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Tripura High Court upholds Lower Court’s Judgement in rejecting the grant of probate in a disputed will case

Case title:  Smt. Niyati Das Vs Smti. Milan Debnath & Ors.

Case no.:  MFA No.04 of 2022

Dated on: 03.06.2023

Quorum:  Hon’ble. MR JUSTICE T. AMARNATH GOUD

 

FACTS OF THE CASE

This appeal has been filed under Section-299 of Indian Succession Act, 1925 read with Order-XLI Rule-1 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (as amended up to date) against the judgment passed in T.S.(Probate) 01 of 2014 by the learned District Judge, North Tripura, Dharmanagar on 06.04.2022.

The fact of the case of the appellant, in short, is that the testator Dhruba Kanti Gupta died at his residence on 12-03-2012. During the lifetime of deceased Dhruba Kanti Gupta his relation with his wife, son and daughter was not good and due to such bitter relation about 14 years ago his wife left his house along with her son and daughter and started living separately in her personal residence at Padmapur under Dharmanagar Sub-Division. During that period the appellant used to look after said Dhruba Kanti Gupta by nursing, cooking meal and helping to get medical treatment etc. and the appellant has been permanently residing in the house of Dhruba Kanti Gupta and being satisfied said Dhruba Kanti Gupta executed a registered Will dated 29-05-1997 before the Sub-Registrar, Dharmanagar in favour of the appellant, Smt. Niyati Das in respect of his all movable and immovable properties including gratuity, provident fund and deposited money in the Bank and Post Office. It is also stated that the appellant was named as the executor in the said Will and she is entitled to get movable and immovable properties including the money deposited in Bank as per description of the Will according to the last desire of the testator. But the appellant could not give details list of all assets and the debts of the deceased Dhruba Kanti Gupta as just after the death of Dhruba Kanti Gupta the present Opposite Parties forcefully captured all the documents of bank and post office, ration card including documents of landed properties and they forcefully drove out the appellant from the house of the deceased. It has been further stated that the deceased left behind Smt. Milan Debnath as his wife, Sri Biswajit Gupta as his son and Smt. Mitali Gupta as his daughter as his legal heirs and survivors but due to their misconduct and misbehaviour with the deceased Dhruba Kanti Gupta he being dissatisfied with them executed the said Will in favour of the appellant. Thus, the appellant has prayed for a direction to the respondents to produce the documents in connection with the Will and grant probate of the Will in favour of the appellant.

 ISSUES

  • Whether the application filed by the petitioner, Smt. Niyati Das under Section-276 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 for grant of a probate of the Will executed by Dhruba Kanti Gupta valid?
  • Whether the judgment passed by the learned Court below is liable to be set aside?

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Section-299 of Indian Succession Act, 1925

Section 299 of this Act says that every order made by the District Judge by virtue of the powers conferred upon him by the Act shall be subject to appeal to the High Court.

Order-XLI Rule-1 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908

Order XLI, Rule 1, of the Code of Civil Procedure provides that the memorandum of appeal shall be accompanied by a copy of the decree appealed against and (unless the Appellate Court dispenses therewith) of the judgment on which it is founded.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

Mr. S. Bhattacharjee, learned counsel appearing for the appellant has submitted that the learned Court below has erred in law and came to an erroneous conclusion as such the judgment passed by the learned Court below is liable to be set aside. The learned Court below misinterpreted the clauses of the WILL and completely on imagination draws inference while the respondents in spite of submitting written statement did not enter into witness box to rebut the evidence of the appellant. He has further contended that the learned Court below discussed and came to the conclusion that the WILL does not bear any description of the WILL but the learned Court has failed to read the contents of the WILL. There is no specific form for any WILL and the Court has to read so as to determine the question as to object and subject of WILL but, the learned Court below has most wrongly held that there was nothing in record that testator had right, title, interest over the suit land at the time of execution of WILL as such the findings of the trial is liable to be interfered with.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS

After registration of the suit initially order was passed directing ex-parte hearing of the suit against all the opposite parties as they did not appear before the court even after receipt of notice in connection with this suit. However, subsequently all the three opposite parties appeared before the Court and filed separate applications for vacating the ex-parte order passed against them and after allowing their applications, all the three opposite parties contested this suit by submitting their separate written statement.

