SHAHAJA @ SHAHAJAN ISMAIL MOHD. SHAIKH VERSUS STATE OF MAHARASHTRA

SHAHAJA @ SHAHAJAN ISMAIL MOHD. SHAIKH VERSUS STATE OF MAHARASHTRA


Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 739 OF 2017
SHAHAJA @ SHAHAJAN ISMAIL MOHD. SHAIKH ……APPELLANT (S)
VERSUS
STATE OF MAHARASHTRA ......RESPONDENT(S)
J U D G M E N T
J.B. PARDIWALA, J.   :
1. This appeal, by special leave, is at the instance of a convict accused of the
offence of murder punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
(for short “IPC”) and is directed against the judgment and order passed by the
High Court of Judicature at Bombay dated 10.07.2015 in the Criminal Appeal No.
449 of 2014 by which the High Court dismissed the Appeal filed by convict
accused and thereby affirmed the judgment and order of conviction passed by
the 6th Ad-hoc Additional Sessions Judge, Sewree, Mumbai dated
08.09.2008 in the Sessions Case No. 256 of 2007.
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CASE OF THE PROSECUTION :
2. The deceased viz. Mahankal Jaiswal and the appellant herein were
working as labourers at various places in the Vile Parle area, Mumbai & were
known to each other. The deceased along with the other labourers used to sleep
underneath or on the bridge situated near the Vile Parle Railway Station. There is
also one Hanuman Temple situated near the bridge of the Vile Parle Railway
Station. The original first informant Nandlal Ramnihor Mishra (PW-1) was the
priest of the Hanuman Temple. Nandlal used to reside in a hut nearby the
Temple. On 10.12.2006 at 10:30 P.M. a quarrel ensued between the appellant
and the deceased on account of money. This quarrel took place near the ticket
window of the Vile Parle Railway Station. The quarrel between the two was
witnessed by the PW-1 Nandlal. At about 12:00 to 12:15 A.M. while the deceased
Mahankal, the PW-8 Udaysingh and others were sleeping on the bridge near the
temple, the PW-1 Nandlal heard a noise “Dhappa”. No sooner he heard the noise
than he woke up and tried to see what was happening by moving the curtain of
his hut. The PW-1 Nandlal saw the appellant assaulting the deceased with a
hammer on his head. The assault on the deceased by the appellant herein was
also witnessed by the PW-8 Udaysingh who was sleeping nearby the deceased.
After the assault the appellant walked away from the place of the incident holding
the hammer in his hand. The PW-1 Nandlal is said to have asked the appellant
while he was walking away whether he had killed Mahankal (deceased).
Thereupon, the appellant replied that he had killed Mahankal. It appears that
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nothing happened thereafter for the entire night. In the morning the police got into
action and noticed that Mahankal was lying dead. The dead body of the
Mahankal was sent for post mortem.
3. The PW-1 Nandlal lodged the First Information Report (Exh. 13) at the
Andheri Police Station on 11.12.2006 which came to be registered as the FIR No.
91/06 for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the IPC. Upon registration
of the FIR the police started with the investigation. In the course of the
investigation, statements of various witnesses were recorded. It appears that the
discovery panchnama of the weapon of the offence i.e. the hammer (Exh.23) was
also drawn on 16.12.2006 under the provisions of Section 27 of the Evidence
Act, 1872 (hereinafter referred to, “the Act”).
4. The post mortem of the dead body conducted by PW-6 Dr. Shivaji Vishnu
Kachare revealed the following external injuries:
(i) C.L.W. at right frontal region 3 cm above, right eye 2.5 cm x 2.5 cm
bone deep reddish;
(ii) C.L.W. at right frontal region, lateral to injury No. (i) 4x2 cm bone
deep reddish;
(iii) Incised like wound at right temporal parietal region, 3x1 cm into
bone deep reddish.
5. The following internal injuries were noted by Dr. Shivaji Vishnu Kachare :
i. Injury under the scalp – hemorrhage are seen at right temporal
and parietal and on frontal region, reddish in colour;
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 ii. Scalp – compound fracture on right fronto temporal bone 2 cms x 1
cm;
iii. Brain – extradural hemorrhage at right fronto temporal and parietal
region – 9 cm x 8 cm reddish;
iv. Subdural and subarchehnoid hemorrhage at right hemisphere
reddish in colour.
6. The weapon of offence i.e. the hammer was sent to the Forensic Science
laboratory for chemical analysis. As per the chemical analysis report (Exh .9) the
hammer was found stained with human blood with few hairs stuck on it.
7. At the end of the investigation the investigating agency filed chargesheet
against the appellant in the Court of the 22nd Metropolitan Magistrate, Andheri for
the offence of murder who, in turn, committed the case to the Sessions Court for
trial under the provisions of Section 209 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
(for short “Cr.PC”).
