Bombay High Court Nagpur Bench : Nagpur-vs-(Presently In Jail on 29 September, 2010
Bench: A. H. Joshi, A. R. Joshi
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY,
NAGPUR BENCH : NAGPUR
Criminal Appeal No. 373 of 2006
Appellants : 1) Pandurang @ Ajab Deoman Gawai, aged about 55 years
2) Dilip s/o Pandurang Gawai, aged
about 33 years,
3) Sau Nirmalabai Pandurang Gawai, aged
4) Sau Durga @ Radha w/o Anil Dhandre,
aged about 26 years,
All residents of Shelugunda, Ward No. 2,
Tahsail Nandgaon Khandeshwar, District Amravati
(presently in Jail)
Respondent : The State of Maharashtra, through P. S. O., Police Station, Loni, Tahsil Nandgaon Khandeshwar,
Dr U. K. Kalsi, Advocate for appellants
Mr D. B. Patel, Additional Public Prosecutor for respondent-State 2
Coram: A. H. Joshi and A. R. Joshi, JJ
Dated : 29th September 2010
Judgment (Per A. R. Joshi, J)
1. Heard rival arguments at length on earlier date and also today. Perused the written synopsis and arguments prepared and produced on behalf of the appellants. Present criminal appeal is preferred by all the four accused against judgment and order of conviction passed by the 4th Adhoc Additional Sessions Judge, Amravati dated 3.5.2006. The impugned judgment and order was passed in Sessions Case No. 109 of 2005 in which all the four accused faced the trial for the offence punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34 and also for the offence punishable under Section 498A read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. Learned Sessions Court convicted all the four accused for the offence punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and each of the accused was sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for life and to pay a fine of Rs. 1000/-, in default, to suffer further rigorous imprisonment for three months each. All the four accused were, however, acquitted of the offence punishable under Section 498A read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. Being aggrieved by the conviction for the offence punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, present appeal is preferred by all the accused/appellants. The State of Maharashtra did not prefer appeal against the acquittal of the accused persons for the offence punishable under Section 498A read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code.
2. Prior to appreciating the rival submissions, certain factual position and the case of prosecution as unfolded before the learned Sessions Court, can be narrated as under.
3. Deceased Smt Rama married with one Sandeep Gavai in the year 2002 and started residing at Ahmedabad where Sandeep was serving. Even few years prior to 2002 i.e. since 1997 present appellant no. 4 Smt Durga, sister of Sandeep was residing at Ahmedabad along with her husband. About a year after the marriage, deceased Smt Rama came to native place Shelugund, Tahsil Nandgaon Khandeshwar, District Amravati where the parents of Sandeep i.e. present appellants no. 1 and 3 and one Dilip, brother of Sandeep and who is present appellant no. 2, were residing. A son was born out of wedlock of Smt Rama and Sandeep. After some months, Sandeep left the job from Ahmedabad and returned to his native place at Shelugund. Apparently, in the same house but in different room with separate mess, Sandeep and Smt Rama started residing with their child. According to the prosecution, the in-laws i.e. appellants no. 1 and 3 and brother-in-law i.e. appellant no. 2 started harassing and ill-treating Smt Rama on various counts including the ground that she was not able to properly cook the food.
4. According to the case of prosecution, in the morning of 25 th February 2005, Smt Rama was admitted in Irvin Hospital, Amravati as she was brought there by her husband Sandeep. Police personnel present at Irvin Police Chowki informed the Executive Magistrate to record dying declaration of Smt Rama. Smt Rama was brought in the hospital with almost 99% deep burn injuries. In response to the intimation, one Rajesh Adapawar, Naib Tahsildar/Executive Magistrate (P. W. 6) recorded the statement of Smt Rama. The said statement is at exhibit 32. Prior to recording of such statement, endorsement of the attending doctor i. e. Dr Trupti Bobde (P. W. 9) was obtained on the said dying declaration.
