RAJBIR SINGH VS THE STATE OF PUNJAB

RAJBIR SINGH VS THE STATE OF PUNJAB


Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले


REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL  APPEAL NO. 2152 of 2010
RAJBIR SINGH               …APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
THE STATE OF PUNJAB     …RESPONDENT(S)
J U D G M E N T
Vikram Nath, J.
This appeal is directed against the judgment
and order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court
dated 29.10.2009 whereby the appeal filed by the
appellant was dismissed, confirming the judgment
of   the   Sessions   Judge,   Bathinda   dated
08.04.2005   convicting   the   appellant   under
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Section   302   of   Indian   Penal   Code   18601
  and
sentencing him to undergo rigorous imprisonment
for life and pay a fine of Rs.1,000/­, in default of
payment   of   fine,   to   further   undergo   rigorous
imprisonment for three months.
2. The prosecution story begins with the lodging
of the First Information Report by Joginder Singh
(PW 1­ husband of the deceased) at Police Station
Kotwali,   District   Bathinda   on   18th  September,
2000 at 7 PM. According to the complainant, his
son Gursharan Singh in the morning at around
07.45 am brought 1 kg of milk from the house of
Rajbir Singh (appellant) who used to reside in the
neighbourhood and was carrying on business of
dairy farm and selling milk with the help of his
wife   Sheela.   The   appellant   was   known   to   the
1 In short “IPC”
2
complainant being resident of the neighbourhood.
To help the appellant purchase buffaloes and for
domestic needs, he had borrowed Rs.1 lakh from
the informant about 7/8 months before. He had
also executed a pronote in that respect.  The milk
as brought by Gursharan Singh (PW­2) was kept
in the refrigerator. At about 12.30 PM his wife
Kuldeep Kaur @ Bhajno felt hungry and as she
was   resting   due   to   some   uneasiness,   the
informant himself took out some milk from the
jug kept in the refrigerator and after boiling the
same gave it to her. After sipping the milk once,
she remarked that the milk was bitter in taste
and after sipping further, she further remarked
that there was some defect with the milk. Then he
also smelled the milk lying in the jug from which
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a pungent smell was coming.   In the meantime,
his wife felt irritation on her lips and also became
restless.  He called his son Gursharan Singh(PW2), who took his mother on his scooter to the
Children and General Hospital.  He also followed.
As the condition of his wife had deteriorated, she
was referred to the Civil Hospital, Bathinda where
she breathed her last after some time.  He further
stated in his complaint that he was of the firm
belief that Rajbir Singh and his wife Sheela had
mixed some poisonous substance in the milk in
order   to   eliminate   his   family.   His   wife   died
because of the poisonous milk.  He and his wife
were demanding their money from Rajbir Singh
but he was making excuses and on account of
this grudge he poisoned the milk and hence a
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report   be   registered   and   appropriate   action   be
taken. 
3. Dr.   K.S.   Brar   (PW­12),   Emergency   Medical
Officer at Children and General Hospital   after
examining Kuldeep Kaur referred her to the Civil
Hospital considering her serious condition, and
also sent information to the police. SI Balwant
Singh   (PW­7)   who   was   in­charge   of   the   Canal
Colony Police Post, Bathinda, left for the Children
and General Hospital and from there proceeded to
the Civil Hospital where the doctor informed him
about   the   death   of   Kuldeep   Kaur.   He   met
Joginder Singh (PW1) at the Hospital, he gave his
statement which was recorded and which after
being   read   over   was   signed   by   Joginder   Singh
(PW­1).   SI   Balwant   Singh   (PW­7)   made   an
endorsement   on   the   same   (Ex­PA/1)   for
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registering the case.  On its basis formal FIR (ExPA/2) was registered.
4. The inquest report (Ex­PE) was prepared by
the Investigating Officer.  The dead body was sent
for  post­mortem  examination  in   the   custody  of
Head   Constable   Kapur   Chand   (PW­5)   and
Constable   Satpal   (PW­10).     Necessary   police
papers were prepared.   The Investigating Officer
on the next day inspected the place of occurrence,
prepared the site plan (Ex­PK).  He also collected
the sample of milk lying in the jug as also the
boiled milk which was lying in the glass.   They
were packed and sealed. The utensils in which the
milk was kept were also taken into custody and a
recovery memo (Ex­PM) was prepared of all the
recovered items.  The statement of witnesses was
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recorded   under   Section   161   of   the   Code   of
Criminal   Procedure,   19732
.     Charge­sheet   was
submitted  against Rajbir Singh –  the appellant
only.  
