Loading...

Evidence Of Interested Person Can Be Considered If It Is Corroborated: Supreme Court

 

In an important, impartial, immaculate, interesting and inevitably a must read judgment for one and all  delivered on March 3, 2021, the Supreme Court in a learned, latest, laudable and landmark judgment titled Rahul vs State of Haryana in Criminal Appeal No. 262 of 2021 [Arising out of S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 3449 of 2019] minced no words to observe clearly, categorically, cogently and convincingly that the evidence of interested person can be considered provided such evidence is corroborated by other evidence on record. As we see, the two Judge Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice R Subhash Reddy said quite explicitly, elegantly, eloquently and effectively that, “Merely because PW3 and PW12 are related, by itself is no ground, to reject their testimony. Further, a close relative who is a natural witness cannot be regarded as an interested witness. It is fairly well settled proposition that even the evidence of interested person can also be considered provided such evidence is corroborated by other evidence on record.”

To start with, this notable judgment authored by Justice R Subhash Reddy for himself and Justice Ashok Bhushan sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 2 that, “This appeal has been preferred, aggrieved by the judgment and order dated 06th December 2016 passed by the High Court of Punjab & Haryana at Chandigarh, confirming the conviction recorded and sentence imposed, for the offence punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under Section 25(1B)(a) of the Arms Act, 1959, by the learned Sessions Judge, Bhiwani.”

While elaborating on the facts of the case, the Bench then specifies in para 3 that, “On 07.08.2010 a telephonic message was received in Police Station, Charkhi Dadri from one Jaswant Singh, resident of Village Kaliyana, to the effect that in the pit of panchayat land adjoining Kaliyana-Jhojhu road towards hill, dead body of a young boy was lying. After receiving the said information, the Inspector of Police/SHO of the Police Station along with other police officials reached the spot for investigation. After reaching the place of occurrence, they found a dead body of an unknown person with fire arm injury marks. At the place of occurrence, two empties of brass having marka of 8 MM PF on their bottom were recovered along with a pair of chappals. Blood stained earth was collected from the spot and converted into sealed parcels. The complainant Jaswant Singh who was examined during the trial, as PW6 was present and his statement was recorded. The inspecting officers have found marks of dragging of the deceased on the kacha road which was going towards hill; there were also marks of tyres of a small vehicle. On checking of the dead body by the police, they have noticed two firearm shots on both sides of waist and there was a deep wound on the back of right ear and left jaw of the mouth was cut. The dead body was smeared with blood and they suspected, some unknown persons have brought the deceased in a vehicle and committed murder by causing fire arm injuries. On the complaint of Jaswant Singh (PW6) a crime was registered in FIR No. 297 on 07.08.2010 for the offence punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34, IPC and Section 25 of the Arms Act.”

