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Sandesh Dagdu More-vs-The State Of Maharashtra on 22 September, 2009

Bombay High Court Sandesh Dagdu More-vs-The State Of Maharashtra on 22 September, 2009
Bench: Bilal Nazki, A. R. Joshi

CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 1

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1264 OF 2003

1. Sandesh Dagdu More, ]

Age : 25 years, R/at Sadashiv ]

Chawl, Village Goves, Taluka ]

Bhiwandi, District – Thane. ]

2. Smt.Sunanda Dagdu More, ]

Age : 45 years, ]

3. Sanjay Dagdu More, ]

Age : 29 years, ]

Appellant Nos.2 & 3 residing at ]

Room No.77, 4th Floor, Bldg. ]

No.4, New Police line, ]

Bhiwandi, Dist. Thane. ]

(Accused No.1 confined at ]

Kolhapur Central Prison, ]

Accused Nos.2 & 3 are on ]

bail.) ] ..APPELLANTS. [Orig.Accused Nos.1 to 3]

Versus

The State of Maharashtra ]

(at the instance of Police Officer, ]

Shanti Nagar police station, ]

Bhiwandi.) ] ..RESPONDENT. ….

CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 2

WITH

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1294 OF 2003

Sandesh Dagdu More, ]

Age 25 years, R/at Sadashiv ]

Chawl, Village Goves, Taluka ]

Bhiwandi, District Thane. ]

(confined at Kolhapur Central ]

Prison). ] ..APPELLANT. [Orig.Accused No.1]

Versus

The State of Maharashtra ]

(at the instance of Police Officer, ]

Shanti Nagar police station, ]

Bhiwandi.) ] ..RESPONDENT. ……..

Mr.Niteen Pradhan, Advocate for the Appellants.

Mr.K.V. Saste, A.P ., for the Respondent – State. .P

……..

CORAM : BILAL NAZKI AND

A.R. JOSHI, JJ.

DATE OF RESERVING : 2-9-2009

DATE OF PRONOUNCING : 22-9-2009

JUDGMENT [PER A.R.JOSHI,J.] :-

1. Both the present Criminal Appeals are being disposed of by this common oral judgment as the same judgment and order passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Thane dated 26th August, CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 3

2003 is impugned in both the said Appeals. The said impugned judgment and order was passed in Sessions Case No.362 of 2001 in which originally three accused were tried. Accused No.1 was the husband of the deceased, accused No.2 is the mother of accused No.1 and accused No.3 is the brother of accused No.1.

2. Criminal Appeal No.1264 of 2003 was filed by all the three accused challenging the judgment and order of conviction, whereas Criminal Appeal No.1294 of 2003 was also again preferred by accused No.1 specifically challenging the said judgment and order of his conviction for the offence punishable under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code.

3. By the impugned judgment and order, only accused No.1 was convicted for the offence punishable under Section 302 of I.P.C. and was sentenced to suffer imprisonment for life. However, fine was not imposed. Section 302 of IPC specifically mentions that the convicted accused shall also be liable to fine. By the said judgment and order, all the three accused were convicted for the offence punishable under Section 498-A of IPC. For the said CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 4

offence, accused No.1 was sentenced to suffer R.I. for three years and to pay fine of Rs.5000/- in default R.I. for three months. For the offence punishable under Section 498-A of IPC, accused Nos.2 & 3 were sentenced to suffer R.I. for two years each and to pay fine of Rs.5000/- each in default to suffer further R.I. for three months each. Substantive sentences imposed on accused No.1 were directed to run concurrently. Set-off was given to all the accused for the period they were in custody during the trial.

4. Prior to discussing the rival arguments and mainly the arguments on behalf of accused No.1, certain factual position and the material led before the trial Court shall be discussed in order to have proper perspective of the matter and in order to appreciate the main arguments on behalf of accused No.1.

