Factors Considered by Delhi High Court When Granting Bail in Cases Based on Circumstantial Evidence in Heinous Offences

Factors Considered by Delhi High Court When Granting Bail in Cases Based on Circumstantial Evidence in Heinous Offences


Case no.: BAIL APPLN. 2478/2023

Dated on: 20TH May 2024



The present application is filed under Section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for seeking bail in FIR No. 321/2016 dated 17.05.2016, registered at Police Station Gokal Puri, for the offences under Section 363 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’). Chargesheet was filed against the applicant for the offences under Sections 363/302/201 of the IPC. The FIR was registered on a complaint made by the complainant alleging that his 3-year-old daughter (victim) had taken some money from the wife of his younger brother (the applicant) and gone out to eat some street food. It was alleged that the victim did not come back and despite all efforts, the complainant was unable to find her. On 18.05.2016, information was received that a quarrel had happened at H.No. 455, Gali No. 4/5, Indra Vihar, Mustaf Abad, Delhi 110094. Thereafter, information was received that a dead body had been recovered. It is alleged that the police found that there was no quarrel, but the body of the victim had been recovered from the drawer of the bed of the complainant’s brother, namely, Aftab Alam (the then husband of the applicant), at the aforesaid address. It is the case of the prosecution that the complainant and his brother were living in the same house with their families. It is alleged that the applicant was upset due to the alleged affair between the mother of the victim (sister-in-law of the applicant) and her husband. It is alleged that on the date of the incident, the victim was sleeping and the other family members had gone out, when the applicant murdered the victim out of anger. It is alleged that the applicant disclosed that the applicant closed the mouth of the victim and then tied her mouth with a dupatta. Thereafter, the applicant allegedly threw the victim in her bed. It The applicant allegedly lied that the victim was out playing with other kids on the street. It is alleged that the body of the victim was discovered when the other members of the family noticed the stinking smell coming from the room of the applicant.


Whether the circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution is sufficient to establish the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt?


  1. Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC)

Section 363 (Punishment for Kidnapping)

This section deals with the punishment for kidnapping any person from lawful guardianship. The penalty can extend to seven years of imprisonment and also include a fine.

Section 302 (Punishment for Murder)

This section prescribes the punishment for murder. It stipulates that whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to a fine.

Section 201 (Causing Disappearance of Evidence of Offence, or Giving False Information to Screen Offender)

This section addresses the punishment for anyone who causes the disappearance of evidence or provides false information with the intention of screening an offender. The punishment can vary based on the severity of the primary offence, including imprisonment and fines.

  1. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC)

Section 439 (Special Powers of High Court or Court of Session regarding Bail)

This section grants the High Court and Court of Session the authority to release an accused person on bail. It allows for the consideration of the nature and gravity of the accusation, the severity of the punishment if convicted, the danger of the accused absconding or tampering with evidence, and other relevant factors.

Section 437(1) (When Bail may be taken in case of non-bailable offence)

This section specifies conditions under which bail can be granted for non-bailable offences, particularly emphasizing special consideration for women, children, and other vulnerable persons


The learned counsel for the applicant submitted that the applicant has clean antecedents and has been falsely implicated in the present case. He submitted that the father of the applicant had made complaints to the concerned authorities regarding her false implication but no enquiry was done in that regard. He submitted that there is no eye witness in the present case and the entire prosecution story is based on circumstantial evidence. He submitted that the testimony of the witnesses that have been examined are contradictory. He further submitted that the dead body was not recovered at the instance of the applicant. The same was recovered from the then husband of the applicant, who has been discharged without examination. He submitted that the husband of the applicant divorced her while she was in custody. He submitted that the applicant was released on interim bail by a Coordinate Bench of this Court by order dated 27.07.2020 and her interim bail was extended from time to time. He submitted that the applicant was granted interim bail on account of HPC guidelines by the learned Trial Court vide order dated 02.06.2021 as well. He submitted that the applicant had surrendered on time on both instances and had never misused the liberty. He submitted that only 18 out of 30 witnesses have been

examined yet and the formal witnesses are yet to be examined. He submitted that the applicant has spent more than five years in custody and the trial is likely going to take a considerable amount of time.