5. Cognizance was taken. Magistrate committed
the case for trial to the Sessions Court. The Trial
Judge on 22.01.2002 read out the charge under
Section 302 of IPC to the appellant who denied
the same, pleaded not guilty and claimed to be
tried.   Thereafter,   the   trial   proceeded,   and   five
witnesses were examined. Dr. K.S. Brar who had
first examined the deceased at the Children and
General   Hospital   was   examined   as   PW­1;   Dr.
Avtar Singh who had conducted the autopsy was
examined as PW­2; Head Constable Satpal who
had accompanied the dead body for autopsy and
2 Hereinafter referred to as “CrPC”
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had carried the sealed samples to the laboratory
was examined as PW­3; Head Constable Kapur
Chand who had taken the dead body for postmortem was examined as PW­4 and Gursharan
Singh son of the deceased was examined as PW­5
on 14.03.2003.
6. At   this   stage,   Sheela   Devi   wife   of   the
appellant was summoned under Section 319 of
CrPC   vide   order   dated   08.04.2003.   Thereafter,
both   the   accused   were   again   read   out   fresh
charge under section 302 read with Section 34 of
IPC on 08.07.2003. Both the accused denied the
charge, pleaded not guilty and claimed to be tried.
They also stated that they would cross­examine
all the witnesses who had already been examined.
7. From the record it appears that the witnesses
already   examined   were   re­examined   before   the
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Trial   Court   by   the   prosecution   although   in   a
different   sequence.   In   all   12   witnesses   were
examined by the prosecution as follows ­
i. PW­1 ­ Joginder Singh, informant.
ii. PW­2   ­   Gursharan   Singh,   son   of   the
deceased.
iii. PW­3   ­   Balwinder   Singh,   brother   of
informant, to prove the pro note.
iv. PW­4 ­ Dr. Avtar Singh, who conducted the
autopsy.
v. PW­5 ­ Head Constable Kapur Chand, who
had carried the body of the deceased for postmortem.
vi. PW­6 ­ Head Constable Darshan Singh, with
whom the articles of post­ mortem report and
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the parcel containing clothes of the deceased
were deposited.
vii. PW­7   ­   Sub   Inspector   Balwant   Singh,   the
Investigating Officer.
viii. PW­8   ­   Sub   Inspector   Manjeet   Singh,   who
had arrested Rajbir Singh on 12.06.2001.
ix. PW­9 – A.S.I Kuldeep Singh, who had taken
into possession the pronote (Ex­PB) and had
also   recorded   the   statements   of   marginal
witness of pronote.
(At   this   stage,   statement   of   both   the   accused
under   Section   313   of   CrPC   was   recorded   on
10.11.2004   by   putting   all   the   incriminating
material   to   them.     Thereafter,   three   more
witnesses were examined.)
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x. PW­10 ­ Head Constable Satpal Singh who
had   carried   the   recovered   material   and
viscera to the laboratory.
xi. PW­11 ­ Constable Paramjeet Singh, who had
delivered the Special Reports to the Judicial
Magistrate.
xii. PW­12   ­   Dr.   K.S.   Brar,   who   had   first
examined the deceased at the Children and
General Hospital. 
After the  above  three  witnesses were  examined
the additional incriminating material was put to
both   the   accused   and   their   supplementary
statement   was   recorded   under   Section   313   of
CrPC on 09.03.2005.
8. Both the accused were examined twice under
Section   313   CrPC  and   the   entire   incriminating
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material   was   put   to   them.     They   denied   the
prosecution evidence and pleaded innocence and
stated that they were falsely implicated.   It was
further stated by them that the complainant was
running the business of Committees in which the
appellant   was   also   a   member   of   the   said
Committees; that he had made payment for the
Committees but some members of the Committees
had   refused   to   make   the   payment   of   the
remaining   instalments,   although   they   had
received full amount from the Committees; due to
this   reason   the   financial   position   of   the
complainant had become very weak; the appellant
had not received the due amount of Committees
and was demanding the same from the informant;
it   is   for   this   reason   that   he   has   been   falsely
implicated so that the complainant may get rid of
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the   said   burden;   the   deceased   might   have
committed suicide due to her family’s financial
crisis. The accused did not lead any oral evidence
in defence, however, he filed one document (ExD1) copy of the order dated 22.11.2004 of the
Civil Court. 
9. The samples of milk and the utensils which
were seized by the Investigating Officer along with
viscera were sent for chemical examination. Two
reports were received from the laboratory – one is
dated 31.1.2001 (Ex­PF) and the other is dated
5.2.2001 (Ex­PG).  
10. According   to   Ex­PF,   the   sealed   packet
contained – 
i. A sealed jar said to contain brain, heart and
lung parts;
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ii. A sealed jar said to contain parts of liver,
spleen   and kidney;
iii. A sealed jar said to contain parts of large
intestine with stomach; 
11. In   the   analysis   an   organophosphorus
compound, a group of insecticides was found in
the contents of samples (i) to (iii). No poison was
found in the contents of sample (iv).  In the report
of Ex­PF there is no mention of sample (iv).  There
is description of only three samples of the organs
of the body.   There is also cutting on the report
which would be discussed at a later stage.
