1 mss IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY APPELLATE SIDE CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 106 OF 2006 THE STATE OF MAHARASHTRA .. .. APPELLANT Vs. ROHAN PUSHPRAJ FANASGAONKAR .. RESPONDENT ig WITH WRIT PETITION NO. 1080 OF 2007 SOU. VASUDHA VASANT DESHPANDE Age 60 years, Occ.: Pensioner ) R/o 2137, Vijay Nagar Colony ) Sadashiv Peth, Pune - 30 ) .. PETITIONER Versus 1. Rohan Pushparaj Fanasgaonkar ) R/o Silij Apartment, Flat No. 904, ) Sahkarnagar, Pune. ) 2. The State of Maharashtra ) .. RESPONDENTS Mr. H. J. Dedhia , APP for State-appellant and for R-2 in W.P. No. 1080/2007 ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 15:56:28 ::: 2 Mr. Ganesh Gole for the respondent in appeal & for R-1 in the writ petition. Mr. S.P. Kadam for the petitioner. CORAM:-SMT. RANJANA DESAI & SMT. MRIDULA BHATKAR, JJ.
DATE ON WHICH THE JUDGMENT IS RESERVED : 9th FEBRUARY, 2010.
DATE ON WHICH THE JUDGMENT IS PRONOUNCED : 7TH MAY, 2010 JUDGMENT:-(Per Smt. Ranjana Desai, J.) The present appeal and the writ petition can be disposed of by a common order because the facts involved in them are the same and they arise out of the same judgment and order.
2. The respondent in Criminal Appeal No. 106 of 2006 (“the accused”) was tried in the Court of Sessions Judge, Pune, in Sessions Case No. 426 of 2004 for offences punishable under Sections 302and 376 of the Indian Penal Code (“IPC“) for having raped and murdered one Sonali Vasant Deshpande by strangulating her on 27/7/04 at about 3-30 to 3-45 p.m. in Room No. 9 at Ashoka hotel at Lonavala. By judgment and order dated 28/7/2005 learned Sessions Judge acquitted the accused. Being aggrieved by the said judgment and order the State of Maharashtra has filed Criminal Appeal No. 106 of 2006. Criminal Writ Petition No. 1080 of 2007 is filed by Vasudha Vasant Deshpande under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (“the Code”) and under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India being aggrieved by the same judgment and order.
3. It is necessary to begin with the facts of the case.
a) The accused and deceased Sonali were friends. Both were unmarried. They were acquainted with each other since the time of their school days. They were classmates. The deceased had obtained the B.H.S.C. Degree from S.N.D.T. College in the year 2003. She had also appeared for two drawing examinations. She had passed three examinations of Kathak. She was a well qualified and enterprising girl. She had acted in professional dramas.
b) The accused had taken the examination of the last year of the degree course. Both had decided to marry after completion of education. Thereafter the parents of the deceased visited the house of the accused. The mother of the deceased had approved the marriage proposal. The marriage was as good as finally settled. The members of the accused’s family were on visiting terms with the members of the family of the deceased. Relations between both the families were cordial. A formal engagement ceremony was to be held at the time of Dasehra. The parents of the accused and the deceased had given them full freedom to go anywhere. They used to visit various places together.
c) The accused and the deceased had decided to visit Bhushi dam situate at Lonavala on 27/7/04. On 27/7/04 at about 7.30 a.m. the accused went to the house of the deceased and both of them left her house stating that they would be going to Bhushi dam and would be back in the evening. They reached Lonavala. They went to Shanti Chowk and hired the rickshaw of PW 9 Dinesh Borkar. He took them to Ashoka Hotel at Lonavala. The accused and the deceased selected Room No. 9 and booked it. They were in the room for about 10-15 minutes. Thereafter they left the hotel for sightseeing. They went to Bhushi Dam in the autorickshaw of PW 9.
They returned to Ashoka Hotel by the same authorickshaw. They took key from PW 5 Mrs. Mubarak Sayyed Ali Husaini, the owner of Ashoka Hotel. They placed order for lunch with her. Then they went to their room at about 3-30 p.m. Within 15 minutes PW 6 Bharati Nadar, the waiter of the hotel went to the said room with boiled eggs as per the order. He knocked the door of the room, it was not opened. He went back to the counter and disclosed this to PW 5 Mrs. Mubarak Husaini. She tried to contact the room on intercom but there was no response from the room. Thereafter she told PW 6 to open the door of the said room with the help of duplicate key. He opened the door. PW 5 and PW 6 peeped into the room through the door. They found the deceased and the accused completely naked.
