Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A.K. Chawla, J. disposed of a criminal appeal by modifying the conviction of the appellant under Section 307 (attempt to murder) of the Penal Code to that under Section 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means).

The appellant was assailing the judgment of the trial court whereby he was convicted under Section 307 for stabbing the injured with a knife. The prosecution case was that the injured had advanced a loan to the appellant, and on the day of the incident, when the injured went to his house asking for payment of the outstanding amount, the appellant attacked him with a knife. The appellant denied the prosecution case. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant preferred the present appeal under Section 374 CrPC.

Arvind Kumar, Sneha Upadhyay and Tilak Angra, Advocates for the appellant contended that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Per Contra, G.M.Farooqui, APP appearing for the State, supported the impugned decision.

The High Court was of the opinion that it was imperative to ascertain as to whether the appellant actually intended to murder the injured. It was observed: “Offence of an attempt to murder is a serious offence. In proving the commission of such an offence, the prosecution is required to prove the basic ingredients of murder short of death. Does the instant case get even close to such a situation, the Trial Court has not given any serious thought to it. The case in hand is not one, where, the prosecution even suggests that the appellant assaulted PW8 with any premeditated mind. Who first picked the knife and wherefrom, the prosecution equally failed to prove.”

In the opinion of the Court, the evidence on record was not sufficient to prove that the appellant had any intention to commit murder. In such circumstances, it was held that conviction of the appellant for commission of offence under Section 307 could not be sustained. Appellant, however, was held liable for commission of offence under Section 324 IPC. He was released on probation of good conduct. [Ramveer v. State, Crl. A 157 of 2010, decided on 15-07-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Pakistan Supreme Court: A Full Bench of Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, JJ. allowed an appeal seeking acquittal of a murder charge in the absence of satisfactory evidence.

The appellant was in receipt of a guilty verdict. He was indicted for committing the murder of his wife Kausar Bibi (deceased). The said verdict was affirmed by the High Court judgment which was challenged through this appeal. Prosecution case was structured on the statement of the deceased’s brother Muhammad Arshad, according to whom, the marriage of the appellant was on the rocks as deceased had not brought a dowry to accused-appellants expectations. Upon a message by the deceased, Muhammad Arshad visited her to take her back. However, their house was attacked that night and Kausar Bibi was killed. Upon indictment, appellant blamed dacoits to have murdered the deceased.  The trial Judge convicted the appellant under Section 302(b) of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 and sentenced him to death along with a direction to pay Rs 100,000.

Learned counsel for the appellant Nawab Ali Mayo, contended that the appellant should not be convicted merely upon his failure to satisfactorily explain as to what happened on that night. He further added that the presence of witnesses was extremely doubtful. He pleaded that it would have been unsafe to maintain conviction. Moreover, a co-accused was acquitted on the same grounds but the appellant was convicted.

Contrarily, the learned counsel for the respondent Mehmud ul Islam, vehemently defended appellant’s conviction on the ground that plea advanced by him was preposterous and was rightly rejected which in retrospect established his presence at the spot, thus there was no space to entertain any hypothesis of his innocence.

The Court observed that silence or implausible explanation could not equate with failure within the contemplation of Article 121 of Qanoon-e-Shahadat Order, 1984 which dealt with the exceptions of a case. Further, the appellant had not denied his presence, but these factors by itself could not hypothesize presumption of his guilt in the absence of positive proof. It was opined that suspicions are not a substitute for legal proof, and a suspect cannot be condemned on the basis of moral satisfaction in the absence of evidentiary certainty. Furthermore, the Court observed that convicting a co-accused on the same ground on which another accused has been acquitted, was wrong and it required immediate ratification. Thus, the Court allowed the appeal and ordered the immediate release of the appellant.[Muhammad Pervaiz v.  State, Criminal Appeal No. 37-L of 2016, decided on 06-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of J.K. Maheshwari and Anjuli Palo, JJ. partly allowed a criminal petition filed by a person accused of rape and murder of his minor daughter, and commuted his death penalty to life imprisonment.

In the instant case, the prosecutrix (since deceased) aged six years was the younger daughter of the appellant. She was residing with her mother and the appellant. The appellant was annoyed and having suspicion on his wife, Farida of questionable character. As he wanted to take revenge, he allured the prosecutrix with chocolates and used to commit unnatural intercourse and rape with his minor daughter. After committing the rape with the prosecutrix, he murdered her, hanged her from the ceiling with the help of a dupatta and then fled away from the spot. Police registered a case under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The DNA test report revealed that the DNA profile of appellant matched with the DNA profile present in the vaginal swab of the prosecutrix and sperms were also present in the vaginal swab. Due to the aforesaid evidence, police filed charge-sheet against the appellant under Sections 376, 377, 302 and 201 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Section 5(m) read with Section 6 of the Protection of Children from the Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Trial Court convicted the appellant and awarded him a death sentence. The matter was referred to this Court for confirmation of the death sentence under Section 366 (1) of CrPC. The appellant had challenged the findings recorded by the trial court by filing the separate appeal under Section 374 (2) of CrPC.