12. Ex­PG   consisted   of   six   sealed   parcels   as
follows:
i. Plastic   shishi   duly   sealed   said   to   contain
unboiled milk;
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ii. One   sealed   plastic   shishi   said   to   contain
boiled milk given to the deceased;
iii. One sealed plastic shishi said to contain milk
taken from unboiled milk;
iv. One sealed steel jug empty with glass stained
with milk;              
v. One sealed Dolu and glass;
vi. One aluminium frying pan.
In this report also there is a cutting of similar
nature as Ex­PF.  The result of the analysis was
an   organophosphorus   compound,   a   group   of
insecticides, was found in the contents of samples
(i) to (vi).  
13. Both the reports Ex­PF and Ex­PG mention
that open case was received by the signatory from
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Dr.   O.P.   Goyal   on   22.11.2000   after   his
suspension. 
14. It would also be relevant to refer to the postmortem   report   at   this   stage.   According   to   the
post­mortem report (Ex­PD) it was conducted on
19.09.2000   at  11.10  AM.     With  respect  to the
cause of death it was stated in the report that the
same would be declared after receiving the report
of the Chemical Examiner. No external or internal
injury was noticed on the body of the deceased.
All the organs inside the body were reported to be
healthy.   It was also reported that the probable
time that had lapsed between death and the postmortem   was   within   24   hours.   Viscera   was
preserved and handed over to the police.
15. The   Trial   Court   vide   judgment   dated
08.04.2005 found that all the ingredients which
16
proved the death by poisoning were present and
charge   was   proved   by   the   prosecution.   It   also
found   that   there   was   no   clinching   evidence
against   Sheela,   wife   of   the   appellant   and
accordingly acquitted her giving benefit of doubt.
However, the evidence established the charge of
murder   against   the   appellant   and   he   was
convicted under Section 302 of IPC.   The Trial
Court did not find the offence to be in the ambit of
rarest   of   rare   cases   and   accordingly   sentenced
him to undergo imprisonment for life and pay a
fine of Rs.1,000/­ and in default thereof to further
undergo rigorous imprisonment for three months.
16. The   appellant   preferred   appeal   before   the
High   Court,   registered   as   Criminal   Appeal
No.355/2005.   The   High   Court,   vide   impugned
judgment and order dated 29th October, 2009 did
17
not find any infirmity in the judgment of the Trial
Court and accordingly dismissed the appeal. This
has given rise to the present appeal.
17. The Trial Court as well as the High Court
found   that   the   chain   of   circumstances   was
complete   in   order   to   establish   the   guilt   of   the
appellant.   According   to   both   the   Courts,   the
prosecution   had   fully   established   the   charge
against the appellant of adding poison to the milk
supplied   to   the   son   of   the   informant,   and   the
same   having   been   consumed   by   the   deceased,
resulted in her death.   The finding is that there
was a motive to commit the said offence in order
to save the appellant from returning the loan of
Rs.   1   lakh   taken   from   the   informant.     The
chemical analysis of the boiled milk consumed by
the   deceased,   the   unboiled   milk,   the   container
18
(dolu) in which the milk was kept and the glass in
which   the   milk   was   tendered,   all   contained
organophosphorus,   the   poisonous   substance.
The   second   chemical   report   also   reflected   that
there was the same substance organophosphorus
in the parts of the organs (viscera) of the deceased
sent for analysis. Both the Courts below relied on
the chemical analysis reports (Ex­PF and PG). 
18. Having considered the submissions advanced
by the learned counsel for the parties and having
perused not only the material on record of the
appeal but also the original record of the trial, we
are   of   the   view   that   both   the   courts   below
committed an error in recording conviction for the
reasons detailed hereinafter. 
19. We will first briefly refer to the evidence led
by the prosecution. 
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20. PW­1   Joginder   Singh   in   his   statement
supported the prosecution story as narrated by
him.  He has also given details of the recovery of
the milk and utensils from his residence.  In his
cross­examination he has admitted that he was
running   business   of   Committees   of   which   the
appellant was member in five Committees. The
members of the Committees paid instalments. The
appellant Rajbir Singh was not making regular
payments towards the Committees; that he was
not   maintaining   the   record   regarding   the
Committees.  He denied that the alleged pronote
and the receipt were executed in connection with
the account of the Committees.   He also stated
that when he smelled the milk in the glass or the
jug, he did not find any difference in the odour of
the milk and both the utensils.   He also denied
20
that he had kept rat killer poison in his house.
