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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

In the case on hand, the evidence adduced by the prosecution as discussed above, clearly proves the chain of events connecting the accused to the guilt of the commission of the offence. The entire evidence brought on record by the prosecution, is not only convincing, but is also trustworthy. Even if the confession of accused Nos. 4 and 7 made before PW 1 and PW 2, which is barred by Section 25 of the Evidence Act, is not taken into account, the other evidence on record adduced by the prosecution, is sufficient to hold the accused guilty of the offence.

                                                                  REPORTABLE


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                      Criminal Appeal No. 2194 OF 2011


Pawan Kumar @ Monu Mittal                    ... APPELLANT


                                     Vs.


State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr.                      ... RESPONDENTS


                                    WITH


                   Criminal Appeal Nos. 2195-2196 OF 2011


Rakesh Anand and Anr.                        ... APPELLANTS


                                     Vs.


State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr.                      ... RESPONDENTS


                      Criminal Appeal No. 2198 OF 2011


Shiv Kesh Giri @ Lalla                             ... APPELLANT


                                     Vs.


State of Uttar Pradesh                             ... RESPONDENT


                        Criminal Appeal No. 2199/2011


Devesh Agnihotri                                   ... APPELLANT


                                     Vs.


State of Uttar Pradesh                             ... RESPONDENT


                        Criminal Appeal No. 2200/2011


Rajesh Verma                                       ... APPELLANT


                                     Vs.


State of Uttar Pradesh                             ... RESPONDENT





                                  JUDGMENT


N.V. RAMANA, J.


These appeals are directed against a common  impugned  judgment  dated  11th
February, 2009 of the High court of Allahabad, Lucknow Bench, by  which  the
appeals  of  the  appellants  herein  who  are  accused  of  murdering   one
Manjunath, were dismissed.


2.    Material facts of the case as per prosecution are that the  father  of
appellant Monu Mittal (Accused No. 1) was the owner of a petrol pump  namely
M/s Mittal Automobiles situated at Gola,  District  Lakhimpur  Kheri,  Uttar
Pradesh. The deceased Manjunath was working as  a  Sales  Officer  with  the
Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) at Gola.  On 13.9.2005, the deceased  inspected
the petrol pump of Accused No. 1 and on  finding  some  irregularities,  the
sales and supplies of the petrol pump were  suspended  by  the  IOC  at  his
instance. However, the same were restored on 19th October,  2005  after  the
payment of fine of Rs.75,000/- by the owner of the petrol  pump.   Again  on
19th November, 2005, the deceased, being suspicious  of  malpractices  still
being carried on by Accused No. 1, inspected the said petrol pump.


3.    On 20.11.2005, when the Head Constable  (Ram  Bhawan  Singh)  of  P.S.
Mahaoli, District Sitapur, along with Constable Asha Ram  (PW2)  and  Driver
Braj Kishore was on patrol duty on the National Highway, at about  8.00  am,
one Maruti Car bearing No. UP 51 E 5176 was coming  from  the  direction  of
Maigalganj and upon seeing the police jeep, the Maruti Car  suddenly  turned
back and tried to drive away from that place. On suspicion, the  Maruti  Car
was chased and intercepted at about 8.30 am  near  Green  Gold  Dhaba.   One
Vivek Sharma (Appellant - Accused No. 7) was driving the car accompanied  by
another appellant  Rakesh  Kumar  Anand  (Appellant-Accused  No.4)  who  was
sitting on the back seat besides a blood stained dead body of  S.  Manjunath
(deceased). On interrogation, both accused Nos. 4 &  7  confessed  that  the
deceased was shot dead by Pawan Kumar  alias  Monu  Mittal  (Accused  No.1),
Devesh Agnihotri (Accused No. 2), Sanjay Awasthi (Accused No.3),  Lala  Giri
(Accused No.5), Harish Mishra (Accused No.6) at M/S Mittal  Automobiles  and
they were carrying the dead body of the deceased in his car, to  dispose  of
the same at an unknown place. Both the accused Nos. 4 & 7  were  taken  into
custody and a recovery memo (Ext. Ka-1) was prepared and a case against  all
the accused  under  Sections  147,148,149,302  and  Section  201  read  with
Section 34, IPC, was registered on 20.11.2005.


4.    Mr. P.N. Saxena, Sub-Inspector took up the investigation  and  in  the
presence of Dhan Raj Sahani (PW  3,  landlord  of  the  deceased)  conducted
inquest. He collected blood stained seat covers and door  mats  (Ext.  Ka-9)
from the Maruti Car  besides  several  other  belongings  of  the  deceased,
prepared site plan (Ext. Ka-8) and sent  the  dead  body  for  post  mortem.
Thereafter, he transferred the  investigation  to  P.S.  Gola,  and  Parmesh
Shukla, SHO(PW21) who took up further investigation, arrested Shivkesh  Giri
@  Lala Giri (Accused No. 5) on 22.11.2005.  He also recovered a  wet  blood
stained cloth from behind the  Petrol  Pump  which  was  allegedly  used  in
cleaning the murder spot at the instance of Accused no 5.  Three  cartridges
of 32 bore (Ext. Ka-16) were also recovered from behind the Petrol  Pump  on
his pointing.  Based on the confession of Lala  Giri  (Accused  No.  5),  he
arrested the other accused Pawan Kumar, Sanjay  Awasthi,  Rajesh  Verma  and
Harish Mishra at 6.50 p.m. near railway crossing in a car bearing number  UP
31 F4629.  A revolver was recovered from accused Rajesh Verma, owner of  the
car and a Pistol was recovered from accused Pawan  Kumar  (Ext  Ka-17).   On
23.11.2005 at 8:30 am, the IO recovered the car of accused Pawan Kumar,  his
blood stained pant from Punerbhoo  forest,  Kheri.  The  IO  also  recovered
three  empty  cartridges  from  the  diesel  tank  of  the  Petrol  Pump  on
24.11.2005 at 9:30 am on pointing of Accused  No.  1  Monu  Mittal.  Accused
No.2 - Devesh Agnihotri was also arrested on the same day at 6:00 pm  by  TN
Tripathi, Sub-Inspector (PW 19) from Bheera and at his instance, four  empty
cartridges (Ext. Ka-20) fired from the revolver of accused No.  8  -  Rajesh
Verma were recovered from the house of one Jitendra Mishra uncle  of  Sanjay
Awasthi (A-3).


