25 Jun 2121

what matters is not what the dead 'felt,' but what the guilty 'intended' by their actions - Bomba High Court

Case : Smt. Vinodi Gudakesh Saxena v. Shri Sandip Sundar Shetty and Ors. Criminal Appeal No. 511 of 2011 With Criminal Appeal No. 1189 of 2012

Court : Bombay High Court

Bench : Justice K. R. Shriram

Decided on : 25 Jun 2121

The Relevant Statutes

Section 107, 108, 306 and 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 106 and 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

Brief Facts & Procedural History

1. The accused was married to a woman named Vigya, who committed suicide by hanging herself in her matrimonial house. The marriage, which was based on love. Both were highly qualified and employed at a Delhi-based firm. Vigya and the accused moved to Delhi in January/February 1998. Siddhant was their son's name.

2. Vigya received a job offer from a firm in Mumbai sometime in October 2004. Vigya quit her work in Delhi and relocated to Mumbai, where she now lives with her parents. After thereafter, in February 2005, the accused relocated to Mumbai because he was offered a position there. Accused and Vigya were staying with Vigya's parents, P.W.2 and P.W.3. Vigya and the accused went to the home of the accused's parents in Mulund, Mumbai, about a month later. As both accused and Vigya were working, Vigya and accused hired a full-time maid, Amita Kadam, who is P.W.-5.

3. The accused allegedly agreed to buy a home in Andheri for Rs 33,06,000/-. Since the accused was short of Rs 10,00,000/-, the accused began harassing and tormenting Vigya, asking that she fetch the money from her parents. When Vigya did not comply with this demand, the accused began harassing and torturing her. The prosecution contends that the torture and harassment began at this Meera Jadhav period, which is significantly later than February 2005. As previously stated, the accused and Vigya shared a residence in Delhi from January/February 1998 until October 2004.

4. There is also a broad accusation that when the accused and Vigya were in Delhi, the accused harassed Vigya, but no proof has been presented to support this claim. Vigya hanged herself to death, according to the prosecution, because she was wary of being harassed and mistreated. The police were informed, and they filed an accidental death case no. 61 of 2005, as well as an inquest panchnama and spot panchnama. P.W.-2 and P.W.-3 admittedly made no complaint or grievance against the accused regarding the reason for Vigya's death during the first investigation. The police were informed that Vigya was gloomy during the investigation, so after recording the testimonies of P.W.-2 and P.W.-3, a post-mortem was performed and the corpse was turned over to P.W.-2, Vigya's father.

5. Three months after Vigya's death, her mother, Vigya P.W.-3, filed a written complaint alleging that the accused murdered Vigya by strangling her due to the non-payment of an unlawful demand of Rs.10,000,000.00. The police re-investigated the case and determined that the Vigya had committed suicide and that it was not a murder case. The police presented a charge sheet before the Metropolitan Magistrate 27th Court for an offence punishable by sections 498A and 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The matter was committed to the court of Sessions for trial since the charge under section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was exclusively triable by the court of Sessions. The charges were laid, and the accused, Meera Jadhav, pled not guilty and claimed to be on trial. Vigya was a career-oriented girl who was short-tempered, according to the accused, which led to her suicide.

6. Mr Vyanku Balu Naik, PSI as P.W.-1, and it was this person who conducted the inquiry soon after Vigya's death, Mr Gudakesh Narendrakumar Saxena, father of Vigya as P.W.-2, Smt. Vinodi Saxena, mother of Vigya (complainant) as P.W.-3, and one Master Aditya Shah, Vigya's sister's son as P.W.-4, P.W.-5 is Ms Amita Kadam, a maid who works at the accused's home, and P.W.-6 is Nivrutti Kokre, the Investigating Officer. After reviewing the evidence and records, the Sessions Court found the accused not guilty.

7. The petitioner, who is dissatisfied with the impugned order and judgement by the Sessions Court, has filed an appeal with the Honourable High Court of Judicature in Bombay.