The learned Additional Public Prosecutor for the State strongly opposed the grant of any relief to the applicant. He submitted that the offences involved in the present case are heinous in nature. He submitted that the victim was last seen with the applicant. He submitted that the nominal roll of the applicant indicates that the jail conduct of the applicant is non-satisfactory. He submitted that the applicant broke jail rules and was involved in a number of other offences while in custody, including her alleged involvement in jail riots. The allegations in the present case are grave and heinous in nature. The victim aged 3 years is alleged to have been killed by the applicant, who also happened to be her aunt, on suspicion that her husband was having an extra-marital relationship with the mother of the deceased victim. It is, however, not disputed that the entire case is primarily based on the alleged extra-judicial confession of the applicant. It is trite law that an extra judicial confession cannot be relied upon unless it inspires confidence or is fully corroborated. Extra judicial confessions are weak pieces of evidence, whereby it is incumbent on the Courts to exercise extra caution while examining the same.



At this stage, it cannot be denied that there is no direct evidence against the applicant and she has been implicated solely on the basis of the circumstances allegedly leading to the death of the victim, such as the victim having been allegedly last seen with the applicant. It is pertinent to note that the applicant admittedly used to stay in the same house as the victim. It is also not denied that the allegations in the present case are only made by the family members of the victim and the ex-husband of the applicant. There is no eye-witness to the commission of the alleged offence. It is settled law that when the case is based solely on circumstantial evidence, the chain of circumstances has to be so complete that it leaves no reasonable ground for any other conclusion except for the hypothesis of guilt of the accused person. The allegations along with the defences would be considered during the course of the trial. Admittedly, only 18 out of 30 witnesses have been examined till date and the trial would take a considerable period of time. The Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Union of India v. K.A. Najeeb : AIR 2021 SC 712 held that once it is obvious that a timely trial would not be possible, and the accused has suffered incarceration for a significant period of time, the courts would ordinarily be obligated to enlarge them on bail. It is also pointed out that the child of the applicant is now in custody her ex-husband, who divorced her during the pendency of the case. The applicant, being a woman, is undeniably entitled to special consideration while dealing with the question of bail, in terms of the proviso to Section 437(1) of the CrPC. In view of the above, the applicant is directed to be released on bail on furnishing a bail bond for a sum of ₹20,000/- with one surety of the like amount, subject to the satisfaction of the Trial Court/Duty MM/ Link MM, on the following conditions:

  1. The applicant shall provide the address where she would be residing after the release and shall not change the address without informing the concerned IO/ SHO;
  2. The applicant shall appear before the learned Trial Court as and when directed;
  3. The applicant shall under no circumstance leave the country without the permission of the Court;
  4. The applicant shall, upon her release, give her mobile number to the concerned IO/SHO and shall keep her mobile phone switched on at all times.

In the event of there being any FIR/ DD entry/ complaint lodged against the applicant, it would be open to the State to seek redressal.  The present application is allowed in the aforesaid terms. It is clarified that the observations made hereinabove are only for the purpose of considering the bail application and the same shall not be deemed to be an expression of opinion on the merits of the case.

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Judgement Reviewed by – HARIRAGHAVA JP

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Mandatory for the IT Department to comply with the CBDT’s Digital Evidence Investigation Manual while conducting search and seizure: Madras High Court

Case title – W.P.No.9753, 9757 and 9761 of 2023 – M/s.Saravana Selvarathnam Retails Pvt Ltd, M/s.Shri Rathna Akshaya Estates Pvt Ltd & Ors V/S The Commissioner of Income Tax, The Assistant Commissioner of IT, The Deputy Director of IT

W.P.No.11176 of 2023 – M/s.Saravana Selvarathnam Trading & Manufacturing Pvt Ltd V/S The Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax, The Deputy Director of Income Tax

Case no. – W.P.Nos.9753, 9757, 9761 & 11176 of 2023 and W.M.P.Nos.11043, 9838, 9842 & 11041 of 2023

Decision on – February 23, 2024

Quoram – Justice Krishnan Ramaswamy

Facts of the case                          

The case of the petitioner is that the respondents-Department had conducted a sudden search under Section 132 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 on different dates. In the said searches, the 2nd respondent had seized the electronic data.

In both the proceedings the Show Cause Notices were issued by the respondent and the responses on the same was filed by the petitioner. Subsequently, the assessment orders were passed on the subject matter of both the proceedings.

In light of such circumstances, the petitioner had made several representations to the respondents for the purpose of getting copies of the materials collected from their premises. The petitioner also provided the additional reply, wherein they had categorically requested the respondents to provide the additional documents collected by them, however the same was not been provided.

At this juncture, the respondents had passed the impugned assessment orders in both the proceedings. However, in all these cases, neither the additional documents nor the opportunity of personal hearing was provided to the petitioner before passing the orders.


The Petitioner in the first proceedings filed the writ petitions Nos.9753, 9757 and 9761 of 2023 challenging the admissibility of evidence against the orders of the respondents. They sought to declare that the seizure of the .txt files by the 2nd respondent from an undisclosed location without any valid search warrant and without following the guidelines issued by the CBDT is not in accordance with law and therefore inadmissible in evidence.