The learned counsel for the appellant, Surendra Singh and Siddharth Sharma argued that the dupatta which was used by the deceased for hanging herself was not examined at the time of postmortem. It was further contended that conviction could not be based only on the DNA and Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) reports. Hence, the impugned judgment was liable to be set aside and the appellant was entitled to be acquitted from the charges leveled against him.

The learned counsel for the respondent/State, Som Mishra contended that the Trial Court had properly evaluated the evidence available on record and rightly convicted the appellant and awarded sentence befitting the crime. Hence, the appeal filed by the appellant was liable to be dismissed and allowing the criminal reference, the death sentence may be confirmed.

The Court stated that in the rarest of the rare cases, death sentence ought to be awarded. For this, the Court relied on the judgment of Supreme Court in the case of Mofil Khan v. State of Jharkhand, (2015) 1 SCC 67, in which the Supreme Court had opined that the death sentence must be awarded where the victims were innocent children and helpless women, especially when the crime was committed in the cruelest and inhumane manner which was extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical and revolting.

The Court drew a balance sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances to determine if the death penalty was adequate punishment. Aggravating circumstances: (i) extremely brutal, diabolic and cruel act; (ii) victim being six years was a minor and helpless; (iii) no provocation because the accused was in a dominating position; (iv) injuries were grievous with respect to sexual assault particularly in a case where the victim was the daughter of the appellant. Mitigating circumstances: (i) it was a case of circumstantial evidence; (ii) no evidence that the accused had the propensity of committing further crimes causing continuous threat to the society; (iii) no evidence to show that the accused could not be reformed or rehabilitated; (iv) other punishment options were open; (v) accused was not a professional killer or offender having any criminal antecedent; (vi) accused being a major having family with him, the possibility of reformation could not be ruled out.

Thus, the Court held that in place of the death penalty, the appellant undergoes life imprisonment with a minimum of 30 years of imprisonment (without remission) and fine of Rs 20,000. In default of payment of fine, the appellant had to undergo further rigorous imprisonment for six months. The conviction and sentences awarded under Sections 201, 377, 376 of IPC as awarded by the trial court were held to be just and hence, hereby maintained.

The criminal appeal filed by the appellant was partly allowed.[Afjal Khan v. State of Madhya Pradesh, Criminal Appeal No. 458 of 2019, decided on 17-05-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

As reported by ANI, the United States of America has passed a bill unanimously, which would impose sanctions on Saudi officials who were involved in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

House of Representatives passed Saudi Arabia Human Rights and Accountability Act which requires — director of National Intelligence to publicly identify persons who were involved in the murder of Saudi journalist last year.

The said act requires the director of National Intelligence to publicly identify the persons involved in killing of Khashoggi and impose visa and travel sanctions on them.


[Source: ANI]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A bench headed by Justice N V Ramana has declined to entertain a plea of P Rajagopal, the founder of South Indian food chain ‘Saravana Bhavan’, seeking more time on medical grounds to surrender for serving life imprisonment in a murder case. The Court dismissed the plea, saying his illness was not raised before the court during the hearing of the appeal in the case.

Rajagopal was to surrender on July 7 to serve life term for murdering an employee in October 2001 to marry his wife. The Court had dismissed appeals of nine convicts, including Rajagopal, and upheld the Madras High Court verdict awarding life term to them.

Stating that the prosecution has fully proved that Rajagopal had murdered Santhakumar by strangulating him and thereafter throwing the dead body at Tiger­Chola, the Court said:

“It is worth recalling that while it is necessary that proof beyond reasonable doubt should be adduced in all criminal cases, it is not necessary that such proof should be perfect, and someone who is guilty cannot get away with impunity only because the truth may develop some infirmity when projected through human processes.”

The Court, hence, concluded that the chain of circumstances is complete and points solely at the guilt of Rajagopal.

(With inputs from PTI)


Read the full report on the Supreme Court judgment where P Rajagopal was found guilty for murdering his employee, here

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The Court has convicted 12 persons for killing former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya in 2003.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra allowed the appeals of CBI and the Gujarat government challenging the High Court order by which the convicts were absolved of murder charges in the case. The Court, however, dismissed a PIL filed by NGO “Centre for Public Interest Litigation” (CPIL) seeking a court-monitored fresh probe in the Haren Pandya murder case.