8. The trial court framed charge (Exh.2) against the appellant for the offence
punishable under Section 302 of the IPC vide order dated 06.08.2007.
9. In the course of the trial, the prosecution examined, in all, ten witnesses.
The evidence of the following witnesses is relevant for the purpose of deciding
the present appeal.
(i) PW-1 Nandlal Ramnihor Mishra (Exh.12), the original first informant
and eye witness;
(ii) PW-4 Amsu Hussain Sayyad (Exh. 21), the panch witness of the
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discovery panchnama of the weapon of offence;
(iii) PW-8 Udaysingh Ramsingh Thakur (Exh. 29), the eye witness.
(iv) PW-6 Dr. Shivaji Vishnu Kachare (Exh. 25), medical officer who
performed the postmortem;
(v) PW-10 Maruti Dattatrya Raskar (Exh. 31), the investigating officer.
10. The trial court believed the oral testimony of the two eye witnesses i.e. the
PW-1 Nandlal and PW-8 Udaysingh resply. Relying upon the oral testimony of
both these two eye witnesses, the trial court recorded the finding of guilt against
the appellant. The trial court also relied upon the evidence of discovery of
weapon i.e. the hammer at the instance of the appellant as one of the
incriminating circumstances pointing towards the guilt of the accused. The trial
court accordingly passed the judgment and order of conviction dated 08.09.2008
and sentenced the appellant to undergo life imprisonment with fine of Rs. 1,000/-
and in default to suffer further rigorous imprisonment of one month.
11. The appellant herein challenged the aforesaid judgment and order of
conviction passed by the trial court by filing the Criminal Appeal No. 449 of 2014
in the High Court of Judicature at Bombay. The High Court upon, reappreciation
of the entire evidence on record, concurred with the findings recorded by the trial
court and dismissed the appeal vide the judgment and order dated 10.07.2015.
12. In such circumstances referred to above, the appellant is here before this
Court with the present appeal.
5
SUBMISSIONS ON BEHALF OF THE APPELLANT :
13. The learned counsel appearing for the appellant vehemently submitted that
the trial court as well as the High Court committed a serious error in recording the
finding that the appellant is guilty of the offence of murder. The learned counsel
would submit that both the courts below committed a serious error in believing
the two so called eye witnesses as reliable witnesses. It was vehemently
submitted that both the eye witnesses i.e. the PW-1 and PW-8 are unreliable
witnesses. It is submitted that having regard to the genesis of the occurrence, the
place of occurrence and the time of the occurrence the incident could not have
been witnessed by the two eye witnesses.
14. The learned counsel further submitted as regards the unnatural conduct of
the PW-1 Nandlal who claims to have witnessed the assault but kept quiet for the
whole night and thought fit to lodge the FIR at the Andheri Police Station on the
next day in the morning & that too only after the police got into action. It is
submitted that the delay in informing the police, by itself, cast a doubt as to
whether the PW-1 Nandlal had actually witnessed the assault.
15. The learned counsel further submitted that the courts below ought not to
have placed any reliance on the evidence of discovery of weapon of offence at
the instance of the appellant herein.
16. In such circumstances referred to above, the learned counsel appearing
for the appellant prays that being merit in the appeal, the same may be allowed
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and the impugned judgments passed by the trial court & the High Court may be
set aside and the appellant may be acquitted of the charge.
SUBMISSIONS ON BEHALF OF THE STATE :
17. Mr. Rahul Chitnis, the learned counsel appearing for the State of
Maharashtra, on the other hand, has vehemently opposed this appeal by
submitting that no error, not to speak of any error of law, could be said to have
been committed by the courts below in holding the appellant herein guilty of the
offence of murder. He would submit that this Court in exercise of powers under
Article 136 of the Constitution may not disturb the concurring findings of fact
recorded by the trial court and the High Court respectively. He would submit that
both the courts below have thought fit to believe the oral testimony of the two eye
witnesses and even otherwise also there is no good reason to disbelieve the two
eye witnesses to the incident. He would submit that over and above the oral
evidence of the two eye witnesses, there is an additional piece of evidence
pointing towards the guilty of the accused in the form of the discovery of the
weapon of offence (hammer) at the instance of the appellant. He would submit
that the panchnama of the discovery of the weapon of offence drawn under the
provisions of Section 27 of the Act is one additional circumstance going against
the appellant.
18. In such circumstances referred to above, the learned counsel for the State
prays that there being no merit in this appeal, the same may be dismissed.
7
ANALYSIS :
19. Having heard the learned counsel appearing for the parties and having
gone through the materials on record, the only question that falls for our
consideration is whether the High Court committed any error in passing the
impugned judgment and order?
