28 Sep 2022 9:20 AM GMT
The Supreme Court acquitted a man who was sentenced to death for alleged rape and murder of a six year old girl. The Court noted that there are seriously inherent contradictions in the statements made by prosecution witnesses and both the Trial Court and the High Court have overlooked it completely. "Court cannot make someone, a victim of injustice, to compensate for the injustice to the...
The Supreme Court acquitted a man who was sentenced to death for alleged rape and murder of a six year old girl. The Court noted that there are seriously inherent contradictions in the statements made by prosecution witnesses and both the Trial Court and the High Court have overlooked it completely.
"Court cannot make someone, a victim of injustice, to compensate for the injustice to the victim of a crime", the bench of Justices S. Abdul Nazeer, AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian remarked.
The bench also observed that the accused is so poor that he could not afford to engage a lawyer even in the Sessions Court. After his repeated requests to the Court of District and Sessions Judge, the service of an advocate was provided as amicus, it noted. The bench also criticized the prosecution for not conducting the investigation properly. It said:
We cannot shy away from the fact that it is a ghastly case of rape and murder of a 6 year old child. By not conducting the investigation properly, the prosecution has done injustice to the family of the victim. By fixing culpability upon the appellant without any shred of evidence which will stand the scrutiny, the prosecution has done injustice to the appellant. Court cannot make someone, a victim of injustice, to compensate for the injustice to the victim of a crime.
In appeal, the appellant raised contentions regarding (i) the trustworthiness of the testimonies of PWs 1 to 3, in the light of certain contradictions; (ii) the consequences of the delay on the part of the Police in forwarding the FIR to the Court; (iii) the failure of the prosecution to produce forensic/medical evidence and its effect and (iv) the manner in which the questioning under Section 313 of the Code was undertaken and its effect upon the findings recorded.
The court noted that the accused had taken a defence right from the beginning that he was implicated falsely at the behest of a locally powerful person whose wife is the Pradhan of the village. Referring to evidence on record, the bench also noted that there were several contradictions regarding, (i) the place where the dead body was first seen by the Police; (ii) the person who took the dead body; and (iii) the place to which the dead body was taken and (iv) Different versions regarding the Place, Date and Time of conduct of the inquest. These contradictions make the evidence of PWs 1 to 3 completely untrustworthy, the court said.
The court also observed that the delay of 5 days in transmitting the FIR to the jurisdictional court, especially in the facts and circumstances of this case was fatal. The court also noted that the prosecution did not care to subject the accused (appellant herein) to examination by a medical practitioner. Regarding this, it said: "The failure of the prosecution in this case to subject the appellant to medical examination is certainly fatal to the prosecution case especially when the ocular evidence is found to be not trustworthy.. Their failure to obtain the report of the Forensic Sciences Laboratory on the blood/semen stain on the salwar worn by the victim, compounds the failure of the prosecution."
While allowing the appeal, the bench observed:
"The seriously inherent contradictions in the statements made by them have not been duly taken note of by both the courts. When the offence is heinous, the Court is required to put the material evidence under a higher scrutiny. On a careful consideration of the reasoning of the Trial Court, as confirmed by the High Court, we find that sufficient care has not been taken in the assessment of the statements made by P.Ws. 1 to 3. No one spoke as to who sent the FIR to the court and when it was sent. Strangely even the copy of the postmortem report was admittedly received by SHO on the 13.03.2012 though the post mortem was conducted on the 09.03.2012,. It was the same date on which the FIR reached the Court. These factors certainly create a strong suspicion on the story as projected by the prosecution, but both the Courts have overlooked the same completely. This erroneous approach on the part of the Sessions Court and the High Court has led to the appellant being ordained to be dispatched to the gallows. "
Project 39A of the National Law University Delhi provided legal assistance to the appellant in the Supreme Court. The appellant was represented by Senior Advocate S Nagamuthu.
Chotkau vs State of Uttar Pradesh 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 804 | CrA 361-362 OF 2018 | 28 September 2022 | Justices S. Abdul Nazeer, AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian
Counsel: Sr. Adv S. Nagamuthu for the appellant, AAG Ardhendumauli Kumar Prasad for the State of Uttar Pradesh.
Indian Penal Code, 1860 ; Section 302 and 376 - Rape and Murder of Six Year Old Girl - Appellant was convicted and sentenced to death - Acquitted - There are seriously inherent contradictions in the statements made by prosecution witnesses and both the Trial Court and the High Court have overlooked it completely - Court cannot make someone, a victim of injustice, to compensate for the injustice to the victim of a crime.
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 ; Section 157 (1) - The word "forthwith' in Section 157(1) of the Code is to be understood in the context of the given facts and circumstances of each case and a straightjacket formula cannot be applied in all cases. But where ocular evidence is found to be unreliable and thus unacceptable, a long delay has to be taken note of by the Court. The mandate of Section 157(1) of the Code being clear, the prosecution is expected to place on record the basic foundational facts, such as, the Officer who took the first information report to the jurisdictional court, the authority which directed such a course of action and the mode by which it was complied. Explaining the delay is a different aspect than placing the material in compliance of the Code - The delay in forwarding the FIR may certainly indicate the failure of one of the external checks to determine whether the FIR was manipulated later or whether it was registered either to fix someone other than the real culprit or to allow the real culprit to escape. While every delay in forwarding the FIR may not necessarily be fatal to the case of the prosecution, Courts may be duty bound to see the effect of such delay on the investigation and even the creditworthiness of the investigation. (Para 61- 66)
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 ; Section 53A - In cases where the victim of rape is alive and is in a position to testify in court, it may be possible for the prosecution to take a chance by not medically examining the accused. But in cases where the victim is dead and the offence is sought to be established only by circumstantial evidence, medical evidence assumes great importance. The failure of the prosecution to produce such evidence, despite there being no obstacle from the accused or anyone, will certainly create a gaping hole in the case of the prosecution and give rise to a serious doubt on the case of the prosecution. (Para 80)
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 ; Section 53A, 164A - While Section 53A enables the medical examination of the person accused of rape, Section 164A enables medical examination of the victim of rape. Both these provisions are somewhat similar and can be said approximately to be a mirror image of each other. But there are three distinguishing features - discussed. (Para 79)
Criminal Trial - Circumstantial Evidence - Court has to see whether the chain of circumstances is complete and unbroken and keep in mind five golden principles or the panchsheell - Referred to Sharad Birdhichand Sarda vs. State of Maharashtra (1984) 4 SCC 116. (Para 9)
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