5. According to the case of prosecution, Police Patil of village Shelugund informed Loni Police Station regarding the incident of Smt Rama found at the house of appellants in a burnt condition. Also, according to the case of prosecution, husband Sandeep informed the parents of Smt Rama about the incident and accordingly one Suryabhan Tayde, father of Smt Rama arrived at the hospital and saw the condition of his daughter. According to said Suryabhan Tayde (P.W. 1), Smt Rama narrated to him regarding the incident inasmuch as all the appellants/accused poured kerosene over her person and set her on fire. Apparently, it was the oral dying declaration made by Smt Rama before her father Suryabhan.
6. It is also the case of prosecution that Naib Tahsildar Shri Rajesh Adapawar (P. W. 6) recorded the statement of Smt Rama at about 11.00 am at the hospital and according to said statement, appellants/accused poured kerosene over her person and set her on fire. Unfortunately, while under treatment, Smt Rama succumbed to 99% deep burn injuries. She died at noon on the next day i.e. 26th February 2005. On receiving the death intimation by the police, statement of Smt Rama which was recorded as dying declaration, was treated as First Information Report and offences were registered against all the four appellants under Sections 498A and 302 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code vide Crime No. 12/2005 at Police Station, Loni. PSI Janardhan Wanji (P. W. 8) registered the offence and also took over the investigation and recorded statements of witnesses. Inquest panchanama of the dead body of Smt Rama was conducted so also the post-mortem examination was conducted. Spot panchanama was also drawn by visiting the house of appellant no.1 and one plastic can containing kerosene, one home-made glass-bottle lamp, one match-box, burnt pieces of saree and mud sample were collected from the spot. After completion of investigation, charge-sheet was filed before the concerned Court of 5
Judicial Magistrate, First Class and subsequently the case was committed to the Court of Sessions at Amravati.
7. In order to bring home guilt of the accused, prosecution examined total ten witnesses and relied on the documentary evidence by way of spot panchanama, post-mortem report, C.A. Report and mainly the written dying declaration (exhibit 32). Reliance was also placed on the oral dying declaration made by Smt Rama before her father Suryabhan Tayde (P. W. 1).
8. At the threshold, it must be mentioned that there is no appeal against the acquittal of the accused persons for the offence punishable under Section 498A read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and as such, there is nothing to discuss the merits of reasoning given by the learned Additional Sessions Judge so far as failure of the prosecution to establish the charge for the said offence is concerned. In other words, there is nothing to re-apprise the substantive evidence of P.W. 1 Suryabhan and P. W. 2 Kantabai so far as alleged ill-treatment and harassment meted out to Smt Rama by her in-laws. What is to be ascertained in the present appeal is, whether the finding of the learned Additional Sessions Judge holding the appellants/accused guilty for the offence punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code is required to be interfered with or not.
9. Again, the admitted position is required to be mentioned inasmuch as there is no eye witness to the said incident of burning of Smt Rama and the case of prosecution revolves around the only evidence of dying declarations. During the arguments, learned Advocate Dr U.K. Kalsi for the appellants submitted that there are inconsistencies in the two dying declarations, the oral statement allegedly made before 6
P. W. 1 Suryabhan and the other statement i.e. written dying declaration recorded by P. W. 6 Adapawar, Executive Magistrate/Naib Tahsildar at Irvin Hospital, Amravati. It is further submitted on behalf of the appellants that the oral dying declaration has not been accepted by the learned Additional Sessions Judge and the Sessions Court had placed reliance only on the written dying declaration (exhibit 32). As against this argument, learned Additional Public Prosecutor for the State submitted that even the oral dying declaration was required to be considered and accepted by the trial Court inasmuch as such oral dying declaration, as narrated by P. W. 1 Suryabhan before the Court, cannot be treated as an omission though wrongly held so by the trial Court.
10. Much emphasis was placed on the ratios propounded by different authorities cited by both the sides on the aspect of appreciation of evidence of dying declaration. It is needless to mention that the dying declaration is relevant in view of the provisions of Section 32 of the Evidence Act but the fact still remains that the person making a statement giving cause of his death is not available for cross- examination. This situation is rather a deviation from the general principles that always best evidence is required to be brought before the Court and such evidence must be of such nature so that it can be tested by way of cross-examination in order to find out its trustworthiness. The following authorities are cited on behalf of the appellants in order to substantiate the argument that the evidence of dying declaration is required to be accepted with higher degree of care and caution, more so, when the declarant is not available for cross-examination. The said authorities are : (1) Gopal v. State of MP reported in (2009) 12 SCC 600, (2) State of Rajasthan v. Ashfaq Ahmed reported in (2010) 1 SCC (Cri) 158, (3) Suresh Shrirang Mandawagane v. State of Maharashtra reported in 2010 7
All MR (Cri) 147,
(4) Vasanta Shrawan Gajbhiye v. State of Maharashtra reported in 2007 All MR (Cri) 3474 and
(5) State of Rajasthan v. Yusuf reported in (2010) 1 SCC (Cri) 524.