It also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on CPIL for filing the PIL and said no further petition would be entertained in the case.

The Gujarat High Court, while acquitting the 12 persons of the charges of murder, had upheld the trial court’s decision that convicted them for criminal conspiracy, attempt to murder and offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). The trial court had awarded punishment ranging from five years to life imprisonment to the convicts.

Haren Pandya was the Home Minister in the then Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government. He was shot dead on March 26, 2003 near Law Garden in Ahmedabad during morning walk.

(Source: PTI)

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has refused to entertain a PIL seeking a direction to the Punjab government to set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the death of a government official whose body was found on railway track near Jalandhar Cantt station in November 2017.

The bench said that it was not inclined to entertain the plea and granted liberty to the petitioners to approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court with their grievances. It said,

“We are not inclined to entertain this petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, on the ground stated before the Court by the petitioner-in-person that as a law student the petitioner has no time to move the High Court.”

The plea, filed by three law students Deepali Vashishth, Prateek Raj and Anurag Mani, said that Rahul Bhatia was posted in the Regional Passport office at Jalandhar and on November 15, 2017, his body was found near the railway station. They said that Bhatia’s parents, who are residing in Delhi, were informed by the police about it but no proper investigation was carried out in the case. They have said in the plea that several complaints and representations were made to the top authorities but no action was taken in the matter by the police.

The plea also sought a direction to the authorities to ensure that in every case of death, where proceedings under section 174 of the CrPC is initiated, a charge sheet is submitted to the judicial magistrate after conducting probe. Section 174 of CrPC deals with inquiry by police in cases of suicide or unnatural deaths.

 

(With inputs from PTI)

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Pakistan: A Division Bench of Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, C.J. and Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, J. in the current order consolidated all the relevant precedents and the best practices pertaining to the Test Identification Parade so as to remove confusions regarding their legal position in future.

The case at hand pertained to an alleged abduction for ransom and murder and admittedly the case depended upon some pieces of circumstantial evidence. The appellant herein was convicted and sentenced for offences under Sections 302(b) and 347 read with Section 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7(a) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 (the Act). He was sentenced to death by the trial court. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant challenged his conviction and sentences before the High Court through an appeal which was partly allowed. The convictions and sentences of the appellant for the offences under Section 347 of PPC and Section 7(a) of the Act were set aside but his conviction for the offence under Section 302(b) PPC was upheld. The High Court reduced his sentence of death for the offence of murder to imprisonment for life. Leave to appeal was granted in this case in order to reappraise the evidence and the Supreme Court exercised this in the current case.

The Supreme Court while reappraising the evidences observed that prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. But the Court doubted the competence and capability of the Special Judicial Magistrate appearing before the Trial Court such that he disregarded the law declared by the Court in its precedents and made a very important piece of evidence reduced in worth due to which the prosecution had to suffer irretrievably. During the Test Identification Parade, he conducted more than one accused in one go which the Court observed was against law.

The Court relied on the precedents in the cases of Lal Pasand v.  State, PLD 1981 SC 142, Imran Ashraf v. State, 2001 SCMR 424, Ziaullah v. State, 2008 SCMR 1210, Bacha Zeb v. State, 2010 SCMR 1189, Shafqat Mehmood v.  State, 2011 SCMR 537, Gulfam v. State, 2017 SCMR 1189, Hakeem v. State, 2017 SCMR 1546 and Kamal Din v. State, 2018 SCMR 577, and held that identification of many accused persons in one line in one go during a test identification parade was improper. It observed, “it has been clarified by this Court on a number of occasions that every accused person is to be put to a separate test identification parade.”

 The Court also pointed that, “a test identification parade and correct pointing out of an accused person by an eyewitness therein is not a substantive piece of evidence and failure to hold a test identification parade is not always fatal to the prosecution’s case and a reference in this respect may be made to the cases of Muhammad Akram Rahi v. State, 2011 SCMR 87 and Ghazanfar Ali v State, 2012 SCMR 215.”

Thus, all the laws and practices regarding the Test Identification Parade were brought together by the Court in this order so as to remove any confusion regarding the same. The Court also held that henceforth serious steps would be taken in case of non-compliance or disregard of the requirements and safeguards mentioned.[Asfand Yar Khan v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Pak SC 11, decided on 22-02-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Pakistan Supreme Court: A Full Bench of Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, JJ. allowed a criminal appeal against a conviction order under Section 302 (b) of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 which was passed on the basis of confessional statements.

 Appellants herein were tried before trial court for committing murder of a minor. As the investigation progressed, the accused were hauled up by the police and produced before a Judicial Magistrate when they, one by one, confessed the guilt. They were convicted under Section 302(b) of PPC and sentenced to death. The conviction order was upheld by the Peshawar High Court. Hence, the instant appeal.

