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SC upheld appalent courts rejection of additional evidence application in cheque bounce case

Title: AJITSINH CHEHUJI RATHOD V STATE OF GUJARAT & ANR.

Citation: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO(S). OF 2024 (Arising out of SLP(Crl.) No(s). 16641 of 2023)

Dated on: 29.1.2024

Corum:  HON’BLE JUSTICE B.R GAVAI & JUSTICE SANDEEP MEHTA

Facts of the case

The present case focuses around a cheque issued by Ajitsinh Chehuji Rathod for Rs. 10 lakhs that bounced due to inadequate funds and account dormancy. Rathod attempted to appeal his conviction by introducing further evidence to indicate that his signature on the cheque was faked. He further claimed that he had not received the notice under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. In trial court Rathod, undeterred by his conviction, filed an appeal with the Principal Sessions Judge in Gandhinagar. During the appeal, he submitted an application under Section 391 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This application sought authorization to introduce new evidence at the appellate stage, with the express goal of obtaining the opinion of a handwriting expert for a signature comparison. Rathod also asked the summons of a Post Office official to support his defence claim that he never received the notice under Section 138 of the NI Act. Unfortunately for Rathod, the Principal Sessions Judge, Gandhinagar, denied his application under Section 391 CrPC in a detailed ruling. Determined, Rathod filed Criminal appeal before the High Court of Gujarat. However, in a ruling the High Court dismissed Rathod’s claim under Sections 482 and 391 CrPC, prompting the current appeal to the Supreme Court.

Legal Provision

Section 391 of CrPC is a provision that empowers the appellate court to take additional evidence or direct it to be taken by a lower court, if it thinks it is necessary for the disposal of the appeal. Section 482 of CrPC is a provision that saves the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to prevent abuse of the process of any court or to secure the ends of justice.

The appellant had filed an appeal with the appellate court under Section 391 of the CrPC, requesting that the cheque be sent to a handwriting expert and the post office official be summoned to substantiate his defence. The appellate court denied his application, and he appealed the decision to the High Court under Section 482 of the CrPC. The High Court also dismissed his petition, ruling that the application under Section 391 of the CrPC was unjustified and that the inherent powers under Section 482 of the CrPC could not be utilized to bridge a gap in the defence evidence.

Court analysis and judgement

They accepted that the ability to record further evidence under Section 391 CrPC should be used sparingly, only when reasonable diligence was exercised throughout the trial or new facts were discovered during the appeal, preventing the party from submitting evidence. The Court noted that throughout the trial, Rathod cross-examined a witness from the Bank of Baroda to bolster his argument. However, no queries were made to the witness about the authenticity of the signatures on the cheque. Hence court found no reason to interfere with the HC orders and concluded that the case lacked merit and dismissed the said appeal.

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Written by- Namitha Ramesh

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SC remands doctor for misleading representation in a medical negligence case

Title: PC. JAIN V DR. R.P SINGH

Citation: CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). OF 2024 (Arising out of SLP(Civil) No(s). 683-685 of 2023)

Dated on: 29.1.2024

Corum:  HON’BLE JUSTICE B.R GAVAI & JUSTICE SANDEEP MEHTA

Facts of the case

The present case is a complaint of medical negligence filed by P.C Jain against the respondent Dr. RP. Singh, for allegedly causing the loss of vision of Mr. Jain during an eye surgery conducted in 2002-03. The dispute arose when Mr. Jain filed a complaint in the district consumer court, Faridabad alleging that the Doctors negligence caused his visual loss. The district consumer court based on the said reasoning compensated Mr. Jain with Rs. 2 lakhs with 12% annual interest from the date of filing the case. Discontent with the said order the complainant approached state consumer forum which held that the district commission did not have jurisdiction in entertaining the complaint and reversed the verdict and ordered for the complaint to return the said amount. Aggrieved by this the complainant approached national consumer commission where his petition was allowed and order was passed to remand the mater to state consumer forum where his complaint was dismissed. Post that an appeal was filed in NCDRC which accepted Mr. Jains petition and restored the district forums order and modified it with a reduced interest rate of 6% from 12%. The NCDRC also issued a clarifying ruling on Dr. R.P. Singh’s review appeal, limiting the interest payment to the period before he deposited the funds. Both parties filed a challenge to the NCDRC orders in the Supreme Court. A turning point in the plot occurred when Dr. R.P. Singh filed a review petition, saying he had already contributed Rs. 2 lakhs in 2008. In an ex-prate ruling issued on July 22, 2022, the NCDRC recognized Dr. Singh’s version and clarified that he was only had to pay interest. In response Mr. Jain challenging the ex-parte order filed a review petition which was reject.