SCOPE AND WIDTH OF APPEAL :
20. It is now well settled that the power of this Court under Article 136 of the
Constitution of India is exercisable even in cases of concurrent findings of fact
and such powers are very wide but in criminal appeals this Court does not interfere with the concurrent findings of fact save in exceptional circumstances. This
view was expressed by this Court way back in the year 1958 in the case of State
of Madras v. A. Vaidyanatha Iyer, (1958) SCR 580. In this decision, this Court
held that in Article 136 the use of the words “Supreme Court, may in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination,
sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal
in the territory of India” shows that in criminal matters distinction can be made between a judgment of conviction or acquittal. This Court further observed that this
Court will not readily interfere with the findings of fact given by the High Court
and the court of first instance but if the High Court acts perversely or otherwise
8
improperly, interference may be made. In that decision, this Court had set aside
a judgment of acquittal on facts as salient features of the case were not properly
appreciated or given due weight by the High Court and its approach to the question whether a sum of Rs 800 was an illegal gratification or a loan was such that
the High Court had acted perversely or otherwise improperly. From this decision
it is, therefore, clear that this Court in the exercise of its power under Article 136
is entitled to interfere with findings of fact if the High Court acts perversely or otherwise improperly, that is to say, the judgment of the High Court was liable to be
set aside when certain salient features of the case were not properly appreciated
or given due weight by the High Court. Again, in H.P. Admn. v. Om
Prakash, (1972) 1 SCC 249 : (1972) SCC (Cri) 88, this Court, while considering
its power under Article 136 to interfere with the findings of fact observed as follows: (SCC p. 256, para 4)
“4. In appeals against acquittal by special leave under Article 136, this
Court has undoubted power to interfere with the findings of fact, no
distinction being made between judgments of acquittal and conviction,
though in the case of acquittals it will not ordinarily interfere with the
appreciation of evidence or on findings of fact unless the High Court
‘acts perversely or otherwise improperly’.”
21. Again, in Balak Ram v. State of U.P., (1975) 3 SCC 219: (1974) SCC
(Cri) 837, this Court also held that the powers of the Supreme Court under Article
136 of the Constitution are wide but in criminal appeals this Court does not interfere with the concurrent findings of fact save in exceptional circumstances.
In Arunachalam v. P.S.R. Sadhanantham, (1979) 2 SCC 297: (1979) SCC (Cri)
9
454, this Court, while agreeing with the views expressed on the aforesaid mentioned decisions of this Court, has thus stated: (SCC p. 300, para 4)
“4. The power is plenary in the sense that there are no words in Article
136 itself qualifying that power. But, the very nature of the power has
led the court to set limits to itself within which to exercise such power.
It is now the well-established practice of this Court to permit the invocation of the power under Article 136 only in very exceptional circumstances, as when a question of law of general public importance arises
or a decision shocks the conscience of the court. But, within the restrictions imposed by itself, this Court has the undoubted power to interfere even with findings of fact, making no distinction between judgments of acquittal and conviction, if the High Court, in arriving at those
findings, has acted ‘perversely or otherwise improperly’.” (emphasis
supplied)
22. In Nain Singh v. State of U.P., (1991) 2 SCC 432 : (1991) SCC (Cri) 421,
in which all the aforesaid decisions as referred to hereinabove were considered
and after considering the aforesaid decisions on the question of exercise of
power under Article 136 of the Constitution and after agreeing with the views expressed in the aforesaid decisions, the Court finally laid down the principle that
the evidence adduced by the prosecution in that decision fell short of the test of
reliability and acceptability and, therefore, was highly unsafe to act upon it.
In State of U.P. v. Babul Nath, (1994) 6 SCC 29 : 1994 SCC (Cri) 1585, this
Court, while considering the scope of Article 136 as to when this Court is entitled
to upset the findings of fact, observed as follows: (SCC p. 33, para 5)
“5. At the very outset we may mention that in an appeal under Article
136 of the Constitution this Court does not normally reappraise the evidence by itself and go into the question of credibility of the witnesses
and the assessment of the evidence by the High Court is accepted by
the Supreme Court as final unless, of course, the appreciation of evidence and finding is vitiated by any error of law of procedure or found
10
contrary to the principles of natural justice, errors of record and misreading of the evidence, or where the conclusions of the High Court are
manifestly perverse and unsupportable from the evidence on record.”
23. From the aforesaid decisions of this Court on the exercise of power of the
Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Constitution, the following principles
emerge:
(i) The powers of this Court under Article 136 of the Constitution are very
wide but in criminal appeals this Court does not interfere with the concurrent findings of fact save in exceptional circumstances.
(ii) It is open to this Court to interfere with the findings of fact recorded by the
High Court if the High Court has acted perversely or otherwise improperly.
