T. Raghunatha Reddy and ors. Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh – Court Judgment
|Court||Andhra Pradesh High Court|
|Case Number||Crl. A. No. 506 of 1998 and Crl. RC No. 478 of 1998|
|Judge||N.Y. Hanumanthappa and; Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, JJ.|
|Reported in||1998(2)ALD(Cri)721; 1998(2)ALT(Cri)560; 1999CriLJ4857|
|Acts||Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 – Sections 302 and 304-B; Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 – Sections 3 and 4; Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) , 1973 – Sections 313|
|Appellant||T. Raghunatha Reddy and ors.|
|Respondent||State of Andhra Pradesh|
|Appellant Advocate||Mr. C. Padmanabha Reddy, ;C. Praveen Kumar, Advs. and ;Mr. E. Bhagiratha Rao, Adv.|
|Respondent Advocate||Mr. C. Praveen Kumar, Adv. and Addl. Public Prosecutor|
criminal – circumstantial evidence – sections 302 and 304-b of indian penal code, 1860, section 3 of dowry prohibition act, 1961 and section 313 of criminal procedure code, 1973 – husband, his parents and his three sisters convicted under section 302 and 304-b of ipc and sections 3 and 4 of dowry prohibition act – appeal preferred – husband and his father pleaded that they were at nellore at time of incident – sisters of husband pleaded they were at their place of work – medical evidence showed that bladder of deceased wife was empty and faecal matter was negligible and she could have answered calls of nature just before her death – case of prosecution entirely rests on circumstantial evidence with regard to demand for additional dowry or alleged murder of wife and child – investigation…..orderneelam sanjiva reddy, j.1. a1 to a3, a5 and a7 in sc no.95/94 on the file of the ii addl. sessions judge, cuddapah, are the appellants. crl. rc no.478 of 1998 is filed against the acquittal of a6 and as. a4 died and the case against her abated. al to a3, a5 to a8 were tried on four charges framed under sections 302 and 304-b ipc and sections 3 and 4 of dowry prohibition act. a1 to a3, a5 and a7 were convicted of the offence punishable under section 302 ipc and sentenced to life imprisonment. al to a3, a5 and a7 were convicted of the offence punishable under section 304-b ipc and sentenced to 7 years rigorous imprisonment and to pay a fine of rs.100. al to a3, a5 and a7 were convicted of the offences punishable under sections 3 and 4 of the dowry prohibition act and sentenced to 2…..
ORDERNeelam Sanjiva Reddy, J.
1. A1 to A3, A5 and A7 in SC No.95/94 on the file of the II Addl. Sessions Judge, Cuddapah, are the appellants. Crl. RC No.478 of 1998 is filed against the acquittal of A6 and AS. A4 died and the case against her abated. Al to A3, A5 to A8 were tried on four charges framed under Sections 302 and 304-B IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act. A1 to A3, A5 and A7 were convicted of the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC and sentenced to life imprisonment. Al to A3, A5 and A7 were convicted of the offence punishable under Section 304-B IPC and sentenced to 7 years rigorous imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs.100. Al to A3, A5 and A7 were convicted of the offences punishable under Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and sentenced to 2 years rigorous imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs.100/- on each count. A6 and A8 were acquitted of all the charges. All the sentences were directed to run concurrently.
2. The substance of the charge against the accused is that; on the intervening night of 9/10-7-1992 between 10.30 p.m. and 4 a.m. at Bangalow street, Rajampet, they caused the death of Laxmi Devi (hereinafter referred to as Dl) by using violence on her neck, chest and throat and also caused the death of Kedarnath Reddy (hereinafter referred to as D2) by smothering.
