Nanjundappa vs State of Karnataka

Nanjundappa vs State of Karnataka 

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले

Nanjundappa & Anr. … Appellants
The State of Karnataka       …Respondent

1. This   Appeal   challenges   the   judgment   and   Order
dated 07.02.2017 passed by the High Court of Karnataka
at   Bengaluru   in   Criminal   Revision   Petition   No.
1048/2010 dismissing the Petition filed by the appellants
herein.   The High Court confirmed the Judgment and
Order of the Trial Court and the First Appellate Court
convicting the Appellants under Section 304(A) read with
Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (for short ‘IPC’) and
sentencing them to undergo Simple Imprisonment for 1
year and 3 months and penalty of Rs. 3000/­ each with
default stipulation of Simple Imprisonment for 3 months.
2. Facts shorn of unnecessary details as unfolded by
prosecution are as under:
On 21.11.2003 at around 1.00p.m. Sri Uday Shankar
S/o PW2 was watching TV in his house at Molakalmuru
Town,   New   Police   Quarter   No.   13,   when   there  was  a
sudden   sound   in   the   TV.   Noticing   the   sound,   the
deceased   got   up   to   separate   the   dish   wire,   the   TV
connection   wire   and   the   telephone   wire,   which   were
entwined together. At this point, he felt an electric shock
and his right hand was burnt and as a result of this
shock he succumbed to death. Upon enquiry, during the
course of investigation, it was found that Appellant No. 2,
who   was   a   daily   wage   worker   working   under   the
supervision   of   Appellant   no.   1,   an   employee   in   the
telephone   department,   had,   while   working   on   the   DP
Pole, pulled the telephone wire. The telephone wire got
detached and fell on the 11 KV Power line and electricity
passed into the telephone wire. At this time, there was a
sound in the TV at PW2’s house and as the deceased
went to separate the telephone wire and cable wire, there
was a short circuit and thereby, the right hand of the
deceased was burnt and he died because of electrocution.
It is further alleged that  the said incident took place
because   of   the   negligent   act   on   the   part   of
Appellant/accused No. 1 and Appellant/accused No. 2. 
3. The conviction of the Appellants/Accused rests on
circumstantial   evidence   and   the   circumstances
highlighted were as follows:
(1) PW1/doctor’s   report   suggesting   that   death
was due to instantaneous cardiac arrest and
paralysis   of   the   brain   stem   secondary   to
(2) Deposition   of   PW9,10,16,   who   were   Police
Staff   residing   in   the   Delhi   police   quarters,
stating that they also touched the telephones
in   their   respective   houses   and   felt   the
presence of electricity and immediately threw
away the telephone instruments. 
(3) Evidence of PW1/doctor, who stated that on
the   same   day   he   had   examined
Appellant/Accused no. 2 for injuries as he
had sustained a fall from the pole and an outpatient slip was also issued to him. 
(4) Evidence   of   the   Prosecution   witnesses   that
the   deceased   upon   hearing   noise   from   the
television   set   first   switched   off   the   main
electricity switch and then tried to separate
the wires. However, there was still current in
the wires.
(5) Evidence of PW15, who was a higher officer in
the   Department   of   Telephone   stating   that
Appellant/accused   no.1   and   Appellant/
accused no. 2 were on duty and working on
that day. 
4. The   defence   taken   by   the   Appellants/accused   is
that on the day of the incident, they had not attended
any telephone wire repair at the place of the incident and
death of the deceased was not due to their carelessness
and negligence.  While the Appellants/accused have not
denied   the   post­mortem   report   which   attributes   the
death to instantaneous cardiac arrest and paralysis of
the brain stem secondary to shock, the source of the
shock is implied to be the television set and not the
Telephone connection.
5. After   giving   our   careful   consideration   to   the
respective submissions made by the learned Counsel for
the parties and considering the facts and circumstances
of the case and evidences on record even if we take that
the Appellants/accused were in fact working on the DP
pole on the day of the incident, we find it difficult to
believe   that   with   the   alleged   11KV   current   running
through Telephone wire, the wires did not melt; rather
with   the   alleged   volts   of  current   passing   through   the
telephone instruments PW9,10,16 were able to throw the
telephone instruments away upon contact and lived to
tell the tale unharmed. Even assuming that the deceased
and the Prosecution witnesses who received the shock
were   wearing   slippers   at   the   time   of   contact   causing
resistance in the current, 11KV is still too strong and any
contact with such a high voltage current in all probability
should have left any person who came in contact dead
and   his/her   body   charred.   For   reference   standard
domestic voltage in India is only around 220V. Hitherto,
the   evidence   by   PW9,10   &   16   is   hearsay   and
circumstantial and not worthy of any credence.
6. Now referring to PW1­Doctor’s evidence; he deposed
that Appellant no. 2 had visited him on the same day of
the incident and had suffered abrasion injuries on his
four fingers of both hands i.e., excluding the thumbs and
abrasions   on   both   thighs.   The  record   shows   that   the
deceased had also suffered abrasion injury along with
burn injuries. PW1 deposed in Examination­in­chief in
clear words that “the blood vessels of right thumb finger
and ring finger were burnt and wounds were shrinking.”
In   light   of   these   facts   the   lower   court   came   to   the
conclusion that Appellant no. 2 also suffered abrasion