5.    After investigation, the IO submitted charge sheet, and the  case  was
committed for trial. The trial court framed charges against all the  accused
u/s 147,148, 302 r/w 149, 201 and 120 B, IPC.  Additional  charges  u/s  404
and 411 of IPC, Section 30 of the Arms Act were framed against  accused  No.
1 - Pawan Kumar, charges u/s 212 IPC and Sections  25/30  of  the  Arms  Act
were framed against  accused  No.8  -  Rajesh  Verma.   Also  charges  under
Section 411, IPC were  framed  against  accused  No.7  -  Vivek  Sharma  and
Accused No. 4 - Rakesh Kumar Anand.


6.    The Trial Court convicted and  sentenced  the  accused  No.1  -  Pawan
Kumar @ Monu Mittal to death for offences u/s 302 r/w 149, IPC and to pay  a
fine of Rs 10,000/-, in default to undergo simple imprisonment (SI) for  one
year. He was also sentenced to 2 years RI and to pay a fine of  Rs.  5000/-,
in default 3  months  SI  for  the  offence  u/s  404,  IPC   and  6  months
imprisonment u/s 30 of the Arms Act, 2 years RI and to  pay  a  fine  of  Rs
5000/- u/s 404, IPC and in default to  undergo  3  months  S.I.   The  other
accused, namely accused No.2 -  Devesh  Agnihotri,  accused  No.3  -  Sanjay
Awasthi, accused No. 4 - Rakesh Kumar Anand, accused No. 5 -  Shivkesh  Giri
@ Lalla Giri, accused No. 6 - Harish Mishra, accused No. 7  -  Vivek  Sharma
and accused No. 8 - Rajesh Verma were also convicted  u/s  302  r/w  Section
149, IPC and sentenced  to  suffer  life  imprisonment.  They  were  further
sentenced to suffer one year RI u/s 148, 5 years RI u/s 201,  IPC,  5  years
RI u/s 120 B IPC. Accused No.8 - Rajesh Verma was also  convicted  u/s  212,
IPC and sentenced to 3 years RI and to pay a fine of Rs 5,000/-, in  default
to undergo 6 months SI u/s 25 of the Arms Act and sentenced  to  1  year  RI
and to pay a fine of Rs 1,000/-, in default to suffer SI for 3 months and  6
months RI u/s 30 of the Arms Act. Accused Rakesh  Anand,  Vivek  Sharma  and
Pawan Kumar were also  sentenced  to  2  years  RI  u/s  411  IPC.  All  the
sentences were, however, directed to run concurrently.


7.    Aggrieved thereby, the  accused-appellants  preferred  appeals  before
the High Court.  The High Court by the impugned  judgment  dated  11.12.2009
partly allowed the appeal of Pawan Kumar (Accused No. 1)  and  modified  his
death sentence  to  life  imprisonment  u/s  302  r/w  149  but  upheld  the
convictions for the other offences they are charged  with.  The  appeals  of
the accused Devesh Agnihotri      (A-2), Rakesh Anand (A-4),  Shivkesh  Giri
@ Lalla Giri  (A-5),  Vivek  Sharma  (A-7)  and  Rajesh  Verma  (A-8)  were,
however, dismissed by the  High  Court.  The  appeals  of  other  co-accused
Harish Mishra (A-6) and  Sanjay  Awasthi  (A-3)  were  allowed  giving  them
benefit of doubt and  acquitted  them  of  all  charges.  Against  the  said
judgment passed by the High Court, Accused Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 & 8 filed  the
present appeals before this Court.

8.    Learned Counsel appearing for the appellants argued  that  the  Courts
below have  committed  a  grave  error  in  convicting  and  sentencing  the
appellants on the very evidence by which it acquitted the co-accused  Harish
Mishra and Sanjay Awasthi of all the charges. The High Court  relied  solely
on the confessional statements of the accused/appellants made to the  police
which is inadmissible in evidence under Section 25 of  the  Indian  Evidence
Act.  Taking support from a decision of this Court  in  Aghnoo  Nagesia  Vs.
State of Bihar,  (1966)  1  SCR  134,  learned  counsel  submitted  that  "a
confession  made  to  a  police  officer  under  any  circumstances  is  not
admissible in evidence against the accused.  It  covers  a  confession  made
when the accused was free and not in police custody, as  also  a  confession
made before any investigation has begun".   Unfortunately,  the  High  Court
has not considered Section 25 of the Evidence Act in  its  true  spirit  and
erred in holding that the confessional statement of  accused  given  to  the
police officer  is  admissible,  because  the  same  was  not  made  to  the
Investigating Officer but to some other police officer. Taking support  from
a decision of this Court in State of Punjab Vs. Barkat  Ram,  (1962)  3  SCR
338, learned counsel submitted that the confession made  to  any  member  of
the police, of whatever rank  and  at  whatever  time,  is  inadmissible  in
evidence as per Section 25 of the Evidence Act.