3. The case of the prosecution briefly stated is that Al is a practising advocate atRajampet. A2 and A3 are his parents. A4 to A7 are his sisters. A8 is his younger brother, D1 is the younger sister of Matli Gangi Reddy (PW1). Matli Venkata Lakshumma (PW2) is the wife of PW1. The marriage of A1 with Dl took place on 3-12-1989. About two months prior to the date of marriage, PWs.l, 2, Yeruva Krishnaiah (PW4) and Mallu Venkata Subba Reddy (PW5) went to the house of A2 and saw A1. Subsequently a week later, A1 to A3 came to their house to see D1. PWs.4 and 5 acted as mediators. It is said that Al to A3 demanded dowry of Rs. 1,50,000/- and 30 tolas of gold, which was settled for Rs. 1,00,000/- and 20 tolas of gold. The betrothal ceremony took place after 5 days, and on mat day, they demanded half of the dowry, but the said amount was not paid. However, ornaments for the 20 tolas were made. On 3-12-1989 at about 11.45 a.m. the marriage between Al and Dl was celebrated at Satyanarayan Choultry at Rajampet. On the date of marriage, PWs.l, 4 and 5 went to the house of A1 and paid a cash of Rs.1,00,000 to A3. The receipts with regard to gold ornaments were also handed over. It is said that about a month after the marriage, D1 was sent to the house of A1. At that time, all accused had asked D1 about the gold waist belt and hand ‘Vankey’ (ornament used at upper arm), which she was wearing at the time of marriage. It is said that Al, A3 and A8 asked PW1 to give his Hero Honda Motor Cycle, which he refused. The accused started ill-treating Dl for the vehicle and for gold ornaments. Subsequently, the marriage of Shubavathi one of the daughter of A3 was fixed and for that they had asked PWs. 1 and 2 to bring gold waist belt and ‘Vankey’ to adorn the bride, but they did not bring them. It is said that because of this, the accused were harassing Dl. In the sixth month of pregnancy, PW1 brought Dl to his house on 18-10-1990. She delivered a male child who was named as Kedarnath Reddy. After the birth of the child, the accused did not visit their house for nine months. In the ninth month, PW1 sent PWs.4 and 5 to the house of the accused for asking him to take Dl to their house. The accuseddid not go to take the deceased. On the advice of one Dr. Bomdy Reddy (not examined), PW1 took two tolas of gold black bead chain and a few gold bangles and sent Dl and D2 along with those ornaments. It is said that Dl used to complain that the accused used to harass her for not getting gold waist belt, ‘vankey’ and motor cycle. PW2 took Dl to her house for Ugadi festival. After 10 days, she left her back with her husband. About a day prior to the date of incident, PW2 went to the house of accused to bring Dl for Ekadasi festival. It is said that while Dl was telling PW2 about the harassment, A2 came there and beat Dl. When PW2 intervened, the daughter of A2 came there and asked PW2 as to why she was coming frequently to their house and that she was a ‘bazaar’ lady. When PW2 retorted saying the same, A2, and A4 to A7, on the instigation of Al, A3 and A8, beat PW2 with hands and threw her out of the house. When Dl intervened, Al, A2 and A4 to A7 beat Dl and took her inside the house. PW2 returned to her house. As PW1 was not there, she narrated the incident to Ummadi Venkata Reddy (PW3) and requested him to go to Rajampet and see D1. PW3 told her that as it was night time, he would go there on the next morning. On 10-7-1992, PW3 went to Psajampet. After some time, he returned and informed PWs. 1 and 2 that he saw the dead bodies of Dl and her son D2 in the verandah of the accused. Immediately, PWs. 1 and 2 and their relatives went there and noticed the dead bodies in the verandah. According to M. Venkata Reddy (PW6), on 10-7-1992 at about 5 a.m., he went to the house of the accused to bring water and noticed Al, A3 and A8 bringing Dl in an unconscious stage to the verandah and A2 brought D2 and when PW6 enquired Al as to what had happened, Al replied that it was none of his business and asked him to go away.
4. On 10-7-1992 at about 8.00 a.m, V. Ramanujulu, (PW14) SI of Police, Rajampet received information about the death of Dl and D2 and rushed to the spot. PW1 went to the police station and preferred awritten complaint Ex.Pl. A case in Cr. No.45/ 92 under Section 304-B IPC and Section 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act was registered on the said complaint and Ex.P23 FIR was issued and copies of the same were sent to all concerned.
5. On 10-7-1992, A. Balachandraiah, MRO, Rajampet (PW8) on requisition, conducted inquest over the dead bodies and Exs.P2 and P3 arc the inquest reports in respect of Dl and D2. During the inquest, PW8 recorded the statements of PWs. 1 to 5. After the inquest, the dead bodies were sent to the Dist. Headquarters Hospital, Cuddapah, for post-mortem examination. During the inquest, PWS collected 2 bottles of water containing 1 ltr. each from the water sump. After completion of inquest, PW8 sent the dead bodies for post-mortem examination.
6. M. Venu Gopal Reddy (PW9), Civil Asst. Surgeon, Govt. Headquarters Hospital, Cuddapah, conducted post-mortem over the dead body of Dl on 11-7-1992 and issued Ex.P11 post-mortem certificate opining that Dl died of asphyxia about 36 hours prior to post-mortem examination. Dr. Ramachandraiah (PW11), Civil Asst. Surgeon, Government Headquarters Hospital, Cuddapah, conducted post-mortem examination on D2 on 11-7-1992 and issued Ex.P12 post-mortem certificate opining that the cause of death was asphyxia due to smothering about 30 to 34 hours prior to postmortem examination.