One deceased Reshma got married with accused No.1 and started residing in the joint family consisting of other accused at some village of Taluka – Khed, District – Ratnagiri. The marriage between the deceased Reshma and accused No.1 was performed in March, 1999. Accused No.1 is a policeman and working in CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 5

Maharashtra Police. Subsequently all the accused and deceased came down to Thane and started residing in joint family. Within few months of the marriage, harassment and illtreatment was given to the deceased. At times, she was beaten by all the three accused. There were also the allegations regarding the character of the deceased and on that count also she was beaten. Accused No.1 (husband of deceased) used to consume liquor and also used to beat her on account of not bringing any articles like Laxmihar, sewing machine, cupboard and cash amount. Due to such beating and almost everyday quarrels, there used to be some conciliation between the parties at the intervention of the parents of the deceased. At occasions, PW-4 Suresh Jadhav, father of the deceased took her to his place and tried to pacify the situation. Admittedly, some meetings were held and in which it was assured by the accused persons that they will not ill-treat the deceased. However, the things did not change.

5. It is also an admitted position that the deceased and her parents approached one non-governmental association known as “Strimukti Sanghatana” and various representations were made to CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 6

the said Organization in order to have amicable settlement in the marital disputes. Various steps were taken by the members of such organization and some meetings were conducted and at some point of time it was decided that accused No.1 and deceased i.e. husband and wife should stay separately away from the relatives of accused No.1 so as to have peaceful married life for the couple. However, it appears that such separate stay did not last long and again there was cruelty practised on the deceased and her ill-treatment continued.

6. During continuance of such ill-treatment of the deceased, the fateful day arrived on 19th April, 2001. At early hours at about 3:00 a.m. or so there happened to be the incident in which deceased sustained severe burn injuries on her person and also on her back and almost entire part of her face, chest, abdomen and also her hands and legs. According to the initial version, as allegedly recorded by one ASI Shahaji Gawade (DW-1), the deceased made a dying declaration at Exh.58 before him when she was first admitted to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital at Bhiwandi that she received burn injuries while she was heating milk for small CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 7

daughter. It is significant to note that the said dying declaration (Exh.58) was brought on record on behalf of the accused after the entire prosecution evidence was over and accused were asked to enter in their defence. Acceptance or otherwise of such dying declaration shall be dealt in detail hereinunder at an appropriate place.

7. According to the prosecution, at early hours of 19th April, 2001, there was a quarrel initiated by accused No.1 and he assaulted the deceased at the early hours at about 3:00 a.m. and poured kerosene on her person and set her on fire with lited match-stick. According to the prosecution, he did not try to save his wife, whereas the deceased ran-away and took shelter in the neighbour’s house where some water was poured on her person. She was taken to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital at Bhiwandi. By that time, all the accused and the deceased were residing in the police quarters near Bhiwandi. As mentioned above, at the said hospital first dying declaration was given by the deceased which is admittedly not incriminating and which speak of the accidental CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 8 injuries due to flurrying of flames of the kerosene stove. Till 21st April, 2001, the deceased was in the hospital, initially in Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital at Bhiwandi and thereafter moved to General Civil Hospital at Thane. According to the case of the prosecution, on 19th April, 2001 entire day accused No.1 was with the deceased at the hospital and that time deceased was under treatment for severe burn injuries. At this juncture, it must be mentioned that the deceased had sustained almost 83% burn injuries. The parents of the decased came to know regarding the incident and they visited the hospital and saw the condition of the deceased who was under treatment. Also according to the prosecution, some time in the night of 21st April, 2001, the condition of the deceased was still serious and she indicated to make further statements and as such two more statements in immediate proximity came to be recorded on that night of 21st April, 2001. One was recorded by PW-2 Police Head Constable Mr.Bhosale vide Exh.17 whereas another one recorded by PW-1 Special Executive Officer Mr.Pandhare vide Exh.14. At this juncture, it must be mentioned that these are two dying CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 9 declarations which are incriminating against all the accused and specifically alleged accused No.1 for setting the deceased on fire after assaulting and pouring kerosene over her person by accused No.1. These are the dying declarations which are strongly assailed on behalf of the accused and mainly on behalf of accused No.1.