9.    The learned counsel further submitted that the impugned  judgement  is
based only on conjectures and surmises and not on any  cogent  and  reliable
evidence. There were no  eyewitness  to  the  occurrence  and  the  case  of
prosecution is based solely on the circumstantial evidence. The  prosecution
has completely failed to prove the  chain  of  events  linking  the  accused
appellants to the commission of offence.  There  is  no  direct  witness  or
incriminating evidence against the appellants to  establish  the  motive  of
the accused to kill the deceased.  The courts below have  ignored  the  fact
that neither the Ballistic Report (Ext.  61)  nor  the  Serological  Reports
(Exts. Ka-60, 62, 62A) support the case of  prosecution.  In  the  ballistic
report, no special characteristics were found and no conclusive opinion  was
given that the shots were fired from the gun of the accused.  The  Ballistic
Expert (Ext. Ka-61) clearly mentioned in the  report  that  "the  individual
characteristics are absent" for giving a definite opinion.  In  the  absence
of a firm expert opinion, it cannot be conclusively held  that  the  bullets
recovered from near and around the scene of offence were fired from the  gun
of accused No .1 Pawan Kumar.


10.   It is the contention of the learned  counsel  that  according  to  the
Serological Report (Ext. Ka-60), no blood was found on the  cloth  recovered
from behind the petrol pump which was allegedly used to clean  the  site  of
crime as also the pant of the accused No. 1 (Exts. Ka-62 & 62A) Pawan  Kumar
allegedly recovered from his car. Another crucial loophole that  is  evident
from the prosecution story is that the body  of  the  deceased  was  stained
with blood, but no blood stains were reported to be found on the clothes  of
accused No. 7 - Vivek Sharma and accused No. 4  -  Rakesh  Kumar  Anand  who
were allegedly carrying the dead body of the deceased in his car to  dispose
of the same.  Also another dubious circumstance sought to be proved  by  the
prosecution is that when the car in which accused No.7 -  Vivek  Sharma  and
accused No.4 - Rakesh Kumar Anand,  were  carrying  the  dead  body  of  the
deceased was intercepted, P.W.3 - Dhanraj Sahni, landlord  of  the  deceased
appeared from the crowd and  recognized  the  dead  body.   Learned  counsel
submitted that the landlord was living far away  from  the  site  where  the
accused were apprehended, and no reason is given by the prosecution for  his
presence at the spot where the car carrying the dead body  of  the  deceased
was intercepted.  This casts a doubt on  the  prosecution  story  about  the
presence of the landlord at that point of time.


11.   The learned counsel strenuously  contends  that  another  aspect  that
probablises the factum of manipulation of the case  by  the  prosecution  to
implicate  the  appellants  into  the  crime  is  that  according   to   the
prosecution case, in all, eleven bullets were fired  at  the  deceased,  but
according to the post-mortem report (Ext. Ka-14), the deceased had  suffered
six firearm injuries, out of which there were two exit wounds  on  his  body
and four bullets were recovered from his  body.  There  was  no  explanation
coming forward from  the  prosecution  as  regards  not  finding  the  other
bullets. It is not possible to imagine that other seven bullets did not  hit
anywhere at the place of incident. This fact clearly  establishes  that  the
prosecution manipulated the investigation.   The  prosecution  thus  totally
failed to prove the place of occurrence and the recoveries alleged  to  have
been made from the scene of offence were planted  for  the  purpose  of  the
case.


12.   Learned counsel further submitted that the Courts below  have  utterly
failed to take into account the  important  material  contradictions  before
convicting the appellants. PW 21 -  Parmesh Kumar Shukla, SHO  was  said  to
have taken control of the case on the evening of 20th November, 2005 and  he
came to know about the place of incident only on 21st November,  2005  seems
improbable. The same stood fortified by the fact that as  per  Rojanama  (GD
No. 38 dated 21-11-2005) he had visited  the  alleged  place  of  occurrence
i.e. petrol pump on 21.11.2005.  Whereas in his deposition before the  Trial
Court he denied to have gone there on 21-11-2005 and he further stated  that
he went to the place of occurrence for the first time only on 22-11-2005  in
the afternoon. It is, therefore, clear that the investigations are  tainted,
vital and material portion has been deliberately concealed.  The  deposition
of PW 21 visiting the place of occurrence on 22-11-2005 ought to  have  been
rejected by the Courts below. Once a material portion  of  the  evidence  of
I.O. is found to be false, no reliance could be  placed  on  his  statement.
Such material contradictions would not only cast a doubt  on  his  evidence,
but discredits the entire case of prosecution. Another  discrepancy  in  the
prosecution story pointed  out  by  the  learned  counsel  is  that  as  per
prosecution, accused No.5- Lalla Giri was arrested by  PW  21  on     22-11-
2005 from Railway Station, whereas on 21-11-2005 at about 3.15  p.m.  mother
of Lalla Giri (A-5) had sent a telegram (Ext. Kha-2)  to  the  DIG,  Lucknow
complaining therein that her son has been  wrongfully  confined  by  the  PS
Gola since 20-11-2005. This uncontroverted fact belies his arrest  and  thus
the recoveries allegedly made at his instance cannot be relied upon.


