Ram Prasad vs State Of U.P. And Anr. on 25 September, 2002
Equivalent citations: JT 2002 (8) SC 263
Bench: U Banerjee, B Agarwal
1. Gruesome murder of four persons including one child of nine months has been alleged against the accused herein who happened to be the son-in-law of the family. The father-in-law aged about 60 years, the daughter, being the wife aged about 28 years, a child of nine years and a new born girl child of nine months were done to death by strangulation – obviously gruesome and one shudders to note such a state of affairs. The justice delivery system of the country, however, has one basic principle to wit that the prosecution must prove the case beyond any reasonable doubt. It is in this context, evidence ought to be noticed. Admittedly, there is no direct evidence available and the entire edifice rests upon circumstantial evidence and it is in this context as well that the learned advocate appearing in support of the appeal against an order of acquittal of the son-in-law pointedly referred to a decision of this Court. In the case of Ashok Kumar Chatterjeev. State of Madhya Pradesh, wherein this Court upon consideration of a long catena of decisions, held that when a case rests upon circumstantial evidence, such evidence must satisfy the following tests:
(1) the circumstances from which an inference of guilt is sought to be drawn, must be cogently and firmly established;
(2) those circumstances should be of a definite tendency unerringly pointing towards guilt of the accused;
(3) the circumstances, taken cumulatively, should form a chain so complete that there is no escape from the conclusion that within all human probability the crime was committed by the accused and none else, and
(4) the circumstantial evidence in order to sustain conviction must be complete and incapable of explanation on any other hypothesis than that of the guilt of the accused and such evidence should not only be consistent with the guilt of the accused but should be inconsistent with his innocence. [See Gambhir v. State of Maharashtra, ]
2. Incidentally, on the same score this Court also in Pawan Kumar v. State of Haryana, stated as below:
“2 Incidentally, success of the prosecution on the basis of circumstantial evidence will however depend on the availability of a complete chain of events so as not to leave any doubt for the conclusion that the act must have been done by the accused person. While, however, it is true that there should be no missing links in the chain of events so far as the prosecution is concerned, but it is not that every one of the links must appear on the surface of the evidence, since some of these links may only be inferred from the proven facts. Circumstances of strong suspicion without, however any conclusive evidence are not sufficient to justify the conviction and it is on this score that great care must be taken in evaluating the circumstantial evidence. In any event, on the availability of two inferences, the one in favour of the accused must be accepted and the law is well settled on this score, as such we need not dilate much in that regard excepting, however, noting the observations of this Court in the case of State of U.P. v. Ashok Kumar Srivastava, JT 2001 (3) SC 476 wherein this Court in para 9 of the report observed:
“9. This Court has, time out of number observed that while appreciating circumstantial evidence the court must adopt a very cautious approach and should record a conviction only if all the links in the chain are complete pointing to the guilt of the accused and every hypothesis of innocence is capable of being negatived on evidence. Great care must be taken in evaluating circumstan-tial evidence and if the evidence relied on is reasonably capably of two inferences, the one in favour of the accused must be accepted. The circumstance relied upon must be found to have been fully established and the cumulative effect of all the facts so established must be consistent only with the hypothesis of guilt. But this is not to say that the prosecution must meet any and every hypothesis put forward by the accused however far-fetched and fanciful it might be. Nor does it mean that prosecution evidence must be rejected on the slightest doubt because the law permits rejection if the doubt is reasonable and not otherwise.”
3. The other aspect of the issue is that the evidence on record, ascribed to be circumstantial, ought to justify the inferences of the guilt from the incriminating facts and circumstances which are incompatible with the innocence of the accused or guilt of any other person. The observations of this Court in the case of Balwinder Singh v. State of Punjab [JT 1986 SC 940] lends concurrence to the above.”
3. The law, thus, seems to be well settled on this score that the circumstances must pointedly point to the accused and none others and there cannot thus be any manner of dispute on that score. The issue thus arises as to whether available evidence satisfy such a requirement as above or not. Whereas the learned sessions judge came to a conclusion that the matter in issue falls within the category of rarest of the rare cases and as such the accused deserved to be hanged. The High Court in appeal, however, thought to the contrary and acquitted the accused on the ground that there is no causal connection between the crime alleged and the conduct of the accused neither the prosecution has been able to prove the same. The High Court in support of its reasoning has taken recourse to the four specific instances to come to the conclusion that the prosecution has not been able to prove its case. The instances being:
“(a) The informant Ram Prasad (P.W.1), Hukum Chand (P.W.2) Nahar Singh and Karan Singh are alleged to have been enjoying the hukka, sitting in the baithaka of the house of Singh Ram deceased at 10-11 p.m. They are not related to one another. They have got their separate houses at different places. They were not on visiting terms with such other in the past. There is no mention in the first information report of the specific purpose for which they had assembled in the said verandah and yet they assembled and that too late in the night. This cast suspicion as to the correctness of the prosecution case to this effect.
