VIRENDRA VERSUS THE STATE OF M.P.

VIRENDRA VERSUS THE STATE OF M.P. 

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले


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ITEM NO.1504 COURT NO.5 SECTION II-A
(FOR JUDGMENT)
 S U P R E M E C O U R T O F I N D I A
 RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS
Criminal Appeal No(s). 466/2018
VIRENDRA Appellant(s)
 VERSUS
THE STATE OF M.P. Respondent(s)
([HEARD BY: HON. SANJAY KISHAN KAUL AND HON. M.M. SUNDRESH, JJ.] )
Date : 11-07-2022 This appeal was called on for pronouncement of
judgment today.
For Appellant(s) Mr. Aditya Vijay Kumar, Adv.
Mr. Chitranshul A. Sinha, AOR
Ms. Akshita, Adv.

For Respondent(s) Ms. Ankita Chaudhary, Dy.AG
Mr. Pashupathi Nath Razdan, AOR
Mr. Mirza Kayesh Begg, Adv.
Mr. Prakhar Srivastav, Adv.
Mr. Astik Gupta, Adv.
Ms. Ayushi Mittal, Adv.
Mr. Padmesh Mishra, Adv.
Ms. Himanshi Shakya, Adv.
 The Court pronounced the following
 J U D G M E N T
Hon'ble Mr. Justice M.M. Sundresh pronounced the judgment for
the Bench comprising Hon'ble Mr. Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and His
Lordship.
The Bench allowed the appeal in terms of the signed reportable
judgment observing inter alia as under:
“10. We have already discussed the evidence produced
both by the prosecution and the defence and the manner
in which they are dealt with by the courts. Certainly,
the evidence of PW15 cannot be relied upon as against
the other prosecution witnesses themselves, which stood
uncontroverted. The recovery having not been proved in
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the manner known to law, coupled with inadequate
evidence on record to implicate the appellant, we have
no hesitation in overturning the conviction rendered as
we do believe that the prosecution has failed in its
attempt to prove beyond reasonable doubt, that the
appellant has committed the offence. Thus, the
conviction rendered by Fourth Additional Sessions
Judge, Chhattarpur, Madhya Pradesh in Sessions Trial
No. 129 of 2001 as confirmed by the High Court of
Madhya Pradesh in Criminal Appeal No. 1367 of 2005
stands set aside and the appellant is set at liberty.
The appeal stands allowed. Pending applications, if
any, are disposed of.”
(ASHA SUNDRIYAL) (POONAM VAID)
ASTT. REGISTRAR-cum-PS COURT MASTER (NSH)
[Signed reportable judgment is placed on the file]
REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 466 OF 2018
VIRENDRA ... APPELLANT
VERSUS
STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH ... RESPONDENT
J U D G M E N T
M. M. SUNDRESH, J.
1. Life imprisonment rendered by the Court of Fourth Additional Sessions
Judge, Chhattarpur, Madhya Pradesh with the imprimatur of the High Court of
Madhya Pradesh is assailed before us.
FACTS THROUGH THE PROSECUTION EYES
2. On 27.04.2001, the deceased Main Babu was allegedly shot dead and killed
by three accused namely, Baijnath, Virendra and Suresh over a long pending
property dispute, despite verdicts in their favour. Baijnath, who was the father of
the other two accused, died during the trial. For the occurrence that happened at
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07:30 a.m., the First Information Report (FIR) was lodged by PW14, the father of
the deceased at 08:30 a.m. PW16, the Investigating Officer, arrested the accused
on the next day followed by recoveries of firearms from Virendra (appellant
herein) and Suresh and thereafter completed the investigation.
3. The accused were charged under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the
Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the provisions of the Arms Act and tried accordingly.
The prosecution examined 17 witnesses as against 8 by the defence. The trial court
rendered a conviction against the appellant and the co-accused Suresh. The coaccused did not challenge the conviction and served out his sentence. The appeal
filed by the appellant was also rejected by the High Court. Assailing the said
conviction sentencing the appellant for life the present appeal by special leave
is filed.