He   further   denied   that   some   members   of   the
Committee who had received the amount of the
Committee had become defaulters and that they
did   not   pay   the   amount   due   towards   the
Committees.     He   denied   his   relations   being
strained with them.  He also denied that there is
any quarrel with his wife and he also denied that
the facts of financial crisis and quarrel between
the husband  and wife  and she had committed
suicide.  It was also put to him that the witnesses
of the pronote were residents of Kaliawali Mandi
where he used to reside earlier.  He accepted that
the pronote and receipt were not got attested from
any   resident   of   the   locality   where   he   and   the
appellant were staying at the time of execution of
the pronote. It was also suggested to him that the
21
witnesses of the pronote and the receipt did not
know Rajbir Singh.  He states that his wife did not
vomit at both the hospitals and she had only one
motion at the Children and General Hospital.  It
was suggested to him that his wife did not die due
to poisoning but because of tension and stress
which was denied by him.
21. PW­2 Gursharan Singh, son of the deceased,
has also supported the prosecution story in his
examination­in­chief.   In   his   cross­examination,
he has admitted that Rajbir Singh was a member
of the Committees run by his father.   He was
confronted with his statement recorded in Ex­DA
that he had stated that his father owed money
from   Rajbir   Singh   in   connection   with   the
committees  and  had   executed   pronote  for  Rs.1
lakh.     He,   however,   reiterated   the   prosecution
22
case  that Rajbir Singh (appellant) had  received
Rs.1 lakh from his father and had executed the
pronote.   He   was   then   confronted   with   the
statement   Ex­DA   where   he   had   not   mentioned
about   Sheela   taking  a   jug  from   him,   both   the
accused inside the room and then the appellant
coming out with the jug and handing it over to
him.  He stated that he had recorded this fact in
the  statement   Ex­DA  before   the   police  but   the
same was not recorded.  He also denied of keeping
poison in his house to kill rats.  He then admits
that some members of the Committees had taken
away the amount of the Committees and had not
returned   the   amount   to   his   father.   He   also
admitted that other members of the Committees
who   were   paying   instalments   regularly   were
demanding the amount from his father.   It was
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also   suggested   to   him   that   they   were   facing
financial   crisis;   that   there   used   to   be   quarrel
between   his   father   and   mother   due   to   the
financial   problems   and   that   his   mother   had
committed   suicide.   All   three   suggestions   were
denied by him. 
22. The   pronote   has   been   proved   by   PW­3
Balwinder   Singh,   who   is   real   brother   of   the
informant.  He admits that he had never seen the
original pronote and receipt.
23. PW­4   Dr.   Avtar   Singh   had   conducted   the
autopsy.  He proved the post­mortem report and
its contents.   He has further stated that he had
prepared   the   four   jars   out   of   which   three   jars
contain the viscera and the fourth jar contained
saturated   saline.   He   also   stated   that   he   has
received all the police papers before conducting
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the autopsy.   He also stated that after receiving
the report of the Chemical Examiner Ex­PF he
had   declared   the   cause   of   death   was   due   to
poisonous compound found in the viscera. In his
cross­examination he stated that in the case of
poison   the   colours   of   nail   turn   into   a   bluish
colour   and   the   colour   of   the   body   also   turns
bluish.   He stated that the body was not bluish
and, therefore, he had not mentioned it in the
post­mortem   report.     He   further   stated   that
remaining viscera’s poison gives a foul smell. He
was asked whether he observed or felt the foul
smell to which he stated that he neither observed
such   smell   nor   he   felt   the   foul   smell   while
conducting   the   post­mortem   examination.     He
also stated that upon opening the stomach a foul
smell   will   come   in   case   it   is   a   case   of
25
organophosphorus poison.  He further stated that
he did not experience any foul smell after opening
the stomach and as such did not mention it in the
post­mortem   report.     He   was   then   suggested
whether the muscles of the body shrink in case of
poisoning   which   he   denied   but   he   clearly   said
that he did not observe symptoms of poisoning
and on that account he did not mention it in the
post­mortem report. He further stated that in case
organophosphorus poison is put in the milk it will
give smell even to a person who is standing at
some distance from the utensil in which milk with
such poison is kept.
24. PW­5   Head   Constable   Kapur   Chand   is   a
formal witness who had carried the body of the
deceased   for   post­mortem   and   he   affirmed   the
contents of his affidavit (Ex­PH).
26
25. PW­6 Head Constable Darshan Singh is also
a formal witness with whom the articles of postmortem report and the parcel containing clothes
of the deceased were deposited.  He affirmed the
contents of his affidavit (Ex­PJ).