(iii) It is open to this Court to invoke the power under Article 136 only in very
exceptional circumstances as and when a question of law of general public
importance arises or a decision shocks the conscience of the Court.
(iv) When the evidence adduced by the prosecution falls short of the test of reliability and acceptability and as such it is highly unsafe to act upon it.
(v) Where the appreciation of evidence and finding is vitiated by any error of
law of procedure or found contrary to the principles of natural justice, errors of record and misreading of the evidence, or where the conclusions of
the High Court are manifestly perverse and unsupportable from the evidence on record.
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24. Keeping the aforesaid principles in mind, we shall proceed to scrutinize the
materials on record.
25. It appears from the evidence on record, more particularly the evidence of
the PW-1 Nandlal Ramnihor Mishra (Exh. 12), that both, the deceased and appellant herein were known to him. The PW-1 Nandlal knew both as they all used
to reside in the same locality i.e. nearby the Hanuman temple situated at the Vile
Parle railway station. The PW-1 in his oral evidence has talked about the fight
that first ensued at 10:30 P.M. between the deceased and the appellant somewhere near the west ticket window of Vile Parle Railway Station. The fight between the two was on account of money. It appears that thereafter at about 12:00
in the night while the deceased was sleeping, the appellant herein laid an assault
on the head of the deceased with a hammer. The PW-1 Nandlal witnessed the
same on hearing the noise. After the assault was over, the PW-1 is also said to
have confronted the appellant herein by asking him whether he had killed the deceased. We do not find anything improbable in the examination-in-chief of Nandlal (PW-1) more particularly considering a very scant & deficient cross-examination. We take notice of the fact that except a minor contradiction in the form of an
omission, nothing substantial could be elicited from the cross examination of the
PW-1 so as to render his entire evidence doubtful.
26. The PW-8 Udaysingh Ramsingh Thakur (Exh.29) is also one of the eye
witnesses to the incident. He also knew the deceased as well as the appellant as
they all used to work as labourers in the locality of Vile Parle. So far as the evi12
dence of the PW-8 Udaysingh is concerned the defence has been able to bring
on record a major contradiction in the form of an omission as the PW-8 in his police statement recorded under Section 161 of the Cr.PC had not stated anything
about the appellant inflicting blows with a hammer on the head of the deceased.
The PW-8 in his cross-examination stated that he had no idea as to why the police did not record in his police statement the factum of assault with the hammer.
However, the PW-8 in his evidence has deposed that after the incident the appellant was confronted by the PW-1 Nandlal. Some part of the evidence of the PW-8
corroborates the oral testimony of the PW-1 Nandlal.
27. The appreciation of ocular evidence is a hard task. There is no fixed or
straight-jacket formula for appreciation of the ocular evidence. The judicially
evolved principles for appreciation of ocular evidence in a criminal case can be
enumerated as under:
I. While appreciating the evidence of a witness, the approach must be
whether the evidence of the witness read as a whole appears to have a
ring of truth. Once that impression is formed, it is undoubtedly necessary
for the Court to scrutinize the evidence more particularly keeping in view
the deficiencies, drawbacks and infirmities pointed out in the evidence as a
whole and evaluate them to find out whether it is against the general tenor
of the evidence given by the witness and whether the earlier evaluation of
the evidence is shaken as to render it unworthy of belief.
II. If the Court before whom the witness gives evidence had the opportunity to
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form the opinion about the general tenor of evidence given by the witness,
the appellate court which had not this benefit will have to attach due weight
to the appreciation of evidence by the trial court and unless there are
reasons weighty and formidable it would not be proper to reject the
evidence on the ground of minor variations or infirmities in the matter of
trivial details.
III. When eye-witness is examined at length it is quite possible for him to
make some discrepancies. But courts should bear in mind that it is only
when discrepancies in the evidence of a witness are so incompatible with
the credibility of his version that the court is justified in jettisoning his
evidence.
IV. Minor discrepancies on trivial matters not touching the core of the case,
hyper technical approach by taking sentences torn out of context here or
there from the evidence, attaching importance to some technical error
committed by the investigating officer not going to the root of the matter
would not ordinarily permit rejection of the evidence as a whole.
V. Too serious a view to be adopted on mere variations falling in the narration
of an incident (either as between the evidence of two witnesses or as
between two statements of the same witness) is an unrealistic approach
for judicial scrutiny.
VI. By and large a witness cannot be expected to possess a photographic
memory and to recall the details of an incident. It is not as if a video tape is
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replayed on the mental screen.
VII. Ordinarily it so happens that a witness is overtaken by events. The witness
could not have anticipated the occurrence which so often has an element
of surprise. The mental faculties therefore cannot be expected to be
attuned to absorb the details.