WITNESSES
4. We shall consider the necessary witnesses alone while testing the conviction
rendered:-
(i) PW1: He is an eyewitness who heard the gunshot. He saw the deceased lying
near the gate. There was nobody else present. Thereafter, he went to inform one
Raju and found that the body of the deceased was not available. PW3 was sitting in
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his tea stall at the time of occurrence. He stayed near the corpse for about 10 to 15
minutes. After the occurrence, numerous other people also came to witness the
deceased. He specifically states that PW15 came much later.
The evidence of PW1 actually supports the case of the defence.
Unfortunately, this witness has not been treated as hostile.
(ii) PW3: He is another witness who heard the gunshot. He saw the deceased lying
at the spot. He identified the accused in the court and thereafter deposed that they
were not present at the scene of occurrence, as the accused was shot by some other
one. He heard the gunshot being fired once by the said person who was actually
carrying the weapon while running. In his cross-examination he speaks of one
Sushil, DW2 having tea from his shop. The evidence of PW3 synchronizes with
PW1, being the tea stall owner, having heard the gunshot. He asked DW2 to inform
the family members of the deceased. Thereafter, PW15 came to the place of
occurrence and made the enquiry as to whether he witnessed the actual occurrence
to which he replied in the negative.
Unfortunately, even the evidence adduced by PW3 despite being destructive
to the prosecution version has not been impeached either by seeking to declare him
as hostile or by way of re-examination and thus allowed to stand as in the case of
PW1.
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(iii) PW7: He is the doctor who examined the deceased and conducted the postmortem. Though he deposed that the deceased died of the external injuries caused,
it is his evidence that both the major injuries, namely injury nos. 1 and 3 having the
same size with similarity qua the nature, it is possible that they are from the same
firearm and therefore, could have been caused by a single shot.
(iv) PW10: This witness is the wife of the deceased, who at the time of deposing,
was living with her brother-in-law, namely the brother of the deceased. She had not
spoken about the presence of PW15 and resiled from the prosecution version. As
wisdom dawned, she was treated as hostile at the request of the prosecution.
(v) PW13: He is the brother of the deceased. He not only deposed that he came to
the place of occurrence on being informed but also saw a girl bleeding along with
the deceased. In his chief examination, he states that he met the appellant on
27.04.2001 in police custody. This witness not only speaks about his presence after
the occurrence, having seen the deceased and the girl with injuries; but was also
called to be a mahazar witness for the recovery of arms from both the accused. It is
his evidence that the police had called him to depose along with another witness by
name Manoj Dixit, who is also a close relative but not examined. It is his further
case that the pistol was recovered from the appellant on the night of the occurrence
itself. This evidence of PW13 is contrary to the evidence of PW16, the
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investigating officer. This witness has not read the contents of the recovery
mahazar and stated to have cases pending against him.
The evidence, as discussed above, not only contradicts the one deposed by
PW16 but also that of the prosecution. It is rather strange how he was called by
the police after the arrest of the appellant for the purpose of recovery when scores
of others were available.
(vi) PW-14: PW14 is the author of the FIR. He is the father of the deceased. He
has stated that the deceased died on the spot. This statement is obviously against
the evidence of PW13. He was informed by PW15 about the occurrence. When he
went to the place of occurrence, the police were also there. However, the FIR was
recorded neither at the place of occurrence nor at the hospital as it is his case that
police told him to come to the police station from the hospital. It is also strange to
note as to how the police could reach the place of occurrence since the source of
information is not known.
(vii) PW-15: PW-15 is the star witness for the prosecution. It is the testimony of
this witness which made the courts to render the conviction. In the chief
examination, this witness states that between 8 to 8.15 a.m., he left his house to
meet the deceased for the purpose of seeking some monetary help. Thereafter, he
went in search of the deceased. We do not know as to how he could be an
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eyewitness when the prosecution case is very specific that the occurrence took
place at 7.30 a.m. This very witness was facing cases of varying types starting
from theft, dacoity, double murder and the cases under the NDPS Act. He is also a
dismissed police constable.
