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Proclamation order by Trial Judge quashed by Karnataka HC due to procedural irregularities; Emphasizes need for accused to join investigation.

CASE TITLE – Shridhar K. Pujar v. State of Karnataka

CASE NUMBER – CRIMINAL PETITION NO. 2380 OF 2024, CRIMINAL PETITION NO. 2916 OF 2024 & CRIMINAL PETITION NO. 2925 OF 2024

DATED ON – 02.05.2024

QUORUM – Justice V. Srishananda

 

FACTS OF THE CASE

The Petitioner is a Police Officer of D.S.P rank. Allegations are leveled against him that he was involved in interfering with the true course of justice inasmuch as he had interfered with the investigation of Crime Nos.91/2020 and 287/2020. In respect of those crimes when the investigation was under process, the petitioner was said to have been found in the company of the Lawyer who represented the accused therein. He was required to accompany the Police personnel who had spotted him in the car. At that juncture, he escaped from the clutches and he was not available to the Police was the allegation. Based on the said incident, a case came to be registered against the petitioner in Crime No.19/2024 and Crime No.1/2024 and attempts were made by the petitioner to obtain an order of grant of Anticipatory Bail were rejected. In Criminal Petition Nos. 2380/2024 and 2916/2024 the petitioner was seeking to quash the two criminal cases registered in Crime Nos.19/2024 and 1/2024 against him. The attempts made by the petitioner to submit himself for the process of law by seeking an order of grant of anticipatory bail was turned down by the learned District & Session Judge and a Coordinate Bench of same High Court of Karnataka.

 

ISSUES

Whether the criminal cases (Crime Nos. 19/2024 and 1/2024) against the D.S.P Petitioner/Accused can be quashed, given the allegations of his interference in investigations.

 

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka noted that it is a settled principles of law and requires no emphasis that every accused is presumed to be innocent unless the allegations leveled against him stands proved before the court of law beyond all reasonable doubts. Whether at all the allegations leveled against the petitioner is true or not cannot be decided by them at this stage, as the case against the petitioner is still in the inception stage. And also stated that the fact remains that unless the petitioner joins the investigation and cooperates with pending investigation in respect of Crime No.19/2024 and crime No.1/2024 no useful purpose would be served by simply keeping the investigation pending, and held that an arrangement needs to be made which would strike a harmonious balance between the rights of the petitioner and the need of the prosecution. And as to the Appeal by the Petitioner to quash the FIR against him, the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka stated that generally an FIR cannot be quashed unless it has acted prejudicial to the interest of the petitioner and by the allegation found in the complaint, no case could made out against the accused/petitioner, and in the case on hand, there was no special reason for the Court to quash the FIR itself. They then proceeded to allow Criminal Petition No. 2925/2024 stating that the Order of proclamation passed by the learned Trial Judge as against the petitioner is quashed, on account of procedural irregularities. And Criminal Petition Nos.2380/2024 and 2916/2024 were Disposed Of with some of the conditions being that the Petitioner shall completely cooperate with the Investigation Agency, and on conclusion of the custodial investigation, the petitioner shall be let free by taking a bond in a sum of Rs.2,00,000/- with two sureties to the satisfaction of the Investigation Officer. Further, the petitioner is directed to appear before the Investigation Officer as and when called and shall not in any way tamper the prosecution evidence.

 

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Judgement Reviewed by – Gnaneswarran Beemarao

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Landmark Criminal Appeal Decision: Supreme Court Reverses Verdict, Declares Four Guilty in Support of Chhattisgarh State.

Case Title – RAVISHANKAR TANDON Vs. STATE OF CHHATTISGARH (2024 INSC 299)

Case Number – Criminal Appeal No.- 003869-003869 / 2023

Dated on – 10th April 2023.

