Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Prashant Kumar Mishra, J. disposed of a criminal appeal where he altered the conviction of the appellant from the one under Section 302 (punishment for murder) to that under Section 304 Part I (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Penal Code.

The appellant was convicted for the murder of her sister-in-law. The appellant had developed a fancy for the deceased. The marriage of the deceased was fixed on the day previous to the incident. On the morning of the day of the incident, the appellant inflicted axe blow on the deceased in the field. She went to her house and after some time she was taken to the police station where she registered FIR. After that, she was taken to the hospital but she died on the way. The appellant was tried and convicted by the trial court for the offence of murder punishable under Section 302. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant filed the present appeal.

The High Court noted that the deceased having died immediately after lodging FIR, it was required to dwell on the legal character of the said FIR, as to whether the same was admissible in evidence as dying declaration. Relying on Dharam Pal v. State of U.P., (2008) 17 SCC 337, the Court observed: “The legal position is therefore well settled that the FIR lodged by the deceased would attain the character and legal status of dying declaration if the victim dies before his/her examination in the Court.” Considering the same, the Court upheld the finding that the appellant committed the act that resulted in the death of the deceased.

However, the Court considered medical opinion of the doctor who conducted the post-mortem on the deceased, who stated that the deceased would have been saved if she would have been administered treatment immediately after the incident. The relatives of the deceased committed mistake by taking her first to the police station, rather taking her to the hospital. Considering such mitigating circumstances, the High Court altered the conviction of the appellant mentioned above. Also, the sentence of life imprisonment awarded to him by the trial court was reduced to 10 years, as already undergone by the appellant.[Ram Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2019 SCC OnLine Chh 83, decided on 22-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. dismissed a petition filed against the order of the trial court whereby it had rejected petitioner’s application filed under Section 227 CrPC seeking discharge in a criminal case.

The case against the petitioner was that he along with the co-accused tried to intervene in a road rage fight between the complainant and a third party. The complainant was admittedly drunk at the time and slapped the co-accused. The co-accused called for the petitioner to bring the iron rod to teach a lesson to the drunk complainant. Thereafter, the co-accused attacked the complainant and he sustained multiple injuries. The petitioner was charge-sheeted under Section 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) read with Section 34 (acts done by several person in furtherance of common intention) of the Penal Code.

D.N. Goburdhun, Advocate representing the petitioner contended that there was an absence of mens rea or common intention or conspiracy on part of the petitioner. Per contra, Meenakshi Dahiya, APP appearing for the State submitted that the petitioner had been rightly charged as aforesaid.

Relying on State of M.P. v. Saleem, (2005) 5 SCC 554, the High Court noted: “though common intention should be anterior in time to the commission of crime and involves a pre-arranged plan or a prior concert, however, intention is to be gathered from the act, conduct, relative circumstances, and the attendant situations that cropped up”.It was reiterated that common intention may develop at spur of the moment.

On facts of the case, it was held that the petitioner actively participated in the act by procuring the iron rod and handing it over to the co-accused. Therefore, it could not be said that there was no common intention among the accused. As such, it was held that there was no infirmity with the order of the trial court, and the petition was dismissed.[Manish Sharma v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 9031, decided on 03-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: S.C. Sharma, J. allowed a criminal appeal, filed against the order of conviction under Ss. 304, 323 and 149 of IPC, 1860 passed by Trial Court.

Prosecution narrated that, daughter of appellant got sick one day; he suspected that deceased and his wife had practiced ‘witchcraft’ on her. To take revenge of such alleged act of the deceased, the appellant along with others assaulted the deceased along with his family. Deceased lodged an FIR under relevant sections of IPC against the accused. After the alleged FIR was lodged, police performed the medical examination of the victim, recorded the statements of witnesses and also prepared a spot map. Prosecution submitted that, the victim during his treatment, ten days after assault died as he suffered grievous hurt which resulted in his death which is also stated in panchnama and postmortem report. Eventually accused was duly arrested.

All witnesses along with the Medical Officer testified against the appellant and had narrated the crime in brief. The medical examination report stated that injuries were caused by heavy, hard and blunt objects and, Cause of death of the injured was cardio respiratory failure as a result of multiple injuries over the body.

