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Supreme Court Upholds Life Sentence in Kerala Uxoricide Case.

Anil Kumar v State of Kerala.

Case No.: Criminal Appeal No. 2697 of 2023.

Date: November 01, 2023.

Court: Supreme Court of India.

Quorum: Hon’ble J. Abhay S. Oka, J. Pankaj Mithal.

 

Facts of the case

The appeal was filed when the appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs.50,000 and to undergo simple imprisonment for one year under Section 302 IPC and rigorous imprisonment for one year under Section 498A IPC. The appellant allegedly threw a lit matchstick on his wife after she poured kerosene over herself due to the quarrel.

Initially, the case was registered under Section 307 of IPC as it was stated that the wife was tired of the torture and wanted to end everything. The appellant took advantage of the situation. The charge changed to 302 and 498 after she died in the hospital, and her husband was charged with uxoricide. The children of the couple testified that the appellant had the habit of hitting their wife.

Legal Issue

Whether there was a premeditated mind to kill or was it merely grave and sudden provocation resulting in the action?

Legal provisions

Indian Penal Code:

  • 300 – Murder and when culpable homicide is not murder.
  • 302 – Punishment for murder.
  • 304 – Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
  • 307 – Attempt to murder.
  • 498A – Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.

 

Contentions of appellant

The learned counsel for the appellant defended that he was not guilty of burning his wife. She had suicidal tendencies and had made several attempts to do it. He did the act due to the grave and sudden provocation caused by the quarrel. Later, he tried to prevent her from doing it the day by pouring a bucket of water, and therefore, he did not possess any premeditated mind to kill. Thus, these Sections are not applicable; at best, he can be charged under Section 304 part II of IPC. They argued that it was due to grave and sudden provocation and that there was no premeditated intention to kill.

Contentions of the respondent

The learned counsel of the respondent opposed this and argued that the appellant had burnt his wife with a matchstick, fully knowing she was drenched in kerosene oil and it would cause death. Additionally, the evidence of the witnesses clearly proves that the couple had petty arguments often and the husband tortured her, including the statement of the wife before passing away in the hospital. She had stated that he would assault her after getting drunk and threw light on the pending criminal cases against the appellant.

Judgement and analysis

The Supreme Court of India held that the evidence and dying declaration of the wife clearly points to the fact that the appellant had a clear intention to kill her and had taken advantage of the situation in which his wife was drenched in kerosene. The testimony of the neighbour helped in establishing that there was a substantial amount of time between the quarrel and setting on fire. Therefore, the appellant is guilty of the offense of culpable homicide amounting to murdered and is not entitled to exception 4 of Section 300 IPC.

Thus, the Court upheld the decisions of lower courts and was of the opinion that the courts did not commit any error of fact or law in convicting and sentencing the appellant to a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. They dismissed the appeal due to lack of merits.

Judgment reviewed by Maria Therese Syriac.

Click here to read the Judgement.

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“Supreme Court Reins in High Court’s Overreach in Criminal Case Impleadment”

Case Title – N. Manogar & Anr. vs. The Inspector of Police & Ors.

Case No. – SLP (Crl.) No(s). 8696 of 2021

Dated on – 16th February, 2024

Quorum – Hon’ble Justice Vikram Nath and Hon’ble Justice Satish Chandra Sharma

 

Facts of the Case –

The first respondent registered an FIR on April 20, 2018, pursuant to a High Court order dated January 24, 2018, based on a complaint by the second respondent. The complaint alleged that the third respondent assaulted the complainant and her son, Vidhul, at their home, accompanied by her husband (Appellant No. 1) and another boy (Appellant No. 2). However, the chargesheet only named the third respondent, leading to the complainant’s application for re-investigation under Section 482 CrPC. The High Court, on February 5, 2019, allowed the complainant to seek impleadment of the appellants under Sections 319 and 216 CrPC.