11. Apart from the above authorities, much reliance is also placed on behalf of appellants on Deorao Sonbaji Bhalerao & anr v. State of Maharashtra reported in 2008 All MR (Cri) 921. By pointing out the ratio propounded by the said authority, it is strongly submitted on behalf of the appellants that the dying declaration cannot be presumed to be correct under Section 80 of the Evidence Act unless proved according to law. It is further argued that it was necessary for the witness who recorded dying declaration to narrate in substantive evidence before the Court the exact words used by the person giving the statement and in the absence of such specific evidence, merely identifying the contents of the dying declaration and the signature/thumb impression thereon of the declarant, is not enough.
12. As against the above submissions, learned Additional Public Prosecutor placed reliance on the ratios of the following authorities : (1) Muthu Kutty & anr v. State of Maharashtra reported in (2005) 9 SCC 113, (2) Suresh v. State of MP reported in AIR 1987 SC 860,
(3) Nallam Veera Stayanandam & ors v. Public Prosecutor reported in (2004) 10 SCC 769.
(4) P . Radhakrishna v. State of Karnataka reported in (2003) 6 SCC 443, and . V
(5) Harjit Kaur etc. v. State of Punjab reported in 1999 Cri. L. J. 4055. 8
13. During arguments, learned Advocate Dr U.K. Kalsi vehemently assailed the evidence of prosecution witnesses and mainly that of P. W. 9 Dr Trupti Bobde so far as the ability of then injured Smt Rama to give statement. Our attention is also invited towards the substantive evidence of Dr Suresh Thorat (P. W. 5) and Dr Trupti Bobde (P. W. 9) to establish the condition of then injured Smt Rama. Medical history of the patient shows that at about 10.25 am on 25 th February 2005, she was found very serious and again at 03.30 pm she was serious. By pointing out this, it is submitted that it is doubtful whether at 11.10 am when the alleged written dying declaration was recorded, she was fit, oriented and conscious to give detailed statement which continued for about fifteen minutes according to P W. 6 Rajesh Adapawar, Naib .
Tahsildar. It is also brought to our notice that admittedly, deceased Smt Rama had almost more than 99% burn injuries and her entire body was having such injuries except the genitals and even her both the hands and fingers were flexed. Much emphasis was placed on such physical condition of Smt Rama and it was further submitted that hardly there could have been any possibility for Smt Rama to give her thumb impression on the alleged dying declaration (exhibit 32).
14. We have carefully gone through the contents of the said dying declaration (exhibit 32) in original which is in vernacular Marathi language. Narration of authentication below the thumb impression is not given by the P W. 6. Our .
attention is also drawn towards the substantive evidence of P. W. 6 Rajesh Adapawar, Naib Tahsildar. The answers given by P W. 6 Rajesh in paragraph 2 of his cross- .
examination are of much significance and which are reproduced below for the sake of ready reference :
“….. Doctor had immediately issued certificate after my requisition. It took 9
about 15 minutes to record entire D. D. It is not true that the patient was not in condition to speak, therefore, so much time was required. Whatever questions asked by me to the patient is to be recorded in the dying declaration. It is true that it is the responsibility of the Executive Magistrate to ask some formal questions to see whether patient is mentally fit to give dying declaration. In Exh. 32 dying declaration, I had not mentioned that I had asked some formal questions to the patient. It is not true that police had informed me that the incident took place within the limits of P. S. Loni Takli…… It is true that the patient had stated that incident occurred at about 9.00 p.m. It is not true that the patient was not mentally fit when she was giving her D. D. I had not made separate endorsement that the contents of dying declaration were read over to patient and she accepted them to be correct because such endorsement is printed in the form of D. D……. It is true that in entire Exh. 32 there is no endorsement that patient had accepted the contents to be true and correct. As per doctor’s requisition the patient was 100% burnt..on the thumb impression the name of the patient is not mentioned nor endorsement is written.”