Whereas, in the second proceedings the petitioner filed the writ petitions No.11176 of 2023 challenging the orders of the respondents that were passed without hearing the petitioner which violates the principles of natural justice.

Submission of the Parties

The Counsel appearing on behalf of the Petitioner submitted that the search and seizure was conducted and the assessment orders were passed in a hasty manner. Further, at the time of search and in the event of collection of electronic data, the respondents failed to comply with the procedures laid down in the Digital Evidence Investigation Manual, which is issued in terms of Section 119 of the Act by CBDT. He contended that the guidelines were framed by CBDT in order to avoid the invalidation of evidences collected by the Department and thus it was mandatory for them follow it.

He also submitted that the petitioner was not given an opportunity to be heard while passing the orders which led to the violation of principles of natural justice.

The Counsel submits that this raises the issue of suspiciousness regarding the manner in which the respondents had collected and preserved the data. He contends that it is the duty of the respondents to corroborate the evidences. Even if it is the oral evidence of any person, they should have allowed the petitioner to cross- examine the said person and must have produced the evidences accordingly. But however, the Counsel submits that the respondents have defaulted in that too.

The Counsel appearing on behalf of the Respondents stated that the writ of declaration regarding the evidentiary value is not maintainable. He contended that the assessment is completed and appeal is pending before the Appellate Authority and hence, petitioner has to agitate all the issues before the Appellate Authority.

The Counsel thus, submitted that the admissibility, nature of evidence and the manner of proof cannot be questioned in the writ petitions. The Counsel further contended that the Manual issued by the CBDT was only optional for the Department to follow and not mandatory.

Court’s Analysis and Judgement

The Court on perusal of the documents on record observed that despite several representations made by the petitioner before the respondents imploring for the copy of the documents and other data collected from their premise of the petitioner, the respondents failed to provide any of the documents. Moreover, the Court observed the lethargic and irresponsible behaviour on the part of the respondents in misplacing the documents, while it was their duty to collect and preserve the evidences as per the procedure laid down in the said Manual.

The Court while pondering upon the issue of maintainability noted that the present writ petitions clearly falls within the purview of the exemptions provided by the Apex Court in the Chabbil Dass case and therefore, upheld the maintainability of the instant writ petitions.

The Court further noted that the respondents while passing the assessment order considered the sale value of 25th December and it throughout the year in a mechanical manner. The Covid pandemic where there was complete closure of shops was not taken into consideration. The Court pointed out such acts to be totally arbitrary and lacks any corroborative evidences. Hence, reliance on such data and evidences is unjustified.

The Court noted that the collection of materials and preservation of the same at the place of the respondents is entirely suspicious and assessments were made by virtue of guess work and without any valid evidence in the eye of law.

The Court asserted that in the present case, necessary documents have not been produced and the assessment orders were passed hurriedly within a short span of 10 days and 30 days. Thus, the impugned order passed by the 2nd respondent is in a serious flaw, which makes the orders nullity inasmuch as it amounted to violation of principles of natural justice because of which the Assessee was adversely affected.

The Court is of the considered view that since the respondents had not followed the procedure under the said Manual, no corroborative evidence was placed on record and hence, the said search and seizure is against the law and ab initio bad.

The Court further noted that neither the opportunity of personal hearing nor the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses was provided to the petitioner. Therefore, it light of the above defaults the Court set aside the three impugned assessment orders and remitted the matter back to the concerned authority for re-consideration.

The Madras High Court has held that it is mandatory for the income tax department to follow the Digital Evidence Investigation Manual issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) while conducting searches and seizing electronic evidence.

The Court also issued certain directions to the Respondents in the matter-

  • The 2nd respondent is directed to provide all the documents relied upon by them in the Show Cause Notice as requested by the petitioner.
  • If any oral/documentary evidence is relied upon to corroborate the electronic data, the 2nd respondent is directed to allow the Assessee to cross-examine the witnesses.
  • After completion of the cross-examination and before passing the final assessment order, the 2nd respondent is directed to provide an opportunity of personal hearing to the petitioner to put forth their case before the Assessing Officer;
  • The AO is directed to pass the assessment order in detail taking into consideration of the deposition of the witnesses, during the cross-examination, whose statements are relied upon by the 2nd respondent to corroborate the electronic data collected by them.
  • The Assessing Officer is directed to follow the above procedures in the event of issuance of any further show cause notices in connection with the present search and seizure relating to other assessment years.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Keerthi K

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