The deceased was lying near the door of the bathroom. The accused was in a leaning position and saying ‘pardon me’. PW 6 then called the police. PHC Sahebrao Dagdu Warule rushed to the hotel. He shifted the deceased and the accused to Shraddha Hospital. PW 4 Dr. Jagannath Marutirao Jadhav examined the deceased. She was declared dead. The accused was admitted in Shraddha Hospital for treatment. Inquest panchnama of the dead body of the deceased was made. The dead body was sent to Primary Health Centre at Khandala for postmortem.
d) PW 3 Vasudha Deshpande, the mother of the deceased was informed on phone that the accused and the deceased were admitted in the hospital. PW 3 Vasudha and PW 1 Chandrashekhar Kulkarni gathered at the house of the deceased. PW 2 Mandar Vilas Thakur along with others went to Lonavala to see what had happened. The accused was shifted to the Jehangir Nursing Home at Pune for further treatment. The medical officer who did postmortem opined that the deceased had died due to asphyxia due to strangulation. On the same day at 3.30 p.m. PW 3 lodged the First Information Report against the accused. On the basis of the FIR the accused came to be arrested on 31/7/04. After completion of the investigation the accused came to be charged as aforesaid.
4. The accused pleaded not guilty to the charge. From the suggestions made to PW 6 Bharati Nadar the defence of the accused appears to be that he and the deceased returned to the hotel from Bhushi dam, they placed order for meal and went into the room.
After some time two persons entered the room. One of them was PW 6 Bharati Nadar. They pushed the accused and the deceased.
One of them caught hold of the deceased and pressed her mouth.
Another person caught hold of the accused and applied a substance like chloroform on his nose. Another person caught hold of both the shoulders of the deceased. The person who had caught hold of the deceased pressed her neck by both hands. Both of them fell unconscious in the room. The intruders then removed the ornaments, purse and shoes of the deceased and fled away with the booty. Thus the defence in short is that the deceased was done to death by strangers who had entered the room after committing theft.
In his statement recorded on 6/7/05 under Section 313 of the Code, the accused did not state his defence. He stated that he wanted to file a written statement. After the last witness was examined on 5/7/05 written statement taking defence of theft came to be filed on 6/7/05. In this written statement there was no mention of PW 6 Bharati Nadar and the alleged theft and murder committed by him and his companion.
5. The prosecution case did not find favour with learned Sessions Judge. In his opinion, the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. He, therefore, acquitted the accused.
Hence this appeal and the writ petition.
6. We have heard Mr. Dedhia, learned APP in support of the appeal and Mr. Gole, learned counsel appearing for the accused. Mr. Gole submitted that this court should not permit Mr. Kadam, learned counsel who appears for the petitioner in the writ petition i.e. the complainant, mother of the deceased, to advance arguments to persuade this court to reverse the order of acquittal. He submitted that the scope of writ petition is limited. We are unable to accept this argument While persuading this court to order a retrial or reinvestigation the counsel is bound to contend that the trial was not conducted properly and, therefore, there is a failure of justice. The complainant’s case is bound to be that the acquittal is unmerited. His arguments are bound to overlap. Amplitude of our powers in writ jurisdiction is wide. Such objection ought not to have been raised.
Complainants and victims rights are increasingly being recognized by the Supreme Court. Since, we found this objection to be unsustainable, we heard Mr. S. P. Kadam, learned counsel for the petitioner in the writ petition. With the assistance of learned counsel appearing for the parties, we have perused the record.
7. Mr. Dedhia, learned APP submitted that the impugned judgment and order is perverse and hence must be set aside and the accused must be convicted in accordance with law. He submitted that admittedly the deceased was last seen with the accused. They were together in the room where the incident took place. There is no credible evidence on record to suggest that anyone else entered the room and committed the murder of the deceased. Learned APP submitted that all circumstances point unerringly to the guilt of the accused and, therefore, learned Judge erred in acquitting the accused.
8. Mr. Kadam, learned counsel for the complainant submitted that in this case there is a total failure of justice and, therefore, retrial is necessary. He submitted that vital pieces of evidence have been ignored by the prosecution.
9. Mr. Kadam submitted that investigation of the case is faulty.
The prosecution has not made any effort to find out the truth.
Counsel submitted that the defence came out with a case that PW 6 Bharati Nadar entered the room with some persons, applied chloroform on the nose of the accused. Another person caught hold of both the shoulders of the deceased and pressed her neck. Both of them fell unconscious. The intruders then removed the ornaments, purse and shoes of the deceased and fled away. Counsel submitted that this story is, however, not put to any of the prosecution witnesses except PW 6. It is not put to the investigating officer. In his statement recorded under Section 313 of the Code the accused has not stated his case. He has merely stated that he will file his written statement. A belated written statement taking up the above defence was filed. Counsel submitted that the accused ought to have put this case to the prosecution witnesses, particularly the mother and the investigating officer. Counsel submitted that the defence is palpably false. Counsel submitted that, if there was a theft the deceased or members of her family would have lodged a complaint. No such complaint came to be filed. Counsel drew our attention to a certified true copy of receipt dated 27/7/04 signed by Vilas Narayan Thakur a relative of the deceased in which it is stated that corpse of the deceased was handed over after postmortem along with all articles. Counsel submitted that, this receipt indicates that all the articles of the deceased were handed over to the deceased’s family and, therefore, the deceased’s family did not make any complaint of theft. The prosecution did not bring this receipt on record. Counsel submitted that, if the case of the accused was that there was a theft and murder and he loved the deceased as alleged, the accused should have made a complaint about theft and murder.