The counsels for the appellants, Khalid Mehmood and Zahoor Qureshi, contended that reliance on confessional statements by the Courts below was fraught with multiple errors, heavily impinging upon the principle of safe administration of criminal justice; according to him, the statements were inherently flawed; these were contradicted by prosecution’s own witness, a dichotomy that escaped notice of the courts below.

The Court noted that since the appellants had been handed down the ultimate corporal penalty which was irreversible in nature on the basis of their confessions, the said confessions warranted careful scrutiny.

It was noted that both the appellants appeared before the Magistrate one after another on the same date which was quite intriguing. Both of them conducted themselves in a comfortable unison even in an extreme crisis situation; and both were in tune with the prosecution, which reasonably excluded the hypothesis of voluntary disclosure, free from taints of inducement or persuasion. The Court observed that it appeared to be more of a negotiated settlement rather than a volitional representation as there was a remarkable similarity in both the statements, in terms of sequential order as well as the pattern these were reduced into writing.

The Court observed that The fate of the prosecution’s case is hinged upon confessional statements, made by the convicts before a Magistrate and it is on the basis of their disclosures that they have been handed down the ultimate corporal penalty, irreversible in nature and thus warrants most careful scrutiny.” On overall analysis of the prosecution’s case, it was held that the confessional statements could not be relied upon without potential risk of error. The Court held that, “In the absence of evidentiary certainty, it would be unsafe to maintain the convictions on moral satisfaction that certainly cannot equate with legal proof.”

In view of the above, the appellants were held entitled the benefit of doubt and their appeal was allowed, thus setting aside the impugned judgments.[Muhammad Azhar Hussain v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Pak SC 10, decided on 02-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: A Division Bench of S. Talapatra and Arindam Lodh, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed against the decision of the Sessions Judge whereby the appellant was convicted and sentenced under Section 302 IPC for committing the murder of his wife.

The appellant was alleged to have poured kerosene on his wife and put her ablaze. He was accordingly convicted by Sessions Judge. Senior Advocate P.K. Biswas assisted P. Majumdar, Advocate representing the appellant challenged the dying declaration made by the deceased wife. It was argued that the dying declaration was not taken in accordance with the established principles of law and thus could not form the basis of recording conviction against the appellant. Per contra, A. Roy Barma, Additional Public Prosecutor appearing for the State submitted that the objections relate to some technical defects which should be ignored.

The High Court, on careful scrutiny of evidence, found that the signature or thumb impression of the victim could not be taken on the dying declaration as her hands were totally burnt. The Court put reliance on Inder Singh v. State (UT of Delhi), (1978) 4 SCC 161 and Pattu Rajan v. State of T.N. (2019) 4 SCC 771. It was stated: “There is no thumb rule that dying declaration must be certified by doctors. It can be said to be only a rule of prudence. In our considered view, if the person who records the dying declaration is convinced with the fitness of the victim at the time of recording the declaration in question, then, there is no reason to doubt the reliability or credibility of the dying declaration.”

The Court further observed: “Another important aspect to be borne in mind is that in our country, the Executive Magistrates or the Doctors are not adequately trained in such affairs. Keeping in mind the principle enunciated in Pattu Rajan case we are also of the considered view that the traditional dogmatic hyper-technical approach should be replaced by the realistic and traditional approach  for administering justice in a criminal trial.” In such conspectus, it was held that there was no reason to interfere with the impugned judgment and the appeal was, therefore, dismissed.[Khokan Sarkar v. State of Tripura, 2019 SCC OnLine Tri 197, decided on 25-04-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

As reported by media, In the barbarous Kathua Rape case, the rape and murder of an 8-year old girl in Jammu and Kashmir, District and Sessions Judge Pathankot, Tejwinder Singh pronounced the verdict today.

Out of 7 accused’s 1 has been acquitted and the remaining 6 have been found guilty for the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua. The six accused have been held guilty under different sections of Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), and the quantum of the sentence pronounced is: Of the six convicted, three convicts-Sanjhiram, Deepak and Pravesh sentenced with life imprisonment, and remaining three with 5 years of imprisonment.

Due to the highly sensitive nature of the case, the Supreme Court ordered shifting of the trial from a Kathua court to the district and session judge’s court in Pathankot town of neighbouring Punjab.


[Source: NewsMinute]

[Pictrure credits: Indiatoday.in]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench of Ramesh Sinha and Dinesh Kumar Singh-I, JJ. allowed the appeal filed by a couple accused of murder, against the trial court’s order sentencing them to death for the said offence; and set aside the death reference made by the trial court.