The Issue(s) of the Case

Whether impugned order and judgment dated 21 March 2011 valid?

The Observations of the Court

1. Honourable High Court of Judicature at Bombay observes that Before the reportedly made unproven demand for Rs. 10 lakhs, the claims of money demand and harassment were generic and lacked any specific incident. First and foremost, (a) it makes no indication of the amount sought, (b) who made the demand, and (c) how and in what form the accused perpetrated cruelty.

2. Referring to the case of Deepak and Ors. Vs. State of Maharashtra 2004(4) Crime 500, in the present case P.W.-3 confirmed under cross-questioning that she was satisfied with the match, although it was a love marriage. Both Vigya and the accused were well-qualified and well-placed, and she was pleased with the accused's behaviour toward Vigya, and there was no disagreement of any kind, at least in the presence of Vigya's parents, Meera Jadhav. Because P.W.-2 and P.W.-3 did not witness any disagreement between the accused and Vigya, their testimony that the deceased used to tell them about the brutality meted out to her by the accused would be hearsay, and it would be dangerous to overturn the acquittal judgement based on their testimony.

3. Honourable High Court of Judicature at Bombay also observes that as a result, there is no direct or significant evidence presented on record to support the allegation of cruelty as defined under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, except for oral evidence from P.W.-2 and P.W.-3, Vigya's parents, that there was ill-treatment on account of a demand for money. Another thing worth mentioning is that no Meera Jadhav proof has been shown to demonstrate that the accused was purchasing a flat for which he lacked the required funds of Rs. 10,00,000/-. P.W.-3 claims Vigya paid Rs.13.6 lakhs as earnest money for the flat, however, there is no proof to support this claim. P.W.3 claims to have given Rs.1,50,000/- to Vigya, however, there is no proof to support this claim, as previously stated.

4. Honourable High Court of Judicature at Bombay also observes that the term 'instigate' literally means to goad, urge, provoke, incite, or encourage someone to do something they would not have done otherwise. It is well established that there must be mens rea, or a community of purpose, for abetment to occur. There can be no abetment without knowledge or intention, and the knowledge and intention must be related to the conduct that is alleged to be aided, in this example, suicide. Meera Jadhav is an Indian actress. There must be a direct inducement to commit the guilty conduct to be considered "abetment through instigation."

5. Honourable High Court of Judicature at Bombay also observes that the time between the date of the occurrence and the filing of the report was seven months. There was a three-month delay in filing the report based on P.W.-5's statement. The prosecution has not attempted to explain why the case has been delayed.

6. Referring to the case of Himachal Pradesh V/s. Gian Chand (2001) 6 SCC 71, It is well-established law that the failure to file a complaint on time cannot be used as a ritualistic formula for questioning the prosecution's case and dismissing it merely based on the failure to file a complaint on time. Simultaneously, delay puts the Court on high alert, causing it to investigate if any explanation for the delay has been provided, and if so, whether it is sufficient. If the prosecution fails to explain the delay properly, the delay might be fatal to the prosecution.

7. Honourable High Court of Judicature at Bombay also observes that Meera Jadhav is also not named in the complaint that P.W.-3 claims to have filed in Hindi and English but was not taken by the police.

8. Honourable High Court of Judicature at Bombay also observes that there has been an acquittal, therefore there is a twofold presumption in favour of the accused. To begin with, the accused has the right to a presumption of innocence under the fundamental principle of criminal law, which states that everyone is assumed innocent unless proven guilty by a competent court of law. Second, now that the accused has been acquitted, the Sessions Court has reinforced, confirmed, and enhanced the assumption of his innocence. The Sessions Court noted that the prosecution had failed to prove its case, and so acquitted the accused.

The Decision Held by the Court

Honourable High Court of Judicature at Bombay held that the opinion of the Sessions Court cannot be considered unlawful, inappropriate, or against the law. There isn't a single flaw in the Sessions Court's decision. The acquittal order should not be tampered with.

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