VIII. The powers of observation differ from person to person. What one may
notice, another may not. An object or movement might emboss its image
on one person's mind whereas it might go unnoticed on the part of another.
IX. By and large people cannot accurately recall a conversation and reproduce
the very words used by them or heard by them. They can only recall the
main purport of the conversation. It is unrealistic to expect a witness to be
a human tape recorder.
X. In regard to exact time of an incident, or the time duration of an
occurrence, usually, people make their estimates by guess work on the
spur of the moment at the time of interrogation. And one cannot expect
people to make very precise or reliable estimates in such matters. Again, it
depends on the time-sense of individuals which varies from person to
person.
XI. Ordinarily a witness cannot be expected to recall accurately the sequence
of events which take place in rapid succession or in a short time span. A
witness is liable to get confused, or mixed up when interrogated later on.
XII. A witness, though wholly truthful, is liable to be overawed by the court
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atmosphere and the piercing cross examination by counsel and out of
nervousness mix up facts, get confused regarding sequence of events, or
fill up details from imagination on the spur of the moment. The subconscious mind of the witness sometimes so operates on account of the
fear of looking foolish or being disbelieved though the witness is giving a
truthful and honest account of the occurrence witnessed by him.
XIII. A former statement though seemingly inconsistent with the evidence need
not necessarily be sufficient to amount to contradiction. Unless the former
statement has the potency to discredit the later statement, even if the later
statement is at variance with the former to some extent it would not be
helpful to contradict that witness.
[See Bharwada Bhoginbhai Hirjibhai v. State of Gujarat, 1983 Cri LJ
1096 : AIR 1983 SC 753, Leela Ram v. State of Haryana, AIR 1999 SC
3717, and Tahsildar Singh v. State of UP, AIR 1959 SC 1012]
28. To put it simply, in assessing the value of the evidence of the eyewitnesses, two principal considerations are whether, in the circumstances of the
case, it is possible to believe their presence at the scene of occurrence or in such
situations as would make it possible for them to witness the facts deposed to by
them and secondly, whether there is anything inherently improbable or unreliable
in their evidence. In respect of both these considerations, the circumstances
either elicited from those witnesses themselves or established by other evidence
16
tending to improbabilise their presence or to discredit the veracity of their
statements, will have a bearing upon the value which a Court would attach to
their evidence. Although in cases where the plea of the accused is a mere denial,
yet the evidence of the prosecution witnesses has to be examined on its own
merits, where the accused raise a definite plea or puts forward a positive case
which is inconsistent with that of the prosecution, the nature of such plea or case
and the probabilities in respect of it will also have to be taken into account while
assessing the value of the prosecution evidence.
29. There is nothing palpable or glaring in the evidence of the two eye-witnesses on
the basis of which we can take the view that they are not true or reliable eye-witnesses.
Few contradictions in the form of omissions here or there is not sufficient to discard the
entire evidence of the eye-witnesses.
30. In the aforesaid context, we may refer to a decision of this Court in the case of
State of U.P. v. Anil Singh, AIR 1988 SC 1998, wherein in para 15, it is observed thus :
“15. It is also our experience that invariably the witnesses add embroidery
to prosecution story, perhaps for the fear of being disbelieved. But that is
no ground to throw the case overboard, if true, in the main. If there is a
ring of truth in the main, the case should not be rejected. It is the duty of
the court to cull out the nuggets of truth from the evidence unless there is
reason to believe that the inconsistencies or falsehood are so glaring as
utterly to destroy confidence in the witnesses It is necessary to remember
that a Judge does not preside over a criminal trial merely to see that no
innocent man is punished. A Judge also presides to see that a guilty man
does not escape. One is as important as the other Both are public duties
which the Judge has to perform.”
31. The medical evidence on record further corroborates the ocular version of
the eye witnesses. The PW-6 Dr. Shivaji Vishnu Kachare (Exh. 25) in his evidence has deposed that the cause of death is due to the head injury. The expert
17
witness has also deposed that all the injuries were in the nature of Contused Lacerated Wound & could have been caused by a weapon like hammer.
32. The chemical analysis report (Exh.10) of the forensic science laboratory indicates that there were stains of human blood on the hammer matching with the
blood group of the deceased i.e. ‘A’ group.
33. Thus, having regard to the aforesaid, we are of the view that both the
courts below rightly believed the two eye witnesses i.e. the PW-1 and PW-8 resply. We see no good reason to take a different view of their evidence than the
one taken by the two courts below.
