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Sunday, August 10, 2014

How to appreciate the Evidence - Sections 498-A, 304-B, 201 and 176 of the Indian Penal Code (for short 'IPC') read with Sections 3, 4 and 6 (2) of the Dowry Prohibition Act. - Trial court acquitted the accused - High court convicted the accused - Apex court held that The High Court is correct in its observation that it was not appropriate for the trial court to expect documentary evidence regarding acceptance of dowry as generally such a record would not be kept since it was not a commercial transaction. The High Court also appears to be justified in its observation that non production of the villagers to prove the dowry demand would not be fatal. and further held that Strangely, the High Court has discarded Mahazar drawn by PW-8 by giving a spacious reason viz. it was not an exhibited document before the Court, little realising that this was the document produced by the prosecution itself and even without formal proof thereto by the prosecution, it was always open for the defence to seek reliance on such an evidence to falsify the prosecution version. and further held that it is well established that if two views are possible on the basis of evidence on record and one favourable to the accused has been taken by the trial court, it ought not to be disturbed by the appellate court. We thus, find that there were no solid and weighty reasons to reverse the verdict of acquittal and to convict the appellant under the given circumstances. Accordingly, we allow this appeal and set aside the judgment of the High Court, holding that the appellant is not guilty of the charges foisted against him. = CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1671 OF 2011 |RAMAIAH @ RAMA |…..APPELLANT(S) | | | | |VERSUS | | |STATE OF KARNATAKA |…..RESPONDENT(S) =2014 Aug. Part – http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41816

How to appreciate the Evidence - Sections  498-A, 304-B, 201 and 176 of the Indian Penal Code  (for  short  'IPC')  read  with Sections 3, 4 and 6 (2) of the Dowry Prohibition Act. - Trial court acquitted the accused - High court convicted the accused - Apex court held that The  High  Court  is  correct  in  its observation that it was not  appropriate  for  the  trial  court  to  expect documentary evidence regarding acceptance  of  dowry  as  generally  such  a record would not be kept since it was not  a  commercial  transaction. The High Court also  appears  to  be  justified  in  its  observation  that  non production of the villagers to prove the dowry demand would  not  be  fatal. and further held that Strangely,  the  High Court has discarded Mahazar drawn by PW-8 by giving a spacious  reason  viz. it was not an exhibited document before the  Court,  little  realising  that this was the document produced by the prosecution itself  and  even  without formal proof thereto by the prosecution, it was always open for the  defence to seek reliance on such an evidence to  falsify  the  prosecution  version. and further held that  it is well established that if two  views  are  possible  on  the  basis  of evidence on record and one favourable to the accused has been taken  by  the trial court, it ought not to be disturbed by the appellate court.  We thus, find that there were no solid and weighty reasons to  reverse the verdict of acquittal and  to  convict  the  appellant  under  the  given circumstances.   Accordingly,  we  allow  this  appeal  and  set  aside  the judgment of the High Court, holding that the appellant is not guilty of  the
charges foisted against him. =

No doubt, the  initial  complaint  by
Mariyappa (PW-1) was to the effect that the accused persons  murdered  Laxmi
and then threw her into the well and also led the evidence of such crime  to
disappear by burning the dead body much prior to the  approval  of  maternal
uncle and parents of  the  deceased.    
However,  after  investigation,  the
charge sheet was filed only for offences  punishable  under  Sections  498-A,
304-B, 201 and 176 of the Indian Penal Code  (for  short  'IPC')  read  with
Sections 3, 4 and 6 (2) of the Dowry Prohibition Act. =
After re-appreciating the entire evidence on  record,
the  High
Court has come to the conclusion that the appellant was in  fact  guilty  of
offence punishable under Sections 3 & 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act as well  as
under Sections 498-A, 304-B, 201 and 176 IPC.
The  judgment  and  order  of
acquittal  of  trial  court  is,  thereby,  set  aside  by  the  High  Court =

The  trial  court
analysed the testimony of PW-4, PW-5 and PW-6 
“(27)  After the  marriage  during  the  period  of  6  months
it  was  not
mentioned in the  complaint  that  the  accused  have  assaulted  Lakshmamma
physically and thrown out of the  house  nor  stated  the  same  before  the
court.
Neither the villagers wherein the accused  are  residing  nor  their
neighbors have given any evidence before the  court  about  pinpricks  meted
out to her.
As against which
D.W.1  Ramakrishnappa,  aged  56  years,  said
that, from the beginning till the death of  Lakshamma  the  accused  persons
looked after here well and not given any pinpricks to her, he  further  told
that on that day she came to well for washing the cloth and due to  slip  of
her leg she fell in the well and he came to know about  the  same.
In  his cross-examination no other statement was given on behalf of prosecution.
(28)  It is an arranged marriage in the presence of elders, in the event  of
giving any pinpricks about dowry harassment, this  matter  would  have  been
brought to the notice of elders and convene  a  panchayath.
 But  it  never
revealed anywhere about conveying the panchayath.
Hence it is  hereby  seen
that the accused or her husband  had  not  given  pinpricks  either  in  the
matter of dowry or in any other matter.
It cannot  be  said  that  she  has committed  for  the  said  reason.
Hence  I  answer  both  the   questions
Negatively.”