 In their respective written statements the opposite parties denied and disputed each and every averments made in the application by the appellant and raised objection regarding genuineness of the so called last Will of deceased Dhruba Kanti Gupta. It is also pleaded by the opposite parties that deceased Dhruba Kanti Gupta did never execute any Will in respect of his movable and immovable properties including the service benefits in favour of the appellant rather the appellant has approached before the Court for granting a probate in respect of the so called last Will of deceased Dhruba Kanti Gupta submitting some false and fabricated documents.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The court stated that the burden of proof of execution of a Will as also the suspicious circumstances attached to execution of such Will always lies on the propounder of the Will who has to prove the due execution of Will and remove the suspicious circumstances from the mind of the court by cogent and satisfactory evidence. The case of the appellant is that deceased Dhruba Kanti Gupta during his lifetime had no good relationship with his wife and children for which deceased Dhruba Kanti Gupta used to reside at his own residence at Office road, Dharmanagar alone for about 14/ 15 years from the date of execution of the Will and that the respondent No.1 even did not allow her son and daughter to keep any relation with their father Dhruba Kanti Gupta (now deceased). So, from the story of the appellant itself it may safely be presumed that late Dhruba Kanti Gupta had not been passing his days in a peaceful condition. On the other hand, being the executrix or trustee, the appellant was very much aware about that clause of the last Will of deceased Dhruba Kanti Gupta. Facing of unnatural death by the testator Dhruba Kanti Gupta at his residence in the presence of the appellant and subsequently obtaining a forged death certificate of deceased Dhruba Kanti Gupta by the appellant, showing the place of death as District Hospital, Dharmanagar itself raise some reasonable suspicion regarding the genuineness of the Will.

The court also  looked into the procedure to resolve the inconsistency in a Will wherein latter clause in the Will inconsistent with earlier clause and in such of inconsistency the last intention of the testator is to be given effect, therefore, the latter clause is held to prevail over the earlier clause of the Will. In the present case testator Dhruba Kanti Gupta in the first part of his Will had bequeathed his all movable and immovable properties without giving details of the properties in favour of the appellant after death of the testator Dhruba Kanti Gupta but, in the last part of the Will he deserved his right alive for cancellation of the said Will at any point of time during his lifetime. The court further stated that if the version of the appellant is to be believed that the deceased is alone and no one has taken care and she is the only one, the deceased would have made the beneficiary the appellant herein in respect of his movable and immovable properties including all service benefits. But, nothing has been indicated except, the landed property and thus, it creates an amount of doubt in the mind of the Court and in view of above, discussion and observation, the present appeal stood dismissed consequently, the findings as observed by the learned Court below stood affirmed.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Fathima Sara Sulaiman

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Tripura High Court modifies Lower Court’s Judgement and Grants Commutation of Death Sentence to Life Imprisonment

Case title:  Sri Pradip Debroy Vs The State of Tripura

Case no.:  CRL.A(J) NO.40 OF 2022

Dated on: 12th February 2024

Quorum:  Hon’ble. MR JUSTICE T. AMARNATH GOUD                    Hon’ble MR. JUSTICE BISWAJIT PALIT

FACTS OF THE CASE

The appeal under Section 374 of Cr.P.C. and reference under Section 366 of Cr.P.C. arise out of common Judgment and Order of conviction and sentence dated 23.11.2022 passed in connection with ST(T-1)09 of 2022 by the learned Sessions Judge, Khowai, Tripura whereby the learned Court below convicted the appellant for the commission of offence under Section 307 of IPC and sentenced him to suffer R.I. for 10 years and to pay a fine of Rs.10,000/-, i.e. to suffer S.I. for 2 months and convicted under Section 302 of IPC and sentenced to death as per law.