Learned counsel for the appellants, Siddharth Jain, contended that there was an anomaly in the statements of the witnesses on the point that which accused assaulted the deceased and other injured persons. He further contended that appellants were not guilty and were falsely implicated in the aforementioned case. He argued that the testimony of witnesses were not in conformity with each other as to which respondent inflicted injuries to the deceased.

The Court observed that the injuries could not have been caused on account of an accident and were not self-inflicted, and therefore, the death of the deceased was neither accidental nor suicidal, hence, it was homicidal in nature. Court stated that, appellant gave a blow of Tangiya (axe) on the non-vital part of the deceased, therefore, it would be apparent that he has assaulted the deceased, and therefore, it cannot be said that there was no intention on the part of the appellant to kill the deceased. Court held that the trial court has not committed any error in convicting the appellant for the offence punishable under Section 304 (II) IPC for causing culpable homicide. It was established based upon the evidence that he inflicted grievous injuries to the wife of deceased also, and therefore, his conviction under relevant sections does not warrant any interference by Court. The participation of the other co-accused persons has not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt; hence, offence under Sections 147 and 148 automatically goes.[Anokhilal v. State of M.P., 2019 SCC OnLine MP 842, decided on 14-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: A Bench of Achintya Malla Bujor Barua and Mir Alfaz Ali, JJ., modified a conviction for murder to that of conviction for culpable homicide not amounting to murder in light of the convict’s inebriated condition at the time of the commission of offence and his subsequent conduct.

The appellant was convicted under Section 302 IPC for the murder of the deceased (his sister-in-law). He backed her with a dao from behind. It clearly came out from the record that at the time of the commission of offence, the appellant was in an intoxicated condition. Also, after the incident, he brought a vehicle and took the injured (now deceased) to hospital.

The High Court noted that after inflicting the injury, the appellant thought about providing treatment to the deceased. It was noted, “there are materials to show that the accused was in an inebriated condition and the incident took place at the spur of the moment and immediately after the incident took place, it was the accused, who himself went out to bring a vehicle and took the deceased to the hospital…” Relying on the Supreme Court decisions in Deepak v. State of U.P.,(2018) 8 SCC 228 and Kalu Ram v. State of Rajasthan, (2000) 10 SCC 324, the High Court found similarity in the present circumstances and converted the appellant’s conviction from that under Section 302 to one under Section 304 Part II IPC. Further, in view of the period of imprisonment already undergone by him, the appellant was directed to be released forthwith if not required in any other offence. [Nara Kanta Dutta v. State of Assam, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 1671, dated 02-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: Rumi Kumari Phukan, J., allowed a criminal appeal and acquitted the appellants who were convicted under Section 304 Part-II IPC by the trial court.

The appellants were accused of killing one Abul Hussain. On the basis of FIR filed by Abul’s parents, a case was registered and they were charge-sheeted under Section 302 and 149 IPC. The trial court did not find any intention or motive on appellant’s part to commit murder. However, they were convicted for culpable homicide not amounting to murder punishable under Section 304 Part-II IPC. Aggrieved thereby, the appellants filed the present appeal.

A.Y. Chaudhary, Advocate for the appellants contended that there was no chain of facts to establish the hypothesis of appellants’ guilt. Per contra, B.J. Dutta, Additional Public Prosecutor, appearing for the State supported the trial court’s judgment.

The High Court noted that the trial court basically relied on the fact that Abul accompanied Bapan (one of the accused) while other accused were along with him.  This according to the Court, may be one of the circumstances for the prosecution, but there was no chain of facts as regards the other incriminating circumstances. It was observed that, “from the totality of the evidence on record, it can be held that the evidence is totally insufficient to hold the present appellant to be guilty under any of the offence, while the deceased died due to drowning as per the report of the Medical Officer. Although there is genuine ground of suspicion on the part of the informant but there is a lack of legal evidence to sustain the conviction of the accused persons.” In such view of the matter, the Court held that the appellants deserved to be acquitted. Therefore, the appeal was allowed. [Akbar Hussain Laskar v. State of Assam, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 1027, decided on 05-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of S.S. Shinde and R.G. Avachat, JJ., pronounced an order while extending the provisions of Section 335 CrPC to the appellant in order to detain him in Yerwada Mental Hospital and setting aside the impugned order of conviction and sentence under Section 302 IPC.

