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Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ has agreed to hear the plea of three witnesses in the Kathua gangrape and murder case, alleging that they are being harassed by the state police, on May 16.

The said witnesses, who are college friends of the juvenile accused in the case, have alleged that they gave their statement to the police under coercion and that the state police was now asking them to re-appear and re-record their statements and exerting pressure in their families.

The Supreme Court had, on May 7, transferred the trial in the sensational Kathua gangrape and murder case of an eight-year-old girl from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab, but refrained from handing over the probe to CBI saying there was no need as the investigation has been conducted and the chargesheet filed.

Emphasising on the concept of fair trial, the Court had said:

“In the instant case, direct victims are the family members of the deceased, although ultimately collective is the victim of such crime. The fair trial commands that there has to be free atmosphere where the victims, the accused and the witnesses feel safe. They must not suffer from any kind of phobia while attending the court. Fear and fair trial are contradictory in terms and they cannot be allowed to co-exist.”

(With inputs from PTI)

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: While dismissing the appeals filed in regard to the commitment of heinous crime of gang rape and murder, the Division Bench of S.K Seth and Nandita Dubey JJ., pronounced death sentence to the convicts.

Once again the social fabric of the society was severely affected when the heinous offence of rape of an 11-year-old child and subsequently killing her took place in the most gruesome manner as it could have been possible.

According to the findings and observation of the trial court, it had after meticulous consideration of the records that were collected and the chain of events that occurred established that the accused committed the heinous crime of gang rape and murder of the deceased. Therefore, the trial court had found the accused guilty for offence punishable under Sections 376 A and 302-A IPC.

However, the High Court, while stating that when a case rests on circumstantial evidence, the Court has to be satisfied that the circumstances from which an inference of the guilt is sought to be drawn, must be cogently and firmly established and trial court had in the present case successfully established the chain of events and convicted the accused Bhagwani and Satish. Though unfortunately, the trial court failed to charge the accused for the offence under Section 377 IPC as clear evidence of carnal intercourse was attained in the post-mortem report. Therefore, the appeal was dismissed by confirming the death sentence awarded by the trial court to each of the accused. [In Reference (Received from District & Sessions Judge, Dindori (MP) v. Bhagwani,  2018 SCC OnLine MP 338,  dated 09-05-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Taking note of the seriousness of the issue relating to the abduction, rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua District of J&K in the month of January, the bench of 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and Dr. DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ transferred the trial of the matter from the District & Sessions Judge, Kathua to the District & Sessions Judge, Pathankot situate in the State of Punjab.

Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the family of the victim, had argued before the Court that since there have been some unwarranted situations that have occurred in and outside the Kathua Bar Association, the locality in question, the involvement of many groups and various other aspects, a fair trial was not possible at Kathua.

Stating that a fair trial is a sacrosanct principle under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and a ‘fair trial’ means fair to the accused persons, as well as to the victims of the crime, the Court issued the following directions while transferring the matter to Pathankot:

  • The learned District & Sessions Judge, Pathankot shall himself take up the trial and not assign it to any Additional Sessions Judge;
  • The learned District & Sessions Judge, Pathankot shall fast-track the trial and take it up on day-to-day basis so that there is no delay in trial;
  • The examination-in-chief and the cross-examination of witnesses shall be in a continuous manner and for no reasons whatsoever the same shall be deferred;
  • The trial shall be held in camera so that the witnesses feel protected and the accused persons feel safe;
  • As this Court is monitoring the matter, no court shall entertain any petition pertaining to this case; The transferee court shall proceed under the Ranbir Penal Code as that applies to the State of Jammu & Kashmir;
  • The statements of the witnesses that have been recorded in Urdu language shall be translated to English so that the transferee court does not face any difficulty in conducting the trial;
  • The State of Jammu & Kashmir shall provide requisite number of interpreters as directed by the learned District & Sessions Judge, Pathankot so that the deposition of the witnesses can be properly recorded and translated copies thereof can be provided to the accused persons;
  • It shall be the duty of the State of Jammu & Kashmir to transport the witnesses to Pathankot and provide all other necessary facilities, including food, etc. so that the witnesses do not face any difficulty;
  • The accused persons shall also be similarly treated so that they do not feel that solely because they are accused persons, they are presumed to be guilty, for it is the settled principle that they are innocent till they are found guilty;
  • The State of Jammu & Kashmir is granted liberty to appoint the Public Prosecutor for prosecution of the case;
  • The juvenile, who is facing the trial, shall be dealt with in accordance with law and he should be given all special care and protection as per the command of the law.

