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Weightage is given to the seriousness of the crime over the examination of the witnesses’ statements: Supreme Court of India

The appellant is the father of the deceased and this appeal was brought to light with regard to a judgment given by a single judge in the High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan at the Bench at Jaipur on the 12th February 2021 where the respondent was granted bail after being convicted for murder. In the Supreme Court of India, this judgement was given by Honorable Dr Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, on the 27th of September 2021 in the case of Shri Mahadev Meena Versus Praveen Rathore and Another, [Criminal Appeal No. 1089 of 2021] (Arising Out of SLP (Criminal) [No. 4072 of 2021]).

The following are the brief facts of the case, the deceased (appellants’ son) worked as a senior technical officer with the Intelligence Bureau in New Delhi. The co-accused, in this case, is his wife whom he married in 2011 who worked as a teacher with the Panchayat Samiti, the couple has two young children from the wedlock and there have been allegations that the marriage endured difficulties. In 2018 the deceased travelled from New Delhi to Ramgajmandi and he boarded a train for Jhalawar to reach back home. However, he did not reach home and was instead found in an unconscious state by the brother-in-law and when he was rushed to the hospital, he was brought dead.

After the appellant reached out to the SHO in Jhalawar on the 15th of February the post-mortem was conducted which reported that the right lung, liver, spleen and kidneys were congested and doctors declared it as an unnatural death which was registered on the same day under the provisions of Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. After the appellant wrote a complaint to the police in Jhalawar, the investigation process begun.  the histopathological report indicated that the lungs of the deceased showed signs of congestion and pulmonary edema.

There has been a prior attempt made in order to kill him, the first respondent was a constable in the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Jhalawar and his wife were colleagues with the deceased wife. The deceased two months after his death informed the 1st respondent to not visit his house anymore. The first respondent was absent in his house as well as in cremation he might have run away from the crime. The wife of the deceased was aware with regard to his transportation timings which was also evident to respondent 1 from the call records.

The first respondent clearly was very close to the deceased wife and played an active role in his murder. After investigation, it was held that the accused in this case were communicating with each other on the day of the murder. One of the accused revealed that the death was caused by injecting him with ketamine, an anaesthetic drug.

Now statements were being recorded under Section 161 CrPC, the 1st one was a resident of Jhalawar (witness of murder) held that he saw the deceased at the railway station and made an allegation that he saw the first respondent in a Ford Figo along with two others. 2nd statement under Section 161 CrPC held that the first respondent is his relative and was used as the driver. Besides these statements, one of the co-accused had a  personal diary which was discovered in the operation theatre at the Orthopedic Hospital, Jhalawar. The dairy contained the phone numbers of several persons including the first respondent, who was arrested. The mobile phone of the wife was seized and it showed that she was constantly in touch with the 1st respondent after the death of her husband, the first respondent was arrested and the police recovered a pair of glasses (spectacles) belonging to the deceased under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872.

Now the culprits were arrested under Sections 302, 364, 201 and 120B of the IPC and under Section 3(2)(v), SC/ST Ac. The bail for the first respondent was dismissed but the wife of the deceased was granted bail because she had an eleven-month-old child and the child was confined in jail with her. The first respondent was denied bail many times by the High Court and eventually by the order passed by the single judge on the 12th February 2021 allowed the application for bail. On various grounds, some of them were that the FIR was lodged late and only 25 witnesses out of 76 were examined. The counsel representing the appellant held that the High Court has committed a serious error in enlarging the first respondent on bail and contradicted all the grounds on which the high court used to grant bail for the first respondent.

The counsel representing the first respondent held that the witness statements were all false and had been done with the influence of money and many other grounds. The Honourable Court has relied upon the following judgments Ram Govind Upadhyay v. Sudharshan Singh [(2002) 3 SCC 598] listing the considerations that govern the grant of bail without attributing an exhaustive character to them. Ramesh Bhavan Rathod v. Vishanbhai Hirabhai Makwana [2021 (6) SCC 230].

The Honourable Supreme Court held that “The High Court ought to have had due to regard to the seriousness and gravity of the crime The material which has emerged during the course of an investigation cannot simply be ignored or glossed over the High Court was in error in allowing the application for bail, for the reasons stated in the judgments we allow the appeal and set aside the impugned order of the High Court dated 12 February 2021 enlarging the first respondent on bail. As a consequence, the first respondent shall surrender forthwith and be taken into custody.”

Click here to read the judgment

Judgment reviewed by – A. Beryl Sugirtham 

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