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Key takeaways

  • The MP High Court heard a criminal reference case and a criminal appeal arising from the same judgement. The accused was found guilty of crimes under the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012.
  • The HC stated that the Court relied on circumstantial evidence in this case because there was no direct evidence. However, when there is no eye witness, the Court must be more cautious.
  • The Court sentenced the accused to life in prison until his natural death due to the heinous nature of the charges against him.

Background

  • The title of the case is "In Reference (Suo Moto) vs Yogesh Nath @ Jogesh Nath" (CRRFC No. 05/2020)
  • The MP High Court heard two cases, a criminal reference case and a criminal appeal arising from the same judgment passed by Fifth Additional Sessions Judge & Special Judge (POCSO Act, 2012), Gwalior (MP).
  • The accused was found guilty of offences under the Indian Penal Code (Sections 363, 377, 302, and 201) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012 (Sections 3 and 4).
  • On the same day, the Additional Sessions Judge & Special Judge (POCSO Act, 2012) imposed a death punishment on the accused of the offences outlined before.
  • A Division Bench of Justice G.S. Ahluwalia and Justice Rajeev Kumar Shrivastava heard the appeal challenging the order of conviction.

Contentions By the Appellant

  • The counsel for the appellant argued that the case lacked direct evidence and was instead dependent on circumstantial evidence and an insufficient chain of circumstances.
  • It was stated that the prosecution's witnesses' statements contain significant discrepancies and omissions, and no witness had proven the last seen evidence.
  • It was also contended that DNA samples were not adequately transmitted on time. Also, the accused's pubic hairs were cut with a razor while collecting, so the DNA report cannot be relied upon.
  • The counsel claimed that the conviction was erroneous, illegal, and contrary to the evidence. Also, the present case did not meet the "rarest of rare" criteria, and thus a death sentence could not be imposed.

Contentions By the State:

  • The counsels stated that the prosecution case was unaffected because the last seen witnesses are relatives of the deceased. The spot map prepared reflects the accused's modus operandi and the intention to commit the offence.
  • It was also contended that all precautions were taken during DNA testing. A doctor confirmed DNA profiling and provided specific findings regarding the accused's involvement.
  • The counsels also stated that the conviction and sentence were made in accordance with the law.

Observations By the Court

  • The MP High Court noted that as there was no direct evidence, and the Court relied on circumstantial evidence. However, the Court must be more cautious when analyzing circumstantial evidence when there is no eye witness.
  • The Court further stated that guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and the circumstantial evidence must be connected only to establish the accused's guilt. The evidence of guilt must be conclusive.
  • The Court also cited Mohd. Mannan v. State of Bihar (2019), where it was held that a death sentence imposed the same day as the order of conviction did not vitiate the sentence if the convict was given a meaningful and effective hearing on the issue of sentence under Section 235(2) CrPC.
  • The Court noted that the accused-appellant was not given sufficient opportunity to present mitigating circumstances supported by affidavits. Given the defendant's youth, the Court stated that the sentencing order did not consider alternative punishment or rehabilitation.

Order of the Court

  • Upon reviewing many court precedents and pertinent clauses of the IPC and POCSO Act, the Court determined that the prosecution had proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt and that the accused had been properly convicted.
  • The Bench noted that a reprieve or sentence reduction after 14 years of imprisonment was possible; however, it ordered against it. As a result of the heinous charges against the accused, the Court sentenced him to life in prison until his natural death.

Questions:

  • What is circumstantial evidence?
  • What are Sections 3 and 4 of the POCSO Act, 2012?
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