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Manjunatha vs State By Hosanagara Police on 26 March, 2024

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Karnataka High Court

Manjunatha vs State By Hosanagara Police on 26 March, 2024

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NC: 2024:KHC:12398-DB
CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

IN THE HIGH COURT OF KARNATAKA AT BENGALURU

DATED THIS THE 26TH DAY OF MARCH, 2024

PRESENT

THE HON’BLE MR JUSTICE SREENIVAS HARISH KUMAR

AND

THE HON’BLE MR JUSTICE S RACHAIAH

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.625 OF 2018

BETWEEN:

Manjunatha
S/o Hanumantha Naika,
Aged about 53 years,
Coolie Work,
R/o Hiregodu,
Varamballi Village,
Hosanagara,
Shivamogga District
…Appellant
Digitally signed (By Sri Adinarayan, Advocate)
by SRIDEVI S
Location: HIGH
COURT OF AND:
KARNATAKA

State by Hosanagara Police
Shivamogga,
Rept. by Public Prosecutor
High Court Building,
Bangalore-01
…Respondent
(By Sri Vijayakumar Majage, SPP-II)
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NC: 2024:KHC:12398-DB
CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

This Criminal Appeal filed under Section 374(2) Cr.P.C.,
praying to set aside the impugned judgment dated 15.09.2015,
passed by the III Additional Sessions Judge, at Shivamogga, in
S.C.No.168/2014, convicting the appellant/accused for the
offence p/u/s 302, 498A of
IPC.

This Criminal Appeal coming on for hearing, this day,
Sreenivas Harish Kumar J., delivered the following:

JUDGMENT

The accused in S.C.No.168/2014 on the file of

the III Additional Sessions Judge, Shivamogga has

preferred this appeal questioning the correctness

of the judgment dated 15.09.2015 convicting him

for the offences punishable under Sections 498A

and 302 of IPC and sentencing him to rigorous

imprisonment for 3 years and fine of Rs.5,000/-

with further imprisonment for 3 months in case of

failure to pay fine amount for the offence

punishable under Section 498A of IPC and life

imprisonment with fine of Rs.20,000/- and further

imprisonment for 12 months in case of failure to

pay fine amount for the offence punishable under

Section 302 of IPC.

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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

2. The prosecution case is like this:

Bangaramma, the deceased in this case was

the wife of the accused. His native village was

Kanivebilachi village in Davanagere District. After

his marriage with Bangaramma he went and stayed

at Hiregodu village, Hosanagara Taluk,

Shivamogga District in the house of his mother-in-

law. The matrimonial life was cordial for a period

of one year after the marriage and thereafter there

used to take place quarrels between the husband

and the wife. There is allegation that the accused

used to pickup quarrel with his wife as he was very

much addicted to liquor and once he left the house

and went to his native place and thereafter he

again returned to the house of his mother-in-law.

When his wife was allotted a plot by the gram

panchayat, they started construction of a house

there. In the meantime, the marriage of the

daughter of Gangamma, the sister of Bangaramma
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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

was fixed. Bangaramma and accused were invited

to the marriage. When Bangaramma wanted to

attend the marriage, the accused took objection to

it stating that as none from the family of

Gangamma supported them in construction of the

house, he did not like to attend to marriage. In

this background there ensued a quarrel between

the accused and Bangaramma in the evening on

02.05.2014. The actual allegation is that during

the quarrel the accused poured kerosene on his

wife and set fire to her. Bangaramma was shifted

to hospital and died at 10.00 am on the next day.

Report of this incident was given to the police by

PW1. Ex.P1 is the first report of incident.

3. The trial court assessed the evidence of

11 witnesses and 20 documents to record

conviction against the accused.

4. The main findings of the trial court are

that though Bangaramma did not give dying
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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

declaration, the incident was seen by PW2, the

mother of the deceased. The evidence of PWs.2, 3

and 6 discloses that Bangaramma herself stated

before all of them that her husband set fire to her.