But there is no counter-complaint. Counsel submitted that the prosecution ought to have led evidence to bring the correct facts on record about the alleged theft of ornaments worn by the deceased when the defence suggested that there was a theft. Counsel submitted that trial court also failed in its duty. Trial court is empowered under Section 311 of the Code to summon material witnesses or examine persons present or recall any witness for just decision of the case. Trial court did not use its power under Section 165 of the Evidence Act. Relying on judgment of the Supreme Court in Zahira Habibulla Shaikh & Anr. v. State of Gujarat & Ors. AIR 2004 SC 3114, counsel submitted that this is a fit case where reinvestigation and retrial could be ordered. In this connection counsel also relied on Satyajit Banerjee & Ors. v. State of West Bengal & Ors., (2005) 1 SCC 115. Counsel submitted that in any case this is a fit case where in the interest of justice this court should either take additional evidence or direct additional evidence to be taken by the trial court under Section 391 of the Code. Counsel submitted that because of faulty investigation, inept prosecutor and a judge who merely acted as an onlooker without using his powers there is an unmerited acquittal.
10. In support of his submissions counsel also relied on Ganeshlal v. State of Maharashtra,1992 (3) BCR 671, Mandhari v. State of Chattisgarh (2002) 4 SCC 308, State of Rajasthan v. Raja Ram (2003) 8 SCC 180, Vilas Patil v. State of Maharashtra, 1992(2) BCR 671, State of Rajasthan v. Kashi Ram, 2006(12) SCC 254, Trimukh Maroti Kirkan v. State of Maharashtra, 2006 (10) SCC
681. He also relied on judgment of this court in Vanya Narsing Pawara v. State of Maharashtra, 2002 BCR (Cri) 214.
11. Mr. Gole on the other hand submitted that this being an appeal against acquittal the order of acquittal cannot be lightly disturbed. He submitted that the view taken by the trial court is a reasonablypossible view. The impugned judgment cannot be called a perverse judgment. Counsel submitted that in any case where two views are possible the view which is in favour of the accused must be accepted and in such a situation, the appellate court is not justified in substituting its view in the place of the trial courts view merely because it feels that that view is also possible. Counsel submitted that this court should be slow in disturbing the order of acquittal and this is certainly not a case where the order of acquittal can be disturbed. In this connection Counsel relied on Bhim Singh Rup Singh v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1974 SC 286, Jagdish & Anr.
v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2008 All MR (Cri) 558 SC, Arulvelu & Anr. v. State represented by the Public Prosecutor & Anr., 2009 All MR (Cri) 3396 (SC). Counsel also relied on judgments of this court in State of Maharashtra v. Maruti Budhaji Bhepi & Ors., 2005 All MR (Cri) 2434, State of Maharashtra v. Sau. Sumanbai wd/o Jaipalsingh Rajput & Ors., 2008 All MR (Cri) 382.
12. Counsel submitted that the prosecution has failed to prove motive. He submitted that in a case based on circumstantial evidence motive plays a very important role. If the prosecution alleges motive and does not prove it, link in the chain of circumstances is broken. In this connection, he relied on thejudgment of this court in Deepak Raikar s/o Anand Raikar v. The State 2008 All MR (Cri) 225. Counsel submitted that it is only when the evidence led by the prosecution, if believed, makes out a prima facie case that the question of the accused discharging the burden under Section 106 of the Evidence Act arises. Counsel submitted that only when the prosecution case has been proved that the burden in regard to such fact which was within the special knowledge of the accused may be shifted to the accused for explaining the same and suspicion, however, grave cannot be a substitute for proof. In this connection counsel relied on Vikramjit Singh @ Vicky v. State of Punjab, 2006 (12) SCC 306 and judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Nagireddi Siva (a) Chanti & Anr. v. The State, 1992(1) Crimes 409.
13. Counsel submitted that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove its case against the accused. Counsel pointed out that the deceased and the accused were in love, they were to get married and both the families had approved their plan to get married. They had gone to Lonavala with the approval of the deceased’s mother.
Counsel pointed out that the evidence discloses that the deceased and the accused were in a very good mood in Lonavala. This is established by the evidence of PW 9, the rickshaw driver, who drove them in his rickshaw. His evidence further establishes that there was no motive for the accused to kill the deceased.
14. Counsel submitted that the deceased’s mother has in her evidence admitted that when the deceased left for Lonavala, she was wearing ornaments. However, there were no ornaments on the dead body. Therefore, the case of theft is substantiated.