7. Dr. S.M. Ahammad (PW12), Asst. Director, Forensic Science Medicine, Kurnool Medical College, after examination and analysis of hyoid bone with little soft tissues preserved in formalin solution of Dl and D2, issued Ex.P17 opining that the both hyoid bones were intact and normal without any injury, fracture or dislocation.
8. Dr. L.C. Obulesu (PW13), Asst Professor, Dept. of Forensic Medicine, Kumool Medical College, Kurnool, on requisition from the JFCM Court, Rajampet, examined thewater sent from the sump and pieces of lung tissues of Dl and D2 and after diatom test and analysis, issued Ex.P22 opining that the death of Dl and D2 due to drowning was possible and it cannot be ruled out.
9. B.V.R. Prasad (PW15), CI of Police, Rajampet, who took over investigation from PW14, arrested Al to A3 at their residence at Rajampet and sent them for judicial remand. After completion of investigation, PW15 filed charge-sheet against Al to A8 in the Court of the Judicial I Class Magistrate, Rajampet, and it was taken on file in PRC No.21/92. The learned Magistrate committed the case to the Sessions Court as the offences alleged to have been committed by the accused are exclusively triable by a Sessions Court. The case against A4 abated since she died.
10. The plea of the accused was one of denial. The prosecution, to establish its case, examined PWs. 1 to 15 and marked Exs.Pl to P25 and MOs. l to 12. When examined under Section 313 Cr.PC about the incriminating circumstances appearing in the prosecution evidence against the accused, they denied the same and further Al stated that on 9-7-1992 at 5 p.m., he went to Nellore by his car to see his ailing mother A2, who was taking treatment in Dr. Vijaya Laxmi ‘s hospital and returned home on 10-7-1992 at about 1.30 p.m. along with A2 and A8 after receiving the death message through the telegram sent by Kandula Venkata Ramana (DW2). He asserted that the police of Rajampet took him and his father into custody on 10-7-1992 but produced before the Court only on 14-7-1992. A2 stated that she was taking treatment in Dr. Vijaya Laxmi’s hospital at Nellore from 6-7-1992 and on receipt of telegram of DW2, she along with Al and A8 came to Rajampet. A3 stated that Dl and D2 who went to bed on 9-7-1992, were found in the water sump in the backyard of the house on the next day morning and then he brought the dead bodies out and immediately reported the matter to the SI of Police, Rajampet and also sent information to PW1 through one Dhananjaya. A5 and A6 statedthat they were working as teachers at Mandhara and were staying with Jayachandra Reddy, their brother-in-law and they came to their parents’ house on learning about the incident. A7 stated that she was working as teacher at Pullampet and staying in the house of her relatives and she returned to her parents’ house on 10-7-1992 on learning about the occurrence. A8 stated that he has been running ‘Shakthi College of Engineering and Technology’ in Nellore since 1990 and has been residing there with his family and on 10-7-1992 having received telegram from DW2, he, Al and A2 came to Rajampet by car at about noon.
11. Accused examined DWF (Y. Narasitnhachari) and DW2 and DW3 (L. Malleswara Reddy) and marked Exs.Dl to D10 on their behalf Exs.Dl to D8 are portions of prior statements of PWs.2, 4 and 5 made before the police or PW8. Ex.D9 is a copy of the telegram given by DW2 and Ex-D10 is a copy of the bill for the said telegram.
12. Learned II Addl. Sessions Judge, after considering the evidence on record convicted Al to A5 and A7 as detailed above and acquitted A6 and A8 of all the charges. Al to A5 and A7, aggrieved by their convictions and sentences, preferred this appeal. De facto complainant, aggrieved by the order of acquittal of A6 and A8, filed Cr. RC No.478 of 1998.
13. Mr. C. Paamanabha Reddy, learned senior Counsel appearing for the accused-appellants, assailed the convictions and sentences passed against the accused-appellants on various grounds. His submissions are that there are absolutely no legal and reliable evidence to convict the appellants under Sections 304-B and 302 IPC and under Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, that there is no conclusive proof that the deceased met with a homicidal death, that there are clear indications that the deceased must have accidentally fallen into the water sump which is adjacent to the lavatory and died, thatthe absence of faecal matter in the rectum of Dl would go to show that Dl had been to lavatory to answer calls of nature, that the medical evidence supported the version of the accused in all aspects, that the death of Dl and D2 was only due to drowning and not due to smothering, that the testimony of PWs.1 to 5 is highly interested, discrepant, and unworthy of reliance, that the circumstances and financial background of the parties do not show that there was any demand or harassment for dowry, mat the plea of Al, A2, A5 and A7 that they were not present at the time of incident was more probable considering the circumstances of this case and the evidence of DWs. 1 to 3, who arc independent witnesses, and that A3 is an old man of 70 years and it is not possible to believe mat he had any hand in the alleged offences. Thus submitting, learned senior Counsel appearing for the accused-appellants, prayed the Court to set aside the convictions and sentences passed against the accused-appellants and also dismiss the revision petition filed by the de facto complainant and acquit the accused of all the charges framed against them.
