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The Statement Of The Prosecution Witness To Be Treated As A Piece Of Substantial Evidence When Essentials Of Section 299 Of The Crpc Are Satisfied

Esha Goyal ,
  11 May 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
The Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
Criminal Appeal No(S). 55 Of 2015

Case title:

Sukhpal Singh V.s Nct Of Delhi

Date of Order:

7th May 2024

Bench:

(Divisional Bench) Comprising Of  

1.    Hon’ble Justice B.R. Gavai

2.    Hon’ble Justice Sandeep Mehta

Parties:

Appellant-  Sukhpal Singh 

Respondent- Nct Of Delhi

SUBJECT:-

The case revolves around the murder of Smt. Usha was allegedly killed by her husband Sukhpal Singh due to rage because of their disputes primarily on the infidelity of the deceased. The accused went missing for over 10 years in which he was declared absconded on the day of the incident. The below-given analysis also covers the finding of The Apex Court with regards to the validity and importance given to the statements given by the Prosecution Witness Mr. Ashok Kumar Pathak when the accussed was on the run. The appeal was filed by the accused in this case against the verdict of lower courts who found him guilty of the murder.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS

INDIAN PENAL CODE,1860 

Section 302:- Prescription of punishment when found guilty of murder which shall be inclusive of Death Penalty, Life Imprisonment and Fine. 

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE, 1973

Section 82:- Empowers the court to issue a written proclamation against the offender who hides away with intent to avoid the execution of a warrant issued against him. 

Section 83:-  Empowers the court to attach an immovable/movable property of a person who conceals himself to avoid the warrant execution against him. 

Section 299:- The Court is empowered to record the testimony of the witness produced by the prosecution in case the person has been declared absconded and when there is no immediate arrest which could be made. 

THE INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT, 1872

Section 33:- Prescription regarding the evidence given by a person during judicial proceedings in front of the subject authority. 

OVERVIEW

  • The Appellant/Accused was married to Usha and had three children out of a matrimonial relationship. he started residing apart due to a quarrel with his spouse. 
  • The Police station of Bhajan Pura received PCR reporting the Murder of Usha and investigated the matter finding a handwritten note on the crime scene. The cause of death was manual strangulation which was found in autopsy. 
  • During the investigation, the handwriting of the Appellant/Accussed was collected from his employer which was said to be matched by the handwriting expert.
  • For the murder of his wife, the Appellant/Accused was the main suspect. 
  • The prosecution made strong allegations against the Appellant/Accused fleeing away from the crime scene.
  • The procedural necessity to trace his whereabouts was made and was declared an absconder based on his absence. 
  • 10 years after the incident, the Appellant/Accused was arrested and his handwriting was matched with the written notes collected from the crime scene by the handwriting expert.
  • The Trial Court, in its proceeding, considered the confession of the letter as admission and established a strong link of incriminating circumstantial evidence against the appellant. On reliance on which and other statements, The Appellant/Accused was declared guilty. 
  • On filling the Appeal in font of The Hon’ble Delhi High Court, it was maintained that the verdict pronounced by the Trial Court was right and that the Appellant/Accused was guilty of murder and absconding from the crime scene.
  • Aggrieved by which the Appellant/Accused challenged the same by Special Leave Petition. 

ISSUES RAISED

  1. Whether the murder of the deceased committed by the Appellant/Accused?
  2. Whether the deposition of the prosecution witness  (Ashok Kumar Pathak) can be relied on in the present case?
  3. Whether the impugned judgement given by The Trial Court and The High Court is erroneous?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT

The Appellant/Accused was given legal aid counsel appointed by the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee (SCLSC) to represent his case

  • It was stated that the Lower Courts were erroneous in pronouncing their verdict.
  • The confession note was stated to be fabricated by the learned counsel based on the fact that the contentions were made without prejudice of the plea and the Investigating officer could not have the idea of the Appellant/Accused about his working prospects.
  • The learned counsel also presented a distinguish characters between the specimen note and the writing of the Appellant/Accussed urging the reports of the handwriting expert to be non-reliable. 
  • The allegations of Absconding were maintained to be baseless on the fact that the Appellant/ Accused was residing apart from the victim after getting divorced.
  • The statements recording of the prosecution witness (Ashok Kumar Pathak) was not admissible as it was not par with the procedural necessity u/s 166 of CrPC. 
  • The material prosecution witness on the contrary admitted the victim to be involved in prostitution and hence a possibility of involvement of a third person was incited who could not be ruled out.
  • While concluding, it was maintained by the learned counsel that the allegations are based on circumstantial evidence which led the Lower Courts to pronounce that the Appellant/Accussed is guilty. 

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT

The counsel representing the Respondent made opposition to the submissions made by the counsel presenting the Appellant. 