DISCOVERY PANCHNAMA DRAWN UNDER SECTION 27 OF THE EVIDENCE
ACT:
34. Having taken the view that there is no good reason for us to disbelieve the
two eye witnesses referred to above, we could have stopped and closed the matter. However, we have noticed something very important so far as the law on
Section 27 of the Act is concerned as discussed by the two courts below. To put it
otherwise, we have noticed a serious infirmity in the reasonings assigned by the
trial court as affirmed by the High Court so far as the position of law as regards
the discovery of weapon of offence under Section 27 of the Act is concerned. If
we overlook or ignore the same then probably the trial courts may keep committing the same mistake & in such circumstances, we would like to explain the correct position of law and how to appreciate the evidence of discovery in accordance with the provisions of the Section 27 of the Act.
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35. The prosecution examined the PW-4 Amsu Hussain Sayyad (Exh. 21) as
one of the panch witnesses to prove the discovery panchnama (Exh. 23).
36. We must first look into the examination-in-chief of the PW-4 in this regard.
The PW-4 in his examination-in-chief stated as under:
“The police officers told me that I have to act as a panch witness. In my
presence the person who is police custody narrated that, he concealed a
weapon adjacent the shoe shop at parla. Accordingly in my presence his
statement recorded by the police. Police obtained my signature on the
memorandum-cum-statement of the accused. The memorandum-cumstatement now shown to me bears my signature. It contents are true and
correct. The said memorandum is exhibited at Exh. 22. Thereafter, I myself,
another person, two to three police officers and accused went in Vile Parle
East, outside the railway station of Vile Parle East. There was a wooden
bench near the shoe shop. The accused in our presence withdrew an iron
hammer from the wooden bench and handed over the same to the police.
Police recorded the panchnama of said hammer in my presence and took
its possession. The panchnama now shown to me is the same. It bears my
signature. It contents are true and correct. It is at Exh. 23.”
37. We may not refer to the cross examination of the PW-4 at the instance of
the defence as it is not relevant.
38. We may now look into the evidence of the PW-10, the investigating officer.
In his examination-in-chief, he has deposed as regards the discovery as under:
“On 16th December, 2006 the accused made a disclosure statement in
presence of panch witnesses that he was ready and willing to point out the
place where he had concealed the hammer in Vile Parle area. Accordingly,
I drew the memorandum panchnama of the disclosure of statement of the
accused in presence of panch witnesses. The memorandum panchanama
at Ex. 22 now shown to me is the same. It bears my signature and signature of panch witnesses. Its contents are true and correct. Thereafter, I myself, panch witnesses and accused on the basis of information given by
the accused went at the shop Jaibhawani footwear in Vile Parle on Vallabhai Patel road. Thereafter, accused went in open place between railway
compound wall and wooden bench. He picked the hammer from the said
open place and handed over to us. Accordingly, I seized the said hammer
by preparation of recovery panchanama. The hammer was having a
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wooden handle and iron case. I saw blood stains hairs sticked to the said
hammer. The recovery panchanama at Ex. 23 now shown to me bears my
signature and signature of panch witnesses. Its contents are true and correct.”
39. From the aforesaid it is evident that the learned public prosecutor who conducted the prosecution before the trial court did not take the pains to bring on
record the substantive evidence of the aforesaid two witnesses i.e. the PW-4 and
PW-10 resply, the fact of the accused having made a statement that he had concealed the hammer and he was inclined to show that spot, even though it has
been recorded in the panchnama (Exh. 22) that the accused made such a statement. The learned public prosecutor does not appear to have realized that there
should be substantive evidence on record in this regard and that the panchnama
can be used only to corroborate the evidence of the panch and not as a substantive piece of evidence. It appears that the panchnamas (Exh.22 and 23 resply)
were shown to the panch (PW-4) and he admitted his signature and, therefore, it
was exhibited at Exhs.22 and 23 respectively. The examination-in-chief of the
PW-4 does not show that he was read over the panchnama before it was exhibited. This Court has time and again impressed upon the necessity of reading over
the panchnama which can be used as a piece of corroborative evidence. In spite
of this, it is regrettable that the learned trial judge did not take the pains to see
that the panchnama was read over to the panch before it was exhibited. A panch20
nama which can be used only to corroborate the panch has to be read over to
the panch and only thereafter it can be exhibited. If the panch has omitted to
state something which is found in the panchnama, then after reading over the
panchnama the panch has to be asked whether that portion of the panchnama is
correct or not and whatever reply he gives has to be recorded. If he replies in the
affirmative, then only that portion of the panchnama can be read into evidence to
corroborate the substantive evidence of the panch. If he replies in the negative,
then that part of the panchnama cannot be read in evidence for want of substantive evidence on record. It is, therefore, necessary that care is taken by the public
prosecutor who conducts the trial that such a procedure is followed while examining the panch at the trial. It is also necessary that the learned trial judge also
sees that the panchnama is read over the panch and thereafter the panchnama
is exhibited after following the procedure as indicated above.