injuries due to electric shock just as the deceased. This
conclusion however does not inspire confidence in our
eyes bearing in mind that if Appellant no.2 had infact
suffered an electric shock coming in contact with 11KV
high tension line and sustained a fall from the pole he
would   have   suffered   burn   injuries   too   such   as   the
deceased and such a shock along with the fall could
potentially   be   fatal.   However,   the   record   only   shows
abrasions on 4 fingers and thighs. 
7. We also   find   difficult   to   see   reason in   the
submission   that   telephone   wires   were   able   to   carry
current from an   11KV high tension line and did not
immediately melt. It is even more difficult to assimilate
that such current when passed through the television,
did not blast the television set and set the entire wiring of
the   house  on   fire.  Be  that   as it  may, the  allegations
against the Appellants are highly technical in nature and
we find that no report or even inspection was conducted
by   a   technical   expert   to   assess   the   veracity   of   the
averments made by the complainants to suggest that it
was due to the alleged acts of the Appellants that the
incident took place.
8. Even   the   evidence   of   PW15   is   circumstantial   in
nature,   who   stated   that   as   per   the   job   sheet,   the
Appellants were working at the Police quarters; however,
there   is   no   eye   witness   to   say   conclusively   that   the
Appellants were infact executing the work at the place
9. Here it would be useful to advert to the dictum in
the case of  Syad   Akbar  Vs.   State   of   Karnataka1
1 MANU/SC/0275/1979; 1979CriLJ1374
which this Court proceeded on the basis that doctrine of
res   ipsa   loquitur   stricto   sensu  would   not   apply   to   a
criminal case as its applicability in an action for injury by
negligence is well known. In Syad Akbar (supra), this
Court opined:
“29.  Such simplified and pragmatic application
of the notion of res ipsa loquitur, as a part of the
general mode of inferring a fact in issue from
another circumstantial fact is subject to all the
principles, the satisfaction of which is essential
before an accused can be convicted on the basis
of   circumstantial   evidence   alone.  These   are:
Firstly,   all   the   circumstances,   including   the
objective   circumstances   constituting   the
accident, from which the inference of guilt is to
be   drawn,   must   be   firmly   established.
Secondly,   those   circumstances   must   be   of   a
determinative   tendency   pointing   unerringly
towards the guilt of the accused.  Thirdly,  the
circumstances should make a chain so complete
that   they   cannot   reasonably   raise   any   other
hypothesis save that of the accused's guilt. That
is to say, they should be incompatible with his
innocence,   and   inferentially   exclude   all
reasonable doubt about his guilt.” 
10.     In case of circumstantial evidence, there is a risk of
jumping   to   conclusions   in   haste.   While   evaluating   such
evidence the jury should bear in mind that inference of guilt
should be the only reasonable inference from the facts. In the
present case however, the conviction of the accused persons
seems wholly unjustified against the weight of the evidence
adduced. As far as the onus of proving the ingredients of an
offence is concerned, in the judgment titled as "S.L.Goswami
Vs. State of M.P2
"  this Court held:­
"5   ..... In  our view,  the   onus   of   proving  all the
ingredients   of   an   offence   is   always   upon   the
prosecution and at no stage does it shift to the
accused. It is no part of the prosecution duty to
somehow hook the crook. Even in cases where the
defence   of   the   accused   does   not   appear   to   be
credible or is palpably false that burden does not
become any less. It is only when this burden is
discharged that it will be for the accused to explain
or   controvert   the   essential   elements   in   the
prosecution case, which would negative it. It is not
however for the accused even at the initial stage to
prove something which has to be eliminated by the
prosecution   to   establish   the   ingredients   of   the
offence with which he is charged, and even if the
onus shifts upon the accused and the accused has
to establish his plea, the standard of proof is not
the   same   as   that   which   rests   upon   the
 1972 CRI.L.J.511(SC)
11. Bearing in mind the above principles which have been
laid down in the decisions of this Court, we are of the view
that   the   Courts   below   were   not   justified   in   convicting   the
Appellants of negligence under Section 304A read with Section
34 IPC.
12. For bringing home the guilt of the accused, prosecution
has to firstly prove negligence and then establish direct nexus
between negligence of the accused and the death of the victim.
Perusal of the record reveals that out of various witnesses
arrayed by the prosecution, there are no eye witnesses. Any
evidence brought on record is merely circumstantial in nature.
We are constrained to repeat our observation that it sounds
completely preposterous that a telephone wire carried 11KV
current without melting on contact and when such current
passed through the Television set, it did not blast and melt the
wiring of the entire house. It is even more unbelievable that
Appellant no. 2   came in contact with the same voltage and
managed to get away with a few abrasions. The Appellants
therefore are entitled to be given the benefit of doubt; more so,
when there is no report of a technical expert to corroborate the
prosecution story.
13.   Accordingly,   impugned   judgment   of   conviction   and
sentence of the appellants is set aside.  The Appellants are on
bail. They shall be discharged of their bail bonds.
14. As a consequence, the appeal stands allowed.
MAY 17, 2022


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