Issues

whether there was a breach of the duty of care by the doctor?

Court analysis and Judgement

The SC after thorough review of the case modified the NCDRC’s orders, requiring Dr. R.P. Singh to pay Mr. Jain Rs. 2 lakhs with 12% interest from the date of filing the complaint. Dr. Singh was fined Rs. 50,000 by the court for making what the court considered to be a misleading representation.

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Written by- Namitha Ramesh

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SC mandates further investigation before permitting Birla to resume mining near Chittorgarh fort

Title: BIRLA CORPORATION LIMITED THROUGH ITS MANAGING DIRECTOR

V BHANWAR SINGH AND OTHERS

Citation: S.L.P.(C) No. 21211 of 2012

 Dated on: 13 .1.2024

Corum:  HON’BLE JUSTICE SANJIV KHANNA and JUSTICE S.V.N. BHATTI

Facts of the case

The present case is about the Chittorgarh fort of Rajasthan one of the UNESCO recognised world heritage site which became a matter of legal battel between Birla corporation and public interest litigants led by Bhanwar Singh and others. The dispute arose over the said impact on the fort’s structural stability. In response to the petitioners concern the state of Rajasthan annulled mining lease within 10KM radius from the fort region. The matter was later appeared before the SC of India which sought a conclusion.

Petitioners’ Arguments

 The contention of the petitioner is that Birla co sets up a limestone mine at the distance of 4.5 Km away from the fort. The petitioners challenged that challenged HC verdict and contended that mining activities did not cause any discrepancy and harm to the walls of the fort and also raised questions about the annuity of mining rights by the HC within 10Km radius. Additionally, the petitioners were also ordered to pay a compensation of 5 crore for which they claimed disproportionate.

Respondents Arguments

Bhawar Singh the respondents in the appeal primarily filed a PIL in the HC raising concern over impact of blasting operation by Birla related to the lime stone production. They contended that such activities caused cracks and damages to the structure of such national significance and requested for protection for the fort and for the court to intervene and provide guidelines to prevent mining in the region.

Court Analysis

The Hon’ble SC of India upon hearing arguments from the council’s recognized the depth of the situation and ordered for a meticulous examination of the case. Expert reports from agencies such as the Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee (CBRI), the Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research (CIMFR), and the Indian Bureau of Mines, Mining Research Cell were evaluated. The court determined that blasting operations beyond a radius of five km from the fort wall were safe and did not harm the historical monument. Also, acknowledging the tremendous improvements in technology, the court ordered a new study to be done by a multidisciplinary team of specialists from the Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines) at Dhanbad. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of electronic blasting devices, which were marketed as potentially safter method for the environment that reduces vibration. This reflected the courts interest in ensuring the most effective mining practices. The court not satisfied with the said reports has extended the investigation further and order various other declaration to arrive at a safe conclusion and posted for further hearing to July 2024.

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Written by- Namitha Ramesh

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No further extension of imprisonment necessary after serving 8 years in prison: SC

Title: PRAMILA V STATE OF MP CHHATTISGARH

Citation: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 64 OF 2012

Dated on: 23.1.2024

Corum:  HON’BLE JUSTICE ABHAY S. OKA, J.

Facts of the case

In the present case an appeal is filed by Ms. Pramila against the orders of the Chhattisgarh HC which convicted the appellant for life imprisonment. The appellant was charged with the offence of murder and causing destruction of evidence while she was juvenile. Through the findings of the sessions court, it was established that the appellant was 17 years, 9 months and 14 days old when she committed the crime in 1988 at the time when the juvenile justice care and protection of the children act was not in force.