13.   Learned counsel further contended that the Courts below  have  wrongly
attributed the motive for the crime inasmuch as M/S Mittal  Automobiles  was
sealed by the deceased owing to alleged malpractices. It  is  admitted  fact
that apart from Mittal Automobiles one more petrol pump L.D Service  Station
was inspected by the deceased on the same day and samples taken  were  found
to be adulterated, but no investigation was carried out in this  regard.  In
fact, no adulteration was detected  from  the  samples  collected  from  M/S
Mittal  Automobiles.   As  a  matter  of  fact,  Weights   and   Measurement
Department conducted test of HSD (1150 ltrs.) from June, 2005 to  13.9.2005.
Though the entries were made in the  Daily  Stock  Register  of  M/S  Mittal
Automobiles, no corresponding entry was made  in  the  main  stock  register
which resulted in stock variation which led to the  sealing  of  the  petrol
pump. When M/S Mittal Automobiles clarified the same by reply  dated  18-10-
2005, the petrol pump was restored. The fine  of  Rs.75,000/-  was  paid  in
respect of technical  defaults  in  order  to  ensure  that  the  supply  is
restored. Hence, the motive part advanced by the prosecution is  not  proved
and the Courts below have erred in not appreciating this fact.


14.   Learned counsel  appearing  for  Accused  No.  2  -  Devesh  Agnihotri
submitted that the appellant  was  wrongly  implicated  in  the  crime.  The
appellant has no previous association with the prime  accused  Monu  Mittal.
The appellant-accused No. 2 was not even present at the scene  of  crime  at
the relevant time as he was attending marriage of  his  brother  in  law  in
District Etah which is far away from  the  place  of  occurrence.  Moreover,
there is no incriminating evidence against accused No. 2.


15.   On behalf of Accused No. 5-Lalla Giri it is specifically  argued  that
he has been wrongly convicted by the Trial Court merely because  he  was  an
ex-employee of Pawan Kumar @ Monu Mittal (Accused No.1).  Mere  recovery  of
empty cartridges  at  the  instance  of  this  appellant-accused  is  of  no
consequence when there is no  evidence  linking  his  participation  in  the
crime.  Moreover,  the  recovery  of  empty  cartridges  at  the  place   of
occurrence itself is highly doubtful as they can  easily  be  destroyed.  In
support of the argument that in  the  absence  of  any  link  evidence,  the
appellant cannot be convicted under Section 302, IPC learned counsel  relied
on Mani Vs. State of Tamilnadu (2009) 17 SCC 273.  Learned  counsel  further
argued that at the most the case against  the  appellant  cannot  be  beyond
Section 201, IPC  for which the maximum sentence is 10 years. The  appellant
has already undergone about 9  years imprisonment.


16.   Learned counsel appearing for Accused No.4- Rakesh Anand  and  Accused
No.7- Vivek Sharma submitted that the prosecution  has  failed  to  complete
the chain  of  events  qua  Accused  Nos.  4  and  7  to  bring  home  their
culpability. Both the courts below have gravely erred in  holding  that  the
dead body of the  deceased  was  recovered  from  the  possession  of  these
appellants on 20.11.20005 at 8.00 am.  As per prosecution, at  the  time  of
their arrest, the dead body of the deceased was bleeding, but admittedly  no
blood was found on their clothes. No weapon,  driving  licence,  money  etc.
were found from their possession. No relation between these two accused  and
other accused has been proved. Moreover, there was  no  examination  of  any
independent witness to support the story of prosecution that the  dead  body
of the deceased was recovered from the  possession  of  these  two  accused.
Allegedly, there was a mob of about 100 to  150  people  at  that  point  of
time, but no independent witness has been examined to prove the  prosecution
story, and in the absence of any independent  witness  being  examined,  the
confession statement and consequent recovery, cannot  be  believed.  Learned
counsel therefore submitted that it is  in  the  interest  of  justice,  the
appeals be allowed, as otherwise, the appellants  would  suffer  irreparable
injustice, loss and injury.


17.   Learned counsel appearing on behalf of Accused  No.  8  -Rajesh  Verma
argued that the appellant was merely an employee of an Urban  Co-  operative
Bank and had no previous enmity or motive to kill the deceased as he had  no
interests in the business of Petrol Pump. His name neither  figured  in  the
confessional statement of the accused nor in the  F.I.R.  According  to  the
prosecution, the licensed revolver of Accused No. 8 was recovered on  22-11-
2005, but it was not even  sealed  at  the  spot  despite  the  I.O.  having
specific knowledge about  its  use.   There  was  no  specific  evidence  to
establish the date, time and  place  of  it  being  sealed.  Only  the  oral
assertion of I.O. that the weapon was sealed a couple of days later by  him,
shows the possibility of revolver or bullet being changed,  thereby  wrongly
implicating the accused  in  the  crime.  There  was  also  no  evidence  of
conspiracy against this appellant nor was  any  evidence  to  establish  the
intention, knowledge or prior  meeting  of  the  appellant  with  the  other
accused to commit the crime. The I.O.  in  the  cross  examination  admitted
that the appellant neither used his revolver nor was present at the time  of
occurrence. There is also no  absolute  evidence  of  appellant  giving  his
revolver to the prime accused. The appellant  was  an  active  worker  of  a
political party and his political rivals being inimical towards him  he  was
falsely  implicated,  but  the  Courts  below  have  failed  to  take   into
consideration this aspect.


18.   Learned counsel appearing  for  all  the  accused-appellants  strongly
contended that the Courts below have committed  grave  error  in  convicting
and sentencing the accused. The impugned judgment is not based on  the  true
principles of law.  It is not only gravely erroneous, but also  against  the
material available on record.  The  alleged  circumstances  do  not  form  a
complete chain of events linking  the  accused  to  the  commission  of  the
crime, and the incriminating circumstances having not  been  proved  by  the
prosecution, in accordance with law, the impugned judgment is, liable to  be
set aside.

