There must be a chain of evidence proving the circumstances so complete so as to not leave any reasonable ground for a conclusion of innocence of the accused
|Case name:||Pattu Rajan V/s The State of Tamil Nadu|
|Case number:||Criminal Appeal Nos. 680¬681 Of 2009|
|Court:||In the Supreme Court of India|
|Bench:||J. (N.V. Ramana), J. (Mohan M. Shantanagoudar), J. (Indira Banerjee)|
|Decided on:||March 29, 2019|
- BRIEF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
- The judgment passed by the High Court of Judicature at Madras High Court convicted the accused appellants for the abduction and murder of one Santha kumar, husband of the complainant Jeevajothi (PW1), is called into question in these appeals.
- Accused No. 1 is the proprietor of a chain of hotels (Saravana Bhavan). Either upon the advice of an astrologer or having become besotted with PW1, Accused No.1 had evinced a keen desire to take PW1 as his third wife, though she was already married to Santhakumar (the deceased). In order to fulfil his desire, Accused No.1 used to financially help PW1, her family members and her husband.
- Accused No.1 took the help of the other appellants in order to eliminate the husband of PW1, for securing PW1 as his third wife. On 18.10.2001, PW1 as well as her husband went to the Sai Baba temple as instructed by Accused No. 2. Soon after, two Ambassador car and a Tata Sumo vehicle came and halted behind the car in which PW1 and her husband were sitting. Accused Nos. 3 and 4, armed with knives, got out of one of the cars and forced PW1 and her husband to board the car of the accused in which Accused No.5 was sitting, and took them to Chengalpattu.
- At about 8.30 p.m. on the same night, a Mercedes Benz bearing Registration No. TN 10 M 7755 (M.O.4) belonging to Accused No. 1 arrived with the parents of PW1 along with Accused No.1. Thereafter, PW2, the mother of PW1, informed PW1 that Accused No.1 was in the said Benz car, and wanted PW1 to leave her husband and meet Accused No.1 in the car. As PW1 resisted, Accused Nos. 3 and 4 forcibly took PW1 to the Benz car, and she was taken to Tiruchirappalli in the said car.
- On 19.10.2001, PW1 was taken to PW9 by Accused Nos.5 and 8 at Parappadi village, to remove the alleged influence of witchcraft (black magic) which was allegedly the cause of her being in love with Santhakumar.
- After two days, Santhakumar spoke to PW1 over a phone call and stated that Accused No. 2 had told him about being given Rs. 5 lakhs by Accused No.1 to kill him, but Accused No. 2 had let him go unharmed out of sympathy, and had asked him to escape to Mumbai.
- However, Santhakumar returned to PW1 upon her request. Subsequently, on 21.10.2001, both of them approached Accused No.1 to seek his mercy, thus revealing that Santhakumar was still alive. On 24.10.2001, they took the couple to the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police to withdraw the complaint relating to the incident of abduction which had been lodged earlier that month, and also made them sign a few blank papers.
- On the same day, Accused Nos. 5 and 6 took Santhakumar, PW1 and her family to remove the influence of black magic on PW1, after which they reached Tirunelveli.
- On 26.10.2001, at about 6.30 a.m., Accused No. 5 came and informed them that Accused No.1 had instructed Santhakumar to be brought to him. Upon reaching the Karai Illupu culvert, and upon a signal by Accused No. 5, the other vehicle stopped, and Accused Nos. 2 to 4 and 6 alighted therefrom. Accused No.1 got out and grabbed Santhakumar by the collar, dragging him out. He pushed Santhakumar down and handed him over to Accused Nos. 2 to 4 and 6 and ordered them to “finish him off”.
- While PW1 was staying at her mother’s house at Velachery, Accused Nos. 5, 8 and other henchmen of Accused No.1 kept a constant vigil over the movements of PW1 and her family.
- She lodged the first information on 20.11.2001 stating that Accused No.1 and his henchmen had murdered her husband, and the same was registered as Crime No.1047 of 2001.
- On 31.10.2001, prior to the lodging of the FIR, one forester by name Raman and Forest Guard Murugusen (PW26 and 27 respectively) of the Kodaikanal Range discovered the dead body of a male near the Tiger Chola forest area. On seeing the 8 dead body, PW27 lodged the first information, Ext. P42, at Kodaikanal Police Station,
- Meanwhile, the accused had surrendered and confessed to the commission of Santhakumar’s murder.
- The Trial Court, upon evaluation of the material on record, convicted the accused appellants for the offences punishable under Sections 364, 304 Part I and 201 of the IPC.