The brief fact of this case is that on 26.11.2021 at about 11.00 p.m. the brother of the informant namely, Sri Pradip Debroy went to sleep after dinner. After that all of a sudden, the informant and other inmates of the house including his elder brother Amalesh Debroy heard a cry coming from the room of Pradip Debroy. Immediately they rushed to the room of Sri Pradip Debroy and told him to open the door but he did not. Then they broke the door of the veranda and went near the door of the room. When they peeped through an opening of the door, they saw the dead body of Aditi, the younger daughter of Pradip lying on the ground. They also noticed that Pradip was attacking his elder daughter and his wife with a big crowbar. After a while, he opened the door and chased the informant and others to kill. The informant Raju Debroy and his mother and others could manage to save themselves but the elder brother of the informant namely, Amalesh could not run away. Amalesh was killed by Pradip with a crowbar infront of the room of Amrit Debroy who was the uncle of the informant. When their uncle tried to resist, he was also attacked. After that, on hearing the sound of a vehicle he became naked and started running with the crowbar along the Bir Chowmohoni road. At that time, the vehicle of police came and when it stopped in front of the house of the Pradhan, Pradip attacked one police with a crowbar and also attacked the vehicle of the police. He also chased police and went along Bir Chowmhoni road. He attacked one Autorickshaw and also attacked one Krishna Das and his son Karnabir Das. Subsequently, the informant learned that the injured police officer succumbed to his injuries at GBP hospital. It is also learned by the informant that the injured Krishna Das was declared brought dead at Khowai Hospital. Karnabir Das, the son of Krishna Das and Smt. Mina Paul (Debroy), the wife of Pradip Debroy suffered serious injuries and were shifted to GBP Hospital. It is further alleged that Pradip killed his elder daughter Mandira. The informant came to know that the name of the police officer who died was Inspector Satyajit Mallik. Hence the FIR was lodged by Raju Debroy against his brother Pradip Debroy.

 ISSUES

  • Whether the accused Pradip Deb Roy attacked and murdered his younger daughter namely, Aditi Deb Roy, elder daughter Mandira Deb Roy, elder brother Amalesh Deb Roy, another person Krishna Das and Inspector Satyajit Mallik and that thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 302 of IPC ?
  • Whether the accused on or about the aforesaid date and time did an act to wit assault with such intention (or knowledge) and under such circumstances that if by that act he had caused the death of his wife Mina Paul and Karnabir Das he had been guilty of murder and also caused hurt to Smt Mina Paul and Karnabir Das and thereby, committed an offence punishable under Section 307 of IPC ?

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Section 302 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860

This section prescribes the punishment for murder as “Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Section 307 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 307 of the IPC prescribes punishment for attempt to murder. The punishment can extend up to 10 years and in case the victim is hurt, then the maximum punishment is imprisonment for life.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

The counsel contended that a normal human being without any motive, pre-plan and intention would not commit such type of crime of killing 5(five) persons one after another and injuring 2(two) other. The convict appellant after murdering his two minor daughters was moving in a naked condition on the road and thereafter, he committed further murder. The learned Trial Court did not consider the sequence of commission of offence as a sound mind person would not be in a position to do so. The convict appellant somehow became abnormal and he could not say what the consequence of his activities was. The convict appellant has no previous enmity with the victims. So, no prior plan or motive of the convict appellant is established. Learned counsel further submitted that prior to the incident, the convict appellant was known to be a good and loving person in the locality which is evident from the evidence of various witnesses. T He had very good relations with all the family members but at the time of the incident, he was acting like a madman. Convict-Pradip used to love his children very much. He also used to love his family members. Mr.H.K. Bhowmik, learned counsel urged this Court to take a lenient view keeping in mind the fact that convict appellant had no prior bad record and no motive while committing the crime. Stating thus, learned counsel advocated to convert the death sentence of the convict-appellant into life imprisonment.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS

The counsel contended that the Judgment and order of conviction as passed by the Court below is just and proper and needs no further interference. Learned P.P., also stated that the question of the sanity and motive of the convict-appellant was never raised before the Court below. Stating thus, learned P.P. urged this Court to confirm the impugned judgment by confirming the death sentence and not to take any lenient view.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The court observed that during the course of hearing, Mr. H.K. Bhowmik, learned counsel appearing for the convict-appellant submitted that the convict-appellant had no motive to commit the said crime. To support his argument, the court considered the statements of the witnesses being that the convict was a good person and he was having very good relations with all the family members. The said witnesses further stated that the convict loved his children and family members. Here it is seen in the above-mentioned statements that admittedly, no motive has been established behind the commitment of such a heinous crime. But, it cannot be said that that crime committed without any motive is not a crime and the accused is entitled to acquittal.

During the course of argument, learned counsel appearing for the convict-appellant also contended that there was no mens rea to kill the deceased and injure the victims. From the evidence of various eyewitnesses, it was evident that the convict-appellant had not preplanned and committed the murders and caused injuries. But a crime committed without any mens rea does not entitle to acquittal. This Court negated the issue of mens rea against the convict appellant. The question arose in the mind of the court whether there was any temporary  insanity condition and the court held that unless there is any strong reason that would influence the mind of the convict-appellant, the instant incident cannot be reasonably believed in the light of the evidence and the witnesses who have certified the convict appellant as a businessman, good person, affectionate towards and having no complaints in the neighbourhood, his family members, loving his children, taking care of his wife.

