 15,000. [Haribhau v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine SC 1337, dated 04-09-2018]

 

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Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar, JJ allowed the petition seeking cancellation of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s membership of the state Legislative Council for allegedly concealing a pending criminal case against him. Stating that it will consider the matter, the bench said it will fix a date for hearing the matter.

The petition, which was filed yesterday, alleged that there was a criminal case against the JD(U) leader wherein he was accused of killing a local Congress leader Sitaram Singh, and injuring four others ahead of Lok Sabha by-election to the Barh constituency in 1991. The petitioner has also sought a direction to the CBI to register an FIR against Kumar in the case. He sought cancellation of Kumar’s membership as per the Election Commission’s 2002 order stating it is mandatory for candidates to disclose criminal cases against them in their affidavits annexed to nomination papers. He claimed that the Bihar Chief Minister did not disclose the criminal case that was pending against him in affidavits since 2004, except for 2012.

Source: PTI

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of P.C. Ghose and Amitava Roy, JJ directed the State of Bihar to take all consequential steps, inter alia, for taking Md. Shahabuddin, the respondent-accused, to custody forthwith. The Court said that balancing the considerations of individual liberty and societal interest as well as the prescriptions and the perception of law regarding bail, it appears that the Patna High Court erred in granting bail to the respondent-accused without taking into consideration the overall facts otherwise having a bearing on the exercise of its discretion on the issue.

Prashant Bhushan, counsel appearing for the complainant had contended that the High Court had committed a gross error in granting bail to the respondent-accused and did not consider the contents of the F.I.R. as well as the fact that he is a habitual offender, and that he has in the meantime been awarded two sentences of life imprisonment and also named in several criminal cases. He further urged that the respondent-accused is a category-A history sheeter in view of his persistent criminal antecedents and as in the case in hand, he has been charged with the offence of facilitating murder of a witness in a case in which he was being tried, he ought not to have been granted bail in any view of the matter.

However, Shekhar Napahde, the counsel appearing for the respondent-accused submitted that the High Court granted bail on the ground that the trial could not be completed within a period of nine months, as directed by the High Court vide order dated 03.02.2016 while rejecting his earlier prayer for bail in the same case.

Considering the arguments, the Court held that although it has to be accepted that the respondent-accused has already been granted bail by the concerned courts in other cases, a duty is cast upon the Court in addressing such a prayer in a case on its own merit, and while applying its discretion, it must be applied in a judicious manner and not as a matter of course. The Court further said that tough the period of custody is a relevant factor, the same has to be weighed simultaneously with the totality of the circumstances and the criminal antecedents in the scale of collective cry and desire and that societal concern has to be kept in view in juxtaposition to individual liberty. [Chandrakeshwar Prasad v. State of Bihar, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1054, decided on 30.09.2016]