Quorum – Justice B. R. Gavai


FACTS OF THE CASE:

In the case of RAVISHANKAR TANDON Vs. STATE OF CHHATTISGARH (2024 INSC 299), an FIR was lodged after the deceased in the case went missing leading to a prompt investigation where the accused No. 1, 2 and 4 were charged with the offence under IPC Sections 302 (Punishment for murder),120B (Punishment for criminal conspiracy) and 201(Causing disappearance of evidence of offence or giving false information). Whereas, Accused No. 3 was charged with the offence under IPC Sections 302 and 120B. It was during the police interrogation that the appellant confessed about having a conspiracy to murder the deceased for a sum of Rupees 90,000 by throttling the deceased and disposing off his body in the pond of the village, Bhatgaon. As per the confession of the appellant, the police retrieved the dead body of the deceased from the same pond at village Bhatgaon. Through the postmortem examination it was confirmed that the Accused No. 1, 2 and 4 throttled the deceased to death and shrouded the body of the deceased in a jute sack. During the proceedings, several witnesses testified. The prosecution provided the court with 37 documents as evidence to justify the guilt of the appellant. The appellant pleaded not guilty and opted for the proceedings of the court. It was established by the trial court that the Accused No. 1,2 and 3 were guilty under IPC Sections 302,120B and 201 while Accused No. 4 was guilty of the offence under IPC Sections 302 and 120B. All the accused found guilty were sentenced to an imprisonment for life.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT:

1. The appellant, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the prosecution failed to establish any incriminating circumstances beyond any reasonable doubt.

2. The appellant, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the prosecution failed to establish a chain of proven circumstances leading to the guilt of the accused.

3. The appellant, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the prosecution failed to prove that the information in the statement of the appellant which led to the discovery of the evidence was unknown to anyone before the appellant provided it during interrogation.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT:

1. The respondent in the said case contented that both the High Court and Trial Court without any dissent winded up the case stating that the prosecution has successfully proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

2. The respondent stated that both the trial court and the High Court’s findings are based on a thorough perception of the evidence presented to the court, leading to the conclusion that no interference is necessary.

LEGAL PROVISIONS:

1. Section 120B of IPC prescribes the Punishment of Criminal Conspiracy- Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall, where no express provision is made in this code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offence.

2. Section 201 of IPC prescribes the Punishment for causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender.

3. Section 302 of IPC prescribes the Punishment for Murder – Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or [imprisonment for life], and shall also be liable to fine.

4. Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 prescribes How much of information received from accused may be proved – Provided that, when any fact is deposed to as discovered inconsequence of information received from a person accused of any offence, in the custody of a police officer, so much of such information, whether it amounts to a confession or not, as relates distinctly to the fact thereby discovered, may be proved.

ISSUES:

1. The main issue revolved around whether the prosecution possessed adequate evidence in order to prove the guilt of the accused beyond any reasonable doubt or was it just circumstantial evidence?

2. Another issue was whether the validity of the confession gained by the police during the interrogation?

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT:

The Supreme Court in the given case scrupulously analysed that the conviction based on circumstantial evidences requires a chain of complete and proper chain of evidences without any presence of reasonable doubt and that the circumstances that lead to the guilt of the accused persons must be established conclusively keeping aside all alternative hypotheses of innocence. The court stated that the evidence does not conclusively proves that the discovery of the dead body was solely based on the statement given by the accused person. The court decided that the judgments given by the High Court and the Trial Court are to be quashed and set aside and that the appellants in the said case are to be exonerated of all charges imposed on them and released.


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Judgement Reviewed by – Sruti Sikha Maharana

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Words said in a fit of rage do not amount to abetment of suicide: Supreme Court.

CASE TITLE: KUMAR @ SHIVA KUMAR V. STATE OF KARNATAKA

CASE NO: SLP CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1427 OF 2011

DECIDED ON: 1.03.2024

QUORUM: HON’BLE JUSTICE UJJAL BHUYAN

FACTS OF THE CASE

The appellant has filed a special leave petition against the judgment passed by the trial court, and the high court dismissed the criminal revision petition. The trial court had convicted the appellant under section 306 of the IPC, sentencing him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for three years. It imposed a fine of Rs. 2000. If the appellant fails to pay the fine, he shall undergo strict punishment for four months.