The  High  Court  has,  however,  given  a different glance to the entire  matter.   
According  to  it,  the  aforesaid
approach of the trial court was erroneous in law as well as in  appreciation
of the evidence on record.
After taking note of the fact  that
Laxmi  died
within six months of her marriage and it was an unnatural  death,  the  High
Court has lamented on the conduct of the appellant and has  arrived  at  the
conclusion that it was the appellant who was responsible for  the  death  of
Laxmi and found him guilty of offence under Section 304-B of IPC.
The  High
Court has also accepted the  version  of  the  prosecution  that  Laxmi  was
harassed and humiliated on account of  non  fulfillment  of  the  demand  of
dowry made by the appellant and, therefore, presumption under Section  113-B
of the Evidence Act was attracted.  
As per the  High  Court,  the  appellant
has not been able  to  lead  any  satisfactory  evidence  to  dislodge  this
presumption.  
The infirmities found in the depositions of PW-1  to  PW-5  by
the trial court have been brushed aside and discarded by the High  Court  as
irrelevant and perverse.
The High  Court held that it would  be  impossible
to expect any party to the marriage talks to keep a  record  of  demand  and
payment of dowry as if it was a commercial transaction and,  therefore,  the
absence of documentary evidence in this regard should not have weighed  with
the trial court.  
The High Court also observed that there was  no  admission
made by PW-1 that even without the alleged demand of dowry,  he  would  have
given customary articles like clothes and ornaments and  no  such  customary
practice was indicated.
The finding of the trial court  that  the  case  of
the prosecution regarding demand and payment of dowry was not proved in  the
absence of anyone from the village of the accused is also brushed  aside  by
observing that such a demand and payment would not be made  public  inasmuch
as such talks  would  be  within  closed  doors  and  would  be  within  the
knowledge of the parties to the marriage and kith and kin of the  bride  and
bridegroom.
Further, apart from PW-1 to PW-3, PW-4, who  is  the  neighbour
of PW-1 and PW-2, supported the version of  the  demand  of  dowry  and  the
harassment of Laxmi at the hands of the appellant and his family members.
Apex court held that
The  High  Court  is  correct  in  its
observation that it was not  appropriate  for  the  trial  court  to  expect
documentary evidence regarding acceptance  of  dowry  as  generally  such  a
record would not be kept since it was not  a  commercial  transaction. 
The
High Court also  appears  to  be  justified  in  its  observation  that  non
production of the villagers to prove the dowry demand would  not  be  fatal.
We have eschewed and discarded these reasons assigned by  the  trial  court.
whether the evidence  of
these witnesses (PW-1 to PW-3) is worthy of credence, on  this  aspect.   
According to them, deceased was cremated before they  reached
the village of the  appellant.   To  falsify  this  position  taken  by  the
prosecution through these witnesses, the learned counsel for  the  appellant
had taken us to the evidence of PW-8 who had drawn Mahazar  near  the  well.
This Mahazar coupled with the statement of PW-8 is a very significant  piece
of evidence which has considerable effect in  denting  the  creditworthiness
of the testimony of these witnesses.  As  per  PW-8  himself,  when  he  had
reached the spot, it was the mother of the  deceased  who  pointed  out  the
place where the dead body was  lying.   This  assertion  amply  demonstrates
that mother of the deceased had known where the body was kept and she  along
with PW-1 and PW-2 had reached the place of occurrence before the dead  body
was cremated.  Relying upon this evidence, the trial court  has  disbelieved
the story of the prosecution that  Laxmi  was  cremated  even  before  these
persons had reached the village  of  the  appellant.   Strangely,  the  High
Court has discarded Mahazar drawn by PW-8 by giving a spacious  reason  viz.
it was not an exhibited document before the  Court,  little  realising  that
this was the document produced by the prosecution itself  and  even  without
formal proof thereto by the prosecution, it was always open for the  defence
to seek reliance on such an evidence to  falsify  the  prosecution  version.
Moreover, PW-8 has specifically referred to this document in  his  evidence.
It is also a matter of record that a specific suggestion was  made  to  PW-3
(mother of the deceased) in the cross-examination to the effect that  it  is
she who had pointed out the place of the dead body lying near  the  well  to
the Police personnel.  The version of PW-1 to PW-3  that  they  reached  the
village of the appellant after Laxmi had already  been  cremated,  does  not
inspire confidence and appears to be mendacious.
 If the body was cremated thereafter,  and  not
buried, it can clearly be inferred that same was done with consent,  express
or implied, of the complainant namely maternal uncle and the mother  of  the
deceased.  It can also be inferred that parties had  decided  at  that  time
that matter be not reported to the Police and body be cremated.  To  say  it
otherwise, by accepting the version of the prosecution, would lead  to  some
absurdities.  It would mean that when maternal uncle  or  aunt  as  well  as
mother of Laxmi were present and had seen the dead body lying at  the  spot,
they objected to the body being cremated.  They also  wanted  Police  to  be
informed.  If it was so, why they did not put up any resistance? We have  to
keep in mind that these family members of  Laxmi  have  come  out  with  the
allegation that Laxmi was  harassed  as  well  as  mentally  and  physically
tortured because of non fulfillment of dowry demand.  In  such  a  scenario,
they would not have remained silent and mute spectators to the  events  that
followed even when they were not to their liking.   Not  only  this  conduct
belies their  version,  another  weighty  factor  is  that  the  complainant
remained silent about these happenings for a period of  4  days  and  lodged
the report with the Police only on 26.05.1993 when they came  out  with  the
allegations of demand of dowry and harassment.
 in Chandrappa and Ors. v. State of  Karnataka,  (2007)  4
SCC 415.”

31.   In Chandrappa (supra), which was followed in the aforesaid  case,  the
Court had observed:
“44.  In our view, if in the light of above circumstances, the  trial  court
felt that the accused could get benefit of doubt, the said  view  cannot  be
held to be illegal, improper or contrary to law.  Hence, even though we  are
of the opinion that in an appeal against acquittal, powers of the  appellate
court  are  as  wide  as  that  of  the  trial  court  and  it  can  review,
reappreciate and reconsider the entire evidence brought  on  record  by  the
parties and can come to its own conclusion on fact as well  as  on  law,  in
the present case, the view taken by  the  trial  court  for  acquitting  the
accused was possible and plausible.  On the basis  of  evidence,  therefore,
at the most, it can be said that the other view was equally  possible.   But
it is well established that if two  views  are  possible  on  the  basis  of
evidence on record and one favourable to the accused has been taken  by  the
trial court, it ought not to be disturbed by the appellate court.   In  this
case, a possible view on the evidence of prosecution had been taken  by  the
trial court which ought not to have been disturbed by the  appellate  court.
The decision of the appellate court (the High Court), therefore,  is  liable
to be set aside.”

32.   We thus, find that there were no solid and weighty reasons to  reverse
the verdict of acquittal and  to  convict  the  appellant  under  the  given
circumstances.   Accordingly,  we  allow  this  appeal  and  set  aside  the
judgment of the High Court, holding that the appellant is not guilty of  the
charges foisted against him.

33.   During the pendency of this appeal,  the  appellant  was  enlarged  on
bail vide order dated 31.03.2014.  The bail bonds and sureties given by  the
appellant are hereby discharged.

2014 Aug. Part – http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41816



                                                           REPORTABLE


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                       CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1671 OF 2011



|RAMAIAH @ RAMA                             |…..APPELLANT(S)                 |
|                                           |                                |
|VERSUS                                     |                                |
|STATE OF KARNATAKA                         |…..RESPONDENT(S)                |



                               J U D G M E N T

A.K. SIKRI, J.


                 Laxmi, since deceased, was 14 years of  age  when  she  was
married to the appellant on 18.11.1992.  Within six months of  her  marriage
i.e. on 22.05.1993, she died an unfortunate unnatural death.  Her  body  was
recovered on 22.05.1993 at 4 p.m. from a well.   It  was  cremated  on  that
day.  However, four days thereafter i.e.  on  26.05.1993,  at  8  p.m.,  Mr.
Mariyappa (PW-1), maternal uncle of the deceased, lodged the complaint  with
the Police Station and the case was registered as Cr. No.160/93.