In the present case, the appellant along with his wife Shakila was accused of murdering his two brothers-in-law and mother-in-law by hacking their neck, in a factory where he was a watchman. Charges were made out against the appellant and his wife under Sections 302, 34 and 201 of the Penal Code, 1860. The trial court convicted them on the basis that only appellant had access to the building as he lived inside it, and account of a child witness aged 6 years (son of the deceased lady) was taken into consideration.

Learned counsel for the appellant argued that the child witness’ testimony could not be taken into consideration as he had deposed that he was wrapped in a blanket and thrown in another room by his sister Shakila. The child’s presence at the crime scene could not be confirmed as had he been present over there, he too would have been killed by the accused-appellant but that was not the case. Moreover, the panchayatnama of three deceased was conducted as of unknown persons and had the child witness been present at the place of occurrence then definitely he would have disclosed the two male deceased to be his real brothers and female to be his mother. Also, it could not be said that the factory in which the appellant was a guard and where he was living along with his wife, was in his exclusive possession and not accessible to anyone else because one of the keys of the factory was with the owner of the factory. Therefore, the factory was accessible to others as well.

On the other hand, learned Additional Government Advocate submitted that accused-appellant has bad antecedents as he was already convicted and sentenced by the trial court for murdering his earlier wife. He had absconded from Lucknow jail and was living in Kanpur while working in the said factory as Chaukidar. He had enticed the daughter of deceased lady and when Shakila’s brothers along with their mother came to take her away from accused, a quarrel took place between the parties and Shakila’s mother and two brothers were murdered by accused. Shakila’s younger brother was an eye witness of the incident and had deposed that he saw the accused killing the three deceased with knife and his sister Shakila was facilitating in the crime.

The Court noted the aforestated facts and arguments and opined as below:

Section 118 Evidence Act – Reliability on testimony of child witness:

It was observed that the Investigating Officer had failed to show the place of occurrence and the place from where the child witness was witnessing the incident as the incident had taken place in two parts – body of mother of child witness was found on the second floor of the factory whereas the dead body of his two deceased brothers, was found on the first floor of factory. It was observed that it was highly doubtful that the child, who had stated that he was wrapped and thrown in a room by his sister, could not have seen the murder of the two deceased which had taken place on the first floor. Thus, his evidence could not be said to be wholly reliable for the conviction and sentence of two appellants.

The Court relied on Digamber Vaishnav v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2019) 4 SCC 522 where the Supreme Court while discussing Section 118 of the Evidence Act, 1872 held that “evidence of a child witness must be evaluated carefully as the child may be swayed by what others tell him and he is an easy prey to tutoring. Therefore, the evidence of a child witness must find adequate corroboration before it can be relied upon.”

Presumption under Section 106 Evidence Act:

It was opined that the prosecution admitted that one key of the factory was with accused and another key was with the owner of the factory. Hence, the presumption under Section 106 of the Evidence Act could not be drawn against the accused as he was not in his exclusive possession of the factory.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt versus suspicion:

Further, the Court opined that it may not be possible that two deceased men aged about 25 years and 35 years and the deceased lady aged about 55 years could have been overpowered and killed single-handedly in such a gruesome manner by the accused who was just aged about 45 years. The possibility of the incident having occurred in some other manner by more persons could not be completely ruled out. It was noted that suspicion, howsoever strong, could not take the place of proof. Reliance in this regard was placed on Sujit Biswas v. State of Assam, (2013) 12 SCC 406 where the Court examined the distinction between ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ and ‘suspicion’.

Establishing guilt on the basis of circumstantial evidence:

Lastly, the Court relied on Digamber Vaishnav case and opined that in criminal cases where guilt of the accused is sought to be established on the basis of circumstantial evidence, “if two views are possible on evidence adduced in the case – one binding to the guilt of the accused and the other is to his innocence, the view which is favourable to the accused, should be adopted.”

In view of the above, the conviction and sentence of both the appellants by the trial court was set aside, and they were directed to be released from jail forthwith unless otherwise wanted in any other case.[Rashid v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2019 SCC OnLine All 2228, decided on 16-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: The Division Bench of Shree Chandrashekar and Deepak Roshan, JJ. dismissed a petition on the ground that prosecution has miserably failed to establish its case against the appellant.

The present prosecution case was based on the circumstantial evidence where there was no eye-witness to the actual occurrence in which the deceased (Birsu Oraon) was killed. And the Additional Judicial Commissioner held that the circumstances brought on record “make him believe” that the accused-appellant has caused the death of Birsu Oraon. The facts of the case being Birsu Oraon had gone to observe paddy crop, who was found dead by his brother, who later informed the villagers who rushed to the jungle. The witness-Chandari Kumari has deposed in the court that the accused-appellant and the deceased-Birsu Oraon had gone to Tand. Wife of the deceased has also spoken on similar lines.

