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High Court Of Guahati Held That Unsigned And Unproven Confessional Statements Cannot Be The Basis For Sentenceing Life Imprisonment

Ifrah Murtaza ,
  08 June 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
Hon’ble Gauhati High Court (High Court of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh)
Brief :

Citation :
Case No.: CRL. A(J)/10/2022

Case title:

Shri Kedukhoyi v. The State of Nagaland

Date of Order:

29.05.2024

Bench:

Hon’ble Mr. Justice Sanjay Kumar Medhi

Hon’ble Mr. Justice Budi Habung 

Parties:

Appellant: Shri Kedukhoyi; through The Superintendent, District Jail, Phek – 797108, Nagaland

Respondent: The State of Nagaland 

SUBJECT:

The Hon’ble High Court of Guahati (hereinafter referred to as the ‘High Court’ or ‘the Court’) dealt with an appeal filed before it seeking release from his sentence of life imprisonment. The appellant was alleged of murdering a woman then committing sexual intercourse with her dead body. During the investigation he had confessed to the crime and the trial court had sentenced him to life imprisonment based on the same. However, during the appeal the High Court found the order in violation of provisions of CrPC as the confessional statement was neither signed by the appellant nor proven by the trial court, and was therefore invalid. The High Court quashed the trial court’s order and directed that the appellant be released.  

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC):

  • Section 302: deals with punishment for murder
  • Section 376: deals with punishment for sexual assault
  • Section 375: definition of rape

The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC):

  • Section 164: deals with recording of confessions and statements

OVERVIEW:

  • Smt. Vesazolu left her home on 17th May 2003 to go to the field, but did not return home. Her family members were concerned about her disappearance and went to look for her.
  • Smt. Vesazolu’s lifeless, naked body was found after an overnight search a kilometer away from her village. She was injured and had marks on her body which clearly indicated signs of sexual assault and fatal injuries.
  • Her Husband, Nuvotso, filed a complaint at the local police station, under sections 302 and 376 of IPC.
  • The police investigation found the accused/appellant (Kedukhoyi) to be the prime suspect of the crime. A chargesheet was filed against him, alleging that he had committed the offenses of rape and murder. 
  • The Trial Court found the appellant guilty of the charges and sentenced him to life imprisonment. 
  • After serving a significant portion of his sentence, the appellant made a representation before the government seeking pre-mature release. This application was rejected on the grounds that he was convicted for committing rape which disqualified him from pre-mature release
  • The appellant has approached the High Court in the instant case, appealing against his life sentence. 

ISSUES RAISED:

  • Whether the appellant was guilty of charges under sections 376 and 302 of IPC?
  • Whether the order of the Trial Court was violative of provisions of CrPC?
  • Whether in absence of any other evidence, the accused can be convicted solely on the basis of his unsigned confessional statement?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT:

  • The appellant was of unsound mind at the time of commission of the offense. He had hallucinated a friend urging him to kill the deceased and did not realize the gravity of the situation until later. The unsoundness of his mind should have been considered by the trial court. 
  • Despite the confession of the Appellant, he could not be convicted of rape as it was legally impossible to commit rape on a deceased person and necrophilia, or intercourse with a dead person was not recognized under Indian law and was not an offense under IPC. Therefore, the appellant could not be convicted of charges under section 376 of IPC. 
  • The was a lack of proper forensic evidence against the appellant, linking him to the crime. There was no postmortem report ascertaining the cause of death or forensic reports of semen and blood samples establishing the appellant’s involvement in the crime. 
  • The investigating authorities had failed to follow the proper procedure of investigation. The crime scene was not visited, any incriminating evidence was not seized. Additionally, there were no key witnesses. 
  • The appellant was not allowed a fair hearing after the conviction by the trial court, which was against the provisions of sections 235(2) and 313 of CrPC.
  • The appellant’s conviction is based solely on an unsigned and unverified confessional statement which was not properly recorded in the court in adherence to Section 164 of CrPC. The statement is unreliable as it lacks the necessary safeguards and signatures. 

   ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT:

  • The appellant had already confessed to his crime to the Investigating Officer. The trial court based its sentence on his confessional statement wherein he had admitted of strangling the deceased then committing intercourse with her dead body.
  • When the charges were being framed against the appellant, he pleaded guilty to the offenses during the trial. Yet the court proceeded with the trial to ensure a fair adjudication process. 
  • The reports of the medical examination corroborated the allegation made against the appellant in the FIR. 
  • The appellant had admitted guilt at various stages which stood as a valid and significant evidence against the appellant. 
  • There was no proof of unsoundness of mind, either medical or psychiatric, on the appellant’s part. 

JUDGEMENT ANALYSIS:

  • The High Court opined that a confessional statement should be signed by the person making the confession as per section 164(4) of CrPC. Since the confessional statement of the appellant was not signed or proven by the Magistrate or the appellant, the confession was rendered invalid.
  • This non-compliance to the provisions of section 164 of CrPC, the deprived the appellant of a defense. 
  • Furthermore, the prosecution had not provided enough evidence to incriminate the appellant beyond a reasonable doubt. There was a lack of proper documentation and performance of key investigatory actions. All the evidence against the appellant was circumstantial.
  • The High Court refrained from divulging into the argument of necrophilia.
  • However, the Court held that the appellant’s argument of unsoundness of mind at the time of the offense was unsubstantiated. 
  • The trial court’s order was set aside on the grounds that the judgment was based on improper and insufficient evidence. 

CONCLUSION

The High Court ordered for the appellant to be released, quashing the impugned order of the trial court. It held that the conviction of the appellant was based on an unsigned and unproven confessional statement and insufficient evidence, rendering the trial court’s order lacking in substance, and violative of section 164(4) of the CrPC. The Court found the prosecution in failure of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt, and laid directives for any related standing appeals to be disposed of with no orders as to cost. 
 

 
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