2.    As per his statement, it is he and his  wife  (PW-2)  who  brought  up
Laxmi.  At the age of 14, appellant's father asked for the hand of Laxmi  in
marriage with the appellant which  resulted  in  solemnization  of  marriage
between deceased Laxmi and the appellant on 18.11.1992.   PW-1  also  stated
in his complaint that at the time of her marriage, there  were  negotiations
wherein the appellant and her parents had demanded a cash of Rs.5,000/-  and
certain gold ornaments.  PW-1 could arrange Rs.2,000/-  cash  only  at  that
time which was given by him in dowry  at  the  time  of  marriage  alongwith
certain gold ornaments, clothes and other  articles.   However,  since  they
were not able to pay the balance  of  Rs.3,000/-,  Laxmi  was  harassed  and
tortured, mentally and  physically,  because  of  non-fulfillment  of  dowry
demand and was asked repeatedly to bring the  balance  of  Rs.3,000/-  which
was due towards dowry amount.  Laxmi had intimated  about  this  demand  and
harassment to her to PW-1 and PW-2 whenever she visited her parental  house.
 In spite of their best  efforts,  they  could  not  comply  with  the  said
demand.  Few days before the fateful day, when she had come to  her  parents
house, PW-1 and PW-2 sent her back to her  matrimonial  home  by  convincing
her that they would pay the requisite  amount  soon  after  harvest  of  the
crops.  It was further alleged that five days before her  death,  Laxmi  had
complained about ill-treatment and harassment to her at  the  hands  of  the
appellant and his parents.  However, on 22.05.1993  between  10.00  a.m.  to
12.30 p.m., the maternal uncle was informed of the  death  of  the  deceased
due to drowning in a well belonging to one Bylappa.  Her parents  were  also
informed of the said unnatural death of  the  deceased.   According  to  the
informant, they did not accept the theory of accidental fall into  the  well
when deceased went to wash the clothes, as set up by the appellant and  that
the accused persons after doing away with her life, had thrown her into  the
well.  It was also alleged that before  they  could  reach  the  village  of
accused, the dead body of deceased Laxmi was cremated and they did not  have
an opportunity of seeing her face before she was cremated.


3.    On the basis  of  the  aforesaid  complaint,  a  case  was  registered
against the husband (appellant  herein),  father-in-law,  mother-in-law  and
brother-in-law of the deceased Laxmi.  No doubt, the  initial  complaint  by
Mariyappa (PW-1) was to the effect that the accused persons  murdered  Laxmi
and then threw her into the well and also led the evidence of such crime  to
disappear by burning the dead body much prior to the  approval  of  maternal
uncle and parents of  the  deceased.    However,  after  investigation,  the
chargesheet was filed only for offences  punishable  under  Sections  498-A,
304-B, 201 and 176 of the Indian Penal Code  (for  short  'IPC')  read  with
Sections 3, 4 and 6 (2) of the Dowry Prohibition Act.  During trial, mother-
in-law and father-in-law of the deceased  passed  away.   Brother-in-law  of
the deceased, being a minor, was sent to Juvenile Offenders'  Court.   Thus,
only the appellant was tried for the aforesaid change.

4.    The prosecution examined 9 witnesses and 4 exhibits were marked.   The
appellant gave his statement under Section  313  of  the  Code  of  Criminal
Procedure (for  short  'Cr.P.C.')  and  thereafter  one  Ramakrishnappa  was
examined as DW-1.  After the conclusion of trial, arguments  were  heard  by
the  learned  Additional  Sessions  Judge  who  returned  his  verdict  vide
judgment dated 24.08.2001 acquitting the appellant of the charges  with  the
findings that prosecution was not able to prove the guilt of  the  appellant
beyond reasonable doubt.  The State challenged the judgment of acquittal  by
filing the appeal under  Section  378  of  Cr.P.C.  in  the  High  Court  of
Karnataka.  After re-appreciating the entire evidence on  record,  the  High
Court has come to the conclusion that the appellant was in  fact  guilty  of
offence punishable under Sections 3 & 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act as well  as
under Sections 498-A, 304-B, 201 and 176 IPC.  The  judgment  and  order  of
acquittal  of  trial  court  is,  thereby,  set  aside  by  the  High  Court
pronouncing the following sentences on the  appellant  under  the  aforesaid
provisions:

      “Having regarding to the facts and  circumstances  of  this  case,  we
impose a sentence of five year of rigorous  imprisonment  and  also  minimum
fine  of  Rs.15,000/-  for  the  offence  punishable  u/s  3  of  the  Dowry
Prohibition Act, in default, to undergo rigorous imprisonment for  a  period
of six months.

      So far as offence u/s 4 of the Dowry  Prohibition  Act  is  concerned,
the accused is sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of  6
months and fine of Rs.5000/-, in default to  undergo  rigorous  imprisonment
for a period of three months.

      So far  as  offence  u/s  498-A  IPC  is  concerned,  the  accused  is
sentenced to undergo two years rigorous imprisonment and fine of  Rs.2000/-,
in default, to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of two months.

      So far as Sec.304-B IPC, the accused shall  undergo  minimum  sentence
of seven years rigorous imprisonment.

      As far as offence under Section 201  IPC  is  concerned,  the  accused
shall undergo sentence for a period of one year.

      So far as offence under Section 176 IPC, the accused shall pay a  fine
of Rs.1000/-.

      As the substantive sentence is imposed for the offence punishable  u/s
304-B of IPC, all other sentences  shall run concurrently.

      The accused shall have the benefit of Sec. 428 Cr.P.C.”


5.    Before we proceed to discuss the tenability  of  the  merits  of  this
appeal preferred by the accused, we would like  to  state  certain  admitted
facts appearing in the case and would also like to discuss the  approach  of
the trial court as well as the High Court in giving conflicting verdicts.

6.    As mentioned above, deceased Laxmi was 14 years of age at the time  of
marriage and was hardly 15 years  old  when  she  met  an  unnatural  death.
Marriage between the appellant and Laxmi was solemnized  on  18.11.1992  and
within six months of the marriage, she  died  on  22.05.1993.   As  per  the
prosecution, Shri Mariyappa (PW-1)  learnt  about  the  unnatural  death  of
Laxmi through the message sent from the village  of  the  appellant  between
10.00 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. on 22.05.1993.  It is  not  in  dispute  that  the
unnatural death of Laxmi was not intimated to the  Police  by  her  in-laws.
Though the parents of the deceased were informed, it is also not in  dispute
that no postmortem was sought  on  the  dead  body  of  the  deceased.   The
appellant has also accepted the fact that as per  the  prevalent  custom  in
the community of the appellant as well as the complainant, dead  bodies  are
buried.  However, in the present case, deceased Laxmi was cremated.

7.    There is, however, some dispute about the presence of the parents   of
the deceased at the time of cremation.  As per the  prosecution,  Laxmi  was
cremated before the parents or maternal uncle/aunt  of  the  deceased  could
reach the place  of  the  appellant.   On  the  other  hand,  the  appellant
maintains that they had reached well in time and she was not  only  cremated
in their presence but it was  with  their  concurrence  that  the  body  was
cremated and not buried.
8.    The persistent and consistent defence put  up  by  the  appellant  was
that it was an accidental death which occurred when Laxmi had  gone  to  the
well to wash the clothes at about 8.00 a.m. on 22.05.1993 as she  fell  into
the well accidentally.  As per the defence due to this fall,  the  cause  of
death was asphyxia as a result of drowning.  It was  also   the  defence  of
the appellant that though, as per the customs in their  community  the  dead
bodies are buried, it was decided to  cremate  Laxmi  because  of  unnatural
death and this decision was taken on the persuasion of the  parents  of  the
deceased  themselves.    The  defence  had  also  taken  a  stand  that  the
appellant and his  family  even  wanted  to  inform  the  Police  about  the
incident but her  parents  did  not  agree  to  the  same.   In  so  far  as
allegations of  demand  of  dowry  by  the  appellant  and  his  family  are
concerned, there was a complete denial on the part of the accused persons.