Amrita Banerjee, the Amicus had raised two-fold contentions that (i) the circumstances referred by the learned Additional Judicial Commissioner, do not complete the chain of circumstances so as to convict the appellant under Section 302 of the Penal Code and (ii) suspicion howsoever strong cannot be a substitute for the legal evidence so as to convict an accused, more particularly, in a serious offence like murder. The case of Navaneethakrishnan v. State, (2018) 16 SCC 161 was referred to, to contend that the incriminating circumstances must be clearly established by the reliable and clinching evidence and the circumstances so proved must form a chain of events from which it can be safely inferred that it was the accused and accused alone who has committed the crime. On the other hand, Arun Kumar Pandey, the APP had contended that once the accused has failed to explain satisfactorily the incriminating circumstances put to him in his examination under Section 313 CrPC, that he was last seen together with the deceased-Birsu Oraon, and he has failed to lead any evidence to establish. And that the circumstances brought on record “make him believe” that the accused-appellant has caused the death of Birsu Oraon.

The Court held that “the only circumstance which has been proved by the prosecution is that the accused was last seen in the company of the deceased. This may be one of the circumstances, but not the only circumstance on the basis of which an accused can be convicted for the offence under Section 302 IPC. The law assumes that when a man is last seen in the company of the accused and soon thereafter his dead body has been recovered it may be the accused who has committed the crime, but then, if the accused has offered an explanation what has happened thereafter, he has discharged his onus. To hold that an accused must answer each and every incriminating circumstance during his examination under Section 313 CrPC, would be against the basic principle in law. We find that the prosecution has miserably failed to establish its case against the appellant”. The Court appreciated the efforts of Amrita Banerjee, the learned Amicus who had prepared notes on the prosecution evidence and ably assisted the Court arguing this criminal appeal on behalf of the appellant.[Chari Oraon v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 544, decided on 04-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: This Jail Appeal was filed before the Division Bench of Sudhir Agarwal and Vivek Varma, JJ., under Section 383 CrPC which prescribed the procedure to be followed when an appellant is in jail.

The facts of the case were such that the appellant was alleged for commission of crime of murder under Section 302 of Penal Code, which the Trial Court found to be proven beyond reasonable doubt and had sentenced him to undergo life imprisonment with six months simple imprisonment for default in payment of fine on the basis of ocular evidence of material witnesses and medical evidence. Hence, this appeal before this Court.

Ravi Chandra Srivastava, learned Amicus Curiae on behalf of the appellant submitted that witnesses of prosecution were interested witness who were in close relationship with the deceased thus were not independent. Further, prosecution had failed to show motive behind the alleged crime in addition to the non-supported ocular version of events by witness. Whereas Rishi Chaddha, learned Additional Government Advocate for State submitted that FIR was corroborated by the medical evidence brought before Court. The instrument used to commit the crime was found with the accused and accused had a strong motive to kill the deceased.

High Court was of the view that the argument advanced by accused that the eye witness’s version of the events cannot be accepted as they were closely in relationship with the deceased i.e. wife, cannot be accepted in view of the evidence presented before the Court. If the evidence provided by eye-witness inspires confidence then the same cannot be discarded on the ground of their relationship with the deceased. Therefore, this appeal was dismissed. [Shishu Pal v. State of U.P., 2019 SCC OnLine All 2112, decided on 19-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: A Bench of S. Talapatra and Arindam Lodh, JJ. allowed an appeal filed against the Judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for an offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC.

The appellant was alleged to have committed the murder of his wife. The trial court had observed that the appellant was found on the previous day of the incident as well as on a fateful evening in his rented house by the witnesses, and he alone committed his wife’s murder and none else. The plea of alibi taken as defence by the appellant was not accepted.

Explaining the law regarding the plea of alibi and burden of proof thereof, the High Court stated:

  “Latin word ‘alibi’ means ‘elsewhere’ and that word is used for convenience when an accused takes recourse to a defence line that when the occurrence took place he was so far away from the place of occurrence that it is extremely improbable that he would have participated in the crime. It is basic law that in a criminal case, in which the accused is alleged to have inflicted physical injury to another person, the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the accused was present at the scene and has participated in the crime. The burden would not be lessened by the mere fact that the accused has adopted the defence of alibi. The plea of the accused in such cases need be considered only when the burden has been discharged by the prosecution satisfactorily.”