The appellant was a tenant living in the deceased’s house. However, on the day of the incident, he was residing elsewhere since the term of his tenant agreement had ended. On 5.7.2000, when the deceased was returning home after dropping her sister’s kids at school, she saw the appellant waiting for her near Canara Bank. The appellant eve teased her, asking her to marry him. When the deceased did not respond, the appellant threatened to destroy her sister’s family, outraging their modesty and causing death. Upon arrival at the house, the deceased informed her sisters of the same and ingested poison. The neighbours saw the deceased lying on the floor in pain from the window and rushed to help. They opened the house door, and during this time, one of her sisters had also arrived with her husband. The deceased was taken to Nirmala Devi Hospital, after which she was relocated to Mission Hospital. She died on 06.07.2000 at 7:30 pm. Raju, the dead’s father, lodged an FIR on 07.07.2000 at 6:30 pm, alleging the appellant was liable for his daughter’s death. During the investigation, post-mortem was done, and the viscera of the deceased was sent for chemical analysis to the Forensic Science Laboratory, Bangalore. The doctor who did the examination stated that the death was caused by respiratory failure due to the consumption of a substance having Organophosphate. After the investigation, the police submitted the chargesheet, where the appellant was the accused.

The prosecution examined eleven witnesses and produced eleven documents as exhibits. The trial court gave its verdict after hearing both sides. The prosecution, beyond any reasonable doubt, had proved that the appellant was responsible for abetting the suicide of the deceased. Hence, the trial court convicted the appellant. As previously stated, the appellant had filed an appeal in the High Court of Karnataka, which upheld the judgement passed by the trial court and dismissed the petition. Following that, the aggrieved filed a special leave petition. The appellant was also granted bail contingent on the trial court’s satisfaction.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Section 107 of the IPC deals with abetment of a thing.

Section 306 of the IPC deals with abetment of suicide.

Section 309 of the IPC deals with attempt to commit suicide.

Section 161 of the CRPC deals with examination of witnesses by police.

Section 313 of the CRPC deals with power to examine the accused.

Section 374 of the CRPC deals with appeals from convictions.

APPELLANTS CONTENTIONS

The counsel for the appellant contends that the evidence produced by the prosecution has not been interpreted and analysed correctly since it does not aid the appellant’s conviction under section 306 of the Indian Penal Court. There are inconsistencies in the witness statements and the evidences produced by the prosecution which cannot be overlooked. It can be inferred that no case of instigation, abetment or conspiracy can be drawn against the appellant in this scenario.

The statements made by Prosecution Witness (PW) No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 12 are highly unreliable. The gaps in their testimony prove that they have improved and changed their story. The counsel for the appellant also revealed that the front of the right wrist of the deceased had a partially healed superficial linear incised injury. The prosecution has not explained the same. Since the injury was only partially recovered, it suggests it happened before the appellant teased her. This shows the appellant did not instigate her suicidal nature, and it might be something else. Although the deceased was hospitalised on 05.07.2000, the FIR was only lodged on 07.07.2000 at 6:30 pm. Additionally, the deceased had not told anyone about the appellant allegedly harassing her. Moreover, the appellant had gotten married two months before the incident took place so there was no reason for him to threaten, he was deceased making the accuracy of the prosecution’s case questionable.

 

RESPONDENT CONTENTIONS

The respondent asserts that the appellant has been convicted rightfully. The prosecution has proved his liability without any reasonable doubt before the trial court. Even the high court has upheld the impugned order. Hence, the question of credibility does not arise. There is no such rule in any legislation that a conviction cannot be made on the statements given by the family members. A simple reading of the witness statements of PW 1, 2 and 4 which is further substantiated by the testimony of PW 13 the doctor will point towards the appellant’s conviction. Hence, there is no substance in the case presented by the appellant.