8. While under treatment at General Hospital at Thane, deceased died on the night on 21st April, 2001 due to septicaemia on account of severe burn injuries. At this juncture, it must be mentioned that the burn injuries sustained by the deceased were to the extent of 83% and at the cost of repetition it can be maintained that not only the face, chest and abdomen parts, but also major portion on the back of the deceased, so also the hands and legs were the affected areas due to such burn injuries. The extent of such burn injuries is significant while considering the defence of the accused that it was accidental burning due to flurrying of flames of the kerosene stove. On the death of the deceased, a charge for the offence punishable under Section 302 of IPC was inserted in the earlier registered C.R. No.107 of 2001 as earlier CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 10

charges were only for the offences punishable under Sections 307 & 498-A r/w. Section 34 of IPC. Inquest panchnama was drawn and all the three accused were put under arrest on 22nd April, 2001 at about 4:00 p.m. under the panchnama Exh.11. It may be mentioned that earlier on 19th April, 2001, spot panchnama was conducted at Exh.48. Certain factual position as to finding of some articles during such spot panchnama, is much emphasised on behalf of the accused in order to canvas the proposition that there was no any kerosene found on the floor of the house where the incident of burning occurred. This defence also shall be dealt at an appropriate place hereunder.

9. During investigation, statements of various witnesses were recorded including the statement of PW-3 one Smt.Kunda Phansekar, an active member of Stri Mukti Sanghatana. Through her, various documents were brought on record, such as, the letters written by the deceased and parents to the Sanghatana for taking action and the case history papers prepared by the said Sanghatana. The said documents are at Exhs.24, 25 & 26 before CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 11

the Court and contents thereof, as proved by PW-3, are of much significance so far as establishment of the charges against the accused.

10. On completion of investigation, chargesheet was filed and the matter was committed to the Court of Sessions. The trial Sessions Court framed the charge vide Exh.3 against all the three accused for the offences punishable under Sections 302, 498A r/w. Section 34 of IPC.

11. During the trial, total six prosecution witnesses were examined. Broadly the summary of such witnesses can be narrated.

PW-1 is the Special Executive Officer Mr.Pandhare who recorded dying declaration (Exh.14) dated 21.4.2001 after about 11:00 p.m. on that day. The said dying declaration is incriminating against the accused persons and mainly alleges that accused No.1 poured kerosene over the deceased and set her on fire. Admittedly, there is no endorsement of the Medical Officer on the said dying declaration. However, as per the substantive evidence of PW-1 he CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 12

had taken permission from the attending Doctor at the Hospital. Infact prior to this, there was earlier dying declaration recorded by PW-2. The said PW-2 is Police Head Constable Mr.Bhosale who recorded dying declaration (Exh.17) on 21st April, 2001 at about 10:00 p.m. Prior to recording of such dying declaration, medical requisition was obtained and said requisition is at Exh.16. Again said dying declaration is incriminating against the accused and also mainly against accused No.1 as to his role in pouring kerosene over the person of deceased and setting her on fire. PW-3 is Smt.Kunda Phansekar who is an active member of Stri Mukti Sanghatana. Through her evidence, it was brought on record that earlier there was matrimonial dispute between accused No.1 and deceased and various complaints were lodged with the Sanghatana and there were talks of negotiation and reconciliation between the parties. It must be mentioned that evidence of said PW-3 is not disputed and as such there was a circumstance prior to the incident of burning, as to quarrel between the parties and specific allegations inputed against the accused persons as to harassment and illtreatment and practising cruelty on deceased on account of demand of money and CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 13

certain articles. Again on this aspect, application made by the deceased which is at Exh.19 is of much significance and is definitely a mitigating circumstance against the accused and has been rightly held by the Sessions Court. PW-4 is father of the deceased and he produced letter written by accused No.1 dated 29th March, 1999 vide Exh.34. So also he produced letters written by Reshma (deceased) alleging illtreatment and cruelty meted out to her by the accused – the said letters were produced at Exhs.35 &

36. Though much is argued on the contents and proof of such letters, in our opinion, the trial Sessions Court has rightly appreciated the effect of such letters in order to coming to the conclusion that there was illtreatment and harassment meted out to the deceased and it was vented through the correspondence by her.