The present challenge was made to the judgment and order passed by learned Additional Sessions Judge, Udgir. Appellant had been convicted for the offence of murder, punishable under Section 302 IPC.

Factual matrix of the present case is that the deceased was a daily wage earner and at times used to sell Pepsi candies as a hocker in summer. On one such day, appellant asked the deceased for a Pepsi candy for free but the deceased refused for the same. Result of the said circumstances was that the appellant picked up a stone and lynched the deceased due to which on reaching the hospital the deceased lost his life.

Appellant was arrested after the above-said facts took place in the form of an FIR filed by deceased’s uncle. Trial Court framed charge and appellant pleaded not guilty and claimed to be tried. His defence was that of insanity.

Learned Counsel for the appellant stated that appellant did not have intention to kill the deceased and therefore it would at most be an offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, punishable under Section 304 Part-B of the Indian Penal Code. On appreciation of the evidence in the case, the trial court found the appellant to have caused culpable homicide and found it to be a case of murder. In the trial court’s view, appellant failed to make out defence of his insanity.

Conclusion & Analysis

The High being not in agreement with the trial court’s finding addressed the issue of legal insanity with an in-depth analysis of Section 299 IPC, Sections 105 and 101 Evidence Act and reference was taken from the case of Dahyabhai Chhaganbhai Thakkar v. State of Gujarat, AIR 1964 SC 1563. 

Thus, in light of the above stated,  along with circumstances of the case, it was stated that there was no enmity between the deceased and the appellant and appellant had lynched the deceased for such a trivial issue. Further, as for representations regarding appellant’s mental health, PW-8 had testified that once appellant along with other villagers had visited a temple where he had hit his wife with a watermelon for no reason. Therefore in Court’s opinion, such acts could not be attributed to the person of sound mind.

Court stated that “the appellant may not have been found medically insane.  We, however, found him legally insane. The fact that none of the family members of the appellant stood by him during the proceeding before the trial court speaks in volume.”

Disagreeing with the decision of the trial court, the High Court held that the appellant did not know the nature of the act that would otherwise have constituted the offence of murder, and therefore impugned order is set aside by declaring the appellant legally insane and detaining him in Yerwada Mental Hospital as per the provisions of Section 335 CrPC. [Balaji Kishan Nagarwad v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 116, decided on 30-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: In an appeal filed against the conviction of the appellants by the trial court under Section 307 IPC, a Single Judge Bench comprising of Arvind Singh Chandel, J., altered the conviction from Section 307 to Section 308 IPC.

The appellants were alleged to have assaulted the complainant by causing head injury to him. It was alleged that they had an enmity with the complainant and therefore on the day of the incident, they assaulted him with a danda. The appellants were charged under Section 307 IPC for an attempt to murder. The appellants challenged the decision of the trial court.

The High Court on considering the record found that the enmity between the parties arose out of certain money dispute. The Court found that the assault was made in the crowd. It was observed that if the intention to make the assault had been to commit murder, the appellants would not have committed the assault in a crowd. Further, as was evident from the medical report, only one grievous injury was caused on the head of the complainant. However, according to the medical expert, the injury was not dangerous to life. Had the intention of making the assault been to commit murder, the appellants would have caused more than one injury. In such circumstances, the intention to cause murder, a necessary ingredient to prove the offence under Section 307, was absent. The Court was of the view that the offence committed would fall under Section 308 (attempt to culpable homicide) since the appellants were aware that such injury could cause the death of the complainant. The appeals were partly allowed and the conviction was altered from Section 307 to Section 308. [Devi Singh v.  State of M.P.,2018 SCC OnLine Chh 513, dated 18-5-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Before the Aurangabad Bench of Bombay High Court, a woman convicted by trial court for murdering her husband by setting him on fire appealed against the conviction. The accused got married to the deceased husband and had a son out of the wedlock and since the day of marriage, the quarrels between the couple were common. There was a quarrel between both on 31st March, 2011 over some issue and on the same night at around 3:30 am, the accused set the deceased ablaze by pouring kerosene over him.