- The High Court while confirming the finding of guilt of the accused, modified the conviction for the offence punishable under Section 304 Part I to Section 302 of the IPC. The Courts, relying on the evidence of the doctors PWs 35 and 38, who conducted the two post¬mortem examinations, concluded that the death was homicidal in nature, as the cause of death was found to be asphyxia due to throttling.
- ISSUE BEFORE THE COURT:
- Whether the case in hand is merely a continuation of an earlier offence, i.e. Crime No. 1030 of 2001 relating to the abduction of PW1 and the deceased Santhakumar?
- Whether DNA test should have been conducted in order to identify the dead body, and identification merely on the basis of a superimposition test, which is not a tangible piece of evidence, is proper?
- RATIO OF THE COURT
- The court did not find any force in the arguments of the learned Senior Advocate for the appellants that the incident of murder in the case in hand is merely a continuation of an earlier offence and observed that factors such as proximity of time or place, unity of purpose and design and continuity of action, in respect of a series of acts, have to be considered in order to determine whether such acts form part of the same transaction or not.
- Considering the factor such as the distinct intentions behind the two offences, the court observed that the incident of murder is entirely separate and distinct from the earlier incident of abduction.
- The court by referring to the case of Awadesh Kumar Jha v. State of Bihar, (2016) 3 SCC 8 opined that the allegations and offences under this present FIR relating to the murder of the deceased are substantially distinct from the information lodged in Crime No. 1030 of 2001 relating to abduction and there is no question of further investigation to be made in the crime of abduction by the investigating agency relating to the offence of murder which was committed during the subsistence of the investigation relating to abduction.
- The court examined and discussed about the main evidences and observed that the evidence of PWs 1 and 2 with regard to the motive for commission of the offence, the last seen circumstance and recovery as well as the identification of the dead body is consistent with the case of the prosecution.
- The court did not find any artificiality in their evidence. On the other hand, their evidence remains natural, consistent, cogent and probable. The court did not find any reason to disagree with the findings arrived at in that regard by the Trial Court as well as by the High Court.
- It was observed that if a confession is made by the accused before the police and a portion of the confession leads to the recovery of any incriminating material, such portion alone is admissible under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act.
- The court opined that the absence of DNA evidence would lead to an adverse inference against a party, especially in the presence of other cogent and reliable evidence on record in favour of such party.
- The court referred to the case of Shankar & Ors. v. State of Tamil Nadu and other relevant cases and opined that identification of the deceased through super imposition is an acceptable piece of opinion evidence.
- The court also held that the High Court was justified in observing that a superimposition test cannot be taken as a conclusive one for the identification of a dead body, because by itself it may not conclusively establish identification.
- The court opined that the scientific evidence of PW34 was rightly believed by the Trial Court as well as by the High Court, and strengthens the evidence of PWs 1 and 2 regarding the identification of the body. The court emphasized that based on the confession of Accused No.6, recoveries of a wallet containing a photograph of PW1, gold chain etc. were effected from his house, which, as mentioned , also stand positively identified by PW1 and her family as belonging to the deceased.
- It was later added that merely because the actual recovery of the body happened before the accused lead the police to the scene, it does not, in the facts and circumstances of this case, negate the validity of the recovery based on a confession, in terms of Section 27 of the Evidence Act.
- The court held that the recovery of the body of the deceased at the instance of Accused No. 2 and the identification of the body as that of Santhakumar by PW1, on the basis of photographs, the clothes and 44 belongings of the deceased, and his scar, stand proved beyond all reasonable doubt.
- The court by referring to the case of Rohtash Kumar v. State of Haryana, (2013) 14 SCC 434 observed that Failure on part of the accused to furnish any explanation in this regard, as in the case in hand, or furnishing false explanation would give rise to a strong presumption against him, and in favour of his guilt, and would provide an additional link in the chain of circumstances.
- It was stated by the court that the overwhelming, consistent, cogent and reliable testimonies of PWs 1 and 2, along with the aforementioned corroborative evidence, conclusively prove the prosecution case.
- The court observed that the evidence of the other prosecution witnesses (especially PWs 7, 26, 27, 29, 32 and 33) is homogeneous, consistent and reliable, and corroborates the testimony of PWs 1 and 2, which leads to conclude that the chain of circumstances is complete and points solely at the guilt of the accused.
- DECISION HELD BY COURT:
- The court held that the evidence on record fully proves the case of the prosecution and that the Trial Court as well as the High Court evaluated the material on record in its proper prospective while coming to their conclusion.
- It was also added that the judgment of the Trial Court as modified by the High Court need not be interfered with.
- The appeals were failed and stood dismissed.