40. In the aforesaid context, we may refer to and rely upon the decision of this
Court in the case of Murli and another v. State of Rajasthan reported in (2009)
9 SCC 417: (2010) 1 SCC (Cri) 12. We got the relevant observations:
“34. The contents of the panchnama are not the substantive evidence.
The law is settled on that issue. What is substantive evidence is what has
been stated by the panchas or the person concerned in the witness box.”
41. One another serious infirmity which has surfaced is as regards the authorship of concealment by the person who is said to have discovered the weapon.
42. The conditions necessary for the applicability of Section 27 of the Act
are broadly as under:
21
(1) Discovery of fact in consequence of an information received from
accused;
(2) Discovery of such fact to be deposed to;
(3) The accused must be in police custody when he gave
 informations and
(4) So much of information as relates distinctly to the fact thereby
discovered is admissible – Mohmed Inayatullah vs The State of
Maharashtra: AIR (1976) SC 483: (1975) Cur LJ 668
Two conditions for application –
(1) information must be such as has caused discovery of the fact;
and
(2) information must relate distinctly to the fact discovered
-Kirshnappa vs State Of Karnataka : AIR (1983) SC 446 : (1983
)Cr LJ 846
43. We may refer to and rely upon a Constitution Bench decision of this Court in
the case of State of Uttar Pradesh v. Deoman Upadhyaya reported in AIR
(1960) SC 1125, wherein, the Supreme Court in Paragraph-71 has explained the
position of law as regards Section 27 of the Act as under:
“71. The law has thus made a classification of accused persons into
two: (1) those two have the danger brought home to them by detention on a charge; and (2) those who are yet free. In the former category are also those persons who surrender to the custody by words or
action. The protection given to these two classes is different. In the
case of persons belonging to the first category the law has ruled that
their statements are not admissible, and in the case of the second
category, only that portion, of the statement is admissible as is guaranteed by the discovery of a relevant fact unknown before the statement to the investigating authority. That statement may even be confessional in nature, as when the person in custody says: “I pushed
him down such and such mineshaft”, and the body of the victim is
found as result, and it can be proved that his death was due to injuries received by a fall down the mineshaft.”
22
44. The scope and ambit of Section 27 of the Act were illuminatingly stated in
Phulukuri Kottaya v. Emperor, AIR (1947) PC 67, which have become locus
classicus, in the following words:
"It is fallacious to treat the 'fact discovered' within the section as
equivalent to the object produced; the fact discovered embraces the
place from which the object is produced and the knowledge of the
accused as to this, and the information given must relate distinctly to this
fact. Information supplied by a person in custody that 'I will produce a
knife concealed in the roof of my house' does not lead to the discovery
of a knife; knives were discovered many years ago. It leads to the
discovery of the fact that a knife is concealed in the house of the
informant to his knowledge, and if the knife is proved to have been used
in the commission of the offence, the fact discovered is very relevant.
But if to the statement the words be added 'with which I stabbed 'A"
these words are inadmissible since they do not relate to the discovery of
the knife in the house of the informant."
45. What emerges from the evidence of the PW-4 & PW-10 resply is that the
appellant stated before the panch witnesses to the effect that "I will show you
the weapon concealed adjacent the shoe shop at Parle”. This statement does
not suggest that the appellant indicated anything about his involvement in the
concealment of the weapon. Mere discovery cannot be interpreted as sufficient
to infer authorship of concealment by the person who discovered the weapon.
He could have derived knowledge of the existence of that weapon at the place
through some other source also. He might have even seen somebody
concealing the weapon, and, therefore, it cannot be presumed or inferred that
because a person discovered the weapon, he was the person who had
concealed it, least it can be presumed that he used it. Therefore, even if
23
discovery by the appellant is accepted, what emerges from the substantive
evidence as regards the discovery of weapon is that the appellant disclosed
that he would show the weapon used in the commission of offence.
46. In Dudh Nath Pandey v. State of U. P., AIR (1981) SC 911, this Court
took into consideration a very similar fact situation and observed in paragraph
15 that, if the case is dependent on circumstantial evidence, different
considerations would have prevailed because the balance of evidence after
excluding the testimony of the two eye-witnesses was not of the standard
required in cases dependent wholly on circumstantial evidence (as is the case
here). This Court observed that the evidence of discovery of pistol at the
instance of the appellant cannot, by itself, prove that he who pointed out the
weapon wielded it in the offence. The statement accompanying the discovery
was found to be vague to identify the authorship of concealment and it was held
that pointing out the weapon may, at the best, prove the appellant’s knowledge
as to where the weapon was kept.
47. Thus, in the absence of exact words, attributed to an accused person, as
statement made by him being deposed by the Investigating Officer in his
evidence, and also without proving the contents of the panchnamas, the trial
Court was not justified in placing reliance upon the circumstance of discovery of
weapon.