  • It was presented that the statements made by the prosecution witness about the case are admissible. Moreover, the averments made by him were witnessed with his own eyes.
  • The statement was maintainable as the prosecution witness was examined as the accused was declared absconded as per Section 299 of CrPC.
  • The witness in his testimony confirmed that the Appellant/Accussed was with the victim the night before the murder, and ran away from the scene by leaving a confession note. 
  • The victim’s Sister confessed that the couple indulged in constant quarrels. The recent fight was before a few days of the incident confirming the ulterior intention behind the murder.
  • There is no reliable evidence of Divorce between the couple except the lines written in the confession note. 
  • The reports of the handwriting expert confirm the handwritten note to be written by the Appellant/Accused.
  •  At last, the counsel maintained that the verdict of The Trial Court and The Delhi High Court was just and the present appeal is mandated to be dismissed.

JUDGEMENT ANALYSIS

The Court observed in the essence of this case made the following observation 

  • that the allegation by the counsel representing the Appellant/Accussed was by the statement given by the Prosecution witness (Ashok Kumar Pathak) as per Section 166 of the CrPC stating he never stepped into the witness box. 
  • The allegations were made on no strong grounds. Moreover, the Appellant/Accussed was absconding and the efforts to catch them were made by the authorities in every possible way. He went missing for more than 10 years after the incident, establishing his guilty mind. 
  • The proclamation and attachment under Sections 80 and 83 of the CrPC were also made but the Appellant/Accussed remained untraceable for which the chargesheet was filed under Section 299 of the Procedural enactment with the signature of the prosecution witness along with the presiding officer of the court. the document also stated the examination of the police authorities in charge of the case.
  • Hence, the allegations of the statement of the prosecution witness to be made only by the police authorities under Section 166 of the CrPC remains non-maintainable. 
  • By the essence of Section 299, it was interpreted that the deposition given by the witness can be used against the absconding person in case the deponent is not found/dead or he remains absent due to circumstances 
  • Nirmal Singh v. State of Haryana ((2000) 4 SCC 41) was referred to determine the exceptions to record the statement of the witness in the situation prescribed u/s 299 of CrPC and u/s 33 of The Indian Evidence Act.
  • Considering the statement of the Prosecution Witness (Ashok Kumar Pathak), there were facts which were affirmed that are
  1. The Appellant/Accussed and the deceased were married. 
  2. The constant quarrel between the couple and allegations of infidelity on the deceased provides an ulterior motive. 
  3. The Appellant/Accussed continued to cohabitate with the deceased despite the drift in marriage. The same was witnessed by the deceased’s sister who then went away.
  4. The Appellant/Accussed stayed with the deceased the prior day to the incident. 
  5. The Prosecution Witness saw the couple together entering their residence to find both of them missing in the morning.
  6. He found the body of the deceased with multiple cuts and injuries with no whereabouts of the Appellant/Accussed. The cycle owned by the Appellant/Accussed was still parked on the residential premises.
  7. The suspicion of other individuals involved in the murder of the deceased hence remains out of the question. 
  8. The handwritten note found near the body was identified by the prosecution witness because of working together.
  9. It also established that the prosecution witness did not have any intentions to make false statements against the accused. 
  • Hence, the statement of the Prosecution witness provides for a complete chain of consequential evidence which establishes the guilt of the accused which made The Hon’ble Court of Law treat the statements as substantial evidence. 
  • The investigation conducted by the subject police authorities was not in malice 
  • The handwriting of the accused matched with the confession note and the same was proved by the handwriting expert. 
  • The chain of incidental evidence is which was observed in the above-said case are

(i) Motive

(ii) Last seen together

(iii) Medical evidence establishing that the cause of death of the deceased was homicidal.

(iv) Confessional note;

(v) Abscondence for nearly 10 years;

(vi) Wrong explanation given by the accused in his statement under Section 313 CrPC;

(vii) Failure of the accused to explain the homicidal death of his wife in the nighttime when only the accused and deceased were present in the house leading to the interference of guilt by Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

Hence, The Hon’ble Supreme Court concurred the impugned verdict given by the Lower Courts to be valid and just maintaining that the Appellant/Accussed is found guilty of the murder of his wife Usha.

The appeal was non-maintainable and hence was dismissed.

Recognising the offender was out on bail, his bail bond was cancelled and an order was made to surrender himself to The Trial Court within 60 days to serve the remaining sentence. 

CONCLUSION

The above-mentioned case sets an example of a bona-fied investigation made by the police authorities concerning assistance in establishing justice. The essence of the procedural law to assist the application of the substantial law was made in delivering justice to the deceased. The Hon’ble Supreme Court recognised the same by validating the collection of evidence by the subject authorities, validating the testimony of the prosecution witness and analysing the verdicts of The Lower Courts. However, what was found missing in the entire case was the interest of the children of the deceased and the welfare provided to the children by the state starting from the lower stage of the case. 
 

 
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