Emphasising on the concept of fair trial, the Court said:

“In the instant case, direct victims are the family members of the deceased, although ultimately collective is the victim of such crime. The fair trial commands that there has to be free atmosphere where the victims, the accused and the witnesses feel safe. They must not suffer from any kind of phobia while attending the court. Fear and fair trial are contradictory in terms and they cannot be allowed to co-exist.”

The Court also reiterated that the protection granted by it to victim’s family & lawyers via order dated 16th April, 2018, shall continue and shall not be varied till the trial is over.

[Mohd. Akhtar v. State of Jammu & Kashmir, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 494, order dated 07.05.2018]

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Supreme Court: The Bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ while seeking the status of investigation into the murder of a woman assistant town planner, who was shot dead by a hotel owner during a Supreme Court-ordered demolition drive at Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh, directed the Himachal Pradesh Government to apprise it about the steps taken to ensure that no unauthorised constructions were carried out in the entire state.

The Court also asked the state to inform it about the implementation status of it’s order regarding demolition of unauthorised constructions in 13 hotels at Kasauli.

The Bench said:

“The death is not a result of the court’s order. It is a result of the non-implementation of the law. The incident is very unfortunate. You have to ensure rule of law and implementation of law related to unauthorised constructions.”

The Court had, on April 17, directed the state government to demolish unauthorised structures in several hotels and guest houses in Kasauli and Dharampur areas of Solan and four teams were constituted by the authorities to carry out the work. Assistant Town and Country Planner Shail Bala Sharma had on May 1 gone to supervise the demolition of unauthorised construction at Kasauli’s Narayani Guest House where its owner Vijay Singh allegedly shot at her. She later succumbed to injuries. The Court had, on 02.05.2018, taken suo motu cognizance in the matter.

The State has to file an affidavit giving details by the next date of hearing i.e. May 9, 2018.

Source: PTI

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Supreme Court: The bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepka Gupta, JJ took suo motu cognizance  of the murder of a woman assistant town planner, who was shot dead by a hotel owner during a Supreme Court-ordered demolition drive at Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh. Expressing shock over the death of Shailbala Sharma on Tuesday, the Court said that this is a serious issue in which a government official has been killed for doing her duty in compliance with the order of the highest court.

The Court had, on April 17 ordered the demolition of illegal constructions at several hotels and resorts in the picturesque Himachal Pradesh town of Kasauli, saying the life of people cannot be endangered for making money. It had observed that the illegal constructions had put the entire city in danger, causing landslides, and ordered the demolition of such constructions. Giving ultimatum to the hotel owners, the Court had said:

“Either you demolish it or we will ask the authorities to demolish it. It is your choice. No instructions are needed. Let the authorities demolish it.”

The Court is likely to hear the matter on 03.05.2018.

Source: The Hindu

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Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and Dr. DY Chandrachud and the newly appointed Indu Malhotra, JJ, stayed the trial in the Kathua gangrape and murder case till 07.05.2018, after being seized with petitions seeking shifting of the trial to Chandigarh and handing over the investigation to the CBI. Posting the matter for further hearing on 07.05.2018, the Court said that it will deal with the prayer of the victim’s father for shifting the trial to Chandigarh and the plea of the accused seeking handing over the probe to CBI.

