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Circumstantial evidence requires that the facts to support the hypothesis of the accused’s guilt: Supreme Court

Case title: Pradeep Kumar vs The state of Haryana

Case no.: Criminal Appeal No. 1338 of 2010

Decided on: 05.01.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice B.R Gavai, Hon’ble Justice Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The sole appellant in this case was tried alongside another accused for the murder of one Samsher Singh, and the Trial Court convicted him under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and sentenced him to rigorous imprisonment for life. The High Court of Punjab and Haryana dismissed the appeal and confirmed the conviction and sentence in the judgement impugned. This brings us to the current appeal.

LEGAL PROVISIONS:

Section 302 of the IPC states that a person who commits murder will face the death penalty. Section 34 of the IPC addresses common intention. When two or more people commit a criminal act with the same intention, all of them are liable.

APPELLANTS CONTENTION:

The appellants contended that the evidence which was accepted by the Trial Court and High Court, is based on circumstantial evidence said to have been established by the witnesses are unreliable.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT:

After analysing the witnesses’ statements, the court concluded that there is a significant gap between the charge against the Appellant and the evidence presented by the prosecution. The circumstances do not establish the appellant’s guilt. While the principle of circumstantial evidence requires that the facts be consistent with the accused’s guilt hypothesis, the evidence presented in this case raises doubts, improbabilities, and inconsistencies. The court stated that after carefully considering the case and noting the various discrepancies and improbabilities, it is clear that the prosecution has not established its case beyond reasonable doubt. The Appellant is eligible for acquittal.

 

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Written by – Surya Venkata Sujith

 

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Test identification parade is not mandatory in investigation: Supreme Court

Case title: Kishore & Ors. vs The state of Punjab

Case no.: Criminal Appeal No. 1465 of 2011

Decided on: 07.02.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice Abhay S. Oka, Hon’ble Justice Ujjal Bhuyan

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The present appeal is from the judgment of high court of Punjab and Haryana. The trail court has sentenced the five accused and they appeal to the high court. The high court acquitted the accused no. 1 and 4 but confirmed the conviction of the present appellants. Hence this appeal.

LEGAL PROVISIONS:

It should be noted that all five of the accused were convicted of the offence punishable under Section 148 of the IPC, which is “rioting, armed with a deadly weapon.” Section 146 of the IPC states that whenever an unlawful assembly or any member thereof uses force or violence to achieve the common object of such assembly, every member of the unlawful assembly is guilty of rioting. As a result, the condition precedent for triggering Section 148 of the IPC is the presence of an unlawful assembly. Section 141 of the IPC requires that the unlawful assembly consist of five or more people. With the help of Section 149, all five accused were convicted of the offences punishable under Sections 460 and 302. Section 149 contains vicarious liability for all members of an unlawful assembly for acts committed with a common purpose.

APPELLANTS CONTENTION:

The appellants contended that despite the fact that the two eyewitnesses, Khushbir Singh and Narinder Kaur, did not know the accused, a test identification parade was not conducted. The learned counsel pointed out that the most important witnesses, Love Preet Kaur and Amritpal Kaur, who were 17 and 8 years old, were not examined. Satbir Singh, Narinder Kaur’s husband and injured witness, has not been examined. The learned counsel called our attention to the evidence of Khushbir Singh and Narinder Kaur, claiming that it is completely doubtful and cannot be believed at all.

RESPONDENTS CONTENTION:

The learned counsel for the respondent-State of Punjab argued that both Khushbir Singh and Narinder Kaur had seen the accused for an extended period of time during the incident, and that their examination had taken place within one year of the incident. Thus, the test identification parade was unnecessary. He argued that the failure to hold the test identification parade was not fatal to the prosecution because Khushbir Singh and Narinder Kaur’s testimony was reliable.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT:

The court ruled that a test identification parade is not mandatory. It is useful when eyewitnesses did not know the accused prior to the incident. The consequences of the prosecution’s failure to conduct a test identification parade will vary depending on the circumstances of each case. After reviewing Khushbir Singh and Narinder Kaur’s statements, the court determined that they had not seen the accused prior to the incident and thus could not provide their names.

The court determined that Narinder Kaur had not even stated that she witnessed any of the accused assaulting the deceased. Khushbir Singh’s version of the accused assaulting the deceased is extremely vague. Another significant point is that Khushbir Singh stated that his nieces, Love Preet Kaur and Amritpal Kaur, woke him up. Despite accepting that Love Preet Kaur was 16 to 17 years old, the prosecution has not examined her. Similarly, Satbir Singh, Narinder Kaur’s husband and injured witness, has not been examined. The prosecution has not provided any reason for not questioning these two critical witnesses. In the absence of any credible evidence, it is extremely difficult to connect any accused to the deceased’s injuries. As a result, the conviction for violating Section 302 of the IPC cannot be upheld.

 

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Written by – Surya Venkata Sujith

 

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Decision to remove DGP cannot be reversed, and a fair investigation cannot be compromised to preserve the reputation of the officers: Himachal Pradesh High Court

Case Title:  Court on its own motion v. State of Himachal Pradesh and Ors.

Case No: Cr.MP. No.79 and 84 of 2024 in CR. WP No.14 of 2023

Decided on:  9th January, 2024

CORAM: THE HON’BLE MR. CHIEF JUSTICE M.S. RAMACHANDRA RAO, HON’BLE MS. JUSTICE JYOTSNA REWAL DUA

Facts of the Case

The matter centers on a business disagreement between Nishant Sharma, the individual filing the complaint, and a Senior Advocate who is described as an “old acquaintance” of Kundu. Kundu asserts that his interaction with Sharma was merely a friendly telephonic conversation, driven by the principles of police-led mediation. On the contrary, Sharma alleges that Kundu made threats during this communication.

Previously, Kundu had taken his case to the Supreme Court challenging the removal order. However, the Supreme Court instructed him to seek a recall from the High Court.

Legal Provision

Section 341 of IPC talks about Punishment for wrongful restraint. It says- ‘Whoever wrongfully restrains any person shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.’

Section 504 of IPC talks about Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace. It says- Whoever intentionally insults, and thereby gives provoca­tion to any person, intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause him to break the public peace, or to commit any other offence, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Issue

Is it appropriate for the Court to overlook its constitutional duty to ensure a fair investigation in this matter, merely on the grounds of safeguarding the reputation of the concerned officers?

Court’s analysis and decision

The Himachal Pradesh High Court declined to reconsider its decision to remove IPS officer Sanjay Kundu from the position of Director General of Police. This decision aimed to prevent any disruption in the investigation related to a businessman’s complaint, expressing concerns about a potential threat to his life from a former IPS officer and a practicing lawyer. Subsequently, Kundu has been assigned the role of Principal Secretary in the Ayush Department by the state, with his retirement scheduled in three months.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua expressed the challenge in determining the veracity of the conflicting accounts. However, the bench pointed out that Kundu’s endeavor to mediate in a civil dispute, involving two parties, extended beyond the responsibilities expected of a senior police officer.

Additionally, the bench acknowledged a particular incident where Kundu was found to be intimidating the officer handling the investigation. Consequently, the bench deemed it unsafe to allow Kundu to continue in his post.

The Court also rejected the petition submitted by Shalini Agnihotri, who had been reassigned from the position of Kangra’s Superintendent of Police. The court stated that there was ample evidence, in the form of CCTV data analysis concerning the alleged attack on Sharma, available to investigators but remained unused. It further mentioned that, given her role as the Superintendent, Agnihotri was expected to display diligence and sensitivity.

The bench also disapproved of her defense, asserting that she was occupied with celebrating important festivals at the time. The court remarked on the inability to comprehend how a responsible police officer could cite such a reason when there was a serious threat to the life of a citizen.

The court declined the request from the officers to shift the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Instead, it instructed the State government to contemplate establishing a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to oversee the inquiry and ensure the safety of Sharma and his family. The court requested a new status report on the case, scheduling it for another hearing on February 28.

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Written by- Afshan Ahmad

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Delhi High Court Awards Compensation to Acquitted Accused in Murder Case Due to Terrible Investigation

Title:  State v. Usha Devi & Anr.

Decided on:  01st August, 2023

+  CRL. A.229/2023

CORAM: HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE SURESH KUMAR KAIT & HON’BLE MS. JUSTICE NEENA BANSAL KRISHNA 

Introduction

The Delhi High Court has awarded a compensation of Rs. 50,000 each to two acquitted accused in a murder case. The accused, who were the grandmother and father of a 2-year-old deceased child, had been acquitted by the Trial Court for offenses under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The High Court found that the investigation conducted by the prosecution agency was severely lacking.

Facts

The High Court heard an appeal filed by the State against the judgment of the Trial Court, which had acquitted the accused persons. The accused were the grandmother and father of a 2-year-old child who had been charged under Section 302 of the IPC. The prosecution agency’s investigation had led to their trial.

Analysis

The High Court observed that it is a settled legal principle that the guilty should not go free, and the innocent should not be falsely accused and punished. In this case, the High Court criticized the terrible investigation conducted by the prosecution agency, which lacked material substance against the accused. The Court emphasized that the accused had suffered due to the unfair investigation, enduring a long trial and undeserved punishment.

The High Court also cautioned prosecution agencies to conduct investigations prudently and urged trial courts to carefully assess the evidence so that innocent individuals do not have to endure the suffering of incarceration.

Held

The High Court, acknowledging that the matter involved a policy decision to be taken by the Ministry and the legislature, found the compliance report submitted by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) to be sufficient. The Court appreciated the Ministry’s acknowledgment of the concerns raised in its judgment and expressed confidence that the Ministry would incorporate the necessary rules and regulations to regulate social media platforms as per the court’s directions.

Conclusion

The Delhi High Court’s decision to award compensation to the acquitted accused underscores the importance of conducting fair and thorough investigations. The Court’s strong words against the prosecution agency’s inadequate investigation serve as a reminder of the responsibility to ensure that justice is served and innocent individuals are not wrongfully implicated. The compensation awarded to the accused acknowledges the ordeal they went through due to the flawed investigation process.

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Written by- Ankit Kaushik

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