26. PW­7 Sub­Inspector, Balwinder Singh is the
Investigating Officer. He stated that he received
the   information   about   the   poisoning   from   the
Children   and   General   Hospital   whereupon   he
went there and later went to the Civil Hospital
where the deceased had been shifted.  At the Civil
Hospital   he   was   informed   by   the   doctor   that
Kuldeep Kaur had already died. There he recorded
the statement of the informant, got his signatures
made thereon and himself made endorsement for
registering   the   case   (Ex­PA/1)   which   he   duly
proved and also proved the formal FIR (Ex­PA/2)
27
recorded by ASI Harbans Singh.   He thereafter
prepared the inquest report and sent the dead
body   for   autopsy   in   the   custody   of   Head
Constable–Kapur   Chand   (PW­5)   and   Constable
Satpal (PW­10) along with request memo (Ex­PD).
He then states that on the next day he visited the
house of the deceased, prepared the rough site
plan (Ex­PK).  He collected the utensils and milk
and   prepared   the   recovery   memo   (Ex­PL).
Thereafter, he went to the Civil Hospital where he
was   handed   over   the   parcel   of   viscera   by
constable Satpal along with other papers given by
PW­4 conducting the post­mortem and also the
other articles and clothes returned by PW­4. He
deposited the case property with Head Constable
Darshan Singh at police station Kotwali.   In his
cross­examination, the Investigating Officer states
28
that he did not go to the house of the appellant
Rajbir Singh for house search on the same day
but visited there later on. He states that he did
not   find   any   container   in   the   house   of   the
appellant.   He   also   admits   that   he   did   not
investigate regarding purchase of poison by the
appellant.  He also admits that he did not make
any house search of the house of the informant.
He then states that Gursharan Singh (PW­2) had
not   stated   the   presence   of   Sheela   along   with
Rajbir   and   that   they   had   taken   the   container
inside the room and that both of them had poured
the   milk.     He   then   states   that   he   cannot   say
whether anyone can tamper with the milk during
the intervening period of 18th to 19th September. It
is interesting to note that the Investigating Officer
says that when milk was boiled in his presence on
29
19.09.2000   when   he   visited   the   house   of   the
informant,   it   was   emitting   foul   smell   in   great
extent.     He   also   stated   that   even   the   two
witnesses   Manjit   Singh   and   Harbans   Singh
(witnesses   of   recovery)   stated   that   there   was
pungent smell to a great extent.   He also states
that many other persons were purchasing milk
from   Rajbir   Singh   but   none   of   them   had
complained about the quality of the milk.  He also
states that he did not arrest Rajbir Singh during
investigation.  He, however, denied that he did not
arrest   Rajbir   Singh   as   there   was   no   evidence
against him. He also stated that the doctors in
both the hospitals did not disclose to him that the
deceased   had   vomited   or   was   having   loose
motions.   
30
27. PW   8   Sub­Inspector   Manjit   Singh   had
arrested the appellant on 12.06.2001. 
28. PW­9 ASI Kuldeep Singh stated that he had
taken into possession the pronote (marked ‘X’) on
16.07.2001   and   that   he   had   recorded   the
statements   of   the   marginal   witnesses.     In   the
cross­examination he states that he had not seen
the original pronote and receipt; that he had no
knowledge   whether   the   payment   had   actually
been made or not. 
29. PW­10   Satpal   was   accompanying   the   dead
body for post­mortem and also had delivered the
viscera and parcel of the recovered utensils and
milk   to   the   chemical   laboratory.   In   his   crossexamination   he   had   stated   that   he   did   not
remember how many seals were affixed on the
parcel.     He   further   states   that   the   parcel   was
31
received on 21.09.2000 at 10­11 AM which he
kept with him.   In the night it was kept in the
police station and that he had stayed at the police
station overnight.  It was on 22.09.2000 that the
parcels were delivered at the laboratory. 
30. PW­11 Constable Paramjit Singh has stated
that he received a special report at 9.15 PM dated
18.09.2000 and on the next morning at 07.00 AM
he   gave   the   special   report   to   the   Judicial
Magistrate, Bathinda. 
31. PW­12 Dr K.S.Brar, on the relevant date was
posted as an Emergency Officer at the Children
and General Hospital, Bathinda.   He states that
on the said day the deceased had come to the
hospital with suspected case of poisoning.   He
informed the police and thereafter referred her to
the   Civil   Hospital   considering   her   serious
32
condition.     In   the   cross­examination   he   had
stated that the phosgene gas smell was coming
from the mouth of the patient and he had given
treatment   to   the   patient   regarding   aluminium
phosphide poisoning.   He further states that the
patient was vomiting but he did not remember
whether she had passed motion or not. It was
suggested   to  him  that   the   deceased   was   never
admitted to the hospital for treatment and that he
was deposing falsely for covering up the delay at
the instance of the police, which he denied.   He
also stated that he did not know about the body
temperature   of   the   patient   at   the   time   of   her
arrival.  He also did not produce the OPD register
as it was not summoned.  