19.   Mr. Gaurav Bhatia, learned Additional Advocate General  appearing  for
the State, on the other hand, supported the impugned judgment and  submitted
that this is an  unfortunate  case  where  an  Officer  of  the  Indian  Oil
Corporation was brutally murdered by the accused for honestly  carrying  out
his duties. This incident has shocked the entire nation and has  shaken  the
confidence of thousands of aspiring officers.   He  submitted  that  Accused
No. 1 Pawan Kumar @ Monu Mittal had developed grudge  against  the  deceased
because he inspected the petrol pump run by him  on  13.9.2005  and  pointed
out certain irregularities, and on his intimation to IOC (Ext.  Ka-34),  the
sales and supplies of the pump were suspended. The supplies  were,  however,
restored only after payment of fine on  19th  October,  2005.  The  deceased
again visited the petrol pump of the accused  on  19th  November,  2005  for
inspection and thereafter he was not seen alive.

20.   The learned AAG, on behalf of  the  prosecution,  submitted  that  the
incriminating articles including empty cartridges (Ext. 13) fired  from  the
licensed pistol  of  Accused  No.  1,  blood  stained  earth  (Ext.  Ka  60)
recovered from the petrol pump of Accused No. 1 and  on  his  pointing  out,
the mobile instrument of the deceased was recovered from  the  forest  (Ext.
Ka 21).  The Ballistic Expert in  his  report  clearly  mentioned  that  the
bullets found in the body of the  deceased  were  fired  from  the  licensed
pistol of Accused No. 1. The irregularities committed  by  the  petrol  pump
were writ large inasmuch as certain important documents and other  materials
which were necessarily required to be kept in the show room were not  found,
when the police  along  with  IOC  official  and  official  of  Weights  and
Measurements  Department  inspected.  Moreover,  some  articles   used   for
tampering of the seals of the machines and tank were found.

21.   Learned AAG contended that the involvement  of  accused  Rakesh  Anand
(Accused No.4) and Vivek Sharma (Accused No.7) has been  proved  beyond  all
reasonable doubt as they were caught by  patrolling  police  officials  PW1-
Head Constable Ram  Bhawan,  PW2  -  Constable  Asha  Ram  while  they  were
carrying  the  dead  body  of  the  deceased  in  his  car.   This  fact  is
corroborated by the independent witness Dhanraj Sahni-PW3, the  landlord  of
the deceased.  Accused No. 2 - Devesh  Agnihotri's  involvement  is  evident
from the confession of the co-accused, namely accused No.7  -  Vivek  Sharma
and accused No.4 - Rakesh Kumar Anand and also  by  accused  No.8  -  Rajesh
Verma, who confessed that his revolver was used by accused No.  2  -  Devesh
Agnihotri for the commission of crime. After his  arrest,  he  confessed  to
the commission of the crime and also led  to  the  recovery  of  four  empty
cartridges shot from the revolver of accused No. 8  -  Rajesh  Verma.   Also
accused No.2 - Devesh Agnihotri along  with  accused  No.4  -  Rakesh  Kumar
Anand were earlier charge sheeted for an offence u/s 307 IPC in  1998  which
is sufficient  to  establish  their  nexus.  Accused  No.5  -  Lalla  Giri's
involvement came to light from the confession made by accused No.7  -  Vivek
Sharma (A-7) and accused No.4  -  Rakesh  Kumar  Anand,  at  whose  instance
accused No.5 - Lalla Giri was  arrested  on  22.11.2005,  from  the  Railway
Station while he was trying to abscond. Accused No.5 - Lalla  Giri,  led  to
the recovery of three cartridges from behind the petrol pump and three  more
from the tank of the petrol pump. This clearly explains that accused No.5  -
Lalla Giri, has played an active role in the conspiracy  in  and  commission
of the crime.  Accused No.8 - Rajesh Verma was arrested along  with  Accused
No. 1 - Pawan Kumar and other accused when he was taking them in his car  on
22.11.2005 and a revolver with two live and  four  missing  cartridges  were
recovered from his possession. Those four cartridges were recovered  at  the
instance of accused  No.2  -  Devesh  Agnihotri.   Thus,  in  the  light  of
confessional statements of the accused and  the  recoveries  made  at  their
instance, their involvement in the crime is established by  the  prosecution
beyond all reasonable doubt.  Therefore, no interference is  warranted  with
the concurrent findings of fact arrived at by the Trial  Court  as  well  as
the High Court, upon appreciation of entire evidence on record.

22.   Learned AAG, placing reliance  on  Dalbir  Kaur  v.  State  of  Punjab
(1976)  4  SCC  158   and  Shivnarayan  Laxminarayan  Joshi  v.   State   of
Maharashtra  (1980) 2 SCC 465 finally submitted  that  when  the  cumulative
effect  of  the  evidence  against  the  accused  persons  is   sufficiently
convincing for the trial court as well as the High Court  to  have  come  to
the conclusion that the offence with which the  accused  were  charged  were
established against them  beyond  all  reasonable  doubt,  unless  there  is
substantial question  of  law  involved,  this  Court  should  refrain  from
interfering with the concurrent findings of fact given by the Courts  below.


23.   We have heard learned counsel for the parties at length and  carefully
perused the material on record.

24.   The contention of the learned  Additional  Advocate  General  for  the
State that in view of the concurrent  findings  on  facts  recorded  by  the
trial Court  and  confirmed  by  the  High  Court,  this  Court  should  not
interfere with such findings, unless there is substantial  question  of  law
involved.  Before dealing with the above contention, it  is  appropriate  to
refer to the judgments in Dalbir Kaur v. State of Punjab  (1976) 4  SCC  158
and Shivnarayan Laxminarayan Joshi v. State of  Maharashtra   (1980)  2  SCC
465, wherein this Court laid down the guidelines.