Explaining further:

  “When the presence of the accused at the scene of occurrence is established satisfactorily by the prosecution through reliable evidence, normally the court would be slow to believe any counter-narrative to the effect that he was elsewhere when the occurrence happened. But if the evidence adduced by the accused is of such a quality and of such a standard that the court may entertain some reasonable doubt regarding his presence at the scene when the occurrence took place, the accused would, no doubt, be entitled to the benefit of reasonable doubt. For that purpose, it would be a sound proposition that in such circumstances, the burden on the accused is rather heavy. It follows, therefore, that strict proof is required for establishing the plea of alibi.”

In the present case, the prosecution had failed to prove appellant’s presence at the scene of the crime. Thus, there was no occasion to consider whether his plea of alibi could be considered or not. Accordingly, the impugned order was set aside and the appellant was set at liberty on the benefit of doubt. [Suman Nama v. State of Tripura, Crl. A. (J) No. 33 of 2015, decided on 03-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Chander Shekhar, J. refused to interfere with the order of the Juvenile Justice Board whereby it had directed that the two children in conflict with the law in the present cause shall not be treated as adults.

The petitioner was the father of the deceased, Mandeep. An FIR was registered under Sections 363, 302, 201 and 34 IPC in connection with Mandeep’s murder. After going through the material on record including the preliminary assessment reports prepared b experts, the JJ Board passed the order to treat the children in conflict with law as children and were ordered to be tried before the JJ Board as children. The petitioner challenged the order of the JJ Board, but the Additional Sessions Judge upheld the order. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner filed the present revision petition.

Perusing the record, as well as relevant sections the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, the High Court was of the view that order of the JJ Board did not require interference. Discussing Section 15 and the proviso thereto, the court observed: “There is no doubt that the JJ Board may seek the opinion of an expert regarding the mental and physical capacity of CCL to commit an offence and it is not necessary that if an expert opined that the mental and physical capacity of CCL and his ability to understand the consequence of the offence are positive, then the JJ Board is bound by the expert opinion. It is well within the jurisdiction of the JJ Board to agree or disagree with the preliminary assessment report of the CCL submitted by such a psychologist to the JJ Board.” Having regard to the facts of the present case, it was held that the JJ Board had applied its mind before coming to the conclusion that the two children in conflict shall not be treated as adults. In such view of the matter, the petition was dismissed.[Pradeep Kumar v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8251, decided on 15-04-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A bench of Abhay Manohar Sapre and Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ has held that

“the age of a case, by itself, cannot be decisive of the matter when a prayer is made for examination of a material witness.”

Factual Background

  • A woman died in Nigeria under unnatural circumstances and her mother moved an application under Section 311 CrPC seeking summoning of the Doctor who had conducted first postmortem of the dead-body of her daughter in Nigeria.
  • The dead-body of the daughter of appellant was brought to India and Medical Board was constituted for conducting the post-mortem but then, the Board found that no definite opinion could be given regarding the time and cause of death.
  • The investigating agency, for the reasons best known to it, did not cite the said doctor, who conducted the first post-mortem in Nigeria as a witness
  • The Trial Court rejected the application so moved by the appellant, essentially for reasons that the trial was pending for almost 8 years; and that it was not necessary to record the Doctor’s statement.

Ruling

Noticing that the discretionary powers like those under Section 311 CrPC are essentially intended to ensure that every necessary and appropriate measure is taken by the Court to keep the record straight and to clear any ambiguity in so far as the evidence is concerned as also to ensure that no prejudice is caused to anyone, the Bench said,

“the testimony of the said doctor who conducted the first post-mortem in Nigeria is germane to the questions involved in this matter; and for a just decision of the case with adequate opportunity to both the parties to put forward their case, the application under Section 311 CrPC ought to have been allowed.”

The Court said that the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case have either been ignored or have been cursorily dealt by the Trial Court with the observations that the effect of non-availability of the original post-mortem report would be considered at the time of the final disposal of the matter.

“In fact, the principal reason weighing with the Trial Court in declining the prayer for examination of the said witness had been that the case was pending since the year 2010. The High Court, on the other hand, chose not to exercise its powers under 8 Section 482 CrPC, with the only observation that the discretion so exercised by the Trial Court was not to be interfered with.”

The Court held that though it is expected that the trial of a sessions case should proceed with reasonable expedition and pendency of such a matter for about 8-9 years is not desirable but then, the length/duration of a case cannot displace the basic requirement of ensuring the just decision after taking all the necessary and material evidence on record.

[Manju Devi v. State of Rajasthan, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 552, decided on 16.04.2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka: The Bench of M.M.A. Gaffoor and K.K. Wickremasinghe, JJ. dismissed the appeal of the accused-appellant who was indicted for committing the murder of a fifteen-year-old girl.