The Court was however convinced that the Trial Court needs no interference as that the appellant-convict was guilty of committing murders and grievous hurt and opines that the appellant convict is liable to be punished under the charges/offences as they are proved beyond reasonable doubt. However, the death sentence of the convict was converted into life imprisonment till he breathes his last in jail without any benefit of remission. The Court felt that he should be kept in isolation, by keeping him away from other inmates and under surveillance.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Fathima Sara Sulaiman

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Supreme Court dismisses CGIT award: States issue of date of birth is as important for the employer as it is for the employee.

CASE TITLE – The General Manager, M/S Barsua Iron Ore Mines v. The Vice President , United Mines Mazdoor Union and Ors.

CASE NUMBER – 2024 INSC 264 (Neutral Citation)

DATED ON – 02.03.2024

QUORUM – Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah

FACTS OF THE CASE

The present appeal arises out of the final judgment dated 04.02.2021, passed by a Division Bench of the High Court of Orissa at Cuttack in Writ Petition (Civil) No.9424 Page 1 of 10 of 2019, whereby the petition filed by the appellant was dismissed and the Award dated 24.01.2018 passed by the Central Government Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court, Bhubaneswar in ID Case No.33 of 2003, was upheld. The respondent no.3 was employed as a Piece Rated Mazdoor at Barsua Iron Ore Mines under Rourkela Steel Plant, a unit of Hindustan Steel Limited, which later merged into Steel Authority of India Limited. The respondent no.3 was offered employment on a casual basis vide letter dated 14.04.1972 as a Piece Rated Mazdoor. On 27.12.1972, he submitted the prescribed form of descriptive roll declaring his age as 24 years but did not provide a specific date or any documentary proof of date of birth. Based on his oral declaration, his date of birth was recorded as 27.12.1948 and this date was accepted and signed on by the respondent no.3 leading to his employment. Vide Offer of Appointment dated 22.06.1981, the respondent no.3, initially employed as a casual labourer, was regularized under the appellant and worked as a Piece Rated Mazdoor in mining operations for SAIL following the merger of HSL into SAIL. It appears that on 14.08.1982, the respondent no.3 submitted the prescribed form of Descriptive Roll, wherein he changed his initially recorded date of birth i.e. 27.12.1948 to 12.03.1955, again without providing any documentary proof. Vide Office Order dated 20.12.1982, such date of birth, as disclosed by the respondent no.3, was entered in the records of the appellant who effected the change without any scrutiny. Page 2 of 10 6. On 24.11.1998, the respondent no.3 was requested to submit documentary proof in support of his date of birth, in response to which he submitted a School Transfer Certificate dated 12.01.1972, which made him 17 years and 1 month old at the time when he was offered employment on casual basis on 14.04.1972. On 29.11.2001, based on his declaration at the time of initial employment the Competent Authority of the appellant determined the date of birth of the respondent no.3 as 27.12.1948, which made him come within the statutory employment age limit and above the minimum age i.e., 18 years, required for such employment. 8. On 09.10.2003, a dispute regarding the respondent no.3’s date of birth was referred by the “appropriate Government” to the CGIT for adjudication. In the meanwhile, on 31.12.2008, the respondent no.3 superannuated from service, having attained the age of 60 years, based on his initially recorded date of birth [27.12.1948]. On 24.01.2018, the CGIT passed its Award and held that the appellant’s determination of the respondent no.3’s date of birth based on the initial Descriptive Roll was unjustified and thus, awarded him 50% back wages from his retirement in 2008 until his supposed date of superannuation in 2015, based on the date of birth disclosed in the STC i.e., 12.03.1955. The appellant filed a Writ Petition before the High Court of Orissa at Cuttack on 19.05.2019 challenging the Award passed by the CGIT on 24.01.2018. The order of the High Court dismissing the same on 04.02.2021, is impugned in the present appeal.

 

ISSUES

Whether the Award of the CGIT as well as the impugned judgment rendered by the High Court be sustained.