In Dalbir Kaur (supra) it was held as under:

"8.   Thus  the  principles  governing  interference  by  this  Court  in  a
criminal appeal by special leave may be summarised as follows:

(1) that this Court would not interfere with the concurrent finding of  fact
based on pure appreciation of evidence even if it were to take  a  different
view on the evidence;

(2) that the Court will not normally enter into a reappraisement  or  review
of the evidence, unless the assessment of the High Court is vitiated  by  an
error of law or procedure or is based on  error  of  record,  misreading  of
evidence or is inconsistent with  the  evidence,  for  instance,  where  the
ocular evidence is totally inconsistent with the  medical  evidence  and  so
on;

(3)  that the Court would not enter into credibility of the evidence with  a
view to substitute its own opinion for that of the High Court;

(4)  that the Court would interfere where the High Court has  arrived  at  a
finding of fact in disregard of a judicial process,  principles  of  natural
justice or a  fair  hearing  or  has  acted  in  violation  of  a  mandatory
provision of law or procedure resulting in serious  prejudice  or  injustice
to the accused;

(5)  this Court might  also  interfere  where  on  the  proved  facts  wrong
inferences of law have been drawn or  where  the  conclusions  of  the  High
Court are manifestly perverse and based on no evidence.

It is very difficult to lay down a rule of universal  application,  but  the
principles mentioned above and those adumbrated in the authorities  of  this
Court cited supra provide sufficient guidelines for  this  Court  to  decide
criminal appeals by special leave.  Thus in a  criminal  appeal  by  special
leave, this Court at the hearing examines the evidence and the  judgment  of
the High Court with the limited purpose of determining whether  or  not  the
High Court has followed the principles enunciated above.   Where  the  Court
finds that the  High  Court  has  committed  no  violation  of  the  various
principles laid down by this Court and has made a correct approach  and  has
not ignored or overlooked striking features in the evidence  which  demolish
the prosecution case, the findings of fact arrived at by the High  Court  on
an appreciation of the evidence in the circumstances of the case  would  not
be disturbed.

9.    Much time, energy  and  expense  could  be  saved  if  the  principles
enunciated above are strictly adhered to by  counsel  for  the  parties  and
they confine their arguments within the four  corners  of  those  principles
and they  cooperate  in  this  sound  and  subtle  judicial  method  without
transgressing the limits imposed by the  decisions  of  this  Court  on  its
power to interfere with the concurrent findings of fact."



In Shivnarayan Laxminarayan Joshi (supra), it was held as under:

"...On a perusal of the record  and  judgment  of  the  High  Court  we  are
clearly of the opinion that these  appeals  are  concluded  by  findings  of
facts.  It is well settled  that  this  Court  in  special  leave  will  not
interfere  with  concurrent  findings  of  facts  unless  the  findings  are
vitiated by a grave error of law or by an error which leads to  serious  and
substantial miscarriage of justice.  After a perusal of the judgment of  the
courts below we find ourselves in complete agreement with the view taken  by
the High Court and are  unable  to  find  any  special  circumstances  which
require our interference with the order passed by the High Court."

      Therefore, what has to be appreciated in these appeals is whether  any
findings are vitiated by grave error of law or by an error  which  leads  to
serious and substantial miscarriage of justice, warranting  interference  of
this Court.

25.   Coming to the facts of this case, there are no direct
eye-witnesses to the incident.  The entire case of the prosecution is  based
on the circumstantial evidence.  The FIR came to  be  registered,  based  on
the confessional statement of accused No.7 - Vivek Sharma and  accused  No.4
- Rakesh Kumar Anand, made to the Head Constable - Ram Bhawan Singh  -  PW1.
They  confessed  before  P.W.1  about  the  commission  of  the  crime   and
involvement of  the  other  accused,  when  he  along  with  another  police
constable intercepted the car, while they were transporting  the  dead  body
of the deceased to dispose it of. Based on the confession statement made  by
them about the commission of the crime and  involvement  of  other  accused,
the accused were arrested and recoveries were made at their  instance.   The
contention that is put forth  on  behalf  of  the  appellants  is  that  the
confession made to the police is not admissible in evidence, as per  Section
25 of the Evidence Act.  It is settled  principle  of  law  that  statements
made by an accused before police official  which  amount  to  confession  is
barred under Section 25 of the Indian Evidence  Act.  This  prohibition  is,
however, lifted to some extent by Section 27 which reads thus:

27. How much of information received from accused  may  be  proved.-Provided
that,  when  any  fact  is  deposed  to  as  discovered  in  consequence  of
information received from a person accused of any offence,  in  the  custody
of a police officer, so much of such information, whether it  amounts  to  a
confession or not, as relates distinctly to  the  fact  thereby  discovered,
may be proved.

26.   In the light of Section 27 of the Evidence Act,  whatever  information
given by the accused in consequence of  which  a  fact  is  discovered  only
would be admissible in the evidence, whether  such  information  amounts  to
confession or not. The basic idea embedded under Section 27 of the  Evidence
Act is the doctrine of confirmation by subsequent events.  The  doctrine  is
founded on the principle that if any fact is discovered in a search made  on
the strength of any information obtained from a prisoner, such  a  discovery
is a guarantee [pic]that the information supplied by the prisoner  is  true.
The information might be confessional or non-inculpatory in nature,  but  if
it results in discovery of a fact it becomes a  reliable  information  [See:
State of Maharashtra Vs. Damu, (2000) 6 SCC 269.

27.   The "fact discovered" as envisaged under Section 27  of  the  Evidence
Act embraces the place from which the object was produced, the knowledge  of
the accused as to it, but the information given must  relate  distinctly  to
that effect.