15. Counsel submitted that case of rape is not made out. Medical evidence indicates that much prior to death the deceased had sex with the accused. There were no injuries on the private part of the deceased indicating that the accused had forced her to have sex with him. Counsel submitted that once theory of rape goes then the entire prosecution case becomes doubtful and the defence of the accused is probabalised.
16. Counsel submitted that the complainant i.e. mother of the deceased has not made out any case for grant of prayers made in the writ petition. He pointed out that PW 1 is the cousin of the deceased. He is an advocate. However, throughout the trial he did not make any complaint that investigation was bad. Counsel submitted that this is not a case where retrial could be ordered.
There is no allegation that threats were given to witnesses. It is not contended that certain papers or certain material was not available.
Retrial cannot be ordered to fill in the lacunae in the prosecution case. Counsel submitted that Zahira’s case cannot be compared to this case. In that case witnesses were coerced. There was no fair trial. No such case is made out here. Counsel pointed out that even Satyajit Banerjee’s case is not applicable to this case because in that case the Supreme Court observed that the High Court should not have directed denovo trial but since retrial had already commenced, the Supreme Court did not interfere. Counsel distinguished the cases cited by the respondents and submitted that they must be confined to their own facts and cannot be made applicable to this case. Counsel submitted that in the circumstances, the appeal as well as the writ petition be dismissed.
17. We must first ascertain what is the scope of an appeal against acquittal. The principles in this regard are well settled by the Supreme Court. From the several judgments cited before us it is clear that, if the view taken by the trial court is a reasonably possible view it should not be disturbed. It should be borne in mind that the trial court has advantage of watching the demenour of the witnesses and is in a better position to assess the evidence. If two reasonably possible views can be reached one which is in favour of the accused must be accepted. The trial court’s judgment cannot be set aside merely because the appellate court’s view is also possible. Very substantial and compelling reasons must be present to persuade the appellate court to set aside the order of acquittal. Unless the order of acquittal is perverse and wholly unsustainable in law it cannot be set aside. The appellate court must bear in mind that the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused is strengthened by his acquittal and hence great care has to be taken while dealing with an appeal against acquittal. Keeping these principles in mind, we shall approach this case.
18. Postmortem Notes indicate that there was circular contusion mark at the neck region of the deceased which extended to both the shoulders. Cartilages and Hyoid bone were broken. Cause of death is given as “Death due to Cardio Respiratory Failure due to strangulation”. Death was, therefore, homicidal. Postmortem Notes further state that semen was found in the uterus.
19. Before turning to the charge of murder, we must deal with the charge of rape. We have already noted that semen was found in the uterus of the deceased. Undisputedly therefore, the accused and thedeceased had sex. To ascertain whether the deceased was raped one must first have a look at the background of the case because there cannot be any direct evidence to establish what happened in the room. The evidence on record indicates that the deceased and the accused were in love with each other and they were to get married. Their marriage plans were approved by both the families.
Soon they were to get engaged. Both the families were on visiting terms with each other. PW 3 Vasudha, mother of the deceased has stated that the accused and the deceased used to go for picnic to Sinhagad, Khadakvasala etc. They used to see films together. They had gone to Bhushi dam with the permission of PW 3 Vasudha.
These facts are admitted by the parties. PW 9 Dinesh Borkar, the rickshaw driver who took the deceased and the accused all over Lonavala and dropped them at Ashoka hotel from Bhushi dam has stated in his evidence that they were chitchatting and teasing each other. They stopped at a wine shop. They boy bought a wine bottle.
According to this witness he did not notice any dispute or bickering between the two.
20. One thing is certain from the above evidence that the accused and the deceased were no stranger to each other. They were to get married. They used to go fo picnics and movies. They had come toLonavala with the consent of the parents and when they entered the hotel room they were happy. They were found completely naked in the room. In such circumstances, it is difficult to reach a positive finding that the deceased was raped.
21. It is necessary to see the medical evidence on record. Exh. 56 is the letter dated 3/8/04, sent by the investigating officer to the Medical Officer, Primary Health Centre making following queries;
(1) whether sexual intercourse was committed with the deceased before death and at what time it was committed?
(2) If the deceased was subjected to sexual intercourse, whether there are injuries on her private part?
(3) Whether sexual intercourse was committed by force?
22. Exh. 55 is the reply to the said letter. The queries are answered as follows:
1) 1) Sexual intercourse was committed with the deceased about 4 to 5 hours before the death;
(2) There were no injuries on the private part of the deceased.
(3) Sexual intercourse appears to have been committed by force.
23. Learned judge has observed that Exh. 55 is the opinion expressed by PW 14 Dr. Haloor. However, Dr. Haloor has stated in his cross-examination that Exh. 55 is a reply given by Dr. Parbhane who had expired. In order to ascertain the correct position, we compared the signature of Dr. Parbhane on the PM notes with the signature on letter Exh. 55. They are identical. Therefore, Exh. 55 appears to have been signed by Dr. Parbhane.