14. Learned Public Prosecutor, while refuting the submissions made by the learned senior Counsel for the appellant submitted that the evidence on record is sufficient to support the findings of the learned II Addl. Sessions Judge in convicting and sentencing the accused-appellants and that the appeal is liable to be dismissed.
15. Appreciation of technical evidence as to the cause of death of Dl and D2 would greatly facilitate to arrive at the truth and correctness of the other oral evidence on record. PW9, though opined that Dl died of asphyxia, could not give the definite cause for asphyxia. He admitted in his cross-examination that asphyxia could be caused even by drowning, and in fact, he has not written the specific cause of asphyxia in his report. Bluishness of the lace, swollen eyes, congested with petechial haemorrhages, pupils dilated and blood stainsfrom both nostrils and cars are symptoms of asphyxia. His observation of the dead body Dl reveal these symptoms. He did not notice any external injuries on both the upper limbs, and chest. Though he noticed an abrasion of 1′ x 1/4′ on left angle of mouth obliquely downwards, front and sides of neck along with lower part of face congested and swollen extending on front of chest, and upper limbs, a brown dry bruise 3/4′ x I’ on right side of neck 2′ to the right of thyroid cartilage 1′ below the ankle of lower jaw, he did not mention in his report whether they were anti-mortcm or post-mortem. No doubt, he stated that the said injuries were anti-mortem, but the absence of such recording in the postmortem report, and the absence of the reasons for saying so during his testimony, give sufficient reasonable scope to believe that the said injuries could be post-mortem also. The fact that the hyoid bone was intact without any injury, fracture or dislocation, supports this view. He also admitted mat bladder was empty and faecal matter was negligible and she could have answered the calls of nature just before her death.
16. PW11, though opined that D2 might have died of asphyxia due to smothering, he did not give specific reasons to come to the conclusion that asphyxia was caused only due to smothering. He did not notice any external injuries on D2. There were no signs of use of violence on D2. The hyoid bone was normal. His evidence docs not rule out the possibility of death by drowning.
17. The evidence of PW12 establishes the fact that hyoid bones of D1 and D2 were intact and normal without any injury, fracture or dislocation. Fracture of hyoid bone is common in most of the cases of throttling and that hyoid bone fracture is strongly suggestive of throttling. Incase of throttling, nail marks might occur on either side of the throat. He further admitted mat if any doctor examining the dead body noticed injuries, he would mention whether they were anti-mortem or post-mortem. The evidence of this witnessgives much scope to infer that the deaths of Dl and D2 were possible for reasons other than throttling or smothering.
18. The evidence of PW13, who conducted diatom test of the water sent from the water sump and lung tissues of D1 and D2 sent for examination, came to the opinion that diatoms found in the lung tissues and diatoms found in the water bottle tallied, and therefore the death of Dl and D2 due to drowning was possible and he specifically stated that death due to possibility of drowning could not be ruled out.
19. It is clear from the evidence of PWs.9 and 11 that death of D1 and D2 was caused at about the same time. Though PWs.9 and 11, who conducted post-mortem on the dead bodies of Dl and D2 separately, noted the probable time of death prior to post-mortem with a difference of one or two hours, that itself would not be sufficient to conclude that D2 died one or two hours subsequent to the death of Dl. This one or two hours difference in the probable time of death prior to post-mortem is probably due to different doctors conducting postmortem examination separately and margin of error in the assessment of probable time of death.
20. In view of the evidence of PW9 that DPs bladder was empty and faecal matter was negligible, and that she could have answered the calls of nature just before her death, it was quite likely that she died in the early hours of the day immediately after answering the calls of nature.
21. The following passages from Modi’s Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology are extracted to appreciate the facts in the instant case :
”Definition .–Drowning is a form of death in which the atmospheric air is prevented from entering the lungs by submersion of the body in water or any other fluid medium.It is not necessary that there should be complete submersion. Death is sure to occur, even if the face alone is submerged so that air is prevented from entering the respiratory orifices.