The two brothers of accused who lived in the same house heard their brother screaming and saw the accused on fire and the accused running away. He was taken to civil hospital where his dying declaration was recorded and henceforth, the accused was charged under Section 302 IPC. In her statement under Section 313 CrPC before trial court, she denied the evidence and witnesses of prosecution saying that the deceased might have committed suicide out of frustration from family quarrels.

In dying declaration, deceased stated that due to quarrel took place during the night, on 1st April 2011 at about 3.00 to 3.30 a.m., his wife accused poured kerosene on his person and set him ablaze in heat of anger, as a result he sustained burn injuries. In another dying declaration, recorded by Executive Magistrate in question answer form, he stated that the accused in a heat of anger, poured kerosene on his person and set him on fire. On the other hand, the accused contended that the FIR was lodged after 5 hours of the incident and the dying declarations were result of tutoring.

In appeal, the Court observed that the dying declarations were proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt and came to the conclusion that the Appellant did commit the offence, as alleged by the prosecution. The Court further observed the dying declarations carefully and said that it appeared that the accused-Rani, in a heat of anger, due to quarrel took place in the night, poured kerosene on the person of Vaijinath and set him on fire. The Court elucidated that it was abundantly clear that, neither there was premeditation on the part of the accused, nor there was preparation for such commission of offence and the offence was the result of a sudden anger and quarrel on a trifle issue. The Court decided to take into account these mitigating circumstances noticed by it, it held that the offence committed by appellant would fall under Exception 4 of Section 300 IPC. The Division Bench accordingly set aside the conviction under Section 302 and convicted the appellant under Section 300 IPC and sentenced a rigorous imprisonment of 7 years. [Rani @ Anjali v.  State of Maharashtra, 2017 SCC OnLine Bom 175, decided on 17.02.2017]

 

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa: While deciding the present case wherein the legality of an order by the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Division, Pretoria to allow physician assisted euthanasia to a dying cancer patient, was debated, the Court held that it is the forte of the Legislature to introduce laws in respect of legalizing physician assisted suicide/euthanasia, and that the present case in not appropriate for the Court to develop the common law of murder and culpable homicide.

The applicant who was dying of cancer, approached the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Division, Pretoria claiming an order that a medical practitioner could either end his life by administering a lethal substance, or provide him with the lethal substance to enable him to administer it himself, and that in the event if a medical practitioner must end his life, then such medical practitioner would not be subjected to prosecution or disciplinary steps by the relevant professional body. Furthermore the applicant as seeking the above relief as matter of right as enshrined in the Bill of Rights under the Constitution also sought an order that the common law in relation to the crimes of murder and culpable homicide should be developed in terms of Section 39(2) of the Constitution of South Africa. The applicant was allowed by the High Court to go for physician assisted euthanasia; unfortunately however the applicant died 2 hours prior to the passing of the Order. The High Court however refused to recall the Order stating that it’s Order had extensive societal implications, upon which then the State decided to prefer an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Perusing the facts and the arguments for and against legalizing euthanasia, and also looking upon the complexities involved in the issue, the Court discussed the laws, the precedents regarding the issue. The Court further took notice of various countries wherein extensive laws have been laid down in respect of euthanasia, most particularly Netherlands and the State of Oregon, USA. However the Court noted that the separation of powers requires that Parliament should decide any changes on the law rather than requiring judges to do so. The Court further observed that the South African situation, social values and social-economic and political conditions are very different from the jurisdictions where euthanasia has been legalized. The Court also stated that the High Court was hasty in deciding the case and did not properly consider the South African law or international precedent cases and was wrong to assume that the common law on murder needs to be changed to accommodate assisted suicide and euthanasia. [Minister of Justice and Correctional Services v. Estate Stransham-Ford, 2016 SCC OnLine ZASCA 46 : 2016 ZASCA 197, decided on 06.12.2016]