24. Learned Judge has come to a conclusion that the third answer is tampered with. According to him the word नसावा has been tampered to make it look like असावा. That means, the sentence ‘sexual intercourse appears to have not been forced upon’ has been converted into sentence “sexual intercourse appears to have been forced upon”. The investigating officer has categorically denied that any tampering was done. Dr. Haloor has not been asked any question so far as the alleged tampering is concerned. Exh. 55 was not even shown to him in the examination-in-chief. It is only in cross-
examination that it was shown to him. Unfortunately Dr. Prabhane was not available for giving evidence because he was dead. As per Exh. 55, sexual intercourse took place 4 to 5 hours before death. But then evidence on record establishes that the couple came to the hotel at 12-45 p.m. and within 10 to 15 minutes they went out. They came back at 3-30 p.m. and went to their room. At 4 p.m. they were found in a naked condition in the room. The deceased was dead. If the opinion expressed by the doctor vide Exh. 55 that the couple had sexual intercourse 4 to 5 hours before the death is to be accepted, then the couple surely did not have it in the hotel room. Therefore, Exh. 55 does not help to ascertain the prosecution case. In such a situation for all the above mentioned reasons the accused will have to be given benefit of doubt so far as the charge of rape is concerned. We must, therefore, record our conclusion that the prosecution has failed to prove motive.
25. There were no injuries on the private part of the deceased.
However, there was a fracture of Hyoid bone and marks of strangulation on the neck. It was argued that these injuries establish rape. If there was any evidence on record to suggest that the deceased was not well acquainted with the accused, that the accused forced her to accompany him to Bhushi dam, that the accused booked the hotel room against her wishes or that the relationship between the two was strained, we could have arrived at this conclusion. But in the absence of any such evidence, we cannotconclude that the accused strangulated the deceased because she resisted the attempt of the accused to rape her. We are of the opinion that what exactly happened in the room has not come on record.
26. We will now examine the other evidence on record to ascertain whether the accused is guilty of murder.
PW 4 Dr. Jadhav is BHMS. He was R M O at Shraddha Hospital on 27/7/04. The accused was taken to Shraddha Hospital at 5 p.m. on 27/7/04. He was admitted in I C U. Dr. Jadhav has clearly stated in his evidence that the accused was rowdy and unable to answer the questions. Dr. Jadhav suspected that the accused might have been given poison and hence he was shifted to Jahangir Nursing Home. Dr. Jadhav has produced case papers of Shraddha Hospital. They are at Exh.-19. It is mentioned in the case papers that the accused was very rowdy and hysterical. Thus according to Dr. Jadhav the accused was not unconscious when he was brought to Shraddha Hospital. In his cross-examination Dr. Jadhav has stated that the accused was semi-conscious when he was brought to the hospital.
28. PW 11 Dr. Shah is the owner of Shraddha Hospital. He was present at the hospital when the accused was admitted. He has stated that when the accused was admitted he was rowdy. He suspected that it would be a case of hysteria or poisoning. He confirmed that Exh.-19 was issued by his hospital and the words namely ‘very rowdy hysterical’ are in the handwriting of PW 4 Dr. Jadhav.
29. PW 10 Dr. Ichaporia was attached to the Jahangir Nursing Home at the relevant time. He has stated that the accused was admitted in Jahangir Nursing Home on 28/7/04 at 1 a.m. by his uncle and he examined the accused at 9 a.m. in the morning. According to Dr. Ichaporia the accused was restless and irritable. When he was brought to the ward he was shouting and screaming. Therefore, the RMO gave him sedatives. Dr. Ichaporia has stated that the accused had no paralysis of the limbs. According to Dr. Ichaporia there was no smell of alcohol or poison. His CT scan was normal. Dr. Ichaporia has produced certificate dated 31/7/04 issued by him which states that the accused was admitted in the hospital on 28/7/04 at 1 a.m. in an extremely restless/agitated condition. He had to be sedated with medicines and restrained physically. In his cross-
examination Dr. Ichaporia has stated that the history is noted down in the case paper on 28/7/04 at 12-05 a.m. to the effect that the accused was in unconscious state in Lonavala at 4-30 p.m. It must be noted here that the accused was admitted in hospital by his uncle.
The history was obviously given by the uncle. Therefore, the alleged unconscious state of the deceased noted in the history cannot be given much importance.
30. In our opinion, evidence of all these doctors clearly establishes that the accused was not unconscious when he was brought to the hospital. In fact he was rowdy and irritable. Doctors are independent witnesses. They have no reason to state falsehood on oath. The case papers show that because the accused was rowdy he had to be sedated. There was no trace of alcohol or poison in his stomach. If as alleged by the defence chloroform was applied to the accused, he would have been drowsy at the stage of admission. Doctors would never have given him sedatives to calm him down. This is one of the reasons why the defence version that chloroform was applied to the accused by thieves must be rejected without hesitation.
