Raju Balaram Gujrathi vs State Of Maharashtra on 6 September, 2011

Bombay High Court
Raju Balaram Gujrathi vs State Of Maharashtra on 6 September, 2011
Bench: D.D. Sinha, A. R. Joshi



                       CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.746 OF 2004

      Raju Balaram Gujrathi,                        ]
      Aged about 42 years                           ]
      Hindu, residing at 29-E,                      ]

      Singhania Bldg. Ground                        ]
      floor, Balaram Street, ig                     ]
      Mumbai 400 007.                               ]
      [The appellant is undergoing                  ]
      sentence imposed upon him                     ]
      at Nasik Jail.)                               ] ..APPELLANT
      State of Maharashtra                          ]

      (at the instance of D.B. Marg                 ]
      Police Station).                              ] ..RESPONDENT.

      Ms.Pooja Bhojne, Advocate for the Appellant.

      Mrs.U.V. Kejariwal,  A.P.P.  for the State. 

                              CORAM :    D. D. SINHA AND
                                           A .R. JOSHI, JJ.

ORDER : 24TH JUNE, 2011.

                               DATE OF PRONOUNCING THE 
                               ORDER   :     06th SEPTEMBER, 2011

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1. Present Criminal Appeal is preferred by the appellant/accused

challenging the order dated 2nd & 5th April, 2004 passed by the

Additional Sessions Judge of City Civil & Sessions Court in Sessions

Case No.308 of 2003. By the impugned judgment and order, present

appellant/accused was convicted for the offences punishable under

Sections 449, 392, 394, 397 & 302 of Indian Penal Code. For the

offence punishable under Section 449 of IPC, he was sentenced to

suffer R.I. for 10 years and fine of Rs.1000/-, in default, to suffer

further R.I. for 1 year. For the offence punishable under Section 392

r/w. S.397 IPC he was sentenced to suffer R.I. for 7 years and to pay

fine Rs.1000, in default, to suffer further R.I. for 1 year. For the

offence punishable under Section 394 IPC, he was sentenced to suffer

R.I. for 7 years and to pay fine of Rs.1000, in default, further R.I. for

1 year. For the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC, he was

sentenced to suffer imprisonment for life and to pay fine of Rs.1000/-.

The substantive sentences were directed to run concurrently. Set-off

was given to the appellant/accused for the period he is in custody i.e.

since the date of his arrest on 20.2.2003.

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2. In order to appreciate the rival arguments, the case of the

prosecution, in nutshell, is narrated as under :-

On 26.1.2003 at about 8:00 a.m.in Singhania Building, B

Block, Grant Road (E), Mumbai -7, the deceased Smt.Manjula Shah

was found dead in her flat and was in pool of blood. The incident took

place between 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. on that morning and it was a

case of house-trespass by the assailant and robbery of valuables like

gold jewelery. During the said incident, there was assault on the

woman and in which she died.

3. On the fateful morning at about 8:15 a.m., the maid servant

(PW-10) who used to work in the flat of the deceased woman, found

that Smt.Manjulaben was lying in the flat in pool of blood and thus

sensing seriousness of the situation, she rushed to the house of one

Ramesh Shah – brother of the deceased. At the house of Ramesh Shah

she found Mehul Shah – son of Ramesh Shah. She informed him that

Manjulaben was lying in a pool of blood in her flat. The said Mehul

Shah (PW-1) informed his other relatives and went to the flat of his

aunt Manjulaben. After noticing the situation and seeing Manjulaben

in a pool of blood and finding that the cupboard was open and

various articles were ransacked, he went to the D.B. Marg police

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station and informed the Officer on duty. His statement was recorded

by the police and it was treated as the First Information Report

(Exh.6). Offence was registered against the unknown assailants for

various offences of house-trespass, robbery etc. and also for the

offence of murder during commission of such robbery.