The different kinds of drowning are (A) wet drowning-may be in fresh or salt water, (B) dry drowning, (C) secondary drowning, and (D) the immersion syndrome (Cold water drowning). It is now established that the mechanism of death in drowning is complex. Miles suggested that the term ‘drowning’ should be used to denote the process resulting from submersion in water in which there is loss of consciousness and a threat to life. Drowning has been defined accordingly as death due to submersion.’
‘When an individual is rendered unconscious by shock or syncope at the time of immersion, he goes to the bottom, and may rise once to a certain height but usually sinks without a struggle, hi such a case little water enters the respiratory tract.”’Mode of Death-Asphyxia :–This is a common cause in the majority of cases, as water getting into the lungs gets churned up with air and mucus, and produces a fine froth which block the air vesicles.
In a few cases, death may occur from obstructive asphyxia also known as dry drowning caused by laryngeal spasm set up by a small amount of water entering the larynx. In such a case water docs not enter the lungs and the classical signs of drawling will be absent. According to Miles, about 20 to 40% of all drownings belong to this category. It should be noted that spasmodic closure of the vocal cord is not detectable in post-mortem examination.’
22. The technical evidence viewed in the light of the above quoted passages, we are of the opinion that D1 and D2 died of asphyxia caused due to dry drowning.
23. The case of the prosecution entirely rests on circumstantial evidence with regard to demand for additional dowry or to the alleged murder of Dl and D2. Neighbours of the accused or residents of the locality were not examined to speak that there was any torture of Dl by any of the accused for additional dowry. The Investigating Officer did not examine any of the neighbours to gather information as to how the deceased died on that fateful day. All the witnesses examined in this regard are from different villages and also interested in the prosecution of the accused in one way or the other.
24. PW1, though testified in favour of prosecution, his evidence bristles with material contradictions and developments spewing venom at the accused. It exhibits his anxiety to implicate the accused in the case and his scant regard for truth. This witness stated in his chief-examination that he along with PWs.3, 4, 5 and other relatives, went to the house of the accused and saw the dead bodies of Dl and D2 and police were also present there. He got drafted ‘dava’ there and went to the police station and filed it before SHO. When the police were there at the house of the accused, there was no necessity for him to go the police station to submit Ex.PI. The evidence of PW8, who held inquest shows that Ex.P10 letter given by PW1 was written by T. Ramakrishnaiah, VAO of Rajampet and that Exs.Pl and P10 are in the handwriting of the same person. These circumstances show that PW1 gave a report to the police earlier to Ex.PI and that has not seen the light of the day. This gives scope to doubt that an earlier report of PW1 was suppressed and Ex.PI was brought into existence after due deliberations and consultations. PW1 stated that A1 was present when Ex.PI was drafted but the Investigating Officer clearly stated tliat none of the accused was available at the scene of offence. PW1 positively stated mat he did not ask any of the neighbours or the persons who came to see the deceased about the alleged ill-treatment of the deceased by the accused. If he had information that his sister was beingill-treated by the accused, he would have naturally enquired the neighbours about such ill-treatment. Dl admittedly studied uptp B.Com. She never wrote a letter to PWs.1 and 2 or any other relatives about the alleged ill-treatment by any of the accused demanding additional dowry. If Dl really had complained orally about any harassment, PWs.l and 2 would have taken some action in that regard like mediation by elders or lodging a complaint with the police. The absence of any such thing on the part of PWs.l and 2, throws genuine doubt about the truth of Dl informing them that she was ill-treated by any of the accused.
25. PW1 admitted clearly in his cross-examination that Al had a motor-cycle even before the marriage and he also purchased a car after the birth of D2. Under those circumstances, it was improbable that he demanded for the second-hand motor-cycle of PW1. He did not state that any jewellery was given to any of the accused in the form of dowry at the time of marriage. It is evident that what was given, was given to his sister only. This witness admitted that Al and his wife frequently visited their house and Al himself gave name to D2. In fact, Al took them to Tirupati, where the tonsuring of D2 was done. Considering these circumstances, it is difficult to accept the evidence of this witness that Al did not go to their house to see the mother and child after the birth of the child. It is the case of the prosecution tliat the accused demanded gold through Dr. Y. Bandi Reddy of Cuddapah, but for the reasons best known to them, they did not examine him. As per the evidence of Investigating Officer, he sent P.C.1305 to the village of PWs.l and 2 to get them. This is not corroborated by this witness. PW1 admitted that Al’s family is a good one and that the accused owned house-sites at Cuddapah and Rajampet. PW1 clearly admitted that for the first time in the Court, he stated tliat the accused 1 to 3 demanded Rs.1,50,000/- cash and 30 tolas of gold and that the said fact was not mentioned in Ex.P1. He also admitted that he did not mention inEx.P1 that the mediators settled to give Rs.1,00,000/- cash and 20 tolas of gold and that the accused demanded to pay half of the same at the betrothal. This is only a concocted story. For the first time, he stated in his evidence as if himself and PWs.3 and 4 went in the early morning of the marriage day and gave cash to A3. The same was not stated to the police or PWS. PW1 admitted that he did not mention in Ex.P1 that the accused demanded gold waist belt and ‘vankey’, which were put on the bride at the time of marriage. He also admitted that he did not state the same to the police or PW8. PW1 admitted that he did not mention in Ex.Pl that the accused demanded Hero Honda Motor-cycle. A perusal of cross-examination of PW1 reveals several such material improvements made by him at the time of trial.
