It is well-settled that in cases where the prosecution relies on circumstantial evidence to establish its case, such circumstances should be duly proved and the chain of circumstances so proved should be complete.
[Case Brief] Rajender @ Rajesh @ Raju and Ors. V/s State (NCT of Delhi)
Case name: Rajender @ Rajesh @ Raju and Ors. V/s State (NCT of Delhi)
Case number: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1889 OF 2010 and ors.
Court: Supreme Court of India
Bench: Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, J.
Ajay Rastogi, J.
Decided on: October 24, 2019
Relevant Act/Sections: Indian Penal Code, 1860
Ø BRIEF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
1. Atma Ram Gupta (hereinafter ‘deceased’) who was a Councillor of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (hereinafter “MCD’) went missing on 24.08.2002. On that day, he left his residence around 10.30 a.m. informing his wife Sumitra Gupta (PW-18) that he would first be going to the house of another Councillor of the MCD, Sharda Jain (A-1) and then be proceeding to attend a Congress Party rally at the Ferozshah Kotla Grounds along with her. His driver, Prabhu Yadav (PW-17) drove him to the residence of Sharda Jain and upon reaching there, the deceased instructed the driver to take the car back to their residence.
2. When the deceased did not return home until evening, enquiries were made by his wife and family members. A missing report was consequently lodged at 1 a.m. on 25.08.2002. Ultimately, the body of the deceased was found on 31.08.2002 in a sub-canal of the Bulandshar Rajwaha/Sanota Canal.
3. A charge sheet came to be filed against nine accused, namely, Sharda Jain (A-1), Raj Kumar (A-2), Pushpender (A-3), Nirvikar (A-4), Rajender (A-5), Roshan Singh (A-6), Shri Pal Singh Raghav (A-7), Satender Kumar (A-8) and Rakesh Kumar (A-9). All the accused were tried before the Fast Track Court, Rohini in S.C. No. 139 of 2006.
4. The Trial Court convicted Sharda Jain (A-1), Raj Kumar (A-2), Pushpender (A-3), Nirvikar (A-4), Rajender (A-5) and Roshan Singh (A-6) for the charges framed against them. As regards the other three accused Shri Pal Singh Raghav (A-7), Satender Kumar (A-8) and Rakesh Kumar (A-9), the Trial Court found that they were not party to the conspiracy hatched by the other convicted persons. However, they were convicted under Section 201 IPC for causing disappearance of evidence.
5. All the six accused (A-1 to A-6) filed criminal appeals before the High Court After re-appreciating the entire material on record, the High Court dismissed Criminal Appeal Nos. 51 of 2007, 139 of 2007 and 144 of 2007 and allowed Criminal Appeal Nos. 19 of 2007, 121 of 2007 and 65 of 2007. In effect, the conviction of Sharda Jain (A-1), Raj Kumar (A-2), Rajender (A-5) and Roshan Singh (A-6) was affirmed, while the other accused Pushpender (A-3), Nirvikar (A-4), Shri Pal Singh Raghav (A-7), Satender Kumar (A-8) and Rakesh Kumar (A-9) were acquitted.
6. The convicted persons have approached this Court in the instant appeals.
Ø ISSUE BEFORE THE COURT:
1. Whether the decision by high court valid?
Ø RATIO OF THE COURT
1. The court held that with respect to conspiracy, it is trite law that the existence of three elements must be shown– a criminal object, a plan or a scheme embodying means to accomplish that object, and an agreement or understanding between two or more people to cooperate for the accomplishment of such object.
2. As regards sharda jain court observed that the circumstance of Sharda Jain pointing out the place of the murder of the deceased is proved. It is well-established that the testimony of a chance witness, though not necessarily false, is proverbially unsafe to rely upon.
3. The court laid down that a statement made by an accused under Section 313, Cr.P.C. can be used as an aid to lend credence to the evidence led by the prosecution. Therefore, in light of the testimonies of PW-18, PW-17, and PW-11, as well as the statement of Sharda Jain, we find that the prosecution has proved that the deceased was present with Sharda Jain (A-1) in the afternoon of 24.08.2002 and was not seen alive by anyone after such time.
4. Particularly in cases resting on circumstantial evidence, if the accused fails to offer a reasonable explanation in discharge of the burden placed on him, such failure by itself can provide an additional link in the chain of circumstances proved against him. This, however, does not mean that Section 106 shifts the burden of proof of a criminal trial on the accused. Such burden always rests on the prosecution.
5. Notably, a circumstance of last seen does not, by itself, necessarily lead to an inference that the accused committed the crime. There must be something more that establishes a connection between the accused and the crime.
6. The court also observed, the proximity between the time of last seen and the time of death of the deceased is established. This, in turn, connects the accused to the crime in question.
7. The court found that the Courts below are justified in concluding that the deceased was last seen in the company of Sharda Jain and that the time gap between the last seen and the time of the death of the deceased is so small so as to make it impossible for the deceased to come in the contact of any other person.
8. Since the scene of murder in the present case is rural, the Court should judge the matter after accounting for the rustic behavioral pattern of the witnesses and not adopt extremely sophisticated approaches familiar in courts based on unreal assumptions about human conduct.
9. The court also observed that we find that the prosecution has failed to prove the recovery of the wrist watch at the instance of Raj Kumar (A-2). Given that the High Court had sustained the conviction of A-2 primarily on the basis of this recovery, we are of the opinion that he should given the benefit of doubt. The court held that entire evidence on record is insufficient to bring home the guilt of Raj Kumar (A-2). Accordingly, he deserves to be acquitted for the charges framed against him.
10. The court held that t is proved that Rajender was driving the car in which the deceased was last seen with him and Sharda Jain (A-1). Further, it is also proved that this car went up till Spot A, which is the place of the incident as is evident from the existence of the mud from the spot on the tyres of the car.
11. However, as regards the charge of conspiracy, we do not find that the conduct of Sharda Jain (A-1) and Rajender (A-5) constitutes a criminal conspiracy to murder the deceased.
12. The court concluded that the prosecution has proved the aforementioned circumstances against A-1 and A-5, which form a complete chain pointing towards their guilt. In the absence of any missing links, they cannot be given a chance to escape from the clutches of law.
Ø DECISION HELD BY COURT:
1. The following order was made:
a) Criminal Appeal No. 2377 of 2014 filed by Sharda Jain (A-1) is dismissed. Accordingly, her bail bonds are cancelled.
b) Criminal Appeal No. 1889 of 2010 filed by Rajender (A-5) is dismissed. Accordingly, his bail bonds are cancelled.
c) Criminal Appeal No. 1890 of 2010 is allowed and the appellant Raj Kumar (A-2) is acquitted of the charges framed against him.