12. PW-5 is a panch regarding scene of offence Exh.48. At this juncture, the contents of said panchnama are required to be mentioned to have ready reference. During such scene of offence panchnama conducted between 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. on 19th CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 14

April, 2001, one brass metal stove, one empty plastic can of 5 Ltr. havng smelling of kerosene and remains of the cloths in half burn condition were found. The said articles were taken charge under the panchnama. It may be mentioned that said bross-stove had some dent and it was explained by the accused as to he kicking the said brass-stove. It is an admitted position that the said brass-stove is in intact condition though having a dent on the side. The said brass-stove is not in a burst-out condition so as to imply the possibility of bursting and then causing severe burn injuries to the deceased not only on the front portion but also on her back.

13. At this juncture, the argument advanced on behalf of the accused as to non-mentioning of any finding of kerosene on the floor of the room is required to be considered. By pointing out such absence of kerosene, it is argued that the story of the prosecution as to accused No.1 pouring kerosene over the person of the deceased cannot be accepted. On this aspect, though there is no mention of finding of any kerosene on the floor, such circumstance cannot lead us to presume that the story of the CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 15

prosecution is improbable. Moreover the reasoning given by the trial Sessions Court dealing with this defence can be acceptable as to there is nothing on record as to how much kerosene was poured by accused No.1 on the person of deceased. The reasoning given by the trial Sessions Court is that considering the case of the prosecution as truthful and considering whatever amount of kerosene poured by accused No.1, it was absorbed by the clothes on the person of the deceased and as such there could not have been any possibility of the kerosene finding on the floor. Moreover, the time-gap between the incident of burning and the panchnama at the house of accused No.1 cannot be ignored. The incident of burning occurred at about 3:00 a.m. whereas panchnama was conducted between 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and it was the house of accused No.1. Moreover, on this aspect, the circumstance which is very much weighed by the trial Court and also rightly so is finding of severe burn injuries mostly on the back side of the deceased. At the cost of repetition, it must be mentioned that such injuries were to the extent of 83%. Considering such factual position as proved by the contents of the inquest panchnama, the case of the CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 16

prosecution as to pouring of kerosene over the person of the deceased is required to be accepted beyond reasonable doubt and this is more so in view of the evidence of two dying declarations, inspite of very first dying declaration not incriminating against the accused.

14. The last prosecution witness is PW-6 Investigating Officer who deposed as to taking over the investigation from other officer and concluding the investigation.

15. It is significant that in the present matter, the trial Sessions Court had examined one Dr.Latika Deshpande as a Court Witness No.1. The said Doctor produced one injury certificate at Exh.32 regarding examination of the deceased when she was brought for medical check-up by her parents and when deceased was 1 & 1/2 months pregnant. Substantive evidence of Court Witness No.1 goes to show that the patient Reshma (deceased) was assaulted by the family members of her matrimonial house. Reshma (deceased) was brought to the clinic in order to confirm the position of pregnancy and in order to ascertain whether any CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 17

injury was caused to the child in the womb. On examination, said Doctor found that Reshma was 1 & 1/2 months pregnant and also found echymatic patches on the face and back due to assault. According to the said Doctor, the said marks were of the injuries on the back and face and they were noted in the certificate Exh.32. This evidence of the Court Witness is taken as a circumstance against the accused and rightly so in our opinion.

16. Apart from the above evidence, two defence witnesses were examined on behalf of the accused. As mentioned earlier, one ASI Shahaji Gawade, then attached to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital at Bhiwandi recorded statement of Reshma vide Exh.58 and in which she mentioned that it was the accidental burning by flurrying of flames of stove while heating milk for her daughter. DW-2 Dr.Sorate whose endorsement is appearing on the said first dying declaration (Exh.58) has given his endorsement on said dying declaration as to consciousness of Smt.Reshma for giving statement. The effect of all the three dying declarations, as detailed above, is required to be construed in order to consider the CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 18

establishment of offence punishable under Section 302 of IPC as against accused No.1.