The Trial Court, on May 6, 2019, partly allowed the application by impleading Appellant No. 1 as an accused but dismissed it regarding Appellant No. 2. Both parties filed revision petitions, resulting in the High Court remanding the matter back to the Trial Court, which again dismissed the application on October 24, 2019, citing insufficient evidence against the appellants. The High Court subsequently reversed this decision on September 13, 2021, based on prima facie findings of the appellants’ involvement.

Legal Provisions –

  • Section 216 of CrPC, 1973
  • Section 319 of CrPC, 1973
  • Section 482 of CrPC, 1973

Contentions of the appellant –

The appellants, represented by learned senior counsel Mr. S. Nagamuthu, contended before the Supreme Court that the Madras High Court had erroneously exercised its jurisdiction under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) by reversing the Trial Court’s order without a proper appreciation of the facts and evidence on record. The appellants argued that the allegations against them were vague and omnibus, lacking specificity and direct evidence of their involvement in the alleged offenses. They asserted that there was no substantial material to justify their impleadment as accused persons, and the High Court failed to adhere to the principles established in Hardeep Singh v. State of Punjab, which dictate that the power under Section 319 CrPC should be exercised sparingly and only in cases where strong and cogent evidence indicates a person’s involvement in the commission of an offense. The appellants maintained that the Trial Court’s decision was well-reasoned and did not suffer from any legal perversity, thus should not have been overturned by the High Court.

 

Contentions of the Respondent –

The respondents, through their learned counsel, vigorously opposed the appellants’ contentions, asserting that the High Court correctly appreciated the allegations and evidence presented. They argued that the underlying complaint, the statements recorded under Section 161 CrPC, and the examination-in-chief of the prosecution witnesses collectively disclosed sufficient material implicating the appellants in the commission of the alleged offenses. The respondents contended that the High Court properly invoked its powers under Section 319 CrPC, which requires a prima facie satisfaction of the accused’s involvement in the crime. They maintained that the allegations and evidence on record established a strong case against the appellants, thereby justifying their impleadment as accused persons. The respondents further cited the decision in Jitendra Nath Mishra v. State of Uttar Pradesh to support their stance that the High Court’s order did not suffer from any legal infirmity or perversity and was in accordance with established judicial principles.

 

Court Analysis and Judgement –

The Court, after hearing the submissions and perusing the records, analyzed the principles governing the exercise of jurisdiction under Section 319 of the CrPC. The Court reaffirmed the stance established in Hardeep Singh v. State of Punjab, emphasizing that the power under Section 319 is discretionary, extraordinary, and must be exercised sparingly. This power should be invoked only in cases where strong and cogent evidence is present against a person, surpassing a prima facie case but short of conclusive evidence of guilt. The Court noted that the High Court failed to apply this stringent standard and improperly exercised its discretion by setting aside the Trial Court’s well-reasoned order. The materials on record, including the vague allegations in the complaint, the statements under Section 161 CrPC, and the examination-in-chief, did not meet the requisite threshold for impleading the appellants as accused. Consequently, the Court allowed the appeal, setting aside the High Court’s order and upholding the Trial Court’s decision. All pending applications were disposed of accordingly.

 

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Judgement reviewed by – Anurag Das

 

 

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Madhya Pradesh High Court stressed on establishing substantial question of law for admitting a second appeal

CASE TITLE- Vishnu Singh S/O Jagdish Singh Vs Kamal Singh and Ors.

CASE NUMBER- Second Appeal No. 76 of 2021

DATED ON- 18.06.2024

QUORUM- Honourable Justice Avanindra Kumar Singh

FACTS OF THE CASE

The plaintiff filed a suit against the defendants for declaration of title regarding the suit property situated in village Sukakhedi, total land measuring 9.962 hectares in full part and on 6.985 hectares for declaring the title on 1/2 part along with declaring that sale-deed as null and void and injucting plaintiffs by permanent injuction to interfere in the possession and use of suit land by plaintiff. On an appeal by the plaintiff, learned Second Additional District Judge dismissed the appeal.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Section 63 of Hindu Succession Act, 1956

Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

The appellant contented that, there was a Will dated in favour of the plaintiff. Santribai, wife of late Nepal Singh had willed the suit property to him as she was issueless but defendants partitioned the suitland on false ground and obtained a revenue order in favour of Indira Bai.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT

The defendant contented that late Nepal Singh, husband of Santribai had purchased the suit land from joint family income in his name, therefore, Santribai and Indirabai, both were entitled.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The court analyzed that, plaintiff witness No.2 Gulzar Singh as per Section 63 of Hindu Succession Act has not stated that Santribai had signed the Will before him therefore, the execution of the Will was proved is incorrect.  Even otherwise, plaintiff Vishnu Singh admitted that Nepal Singh did not have any other extra income besides agricultural income and regarding the statement that land was purchased from the gold and jewellery received from father and mother of Santribai, there were no pleadings of the plaintiff in the suit, therefore, evidence without pleading cannot be accepted. Moreover, the suit should have been filed within three years but the suit was filed after the limitation time bar. The court held that no substantial question of law arises on which this second appeal can be admitted and the appeal got dismissed.

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Judgement Reviewed By- Shreyasi Ghatak

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Mere Mention in Suicide Note Insufficient for Abetment Charge: Supreme Court.

Vikas Chandra v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr.

Case No.: Criminal Appeal No.__________ of 2024 (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No.1196/2018).

Date: February 22, 2024.

Court: Supreme Court of India.

Quorum: Hon’ble J. C.T. Ravikumar, J. Rajesh Bindal.

Facts of the Case:

The case concerns the death by suicide of Brijesh Chandra, father of the appellant Vikas Chandra. Brijesh Chandra was a retired military man working as a security guard at Mandi Samiti, Puwaya. The respondent Ram Babu Sharma was the Secretary of the Mandi Samiti at the time.

According to the complaint filed by Vikas Chandra, his father’s salary from March 2004 to August 2004 and September 2004 onwards was not paid. On October 12, 2004, when Brijesh Chandra requested the release of his salary, Ram Babu Sharma allegedly told him: “I will see that how will you get your salary and who will help you in getting your salary, I will bring out your military-man-ship and either you die or your children, but I do not care, get out of here, why you do not take poison”.

On October 23, 2004, Brijesh Chandra committed suicide by consuming poison in the office of Sub-Mandi, Alhaganj, where he was working at the time. He left a suicide note allegedly attributing responsibility for his suicide to Ram Babu Sharma.

Initially, the complainant approached the court of the Judicial Magistrate, but the complaint was not forwarded for investigation under Section 156(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The matter was taken up in revision and eventually to the High Court. Based on the High Court’s orders, an FIR was registered under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for abetment of suicide.

After investigation, the police filed a closure report. The Magistrate did not accept this report and conducted an inquiry under Section 202 CrPC based on a protest petition filed by the complainant. Subsequently, the Magistrate issued summons to Ram Babu Sharma to face trial for the offense under Section 306 IPC.

Ram Babu Sharma challenged this summons order in the High Court under Section 482 CrPC. The High Court quashed the summons order, leading to the present appeal before the Supreme Court.

Legal Issues:

Whether the High Court erred in quashing the summons issued against the respondent?

Whether the High Court exceeded the settled guidelines and parameters for exercising power under Section 482 CrPC?

Whether there was sufficient prima facie evidence to issue summons for the offense of abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC?

Legal Provisions:

  1. Indian Penal Code:
  • Section 306 IPC – Abetment of suicide.
  • Section 107 IPC – Abetment.

  1. Code of Criminal Procedure:
  • Section 156(3) CrPC – Police officer’s power to investigate cognizable case.
  • Section 173(2) CrPC – Report of police officer on completion of investigation.
  • Section 190 CrPC – Cognizance of offences by Magistrates.
  • Section 202 CrPC – Postponement of issue of process.
  • Section 204 CrPC – Issue of process.
  • Section 482 CrPC – Saving of inherent powers of High Court.