During the hearing, the Court witnessed heated exchanges between Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the victim’s family, and advocate Harvinder Chaudhary, representing the accused.

Indira Jaising said that the case be transferred to Chandigarh due to proximity to Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and the incidents of obstruction of police personnel by lawyers of the local court. She said that attempts were made to intimidate the presiding judge of the court and the crime branch officials were heckled by the lawyers, as is evident in the affidavit of Jammu and Kashmir Government.

Harvinder Chaudhary, on the other hand, said that his clients do not have faith in police investigation and the probe should go to CBI. He alleged that the police was hand-in-glove with vested interests to falsely implicate the accused while the real culprits were someone else.

Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir, opposed the prayer for a CBI probe and said the SIT of the crime branch was investigating the case. He said that the trial could be shifted from Kathua and Jammu to some other district in the state as there were 221 witnesses and most of the statements recorded so far were in Urdu. It was also argued that Jammu and Kashmir has its own penal law and if the trial is shifted to Chandigarh, then it may create several problems.

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh submitted before the Court that the Central Government was ready to provide any assistance if required but the call has to be taken by the Jammu and Kashmir government.

The Court had earlier given a stern warning and said it would transfer the Kathua gangrape and murder case from the local court in the “slightest possibility” of lack of fair trial, saying the “real concern” was to hold proper prosecution. It had also directed the State of Jammu & Kashmir to grant protection to the family members of the 8-year old girl, who had been brutally abducted, raped and murdered in Kathua district of J&K in the month of January 2018. The Court also directed that protection be granted to the Deepika Singh Rajawat, the lawyer representation the victim’s family, and one Talib Hussain, who has been rendering assistance to the victim’s family.

Source: PTI

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ directed the State of Jammu & Kashmir to grant protection to the family members of the 8-year old girl, who had been brutally abducted, raped and murdered in Kathua district of J&K in the month of January 2018. The Court also directed that protection be granted to the Deepika Singh Rajawat, the lawyer representation the victim’s family, and one Talib Hussain, who has been rendering assistance to the victim’s family.

Senior Advocate Indira Jaising had submitted before the Court that there was apprehension in the mind of the father of the victim, that there would be no fair trial inasmuch as there has been protest by the members of the Bar and further there may be issues relating to witness protection. She had told that Court that there should be protection for the victim as well as the lawyer who has a right to protect the interest of the victims in the Court.

On the demand of Indira Jaising, the Court also directed that the State authority should provide security in plain clothes. The Court also directed the State authorities to do the needful, keeping in view the spirit of the care and protection of Children, and strengthen the security at juvenile home where the alleged juvenile accused is lodged.

Earlier, the Court had taken suo motu cognizance in the matter and had issued notice to Bar Council of India, Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association, Jammu High Court Bar Association and Kathua Bar Association on a plea filed against the lawyers for allegedly blocking the filing of charge sheet in the matter and obstructing a lawyer from representing the victim’s family.

The Court will now take up the matter on 27.04.2018. [Mohd. Akhtar v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 386, order dated 16.04.2018]

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Supreme Court: Taking suo motu cognizance in the Kathua rape and murder case, the Court has issued notice to Bar Council of India, Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association, Jammu High Court Bar Association and Kathua Bar Association on a plea filed against the lawyers for allegedly blocking the filing of charge sheet in the matter and obstructing a lawyer from representing the victim’s family

Earlier this week, lawyers held a protest against the charge sheet filed against seven people accused of kidnapping, raping and killing an eight-year-old girl in January. The Bar Association of Jammu reportedly supported the lawyers and also organised a strike against the FIR.

The Bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra said that it is impermissible under law and ethics to prevent the filing of a chargesheet or oppose the representation of the victim’s family by a lawyer.

In the horrific Kathua case, an 8-year-old girl was held captive, sedated and raped for several days at a temple before she was murdered in Kathua district.

The Court will now hear the matter on April 19.