17. During the arguments, the learned Counsel Shri Pradhan vehemently argued by putting much reliance on the first dying declaration (Exh.58) that the subsequent two dying declarations cannot be considered as authentic and that conviction cannot be based on the contents of such dying declarations. In other words, it is submitted on behalf of accused No.1 that when there are two sets of dying declarations – first one non- incriminating and second one incriminating but having some intrinsic infirmities as to not having endorsement of the attending medical officer, the Court should be very cautious not accepting the version of the prosecution as to accused No.1 involved in the matter of pouring kerosene over the person of the deceased and setting her on fire. On this aspect, we have carefully gone through the substantive evidence of prosecution witnesses and mainly that of PW-1 S.E.O. Mr.Pandhare, PW-2 P.H.C. Mr.Bhosale and DW-1 ASI Gavde. At the cost of repetition it may be mentioned that though CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 19

there was no any Medical Officer’s endorsement on dying declaration Exh.14, the substantive evidence of PW-1 goes to show that he had obtained permission from the Medical Officer. Moreover, the another dying declaration (Exh.17) recorded by PW-2 P.H.C. Mr.Bhosale, is accompanied by Exh.16 which is a written requisition made to the attending Medical Officer and said requisition bear the endorsement of the attending Doctor to the effect as follows :-

“patient conscious

statement

can be taken

21.4.2001

11.45 p.m.

Sd/-

Medical Officer

V. S. General

Hospital, Thane”

18. Considering such factual position, in our opinion there is no much weight in the argument advanced on behalf of accused No.1 as to both said dying declarations defective for want of medical endorsement. Again it must be mentioned that on this aspect the reasoning given by the trial Sessions Court can be CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 20

acceptable and there is nothing to hold the said reasoning as perverse. Needless to mention that the endorsement of the Medical Officer on a dying declaration, vouching for the condition of the patient making said declaration, is not a legal necessity, but it is a rule of caution. In our view, this means that if by other attaining circumstances there is nothing to doubt such dying declaration then the same could be safely relied upon and its contents can be taken into account.

19. Again on the above aspect, the specific circumstance under which all the three dying declarations were made, are required to be construed. The first dying declaration was immediately made on 19th April, 2001 when for that entire day admittedly accused No.1 was at the hospital and with deceased Reshma and admittedly by that time the small child i.e. daughter of Reshma was in the custody of accused persons. As against this, subsequently in the night of 22nd April, 2001 further two dying declarations came to be made probably noticing that the survival chances of the deceased were less and by that time she was certain CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 21

by presence of her father (PW-4) and learnt through him regarding condition of her daughter. All the same, admittedly there are three dying declarations before the Court, as detailed above, and as such what was mentioned in the three dying declarations is required to be construed and in that event, in our view, the trial Sessions Court had not erred in taking into consideration the last two dying declarations as incriminating against the accused persons. In that view of the matter, in our view, the argument advanced on behalf of accused No.1 on this count cannot be accepted.

20. So far as conviction of accused persons for the offence punishable under Section 498-A r/w. Section 34 of IPC, substantive evidence of mainly PW-3 coupled with substantive evidence of Court Witness No.1 Dr.Deshpande is required to be construed. Further more the documents produced by PW-3 Smt.Phansekar of Stri Mukti Sanghatana and which are at Exhs.19,20, 25 & 26 and so also the letters written by Reshma and produced by her father (PW-4) and which are at Exhs.35 & 36, goes to show beyond reasonable doubt that there was cruelty practiced on her by the CRA.1264-03AND1294-03 22

accused persons and which was of such a nature to attract the provisions of Section 498-A of IPC.

21. In view of the above discussion and still considering that the case against the present accused persons was on circumstantial evidence when there being no eye witness, we are of the view that the prosecution had reached that standard of proof to prove the guilt of the accused persons beyond reasonable doubt for the charges leveled against them and in that event there is nothing erroneous done by the trial Court in holding the accused guilty for the offence as per the impugned order.

22. In view of the above, both the present Criminal Appeals must fail and they are accordingly dismissed and disposed of as such.

[BILAL NAZKI,J.]

[A.R.JOSHI,J.]

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