09 Jul 2121

If prosecution fails to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt against accused then accused is entitled for the benefit of doubt - Bombay High Court

Case : Sachin Jalindar Chavan & another v. The State of Maharashtra Criminal Appeal No. 245 of 2014

Court : Bombay High Court

Bench : Justice V. K. Jadhav & Justice S. G. Dige

Decided on : 09 Jul 2121

Relevant Statutes

Sections 302, 201, 404 read with Section 34 of Indian Penal Code,1860

Brief Facts and Procedural History

1. The informant Sanjay Ware was residing at Lohasar, taluka Pathardi along with his wife Vaishali (deceased), two sons and one daughter. The appellant-accused no.1 Sachin Chavan was working in his field. The appellant-accused no.1 Sachin had developed intimacy with the wife of the informant, namely, Vaishali (deceased).  About two months prior to the incident, the appellant-accused no.1 Sachin had made an attempt to outrage the modesty of deceased Vaishali and she had beaten him with the help of her slippers.

2. On 08.01.2013, deceased Vaishali had gone to the weekly market at Karanji. However, she did not return to the house from the weekly market. And was not traceable for about two days.

3. On 11.01.2013, informant Sanjay Ware lodged a missing report in Pathardi Police Station. Pathardi Police Station obtained the call details and noticed that the call was from accused no.1 Sachin Chavan. On 16.01.2013, the Pathardi Police caught hold of accused no.1 Sachin at Nepti Naka. During the course of the investigation, it was transpired that both the appellants-accused took deceased Vaishali with them under the pretext of going to the temple situated in the Vruddheshwar valley. Thereafter, both the appellants-accused had committed murder of deceased Vaishali by smashing her head with the help of a stone. During the investigation, accused no.1 Sachin pointed out the spot of an incident where the dead body was lying. PW Sanjay Ware-informant identified the dead body as of his wife Vaishali.

4. The learned Additional Sessions Judge framed charge against both the accused under Sections 302, 201, 404 read with 34 of the Indian Penal Code,1860. Both the accused pleaded not guilty to the charge and claimed to be tried. The prosecution had examined all 14 witnesses to substantiate the charge levelled against the accused. The defence of both the accused was of total denial and false implication. Their statements under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 came to be recorded. The learned Additional Sessions Judge, Ahmednagar, by the impugned judgment and order dated 24.02.2014, had convicted the accused persons.

5. Hence, they filed the appeal before the Honourable Bombay High Court.

Issues of the Case

Whether the prosecution failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt

The Observations of the Court

After considering the arguments of both the parties the Honourable Bombay High Court observed that:

1. The prosecution case entirely rested upon circumstantial evidence and there was no direct evidence in the case.

2. The Honourable Bombay High Court observes that on the basis of certain injuries on the head, Dr. Pandit Shirsath (PW 12) had given the opinion that the deceased might have died due to head injury. It appeared from the evidence of both the medical experts that due to disfigurement of the face, the personal identity of the body could not be ascertained. On the basis of the injuries as detailed in column no. 17 of the postmortem report Exhibit 48, an inference could be drawn about homicidal death. However, the prosecution had not firmly established that the said dead body was of deceased Vaishali.

3. The Honourable Bombay High Court stated that in the case of Mohibur Rahman and another v. State of Assam, reported in (2002) 6 SCC 715, The Honourable Supreme Court has observed that the circumstance of last seen together does not by itself and necessarily lead to the inference that it was the accused who committed the crime. There must be something more establishing the connectivity between the accused and the crime. On account of the close proximity of place and time between the event of the accused having been last seen with the deceased and the factum, an irresistible conclusion can be drawn that either the accused should explain the circumstance or he should own the liability for the homicide.

4. The Honourable Bombay High Court stated that in the instant case, there is no such proximity of time and place. The dead body of Vaishali was recovered on 16.01.2013 from Vruddheshwar valley which is at a distance of 40 kms from Pathardi. Village Lohasar, where PW Sanjay Ware and deceased Vaishali were residing, is at a distance of 3 kms from the weekly market of village Karanji. Deceased Vaishali was found missing on 08.01.2013 and the dead body was recovered eight days after the date on which the deceased was last seen in the company of accused no.1 Sachin. The medical evidence does not positively establish that deceased Vaishali died on 08.01.2013 or soon thereafter. Admittedly, there is no other evidence indicating the exact time of the death of Vaishali.