Bangaramma had suffered 85% of burn injuries

and in the state of pain it is highly impossible to

hold that Bangaramma would have thought of

falsely implicate her husband. The doctor who

conducted post mortem examination gave a final

opinion stating that death was due to asphyxia

secondary to burn injuries. The soot particles

were detected in the lungs. The presence of

kerosene was also detected when the clothes of

Bangaramma were subjected to examination at

FSL. In these circumstances, it can be very well

said that the evidence placed by the prosecution is

believable. The trial court has further opined that

in case there are minor contradictions or omissions

in the testimonies of the prominent witnesses,
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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

they cannot be given so much of importance as

they are all rustic villagers and it is highly

impossible to expect from them a stereo type

deposition. The testimonies of the witnesses find

support from the evidence of PW8 and PW11 who

conducted investigation and therefore the

prosecution was able to prove its case beyond

reasonable doubt.

5. We have heard the arguments of Sri

Adinarayan, learned Advocate for the appellant/

accused and Sri Vijayakumar Majage, learned SPP-

II for the respondent/State.

6. It was the argument of Sri Adinarayan

that PW1 was not an eye witness to the incident.

Only after coming to know that Bangaramma had

caught fire, she would give a report to the police

and thereby set the law into motion.
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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

6.1. According to prosecution PW2 is an eye

witness. From her evidence, an inference can be

drawn that she was not an eye witness. Because

she has admitted in the cross examination that the

marriage of her granddaughter had been fixed to

be held a week after the incident, and in

connection with the marriage, she had been to the

house of her another daughter Gangamma and

returned to Hiregodu only after the marriage. This

being her clear admission in the cross

examination, it is not possible to believe that she

was present at the time when Bangaramma caught

fire. Her evidence is very inconsistent and it only

shows that being interested to implicate the

accused, she has made a lot of improvements and

thereby given rise to discrepancies which lead to

discard her evidence in totality.

6.2. PW3, PW4 and PW6 have stated that

Bangaramma revealed before them that her
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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

husband i.e., accused set fire to her. Referring to

the evidence of these witnesses, Sri Adinarayan

argued that their testimonies cannot be believed

for the reason that Bangaramma had suffered

extensive burn injuries. Her mouth was burnt and

she was crying of pain. In a situation like this, it

is highly impossible that Bangaramma was able to

speak and tell her sisters and nephews that her

husband set fire. The only inference that can be

drawn is that they being very close relatives of

Bangaramma have stated falsehood before the

court. The accused was very much available in the

village as he was arrested there. In these set of

doubtful circumstances, the trial court should not

have convicted the accused and hence the appeal

deserves to be allowed and judgment of the trial

court set aside.

7. Sri Vijayakumar Majage argued that PW2

is an eye witness and her evidence clearly shows
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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

how the incident occurred. Her testimony is

further corroborated by the testimonies of PWs.3,

4 and 6. They also speak about the harassment on

Bangaramma. There are no good reasons to

discard the evidence of PWs.1, 2, 4 and 6. He

further argued that because Bangaramma had

sustained 95% burn injuries, the police did not

think of obtaining her dying declaration. However

it has come on record that soon after the incident

Bangaramma herself stated before her sisters and

nephews that her husband i.e., accused set fire to

her. The testimonies of these witnesses is not

discredited in any manner. The accused also

confessed before PW9 about committing the crime.

It amounts to extra judicial confession. Taken as

a whole, it very well appears that the prosecution

was able to establish its case beyond reasonable

doubt and there is no scope to interfere with the

sentence awarded by the trial court.

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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

8. We have considered the arguments and

perused the entire records.

9. The analysis of evidence is like this. PW1

is the nephew of the deceased. He was not an eye

witness. Soon after he coming to know that her

aunt had caught fire he went to the house of his

aunt and came to know from PW2 as to how the

incident occurred. Then he made arrangements for

taking Bangaramma to McGann Hospital,

Shivamogga. Ex.P1 is the first report of incident

made by PW1.

10. According to prosecution PW2, the

mother of Bangaramma is an eye witness. Giving

details of the quarrels that used to take place

between Bangaramma and the accused, she stated

that a year ago around 4.00pm a quarrel broke out

between Bangaramma and the accused and it went

on till 6.00pm. In that course the accused brought

kerosene from the kitchen and poured it on

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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

Bangaramma. He lit fire. When she rushed to the

rescue, accused threatened her also. When she

raised voice, the accused ran away from that

place. She extinguished the fire by pouring water.

Sometime later her another daughter Janakamma-

PW3 came to that place and she informed the

matter to her son PW1. She stated about spot

panchanama conducted by the police on the next

day.