32. It would be relevant to note that PWs 10, 11
and 12 were examined after the prosecution had
33
closed   its   evidence   on   27.10.2004   and   the
statements of both the accused under Section 313
CrPC were recorded on 10.11.2004.
33. The Trial Court proceeded on the premise that
the appellant had not denied the execution of the
pronote while discussing the motive. This fact is
apparently   not   correct   in   as   much   as   the
appellant   in   his   statement   under   section   313
CrPC   recorded   on   10.11.2004   had   specifically
denied not only borrowing of the money but also
that he never executed the pronote. The question
as framed and the answer is reproduced below:
“Q: It is further in evidence against
you that you had borrowed a sum of
Rs.   One   Lac   from   father   of   PW­5
Gursharan Singh and had executed
a pronote and receipt for the same
on   01.01.2000.   PW   Gursharan
singh was demanding amount from
you and putting of the matter and
agreed   to   pay   amount   on
34
18.09.2000. What have you to say
about it?
A: It is false evidence against me. I
had   never   borrowed   the   said
amount and I had never executed
the said pronote.”
34.   Further   the   Trial   Court   did   not   take   into
consideration the time gap from the alleged time
of collecting the milk from the appellant till the
time it was administered and further the time the
samples were collected. It also did not give any
importance   to   the   post­mortem   report   and   the
statement of Dr. Avtar Singh who had conducted
the   autopsy.   The   use   of   compound
organophosphorus   has   a   homicidal   purpose
because of its extremely strong pungent smell has
also not received due attention by the Trial Court.
The   High   Court   judgment   was   cryptic   and
evidence had been only cursorily dealt with.
35
35.   This   is   a   murder   case   of   circumstantial
evidence by poisoning. In a case of circumstantial
evidence, the five golden principles as laid down
by this Court in the case of Sharad Birdhichand
Sarda   vs.  State  of  Maharashtra3
   as stated in
paragraph 153 of the report read as follows:
“A   close   analysis   of   this   decision
would   show   that   the   following
conditions must be fulfilled before a
case against an accused can be said
to be fully established:
(1)   the   circumstances   from   which
the   conclusion   of   guilt   is   to   be
drawn should be fully established.
It may be noted here that this Court
indicated   that   the   circumstances
concerned 'must or should' and not
'may   be'   established.   There  is   not
only   a   grammatical   but   a   legal
distinction between 'may be proved'
and 'must be or should be proved'
as was held by this Court in Shivaji
Sahabrao Bobade & Anr. v. State of
Maharashtra,   (1973)   2   SCC   793,
where   the   following   observations
were made:
3 (1984) 4 SCC 116
36
"Certainly,   it   is   a   primary
principle   that   the   accused
must be and not merely may
be   guilty   before   a   court   can
convict   and   the   mental
distance between 'may be' and
'must be' is long and divides
vague   conjectures   from   sure
conclusions."
(2) The facts so established should
be   consistent   only   with   the
hypothesis   of   the   guilt   of   the
accused, that is to say, they should
not   be   explainable   on   any   other
hypothesis except that the accused
is guilty,
(3) the circumstances should be of a
conclusive nature and tendency.
(4)   they   should   exclude   every
possible hypothesis except the one
to be proved, and
(5)   there   must   be   a   chain   of
evidence so complete as not to leave
any   reasonable   ground   for   the
conclusion   consistent   with   the
innocence of the accused and must
show that in all human probability
the act must have been done by the
accused.”
36.   Before   laying   down   the   five   aforesaid
principles,  Justice   Fazal   Ali  speaking   for   the
37
Court in                     paragraph 152 extracted a
paragraph from the case of Hanumant vs. State of
Madhya   Pradesh   as   stated   by   Mahajan,   J.
Paragraph 152 is                                     reproduced
hereunder:
“Before discussing the cases relied
upon by the High Court we would
like to cite a few decisions on the
nature,   character   and   essential
proof   required   in   a   criminal   case
which   rests   on   circumstantial
evidence   alone.   The   most
fundamental and basic decision of
this Court is Hanumant v. The State
of   Madhya   Pradesh,AIR   1952   SC
343,. This case has been uniformly
followed and applied by this Court
in a large number of later decisions
up­to­date, for instance, the cases
of  Tufail   (Alias)   Simmi   v.   State   of
Uttar   Pradesh,(1969)   3   SCC   198
and   Ramgopal   v.   State   of
Maharashtra, (1972) 4 SCC 625. It
may   be   useful   to   extract   what
Mahajan,   J.   has   laid   down   in
Hanumant's case (supra):
"It   is   well   to   remember
that   in   cases   where   the
evidence is of a circumstantial
nature,   the   circumstances
from which the conclusion of
38
guilt is to be drawn should in
the   first   instance   be   fully
established and all the facts so
established   should   be
consistent   only   with   the
hypothesis of the guilt of the
accused.   Again,   the
circumstances should be of a
conclusive   nature   and
tendency and they should be
such   as   to   exclude   every
hypothesis   but   the   one
proposed to be proved. In other
words, there must be a chain
of evidence so far complete as
not   to   leave   any   reasonable
ground   for   a   conclusion
consistent with the innocence
of the accused and it must be
such as to show that within all
human   probability   the   act
must have been done by the
accused."”