5. The Honourable Bombay High Court observes that PW Sanjay Ware had voluntarily stated in his cross-examination that deceased Vaishali left her maternal home for going to the weekly market at about 12.30 p.m. In view of this admission, the theory of last seen together, put forth by the prosecution as a material circumstance, appears to be unbelievable. The Honourable Bombay High Court were of the opinion that witness PW Mithu Gite is a got-up witness. His evidence is unreliable, not inspiring confidence.

6. The Honourable Bombay High Court were surprised to note that as per the call detail record from 08.01.2013 to 15.01.2013, there are calls from a particular cell phone to the cell phone of deceased Vaishali or the informant. Accused no.1 Sachin along with his brother, if committed murder of deceased Vaishali, then it is very unlikely on his part to make phone calls on the cell phone of deceased Vaishali by using the sim-cards given to him by deceased Vaishali during her lifetime when accused no.1 was working in their field. Otherwise, also, the Honourable Bombay High Court does not find any relevance in the call detail record to establish the guilt of the accused.

7. The Honourable Bombay High Court stated that so far as the involvement of accused no.2 Babasaheb in connection with the present crime was concerned, he had been convicted for the offence punishable under Section 404 of IPC along with accused no.1 Sachin only due to recovery of mangalsutra and ear-rings at his instance. The prosecution had examined PW 10 Raju Sontakke to prove the memorandum of recovery panchanama Exhibit 52 and the recovery panchanama. Exhibit 52A for the recovery of mangalsutra and the ear-rings. PW Raju Saotakke had not supported the prosecution. If for the sake of discussion, it is accepted that the said recovery of mangalsutra and earrings was at the instance of accused no.2 Babasaheb, as deposed by PW 14 Investigating Officer Ashok Amle, however, the Honourable Bombay High Court do not find any further connecting evidence so far as the said recovery is concerned. PW Sanjay Ware had deposed that he had identified the dead body of Vaishali on the basis of the sari on her body, bangles and slippers. Even PW 14 Investigating Officer Ashok Amle had also admitted that he had not seen bangles and slippers.

8. On the other hand, PW Sanjay Ware had initially stated in his examination-in-chief itself that he has identified the dead body of Vaishali on the basis of her earrings, mangalsutra, scarf and slippers. He had corrected himself. However, it cannot ignore that initially, he had given the fatal admissions in respect of the mangalsutra and ear-rings. Further, the said memorandum of recovery as per Exhibits 52 and 52A is much later i.e., on 18.01.2013.

9. The Honourable Bombay High Court had also carefully gone through the contents of the C.A. report Exhibit 47. It appears that the clothes on the person of the accused were marked as articles 9, 10, 11 and 12. As per the result of the analysis, no blood is detected on Exhibits 9, 10, 11 and 12. Even though there is the recovery of a motorcycle at the instance of accused no.1 Sachin, however, the Honourable Bombay High Court found no connecting evidence by way of recovery of the motorcycle. The Investing Officer PW Ashok Amle had deposed that during the investigation, it was revealed that accused no.1 smashed the head of deceased by means of stone. Accused no.1 Sachin had demanded sexual relations from Vaishali and so Vaishali had assaulted accused Sachin and on that count, murder had taken place out of revenge with the help of accused no.2.

10. However, The Honourable Bombay High Court hardly find any evidence to draw a conclusion to that effect as deposed by the Investigating Officer. On the contrary, the evidence indicates otherwise. The Honourable Bombay High Court were of the considered opinion that the prosecution had failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt against both the accused persons. Thus, both the appellants-accused were entitled to the benefit of the doubt.

The Decision Held by the Court

The Honourable Bombay High Court held that:

1. Criminal Appeal No. 245 of 2014 was allowed.

2. The impugned judgment and order dated 24.02.2014 passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Ahmednagar in Sessions Case No. 132 of 2013 was quashed and set aside.

3. Accused No.1 Sachin Jalinder Chavan and accused no.2- Babasaheb Jalinder Chavan was thereby acquitted of all the charges.

4. The fine amount, if deposited, shall be refunded to them.

5. The appellant-accused no.1 Sachin Jalinder Chavan and the appellant-accused no.2- Babasaheb Jalinder Chavan shall execute P.B. of Rs.15,000/- each, with one surety of the like amount each to appear before the higher court as and when the notice is issued in respect of any appeal or petition filed against the judgment of this Court. Such bail bonds shall remain in force for a period of six months from the date of its execution.

6. Criminal Appeal No. 245 of 2014 accordingly disposed of.

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