While elaborating further, the Bench then elucidates in para 4 stating that, “After registering the crime, investigation was taken up. The post mortem of the dead body was conducted in PGIMS Rohtak for identification of dead body, news item was got published in the newspaper along with the photograph of the deceased. During the investigation of the case, on 14.08.2010, the mother of the deceased Kasturi Devi (PW-12) and the brother of the deceased, by name, Anil Kumar (PW-3) approached the police on the basis of news publication and identified the deceased as Jitender, who was son of PW-12 and brother of PW-3 and resident of Kanhra. After recording the statements of the aforesaid witnesses, investigation was proceeded on the basis of call details of the deceased and statements of the mother and brother of the deceased. After collecting necessary evidence, the appellant herein, i.e. Rahul, a resident of Mirpur was arrested on 21.08.2010. It is stated that during the interrogation, the accused Rahul made disclosure statement that about six months earlier he was married with Priyanka, daughter of Ramesh, caste Jat, resident of village Chandwas. He had suspicion on the character of his wife and he is stated to have informed his father-in-law Ramesh Kumar and brother-in-law Ashok Kumar, that Priyanka has illicit relation with Jitender (deceased), resident of village Kanhra. Therefore, they have decided to eliminate Jitender. As per the case of the prosecution, on 06.08.2010 at about 06:00 p.m. as per their plan, appellant (Rahul) called Jitender, his father-in-law Ramesh and brother-in-law Ashok to Badhra. He was having a Maruti car bearing registration no. DL-9CJ5165 and thereafter in Badhra, Jitender had two bottles of beer and he came under influence of liquor. Further, the case of the prosecution is that all of them have taken the deceased from Jhojhu to Kaliyana hill where Jitender also got down from the car and they have fired on the deceased and thrown him in the pit. The Maruti car bearing registration no. DL9CJ5165 and the mobile phone of the accused Rahul were taken into possession vide recovery memo. Further it is stated that on 23.08.2010, the appellant-accused pointed the place of occurrence and on 24.08.2010, in pursuance of his disclosure statement, a country made pistol .315 bore and two live cartridges were seized from the house of his Bua, resident of Old Housing Board Colony, Bhiwani. It is alleged that during the investigation the other accused, namely, Ramesh also suffered disclosure statement and disclosed that the SIM of phone which he was using, was in the name of his brother-in-law, and he was talking to his son-in-law (Rahul) by using the said SIM. As the other accused Ashok Kumar was absconding, non-bailable warrants were pending execution and proceedings under Sections 82 and 83 of CrPC were also issued.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then unfolds in para 5 that, “After completion of the investigation, final report under Section 173 of Cr.PC was filed against the appellant herein and Ramesh for their trial and the case was committed to the Court of Sessions. On the aforesaid allegations, the appellant (Rahul) and other accused, by name, Ramesh were chargesheeted under Section 302 read with Section 34, IPC; and the appellant herein was also charge-sheeted for offence under Section 25(1B)(a) of the Arms Act, 1959. Accused pleaded not guilty and claimed trial.”

As it turned out, the Bench then makes it known in para 6 that, “To prove the charges framed against the appellant and another, prosecution has examined 20 witnesses, namely, PW1, Krishan Lal; PW2, Manjeet; PW3, Anil, brother of deceased Jitender alias Jittu; PW4, Ravinder Pal, Senior Scientific Officer; PW5 Dr. Hitesh Chawla; PW6 Jaswant Singh (complainant); PW7 Dharmender Singh, draftsman; PW8 Inderjeet, photographer; PW9 HC Ravinder Kumar; PW10 HC Arvind Kumar; PW11 ASI Surat Singh; PW12 Kasturi, mother of deceased Jitender; PW13 constable Jasveer; PW14 constable Manoj Kumar; PW15 Krishan Singh, Reader to District Magistrate; PW16 Sarif Singh, Inspector  (investigating officer); PW17 ASI Amir Singh; PW18 EHC Rajbir Singh; PW-19 constable Radhey Shyam; and PW20 Vijender Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police (Investigating Officer). In defence on behalf of the accused, DW-1 Rani, widow of Jagdish was examined.”

In hindsight, the Bench then observes in para 7 that, “After completion of the trial, the Sessions Judge, Bhiwani, by recording a finding that the prosecution has proved the charges, vide judgment dated 17.10.2012, held that both the accused Rahul (appellant herein) and Ramesh were guilty for offence under Section 302 read with Section 34, IPC and appellant Rahul is also found guilty for offence under Section 25 of the Arms Act and convicted them accordingly. By order dated 20.10.2012 both the accused were sentenced to undergo life imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs. 20,000/ each, in default of payment of fine, to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a further period of one year each under Section 302 read with Section 34, IPC and further sentenced appellant Rahul to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of two years and to pay a fine of Rs. 5,000/- for offence under Section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959. Both the sentences were ordered to run concurrently.”

Needless to say, the Bench then discloses in para 8 that, “Aggrieved by the conviction recorded and sentence imposed by the learned Sessions Judge, Bhiwani, the appellant, along with another accused; namely, Ramesh approached the High Court of Punjab & Haryana at Chandigarh by way of Criminal Appeal No. D1060 of 2012. The High Court, by judgment and order dated 06.12.2016 while confirming the conviction recorded and sentence imposed on the appellant, has allowed the appeal partly by acquitting the other accused, namely, Ramesh. The High Court has held that prosecution has failed to prove its case against Ramesh (appellant before High Court) beyond reasonable doubt.”