9.    A perusal of the judgment of the learned  trial  court  would  reflect
that it framed the following questions which had arisen for consideration:

“(1)  Whether the  prosecutor  has  proved  that,  the  accused  No.1  while
marrying with deceased Lakshmamma has demanded dowry from her parents for  a
sum of Rupees Five Thousand and  the  ornaments  and  accordingly  they  had
given ornaments and cash of Rupees Two thousand as dowry,  but  he  has  not
summoned the same either to Lakshmamma or to her parents and thus  committed
an offence punishable under section 3, 4 and 6 of Dowry Prevention Act ?


(2)  Whether the Prosecutor has proved that, after the  marriage  Lakshmamma
started marital life with 1st accused, the first accused demanding his  wife
Lakshmamma to bring the remaining dowry  amount  of  Rupees  Three  Thousand
from her parents and started giving pinpricks and thus committed an  offence
punishable under section 498 (A) of Indian Penal Code?

(3)  Whether the prosecutor has proved that,  the  1st  accused  was  giving
more pinpricks to his deceased wife and on that  reason  on  22.05.1993  she
has committed suicide.  Hence he has committed an offence  punishable  under
section 304 (B) of Indian Penal Code?

(4)  Whether the Prosecutor  has  proved  that,  the  1st  accused  with  an
intention to destroy the evidence has removed the dead  body  of  Lakshmamma
from the well and burn her body and thus  committed  an  offence  punishable
under section 201 of the Indian Penal Code?

(5)  Whether the Prosecutor has proved that, the 1st  accused  intentionally
has not informed the matter to the  concerned  officers  about  the  suicide
committed by his wife Lakshmamma and thus committed  an  offence  punishable
under section 176 of the Indian Penal Code?

(6)   What order?

10.    Dealing  with  question  No.1,  which  pertains  to  the   allegation
regarding demand of dowry, the trial  court  concluded  that  allegation  of
demand of dowry was not true and in arriving  on  this  conclusion,  it  was
swayed by the following factors:

(1) No elders or seniors had come forward and given evidence  even  when  it
was stated that dowry was given in their presence.

(2)  Further, there was no  written  documents  before  the  Court  in  this
regard.

(3)  None of the villagers had led their  evidence  before  the  Court  with
regard to demand and receiving of dowry.

(4)   PW-1  in  his  complaint  had  stated  that  prior  to  the  marriage,
discussions were held wherein accused No.1 (father  of  the  appellant)  had
demanded a sum of Rs.5,000/- cash and ornaments.  However, PW-8, Police Sub-
Inspector who received the  complaint,  admitted  in  his  cross-examination
that this fact was  not  mentioned  in  the  complaint  (Ex.P/1).   He  also
admitted that in the complaint, it was also not mentioned  that  PW-1  would
pay the remaining dowry after few days.  He also admitted that the  averment
of PW-1 that two days before the marriage he had given  Rs.2,000/-  and  had
told that he would give  remaining  Rs.3,000/-  at  the  time  of  Shivratri
festival was also not mentioned in Ex.P/1.

(5)  The trial court disbelieved the statement of PW-1 regarding payment  of
Rs.2,000/- and ornaments etc. because of the reason that he  had  stated  in
his cross-examination that he had got 3 acres of land which is dry land  and
he has to maintain his family from  his  income  with  no  other  source  of
income.  Therefore, he was not capable of giving  the  aforesaid  money  and
ornaments.

(6)  The trial court further noted that as per  PW-1  and  PW-3,  Laxmi  was
very beautiful girl and that was the reason the appellant married  Laxmi  as
he got attracted by her beauty.   PW-1  and  PW-3  also  admitted  that  the
accused persons had incurred the marriage  expenses  and  the  marriage  was
also performed at the residence of the accused/appellant.

(7)  The P.W.1 Mariyappa in his cross-examination stated that, he had  given
cash and ornaments to the bride and bride groom as per the customs in  their
community.  In his examination-in-chief he  stated  that,  the  2nd  accused
Venkatappa demanded the dowry.   The  2nd  accused  had  died.   He  in  his
examination-in-chief had not stated about dowry  demand  by  the  appellant.
To the same effect is the testimony of PW-2, wife of PW-1 who  categorically
stated that there was a custom of  giving  silver  and  gold  ornaments  and
clothes; the ornaments given were got prepared much prior  to  the  marriage
of Laxmi; the alleged demand of dowry was made by the parents of  groom  and
his brother i.e. accused Nos. 2 to 4 and did not state about the  demand  of
dowry by the appellant.  Even, PW-3, natural mother of Laxmi deposed on  the
identical lines in respect of the dowry demand.

11.   On that basis, the trial court arrived at the conclusion that  in  the
absence of any evidence, oral or documentary, the chances are that  whatever
cash, clothes or ornaments were given at the time of marriage,  was  as  per
the prevailing customs in the community and it was not  the  result  of  any
demand made by the appellant.

12.   In so far as question Nos.2 and 3 are concerned, they  were  taken  up
together by the trial  court.   In  the  first  instance,  the  trial  court
pointed out that though the complainant got the information about the  death
of Laxmi on 22nd May, 1993, he lodged delayed complaint on  26th  May,  1993
i.e. four days thereafter.   From  the  statement  of  PW-1  in  the  cross-
examination that Laxmi was staying in her matrimonial house and visited  her
parental house 5-6 times alongwith her husband and even  stayed  there  with
her husband for some days and also from the  admission  of  PW-1  that  even
they were visiting matrimonial house of Laxmi and had visited her house  for
5-6 times within a span of six months, the trial court observed that it  was
an indication that the relationship of husband  and  wife  was  cordial  and
with mutual love towards each other.   Even,  PW-2  and  PW-3  had  admitted
these facts in their cross-examination.  The trial  court  further  observed
that when the giving of dowry on the demand of the accused persons  was  not
established, it was not possible to believe that  they  were  demanding  the
alleged remaining dowry amount of Rs.3,000/- and  giving  pinpricks  to  her
for not fulfilling the said demand.  According to the trial  court,  it  was
significant that PW-3 who is the natural mother  of  the  deceased  did  not
even state that Laxmi was being harassed for not bringing the balance  dowry
amount.  She had rather admitted that her daughter was happy for  the  first
three months and also accepted in her cross-examination  that  she  had  not
told the Police about living peaceful life only for three months.  She  also
admitted that she never told the Police about giving of dowry of  Rs.2,000/-
and demand of  balance  amount  which  remained  unpaid.   The  trial  court
analysed the testimony of PW-4, PW-5 and PW-6 on  this  aspect  and  pointed
out that the allegation of demand of dowry could not be  proved  from  their
testimony either.  The  discussion  on  this  aspect  is  concluded  in  the
following manner:

“(27)  After the  marriage  during  the  period  of  6  months  it  was  not
mentioned in the  complaint  that  the  accused  have  assaulted  Lakshmamma
physically and thrown out of the  house  nor  stated  the  same  before  the
court.  Neither the villagers wherein the accused  are  residing  nor  their
neighbors have given any evidence before the  court  about  pinpricks  meted
out to her.  As against which D.W.1  Ramakrishnappa,  aged  56  years,  said
that, from the beginning till the death of  Lakshamma  the  accused  persons
looked after here well and not given any pinpricks to her, he  further  told
that on that day she came to well for washing the cloth and due to  slip  of
her leg she fell in the well and he came to know about  the  same.   In  his
cross-examination no other statement was given on behalf of prosecution.