 

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The Court has thoroughly analysed the evidence in this case, and the revelations have been astounding. It has only served to weaken the case of the prosecution. The accused had lived on the ground floor of his house for five years till the tenancy period was over. The deceased used to take the children of Raju’s other daughter to school daily. During that time, the accused used to ask for her hand in marriage and, upon her refusal, threatened to murder her family. Upon further examination of PW 1, 05.07.2000 was corrected to 06.07.2000. This very day, the accused had threatened to pour acid on the deceased and her sisters and murder them. Raju was informed about the accused’s marital status only after the death of his daughter. He was unaware of his whereabouts after he left his house.

Meena, PW 2, is the deceased’s sister residing with her. She stated that she saw her father in the hospital the next day at around 5:00 pm. Additionally, her father resided with some other woman outside marriage. Meena’s testimony contradicts the claims made by her father about living in the same house and reaching the hospital by 1 pm. The behaviour of Raju, whose daughter had been admitted to the hospital because of the consumption of poison, is very abnormal.

According to PW 4, Shantha, the second daughter of Raju, the deceased, had telephoned her and told them that she had consumed poison because of the incident that took place earlier that day. They rushed to her residence and took her to the hospital with the help of neighbours who were already there. This again contradicts PW 1’s statement that he had come home at 10 am and received the news that his daughter had already been taken to the hospital. PW 8 and 9, who were amongst the neighbours who saw the deceased in an unconscious state through the window while the telephone was ringing, turned out to be hostile witnesses. Only PW 8 and 9 were examined among all the neighbours present, and the reasons for not examining the others are unknown. Both the neighbours turned out to be hostile witnesses, stating that they didn’t know the reason behind the girl’s death. They also stated that the police hadn’t recorded their statements. It is also pertinent to note that if the telephone receiver hung, how could it keep ringing? In addition to the inconsistencies and loopholes that have already dented the prosecution case, the court stated that the credibility of the evidence produced cannot be trusted.

The court referred to the case M. Mohan v. State[1] to look into the meaning of suicide. In this case, it was observed that since “Sui” means self and “cide” means killing, a clear inference can be drawn that suicide means self-killing. In the case of Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh[2], it was held that instigation refers to an act of provocation and encouragement. When someone is provoked to perform an act, it is instigation. It is immaterial whether the words are spoken or unspoken. The accused’s act must indicate the resultant circumstance or situation. However, words said in a rage will not be considered as instigation.

Thus, the court, in this case, has laid down essentials that need to be proved to convict an accused for the offence of abetment of suicide. They are as follows:

  • the accused constantly irritates and annoys the deceased with spoken words, actions, deliberate omissions and deliberate silence to provoke and compel the deceased to take action swiftly
  • it is very important to establish mens rea of the accused in doing the aforementioned acts, which goes hand in hand with instigation.

Another point which is pertinent to note is that when a person dies by the consumption of poison, traces of poison must be discovered in such cases. PW 13 testified that there were injection marks on the front of both elbows of the deceased, including a partially healed wound on the wrist of the deceased. When he received the final chemical analysis, he opined that the death was caused by respiratory failure due to the consumption of the compound organophosphate. In the instant case, the doctors who treated the deceased were not called upon by the court for their testimony. It would have been crucial since they could have given information regarding the compound’s amount and way of consumption. No evidence pertaining to the bottle or the container from which the deceased had consumed poison or any syringe or needle used to inject was retrieved by the police.  

The court said that there can be a plethora of reasons as to why a person can commit suicide. It can be due to societal pressures or some mental illness. Hence, suicide is not always abetted. In the present case, the appellant cannot be convicted of abetment to suicide when suicide itself has not been proven. Considering the defaults in the prosecution case, the Hon’ble Court quashed the order given by the trial court and subsequently upheld by the High Court. The appellant’s conviction under section 306 has been set aside, hereby acquitting him of all the charges. The appellant is already out on bail, so the bail bonds shall no longer be in effect.

[1] 1 (2011) 3 SCC 626

[2] (2001) 9 SCC 618

Judgement Written by-Rashi Hora

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