48. Even while discarding the evidence in the form of discovery panchnama
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the conduct of the appellant herein would be relevant under Section 8 of the Act.
The evidence of discovery would be admissible as conduct under Section 8 of
the Act quite apart from the admissibility of the disclosure statement under
Section 27, as this Court observed in A.N. Venkatesh v. State of Karnataka,
(2005) 7 SCC 714,:
“By virtue of Section 8 of the Evidence Act, the conduct of the accused
person is relevant, if such conduct influences or is influenced by any fact
in issue or relevant fact. The evidence of the circumstance, simpliciter,
that the accused pointed out to the police officer, the place where the
dead body of the kidnapped boy was found and on their pointing out the
body was exhumed, would be admissible as conduct under Section
8 irrespective of the fact whether the statement made by the accused
contemporaneously with or antecedent to such conduct falls within the
purview of Section 27 or not as held by this Court in Prakash Chand Vs.
State (Delhi Admn.) [(1979) 3 SC 90]. Even if we hold that the disclosure
statement made by the accused appellants (Ex. P14 and P15) is not
admissible under Section 27 of the Evidence Act, still it is relevant
under Section 8.”
49. In the State (NCT of Delhi) v. Navjot Sandhu, (2005) 11 SCC 600, the
two provisions i.e. Section 8 and Section 27 of the Act were elucidated in detail
with reference to the case law on the subject and apropos to Section 8 of the Act,
wherein it was held:
“Before proceeding further, we may advert to Section 8 of the Evidence
Act. Section 8 insofar as it is relevant for our purpose makes the conduct of
an accused person relevant, if such conduct influences or is influenced by
any fact in issue or relevant fact. It could be either previous or subsequent
conduct. There are two Explanations to the Section, which explains the ambit
of the word 'conduct'. They are:
Explanation 1 : The word 'conduct' in this Section does not include
statements, unless those statements accompany and explain acts other than
statements, but this explanation is not to affect the relevancy of statements
under any other Section of this Act.
25
Explanation 2 : When the conduct of any person is relevant, any statement
made to him or in his presence and hearing, which affects such conduct, is
relevant.
The conduct, in order to be admissible, must be such that it has close nexus
with a fact in issue or relevant fact. The Explanation 1 makes it clear that the
mere statements as distinguished from acts do not constitute 'conduct' unless
those statements "accompany and explain acts other than statements". Such
statements accompanying the acts are considered to be evidence of res
gestae. Two illustrations appended to Section 8 deserve special mention.
(f) The question is, whether A robbed B.
The facts that, after B was robbed, C said in A's presence --the police are
coming to look for the man who robbed B", and that immediately afterwards A
ran away, are relevant.
* * *
(i) A is accused of a crime.
The facts that, after the commission of the alleged crime, he absconded, or
was in possession of property or the proceeds of property acquired by the
crime, or attempted to conceal things which were or might have been used in
committing it, are relevant.
We have already noticed the distinction highlighted in Prakash Chand's case
(supra) between the conduct of an accused which is admissible
under Section 8 and the statement made to a police officer in the course of
an investigation which is hit by Section 162 Cr.P.C. The evidence of the
circumstance, simpliciter, that the accused pointed out to the police officer,
the place where stolen articles or weapons used in the commission of the
offence were hidden, would be admissible as 'conduct' under Section
8 irrespective of the fact whether the statement made by the accused
contemporaneously with or antecedent to such conduct, falls within the
purview of Section 27, as pointed out in Prakash Chand's case. In Om
Prakash case (supra) this Court held: Even apart from the admissibility of the
information under Section, the evidence of the Investigating Officer and the
Panchas that the accused had taken them to PW11 (from whom he
purchased the weapon) and pointed him out and as corroborated by PW11
himself would be admissible under Section 8 of the Evidence Act as 'conduct'
of the accused".
50. Further, in the aforesaid context, we would like to sound a note of caution.
Although the conduct of an accused may be a relevant fact under Section 8 of
the Act, yet the same, by itself, cannot be a ground to convict him or hold him
guilty and that too, for a serious offence like murder. Like any other piece of evidence, the conduct of an accused is also one of the circumstances which the
26
court may take into consideration along with the other evidence on record, direct
or indirect. What we are trying to convey is that the conduct of the accused
alone, though may be relevant under Section 8 of the Act, cannot form the basis
of conviction.
51. In the ultimate analysis, we have reached to the conclusion that there is no
merit in the present appeal.
52. The appeal accordingly fails and is hereby dismissed.
………………………………………..J.
(SURYA KANT)
………………………………………..J.
(J.B. PARDIWALA)
NEW DELHI;
JULY 14, 2022
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