(28)  It is an arranged marriage in the presence of elders, in the event  of
giving any pinpricks about dowry harassment, this  matter  would  have  been
brought to the notice of elders and convene  a  panchayath.   But  it  never
revealed anywhere about conveying the panchayath.  Hence it is  hereby  seen
that the accused or her husband  had  not  given  pinpricks  either  in  the
matter of dowry or in any other matter.  It cannot  be  said  that  she  has
committed  for  the  said  reason.   Hence  I  answer  both  the   questions
Negatively.”


13.   The aforesaid was the raison d'etre which led to the acquittal of  the
appellant by the  trial  court.   The  High  Court  has,  however,  given  a
different glance to the entire  matter.   According  to  it,  the  aforesaid
approach of the trial court was erroneous in law as well as in  appreciation
of the evidence on record.  After taking note of the fact  that  Laxmi  died
within six months of her marriage and it was an unnatural  death,  the  High
Court has lamented on the conduct of the appellant and has  arrived  at  the
conclusion that it was the appellant who was responsible for  the  death  of
Laxmi and found him guilty of offence under Section 304-B of IPC.  The  High
Court has also accepted the  version  of  the  prosecution  that  Laxmi  was
harassed and humiliated on account of  non  fulfillment  of  the  demand  of
dowry made by the appellant and, therefore, presumption under Section  113-B
of the Evidence Act was attracted.  As per the  High  Court,  the  appellant
has not been able  to  lead  any  satisfactory  evidence  to  dislodge  this
presumption.  The infirmities found in the depositions of PW-1  to  PW-5  by
the trial court have been brushed aside and discarded by the High  Court  as
irrelevant and perverse.  The High  Court held that it would  be  impossible
to expect any party to the marriage talks to keep a  record  of  demand  and
payment of dowry as if it was a commercial transaction and,  therefore,  the
absence of documentary evidence in this regard should not have weighed  with
the trial court.  The High Court also observed that there was  no  admission
made by PW-1 that even without the alleged demand of dowry,  he  would  have
given customary articles like clothes and ornaments and  no  such  customary
practice was indicated.  The finding of the trial court  that  the  case  of
the prosecution regarding demand and payment of dowry was not proved in  the
absence of anyone from the village of the accused is also brushed  aside  by
observing that such a demand and payment would not be made  public  inasmuch
as such talks  would  be  within  closed  doors  and  would  be  within  the
knowledge of the parties to the marriage and kith and kin of the  bride  and
bridegroom.  Further, apart from PW-1 to PW-3, PW-4, who  is  the  neighbour
of PW-1 and PW-2, supported the version of  the  demand  of  dowry  and  the
harassment of Laxmi at the hands of the appellant and his family members.

14.   Due  to  the  aforesaid  divergent  and  conflicting  outcome  of  the
proceedings in the two courts below, we have gone through the  testimony  of
these witnesses.  After examining the record and going through  the  reasons
recorded by both the courts below, we are  inclined  to  accept  conclusions
reached by the trial court as we  are  of  the  view  that  the  High  Court
committed grave error in ignoring and glossing over  various  contradictions
in the testimonies of PW-1 to PW-5 which  were  pointed  out  by  the  trial
court.

15.   At the outset, we may record that some of the  comments  of  the  High
Court deprecating few of the reasons recorded by the trial court in  support
of its findings are fully justified.  The  High  Court  is  correct  in  its
observation that it was not  appropriate  for  the  trial  court  to  expect
documentary evidence regarding acceptance  of  dowry  as  generally  such  a
record would not be kept since it was not  a  commercial  transaction.   The
High Court also  appears  to  be  justified  in  its  observation  that  non
production of the villagers to prove the dowry demand would  not  be  fatal.
We have eschewed and discarded these reasons assigned by  the  trial  court.
At the same time, it is necessary to find out as to whether the evidence  of
these witnesses (PW-1 to PW-3) is worthy of credence, on  this  aspect.   We
find that there are certain very glaring and weighty  factors  which  compel
us to disbelieve the prosecution version on this account.

16.   In the present case, it would be prudent to start  the  discussion  by
taking note of the conduct of the maternal uncle  (PW-1),  his  wife  (PW-2)
and natural mother (PW-3) of the deceased.   They  accept  that  information
about the death of Laxmi was received by them between 10.00  a.m.  to  12.30
p.m. on 22.05.1993.  They also accept the fact that  they  had  reached  the
place of occurrence.  Body of  the  deceased  was  cremated  on  22.05.1993.
There is some dispute as to whether these persons were present at  the  time
of cremation.  According to them, deceased was cremated before they  reached
the village of the  appellant.   To  falsify  this  position  taken  by  the
prosecution through these witnesses, the learned counsel for  the  appellant
had taken us to the evidence of PW-8 who had drawn Mahazar  near  the  well.
This Mahazar coupled with the statement of PW-8 is a very significant  piece
of evidence which has considerable effect in  denting  the  creditworthiness
of the testimony of these witnesses.  As  per  PW-8  himself,  when  he  had
reached the spot, it was the mother of the  deceased  who  pointed  out  the
place where the dead body was  lying.   This  assertion  amply  demonstrates
that mother of the deceased had known where the body was kept and she  along
with PW-1 and PW-2 had reached the place of occurrence before the dead  body
was cremated.  Relying upon this evidence, the trial court  has  disbelieved
the story of the prosecution that  Laxmi  was  cremated  even  before  these
persons had reached the village  of  the  appellant.   Strangely,  the  High
Court has discarded Mahazar drawn by PW-8 by giving a spacious  reason  viz.
it was not an exhibited document before the  Court,  little  realising  that
this was the document produced by the prosecution itself  and  even  without
formal proof thereto by the prosecution, it was always open for the  defence
to seek reliance on such an evidence to  falsify  the  prosecution  version.
Moreover, PW-8 has specifically referred to this document in  his  evidence.
It is also a matter of record that a specific suggestion was  made  to  PW-3
(mother of the deceased) in the cross-examination to the effect that  it  is
she who had pointed out the place of the dead body lying near  the  well  to
the Police personnel.  The version of PW-1 to PW-3  that  they  reached  the
village of the appellant after Laxmi had already  been  cremated,  does  not
inspire confidence and appears to be mendacious.