4. PW-8 PI Shri Shyam Laxman Dhanavade was on duty at D.B.

Marg Police Station on that morning. He accompanied the

complainant (PW-1) along with other police staff to the place of

offence. He called the local medical officer and ascertained that

Manjulaben was dead. He recorded the FIR as per the information of

complainant Mehul Shah (PW-1). Inquest-cum-spot panchnama was

conducted on the spot. Photographs of the situation were taken

showing that various articles were lying scattered and the cupboard

was open. Photographs of the dead body were also taken. During the

investigation, blood stained clothes of the deceased were taken

charge of. Also during investigation locks of hairs which were found

in both the fists of deceased Manjulaben were taken charge of.

Various other articles were also taken charge of. Other samples were

collected. Dead body was sent for postmortem and postmortem report

was subsequently obtained, which is Exhibit-14.

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5. During the investigation, fingerprint expert Shri Hemchandra

Bane (PW-7) was called. He took various chance prints and started his

work. Admittedly, till about 20th February, 2003 there was no trace of

the assailants though probably the investigation was going on.

According to the prosecution only on 19.2.2003 there was

breakthrough in the said case. This was by way of revelation made by

the present appellant/accused by way of his alleged extra-judicial

confession before one Ramesh Shah (PW-3) (brother of deceased).

According to PW-3, the present appellant/accused who was

admittedly working as servant with deceased Manjulaben, made

extra-judicial confession mentioning that he had done away with the

deceased for the purpose of getting money. Allegedly, the

appellant/accused confessed and gave all the detailed narration as to

how the event happened on the fateful morning and how he assaulted

and killed Manjulaben. Though, allegedly such revelation was made

by the present appellant/accused on 19.2.2003 before PW-3, PW-3

went to D.B. Marg police station on the very next date i.e. on

20.2.2003, but statement of said PW-3 was recorded only on

24.2.2003 and not earlier.

6. It is also case of the prosecution that on 20.2.2003 present

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appellant/accused was put under arrest on the premise that he had

made extra-judicial confession before PW-3 on earlier date i.e. on

19.2.2003. In spite of such arrest on 20.2.2003, there was no further

progress in the investigation, moreover, there was no search of the

residence of the appellant who was residing in the vicinity of

residence of the deceased in fact at the back of the said building,

under the staircase.


According to prosecution, on 24.2.2003 the appellant/accused

made a voluntary statement to produce the weapon of assault and

stolen articles. Accordingly, memorandum panchnama was drawn

calling the panch witnesses including PW-6 Adi Modi. Allegedly, in

furtherance of the said memorandum panchnama (Exh.18), the

appellant/accused led police party and panchas to his house in the

same Singhania building where the deceased was residing. From his

house, he produced the knife, his shirt and his pant. Those articles

were taken charge of by the police. Thereafter the appellant/accused

took the police party and panchas to the pump-house near his room.

He opened the door of pump-house by obtaining key from his brother

and after unscrewing the switch-board of electric supply, took out one

carry-bag and produced the jewelery items – apparently six items

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made of gold and eight items of Bentex Brand and one small glass

made of Silver metal. Goldsmith was called and the articles were

valued. The value was taken as Rs.45,000/-. Said articles were taken

charge of under the panchnama (Exh.18-A).

8. It is also case of the prosecution that the accused showed one

shop from where he had purchased some articles by paying

Rs.2419/-. Accused also took the police party and panchas to two

persons mentioning that he had taken loan amount from the said

persons and had repaid the said loan. According to prosecution,

detailed panchnama was drawn and respective amounts were

recovered from the shopkeeper and two other persons. Allegedly, an

amount of Rs.2419/- was recovered from the shopkeeper and amount

of Rs.14,000/- & Rs.10,000/- was recovered from the said two

persons under the panchnama. According to the prosecution, the said

amount was from the cash amount robbed by the accused from the

house of the deceased.

