15 Oct 2023 6:15 AM GMT
A Division Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices Abhay S. Oka and Sanjay Karol, recently affirmed the conviction of 9 accused persons of the crime committed by them back in 1988. It may be relevant to point out that the bail was granted to the accused persons by the Supreme Court in the year 2012 and thus, now they have been directed by the Top Court to surrender...
A Division Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices Abhay S. Oka and Sanjay Karol, recently affirmed the conviction of 9 accused persons of the crime committed by them back in 1988. It may be relevant to point out that the bail was granted to the accused persons by the Supreme Court in the year 2012 and thus, now they have been directed by the Top Court to surrender themselves.
Pertinently, the Trial Court convicted them for offences punishable under several provisions of the Explosive Substance Act, 1908 and Indian Penal Code, 1860 including murder. Under these offences, the sentence awarded varied from rigorous imprisonment for 3 years to life imprisonment, all to run concurrently. The sentence was affirmed by the High Court. Challenging the same, they approached the Supreme Court.
They challenged their conviction essentially on four fronts including their plea for alibi. However, the Apex Court was not persuaded by the submissions of the defence.
It is worth mentioning, that the Court, in its judgment, has meticulously penned down several principles pertaining to the plea of alibi. These principles have been driven from various landmark decisions including Dhananjoy Chatterjee v. State of W.B., (1994) 2 SCC 220; and Vijay Pal v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi) (2015) 4 SCC 749. Few of these principles, as enumerated in the judgment, are:
The facts that have given rise to this present appeal are as follows: On 17.04.1988 one Chetram was taking his son Kapildeo to the hospital for treatment with one Choubisram as a pillion rider. Upon reaching the house of accused Darasram, 11 persons attacked them with country made bombs as also Laathis and tabbal. Chetram received multiple injuries and eventually succumbed while receiving the treatment. Kapildeo, son of Chetram, who was being taken to the hospital by his was found close to a tree near the place of occurrence alive and was taken to a Government Hospital, Palari and was shifted to D.K. Hospital, Raipur. However, in the course of treatment, Kapildeo also died, same day at about 4.55 p.m.
Consequently, the Trial Court, finding the evidence led by the prosecution to be reliable; the witnesses to have established the prosecution case beyond reasonable doubt; the witnesses’ testimonies being of sterling quality and their credit, unimpeachable, convicted 9 of the 11 accused persons. The conviction of the accused persons was affirmed by the High Court. Aggrieved by the same, convicts approached the Supreme Court.
The convicts had assailed the impugned judgment on four fronts. These included; Inordinate delay in filing of the First Information Report; the deceased being a history-sheeter, having numerous cases pending against him, hence equal probability that someone other than the convicts favouring and wanting, his elimination; lastly, that the accused persons were, in fact, not at the scene of the crime and pleaded alibi.
The Apex Court, in its judgment, addressed these issues one by one.
In respect of the first contention, the Court noted that the record indicated that FIR was registered about two hours after the incident having taken place. The testimony of PW-3, the pillion rider, at whose instance the FIR was recorded, showed that out of fear and having sustained numerous injuries, he ran from the place of occurrence and hid in the house of Baisakhu Kewat and only emerged therefrom two hours later.
Moving forward, the Court cited an extensive thread of precedents to demonstrate the principles of law in respect of delay in registration of FIR as evolved over time.
These included the case of Apren Joseph v. State of Kerala, (1973) 3 SCC 114, wherein it had been observed that no time duration, in the abstract could be fixed as the ‘reasonable time’ to give information to the police and therefore, the same is a question to be determined as per facts and circumstances of each case.
In this context, the Court opined that in such a situation, delay in filing of the FIR cannot be said to be fatal to the case of the prosecution more so in view of the injuries sustained by him; the place of occurrence being a remote village area and that the version of events was dictated to the police by this witness only upon their reaching his place of shelter.
“To us it does not appear to be a case of prior consultation; discussion; deliberation or improvements.,” the Court added.
Adverting to the accused plea of alibi, the Court opined that both the defence witnesses do not conclusively establish the plea of alibi, based on the principle of preponderance of probability as their statements stand unsupported by any other corroborative evidence.
“We find that for the plea of alibi to be established, something other than a mere ocular statement ought to have been present. After all, the prosecution has relied on the statement of eyewitnesses to establish its case against the convict-appellants leading to the unrefuted conclusion that convict-appellants were present on the spot of the crime…,” the Court reasoned.
Addressing the issue of deceased being a history-sheeter, the Court in no uncertain terms stated that simply because the deceased had a chequered past which constituted several run-ins with the law, Courts cannot give benefit thereof, particularly when such claims are bald assertions, to those accused of committing such a person’s murder. “And in any event, such a plea is merely presumptuous.”
In view of the aforenoted background, the Court held that the sentences awarded are in no manner excessive or disproportionate to the crimes for which the convict stand convicted. Thus, the bail granted by the Court vide order dated 1st October 2012 was cancelled and the convicts were directed to surrender.
Case Title: KAMAL PRASAD & ORS v. THE STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH, CRIMINAL APPEAL No.1578 OF 2012
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 891
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment