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State of Andhra Pradesh v. Gangula Satya Murthy (1996) - Case of Rape & Murder by Throttling of Neck

Esheta Lunkad ,
  04 October 2020       Share Bookmark

Court :
Supreme Court of India
Brief :
The Supreme Court mentioned that, it could not resist to express the distress that the High Court had chosen to advance fragile reasons to upset a well-reasoned conclusion by the trail court that the deceased was throttled to death
Citation :
Petitioner: State of Andhra Pradesh Respondent: Gangula Satya Murthy

The Supreme Court particularly mentioned that the Courts are expected to show great responsibility while trying an accused on the charges of rape. Such cases must be dealt with utmost sensitivity

Bench:

  • A. S. Anand
  • K. T. Thomas

Issue:

Rape and murder by throttling the neck.

Facts:

• Satya Vani a student of 10th Standard resided with her parents in Talluru village of Andhra Pradesh. Respondent Gangula Satya Murthy (Babu), a married young man lived near Satya Vani’s house with his mother.

• Satya Vani used to visit respondent’s house to see television programs as there was no television in her house. Respondent developed an infatuation for Satya Vani, but the overtures made by him were not favorably reciprocated by her.

• On the evening of November 26, 1991 Satya Vani was sent by her parents to her grand-parents place. While returning from there she stopped at respondent’s place for watching the telecast programs. Respondent was alone in the house as his mother had gone for a cinema show. Taking advantage of this, the respondent subjected Satya Vani to sexual intercourse by forcibly putting her on the cot. When she threatened about complaining it to her parents, the respondent caught hols of her neck and throttled her to death. A little later respondent went out of the house bolting it from outside.

• As Satya Vani had not returned for long time her parents became panicky and started hectic inquiries for her. When the respondent’s mother reached home around 10PM, she found Satya Vani’s dead body lying on the cot of her house. She immediately conveyed the news to deceased’s anxious parents.

 

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• Police was informed and an FIR under Section 174 of CrPC was prepared, and inquest on the dead body was held by Sub Inspector of Police. During the autopsy it was revealed that the deceased was subjected to sexual intercourse and her death of due to throttling.

• On December 12, 1991 the respondent was physically produced before the police by two residents of the locality on the premise that the respondent admitted his guilt to them. A letter which Satya Vani had addressed to the respondent was also delivered to the police. After completion of the investigation, respondent was challaned.

• Sessions court found on evidence, that respondent had raped the deceased girl and killed her by throttling. Accordingly the respondent was convicted and sentenced under Section 502 and 376 of IPC and sentenced to imprisonment for life and rigorous imprisonment for 7 years. The Division Bench of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, however reversed the judgment of the sessions court and passed the order of acquittal on the grounds that possibility of deceased’s death due to consumption of poison cannot be ruled out. Injuries on the neck bone including the fracture of the hyoid bone could be post-mortem injuries while the dead body was carried in rickshaw. The Counsel for the State, seriously assailed the reasoning of the HC for reaching the findings.

• The matter then reached to the Supreme Court.

Judgment:

The Supreme Court mentioned that, it could not resist to express the distress that the High Court had chosen to advance fragile reasons to upset a well reasoned conclusion by the trail court that the deceased was throttled to death. The Court concluded that the High Court had erred substantially in upsetting the conviction and sentence passed by the sessions Judge was supported by sound and sturdy reasons. The appeal of the State was allowed and order of acquittal was set aside. The conviction and sentence passed by the Trial Court on the accused were restored. The bail bond stood canceled and it was ordered to take respondent in the custody to undergo the remaining part of the sentence. The Court pointed out that the Courts are expected to show great responsibility while trying an accused on charges of rape. Such cases should be dealt with utmost sensitivity. The Courts should examine the broader probabilities of a case and not get swayed by minor contradictions or insignificant discrepancies in the statement of the witnesses, which are not of fatal nature to throw out allegations of rape.This is all the more important because of late crime against women in general and rape in particular is on the increase. It is an irony that while we are celebrating woman's rights in all spheres, we show little or no concern for her honour. It is a sad reflection and we must emphasis that the courts must deal with rape cases in particular with utmost sensitivity and appreciate the evidence in the totality of the background of the entire case and not in isolation.

Relevant Paragraphs:

The mere fact that witnesses present at the inquest had escaped noticing the small abrasions on the neck of the dead body is too tenuous a ground for holding that such abrasions would have come into existence after the inquest was held overruling the definite opinion of the medical man (who saw the injuries) that they were post-mortem injuries. It is totally incorrect to say that no abrasion would be caused if pressure is applied with fingers would quite possibly cause abrasions as well. Similarly the observation of the High Court that no bleeding was noticed at the site of the fracture of the hyoid bone is not factually correct as PW-10 had noted in the post-mortem certificate that there was the extravagance of blood on both sides of the neck.

The High Court has adverted to vet another reason for holding that death might not have been caused due to throttling. The vomited material found on the cot and mouth of the dead body was not sent for chemical examination, and hence the High Court concluded that " it is also possible that death might have been caused due to asphyxia by poisoning." We are disturbed very much as the High Court has overlooked, if not ignored, the evidence of Dr. Trinadharao (PW-10) that viscera comprising of stomach contents, intestine, piece of lever and also a kidney had been forwarded to the chemical laboratory for analysis and PW-10 had reserved his final opinion till he got the result of such analysis. When he later received the chemical examination report he pronounced his final opinion that the death was due to asphyxia as no poison was detected in the viscera. The report of the chemical examiner is available in the records. Section 293 of the Code would enable the court to use the said document in evidence. Inspite of such unassailable materials the High Court has arrived at the finding that "in the facts and circumstances of the case it cannot be ruled out in its entirety that death was not caused due to poisoning."

One of the circumstances relied on by the prosecution is that respondent had confessed the guilt to PW-6 and PW-7. In other words, prosecution relied on the extra judicial confession of the respondent spoken to by the said two witnesses, they buttonholed the respondent and confronted him with certain questions pertaining to the death of the deceased and then respondent had blurted out to them of what happened. Witnesses further deposed that respondent took out a letter and showed it to them. Witnesses thereupon took him to the police station where that letter was also produced. PW-14 - Sub Inspector of Police confirmed that those two witnesses brought the respondent to the police station and produced Ext. P-13 letter.

Truth of the evidence of PW-6 and PW-7 stands vouchsafed by Ext. P-13 letter as the same was proved to be a letter written by the deceased to the respondent. PW-12 Assistant Director, Forensic Science Laboratory, who was also a Handwriting Expert examined the handwriting on the letter with the admitted handwriting of the deceased found in some answer sheets (which police collected from the Principal of the School where Satya Vani studied - PW-13) PW-12 gave cogent reasons for his conclusion that both were written by the same person. A reading of the contents in that letter admits of no doubt that it was addressed to the respondent in this case.

It is true that in the deposition PW-6 and PW-7 have said that it was at 7 A.M. that the respondent made the confession to them. But the Sub Inspector said that accused was produced in the police station at 7.30 P.M. We think that much should not have been made out of that disparity as there could be a possibility of making an error in recording the time A.M. for P.M. We say this because both PW-6 and PW- 7 uniformly said that they took the respondent to the police station situated about 3 kilometers away. As the police records show that they produced him at 7030 P.M. it is only inferential that respondent would have made the confession on the evening and not during morning hours. At any rated it is not proper to jettison an otherwise sturdy piece of evidence of extra judicial confession on the ground of such a rickety premise.

The other reasoning based on Section 26 of the Evidence Act is also fallacious. It is true any confession made to a police officer is inadmissible under Section 25 of the Act and that ban is further stretched through Section 26 to the confession made to any other person also if the confessor was then in police custody.The word "custody" used in Section 26 is to be understood in pragmatic sense. If any accused is within the ken of surveillance of the police during which his movements are restricted then it can be regarded as custodial surveillance for the purpose of the Section. If he makes any confession during that period to any person be he not a police officer, such confession would also be hedged within the banned contours outlined in Section 26 of the Evidence Act.But the confession made by the respondent to PW-6 and PW-7 was not made while he was anywhere near the precincts of the police station or during the surveillance of the police.

So the mere fact that the confession spoken to those witnesses was later put in black and white is no reason to cover it with the wrapper of inadmissibility. We find that the High Court has wrongly sidelined the extra judicial confession.

The fact that body of (Satya Vani) was found on the cot inside the house of the respondent is a very telling circumstance against him. Respondent owed a duty to explain as to how a dead body which was resultant of a homicide happened to be in his house. In the absence of any such explanation from him the implication of the said circumstance is definitely adverse to the respondent.

High Court has extricated the appellant from the indictment of rape on the erroneous assumption that it would have been a consented copulation. Learned Judges have relied on two circumstances in support of the said assumption. One is that there was no nail mark on the breast or face or thigh or private parts of the deceased for indicating resistance offered by her Second is that PW-10 doctor did not notice any hymen for the deceased. In that realm also the High Court committed serious error in skipping the contents of Ext P-13 letter and also the injury on the right side of the posterior labia minora, (we have mentioned it supra). of course that injury by it self is not conclusive proof of resistance but it cannot be ignored altogether. In Ext. P-13 letter, she cautioned the respondent not to have a leering on her. She deprecated in her letter the idea of a married man enjoying another lady by terming it an act of "grave sin". Further, in his extra-judicial confession made to PW-6 and PW-7, respondent had said that he took the girl by force and kept her on the cot as he was long nurturing the lust to enjoy her. The doctor had found fresh vaginal tear on the fight side of the inner vaginal wall posterior. This injury is indicative of forcible sexual intercourse. According to the medical opinion also the presence of fresh vaginal tear, showed that the deceased had been subjected to sexual intercourse prior to her death. The very fact that the sexual intercourse was soon followed, if not contemporaneous with, by the act of throttling is strongly suggestive of a vehement resistance offered by the female victim.

We have absolutely no doubt that the above circumstance are sufficient to reach the irresistible inference that she was ravished by the respondent despite her refusal.

 
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Published in Constitutional Law
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