By the way, it is then stated in para 12 that, “We have considered the submissions made by the learned counsel on both sides and perused the material on record.”

Truly speaking, it would be worthwhile to mention that it is then disclosed in para 13 that, “Though the appellant (Rahul) and another accused, namely, Ramesh were tried together and were convicted by the trial court but on appeal the High Court has allowed the appeal qua Ramesh and acquitted him of the charges by recording a finding that prosecution has failed to prove the guilt of the accused Ramesh beyond reasonable doubt. At the same time, the High Court has confirmed the conviction recorded and sentence imposed, by the trial court, on the appellant. As there is no appeal by the State challenging the acquittal recorded by the High Court, as such, we are only required to examine whether the circumstantial evidence on which basis the conviction of appellant (Rahul) is recorded, establishes the guilt of the accused or not. Before we deal with the contentions advanced, we need to notice the relevant evidence which is led by the prosecution to prove the case against the accused appellant (Rahul).”

Most significantly, the Bench then minces no words to hold in simple, suave and straight language in para 14 to hold that, “It is the case of the prosecution that appellant Rahul has married Priyanka, who is the daughter of Ramesh and sister of Ashok. It is the case of the prosecution that because of the relationship of the deceased Jitender @ Jittu with Priyanka who is the wife of the appellant, the appellant and other accused have decided to eliminate the deceased. It is true that the entire case rests upon the circumstantial evidence. In ocular evidence there is a deposition of PW3 and PW12 who are brother and mother respectively of the deceased. Merely because two of the witnesses are related to the deceased, that by itself, is no ground to discard their testimony. If their testimony is corroborated by other evidence on record, same can be relied on to establish the guilt of the accused.”

Most damningly, the Bench then also pulls back no punches to state quite bluntly in para 19 that, “If we closely scrutinize the oral evidence on record coupled with the documentary evidence, we are of the considered view that there is a complete chain of evidence which would lead to irresistible conclusion that the appellant-accused has committed the offence and none else. Even the recoveries are sufficiently proved with the cogent evidence. In the disclosure statement the appellant-accused has stated that he has kept the weapon with his Bua at House No. 160, Old Housing Board Colony, Bhiwani. Though she was examined on behalf of the accused to disprove the recovery, at the same time, she has admitted in the cross-examination that police have visited her place a year and a half earlier to her statement. If this part of evidence is examined, coupled with the other documentary evidence on seizure, there is no reason to disbelieve the recovery of weapon, from the residence of appellant’s Bua, i.e., House No. 160, Old Housing Board Colony, Bhiwani. All the recoveries have been proved by examining witnesses for such recoveries. Only in view of the disclosure statement Ex.PX recoveries of pistol .315 bore and cartridges were made from the house of his Bua at Bhiwani vide recovery memo Ex.PY on 24.08.2010. Further, as per the FSL report Ex.PXX, the country made pistol .315 bore used by the accused-appellant for committing the murder of the deceased was found in working order and both the fired cartridges recovered from the spot and fired bullet taken out from the body of the deceased, are found fired from the country made pistol recovered at the instance of accused (Rahul). Further, the injuries on the person of deceased have been proved by doctor who was examined as PW5. The material evidence on record produced by the prosecution has been further corroborated by call details of mobile phones of Ramesh, Ashok Kumar and Jitender and such call details have been proved by the statement of PW14. Further, it is also well settled that if other evidence on record clearly establishes that the deceased was murdered by the appellant by using firearm, the factum of motive loses its importance, more so, in this case the motive has been established by leading cogent evidence to show that only because the deceased had developed relationship with appellant’s wife Priyanka, has decided to eliminate the deceased.”

As a corollary, the Bench then underscores in para 20 that, “From the evidence on record, we are of the considered view that prosecution has proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt by leading cogent evidence. Further, the motive is also proved by the prosecution.”