(b) There is nothing in the first information report to indicate that Singh Ram deceased was also enjoying hukka along with the above named witnesses in his baithaka. Nor is there anything in this regard in their statements under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Had Singh Ram deceased been actually present and had he actually enjoyed the hukka with them, his name must have been mentioned in the first information report itself. Therefore the statements of the above named witnesses being after thought cannot be relied upon.
(c) The incident had taken place in the nigh intervening 22nd and 23rd February, 1988. January is the coldest month of the winter season. It is not prosecution case that there was in the said baithaka any fire place around which the above named witnesses were sitting warming themselves and enjoying hukka. On the other hand, it is alleged that they were enjoying hukka siting together on the cot only. But the investigating officer has not shown any such cot in the site plan. It is further alleged that the appellant accused came there, made obscene to the said witnesses and put a cot beside the cot of Singh Ram and lay down thereon. But the investigating officer has not shown in the site plan any such cot; It is further alleged that the appellant accused had put bester and a bag on that cot. But the investigating officer had not found any such bag or bag on any such cot. Had there been any thing of truth in the testimony of the witnesses of this effect, the investigating officer would have certainly taken into his custody the bedding and the bag in particular and prepared fard in regard to the same It is further alleged that Singh Ram and the appellant accused had bolted from inside while going to bed. The statements of the witnesses Ram Prasad (P.W.1) and Hukum Chand (P.W.2) to this effect do not inspire confidence for reasons more than one. Therefore, the story set up by the prosecution to the effect that the above named witness were present at 10-11 p.m. in the baithaka of Singh Ram deceased is false and baseless.
(d) It is further alleged that Ram Prasad (P.W.1) Hukum Chand (P.W.2) had seen the accused going out of the house of Singh Ram deceased at about 6 a.m. next day. But the place or places from where they had seen, have not been mentioned in the first information report. Similarly, the place or places where they had actually asked the appellant-accused why he was going so early from the house of Singh Ram have also not been shown in the site plan. It may be mentioned in this connection that if the appellant accused had actually committed the murders of four deceased persons in the night, he must have fled away in the eerie silence of the night and would not have waited inside the house for breaking of the dawn or for the rising of the Sun for his departure. Thus the statements of the witnesses to the contrary cannot be believed.
(e) The informant Ram Prasad (P.W.1) had been waiting for about 10-15 minutes, seeing the dead bodies, all the village people had assembled during that period. The appellant-accused cannot be expected to have covered a long distance during the short point of time. Had he actually been seen departing from the house of Singh Ram deceased, had he actually been and why he was going-so early and had Ram Prasad (P.W. 1) actually wailed and wept, the village people must have apprehended the appellant accused somewhere, as a result of their hot chase given for him. But nothing as such appears to have been done. This indicates nothing, but the falsehood in the prosecution case.”
4. Incidentally, the High Court has also taken recourse to the fact that the hukka though available at the place of occurrence was not taken into custody-the High Court recorded, “This casts doubt as to very existence of any hukka in the said baithak.” Significantly, there is nothing on record to show how, where, when and by whom the accused was arrested though he has been shown as arrested. The High Court on this score took exception to the attitude of the investigating officer and thus recorded that he had been exercising power in a most casual fashion and as matter of totally arbitrary. The way the investigation proceeded we cannot but lend our concurrence to the above observation of the High Court. The learned sessions judge while dealing with the matter relied basically on the factum of the departure of the accused husband from the house in the morning. Two specific witnesses have been put forward on this account, one happened to be the complainant and the other one Hukam Singh, Hukam Singh did try to put forth some justification for being there in the vicinity, namely to tie the cattle, but there is no further elucidation thereof: The learned sessions judge did place very strong reliance thereon but did not even consider the credibility or acceptability of the same and this aspect of the matter stands negated by the High Court. Similar is the situation as regards the presence of the complainant, since excepting his oral statement that he happened to be there no other evidence is available on record. It is significant that both of them supposed to have called out but the accused did not bother to reply and the accused went away and it is this sudden departure of the accused which the learned sessions judge took exception and the High Court took it to be a normal behavior: but the issue arises as to whether the conduct of the complainant can be considered to be normal conduct to go and see as to what has happened in the house. The house was supposed to have been locked from outside. The complainant said to have opened the door and found four deaths there. It is on this discovery the accused was tried by the learned sessions judge and convicted under Section 302 and thus sentenced to capital punishment.
5. The chain of events must be complete and there should not be any snap in the chain so as to cast doubt in the minds of the court as to whether the accused is the guilty party or not. As noticed hereinbefore, the chain of events must pointedly point to the guilt of the accused and to none others. Assuming and applying full credence to the evidence on record and upon acceptance thereof, simple facts depict that the husband came and spent the night at the in-laws place and left early in the morning. In our view, it is too large a proposition to be accepted that the husband is the killer. There are intervening circumstances and the evidence given in court does not pointedly point to the accused only. There is thus some doubt and it is this doubt which has led the High Court to come to the conclusion that the prosecution has failed to prove its case. We also do find some justification in such a conclusion of the High Court.
6. On the wake of the aforesaid, the complainant’s appeal fails and is dismissed. Bail bonds shall stand discharged.