17.   In the aforesaid circumstances, we have to proceed on the  basis  that
PW-1 to PW-3, on coming to know of the  death  of  Laxmi,  had  reached  the
village of the appellant when the dead body was still lying  near  the  well
from where it was extracted.  If the body was cremated thereafter,  and  not
buried, it can clearly be inferred that same was done with consent,  express
or implied, of the complainant namely maternal uncle and the mother  of  the
deceased.  It can also be inferred that parties had  decided  at  that  time
that matter be not reported to the Police and body be cremated.  To  say  it
otherwise, by accepting the version of the prosecution, would lead  to  some
absurdities.  It would mean that when maternal uncle  or  aunt  as  well  as
mother of Laxmi were present and had seen the dead body lying at  the  spot,
they objected to the body being cremated.  They also  wanted  Police  to  be
informed.  If it was so, why they did not put up any resistance? We have  to
keep in mind that these family members of  Laxmi  have  come  out  with  the
allegation that Laxmi was  harassed  as  well  as  mentally  and  physically
tortured because of non fulfillment of dowry demand.  In  such  a  scenario,
they would not have remained silent and mute spectators to the  events  that
followed even when they were not to their liking.   Not  only  this  conduct
belies their  version,  another  weighty  factor  is  that  the  complainant
remained silent about these happenings for a period of  4  days  and  lodged
the report with the Police only on 26.05.1993 when they came  out  with  the
allegations of demand of dowry and harassment.

18.   We are conscious of the fact that in such cases, sometimes  there  may
be delay in lodging the FIR for  various  valid  reasons.   However,  it  is
important that those reasons come on record.  There is no explanation  worth
the name given by the complainant  as  to  why  the  complainant  maintained
stoic silence.  In this backdrop, the testimony of these witnesses  alleging
dowry demand has to be tested more stringently and with  some  caution.   On
that touchstone, when we analyse the statements, we find the  contradictions
therein, as pointed out by the learned trial court,  become  very  appealing
and meaningful.

19.   With the aforesaid observations,  we  proceed  to  discuss  the  first
specific charge under Section 498-A of the IPC relating  to  the  demand  of
dowry.  We have already stated the reasons which prevailed  with  the  trial
court in not accepting the prosecution version of demand  of  dowry  by  the
appellant herein, as well as the reasons which influenced the High Court  to
take a contrary view.  After going through the evidence of PW-1 to  PW-3  as
well as PW-4 to PW-6, we find that the  trial  court  correctly  appreciated
and analysed the evidence of these witnesses.  In  the  first  instance,  it
needs to be recorded with due emphasis that none of the witnesses  had  made
any specific allegation for the demand  of  the  dowry  in  so  far  as  the
appellant is concerned.  The prosecution also could not establish  that  any
dowry articles were given at the time of marriage.  On the contrary,  it  is
accepted by these witnesses that the appellant had asked  for  the  hand  of
Laxmi because of  her  beauty  by  which  he  was  attracted.   We  are  not
suggesting that this reason, by  itself,  is  sufficient  to  rule  out  the
possibility of demand of dowry.  At the same time,  this  circumstance  when
seen with all other attendant factors surfacing on the record of this  case,
makes it somewhat difficult to swallow the prosecution  version  that  there
would be a demand of dowry as a precondition for marriage.  Other  attendant
circumstances also  negate  the  theory  of  demand.   PW-1  and  PW-3  have
themselves admitted that it is the accused persons who had incurred all  the
marriage expenses and also admitted  that  marriage  was  performed  at  the
residence of the appellant.   This  would  be  because  of  the  reason,  as
pleaded by the appellant in support of which the appellant led  evidence  as
well, that the family members  of  Laxmi  were  poor  persons  and  had  not
sufficient means to even incur the expenditure  on  the  wedding  of  Laxmi.
Even in respect of alleged demand of dowry, PW-1 Mariyappa stated  that  the
so-called demand was by the father of the  appellant  and  did  not  at  all
accuse the appellant in this behalf.  To the same effect  is  the  testimony
of PW-2.

20.   When the demand of dowry and giving of dowry at the time  of  marriage
has not been proved, further  version  of  the  prosecution  witnesses  that
there was a demand  for  payment  of  remaining  amount  of  Rs.3,000/-  and
harassment of Laxmi on that account, also becomes doubtful.  It has come  on
record, and can be clearly discerned from the reading of the  statements  of
the material witnesses viz. the family members of Laxmi,  that  during  this
short period of 6 months of the marriage, she had  visited  her  matrimonial
house 5-6 times.  Pertinently, her visits were alongwith her  husband.   The
couple had even stayed in the parental house of Laxmi for some days  on  few
occasions.  This indicates that the relationship of  husband  and  wife  was
cordial.  In this backdrop, evidence of PW-3, mother of the deceased  Laxmi,
assumes great significance, who has not even stated that  her  daughter  was
harassed for  not  bringing  the  alleged  balance  dowry  amount.   On  the
contrary, she accepted that her daughter was happy for first 3  months.   So
much so in her statement to the Police, she had not told  the  Police  about
living peaceful life only for 3 months.  She did not tell the  Police  about
giving of dowry of Rs.2,000/- and demand  of  balance  amount  coupled  with
harassment because of death.

21.   In addition to the aforesaid material aspects  which  are  highlighted
from the evidence of  the  prosecution  witnesses,  most  important  feature
which is accepted by these witnesses is that in  so  far  as  the  appellant
individually is concerned, there was no demand of  dowry  by  him.   In  the
absence of any particular allegation against the appellant in  this  behalf,
would be improper to convict the appellant under Section 498-A IPC.

22.   We find that the High Court has ignored the aforesaid  features  which
are elaborately discussed in the judgment of the trial court, culling   from
the depositions  of  the  prosecution  witnesses.   The  High  Court,  while
accepting the version of the prosecution on this aspect, namely,  Laxmi  was
harassed and humiliated because of demand of dowry made  by  the  appellant,
has embarked on  the  discussion  which  is   general  and  non-specific  in
nature.  Even if there is little evidence,  that  is  too  infinitesimal  to
convict the appellant, more so when that is not only self contradictory  but
also surrounded by other weighty circumstances that  go  in  favour  of  the
accused.  Once we find that the demand  of  dowry  and  harassment  on  that
account is not proved beyond reasonable doubt,  question  of  invocation  of
Section 113 Evidence Act would not arise.  We feel that the High  Court  has
been totally influenced by the fact that Laxmi had died within 6  months  of
her marriage and it was an unnatural death.

23.   No doubt, it was so.  But only for this reason, the High  Court  could
not have convicted the appellant by finding  him  guilty  of  offence  under
Section 304-B of IPC as well by primarily relying  upon  the  provisions  of
Section 113-B of the Evidence Act.

24.   We are conscious of the fact that it  was  an  unfortunate  demise  of
Laxmi who died within 6 months of the marriage.  However, at the same  time,
whether her death was accidental as claimed by  the  defence  or  it  was  a
suicide  committed  by  Laxmi,  is  not  clearly   established.    Had   the
allegations of demand of dowry and  harassment  of  Laxmi  were  established
thereby making it an offence under Section 498-A of IPC,  things  would  not
have been different.   However,  when  we  do  not  find  dowry  demand  and
harassment of Laxmi to be established, the  inferences  drawn  by  the  High
Court taking the aid of Section 113-B of the Evidence Act  also  deserve  to
be discarded.  Section 113-B of the Evidence Act reads as under:

      “Presumption as to dowry  death:-  When  the  question  is  whether  a
person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is  shown  that  soon
before her death such woman had been subjected by such person to cruelty  or
harassment for, or in connection with,  any  demand  for  dowry,  the  court
shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death.”