CONTENTION OF APPELLANTS

Learned senior counsel for the appellant submitted that the conduct of the respondent no.3 clearly dis-entitled him to any relief as he could not have been allowed to resile from his initially declared date of birth, that too after 9 years of his initial declaration, on 27.12.1972. It was submitted that the said declaration by the respondent no.3 himself on 27.12.1972, cannot be said to be an inadvertent error or omission for the reason that had the so-called correct date of birth, according to the respondent no.3, i.e., 12.03.1955 been declared, then at the relevant point of time, he would have been only 17 years and 1 month old and could not have been given the employment he had sought, since the minimum age required was 18 years. Thus, it was submitted that it was clear that he had tried to take employment relying on his date of birth as 27.12.1948, from which he cannot be allowed to backtrack. It was canvassed that the same would amount to taking double advantage; one at the initial stage on the basis of the date of birth as 27.12.1948 and later in service on a different date of birth i.e., 12.03.1955. It was contended that the CGIT reaching the conclusion, that the management could not have determined the date of birth of the respondent no.3 based on the initial Descriptive Roll being unjustified, was totally without any basis and arbitrary and thus, awarding him 50% back wages, is totally misplaced and needs interference by this Court. It was urged that the High Court also failed to take notice of basic factual aspects and more importantly, the conduct of the respondent no.3 and the time-gap of 9 years after which he suddenly woke up and made a representation for change of his date of birth.

 

CONTENTIONS OF RESPONDENTS

Counsel for the respondent no.3 submitted that at the time of filling up the Descriptive Roll, the same was based on an oral declaration and apparently the authority, which was noting down the date of birth, had committed an error. It was further submitted that the STC dated 12.01.1972 clearly indicates that his date of birth was 12.03.1955, which required corrections in the records of the appellant and thus the CGIT and the High Court have not committed any error warranting interference by this Court. It was submitted that the respondent no.3 was unaware of the date of birth being recorded as 27.12.1948 and only when he came to know of the same, he had taken steps and the CGIT rightly granted relief to him. Learned counsel also submitted that the respondent no.3 cannot be made to suffer for the fault of the appellant itself and more so when later, in its own records it had correctly recorded his date of birth as 12.03.1955, in the year 1982.

 

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

Having considered the matter in its entirety and the submissions made, the Hon’ble Supreme Court was of the opinion that the Award of the CGIT as well as the impugned judgment rendered by the High Court cannot be sustained. It is not in dispute that while submitting the Descriptive Roll, the respondent no.3 had himself declared his age as 24 years without any documentary proof and since the date of submission of such Descriptive Roll was 27.12.1972, his date of birth was recorded by the appellant as 27.12.1948. This position continued for almost a decade viz. till 1982, when the respondent no.3 submitted a declaration, on the merger of HSL with SAIL, wherein his date of birth was disclosed as 12.03.1955, though even at such time, again, no documentary proof was furnished by him. Page 6 of 10 The respondent no.3 submitted the so-called proof, which was the STC dated 12.01.1972, only after the issuance of letter dated 24.11.1998, whereby he was required to submit documentary proof of his date of birth. Pausing here, the Court would note that by reckoning his date of birth as 12.03.1955, the respondent no.3 would be much below the age of 18 years at the time of initial employment, which was the minimum requirement in law. Thus, it is clear that had the respondent no.3 declared his so-called correct date of birth, obviously he would not have been given the employment.  From this point of view, it is clear that the disclosure of the originally-given date of birth by the respondent no.3 was a well-thought out plan hatched by him, at the relevant time. His conduct cannot be simply brushed aside on a plea that there was an error on the part of the appellant in recording his date of birth. Another doubt cast on the conduct of the respondent no.3 is him not acting on time, which raises a question about the bonafides of his claim of having been born on 12.03.1955. In fact, even after giving a declaration on 14.08.1982, on the merger of HSL with SAIL, the copy of the STC was never provided to the appellant, which was done only in response to the letter dated 24.11.1998, requiring him to submit documentary proof of his date of birth. The court said that a decision on the issue of date of birth is as important for the employer as it is for the employee. Moreover, the principles of estoppel would come into play in the present case. The respondent no.3, having stated on 27.12.1972, that his date of birth was 27.12.1948, cannot be permitted to raise the claim of his date of birth being 12.03.1955, that too on 14.08.1982, i.e., almost after a decade (counting from 27.12.1972 to 14.08.1982). Even the STC was submitted after the appellant requested the respondent no.3 for documentary proof on 24.11.1998. The Court found that the much-delayed disclosure of the date of birth as 12.03.1955 by the respondent no.3, coupled with his initial declaration and the admitted position that based on such initial declaration, he had received employment, as otherwise based on 12.03.1955, he could not have been legally appointed due to being under-age, there is no manner of doubt that the respondent no.3, irrespective of his real date of birth, for the purpose of employment under the appellant, cannot be allowed the Page 9 of 10 purported rectification/correction of date of birth to 12.03.1955. He would have to, necessarily, be content with his service and benefits accounted taking his date of birth as 27.12.1948. For reasons aforesaid, the appeal was allowed. The Award of the CGIT dated 24.01.2018 and the impugned judgment was set aside. The respondent no.3 was held to have been rightly retired in terms of his date of birth reckoned as 27.12.1948. And needless to state that the further direction to award 50% back wages to the respondent no.3 from the date he was retired till the (notional) superannuation on 31.03.2015, was also set aside.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Gnaneswarran Beemarao