Source: ANI

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Giving major relief to Tej Pratap Yadav, the former Bihar Health Minister and son of RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ closed the criminal proceedings against him in relation to the murder of Rajdev Ranjan, a senior reporter of a news daily, i.e., ‘Dainik Hindustan’, who was brutally murdered on 13.05.2016 by a group of persons.

The Court had, earlier, asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to complete the investigation in the matter at the earliest. The has also directed that police protection be given to the wife of the murdered Journalist as people holding party position and position in the political executive were alleged to be involved in the case as Mohammad Kaif, one of the accused, was spotted with Shahabuddin, Vice President, Rashtriya Janta Dal and Tej Pratap Yadav, former Health Minister, Government of Bihar.

The CBI, however, submitted before the Court that it is investigating into the matter with regard to the involvement of Mohammad Kaif and Mohammad Javed, who are already in custody, but it has not been link Tej Pratap Yadav with any criminal activity in so far as the photograph and the transcript are concerned.

The Court, hence, held that there was no point in keeping the writ petition pending. It, however, granted liberty to the petitioner i.e. the wife of the murdered journalist to approach the appropriate Court in case there is any kind of deviation by Tej Pratap Yadav, which would fall within the concept of criminality. [Asha Ranjan v. State of Bihar, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 264, order dated 22.03.2018]

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has moved to the Supreme Court against the Allahabad High Court verdict acquitting Rajesh and Nupur Talwar of charges in the Aarushi Talwar murder case.

Last year, observing that conviction cannot be based on suspicion, the Allahabad High Court has acquitted Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, parents of Aarushi of the charge of murder, giving them the benefit of doubt.

The unsolved mystery of the murders of a 13-year-old Aarushi Talwar and her 45-year-old domestic help Hemraj is on the verge of becoming a cold case and no conclusive evidence has yet been produced before the Court. Aarushi was found murdered in her flat on May 16, 2008 and initially the guilt was being pinned on Hemraj, who’s body was found 2 days later on the terrace of the same flat.

Earlier, CBI Court had found Rajesh and Nupur Talwar guilty of the murders of Aarushi and Hemraj after the CBI told the Court that the parents had committed the offence after finding Aarushi and Hemraj in objectionable position. The Allahabad High Court, however, noticed that the CBI had failed to prove guilt beyond reasonable guilt and held that the law does not warrant the conviction based on mere suspicion.

Source: ANI

Case BriefsHigh Courts

High Court of Jharkhand: The Division Bench comprising of H.C. Mishra and B.B. Mangalmurti, JJ., recently heard an appeal against the acquittal of the respondent who had been accused under Sections 364 and 34 of the Penal Code.

The appellant’s son had been taken forcibly by the respondents owing to certain prevailing land disputes between the two parties. The appellants had alleged that the respondents had broken into their house by breaking through the thatched roof and kidnapped the son which after examining the evidence on record, was found to be untrue by the Trial Court and hence, the accused was acquitted of the charges framed against him.

The Court observed that the victim himself had testified that he had been forcibly taken away from his house for 20-21 days and eventually brought near the Deoghar Court and left by the accused. It noted that Section 364 of the Penal code mandates the intention of murdering the victim or putting him in the danger of being murdered, for the offence to be labeled as kidnapping under the impugned section. Since, the evidence showed that the victim had been left near the Deoghar Court after a few days, it was obvious that no intention to kill had been present in the minds of the accused and hence, offence under Section 364 Penal Code, couldn’t be made out. Thus, the appeal was dismissed. [Kamruddin Sheikh v. State of Jharkhand, 2018 SCC OnLine Jhar 123, order dated 26.2.2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: After Maharashtra Government placed the documents relating to Special CBI Judge Loya’s death before the 2-judge bench of Arun Mishra and Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, JJ, the bench listed the matter after a week. However, the order peculiarly read:

“Let the documents be placed on record within seven days and if it is considered appropriate copies be furnished to the petitioners.
Put up before the appropriate Bench. “

The said order is interesting as it comes right after the 4 senior most judges of the Supreme Court after the Chief Justice of India held a press conference regarding the controversy over the assignment of cases. The judges had also released a letter addressed to CJI. Though no details were mentioned in the letter in order to avoid embarrassing the institution, the judges hinted during the press conference that the issue did involve the controversy over assignment of CBI Judge Loya’s death case.

