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State of Rajasthan v.  Ramanand - (Supreme Court) (11 Apr 2017)

When exercising appellate jurisdiction, Supreme Court has power to pass any order



Respondent was convicted by trial Court under Sections 302 and 201 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 for having committed murder of his wife and daughter and was sentenced to undergo life imprisonment for offence under Section 302 and 3 years RI for that under Section 201 of Indian Penal Code. High Court acquitted him of charges under Sections 302 and 201 of Indian Penal Code but convicted him under Section 306 of Indian Penal Code and sentenced him to undergo 5 years RI, which judgment is under challenge in this appeal by Special Leave. Issue for consideration in present case is whether Respondent could be said to be author of crime.

Medical evidence on record is very clear and precise that, deaths were as a result of strangulation. Having gone through post-mortem report, testimony of PW10 Doctor and photographs, it is very clear that deaths of were not as a result of burn injuries. They died of strangulation and their bodies were sought to be set afire in order to create an impression as if they had died of burn injuries. Finding by trial Court was therefore completely correct. Fact that deaths are as a result of culpable homicide is beyond any doubt.

Entire case of prosecution rests purely on circumstantial evidence. It is true that, deaths have occurred in a room occupied by Respondent along with wife and daughter. But no witness has been examined to suggest that, Respondent was at or around his residence at relevant time. Marriage was more than 10 years old and as such, no statutory presumption on any count could be drawn, more particularly, when none of prosecution witnesses had supported case of prosecution as regards demands of dowry and harassment. Apart from strangulation marks, nothing was found in post-mortem report regarding any other bodily injury. Absence of any evidence as regards dowry or related harassment also nullifies element of presence of any motive on part of Respondent. None of prosecution witnesses alleged anything against Respondent nor are there any other supporting circumstances such as discovery of any relevant fact.

Ext. D-1 which was report made by Respondent. It undoubtedly shows that, Respondent himself had opened door and found bodies of wife and daughter lying with injuries. In face of Report (Ext. D-1), it is not possible to accept assertion that, door was locked from inside and was pushed open by PW7 and others. Locking of door from inside would have been consistent with theory of suicide but that theory stood demolished as a result of medical evidence. Respondent himself had opened door and found bodies having burnt.

Section 162 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 govern cases where statements are made to a police officer "in course of an investigation" under Chapter XII of Code of Criminal Procedure. Statement Ext. D-1 was neither given in course of an investigation, nor could it be termed as a confession. Further, cross-examination of PWs 14 and 15 would show that, Respondent stood by and relied upon that statement. However, that by itself does not establish beyond any doubt that, it was the Respondent alone who was responsible for having caused deaths of wife and daughter. Even if circumstance emerging from Ext. D-1 is taken to be against Respondent, that by itself without any connecting material on record, is not sufficient to bring home case against Respondent. In a case where prosecution is coming up against acquittal of Accused and is praying for conviction on a graver charge, Accused is entitled to plead for acquittal.

While considering similar plea for acquittal, Supreme Court in Chandrakant Patil v. State observed that Powers of Supreme Court in appeals filed under Article 136 of Constitution are not restricted by appellate provisions enumerated under Code of Criminal Procedure or any other statute. When exercising appellate jurisdiction, Supreme Court has power to pass any order. The aforesaid legal position has been recognized by a Constitution Bench of this Court in Durga Shankar Mehta v. Raghuraj Singh  and later followed in a series of decisions (vide Arunachalam v. P.S.R. Sadhanantham and Delhi Judicial Service Assn. v. State of Gujarat) .

It is now well settled that, Supreme Court's powers under Article 142 of Constitution are vastly broad-based. That power in its exercise is circumscribed only by two conditions, first is, that it can be exercised only when Supreme Court otherwise exercises its jurisdiction and the other is that the order which Supreme Court passes must be necessary for doing complete justice in the cause or matter pending before it.

In view of medical evidence on record, deaths could never be termed as a case of suicide and consequently, conviction of Respondent under Section 306 of Indian Penal Code was wholly unjustified. At same time, there is nothing on record to conclusively establish that, Respondent was author of crime. Circumstances on record do not Rule out every other hypothesis except guilt of accused. However strong the suspicion be, Respondent is entitled to benefit of doubt and cannot be convicted under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code. Thus, while rejecting present appeal, Respondent is acquitted of charge under Section 306 of Indian Penal Code.

Relevant : Chandrakant Patil v. State MANU/SC/0081/1998  Durga Shankar Mehta v. Raghuraj Singh MANU/SC/0099/1954 Arunachalam v. P.S.R. SadhananthamMANU/SC/0073/1979  Delhi Judicial Service Assn. v. State of Gujarat MANU/SC/0478/1991


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