37.   These   golden   principles   have   remained
unaltered and are still followed. One of the issues
to be considered in the present case would be as
to whether the chain of evidence was so complete
so as not to leave any reasonable ground that
39
there could be any other hypothesis except the
one put forward by the prosecution.
38. With respect to the case of poisoning, this
Court in the case of  Sharad   Birdichand  Sarda
(supra)  further   laid   down   four   important
circumstances   for   recording   a   conviction   in
paragraph 165 which is reproduced hereunder:
“165.   So   far   as   this   matter   is
concerned, in such cases the court
must   carefully   scan   the   evidence
and   determine   the   four   important
circumstances   which   alone   can
justify a conviction:
(1)   there   is   a   clear   motive   for   an
accused to administer poison to the
deceased,
(2) that the deceased died of poison
said to have been administered,
(3) that the accused had the poison
in his possession,
(4) that he had an opportunity to
administer   the   poison   to   the
deceased.”
40
39. The principles laid down in the case of Sharad
Birdichand   Sarda(supra)  have   remained
unaltered and even as recently as 11.08.2022 this
Court in    Criminal Appeal No.25 of 2012, Ram
Niwas vs. State of Haryana, has relied upon the
same with approval. It is also well settled that
suspicion,     howsoever strong it may be, cannot
replace proof beyond reasonable doubt.
40. In the background of the above legal position
we now proceed to analyze the evidence and draw
our conclusions.
41.  The motive set up by the prosecution that
appellant had taken a loan of Rs. 1 lakh and had
executed a pronote as well as receipt is denied by
the appellant. In his statement under section 313
CrPC, there is specific denial of borrowing any
41
money   and   also   executing   of   pronote.     The
defence set up in the cross­examination of PW­1,
PW­2   and   PW­7   as   also   the   statement   under
section 313 of CrPC was that the informant was
carrying on a business of Committees of which
the appellant was a member and there was an
amount due from the informant to the appellant.
Running   of   business   of   Committees   by   the
informant;   there   being   defaulters;   there   being
financial   loss   is   admitted.     According   to   the
appellant,   amount   was   due   to   him   from   the
informant and that he had been falsely implicated
to deprive him from recovering the same from the
informant.  A case of false implication, therefore,
cannot be ruled out.
42
42. Reliance   placed   upon   the   pronote   and   the
receipt   is   also   not   proved   in   as   much   as   the
original was not produced, rather a false plea was
raised   that   it   was   filed   before   the   Civil   Court,
which stands belied by the Ex­D/1 filed by the
appellant, and secondly, no attesting witness was
produced by the prosecution.
43.   The   next   question   which   arises   for
consideration   is   as   to   whether   mixing   of   the
poisonous compound in the milk was done by the
appellant or it could have been done by someone
else, and for the same there are two windows.
First, the time between the collection of milk from
the appellant on the morning of the fateful day,
till the time it was consumed by the deceased,
was about five hours. Second window being the
43
time after consumption of milk at around 12:30
PM on the fateful day, till the next day when the
Investigating   Officer   recovered   and   took   into
possession the sample of milk and the utensils,
which had a gap of about 20­24 hours.  Total time
gap   from   the   time   milk   was   collected   from
appellant till the samples were collected is more
than 24 hours.  Chances of mixing poison during
this period  cannot be  ruled  out.   Defence  had
cross­examined   both   PW­1   and   PW­2   on   this
aspect.
44.   The   next   question   which   arises   for
consideration is whether the death of deceased
was   caused   due   to   consumption   of
organophosphorus, a poisonous compound or for
any   other   reason.   Organophosphorus   has   a
44
strong  pungent   smell.   This   smell   could   not   be
sensed   by   the   informant,   his   son   as   also   the
deceased.   The   milk   which   is   said   to   be
adulterated with the poison was taken out from
the refrigerator, transferred into a pan for boiling
and thereafter given to the deceased. If it actually
had organophosphorus in it the smell would have
filled up the room. The deceased being a healthy
woman aged 45 years would not have consumed
it if the pungent smell was coming from the milk.