      A plain reading of the aforesaid provision would demonstrate  that  to
attract  the  presumption  as  to  dowry  death  stated  in  the   aforesaid
provision, it is necessary to show that soon before her death, she had  been
subjected by such persons to cruelty or harassment  for,  or  in  connection
with, any demand for dowry.  When this essential  ingredient  has  not  been
established in the present case, the question of drawing any presumption  by
invoking of the aforesaid provision would not arise.

25.   In this backdrop, we revert back to  the  conduct  of  the  mother  of
Laxmi, as well as her maternal uncle and his  wife  (i.e.  PW-1  and  PW-2),
which becomes very crucial.  As per our discussion above, it is  clear  that
they had reached the place of death, after receiving the  information,  much
before Laxmi was cremated.  Once that is  accepted,  as  it  is  established
from record and particularly Mahazar drawn by PW-8,  further  events  happen
thereafter are to be analysed keeping in mind this fundamental  aspect.   In
fact, the entire time of thinking of the High Court proceeds on the  premise
that Laxmi was cremated even before her parents and uncle/aunt  reached  the
appellant's village.  Entire edifice based on thereupon crumbles  once  this
finding is found to be erroneous.   As  we  are  of  the  opinion  that  the
finding of the trial court is correct thay  they  had  reached  the  village
well in time and body was cremated in their presence,  further  sequence  of
events has to seen in that hue.  It was told by  the  accused  persons  that
Laxmi had died accidentally  falling  into  the  well  with  the  active  or
passive consent of PW-1 to PW-3, Laxmi was cremated.  Her  last  rites  were
performed in which these persons participated.  They  accepted  the  version
of the accused persons, at that time.  It is only after a period of  3  days
that the complaint is filed with the allegations of demand of dowry  by  the
accused persons; harassment of Laxmi on account of  alleged  non-payment  of
the balance dowry; and her unnatural death.  We state at  the  cost  of  the
repetition that once it is established that the body of Laxmi  was  cremated
in the presence of these persons, it lends credence to the  defence  version
that there was an acceptance by them at that time that Laxmi  had  died  due
to accidental slip in the well and all of them decided to cremate Laxmi  and
not to report the matter to the  Police.   Otherwise  it  would  baffle  any
right minded person as to why they did not inform the Police or did not  put
up any resistance.

26.   Let us test the veracity of the version of these persons from  another
angle.  If there was harassment and cruel treatment given to  Laxmi  by  her
in-laws, on reaching the place of the accused persons  after  receiving  the
unnatural demise of Laxmi, they  would  have  perceived  the  same  to  have
happen in mysterious circumstances.  In such a  situation,  they  would  not
have kept quite and inform the Police immediately.   They  would  have  also
insisted on the postmortem of the body of Laxmi to find  out  the  cause  of
death.  That would be the natural reaction of any such persons  who  believe
that their daughter had faced harassment on account  of  non-fulfillment  of
the dowry demand and it would be fresh in their mind, if  their  version  is
to be believed that just 5 days before the death, Laxmi  had  complained  of
the cruel behaviour  of  her  in-laws.   No  such  thing  happened,  on  the
contrary, body of Laxmi was cremated in their presence and after  performing
the last rites, they turned back to  their  home  quietly.   It  is  4  days
thereafter that they thought of lodging the complaint to the Police.

27.   In the case of State of Andhra Pradesh v.  M.  Madhusudhan  Rao,  2008
(14) SCALE 118,  in similar circumstances, the Court termed such a delay  as
'embellishment and exaggeration' though in that case,  it  was  an  abnormal
delay of 1 month.  The principle stated therein was equally  applied  herein
as well which would be clear from the following observation herein:

“18.        Having gone through the depositions of PW-1 and PW-3,  to  which
out attention  was  invited  by  learned  Counsel  for  the  State,  we  are
convinced that in the light of the overall evidence, analysed  by  the  High
Court, the order of acquittal of the respondent is  well  merited  and  does
not call for interference, particularly when the  First  Information  Report
was lodged by  the  complainant  more  than  one  month  after  the  alleged
incident of forcible poisoning.  Time and again, the object  and  importance
of prompt lodging of the First  Information  Report  has  been  highlighted.
Delay in lodging the First Information Report, more often than not,  results
in embellishment and exaggeration, which is a creature of  an  afterthought.
A delayed report not only gets bereft of the advantage of  spontaneity,  the
danger of the introduction of coloured version, exaggerated account  of  the
incident  or  a  concocted  story  as  a   result   of   deliberations   and
consultations, also creeps in, casting a  serious  doubt  on  its  veracity.
Therefore, it is essential that the delay in lodging the  report  should  be
satisfactorily explained.

19.  In the present case,  as  noted  supra,  First  Information  Report  in
regard to the alleged occurrence on 19th April,  1996  was  lodged  on  22nd
May, 1996.  Admittedly after her discharge from the hospital on 22nd  April,
1996, the complainant went to her parents' house and resided there.  In  her
testimony, the complainant has deposed that since no one from the family  of
the accused came to enquire about her welfare,  she  decided  to  lodge  the
First Information Report.  No  explanation  worth  the  name  for  delay  in
filing the complaint with the police has come on  record.   We  are  of  the
opinion that this  circumstance  raises  considerable  doubt  regarding  the
genuineness of the complaint  and  the  veracity  of  the  evidence  of  the
complainant (PW-1) and her father (PW-3), rendering it unsafe  to  base  the
conviction of the respondent upon it.  Resultantly, when the  substratum  of
the evidence given by the complainant (PW-1) is found to be unreliable,  the
prosecution case has to be rejected in its entirety.


28.   We may hasten to add here that many  times  in  such  type  of  cases,
there can be reasons for keeping quite at the given time and  not  reporting
the matter immediately.  Therefore, we are conscious of the  legal  position
that delay per se may not render prosecution case doubtful as there  may  be
various reasons for lodging the  FIR  with  some  delay  (see  Sahebrao  and
another v. State of Maharashtra, (2006) 9 SCC 794.  Thus, there is  no  hard
and fast rule that any delay in lodging the FIR would  automatically  render
the prosecution case doubtful.  However, what is emphasised is that if  that
was so, it was necessary for the prosecution to at least come  forward  with
the explanation as to why the complainant kept quite  and  why  he  did  not
report the matter to the Police immediately.  No such explanation is  coming
forward in the present case.  Moreover, in the instant case,  the  delay  is
seen as fatal when examined in juxtaposition with other  material  that  has
come  on  record  and  discussed  above,  which  shakes  the   veracity   of
prosecution  case,  bringing  it  within  the  four  corners   of   doubtful
prosecution story.