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Reversal of Reversal: Supreme Court Acquits Accused After Faulty Appeal Process; Upholds Trial Court’s Decision.

CASE TITLE – Babu Sahebagouda Rudragoudar & Ors. v. State Of Karnataka

CASE NUMBER – Criminal Appeal No. 985 of 2010

DATED ON – 19.04.2024

QUORUM – Justice Sandeep Mehta & Justice B.R. Gavai

 

FACTS OF THE CASE

The complainant, Chanagouda (PW-1) owns agricultural lands and a house in the village, Babanagar, Bijapur, Karnataka. It is alleged by the prosecution that in the morning of 19th September, 2001, the deceased Malagounda, son of the complainant, along with labourers/servants Revappa (PW-2), Siddappa (PW-3), Hiragappa (PW-4) and Suresh (PW-5) had gone to put up a bund (check dam) in their land. The work continued till 3.30 p.m. and thereafter, the four servants (PW-2, PW-3, PW-4 and PW-5), along with the deceased Malagounda and the complainant(PW-1) proceeded to the village. They had reached near the land of one Ummakka Kulkarni at about 4.00 pm, where A-1, A-2, A-3 and A-4 suddenly came around and exhorted that the way the complainant party had murdered Sangound, they would take revenge upon the members of the complainant party in the same manner. A-1 holding a jambai, A-2 holding an axe, A-3 holding a sickle and A-4 holding an axe, belaboured Malagounda, as a result of which he fell down. The assailants thereafter threatened the complainant(PW-1) that if he tried to intervene, he too would meet the same fate as his son. Fearing for his own life, the complainant(PW-1) ran away and hid behind the bushes in order to avoid being beaten by the accused. After sunset, the complainant(PW-1) returned to the village and narrated about the incident to his family members. A written complaint of this incident came to be submitted by the complainant(PW-1) at Tikota Police Station on 20th September, 2001 at 4.00 am in the morning whereupon FIR(Exhibit P-10) was registered and investigation commenced. After conclusion of investigation, a charge sheet came to be filed against the appellants(A-1, A-2, A-3) and other accused(A-4, A-5 and A-6) for the offences punishable under Sections 143, 147, 148, 506(2) and Section 302 read with Section 149 IPC in the Court of jurisdictional Magistrate. Upon hearing the arguments advanced by the prosecution and the defence counsel and after thoroughly appreciating the evidence available on record, the trial Court proceeded to hold that the prosecution could not prove the charges levelled against the accused beyond all manner of doubt and acquitted all the six accused vide judgment dated 23rd July, 2005. The State preferred an appeal under Section 378(1) read with 378(3) CrPC challenging the acquittal of the accused. The learned Division Bench of High Court of Karnataka partly allowed the said appeal vide judgment dated 14th September, 2009 and while reversing the acquittal of the accused A-1, A-2 and A-3 as recorded by the trial Court, convicted and sentenced them to life imprisonment and a Rs.50,000 fine for each of the convicts.

 

ISSUE

Whether the Learned Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court was justified in overturning the Trial Court’s Decision.

 

CONTENTIONS BY THE APPELLANTS

The Learned counsel representing the appellants urged that the view taken by the High Court in reversing the acquittal of the appellants recorded by the trial Court by a well-reasoned judgment is totally contrary to the settled principles laid down by the same Court regarding scope of interference in an appeal against acquittal. It was also contended that neither the disclosure statements nor the recovery memos bear the signatures/thumb impressions of the accused and hence, the recoveries cannot be read in evidence or attributed to the accused/appellants. He also stated that the acquittal can be reversed only if the findings recorded by the trial Court are found to be patently illegal or perverse or if the only view possible on the basis of the evidence available on record points towards the guilt of the accused. If two views are possible, the acquittal recorded by the trial Court should not be interfered with unless perversity or misreading of evidence is reflected from the judgment recording acquittal. The Learned counsel further urged that the learned Division Bench of the High Court, while rendering the judgment reversing acquittal of the appellant barely referred to the findings on the basis of which the trial Court had acquitted the accused by extending them the benefit of doubt. Rather, the High Court went on to record its own fresh conclusions after re-appreciation of the evidence and hence, the impugned judgment deserved to be set aside.