9. During the investigation, statements of various witnesses were

recorded including statement of maid-servant (PW-10), her minor

daughter (PW-9), a milkman (PW-11) and on completion of

investigation chargesheet was filed and the matter was committed to

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the Court of Sessions. Finding the circumstantial evidence alleged

against the accused, sufficient to bring home the guilt for the offences

charged, the accused was convicted by the Sessions Court and it is the

order which is challenged in the present Appeal. Admittedly, since the

date of arrest i.e. since 20.2.2003 till date the appellant/accused is in


10. Prior to discussing the rival arguments, certain admitted

position is mentioned as under :-

[i] The entire case of the prosecution is based on

circumstantial evidence. The circumstances being accused
producing the weapon of offence, his blood stained clothes

and the stolen jewelery and cash amount.

[ii] There was alleged extra-judicial confession given by the
appellant/accused to PW-3 Ramesh Shah, made on
19.2.2003 and till that time there was no clue for the

investigating agency regarding the assailants. In fact, there
was no suspicion raised about the appellant/accused by

[iii] The appellant/accused was at times used to work as a
servant in the house of the deceased, though, was no
permanent servant. Admittedly, he was frequently visiting
the house of the deceased for some sundry work and was
well acquainted with the relatives of deceased including

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PWs-1, 2 & 3.

[iv] Admittedly, death of the deceased Manjulaben was

homicidal and due to the injury sustained mainly on her

neck and other parts of the body due to sharp edged

11. Bearing in mind the above admitted position and considering

the case of the prosecution mainly based on the alleged extra-judicial

confession and circumstance as to recovery of weapon of assault and

stolen articles at the instance of appellant/accused, much is argued

on behalf of the appellant by learned Advocate Ms.Pooja Bhojne on

these aspects. The substantive evidence of PW-3, PW-6 recovery

panch, and PW-7 a Fingerprint Expert, is required to be construed

with care and caution. The substantive evidence of other witnesses is

not of much significance in the present case considering the admitted

position mentioned above. Said other witnesses are PW-1

complainant Mehul Shah, PW-2 another relative of the deceased Shri

Hasmukh Jain and PW-4 Dr.Agrawal, who performed the postmortem.

At this stage, it must be mentioned that the homicidal death of the

deceased is not in question, considering the evidence of PW-4

Dr.Agrawal, who found injuries on the dead body, which were ante-

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12. Other witnesses are PW-6 panch witness for scene of offence

and inquest panchnama, PW-8 Investigating Officer, PW-9 minor girl

Miss.Pratiksha Hate, PW-10 maid servant of Manjulaben, mother of

PW-9 and PW-11 a milk vendor. According to PW-9 Pratiksha Hate she

stayed at the house of the deceased on the earlier night and left the

house at 7:30 a.m.. According to PW-10 maid servant, when she

reached the house of the deceased in the morning at about 8:15 a.m.

she saw the dead body of victim Manjulaben lying in a pool of blood.

According to PW-11 milkman he was at the flat of the deceased at

about 8:00 a.m. and had knocked the door of the flat but nobody

opened it.

13. As mentioned above, the case is based only on circumstantial

evidence and said circumstances are as under :-

(i) alleged extra-judicial confession of the accused
made before PW-1;

(ii) recovery of weapon of assault, blood stained
clothes, stolen articles and cash amount at the
instance of the accused;

(iii) finding of chance print of the accused on the
cupboard in the flat of the deceased.

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14. At this juncture, from the substantive evidence of the

Investigating Officer (PW-8) it is an admitted position that there is

nothing brought on record as to what was the investigation from the

date of offence till arrest of the appellant/accused. It is also admitted

position that though allegedly the hair samples found in the fists of

the deceased and hair samples of deceased and accused were sent for

C.A., there was no report forthcoming. Moreover, though allegedly

said samples were sent for DNA test and also an amount of

Rs.10000/- was paid for such analysis, said DNA report is not

produced during the trial and there is nothing on record as to what

had happened to such DNA test. It is also an admitted position that

though allegedly the fingerprints of the appellant/accused were taken

for sending to the Fingerprint Expert for comparison with chance

prints, no panchnama was drawn. It is also an admitted position that

the jeweler, who was allegedly called for valuation of the ornaments

allegedly recovered at the instance of the appellant/accused, is not

examined nor his statement was recorded. It is also an admitted

position that two persons who allegedly gave loan to the

appellant/accused and from whom respective amounts of Rs.14000/-

& Rs.10000/- were recovered, were not examined; so also their

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statements were not recorded. This factual position is emerging from

the substantive evidence of Investigating Officer (PW-8). It is to be

ascertained whether the case of the prosecution as to alleged extra-

judicial confession and recovery of the weapon of assault and

jewelery and cash, has been established by prosecution.