In the said matter, a Maharashtra-based journalist has filed an independent plea seeking a fair probe into the mysterious death of CBI Judge Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, in which various police officers and the BJP President Amit Shah were named as parties. It has been alleged that Judge Loya did not die of natural causes but was murdered.

The highest Court of the nation has been marred by controversies off late as a lot of drama has ensued both, in and out of the Court. CJI had also met Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Jospeh earlier today in order to resolve the matter and a meeting is likely to take place tomorrow as well. [Tehseen Poonawalla v. Union of India, Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No.19/2018, order dated 16.01.2018]

[With inputs from ANI]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: The present appeal was decided by the Bench of Akhil Kureshi and A.Y. Kogje, JJ., filed by the accused against the order of the lower court in which the accused was awarded 6 months rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs 1 lakh for offences under Sections 302, 114 and Section 504 of the Penal Code, 1860.

The lower court had given its judgment based on the FIR filed by the mother of the deceased with the alleged facts that on 21-9-2012, both the accused at 8.45 a.m. had come to the deceased’s house and started abusing her son (deceased) saying that he was not giving their land, thereafter dragging him towards the field, and then inflicted a blow with a plough on his thigh and further assaulted him with multiple grievous injuries, as a result of which he died. The accused, i.e. the father and the son, in this matter, appealed before the High Court that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges of murder beyond reasonable doubt. The learned advocate from the respondent in the present case contended that the witnesses who were examined being ‘interested witnesses’ cannot be relied upon and their versions cannot be taken into consideration to convict the appellants, since there were discrepancies in the statements by the eyewitnesses. Also, the prosecution had failed to prove that the murder weapons belonged to the respondent.

The Court relied on the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Chandrappa v. State of Karnataka,  (2007) 4 SCC 415 and held that since the prosecution has failed to establish the motive behind the offence beyond reasonable doubt, this would lead to dismissal of the appeal and quashed and set aside the judgment of the lower court. The Court acquitted the appellants of all the charges by granting them the benefit of doubt. [Navinbhai Kaliyo Vithalbhai Baria v. State of Gujarat, Criminal Appeal No. 815 of 2014, decided on 30-11-2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: After the father of the 7-year-old, who was found dead last week in a toilet of Ryan International School in Gurugram where he was a Class II student, filed a petition before the Court, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ issued notice to the Centre, Haryana Government and School authorities returnable within three weeks.

Pradyuman’s father had prayed before the Court to ensure absolute safety and security of each and every child studying in all the schools across the country and to command the authorities of the school managements and the promoters to take steps so that the safety and security is sustained and no one is affected. He also prayed for framing guidelines and also to take appropriate actions against the violators.

The Court noticed that the petition was not restricted to Ryan International school as it has a countrywide effect. [Barun Chandra Thakur v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1070, order dated 11.09.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and SA Bobde, J refused to interfere with the order in Vikas Yadav v. State of U.P., (2016) 9 SCC 541, where the court had imposed 25 years imprisonment, without remission, on Vikas and Vishal Yadav for brutally murdering their sister’s lover Nitish Katara. Vikas Yadav had sought review of the punishment imposed upon him.

On 03.10.2016, the bench of Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan, JJ  had noticed that the crime was committed in a planned and cold blooded manner with the motive that has emanated due to feeling of some kind of uncalled for and unwarranted superiority based on caste that has blinded the thought of “choice available” to a sister – a representative of women as a class. The deceased was burnt to such a point that his own mother could only suggest the identification from the small size of one unburnt palm with fingers of the hand that the body appeared to be that of her deceased son. terming the offence to be one of ‘honour killing’, the Court had said:

“Neither the family members nor the members of the collective have any right to assault the boy chosen by the girl.”