Issues

whether the appellant was a juvenile at the time of the offence and whether she should be dealt with under the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986?

Legal provision

The appellant in this case was charged with section 302, read with section 201 and 34 of the IPC. 302- charges of murder, 201- deliberately causing disappearance of the evidence and 34- joint liability in commission of a crime. Along with the provisions from IPC questions were also raised whether the appellant should be convicted under sec 22 and similar provision under sec 16 of the JJ act 1986 which prohibits the sentencing of juveniles to impressment and only allows a maximum sentencing to confinement to a special home.

Court  analysis and judgement

The supreme court in the present case after reviewing various precedents and provisions of IPC and juvenile justice act 1986 as well as Juvenile case and protection act 2000 observed that the appellant has already undergone incarceration for a period of 8 years there will be no more purpose served by sending appellant before the Juvenile Justice board and came to the conclusion to set aside the orders of HC and allow the appeal of the Ms Pramila.

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Testimonies of witnesses in question for acquitting the accused in murder trial of his wife: SC

Title: DARSHAN SINGH V STATE OF PUNJAB

Citation: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 163 of 2010

Dated on: 5.1.2024

Corum:  HON’BLE JUSTICE ARAVIND KUMAR, J.

Facts of the case

In this present case the late Amrik Kaur got married to Darshan Singh in 1988. Melo Kau, Amrik Kaur’s cousin sister, made the arrangements for their union. However, because of the reported extramarital relationship between Darshan Singh and Rani Kaur, what started off as a happy marriage quickly descended into turmoil. According to the prosecution, the tense marriage served as a fertile foundation for a covert affair that lasted for an important three years. Allegations of the Night: The prosecution’s case is cantered on the dreadful events that transpired on the nights of May 18, 1999, and May 19, 1999. It claims that Amrik Kaur was purposefully poisoned by Darshan Singh and Rani Kaur, who were motivated by a desire to kill her. Dismissing any possibility of suicide, the Trial Court declared the incident to be a homicide. It was predicated on the idea that Darshan Singh had a strong reason for planning the murder of his wife. The court gave great weight to the fact that both of the accused were there in the house on that pivotal night. The dismissal of the suicide theory was rooted in the absence of visible injuries on the deceased’s body, with the court asserting that this alone did not negate the possibility of a forceful administration of the poisonous substance. Subsequently in the High court cleared Rani Kaur conviction despite maintaining Darshan Singh’s conviction. The Court’s reasoning was based on the benefit of doubt that was given to Rani Kaur because there was no hard proof other than evidences testimony. 

Legal proceeding

In the present case Darshan Singh and Rani Kaur faced charges under Section 302 r/w- punishment for murder Section 34- joint liability of criminals of the Indian Penal Code. The Trial Court, after a thorough examination of the evidence and circumstances, delivered a verdict that shook the accused a conviction for the offense under Section 302 r/w Section 34 as the court (Trial) came to the conclusion that the two in a joint act committed the act of murder and subsequently Life imprisonment was the consequential sentence imposed on both. But in the high court the co-accused (lady rani Kaur) escaped liability since the sole proof of her crime was dependent upon a statement testimonial.

Issues

Whether the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt the presence of the appellant and the co-accused in the house of the deceased on the night of the murder, based on the statement given in the testimony?

Whether the death of the deceased (Amrik Kaur) was caused by poisoning with aluminium phosphide, and whether it was a case of homicide or suicide?

Whether the appellant had a motive to kill his wife due to his illicit relationship with the co-accused?

Court Judgement and analysis

The Supreme Court granted the appeal and reversed the concurrent verdicts of guilt. The Court determined that the prosecution did not demonstrate the appellant’s and Rani Kaur’s presence in the residence firmly and convincingly, testimony. The Court further determined that the appellant had aroused doubts in the minds of the judges about his argument that the dead had committed suicide, and that the prosecution had failed to rule this out. The Court further found that the appellant could not be convicted purely based on his statement under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and that he deserved the benefit of doubt.

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