28.   In the present case, Accused Nos. 4 & 7 disclosed the names  of  their
co-accused at  whose  instance  various  incriminating  materials  including
pistols, cartridges, bullets, blood stained articles were recovered.  Simply
denying their role without proper explanation  as  to  the  knowledge  about
those incriminating material would justify  the  presumption  drawn  by  the
Courts  below  to  the  involvement  of  the  accused  in  the  crime.   The
confession given by the accused is not the basis for  the  courts  below  to
convict the accused, but it is only a  source  of  information  to  put  the
criminal law into motion.  Hence, the  accused  cannot  take  shelter  under
Section 25 of the Evidence Act.

29.   The next contention of the appellants is that  the  prosecution  could
not prove the motive of the accused for the commission of the  offence.   We
feel that the motive behind the brutal murder of  the  deceased  as  brought
forward  by  the  prosecution  is  trustworthy  in  the  light  of  material
available on record. Considering the evidence on record, there is  no  doubt
in  our  mind  that  the  deceased-Manjunath  had   inspected   M/S   Mittal
Automobiles on 13.9.2005 and on finding irregularities, he had reported  the
same to the IOC and at his instance, the sales and supplies to the  Pump  of
accused No.1 were suspended [Ex Ka-34]. The IOC  thereafter  issued  a  show
cause notice to the father  of  Accused  No.1.  In  reply,  his  father  had
admitted that the pump was being managed  by  his  son  Pawan  Kumar  Mittal
(Exts. 29 & 30).  The record shows that accused No.1 was made to pay a  fine
of Rs 50000/- vide DD No.083226, dated 17.10.2005 and  another   Rs  25000/-
vide DD no. 083227, dated 17.10.2005 [Exts. Ka  29-30].  Though,  the  sales
and supplies were resumed on
19-10-2005, the deceased had again inspected the pump on 19.11.2005,  a  day
before he was found dead.  Suspecting that the  deceased  would  again  give
report to IOC alleging irregularities in the supplies, in  which  event,  he
would either  be  called  upon  to  pay  fine  or  may  render  his  licence
suspended, accused No.1  bore  grudge  and  with  the  assistance  of  other
accused, murdered the deceased.  The fact  that  on  the  fateful  day,  the
deceased visited the petrol bunk of accused  No.1,  where  he  was  brutally
murdered, is evident from the evidence  of  PW  4  -  Ashok  Kumar  Agarwal,
Manager of M/S Agrawal Brothers Petrol Pump, who  in  his  evidence  deposed
that the Accused No. 1 was inquiring about the location and movement of  the
deceased prior to the alleged incident on  19th  November,  2005.   P.W.5  -
Anurag Agarwal of M/s. Agarwal Brothers and P.W.8 - Ramesh  Chandra  Pandey,
Manager of M/s. Alankar Hotel, also deposed that the deceased  was  in  Gola
on the day of incident.  P.W.5 also deposed that the deceased left for  M/s.
Mittal Automobiles from his pump at 9.30  pm.   P.W.17  -  R.K.  Justi,  the
immediate senior officer of the deceased deposed that the deceased had  gone
to M/s. Mittal Automobiles for inspection on 19.11.2005. He further  deposed
that in his presence, three cartridges were recovered from the tank of  M/s.
Mittal Automobiles.  This evidence clearly shows that on  the  fateful  day,
the deceased went to M/s. Mittal Automobiles, and thereafter, he  was  found
dead.  Considering the fact that  at  the  instance  of  the  deceased,  IOC
imposed  fine  on  accused  No.1  for  the  irregularities  found   in   the
dispensation of fuel, which lead to his  paying  up  fine,  there  is  every
possibility of accused No.1 bearing grudge against the  deceased,  when  the
deceased visited his bunk on 19.11.2005, suspecting that the deceased  would
again inspect the bunk and report the irregularities, in which event he  may
end up either paying fine or it will result in his licence being  cancelled,
accused No.1 with the assistance of other accused, had conspired to do  away
with the deceased, and accordingly killed him.

30.   We are in full agreement  with  the  Courts  below  that  the  accused
conspired to commit the  offence  of  murder  of  the  deceased.  The  nexus
between the accused to do away with the deceased, has  been  established  by
the prosecution beyond all reasonable doubt.  Accused No.1-  Pawan  Kumar  @
Monu Mittal, being the owner/in-charge  of  pump  where  the  incident  took
place, is an interested party in the crime to do  away  with  the  deceased,
because at his instance, the supplies were suspended and  only  upon  paying
fine, the supplies were restored.  Accused No.4 - Rakesh Anand  and  Accused
No.7 - Vivek Sharma, were caught by  P.W.1  -  Head  Constable  and  another
police constable, while they were trying to dispose of the dead body of  the
deceased in his own car.  They confessed about the  involvement  of  accused
No.5 - Lalla Giri.  Lalla Giri (A-5) is an ex-employee of  Pawan  Kumar  (A-
1), and at his instance, three bullets were recovered from the petrol  pump,
which proves his presence at the spot and the time of  occurrence.   Accused
no.2 - Devesh Agnihotri's involvement is ascertained by  the  fact  that  he
had led to the recovery of four cartridges from the house of maternal  uncle
of Sanjay Awasthi.  Devesh Agnihotri (A-2) was  earlier  tried  for  a  case
under Section 307 IPC along with Accused no.4 - Rakesh Anand,  which  proves
his previous association with the conspirators, though  cannot  be  a  basis
for the conviction. At the instance of Accused No.  2  -  Devesh  Agnihotri,
Accused No.8 - Rajesh Verma was arrested with Accused No. 1 -  Monu  Mittal,
while he was taking him in his own car, which proves  his  association  with
the main accused.  At the time of his  arrest,  a  revolver  with  two  live
cartridges was recovered.  A rifle (Ext. Ka-18) belonging to Accused No.1  -
Pawan Kumar @ Monu Mittal, was also recovered  from  the  house  of  Accused
No.8 - Rajesh Verma. Thus the nexus between the accused  as  well  as  their
participation in the crime is well established beyond reasonable  doubt  and
we find nothing on record to suggest that  the  accused  were  unnecessarily
implicated by the police.