According to this witness, he saw only Suresh carrying the gun and shooting
the deceased. This testimony was not corroborated by all the prosecution
witnesses. Even his presence is doubted as he was seen at the place of occurrence
much after the incident. He is the one who opposed the bail application of the
appellant apart from filing an FIR for a subsequent event that he was threatened
not to depose. Despite being an ex-policeman, he did not bother to go to the police
station nearby or to inform PW10, the wife of the deceased who was residing
nearby. Instead, he went home and thereafter informed PW14 and others. It is his
evidence that there was no tea stall near the place of occurrence. In one of the
criminal charges against this witness, the accused was a witness. He admits that it
would take 15 minutes to reach the place of the deceased. Despite his evidence that
another girl was also injured, there was no investigation on this aspect by the
prosecution particularly when most of the prosecution witnesses do not speak
about her presence.
From the nature of the testimony and the background surrounding, this
witness certainly cannot be relied upon as the reputation and conduct of a man is a
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fact under Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act and thus, becomes relevant. It is
highly improbable that this witness would have been present at the place of
occurrence.
(viii) PW-16: He is the investigating officer. The investigating officer speaks about
arrest and recoveries from all the accused. In so far as the recovery of arms from
the appellant is concerned, this witness states that he did not prepare the recovery
memo under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act. There is absolutely no
evidence to show as to how the recovery was made. To many of the queries raised,
he feigned ignorance. The trial court did find that the original FIR was torn, and
the serial numbers did not tally. He admits that there may be some changes in the
paragraph numbers between the one available in the police station and the other
sent to the jurisdictional magistrate.
The evidence of PW16, having the characteristics of an opinion, cannot be
put against the appellant in the light of the assessment of the other evidence
available on record, as discussed.
(ix) DW-1 & 2: Now, we shall come to the evidence of the defence witnesses.
DW1 is the milk vendor whose presence was also spoken of by PW3. Similarly,
the presence of DW2 who was having tea in the tea stall belonging to PW3 was
also spoken of by him. These two witnesses state that the person who committed
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the offense was not the accused. However, the court rejected the evidence placing
the onus heavily on the defence and approving the statement of PW15. We may
also note that DW1 has deposed in tune with the evidence of PW1 and PW3 in so
far as the delayed presence of PW15 is concerned. Further, DW1 has stated in the
same lines as that of PW3 that the said witness has asked DW2 to inform the
family members of the deceased.
FORENSIC SCIENCE LABORATORY (FSL) REPORT
5. The FSL report given by the State Forensic Science Laboratory, Sagar, Uttar
Pradesh, states that Exhibit A-1 is a .12 bore locally manufactured pistol and
Exhibit A-2 is a .12 bore single barrel gun. It is the case of the prosecution that the
shot was fired from Exhibit A-1 while the opinion of the officer concerned
indicates that the empty cartridge was fired from Exhibit A-2. Though the courts
made reliance upon this report, we do not wish to give our seal of approval as we
find certain contradictions which have not been dispelled by the presence of the
officer who authored it.
RECOVERY
6. PW13 and one Manoj Dixit were made as witnesses to the recovery memo
from the appellant. We have already discussed the evidence of PW13 which is in
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contradiction with that of PW16. The other witness, who is also a close relative of
the deceased was not examined for reasons unknown. PW13 has stated that the
appellant was arrested on the same day therefore, his evidence creates a serious
doubt on the arrest and recovery. The place and time of arrest and recovery could
not be spoken with clarity by PW16. The prosecution tried to put up a case that
shots were fired from both the weapons which were not proved even with the
evidence available. The recovery of gun made from the co-accused was owned by
the appellant. How the weapon came into the possession of the co-accused and
who used it, has not been proved by the prosecution. Even the evidence of PWs-13
& 15 is to the effect that only one was carrying a gun and that could be the coaccused Suresh. We have already held that from the evidence produced by the
prosecution, leaving alone that of the defence, the presence of appellant in the
place of occurrence is highly improbable.