Vikas Yadav was also prosecuted in “Jesica Lal murder case” and he committed the crime in the present case while he was out on bail. [Vikas Yadav v. State of UP, REVIEW PETITION (CRL.) NOS.268-270 OF 2017, decided on 29.08.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a 2-decade old matter relating to culpability of the accused under Section 201 IPC pertaining to disappearance of evidence in the case of the murder of her husband, the bench of N. V. Ramana and P.C. Pant, JJ gave a split decision and placed the matter before the Chief Justice of India for referring it to a larger bench.

As per the facts of the case, the appellant had allegedly, owing to her extra-marital affair with the second appellant (main accused), hatched a plan to eliminate her husband and as an outcome the main accused killed the deceased in his own home. The trial court convicted the main accused under Sections 302 and 201 IPC, however, the appellant was convicted only under Section 201 IPC.  It was contended by the appellant that as the time of the commission of the offence, she was sleeping with her children and fearing that if she raises any alarm, her children may also be assaulted by the intruder, she remained silent. She further claimed that she had not eloped with the main accused but was kept hostage by him at various places under different names. She said that she remained silent as she feared that police and family members would not believe her due to her illicit relationship with the main accused.

N.V. Ramana, J, acquitting the appellant, held that the entire case of the prosecution rests upon circumstantial evidence except for the direct evidence of the daughter of the deceased and the appellant who said that the appellant was crying and begging the main accused not to kill her husband and that for a circumstantial evidence to result into conviction of an accused, it should be strong, convincing and unassailable. Stating that criminal trial can never be a fanciful flight of imagination, he said that while considering the charge under Section 201 of I.P.C, it is mandatory for the prosecution to prove that the accused actively participated in the matter of disappearance of evidence and with an intention to screen the offender. He, hence, held that remaining silent and absconding with the main accused and moving from one place to another place will not supply the evidence or fill the gap which is necessary to prove the ingredients under Section 201 of I.P.C.

P.C. Pant, J, on the other hand, was of the opinion that the fact the appellant’s brother and sister-in-law saw the main accused running away without a shirt from the house of accused and that the appellant did not return to the house when she was asked by her brother to pick up her elder daughter, cannot be ignored as these facts have been corroborated by other witnesses. She had also made false statements to her brother about the whereabouts of the deceased He also pointed out the fact that the elder daughter, had, in her statement mentioned that when she saw the main accused, along with another man, beat up her father, her mother took her and her sister to another room and that she did enter the room in which the fateful incident took place. Considering the aforementioned facts, he held that the appellant was guilty under Section 201 IPC. [Padmini Mahendrabhai Gadda v. State of Gujarat, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 749, decided on 17.07.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench comprising of L.Nageswara Rao and Navin Sinha, JJ. held that in the absence of conclusive and consistent proof of circumstantial chain of evidence which lead to the only “hypothesis of guilt” against the accused then, only circumstance of last seen cannot be made basis of conviction.

In the case where the accused were charged with rape and murder of the deceased whose severed body was found on the railway track after she was seen in the house of one of the accused persons, the Gauhati High Court held them guilty for causing death in furtherance of common intention, under Section 302/34 and for tampering with evidences, under sec 201 of Penal Code 1860 and awarded life imprisonment for the same. Prosecution relied on blood samples, postmortem certificate and last seen theory to form chain of evidence.