29.   We find that when going by all these considerations, the  trial  court
gave benefit of doubt to the appellant and acquitted him,  in  the  case  of
reversal of such  a  verdict  of  acquittal,  the  High  Court  should  have
specifically dealt with the aforesaid circumstances weighing  in  favour  of
the appellant and should have given suitable justification  for  overturning
the verdict of acquittal.  The approach of the High Court, as the  appellate
court, while dealing with the case of acquittal is stated by this  Court  in
the case of Harbans Singh v. State of Punjab, (1962) Supp.  1  SCR  104,  in
the following manner:
“8.   The question as regards the correct principles  to  be  applied  by  a
Court hearing an appeal against  acquittal  of  a  person  has  engaged  the
attention of this Court from the very beginning.  In many cases,  especially
the earlier ones, the Court has in laying down  such  principles  emphasised
the necessity of interference with an order of acquittal  being  based  only
on “compelling and substantial reasons” and  has  expressed  the  view  that
unless such reasons are present an Appeal Court should  not  interfere  with
an order of acquittal. (Vide Suraj Pal Singh v. The State  (1952)  SCR  194;
Ajmer Singh v. State of Punjab MANU/SC/0042/1952 : 1953CriLJ 521;  Puran  v.
State of Punjab MANU/SC/0090/1952 : AIR 1953 SC 459).  The use of the  words
“compelling reasons” embarrassed some  of  the  High  Courts  in  exercising
their  jurisdiction  in  appeals   against   acquittals   and   difficulties
occasionally arose as to what this Court had meant by the words  “compelling
reasons”.   In  later  years  the  Court  has  often  avoided  emphasis   on
“compelling reasons” but nonetheless adhered to the view  expressed  earlier
that before interfering in appeal with an order of acquittal  a  Court  must
examine not only questions of law and fact in all  their  aspects  but  must
also closely and carefully examine the  reasons  which  impelled  the  lower
courts to acquit the accused and should interfere only  if  satisfied  after
such examination that the conclusion reached by the  lower  court  that  the
guilt of the person has not been proved is unreasonable.   (Vide  Chinta  v.
The State of Madhya Pradesh (Criminal Appeal No. 178 of 1959 decided on  18-
11-60); Ashrafkha Haibatkha Pathan v. The State of Bombay  (Criminal  Appeal
No. 38 of 1960 decided on 14-12-60).

9.    It is clear that  it  emphasising  in  many  cases  the  necessity  of
“compelling reasons” to justify an interference with an order  of  acquittal
the Court did not in any way try to curtail the power bestowed on  appellate
courts under s. 423 of the Code of Criminal Procedure when  hearing  appeals
against  acquittal;  but  conscious  of   the   intense   dislike   in   our
jurisprudence of the conviction of innocent persons and of  the  facts  that
in many systems of jurisprudence the law does not provide  at  all  for  any
appeal against an order of acquittal the Court was  anxious  to  impress  on
the appellate courts  the  importance  of  bestowing  special  care  in  the
sifting of evidence in appeal  against  acquittals.   As  has  already  been
pointed out less emphasis is being given in the more  recent  pronouncements
of this Court on “compelling reasons”.  But, on close analysis, it is  clear
that the principles laid down by the Court in this matter have remained  the
same.  What may be called  the  golden  thread  running  through  all  these
decisions is the rule that in deciding appeals against acquittal  the  Court
of Appeal must examine the evidence with particular care, must examine  also
the reasons on which the order of acquittal was based and  should  interfere
with the order only when satisfied that the view  taken  by  the  acquitting
Judge is clearly unreasonable.   Once  the  appellate  court  comes  to  the
conclusion  that  the  view  taken  by  the  lower  court  is   clearly   an
unreasonable one that itself is  a  “compelling  reason”  for  interference.
For, it is a court's duty to convict a  guilty  person  when  the  guilt  is
established beyond reasonable doubt, no less than it is its duty  to  acquit
the accused when such guilt is not so established.”

30.   This very  principle  of  law  was  formulated  by  the  Court  in  M.
Madhusudhan Rao (supra) in the following manner:

“13.  There is no embargo on the appellate court to review, reappreciate  or
reconsider the evidence upon which the order of acquittal is founded.   Yet,
generally, the order  of  acquittal  is  not  interfered  with  because  the
presumption of innocence, which is otherwise available to an  accused  under
the fundamental principles  of  criminal  jurisprudence  that  every  person
shall be presumed to be innocent unless he is proved guilty by  a  court  of
law, gets further reinforced and strengthened by his acquittal.  It is  also
trite that if two views are possible on the evidence  adduced  in  the  case
and the one favourable to the accused has been taken by the trial court,  it
should not be disturbed.  Nevertheless, where  the  approach  of  the  lower
court in considering the evidence in the case is vitiated by  some  manifest
illegality or the conclusion recorded by the court below is  such  which  by
some manifest illegality or the conclusion recorded by the  court  below  is
such which could not have been possibly  arrived  at  by  any  court  acting
reasonably and judiciously and is, therefore, liable  to  the  characterised
as perverse, then, to prevent miscarriage of justice,  the  appellate  court
is obliged to interfere.

14.  All these principles have been succinctly  culled  out  by  one  of  us
(C.K. Thakker, J.) in Chandrappa and Ors. v. State of  Karnataka,  (2007)  4
SCC 415.”


31.   In Chandrappa (supra), which was followed in the aforesaid  case,  the
Court had observed:
“44.  In our view, if in the light of above circumstances, the  trial  court
felt that the accused could get benefit of doubt, the said  view  cannot  be
held to be illegal, improper or contrary to law.  Hence, even though we  are
of the opinion that in an appeal against acquittal, powers of the  appellate
court  are  as  wide  as  that  of  the  trial  court  and  it  can  review,
reappreciate and reconsider the entire evidence brought  on  record  by  the
parties and can come to its own conclusion on fact as well  as  on  law,  in
the present case, the view taken by  the  trial  court  for  acquitting  the
accused was possible and plausible.  On the basis  of  evidence,  therefore,
at the most, it can be said that the other view was equally  possible.   But
it is well established that if two  views  are  possible  on  the  basis  of
evidence on record and one favourable to the accused has been taken  by  the
trial court, it ought not to be disturbed by the appellate court.   In  this
case, a possible view on the evidence of prosecution had been taken  by  the
trial court which ought not to have been disturbed by the  appellate  court.
The decision of the appellate court (the High Court), therefore,  is  liable
to be set aside.”

32.   We thus, find that there were no solid and weighty reasons to  reverse
the verdict of acquittal and  to  convict  the  appellant  under  the  given
circumstances.   Accordingly,  we  allow  this  appeal  and  set  aside  the
judgment of the High Court, holding that the appellant is not guilty of  the
charges foisted against him.

33.   During the pendency of this appeal,  the  appellant  was  enlarged  on
bail vide order dated 31.03.2014.  The bail bonds and sureties given by  the
appellant are hereby discharged.



                                   …......................................J.
                                                            (J. Chelameswar)



                                   …......................................J.
                                                                (A.K. Sikri)
New Delhi;
August 7, 2014.

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