31.   There is also no doubt in our mind as regards the place  of  incident.
An effort has been made by the learned counsel appearing for the accused  to
raise doubts over the same on the ground that the number of bullets used  in
the crime is  not  proportionate  to  the  number  of  bullets  hitting  the
deceased.  It came on record in the evidence of PW-5  -  Anurag  Agrawal  of
M/s Aggarwal Brothers Petrol Pump that the  deceased  had  informed  him  at
9.30 p.m. on  19.11.2005  that  from  there  he  was  going  to  M/S  Mittal
Automobiles, to take  his  measuring  instruments  which  he  had  forgotten
there. The recovery of bullets from the tank of M/S Mittal  Automobiles  and
from behind their petrol pump along with blood  stained  cloth  cumulatively
establish the place of incident to be  M/S  Mittal  Automobiles.   In  every
case of gun firing, it is not required that each  and  every  bullet  should
hit the target.  There may be attempts by the  deceased  or  the  victim  to
save himself from the raining bullets, and in which case,  the  bullets  may
not hit the target.  Merely because all the bullets fired from the  gun  did
not hit the target and were not recovered from the scene of offence,  is  no
ground to conclude that the incident did not take place.

32.   As regards the allegation  of  contradictions  in  the  statements  of
prosecution witnesses,  we  do  not  find  any  major  contradictions  which
require our attention and consideration.  When  a  witness  is  examined  at
length it is quite possible for him to  make  some  discrepancies.  No  true
witness can possibly escape from making some discrepant details. But  Courts
should bear in mind that it is only when discrepancies in the evidence of  a
witness are so incompatible with the credibility of  his  version  that  the
Court is justified in jettisoning his evidence [See:  Rammi   Vs.  State  of
M.P., (1999) 8 SCC 649].   There  is  no  doubt  that  when  two  views  are
possible, the one which favours the accused should be taken and the  accused
should be acquitted by giving the benefit of  doubt.   But  in  the  instant
case, the evidence on record is trustworthy and  consistent,  and  there  is
only one view, which points  to  the  guilt  of  the  accused.   Though  the
learned counsel for the appellants sought to point out  minor  discrepancies
in the evidence of the witnesses, but in the light of the above judgment  of
the court, we are of the considered opinion that  such  minor  discrepancies
should not come in the way of  the  other  strong  circumstantial  evidence,
cumulatively taken together, forms a  complete  chain  of  events,  pointing
towards the guilt of the accused in the commission of the crime.

33.   In cases where the direct evidence is scarce, the  burden  of  proving
the  case  of  prosecution  is  bestowed  upon  motive  and   circumstantial
evidence. It is the chain of events that acquires prime importance  in  such
cases.      Before analysing factual aspects it may be  stated  that  for  a
crime to be proved it is not necessary that the crime must be seen  to  have
been committed and must, in all circumstances be  proved  by  direct  ocular
evidence by examining before the  court  those  persons  who  had  seen  its
commission. The offence can be proved by circumstantial evidence also.   The
principal fact or factum probandum may be  proved  indirectly  by  means  of
certain inferences drawn from  factum  probans,  that  is,  the  evidentiary
facts. To put it differently, circumstantial evidence is not direct  to  the
point in issue but consists of evidence of various other facts which are  so
closely associated with the fact in issue that taken together  they  form  a
chain of circumstances from which the existence of the  principal  fact  can
be legally inferred or presumed [See: Bodhraj Vs. State  of  J&K,  (2002)  8
SCC 45]. In the case on hand, the evidence adduced  by  the  prosecution  as
discussed above, clearly proves the chain of events connecting  the  accused
to the guilt of the commission of the offence.  The entire evidence  brought
on  record  by  the  prosecution,  is  not  only  convincing,  but  is  also
trustworthy.  Even if the confession of accused Nos. 4 and 7 made before  PW
1 and PW 2, which is barred by Section 25 of the Evidence Act, is not  taken
into account, the other evidence on record adduced by  the  prosecution,  is
sufficient to hold the accused guilty of the offence.

34.   This Court has been consistently taking the view  that  where  a  case
rests squarely on circumstantial evidence, the inference  of  guilt  can  be
justified only when all the incriminating facts and circumstances are  found
to be incompatible with the innocence of the accused or  the  guilt  of  any
other person. In the present case, on scrutiny of  evidence  on  record,  we
are convinced that the prosecution had established beyond  reasonable  doubt
the complete chain of events which points at the guilt of the accused.





35.   Thus, in the light of above circumstances coupled  with  the  complete
chain of events, this Court  has  no  manner  of  doubt  to  hold  that  the
prosecution has succeeded in proving its case  against  the  accused  beyond
all reasonable doubt.





36.   Taking the entire case in its totality, we do not find  any  merit  in
these appeals requiring our interference. Resultantly, the appeals fail  and
are dismissed.

                    ......................................................J.
                              (SUDHANSU JYOTI MUKHOPADHAYA)



......................................................J.
(N.V. RAMANA)

NEW DELHI
MARCH 11,  2015

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