 

CONTENTIONS BY THE RESPONDENT

The learned counsel appearing for the respondent State vehemently and fervently opposed the submissions advanced by learned counsel for the appellants. He urged that learned Division Bench of the High Court, while considering the appeal against acquittal, thoroughly reappreciated the evidence available on record and arrived at an independent and well considered conclusion that the depositions of the eye witnesses PW-1, PW-2, PW-4, PW-6 and PW-15 were convincing and did not suffer from any significant contradictions or infirmities so as to justify the decision of the trial Court in discarding their evidence and acquitting the accused of the charges. He stated that the so called contradictions and discrepancies highlighted by the trial Court in the evidence of the eyewitnesses for doubting their evidentiary worth are trivial and insignificant and acquittal of accused as recorded by the learned trial Court disregarding the testimony of the eyewitnesses is based on perverse and unacceptable reasoning. Learned counsel thus urged that the High Court was perfectly justified in reversing the acquittal of the accused appellants by the impugned judgment which does not require interference in this appeal.

 

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The Hon’ble Supreme Court after going through the impugned judgement of a Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court stated that none of the essential mandates governing an appeal against acquittal were adverted to by the learned Division Bench which proceeded to virtually decide the appeal as a first Court on independent appreciation of evidence and recorded its own findings to hold the accused appellants(A-1, A-2 and A-3) guilty of the charge under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC and sentenced them to imprisonment for life, and thus, on the face of record, the judgment of the High Court causing interference with the acquittal of the accused appellants as recorded by the trial Court is contrary to the principles established by law. They were of the firm opinion that neither the disclosure memos were proved in accordance with law nor the recovery of the weapons from open spaces inspire confidence and were wrongly relied upon by the High Court as incriminating material so as to reverse the finding of the acquittal recorded by the trial Court, and also stated that that the view taken by the trial Court in the judgment dated 23rd July, 2005 recording acquittal of accused is a plausible and justifiable view emanating from the discussion of the evidence available on record, and that the trial Court’s judgment does not suffer from any infirmity or perversity. Hence, the High Court was not justified in reversing the well-reasoned judgment of the trial Court and that the impugned judgment dated 14th September, 2009 rendered by the High Court could be not be sustained and was reversed, and held that the accused/appellants were hereby acquitted of all the charges.

 

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Judgement Reviewed by – Gnaneswarran Beemarao

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Karnataka High Court: Accused Discharged in Suicide Abetment Case Due to Insufficient Evidence

Case title: ONKARAPPA G H & ORS VS THE STATE OF KARNATAKA

Case no.: CRIMINAL REVISION PETITION NO. 141 OF 2024

Dated on: 21st may 2024

Quorum: HON’BLE MR JUSTICE S RACHAIAH

FACTS OF THE CASE

The case of the prosecution is that the deceased Shruthi was working as a maid in the house of Sri. G.H. Omkarappa and Smt. Anusuyamma at Shivamogga. The deceased was staying with them since two years. The complainant being a mother of the deceased-Shruthi used to visit the house where Shruthi was working often and she was enquiring about the welfare of her daughter. Such being the fact, she has received a message from the reliable source that her daughter committed suicide in the house of the accused around 2.00 pm. Immediately after receiving the said information, the complainant and others went to Shivamogga and learnt that the deceased Shruthi committed suicide inside the room and it was bolted from inside. It is further stated in the complaint that, the door was opened with the help of the localities in the presence of police. On opening the said room, the complainant found that her daughter was hanging from the ceiling fan and also noticed a chit said to have written by the deceased. Hence, she lodged a complaint. Upon the complaint, the jurisdictional police registered a case in Cr.No.207/2015 for the offence under Section 306 read with Section 34 of IPC. After conducting investigation submitted charge sheet. Being aggrieved by filing of the charge sheet, the petitioner herein filed an application under Section 227 of Code of Criminal Procedure Act (for short, ‘Cr.P.C.’). The said application came to be rejected by the Trial Court. Hence, this revision.