31. Much ado is made about Exh.-20 which is the case paper prepared by PW 4 Dr. Jadhav on the date on which he gave evidence. Dr. Jadhav has explained it by saying that he prepared Exh.-20 on the basis of MLC register maintained by the hospital.
There was no need for Dr. Jadhav to prepare Exh.-20. But preparation of Exh.-20 does not affect the prosecution case. Even if Exh.-20 is kept out of consideration, the prosecution case is borne out by the other medical papers on record.
32. Learned Judge has concluded that the accused was unconscious on the basis of some inconsistencies in the statements of some of the prosecution witnesses. We will examine the said evidence and see whether there are any inconsistencies and assuming there are some inconsistencies whether they affect the substratum of the prosecution case.
33. PW 5 Mubarak Hussain is the owner of the Ashoka Hotel. She has stated that the accused and the deceased returned to the hotel on 27/7/04 at 3-30 p.m. They took key of the room. They placed order for lunch and went to their room. Within 15 minutes the waiter went to their room with boiled eggs and knocked at the door. The door was not opened. The waiter again knocked at the door but it was not opened. According to PW 5 the waiter came to the counter and told her about it. Hence PW 5 phoned on the intercom. There was no response. PW 5, therefore, told the waiter to open the room with the duplicate key. She took out the duplicate key from the drawer of the counter and along with two waiters namely PW 6 Bharati Nadar and Jasim went to the room. According to PW 5 she opened the door and found that the accused and the deceased were completely naked. The girl was lying just near the door of the bathroom and the boy was near the girl in a leaning position. He was saying that he should be excused. She then called the police.
According to PW 5 when the police came the accused was crying and saying that he should be pardoned. The police recorded her statement. It appears that her statements were recorded in Marathi but as she is not conversant with Marathi her evidence was recorded in English. In the cross-examination of this witness it is suggested to her that when she opened the door she saw the accused and the deceased lying unconscious. She has categorically denied it. She was again asked whether in her supplementary statement recorded by the police she has stated that the accused and the deceased were lying unconscious in the room. She has denied that her supplementary statement was recorded on 29/7/04. She has stated that it is not true to say that in her statement recorded on 29/7/04 she had stated that when she opened the door the boy and the girl were lying unconscious in the room. She was then read over portion marked A of her statement. She stated that I have not so stated to the police. On this statement date is 27/7/04 but PI Borade has attested it on 29/7/04. PW 15 PI Borade has in his evidence proved portion marked “A”. He has stated that PW 5 stated in her statement that when she opened the door the boy and the girl were lying unconscious in the room. According to him he had attested the statement of PW 5. All this gives an impression that though PW 5 has denied having said that the boy and the girl were lying unconscious in the room, she has in fact stated so. We, therefore, carefully read portion marked “A” and we found that PW-5 has not stated that the boy and the girl were lying unconscious. Portion marked “A” reads as “the boy and the girl were lying in naked condition”. We have already noted that PW 5 does not know Marathi. Her statement was recorded in Marathi. But her evidence was recorded in English. It appears that portion marked ‘A’ was not read over and explained to her. When PW-5 was repeatedly telling the court that she did not tell the police that the boy was unconscious, defence is allowed to ask repealed questions on the same issue. We feel that learned Judge ought to have checked the winding cross-examination. We must also mention here that PW 15 PI Borade has not stated that he recorded any supplementary statement of PW 5.
34. It is now necessary to see what PW-6 Bharati Nadar, the employee who went to Room No.9 with boiled eggs has to say. He stated that when there was no response to the knock on the door, he went to PW-5 and told her about it. PW-5 tried to contact Room No.9 on intercom, but since there was no response she went to the room and opened the room with duplicate key. PW-6 stated that the deceased was lying in naked condition at the door of the bathroom.
The accused was trying to come out of the room. He was naked. He was saying that he should be forgiven. It is pertinent to note that no omission is brought on record in respect of the statement made by the accused that he was sorry and he should be forgiven. PW-6 denied the suggestion that the deceased and the accused were unconscious. Supplementary statement of this witness came to be recorded. It is brought on record that in his supplementary statement, he stated that the accused was “semi-conscious”. This witness has stuck to his statement that the boy was saying “forgive me”. Such utterance is not consistent with unconscious state of a person, but can be consistent with semi-conscious state of a person.
In any case, one thing is certain that PW-6 Bharati Nadar never said that the accused was unconscious.