Contentions of petitioners:

The appellant strongly argued that the High Court had committed a grave error in law by quashing the summons issued against the respondent. They contended that the Magistrate’s decision to issue summons was based on sufficient prima facie evidence and should not have been interfered with by the High Court. The appellant asserted that the High Court had exceeded the settled guidelines and parameters for exercising power under Section 482 CrPC. They argued that the High Court’s power to quash proceedings should be exercised sparingly and only in cases where there is a clear abuse of the process of law.

The appellant maintained that there was ample prima facie evidence to justify the issuance of summons for the offense of abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC.

They pointed to the following elements:

  • The alleged threatening and instigative remarks made by the respondent on October 12, 2004.
  • The non-payment of salary, which they argued created circumstances that led to the suicide.
  • The suicide notes mentioning the respondent’s name and attributing responsibility to him.

The appellant argued that given the serious nature of the allegations and the existence of prima facie evidence, the matter deserved a full trial. They contended that quashing the summons at this stage would prevent a proper investigation into the circumstances of Brijesh Chandra’s death.

The appellant argued for a broader interpretation of the suicide note, suggesting that even if it didn’t explicitly mention the October 12 incident, the overall content implied abetment by the respondent.

Contentions of the Respondents:

The respondents argued that the summoning order was issued without satisfying the grounds required under law. They contended that mere mention of a name in a suicide note does not automatically amount to abetment of suicide. They argued that the Magistrate’s order did not reflect proper application of mind to form an opinion regarding sufficient basis for proceeding against the respondent. They pointed out that the order lacked detailed reasoning for issuing the summons. The respondents emphasized that there was no material suggesting instigation by the respondent in the suicide note. They argued that for abetment under Section 306 IPC, there must be clear evidence of instigation or creation of circumstances that left no option but suicide. They pointed out the significant time gap (11 days) between the alleged instigation and the suicide, arguing that this weakened any case for abetment. They also contended that there was no evidence of a continued course of conduct that could be seen as abetment.

The respondents highlighted that the alleged incident of October 12, 2004, which formed the basis of the complaint, was not mentioned in the suicide note. They argued that if this incident was indeed the trigger for the suicide, it would have been mentioned. They further argued that allowing the case to proceed based on such flimsy evidence would amount to misuse of the criminal process and cause undue harassment to the respondent. They contended that the High Court’s use of power under Section 482 CrPC was justified to prevent abuse of the process of law and to secure the ends of justice.

Analysis of the judgement:

In its judgment, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the High Court’s decision to quash the summons order. The Court reaffirmed that while a Magistrate has the power to issue summons even after a closure report is filed by the police, this power must be exercised judiciously. It emphasized that issuing summons is a serious matter that affects an individual’s dignity and reputation, and therefore should not be done mechanically but only upon satisfaction of sufficient grounds for proceeding.

The Court clarified that for an offense under Section 306 IPC (abetment of suicide), there must be specific abetment as contemplated by Section 107 IPC, with an intention to bring about the suicide of the person concerned. In this case, the Court found no explicit or implicit reference in the suicide note to the alleged incident of October 12, 2004, or any instigation by the respondent. The significant time gap of 11 days between the alleged instigation and the suicide further weakened the case for abetment. The Court held that the mere statement in the suicide note that the respondent would be responsible for the suicide was not sufficient ground to issue summons for an offense under Section 306 IPC.

The judgement emphasized the need for careful judicial scrutiny before issuing summons in criminal cases, serving as a safeguard against arbitrary or mechanical issuance of summons. The Court’s clarification on the ingredients of abetment of suicide is vital, stressing that specific abetment with the intention to bring about the suicide is necessary, and mere attribution of responsibility in a suicide note is not sufficient.

The Court’s consideration of the lack of proximity between the alleged instigation and the suicide, as well as the absence of a continued course of conduct, as factors weakening the case for abetment, provides valuable guidance for similar cases. The judgment also offers insights into how suicide notes should be appreciated in the context of abetment charges, suggesting that courts should look for specific allegations and material of a definite nature, not merely inferences.