26. It is seen from his evidence that the family of PW1 consists of three brothers and two sisters, of which he is the eldest and managing the joint family property of Ac.12.00 or so. On the other hand, it is seen from his evidence that Al was a practising advocate with a standing and also acquired some valuable garden land and house-sites apart from the lands of their joint family. Further A3 is a pensioner, and brother and sisters of Al are also earning members in one way or the other. Considering this background of PW1 and the accused, we are of the view that there is not much truth in the alleged harassment for additional dowry or giving of dowry to the accused at the time of marriage as spoken to by this witness.
27. PW2 testified in support of the prosecution on the same lines of PW1 and it also suffers from the same material contradictions and developments as that of PW1. Her evidence is that a day prior to the occurrence of alleged offence, she went to the house of the accused where she was beaten by A2 and A4 to on the instigation of Al, A3, and A8. Except her self-serving statement, there is absolutely no corroboration. No neighbour was examined to prove the saidallegation. If really some incident had taken place a day earlier to the death of Dl and D2, it would have attracted the attention of neighbours. If really she was beaten, she would have lodged a complaint with the police or with some elders, and nothing has been done by this witness except returning home and sending PW3 to the house of the accused on the next day. Exs.D 1 and D2 amply contradict her statement. She never stated that she had been to Rajampet to bring Dl for the festival either before the police or PW8. This clearly shows her anxiety to implicate the accused in the case. She did not state before the police or PWS that Dl told her that she was being ill-treated by the accused for not bringing additional gold, cash and motor-cycle. Thus, a perusal of her evidence clearly shows that she has developed her version materially during trial without a whisper of those things when she was examined by police or PW8. Presentation of black beads gold chain and two gold ‘kapulu’ to D2, even if true, cannot be considered as harassment for additional dowry. It is customary for the middle class families to give small presents like that to the first child of a sister by brother or parents.
28. The evidence of PW3 is that he heard that Rs.1,00,000/- cash and 20 tolas of gold was given as dowry in the marriage of Dl. Dl was visiting the house of PW1 now and then and used to say that the accused demanded more money and gold. A day prior to the death of Dl and D2, PW2 came to him and told that Al to AS abused and beat her and requested him to visit Rajampet. As it was night, he went to Rajampet on the next morning and found dead bodies of D1 and D2 in the verandah of the house of the accused and the accused were present there. He returned to his village and informed the same to PWs. 1 and 2. Then himself, PWs.l and 2 and some others went to the house of the accused in Rajampet, where they found police and PW8 present.
29. Admittedly, PW3 is a neighbour and close to PW1. His testimony of payment ofdowry was only hearsay. His evidence that he visited the house of the accused on that morning and noticed dead bodies ofDl andD2 in the verandah of the house of the accused and returned to his village and informed the same to PWs.l and 2, and once again came to Rajampet along with them, is unbelievable. It is seen .from the other evidence, that the fact PW2 visiting the house of the accused a day prior to the incident, is a clear case of improvement. When that is so, the testimony of this witness in support of PW2’s version cannot be accepted. He clearly admitted that by the time they reached the house of the accused, they saw police there. Meanwhile, PW8 also came there. He. PW1 and others gave a report to PW8, which was signed by them. He also admitted in his cross-examination that at that time people were talking that Dl and D2 fell into the water sump and died and that the dead bodies were removed from the sump and laid on the ground. Though what he heard at that time may not be admissible evidence, yet it throws doubt about the truth of the prosecution version.