11. PW3-Janakamma is the elder sister of

Bangaramma. She too states that accused was not

treating his wife properly and he used to quarrel

with her. About the incident her evidence is that

PW2 came running to her house which is situated

at a distance of half a kilometer from the house of

Bangaramma. When PW2 told her that accused

had set fire to Bangaramma, she rushed to that

place and saw the burn injuries on Bangaramma.

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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

When she questioned as to what happened, the

daughter told her that accused set fire to her.

12. PW4 is the son of PW3. His evidence also

shows that accused was beating his wife having

consumed liquor. He has stated further that the

marriage of daughter of Gangamma was to take

place on 11.05.2014 and when the accused and

Bangaramma were invited to the marriage, the

accused said that he would not attend the

marriage stating that when he was constructing

the house no body supported him. He also took

objection when his wife wanted to attend the

marriage. In regard to the incident, his evidence

is that he received a phone call from his mother

around 7.00pm on 02.05.2014 that the accused

had set fire to Bangaramma. Immediately he went

to Hosanagara hospital, as the doctors told that

Bangaramma was to be taken to McGann Hospital,

Shivamogga, she was shifted to Shivamogga.

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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

13. PW6 Channamma is the mother of PW1

and another sister of Bangaramma. Her evidence

is also to the effect that she received a telephone

call from her elder sister on 02.05.2014 and came

to know that Bangaramma had sustained burn

injuries. Immediately her son went to the town

and brought a car to go to Hiregodu village. She

saw Bangaramma crying loudly because of pain.

When she enquired her, the latter told that

accused set fire to her. She stated that her son

then took Bangaramma to hospital.

14. PW9 is another witness whose evidence

requires to be examined. The prosecution

examined this witness to establish through him

that the accused was harassing his wife and that

on 02.05.2014 at 05.45pm he received a telephone

call from the accused and came to know from him

that a quarrel had taken place between him and

Bangaramma and in that course, he poured

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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

kerosene on her and set fire. Actually PW9 did not

establish this aspect. But he gave evidence in the

other way that at 05.30pm the accused made a call

to him and told that his wife herself had set fire

and he also stated that the accused gave the

telephone to his wife who spoke to him and said

that she herself poured kerosene and set fire to

her.

15. PW11 received FIR, conducted

investigation partially and handed over the same

to PW8, who then completed investigation and filed

charge sheet.

16. After referring to the evidence of the

witnesses as stated above, we make it very clear

that there is no need to discuss the evidence

regarding conducting spot mahazar and seizing of

clothes of the deceased Bangaramma, and the

kerosene can as the police followed the routine

procedure during investigation.

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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

17. It is the evidence of the prominent

witnesses which require to be assessed with

reference to answers given by them in the cross

examination.

18. Firstly we may refer to the evidence of

PW5-the doctor who conducted post mortem

examination. The clear evidence of PW5 is that

Bangaramma had sustained 2 n d or 3 r d degree burn

injuries. The portion below the abdomen, the

waist, palms and the feet had not been burnt. But

she noticed injuries on the face. Her scalp heirs

and eye lashes were completely burnt. On

dissection she found presence of soot particles in

the stomach. Lungs had been turned to cherry red

colour. She gave her opinion that Bangaramma

died due to asphyxia as a result of burn injuries.

Seeing soot particles, she opined that kerosene

might have been used for setting fire to

Bangaramma.

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NC: 2024:KHC:12398-DB
CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

19. Now if the opinion of PW5 was that

Bangaramma had suffered severe and 3 rd degree

burn injuries to the extent of 80 to 85%, the

question that would obviously arise whether she

was able to speak immediately after catching fire.

Or otherwise, whether the testimonies of PWs.2, 3,

4 and 6 is believable or not.

20. Firstly if we assess the evidence of PW2,

who is projected as an eye witness, it is possible

to hold that she might not be present at the time

when the incident occurred because of her clear

admission in the cross examination that her

another daughter Gangamma had taken her to her

house 15 days before the marriage for making

preparations to the marriage and that PW2 return

to the village Hiregodu after the marriage. This

was the answer highlighted by the learned counsel

for the appellant. This answer clearly indicate that

PW2 might have gone to the house of her daughter

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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

Gangamma. If she had been to Gangamma’s

house, a doubt arises whether she was really

present at the time the incident occurred. Though

her answer is that she returned to Hiregodu after

the marriage, an inference can be drawn that after

learning about the incident, she might have come

to Hiregodu village. However, no inference as to

her presence at the time of incident can be drawn

just because in the examination-in-chief she stated

that she was present when the accused set fire to

her daughter. This inference is possible to be

drawn because her further answers in the cross

examination to the effect that she clearly admits

to have not stated all that she has stated in the

examination-in-chief before the police during

investigation. She admits that she did not give

such statements. So her answers in the cross

examination are self destructive.