Even the informant (PW­1) did not sense any foul
smell from the milk while boiling it. It would be
worthwhile to refer to a judgment of this Court in
Jaipal   vs.  State  of  Haryana4
. It was a case of
aluminium phosphite (sulphas) which also has a
strong pungent smell. It is observed that such
4 (2003) 1 SCC 169
45
compounds are generally used for suicide rather
than in a case of homicide. Further, Dr. Avtar
Singh (PW­4) who had conducted the autopsy has
clearly stated in both his statements that he did
not find any smell of organophosphorus coming
out of the body. The first statement was recorded
on   08.04.2002   and   the   second   statement   was
recorded on 03.11.2003, in both the statements
he had stated that he had not seen any change in
colour of nails as also in the body, which would
have   been   a   common   symptom   in   the   case   of
poisoning.   He   had   also   deposed   that   all   the
organs of the body were healthy. Even though he
admits   in   the   case   of   poisoning   by
organophosphorus   there   would   be   shrinking   of
the muscles, however, there was no squeezing or
shrinking in the outside muscles of the abdomen,
46
which were healthy.  According to him, there were
no   symptoms   of   poisoning   noticed   during   the
autopsy despite the fact that it was reported in all
police   papers   about   the   case   being   that   of
poisoning.   PW­4   must   have   been   careful   in
observing   whether   any   symptoms   of   poisoning
were present in the body.   This may lead to an
inference that death could have been caused by
some other reason but not poisoning.  In so far as
the chemical examination report is concerned it
could be a case of tampering with the samples for
the reasons discussed above and hereinafter.
45.   The   presence   of   organophosphorus   in   the
milk, utensils, and the viscera is proved by the
Reports of Chemical Examiner dated 31.01.2001
(Ex­PF) and 05.02.2001 (Ex­PG). The sample was
47
received in the laboratory on 22.09.2000, whereas
as per the two  reports,  it  was  received by the
Assistant   Chemical   Examiner,   Dr.   Sandeep
Kakkar, on 22.11.2000 from one Dr. O.P. Goel
after his suspension, not in a sealed form, but as
an   open   case.   This   note   “This   opened   case,
received by me from Dr. O.P. Goel on 22.11.2000
after his suspension.” is typed out in both the
reports after an overwriting /cutting is made by
using alphabet “X” continuously.  Ex­PF mentions
that there were three sealed jars in the sealed
parcel which contained parts of organs. This ExPF does not mention of any fourth jar, whereas as
per the post­ mortem report and the statement of
Dr. Avtar Singh (PW­4), four sealed packets were
sent, three containing parts of organs, and one
containing the saline solution. The result refers to
48
presence of organophosphorus compound in the
three sealed jars and it also refers to no poison
found in the contents of fourth jar. The fourth jar
does   not   find   mention   in   the   description   of
contents in Ex­PF. The other report, Ex­PG of the
Assistant   Chemical   Examiner,   Dr.   Sandeep
Kakkar, is with respect to the recovery made by
the Investigating Officer on the next day of the
incident,   which   included   milk,   boiled   and
unboiled and the utensils. This also had a similar
cutting, and a note attached that it was received
as an open case from Dr. O.P. Goel on 22.11.2000
after his  suspension.  The  result as reported is
that organophosphorus compound was found in
contents of all the Exhibit Nos. (i) to (vi).
46. The following doubts arise from the perusal
of the reports of the Chemical Examiner: 
49
i. That samples were not handed over to the
Assistant   Chemical   Examiner   who   had   to
conduct the analysis in a sealed form.
ii. The   cutting,   and   a   fresh   note   regarding
parcels being open also creates a doubt.
iii. Chances of tampering with the samples could
not be ruled out.
47.   The   Investigation   Officer   admits   of   having
made no effort to find out as to whether or not the
appellant   was   in   possession   of   the   poisonous
substance   said   to   be   mixed   in   the   milk.   The
Courts below have proceeded on the assumption
that   organophosphorous   was   available   in   every
household.
48. From the above discussion, it is more than
evident that chain of evidence has many missing
50
and weak links. None of essential ingredients to
record   conviction   in   a   case   of   circumstantial
evidence and that of poisoning case are made out.
Prosecution   has   thus   failed   to   bring   home   the
guilt.
49. Taking   an   overall   view   of   the   evidence   on
record, we are of the firm view, that prosecution
has not established the charge beyond reasonable
doubt so as to record conviction under Section
302 of IPC. The appellant deserves to be extended
benefit   of   doubt.   Accordingly,   the   appeal   is
allowed, the judgments of the High Court and the
Trial   Court   are   set   aside,   the   appellant   is
acquitted. He is already on bail.  His bail bond is
cancelled and sureties are discharged.
…………..........................J.
51
[HEMANT GUPTA]
………….........................J.
[VIKRAM NATH]
NEW DELHI
AUGUST 24, 2022
52

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