30. PWs.4 and 5 are neither residents of Rajampet nor residents of the village of PW1. They belong to different villages far away from Rajampet and also the village of PWI. PW4 is a friend of PW1 and PW5 is brother of PW2. It is their evidence that they acted as mediators for the marriage between Dl and Al and at that time, Rs.1,00,000/- cash and 20 tolas of gold was given as dowry. It might be true that these two witnesses acted as mediators at the time of the marriage, but from that, it cannot be said that they spoke all truth and nothing but truth. It is clear from the testimony that they materially developed the case of the prosecution at the trial. Probably, this they did because they have close relationship or friendship with PWs. 1 and 2. They being non-residents of Rajampet or the village of PW1, they would not have known personally about any alleged harassment for additional dowry etc. Their evidence with regard to harassment for additional dowry isclearly an improvement made in view of their anxiety to help PWs. 1 and 2. A perusal of the testimony of PWs.4 and 5 clearly establishes these facts that they have materially improved their version at the trial just to implicate the accused in the case.
31. Though PW6 testified that he saw all the accused in their house on the evening of 9-7-1992 and also on 10-7-1992 at 5.00 a.m. the learned trial Judge rightly disbelieved his presence. Evidently, he was a chance witness. He was not examined by the police or PW8. He was produced belatedly before G. Lakshmipathi (PW10), JFCM, Nandalur and his statement was recorded only on 3-10-1992 much after the occurrence. There was no explanation for the delay. If really what he said was true, he could have been examined by police and PWS on the very same day.
32. P. V. Subba Reddy (PW7) is one of the inquest panchas. He spoke about the inquest held over the dead bodies of Dl and D2 and preparation of inquest panclianamas. He admitted in his cross-examination that in Ex.P2, it was mentioned that D2 might have fallen into the water sump and died. He also stated that he heard at the time of inquest that D2 fell in the water tank and died. This evidence leads to a reasonable conclusion that at the time of inquest, there was also a version favourable to the accused and that was suppressed and it was not put in the limelight. On the other hand, as they had a copy of FIR at tliat time, it was quite likely that they towed the line of the police and recorded inquest panclianamas in conformity with Ex.P23 FIR. He admitted that in column 12 of the FIR, police mentioned that the dead bodies were found in the water tank situated in the backyard of the house of the accused. The measurement of the water sump is 8′-3′ length and 3′-2′ width with a depth of 5′-l’. At the time when the inquest report was prepared, the water level was 4′-6′. It is not disputed tliat toilet is in the backyard beyond the sump. The evidence ofthis witness is also quite formal in nature and it docs not take the prosecution case any further in establishing the charges against them.
33. PWs.14 and 15 spoke as to the investigation made by them in this case. PW14 spoke all the Material improvements made by the witnesses at the trial. It is clear from his evidence that none of the witnesses stated before him that the accused demanded Rs.1,50,000/-cash and 30 tolas of gold and to pay half of the cash and gold at the time of betrothal ceremony. It is clear from his evidence that none of the witnesses told him about any demand by the accused for gold waist belt and ‘vaddanam’ or about harassment or ill-treatment of Dl for the same. Admittedly, no neighbour or resident of the locality was examined to establish any harassment or ill-treatment of D1 at any time prior to her death. Witnesses who are far away from Rajampet and close to PWs. 1 and 2 were examined in support of the prosecution case. Thus, the evidence of PWs. 14 and 15 Investigating Officers leads us to the conclusion that the investigation was not conducted impartially. Further, it shows that the testimony of PWs. 1 to 5 was materially developed besides being bristled with material contradictions.
34. As against the above evidence, we have to examine the defence pleas of the accused. DW1, who resides in the 6th house from the house of Al in the same street, testified to the effect that Al was living with his wife happily and on the day prior to the death of Dl and D2, Al after coming from Court told that his ailing mother was taking treatment at Nellore and he had to go there to see her. He also went in Al’s car up to Chitvel while they were going to Nellore. He collected money from his brother at Chitvel and returned home by 9.00 p.m. On the next day early morning at 5,30 a.m. he heard cries from the house of A3 and his youngest daughter. A3 called him and told him that Dl and D2 fell in the water tank. He went and saw them in the water tank. He, with thehelp of others, removed the dead bodies from the water tank and kept them in the verandah. A3 sent Dhananjaya to PWl’s house to inform the same. A3 called Ramana (DW2), advocate and asked him to inform the sad news to Al, who was at Nellore. Al, A2 and A8 came thereby about 12.45 p.m. on that day and at about the same time, PWs. 1, 2 and others came. He was also examined by the police.
35. No doubt, this witness spoke about what he noticed and what he observed. He cannot speak what be has not seen and observed. He positively stated that he travelled in the car of Al up to Chitvel, while Al was going to Nellore on that day. It might be mat’ he could not have observed what happened in the house of Al. But, his evidence that he travelled along with Al on that day up to Chitvel is positive and will have some corroborative value to the defence plea of Al.