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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

21. Now the evidence of PW3 and 6 is seen,

these witnesses have stated that Bangaramma

revealed before them that accused set fire to her

when they went to her house after learning the

incident. The truth in the evidence of these two

witnesses in this regard can be disbelieved

because of the entry made in Ex.P17, the

intimation given by the Medical Officer of McGann

Hospital, Shivamogga to the police sub inspector,

Doddapet police station, Shivamogga. It is clearly

stated in Ex.P17 that the general condition of the

patient is not satisfactory. It is not disputed that

Bangaramma was first taken to Hosanagara

hospital and thereafter to McGann Hospital,

Shivamogga. In Ex.P17 time of examination is

mentioned as 11.55pm on 02.05.2014. The

prosecution has not examined the doctor who first

saw Bangaramma at Hosanagara hospital. Now till

such time as Bangaramma was brought to

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NC: 2024:KHC:12398-DB
CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

Shivamogga hospital, if her physical condition was

not satisfactory as mentioned in Ex.P17 and if PW3

and 6 would state that Bangaramma herself

revealed that her husband set fire to her, it

becomes very difficult to rely upon their

testimonies. Obviously a doubt arises whether

Bangaramma, having sustained severe burn

injuries was really able to speak soon after

catching fire. It is necessary to make a note here

that PW6 has clearly stated that the face of

Bangaramma had been burnt. Same is the opinion

of doctor also. If the face had been burnt, it is

impossible to even imagine that Bangaramma was

able to speak. Added to this PW4 has stated that

since Bangaramma was crying loudly he did not

ask her anything. He too has stated about injuries

sustained by Bangaramma. It is very interesting

to mention here that PW4 has clearly admitted in

the cross examination that when he, his mother,

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NC: 2024:KHC:12398-DB
CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

his aunt and Nagaraju were at Shivamogga

hospital, they all discussed for a considerable time

the manner in which the complaint was to be

lodged. Therefore the deliberations that might

have taken place before lodging the complaint can

be inferred from the evidence of PW4.

22. PW9 entirely demolishes the case of

prosecution by giving evidence in the other way.

He does not support the prosecution. Rather he

states that accused himself made a call to him and

told that his wife Bangaramma set fire to herself.

The other statement of PW9 in the examination in

chief is that he spoke to Bangaramma directly

when the accused gave the telephone to her and

came to know from her that she set fire to herself.

This statement becomes believable only if she was

able to speak; however from the suggestion given

to PW9 by the public prosecutor while cross

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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

examining him indicates that the accused had

called him over the phone.

23. An inference that PW2 can’t be an eye

witness can be inferred. The inquest as per Ex.P6

is drawn. What is written is that PW2 saw the

accused bringing his wife from inside the house

and then ran away from that place seeing PW2.

This is found in the statement of Ramesh i.e.,

PW4. If what is recorded is correct, then PW2

cannot be an eye witness. She just happened to

see the accused bringing his wife from inside the

house and thereafter she might have passed on

the information to her other daughters. Therefore

in our opinion it is highly impossible to believe

that PW2 was an eye witness and that

Bangaramma was able to make a statement before

her sisters very soon after the incident. Their

interestedness in implicating the accused in the

background of some quarrels that used to take

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NC: 2024:KHC:12398-DB
CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

place between the accused and Bangaramma

cannot be ruled out.

24. If for any reason the findings recorded by

the trial court are also possible to be taken, the

accused becomes entitled to benefit of doubt

because of two views being possible to be taken.

Therefore we arrive at a conclusion that the

impugned judgment cannot be sustained and it

requires to be set aside. Hence the following:

ORDER

The appeal succeeds.

The judgment dated 15.09.2015
passed in S.C.No.168/2014 on the file of
the III Additional Sessions Judge,
Shivamogga is set-aside.

The accused is acquitted of the
offences charged against him. H e is set at

liberty. His bail bonds stand cancelled.

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CRL.A No. 625 of 2018

Send back the trial court records with
a copy of this jud gment forthwith.

Sd/-

JUDGE

Sd/-

JUDGE

KMV
List No.: 1 Sl No.: 8

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