15. Apart from above-referred substantive evidence of P. W. 6 Rajesh, Naib Tahsildar, certain admissions given by P W. 9 Dr Trupti Bobde during the cross- .
examination were brought to our notice wherein in paragraph 2, she has mentioned as under :
“It is true that at about 10.25 a.m. Smt Ramabai was serious and intimation to that effect was given to her relatives. Similarly, at about 3.00 a.m. she was again serious, and intimation was given to her relatives. It is true that 10
after 3.00 p.m. till her death, Smt Ramabai was serious and was not fit. It is true that as per record, Smt Ramabai had sustained 100% deep burn injuries. Said injuries are severe and paining.”
16. By pointing out the above admissions given by P. W. 6 Rajesh Adapawar, Naib Tahsildar and P. W. 9 Dr Trupti Bobde, it is strongly submitted on behalf of the appellants that there is a doubt whether, the victim Smt Rama was conscious and gave her statement with all the composure and understanding. It was further brought to our notice that admittedly in her statement, she had mentioned that the incident of burning had occurred at 09.00 o’clock in the night whereas it was not at all a case that it occurred at night, but it occurred in the morning of 26 th February 2005. Such giving of wrong time is indication that injured Smt Rama was not having proper orientation, further argued.
17. Apart from the above arguments, on the main aspect of the dying declaration, it is further argued on behalf of the appellant that there is no motive established by the prosecution, necessitating the appellants to do away with Smt Rama. When the case is based on circumstantial evidence and when there is no eye witness, motive is of vital importance. It is further argued that there are no independent witnesses though the residence of accused is in a crowded locality and having various other hutments nearby and as such, it is also one of the mitigating circumstances to the case of prosecution.
18. After considering the rival submissions as above and noticing the ratios propounded by the authorities cited by rival parties and also mainly considering the observations of the Division Bench of this Court in Deorao Sonbaji Bhalerao & anr v. 11
State of Maharashtra (supra), it must be said that in the present matter, the prosecution has not proved the dying declaration (exhibit 32) in the strict sense as required for proof of the document and when the charges against the appellants are of serious nature attracting the punishment for life or also for death.
19. Again, at this juncture, it must be mentioned that the substantive evidence of P. W. 1 Suryabhan and P. W. 2 Kanta has not been accepted by the learned Additional Sessions Judge and it was held that the offence punishable under Section 498A read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code is not established against the appellants. In that view of the matter, there is a reasonable doubt whether deceased Smt Rama had given her statement, as alleged while taking the treatment in the hospital and when admittedly, having the burn injuries more than 99%. Under such circumstances, the benefit of doubt must go in favour of the accused/appellants and as such, the impugned judgment and order is required to be interfered with and is required to be set aside.
20. In the result, present appeal succeeds and is allowed. Impugned judgment and order dated 3rd May 2006 passed by the 4th Adhoc Additional Sessions Judge, Amravati in Sessions Trial No. 109 of 2005 is quashed and set aside. All the appellants are acquitted of the offence punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. All the appellants shall be released from jail custody if not required in any other case. Amount of fine, if paid, be refunded to the respective appellants.
JUDGE. JUDGE. joshi
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY,
NAGPUR BENCH : NAGPUR
Criminal Appeal No. 373 of 2006
Appellants : Pandurang @ Ajab Deoman Gawai and ors versus
Respondent : The State of Maharashtra
Coram: A. H. Joshi and A. R. Joshi, JJ
Dated : 29th September 2010
For the reasons stated in the accompanying judgment, Court passes the following order :
“In the result, present appeal succeeds and is allowed. Impugned judgment and order dated 3rd May 2006 passed by the 4th Adhoc Additional Sessions Judge, Amravati in Sessions Trial No. 109 of 2005 is quashed and set aside. All the appellants are acquitted of the offence punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. All the appellants shall be released from jail custody if not required in any other case. Amount of fine, if paid, be refunded to the respective appellants. ” Dy Registrar