35. We must now refer to evidence of PW-13 PC Sahebrao Warule.
Upon receipt of information about the incident at 4.00 p.m. on 27/7/2004, he went to the hotel. He found one boy and girl lying in naked condition. He stated that the girl was unconscious and the boy was conscious. In the cross-examination, he has denied the suggestion that when he first saw the situation inside the room, he noticed a naked boy and a naked girl lying in an unconscious condition on the floor. He has stated in his cross-examination that in his statement before the police, he had stated that the boy and the girl were lying in an unconscious condition in the room. We must note that the portion of his police statement to the above effect is not shown to him. Relevant portion is not marked. Investigating officer PW-15 PSI Borade has not brought on record any such portion from PW-13 Warule’s statement. Therefore, when repeatedly Warule has stated that the boy was conscious and the girl was unconscious, a stray sentence in his cross-examination to the contrary cannot be taken into consideration to conclude that PW-13 has contradicted himself. The said alleged portion is not shown to him nor has PSI Borade marked it and brought it on record.
36. Thus the evidence of the witnesses who saw the accused at the hotel establishes that he was semi-conscious when he was lying in the hotel. The medical evidence comprising doctors evidence andmedical papers establishes that by the time the accused was taken to the hospital he was fully conscious.
37. If the accused was semi-conscious in the hotel, it is necessary to see what logical inference can be drawn on the basis of the evidence on record.
38. Admittedly, the accused and the deceased were last seen together. It is not disputed that they had gone to Bhushi Dam for a picnic. It is not disputed that they had booked Room No.9 in Ashoka Hotel. PW-9 Dinesh Borkar is the rickshaw driver who took the deceased and the accused around Lonavala. In his evidence, he stated that the deceased and the accused had engaged his rickshaw in the morning of 27/7/2004. He took them to Ashoka Hotel where they selected a room. He then took them to Bhushi Dam. They went for swimming. He parked his rickshaw. They came back from swimming. According to PW-9, the boy bought wine and a soda water bottle. He dropped both of them at Ashoka Hotel and went away. According to this witness, the accused and the deceased were in a very good mood.
39. PW-5 Mubarak Hussein, the manager of the hotel confirmed that the accused and the deceased had booked a room in her hotel.
She stated that she was at the counter when the accused and the deceased returned to the hotel at 3.30 p.m. They were wet. They took the key and went to the room.
40. PW-6 Bharati Nadar, the waiter confirmed that the deceased and the accused went to the room at 3.30 p.m. They placed order for food. He took 2 boiled eggs to the room as per the order, but the room was not opened. Ultimately, it was opened with the help of a duplicate key.
41. Evidence of PW-5 and PW-6 clearly establishes that at 3.30 p.m., the deceased and the accused were together in Room No.9 and they had locked the room from inside. This is not disputed by the defence. It is pertinent to note that within a short time, at about 4.00 p.m., the room was opened by a duplicate key. The time can be confirmed from the evidence of PW-13 PC Sahebrao Warule, who stated in his evidence that at 4.00 p.m., he received information at Lonavala Police Station about the incident from the owner of the hotel. Therefore, the deceased and the accused were last seen together at 3.30 p.m., they were together in a closed room and within a short while, by 4.00 p.m., the deceased was found lying in the room with fracture of Hyoid bone with marks of strangulation. That the accused was last seen with the deceased is a clinching circumstance in this case considering the short span of time within which the deceased was found lying in suspicious circumstances in the same room where the accused was found. There is no evidence on record to establish that anybody had entered the room to murder the deceased within that short period. As to how the deceased received such serious injuries was within the exclusive knowledge of the accused.
He was therefore expected to give an acceptable explanation. He has miserably failed to do so.
42. The accused has made an effort to put up a defence that there was a theft and the burglar robbed them and killed the deceased.
How false is this defence can be seen after we peruse the relevant evidence. PW-1 Chandrakant Kulkarni and PW-2 Mandar Thakur are the brothers in law of the deceased. The theory of theft has not been put to them at all.
43. PW-3 Vasudha is the mother of the deceased. She is the complainant. It is her case that her daughter was killed by the accused. No case is put to her that she was not killed by the accused, but was killed by burglars. She was not confronted with the case of theft. This is more so because, the defence has tried to make capital out of the statement made by PW-3 Vasudha that when the deceased left the house for Lonavala, she was wearing ornaments. It is urged that the corpse of the deceased had no ornaments on it and, therefore, there was theft of ornaments. This story of theft is a creation of defence as will be soon evident. But if indeed there was theft and PW-3 Vasudha’s statement that the deceased had worn ornaments when she left for Lonavala was to be used against her, the case of theft ought to have been put to her. It is not put to any of the relatives of the deceased obviously because they would have denied it. If really there was theft PW-1 and PW-2 who are the brothers in law of the deceased and PW-3 Vasudha, mother of the deceased would have lodged a complaint with the police. They would have at least informed the police about it because that would have offered important clues to the investigating agency.
44. The matter can be viewed from another angle. If the accused and his family were sure that there was a theft they should have lodged a complaint. If the accused loved the deceased and the deceased was killed and robbed why did the accused not lodge complaint with the police? There are no answers to these questions.