15. During the arguments, learned Advocate Ms.Pooja Bhojne for

the appellant/accused pointed out that the substantive evidence of

PW-3 do not in any way inspire confidence so as to place assurance on

the alleged extra-judicial confession made by the present

appellant/accused before him. It is also argued that identification of

the jewelery items by PW-3 as the jewelery items belonging to the

deceased, is also doubtful and cannot be accepted in as much as there

is no description of any of such items given by PW-3 while giving his

statement to the police. More so, when such statement was recorded

on 24.2.2003 and by that time the ornaments were already in

possession of the police. While analyzing this argument, the conduct

of PW-3 Ramesh Shah as spelt out from his substantive evidence is

significant, according to him only on 19.2.2003 in the evening the

appellant/accused confessed before him and narrated the details as to

how he entered the house of Manjulaben, how he had done away

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with her and stolen the jewelery articles. On careful perusal of the

substantive evidence of PW-3, it is revealed that on such revelation

from the accused on 19.2.2003, immediately on the next day he went

to the police station. However, admittedly his statement was not

recorded. At the cost of repetition, it must be mentioned that

according to police, his statement was recorded on 24.2.2003 and on

that day he was shown the jewelery allegedly recovered at the

instance of the accused and which he identified as belonging to the

deceased. PW-3 is silent as to why he did not give his statement to

the police immediately after 19.2.2003. He did not state that he was

in shock due to revelation made by the accused. As against such

factual position, the substantive evidence of PW-8 Investigating

Officer is to the effect that PW-3 informed him regarding the extra-

judicial confession made by the accused and on knowing such

revelation on 20.2.2003, the accused was put under arrest. According

to the I.O. PW-8, PW-3 came and informed him regarding the

confessional statement of the accused and apparently on hearing such

extra-judicial confession, PW-3 became unconscious and admitted in

the hospital on 19.2.2003. This variance in the substantive evidence

of PW-3 & PW-8 is of much significance which leads us to doubt

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whether there was any extra-judicial confession by the accused on

19.2.2003 and whether there was any hospitalization of PW-3 on

knowing such shocking revelation and as to whether it was the cause

for PW-3 not to immediately give his statement to the police earlier to

24.2.2003. In other words, it must be mentioned that such story

developed by the prosecution, definitely creates a doubt as to the

authenticity of theory of extra-judicial confession and further recovery

of the ornaments and cash amounts.

16. On the aspect of authenticity or otherwise of extra-judicial

confession, following authorities are cited on behalf of the

Appellant :-

[i] AIR 1982 SUPREME COURT 1595

[Heramba Brahma and another Vs. State of Assam]

[ii] 1999 SUPREME COURT CASES (Cri) 12

[Dwarkadas Gehanmal Vs. State of Gujarat.]

17. Coming to the second argument as to alleged recovery at the

instance of the appellant/accused which is in fact the most substantial

evidence which has been greatly relied upon by the trial Court, there

are various infirmities and improbabilities i.e. to say the conduct of

the appellant/accused in keeping the weapon of offence that also

blood stained and keeping his blood stained shirt & pant at his

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residence appears to be improbable. Though, as argued on behalf of

the State, it can be stated that conduct of a particular person cannot

be predicted as to how he will react in given set of circumstances, still

considering that the said articles i.e. knife and blood stained clothes,

per se incriminating if such position is established, are the articles of

such a nature that any prudent man would try to get rid of them

much less keeping them at his own house. This aspect is to be viewed

in juxtaposition of the circumstances as to the jewelery items were

allegedly found in the pump-room and inside the electric box and

admittedly the pump room was accessible to other persons apart from

the appellant/accused. The recovery of the ornaments and also the

alleged cash amount is again required to be viewed in view of

the admitted position and attaining circumstance, such as,

non-examination of the jeweler who was allegedly called for

valuation and non-examination of two persons from whom allegedly

the cash amounts Rs.14000/- & Rs.10000/- were recovered.

