- Bench: P Sathasivam & Anil R Dave
- Appellant: Rameshbhai Mohanbhai Koli & Ors
- Respondent: State of Gujarat
(i) Whether the High Court was justified in confirming the conviction and sentence imposed by the trial Court when all the eye-witnesses did not support the case of the prosecution as against the appellants?
(ii) Whether the Courts below the High Court are justified in convicting and awarding life sentence based on circumstantial evidence?
(iii) Since the whole prosecution case hinges upon circumstantial evidence which in the present case does not complete the chain as there are missing links, in such event conviction is sustainable?
- In the 16th September, 1999, the Chairman of the Morbi Nagrik Bank along with the Director was coming out of the bank when he was stopped by the appellant who inquired them about the loan facilities of the bank.
- The appellant with his accomplices attacked the Chairman which lead to his death. This incident was witnessed by 8 witnesses.
- The accused had conspired to kill the Chairman. Then, a blood stained loan application form bearing the name of the appellant.
- After arrest, the appellants revealed in a disclosure statement the location of the weapon they had used. Consequently, blood stained knives and clothes were found along with stained motorcycle seat. All of them were sent for forensic examination.
- The forensic report revealed that the blood stains found on the knives, loan applications and clothes of the appellant are same and are of the deceased Chairman.
- When the case went to the Additional Sessions Judge, Morbi, accused numbers 1 to 4 were convicted for offence u/s 302 r/w 34 IPC and S. 135 of the Bombay Police Act. Accused numbers 5 to 7 were convicted u/s 302 and 120-B IPC along with the imposition of fine. Accused numbers 5 & 6 were directed to pay Rs. 1,50,000 each to the widow of the deceased. Also, accused number 8 was acquitted for offence u/s 312 IPC.
- The appellants then filed an appeal before the Gujarat High Court. They challenged the lower court’s order.
- The High Court convicted accused numbers 1,2 & 3 and acquitted accused numbers 5,6 & 7.
- The case then came before the Supreme Court by the appellants i.e. accused number 1,2, and 3.
- The appellants contended the following:
- They did not have the mens rea to commit the crime of murder of the Chairman. They were not instrumental in the crime.
- The deceased had rivalry with accused numbers 6 and 7 and not them.
- The statements made by the prosecution witnesses that turned hostile cannot be relied upon.
- The test identification parad had failed and mere recovery of a knife and other materials along with Panchnama and FSL report are not sufficient for the conviction of the appellants.
- The respondents contended the following:
- The appellants have committed the crime of murder if the Chairman.
- The circumstantial evidence proves their motive and guilt.
- The recovery of the knives and other materials along with the panchnama and FSL report were sufficient to convict the appellants.
The Apex Court upheld the conviction of the accused and the appeal was set aside. The Court held that even though the witnesses had turned hostile, the evidence of murder weapon, blood stains and other materials were sufficient to prove the crime of the appellants.
From the analysis of the statements, answers in the cross-examination, earlier statement under Section 164 of Cr.P.C. before the Magistrate and in the light of the above principles, we agree with the conclusion arrived at by the trial Court and approved by the High Court.
- In the instant case, all the eye-witnesses examined on the prosecution side have en bloc turned hostile due to influence and pressure of the accused persons which included a sitting MLA of the ruling party. This aspect has been analyzed by the trial Court while convicting and awarding sentence on the accused/appellants. This Court has noted and observed in a large number of cases that witnesses may lie but circumstances do not. On going through the entire materials, particularly, the chain of circumstances, we are satisfied that the prosecution has been successful in bringing home the guilt of the appellants herein for the commission of murder of Prakashbhai Raveshia and the eye-witnesses turning hostile, do not, in any manner, crate a dent in the case of the prosecution.
- The piece of evidence which the prosecution sought to rely upon against the appellants is the various panchnamas including discovery panchnama of the weapons i.e., knives used in the commission of the offence, recovery of motorcycle, NC register, recovery of seat of motorcycle. The prosecution highlighted that A1 to A4 have shown their willingness to show the muddamal knives which have been used for murdering Prakashbhai Raveshia and, therefore, panchas were called and preliminary panchnamas were drawn and thereafter, at the instance of A1 to A4 knives were recovered which were stained with blood group of `O' which is similar to the blood group of the deceased Prakashbhai Raveshia. The prosecution has examined and relied upon Rameshbhai Arjan PW-14, (Exh.292), who is panch witness of the discovery panchnama of the recovery of knife (muddamal article No. 25) at the instance of A3. The prosecution has also examined and relied upon the evidence of Navinchandra Parshottam Shah PW-15, (Exh.302), who is panch witness of the panchnama of recovery of knife (muddamal Article No. 37) recovered at the instance of A2. The other witness examined and relied on by the prosecution is Bhavanbhai Jagabhai Malkiya, PW-18 (Exh.311), who is the panch witness of the panchnama under which the muddamal knife (Article No. 33) was recovered at the instance of A4 which was used for commission of the offence. The prosecution has also examined and relied upon the evidence of Govindlal Shantilal Joshi, PW-26 (Exh.338), who is the panch witness of the discovery panchnama of the muddamal knife (Article No. 28) recovered at the instance of A1 and Ex.340 is the panchnama of the mud. These panchnamas are Exhs.293, 303, 312, 339 and 340. The above panch witnesses have confirmed the contents of panchnamas in their oral testimony before the Court. They have also asserted that A1 to A4 had shown their willingness and on this basis, the preliminary panchnama was drawn and thereafter, the accused have taken the panchas and the police personnel at the place where they have concealed the knives and recovered the knives from those places. It is true that in muddamal article No. 25 which was recovered at the instance of A3 was not having a blood stain. This aspect had been considered by the trial Court and rightly concluded that the said muddamal article cannot be ignored.
- Yet another piece of evidence is FSL report (Exh.250), forwarding letters of muddamal weapons, clothes, etc. which are at Exhs. 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249 and 250 respectively. The perusal of the FSL report clearly shows that the muddamal articles were found to be stained with blood of `O' group which is the same as blood group of the deceased Prakashbhai Raveshia. This is also one of the important circumstances which connect the accused with the crime. All these materials and the evidence of panchas, as discussed, and circumstances, unmistakenly lead to the conclusion that A1 to A4 are the culprits and the complicity for commission of murder of the deceased is proved. These aspects have been fully discussed by the trial Court and rightly affirmed by the High Court. We also agree with these aspects in toto.
- In the light of the above discussion, we are unable to accept the case of the appellants, on the other hand, we are satisfied that the prosecution has established its case insofar as the appellants and rightly convicted and sentenced by the trial Court and affirmed by the High Court. The appeals are devoid of any merits, consequently, they are dismissed.