The facts of the case were that the deceased was a fifteen-year-old girl living together with the accused as husband and wife however she was not legally married to the accused. On the day of the incident accused came to the house of his mother with the deceased and after sometime went to accused’s house which was in the same compound. After a short while, the accused had come and told his mother and sister who were in the main house about the incident. The deceased was found hanging in the accused’s house. The testimony of the mother and sister against the accused which were well corroborated were taken into account. The postmortem report revealed that death was due to ligature strangulation. Thereafter for his defense, the accused opted to give a dock statement wherein he stated that a person whom he named was responsible for the death of the deceased. Accused further said the same person had told him to surrender to the Police. This position had never been suggested by any of the prosecution witnesses including the investigating Police Officers thus the dock statement made by the accused was considered as an afterthought and thus the Court rejected the same. The High Court convicted the accused. When this matter came up for argument the counsel for the accused took up several defects in the High Court Trial including that a mere non-confession utterance by the appellant had been converted to a confession statement by the State Counsel thereby denying the accused of a fair trial.

The Court after perusing the case record and the submissions made by both Counsel rejected the submissions made by Counsel for the accused with regard to the above defects highlighted as they had no merit. The Court resonated the opinion of Justice Thilakawardena, in AG v. Sandanam Pitchi Mary Theresa, S.C. Appeal No. 79 of 2008, wherein he stated that “Discrepancies that do not go to the root of the matter and assail the basic version of the witness cannot be given too much importance.” The appeal was thus dismissed. [Ambagahagedara Nimal Ratnayake v. Attorney General’s Department, 2019 SCC OnLine SL CA 3, decided on 01-04-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

National Human Rights Commission issues notice on 08-04-2019 to Maharashtra DGP and Mumbai Police Commissioner over the reported abduction, rape, and murder of a 9-year old girl.

NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that a nine year old girl, who had gone missing on 04-04-2019 from the Nehru Nagar slum area of Juhu Mumbai was found murdered on the 06-04-2019. Her body was recovered from a septic tank of her locality. Reportedly, preliminary medical reports have confirmed that she was raped and murdered. According to the media report, a similar had happened in the J.J. Marg area about one and a half years ago.

The Commission has issued notices to the Director General of Police, Maharashtra and the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. The Commission also expects to have a report giving details of the mechanism adopted by the police authorities to address the issue more effectively.

It has observed that it seems the area lacks proper patrolling and monitoring by the police authorities. The culprit in the instant case, has a criminal background as he was reportedly arrested by the police in the year 2013. The local police officials are expected be vigilant about suspicious activities of these anti-social elements so that such heinous crimes could be averted. The Right to Life and Dignity of the innocent victim has been grossly violated.

According to the media report, carried on the 07-04-2019, the mother of the victim has stated that the girl had gone to get a packet of tea when she disappeared. A missing complaint was lodged with the details about the location and uniform she was wearing. The police authorities have arrested the suspect with whom the girl was last seen by some people. The alleged offender was also arrested in a criminal case, in the year 2013. The news report also states that a similar incident had taken place in J.J. Marg area about one and a half years ago when a 6 year old girl was killed and after investigation, the accused has been convicted by the Court.


[Dated: 08-04-2019]

NHRC

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab And Haryana High Court: The Bench of Rajiv Sharma and Kuldip Singh, JJ., dismissed the application filed under Section 378(4) CrPC against the Judgment passed by the Additional Sessions Judge acquitting the accused-respondents of the charges framed against them under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC and Section 25 of the Arms Act on the ground that it was a case of mere suspicion. 

The facts of the case were that the accused was suspected of the murder of his brother whose body was found lying near the railway track. However, the Additional Sessions Judge acquitted the accused. The Court said that in this case, the prosecution relied upon the confession made by both the accused in their disclosure statements. However, the confession made in the disclosure statement is not admissible in evidence. The prosecution also led evidence to prove the enmity between the accused and the deceased and for this purpose, they have examined the brother of the deceased and the father of the deceased. Their cross-examination showed that both of them had heard about the quarrel between the accused and the deceased on the Diwali day. However, the accused proved that he was away to Delhi on the Diwali day. Therefore, their statements regarding quarrel was discarded as hearsay. 

The Court held that this was a case of circumstantial evidence. The entire chain was not complete to point out that the accused were the only persons who could commit the crime. It was merely a suspicion. It is established law that suspicion, however strong, cannot take place of the positive proof and cannot be made the basis of conviction. The prosecution could not prove its case against the accused beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt. The Court thus did not find any illegality in the impugned Judgment. Accordingly, application under Section 378(4) CrPC. for grant of leave to appeal was dismissed. [Abdul Rahman v. State of Haryana, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 351, decided on 01-04-2019]