REASONING OF THE TRIAL COURT AND THE HIGH COURT
7. Both the courts shifted the burden on the defence. The evidence rendered by
the prosecution witnesses was rejected, either as that of indifferent witnesses or as
irrelevant evidence. We may note that these are all prosecution witnesses who were
not treated as hostile. No attempt whatsoever was made either to treat them as
hostile or to re-examine them except that of PW10. Not even a suggestion was put
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to them on the presence of PW15. In such a scenario, the statement made by the
prosecution witnesses in favour of the accused would certainly inure to his benefit.
Our view is fortified by the decision of this Court in Raja Ram v. State of
Rajasthan, (2005) 5 SCC 272:
“9. But the testimony of PW 8 Dr. Sukhdev Singh, who is another
neighbour, cannot easily be surmounted by the prosecution. He has testified
in very clear terms that he saw PW 5 making the deceased believe that
unless she puts the blame on the appellant and his parents she would have to
face the consequences like prosecution proceedings. It did not occur to the
Public Prosecutor in the trial court to seek permission of the court to heard
(sic declare) PW 8 as a hostile witness for reasons only known to him. Now,
as it is, the evidence of PW 8 is binding on the prosecution. Absolutely no
reason, much less any good reason, has been stated by the Division Bench
of the High Court as to how PW 8's testimony can be sidelined.”
It is reiterated in Javed Masood v. State of Rajasthan, (2010) 3 SCC 538:
“20. In the present case the prosecution never declared PWs 6, 18, 29 and 30
“hostile”. Their evidence did not support the prosecution. Instead, it
supported the defence. There is nothing in law that precludes the defence to
rely on their evidence.”
Reliance was made on the recovery from the appellant. The fact remains that
there was sufficient evidence to conclude that only one shot was fired which could
be seen even from the evidence of PW15. While assessing the evidence produced
by the defence, courts discarded them without appreciating the fact that it has to be
seen only on the degree of probability.
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SUBMISSIONS
8. Ms. Nitya Ramakrishnan learned senior counsel appearing for the appellant
reiterated the infirmities noted by us above. Additionally, it has been submitted that
literature produced before the Court on the procedure to test the firearms, the FSL
Report is found wanting. It being an opinion, at its best, ought not to have been
relied upon by the courts, particularly when the other has not been examined.
9. Per contra, Ms. Ankita Choudhary, learned Deputy Advocate General,
appearing for the State submitted that the defective trial and inconsistency in the
statement made by the prosecution witnesses per se would not absolve the accused
of guilt. There is evidence sufficiently in place to implicate the appellant. As both
the courts have considered them in extenso, there is no interference required at the
hands of this Court.
CONCLUSION
10. We have already discussed the evidence produced both by the prosecution
and the defence and the manner in which they are dealt with by the courts.
Certainly, the evidence of PW15 cannot be relied upon as against the other
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prosecution witnesses themselves, which stood uncontroverted. The recovery
having not been proved in the manner known to law, coupled with inadequate
evidence on record to implicate the appellant, we have no hesitation in overturning
the conviction rendered as we do believe that the prosecution has failed in its
attempt to prove beyond reasonable doubt, that the appellant has committed the
offence. Thus, the conviction rendered by Fourth Additional Sessions Judge,
Chhattarpur, Madhya Pradesh in Sessions Trial No. 129 of 2001 as confirmed by
the High Court of Madhya Pradesh in Criminal Appeal No. 1367 of 2005 stands set
aside and the appellant is set at liberty. The appeal stands allowed. Pending
applications, if any, are disposed of.
…….………………………J.
(SANJAY KISHAN KAUL)
……………………………J.
 (M.M. SUNDRESH)
New Delhi
July 11, 2022
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