18. Considering the effect of evidence of panch witness (PW-6) as

to alleged recovery at the instance of the appellant accused and the

evidence of PW-3 & PW-8, in our considered view the Sessions Court

had fallen in an error in accepting such recovery as proved, thereby

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holding the accused guilty for the offence of robbery and murder.

19. On the point of circumstantial evidence by way of recovery of

articles, following authority is cited on behalf of the appellant :-

               [i]     (2008) 3 SUPREME COURT CASES 210

                       [Sattatiya alias Satish Rajanna Kartalla
                       State of Maharashtra]


Pointing out the ratio propounded by the said authority, it is

submitted that in order to determine the genuineness of the recovered

articles, it is relevant to consider what is the nature of place from

which the articles are recovered. In our opinion, recovery in a

particular matter is to be considered whether acceptable or not, only

on the facts of the particular case. In that view of the matter,

considering the alleged recovery of knife and clothes of the appellant/

accused from his house that also after about a month and recovery of

the ornaments from the electric box situated inside the pump-room –

a public place, are the significant aspects creating a reasonable doubt

whether there was such recovery at the instance of the appellant. This

is more so when the jeweler who allegedly valued the recovered

articles and the two persons who had allegedly given loan to the

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appellant, were not examined by the prosecution.

20. Lastly, it is argued on behalf of the appellant that another

circumstance as to finding of chance fingerprint of the appellant on

the cupboard is the evidence which is not beyond doubt. In other

words, it is submitted that though PW-7 – a fingerprint expert has

been examined on this count, still the fact remains that admittedly no

panchnama was drawn by the Investigating Officer while allegedly

taking the specimen fingerprints of the accused. This position has

been accepted by the Investigating Officer (PW-8). On this aspect as

to voluntariness of the accused for taking his fingerprints or his

handwriting, following authorities are cited before us :-


[Sheo Narain & Anr.. Vs. Rawat & Ors.]
[State Vs. Parameswaran Pillai]

21. By pointing out the ratios of the above cited authorities, it is

submitted that the accused cannot be compelled to give evidence

against himself and consequently without there being anything on

record as to authorization from the Court, the procedure adopted by

the police of taking fingerprint specimen of the accused raises a

doubt. Considering the submission and the ratios propounded by the

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above authorities, suffice it to say that in the present matter the

procedure, adopted by the Investigating Agency for establishing that

the fingerprint of the accused were found on the cupboard, do not

inspire confidence. Otherwise also considering the accepted position

that at times the appellant/accused was visiting the house of the

victim and was doing some sundry work as a servant by way of casual

help, the evidence of fingerprint, as alleged by the prosecution, will

not be of much significance so far as establishment of the guilt for the

offence of robbery and murder is concerned.

22. In view of the above discussion, it must be said that the

Sessions Court had fallen in an error in accepting the evidence of the

prosecution witnesses sufficient to bring home the guilt of the accused

for the offences charged. Consequently the impugned judgment and

order is required to be interfered and the same is set aside resulting in

acquittal of the appellant/accused. Hence, the order :-

:: O R D E R ::

i. Criminal Appeal No.746 of 2004 is allowed;

ii. Impugned judgment and order dated 2nd & 5th April, 2004

passed by the Additional Sessions Judge of City Civil & Sessions

Court, Bombay in Sessions Case No.308 of 2003 is set aside.

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iii. Appellant/accused be released from jail, if not required in any

other matter.

iv. If fine amount is already paid by the accused, the same shall be

refunded to him.


                                              (D.  D. SINHA, J.)

                         ig                          (A. R. JOSHI, J.)        

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