ISSUES

  • Whether the accused can be charged under Section 306 of the IPC for abetting suicide based on the evidence provided in the complaint and charge sheet.
  • Whether the contents of the complaint and charge sheet provide sufficient grounds to proceed against the accused and whether they disclose the necessary elements of instigation or harassment required for abetment of suicide.
  • Whether the Trial Court’s decision to reject the application for discharge was justified or if it amounted to an abuse of process of law.

LEGAL PROVISINS

Indian Penal Code (IPC), Section 306: Abetment of Suicide Section 306 of the IPC deals with the abetment of suicide. It states that if any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Indian Penal Code (IPC), Section 34: Acts Done by Several Persons in Furtherance of Common Intention Section 34 deals with acts done by several persons in furtherance of a common intention. It states that when a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.

Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.), Section 227: Discharge Section 227 of the Cr.P.C. provides the power to discharge. It states that if, upon consideration of the record of the case and the documents submitted therewith, and after hearing the submissions of the accused and the prosecution in this behalf, the Judge considers that there is not sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused, he shall discharge the accused and record his reasons for doing so.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

Arun Shyam, learned Senior Counsel for Sri. Suyog  Herele, learned counsel for the petitioner and Sri. Rahul Rai, learned High Court Government Pleader for the State. It is the submission of learned Senior Counsel that the findings of the Trial Court in rejecting the application for discharge is erroneous and against to the facts of the case. Hence, the same is liable to be set aside. It is further submitted that the contents of the charge sheet do not disclose the ingredients of Section 306 of IPC. In fact, the complainant in her complaint stated that she was visiting the house of the accused and she was enquiring about the welfare of her daughter. The averments of the complaint did not disclose either instigation or harassment to commit suicide. It is further submitted that a letter said to have been found in the room where the deceased committed suicide clearly discloses that, the deceased was loving a boy and she mentioned the phone numbers and narrated certain facts in it. However, the deceased mentioned in the end of the said letter, that accused are responsible for her suicide. That itself is not sufficient to attract the ingredients of instigation or abetment to commit suicide. Such being the fact, asking the petitioner to face the trial, certainly, amounts to an abuse of process of law. Therefore, the petition deserves to be allowed. Making such submissions, the learned Senior Counsel prays to allow the petition.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS

The learned High Court Government Pleader vehemently justified the order of rejection passed by the Trial Court and submitted that as per the averments of the complaint, the deceased Shruthi was working in the house of the accused as a maid and she committed suicide in their house by leaving death note. The said death note contains some facts and the same are required to be proved during full-fledged trial. In case, if the petition is allowed, the facts remain unchallenged. Therefore, the petition deserves to be dismissed. Making such submission, the learned High Court Government Pleader prays to dismiss the petition. Having heard learned counsel for the respective parties and also after having perused the findings of the Trial Court, the Trial Court while rejecting the application opined that at the stage of framing of charges, the Court has to see only prima-facie material and further opined that the contents of the death note are required to be proved during trial. It is settled principles of law that in order to convict a person under Section 306 of IPC, there has to be a clear mens rea to commit the offence. Further, it also requires an active act or direct act which lead the deceased to commit suicide seeing no option and this act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that he/she committed suicide.

 

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

In the present case, either the averments of the complaint or averments of the charge sheet do not disclose neither mens-rea nor instigation. Even assuming that the contents of the death note are true, it can be inferred from the averments that the deceased was loving a boy and she mentioned the phone numbers and expressed her willingness to meet him and at the same time, she mentioned the reason for committing suicide. “Mere mentioning that the accused are responsible for committing suicide “, is not sufficient to attract the ingredients of abetment. Such being the facts, asking accused to face the trial, certainly would be considered as an abuse of process of law. Therefore, the petition deserves to be allowed. It is needless to say that the Trial Court while considering the application for discharge must satisfy as to whether the material placed in the charge sheet are sufficient to record the conviction. The Hon’ble Supreme Court time and again reiterated that the Trial Court shall not act as a post office between prosecution and investigating agency. Of course, the Trial Court while framing the charge must prima facie satisfy that the materials are sufficient to frame the charge. However, the said word “prima facie” would mean that, even if no other material is placed by the investigating agency, the conviction can be recorded based on the charge sheet materials. The Criminal Revision Petition is allowed. The order dated 18.12.2023 in S.C No.126/2023 passed by the Prl. District and Sessions Judge, Shivamogga, is hereby set aside. The petitioners are discharged for the offence punishable under Sections 306 read with Section 34 of IPC.

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Judgement Reviewed by – HARIRAGHAVA JP

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