36. The evidence of DW2, a practising advocate and a resident of the same street, where Al was residing in a house about 4 houses away from his house, is that to his knowledge there was no harassment of wife of Al for jewellery etc., and Al and Dl were living happily. A day prior to the death of Dl and D2, Al told him that he was going to Nellore to see his ailing mother, who was taking treatment at Nellore, and asked him to look after his work at the Court on the next day and Al went by a car to Nellore. On the next day morning at about 5.40 a,m., he heard noise of people weeping at the house of the accused. He went there and saw people removing the dead bodies of Dl and D2 from the water tank and keeping them in the verandah of the house. A3 asked him to give a telegram to Al who was at Nellore. Accordingly, he gave a telegram on that day at 6.15 a.m. Ex.D9 is a photo copy of the telegram and Ex.D10 is a photo copy of the bill for the same. Al, A2 and A8 came to Rajampet at about 1.00 p.m. and the police arrested A1 and A3.
37. The evidence of this witness finds corroboration in Exs.D9 and D10. He being an advocate of the same bar, it was quite likely that Al entrusted his Court work to him on the following day. If really Al was present at Rajampet, there was no necessity for this witness to give telegram to Ncllo’fe. Al himself would have given the telegram. The fact that this witness gave telegram to Nellore shows that Al was not present at that time. In view of the corroborating documentary evidence Exs.D9 and D10, we are inclined to accept the testimony of this witness.
38. The evidence of DW3, a relative of PW2 broadly testified in support of the accused about the marriage between Dl and Al, and non-receipt of any dowry at tliat time, and the incapacity of PW1 to send his sister to Al’s house as he had mortgaged the jewellery of Dl and could not redeem it.
39. It is clear from a perusal of DW3’s testimony that he has come to the Court to say something bad about the family of PW1. We are of the view that he has no proper perspective of the relations between the families. Therefore, much weight need not be attached to his testimony.
40. The plea of the accused is that on the day of occurrence, Al, A2 and A8 were at Nellore. A3, A6 and A7 were at the places where they were working. A3 being aged more than 70 years could not have participated in any of the alleged offences. On the other hand, his conduct after learning about the death of Dl and D2 appears to be quite natural and points to his innocence and also to the innocence of others. Learned trial Judge rightly accepted the alibi plea of A6 and A8 and acquitted them. A5 and A7 admittedly are also teachers working in different villages away from Rajampet. It is not the case of the prosecution that they reside at Rajampet and go to their work place every day. In the absence of acceptable positive evidence tliat they were present at the house of Al on thatfateful day, it cannot be said that they were residing in the said house at the relevant time. It is established beyond doubt that A8 has been a resident of Nellorc, which is quite far away from Rajampet. Inspire of that fact, A8 has been implicated in the case. The evidence of DWs.1 and 2 and the conduct of A3 in asking DW2 to give telegram to A8 informing about the occurrence, clearly lead us to the conclusion that Al and A2 were also away from the village at the relevant time. Further, the defence plea is that deceased must have accidentally fallen into the water sump which is adjacent to the lavatory and died. In view of the clear indication of the medical evidence that Dl and D2 died of drowning and the death was after answering calls of nature by Dl, it is quite probable that D1 and D2 accidentally fell into the water sump resulting in their death. For the above reasons, we arc of the view tliat the evidence of PWs. 1 to 6 is highly interested, contradictory, discrepant, and does not inspire confidence.
41. The Supreme Court in a catena of cases has laid down, guidelines as to how the guilt of the accused has to be established by circumstantial evidence. Some of them arc that : the circumstances from which the conclusion is drawn should be fully proved, the circumstances should be conclusive in nature, all the facts so established should be consistent only with the hypothesis of guilt and inconsistent with innocence, the circumstances should, to moral certainty, exclude the possibility of guilt of any person other than the accused, every link in the chain of circumstances has to be established, and that if two views arc possible one pointing the guilt of the accused and another his innocence on the basis of evidence placed on record, the view favourable to the accused should be accepted.
42. The evidence on record and the circumstances of this case viewed in the light of the above principles, we are of the opinion that the prosecution has not established any ofthe offences against the accused-appellants for which they arc convicted and sentenced by the trial Court.
43. In the result, the appeal is allowed. The judgment and order convicting and sentencing Al, A2, A3. A5 and A7 arc set aside and they shall be set at liberty forthwith if they are not required in any other case- Crl. RC No.478 of 1998 is dismissed upholding their acquittal by the trial Court.