What cannot be glossed over is that it is then stated in para 21 that, “In the case of State of Goa v. Sanjay Thakran & Anr. Etc. (2007) 3 SCC 755 relied on by the learned counsel for the appellant, this Court has held that certain tests are to be fulfilled by the prosecution by leading cogent evidence, when the case rests upon circumstantial evidence. Further, in the case of Wakkar & Anr. V. State of Uttar Pradesh (2011) 3 SCC 306, this Court has held that mere recovery itself cannot be the basis for conviction and recovery of incriminating articles and its evidentiary value has to be considered in the light of other relevant circumstances. However, having regard to evidence on record in this case on hand, we are clearly of the view that the prosecution has satisfied all the tests mentioned in the case of Sanjay Thakran (supra) to bring home the guilt of the accused, by resting upon the circumstantial evidence. If the factum of recoveries is considered along with other evidence in entirety, it gives an irresistible conclusion that the appellant alone has committed offence  by using the weapon which is recovered from the house of DW1 who is the Bua of the appellant. Further, it is also to be noted that whether the guilt of the accused is proved or not based on the circumstantial evidence, each case has to be judged on the overall assessment of the evidence on record, as such we are of the view that the case law which is referred above, relied on by the learned counsel for the appellant, would not render any assistance to accept his plea that the appellant was falsely implicated.”

What cannot be lost sight of is that it is then stated in para 22 that, “The High Court, in the appeal filed by the appellant herein and another accused Ramesh, reappreciated the evidence on record and confirmed the conviction and sentence, so far as the appellant is concerned and acquitted the other appellant, i.e., Ramesh. Though it is contended by learned counsel appearing for the appellant, on same set of evidence while acquitting the other accused Ramesh there is no reason to confirm the conviction and sentence so far as the appellant herein is concerned. In the impugned judgment, the High Court has recorded reasons for acquittal of the other appellant, i.e., Ramesh. PW-3 Anil, in his deposition has clearly stated that when he along with his mother and deceased Jittu, went to Badhra, after some time Jittu was separated from them, and came back along with Rahul (appellant) and Ashok (proclaimed offender) in a Maruti car. It is stated by PW-3, at that time Jitender @ Jittu stated that he was going to Haridwar and would come back in 34 days. Thereafter, Jitender @ Jittu went along with Rahul and Ashok. To the same effect is the statement of PW-12 (Kasturi), mother of the deceased. From the said evidence on record, it stands established that the deceased Jitender @ Jittu was last seen in the company of Rahul (appellant) and Ashok (proclaimed offender) only. There was no mention that Ramesh (appellant before the High Court) also accompanied Jitender @ Jittu for going to Haridwar. In the absence of any evidence on record to show that deceased was also seen with Ramesh lastly by PW-3 and PW-12, the High Court has come to the conclusion that prosecution has not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt so far as the other appellant Ramesh is concerned. In view of such reasoning recorded by the High Court and evidence on record there are justifiable reasons for acquitting the other appellant, namely, Ramesh, while confirming the conviction so far as the appellant herein is concerned.”

Finally, the Bench then holds convincingly in para 23 that, “For the aforesaid reasons, as the appeal is devoid of merits, same is dismissed. However, as it is stated by learned counsel for the appellant that he has already served sentence for more than 11 years, it is needless to observe that after completing 14 years of sentence it is open to the appellant to make representation for remission of the sentence. If such representation is made the  concerned authority/Jail Superintendent has to send the same to the Government which is to be considered in accordance with the policy of the State.” It is certainly a well drawn conclusion based on evidence and facts!

In a nutshell, this latest, learned, landmark and laudable judgment which is brief, brilliant, and balanced also leaves no room of doubt that, “Merely because two of the witnesses are related to the deceased, that by itself, is no ground to discard their testimony. If their testimony is corroborated by other evidence on record, same can be relied on to establish the guilt of the accused.” All the courts must always abide by this cardinal principle which has been laid down time and again and followed repeatedly as we see in this case also by a two Judge Bench of the Apex Court comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice R Subhash Reddy! There can be certainly just no denying it!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies. More Information   
%d bloggers like this: