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Jagdishraj Khatta vs The State Of Himachal Pradesh on 26 April, 2019



CRIMINAL APPEAL Nos. 539­540 OF 2008






1. These appeals are directed against judgment and order dated

09.01.2008 and 27.02.2008, passed by the Division Bench of the

High Court of Himachal Pradesh at Shimla in Criminal Appeal No.

356 of 1993, whereby the appeal preferred by the State of Himachal

Pradesh was allowed, and the judgment and order dated 03.04.1993

passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Kangra, Dharamshala,

Himachal Pradesh, acquitting the appellant­accused for offences

under Sections 498A and Section306 of the IPC, and Section 30 of the
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
Date: 2019.04.26
15:52:42 IST

Indian Arms Act, was set aside.


2. The case of the prosecution in brief is that the appellant, who

was posted as the Forest Range Officer at Jawalamukhi, at the

relevant time, was residing with the deceased (his wife) and two

minor children. On 07.01.1990, at about 10 a.m., within seven years

of the deceased’s marriage with the appellant, the deceased used the

appellant’s gun to kill herself. On receiving information about her

death, the deceased’s mother, cousin, brother in law and father’s

neighbor went to Jawalamukhi, and the inquest report was prepared

in their presence. After the funeral ceremonies were completed, on

08.01.1990 at around 11 p.m., the deceased’s cousin lodged a report

against the appellant herein, alleging that the appellant drove the

deceased to commit suicide as he continuously subjected the

deceased to cruelty, harassment, physical violence and even

mistreated her and insulted her in the presence of her parents and

relatives. Subsequently, on 13.01.1990, the father of the deceased

produced a letter allegedly written to him by the deceased, which he

received on 10.01.1990. The contents of the letter supported the

allegations made against the appellant in the FIR, regarding cruelty

and harassment towards the deceased.

3. The appellant was charged under Sections 498A and Section306 of the

IPC and Section 30 of the Indian Arms Act. The Trial Court, after

considering the material against the appellant, acquitted him of all

the charges. On appeal by the State, the High Court reversed the

findings of the Trial Court and convicted the appellant for the

offences under Sections 498A and Section306 of the IPC and sentenced him

to three years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 10,000, in

default of payment of which he is to undergo rigorous imprisonment

for a further period of six months, for the offence under Section 306,

SectionIPC, and one­year rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 5,000, in

default of payment of which he is to undergo rigorous imprisonment

for a further period of three months, for the offence under Section

498A, SectionIPC, with both sentences to run concurrently. Aggrieved by the

judgment and order of the High Court, the appellant has preferred

the present appeals before us.

4. The counsel for the appellant strongly urged that the High

Court erred in relying on a letter which was allegedly sent by the

deceased to her relatives in overturning the well­reasoned judgment

of the Trial Court. Counsel for the appellant submitted that the letter

was surrounded by suspicious circumstances which were not

considered by the High Court, such as the fact that there was a delay

in handing over the letter to the police, which delay was not

explained, and that the family of the deceased had never received

any other letter from the deceased, who had a phone connection and

often used to be visited by her family. Additionally, the counsel

submitted that the High Court did not consider that the notebook,

which was used as a handwriting sample of the deceased for

comparison purposes, was not proved to belong to the deceased. As

such, the learned counsel for the appellant supported the findings of

the Trial Court and prayed that the High Court’s findings be set

aside, and the appellant be acquitted.

5. On the other hand, the learned counsel for the respondent­

State supported the findings of the High Court and submitted that

the same do not merit any interference by this Court.

6. Heard the submissions of the learned counsels of both parties.

7. On perusing the judgment of the High Court, we find that it

has reversed the findings of the Trial Court by mainly relying on the

following evidences: (1) the testimonies of the relatives of the

deceased that the appellant acted in a cruel manner against the

deceased in front of her relatives, and (2) the letter allegedly written

by the deceased around the time of her death to her parents.

8. With respect to the former, we are unable to agree with the

reasoning of the High Court in relying on the testimonies of the
relatives of the deceased. As highlighted by the Trial Court, not only

were the allegations in the FIR extremely general in nature, but also

the same were never raised by the family of the deceased when they

were present at the time of preparation of the inquest report or to the

investigating officer. In fact, the allegation of cruelty meted out by the

appellant against the deceased appears for the first time at the time

of filing the FIR, after a delay of nearly one and a half days. Further,

the prosecution did not even examine any neighbor of the appellant

and the deceased to substantiate the allegation that the appellant ill­

treated the deceased. In fact, and as the High Court also recorded, it

appears from the evidence on record that the appellant treated the

deceased with love and affection and provided for all her needs. In

these circumstances, a reliance on the general oral testimonies of the

prosecution witnesses, without any supporting evidence, would be

misplaced. Further, as the High Court itself indicated somewhat

contradictorily, reliance on the instances testified to by the witnesses

would not be appropriate as the said incidents had taken place much

before the deceased’s death and could not be treated as conduct

which drove the deceased to commit suicide.


9. This brings us to the second part of the High Court’s reasoning

in convicting the appellant, relating to the letter allegedly sent by the

deceased to her parents one day before her death. We are again

unable to accept the findings of the High Court on this point. We

agree with the submission of the counsel for the appellant that the

letter has not been proved to have been written by the deceased and

is surrounded by suspicious circumstances. While the handwriting

expert testified that the writing in the letter is the same as that of

certain notebooks, no independent proof has been led regarding who

owned or wrote in the aforesaid notebook. In fact, the only persons

who were examined for the purposes of identifying the handwriting of

the deceased were her father and cousin. However, how either of

them could be said to be acquainted with her writing is unclear. The

father of the deceased was her teacher nearly 15 years prior to the

incident, and the deceased had admittedly not written any other

letter to her father after her marriage. Similarly, the cousin of the

deceased also did not have any other letter from the deceased in his


10. Most importantly, the letter was received by the deceased’s

father on 10.01.1990 but was handed over to the police only on

13.01.1990, casting serious doubt on the authenticity of the letter.

The fact that the deceased had never written any other letter to her

family after her marriage but had rather been in touch with her

relatives through the telephone, further strengthens the case of the


11. Considering the facts and circumstances of the present case, as

well as the material placed before us, we hold that the prosecution

was not able to prove the guilt of the appellant beyond reasonable

doubt. Additionally, we are of the opinion that this was not a fit case

for the High Court to interfere with the well­reasoned judgment and

order of acquittal passed by the Trial Court, particularly when there

existed no grave infirmity in the findings of the Trial Court. [SectionSee

Bannareddy and Ors. v. State of Karnataka and Ors., (2018) 5

SCC 790]. In the aforesaid circumstances, the appeals are allowed,

and the impugned judgment and order of the High Court are set

aside. The judgment and order of the Trial Court, acquitting the

appellant herein, is therefore affirmed.


12. Pending applications, if any, shall also stand disposed of.





APRIL 26, 2019.


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