The Court held that there exist no conclusive proof of corroboration of statement of investigation and the blood stains found on murder weapon couldn’t be established. The Court allowed the appeal and reversed the decision of High Court, stating that last seen together cannot be the only ground for holding accused guilty, a connectivity must be established, the circumstance of “last seen together” does not by itself and necessarily lead to the inference that it was the accused who committed the crime. It further stated that due to the lack of corroborative evidence the appellants are acquitted of the charges under Section 302, 201 read with 34 Penal Code 1860. [Anjan Kumar Sharma v. State of Assam, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 622, decided on 23.05.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the Swami Gadadharanand murder case, the bench of Kurian Joseph and A.M. Khanwilkar, JJ upheld the conviction of 2 Assistant Kotharis and one disciple of the Board of Trustees of the Swami Narayan sect of Vadtal Gadi Temple who killed the chairman of the Trust in the year 1998 when he proposed to transfer the Kotharis away from the Vadtal Temple as they feared being exposed of their misdeeds and maladministration.

Apart from the strong motive for committing the murder of Gadadharanandji and the criminal conspiracy hatched in that behalf and executed, the following factors led to the conviction of the accused persons in the present case:

  • the presence of Gadadharanandji at Vadtal Temple complex on the day of incident, the evidence that he was last seen together with Accused No.3, who hasn’t filed an appeal against the order of the High Court, going from Vadtal Temple complex in a car,
  • the recovery of a dead body in village Barothi in the neighboring state of Rajasthan on the next day of disappearance of the deceased,
  • the disclosure made by Accused No.3 about the location as to where the dead body was dumped by him in a village at Barothi,
  • the discovery of the fact after subsequent medical examination that the dead body so recovered was of none other than that of the deceased,
  • the disclosure made by Accused No.5 of the location where the deceased was strangled at Navli Temple complex, the conduct of Accused No.3 in misleading the investigating agencies,
  • the burning of the vehicle used in the commission of the crime and then filing of a false insurance claim which was rejected by the insurance company,

The Court said that the aforementioned factors leave no manner of doubt about the involvement of the appellants in the commission of the crime and hence, the life imprisonment awarded by the High Court does not warrant any intereference. The Court said that there need not be any direct evidence to establish the kind conspiracy involved in the present case. It can be a matter of inference drawn by the Court after considering whether the basic facts and circumstances on the basis of which inference is drawn have been proved beyond all reasonable doubts and that no other conclusion except that of the complicity of accused to have agreed to commit an offence is evident. The Court said that there is no legal evidence, in the present case, to give benefit of any doubt to the Appellants. [Charandas Swami v. State of Gujarat, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 361, decided on 10.04.2017]


Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Explaining the Exception 4 under Section 300 IPC that provides for ‘death caused in a sudden fight’, the bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and R.K. Agrawal, JJ said that the number of wounds caused during the occurrence is not a decisive factor but what is important is that the occurrence must have been sudden and unpremeditated and the offender must have acted in a fit of anger.

The Court said that where, on a sudden quarrel, a person in the heat of the moment picks up a weapon which is handy and causes injuries, one of which proves fatal, he would be entitled to the benefit of this Exception provided he has not taken any undue advantage or acted in a cruel manner.

In the present case, there was dispute between the complainant and his relatives on one side and accused persons on the other side regarding their turn of irrigating their fields and hence, both the parties had gone to the court of Executive Magistrate, Faridkot for the settlement of the said dispute. Suddenly both the sides started quarrelling and had a heated exchange of words as the appellant-accused objected to the presence of one of the relative of the complainant and not a party to the proceedings and took out a Kirpan and assaulted the relative of the complainant.

Considering the facts of the case, the Court noticed that the injuries caused were the result of blow with a small Kirpan, which is used by ‘Amritdhari Sikhs’ as a spiritual tool and it cannot be presumed that the accused had intended to cause the inflicted injuries. The Court hence held that the act of the appellant-accused was not a cruel act and the accused did not take undue advantage of the deceased. The scuffle took place in the heat of passion and all the requirements under Section 300 Exception 4 of the IPC have been satisfied. Therefore, it was said that the benefit of Exception 4 under Section 300 IPC is attracted to the fact situations and the appellant-accused is entitled to this benefit. [Surain Singh v. State of Punjab, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 364, decided on 10.04.2017]

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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]