Conclusion

The decision serves as a reminder to lower courts to exercise their powers judiciously, especially in cases involving serious charges like abetment of suicide. It also provides guidance on how to appreciate evidence, particularly suicide notes, in such cases.

 

Reviewed by Maria Therese Syriac.


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Karanataka HC grants bail: States that prima facie evidence does not preclude petitioners from using the special authority granted to the Court

CASE TITLE – Yunus Ahmed & Ors v. State of Karnataka

CASE NUMBER – CRL.P No. 4103 of 2024

DATED ON – 02.05.2024

QUORUM – MR. JUSTICE V SRISHANANDA

FACTS OF THE CASE

Chithradurga Rural Police registered a case in Crime No.133/2024 for offences under Sections 427, 504, 143, 147, 148, 149, 395, 448, 307, 323, 324 of Indian Penal Code, on 02.04.2024 at about 8:30.p.m., based on the complainant lodged by B.H.Gowdru alias B. Facts further reveal that there was an incident that had occurred at about 2:30.p.m., on 02.04.2024, where under a Muslim Woman by name Farzana Khanum had a conversation with B.H.Gowdru alias B. At that juncture, about 18 to 20 persons from Muslim community people have forcibly ingressed to the compound wall of the house of B.H.Gowdru and took serious objection in having a conversation with Muslim Woman. It is also contended that the mob assaulted with hands and legs and stones and had a Neck Chain weiging of 55 grams, One Bracelet of 30 grams and Two Rings of 20 grams and Cash of Rs.40,000/- from his pocket were stolen by the mob and they also caused damage to the car bearing registration NO.KA-16-N-6574, which was parked there. In respect of the same incident, Smt. Farzana Khanum also lodged a complaint before the Women Police Station, Chitradurga against B.H.Gowdru alias B on 03.02.2024 at 6:00.a.m.

 

ISSUES

Whether bail petition can be granted to the accused(s)?

 

STATUTES

Section 439 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which empowers the High Court and the Sessions Court with special powers regarding bail.

 

CONTENTION OF PETITIONERS

Reiterating the grounds urged in the bail petition, Sri. Hasmath Pasha, learned Senior Counsel for the revision petitioners contended that even assuming that entire allegations found in the complaint lodged by Sri. B.H.Gowdru to be accepted has gospel truth, no ingredients are attracted in so far as the offence under Section 307 of I.P.C., prima-facie. He further contended that at any rate, since there is case and counter-case, the accused/petitioners are entitled to be enlarged on bail. He further pointed out that having regard to the allegations levelled against the present petitioners in the incident, continuation of the accused/petitioners in Judicial custody no longer warranted and the apprehensions expressed by the prosecution can be met with by imposing suitable conditions.

CONTENTIONS OF RESPONDENTS

High Court Government Pleader opposes the grant of bail on the ground that the offence alleged against the petitioners are heinous in nature and it stands proved, the petitioners are liable for the punishment of life imprisonment and therefore, gravity of the offence is on the higher side.  He further contended that the investigation is still in inception stage and if the bail is granted to the petitioners, then the investigation process could be hamper. He also pointed out that the release of the petitioners on bail may result in reputation of the offences and therefore, sought for release of bail.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The court looked over the evidence. Upon reviewing the available evidence, it is acknowledged that an incident related to a small matter has occurred. The complainant’s allegations would unequivocally show that the mob, which included the petitioners, attacked the complainant with hands, legs, and stones, damaged the car, and took valuables out of the complainant’s possession. Given that the accused individuals are being held in custody as of April 4, 2024, the investigation could have advanced significantly and, in any case, any necessary custodial questioning could have been finished. From the petitioners’ side, there are no prior criminal convictions. The court stated that as could be seen from the complainant averments itself, even though the prosecution has invoked Section 307 of I.P.C., prima-facie materials would not disentitle petitioners, from obtaining an order of grant of bail by resorting to special powers vested in this Court under Section 439 of Cr.P.C. Hence allowing the bail petition.

 

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Judgement Reviewed by – Gnaneswarran Beemarao

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