The case of theft is first put to PW-6 Bharati Nadar, the waiter of the hotel. It is suggested to him that when the room was opened by the accused and the deceased, he rushed to them along with his companion. It is further suggested that he pushed the accused and the deceased inside the room, he applied anasthetical substance to the nose of the accused. The accused became unconscious. Then he pressed the handkerchief containing anasthetical substance on the nose of the deceased. She became unconscious and fell down.
It is further suggested that he strangulated the neck of the deceased.
He then removed the clothes of the accused and the deceased and hanged them inside the bathroom and he and his companion stole the cash and ornaments of the boy and the girl and left the room. It is further suggested to this witness that just to make a show, he took food to the room. PW-6 Bharati Nadar has obviously denied this cock and bull story. We find his denial to be justified. If the couple came to the room at 3-30 p.m. how could PW 6 Bharati Nadar and his companion within half an hour enter the room, apply anasthesia to the couple, kill the girl, remove clothes of both, hang them in the bathroom, collect ornaments, go away and again come back at 4 O’clock to take eggs to the room. Would PW 5 the owner of the hotel who was near the counter on the same floor not know of such incident? The defence ought to have at least put this case to PW-5 Mubarak Hussain, the owner of the hotel. She was the employer of PW-6. She was responsible for his conduct. When such serious allegations were being made against her employee, she should have been given a chance to either accept them or deny them. If story of theft is to be accepted, then the entire evidence of PW-5 Mubarak Hussein will have to be discarded. Mubarak Hussein had no reason to cook a false story and protect a wrongdoer. Defence almost suggests that even Mubarak Hussein is a culprit. It must be again stated here that written statement taking the defence of theft was filed by the accused on 6/7/05, that is after the last witness was examined and in this written statement there is no mention of PW 6 Bharati Nadar. It is not stated that Bharati Nadar forced an entry in the room with his companions, robbed the accused and the deceased and killed the deceased. So much for the defence of robbery and theft.
45. What is most surprising is the fact that this case is not put to the investigating officer PW-15 PSI Borade. If the defence wanted to come out with a case which was diametrically opposed to the prosecution case, the investigating officer ought to have been confronted with it. PSI Borade would have refuted this case. Even PC Warule has not been asked about theft. What is more distressing is the fact that learned judge also did not think it fit to ask relevant questions about this belated story of theft to material prosecution witnesses. Heavy reliance is placed on the photographs of the deceased which show that there were no ornaments on the dead-
body. It is pertinent to note that these photographs were taken in the mortuary. Letter marked “L” addressed to the photographer PW-7 Jagdish Chheda is dated 27/7/2004. PW-7 has stated that he went to mortuary and took the photographs. There is no question of there being any ornaments on the dead body which was lying in the mortuary.
46. Learned judge has observed that scene of offence panchanama (Ex-28) indicates that purse of the deceased was missing. This statement is factually wrong. Purse of the deceased with a ladies writ watch was found in the room and it is so mentioned in the panchanama. Several articles including a bottle of liquor is mentioned in the panchanama. It is true that inquest panchanama does not mention any ornaments. But from that, in the absence of any evidence, a fanciful story of the defence that PW-6 Bharati Nadar, the waiter applied chloroform like substance to the deceased and the accused, killed the deceased and robbed the ornaments cannot be accepted. Besides inquest panchnama is only expected tostate the nature of wounds seen on the dead body. Learned judge has stated that PW-13 PC Warule has changed his version to suit the situation. This comment is unwarranted. As we have already stated, none of the prosecution witnesses except PW-6 Bharati Nadar have been confronted with the story of theft. The prosecution should have been given a chance to meet this case. A guarded suggestion that there was a dacoity and murder at Lonavala on 27/7/2004 is made to PC Warule which he has denied. The defence of theft and murder is also inherently improbable because the robbers would not have kept the accused alive to depose against them. If they chose to do away with the girl, in the normal course, they were expected to do away with the man also.
47. Counsel for the complainant has drawn our attention to a receipt dated 27/7/2004 signed by Vilas Thakur a relative of the deceased. It acknowledges the receipts of all things (chijvastu) along with the dead body after the postmortem of the deceased. This receipt is a certified true copy signed by the Registrar, Sessions Court, Pune. This indicates that all articles of the deceased were handed over to the relatives of the deceased after the postmortem. It was necessary for the prosecutor and learned Sessions Judge to ensure that this receipt was brought on record. But unfortunately this receipt is not brought on record.
48. Having gone through the evidence, we have no manner of doubt that the accused has not probabalised his defence. In fact his defence is false. Would his false defence, in the circumstances of the case establish his guilt is what, we must now find out. For that purpose it is necessary to refer to the judgments on which reliance is placed by learned counsel,
49. In Ganeshlal, the Supreme Court was dealing with a case in which the accused along with members of his family was charged with the murder of his wife which was committed on the third floor of his house. The cause of death was given by the doctor as suffocation and shock by inhailing carbanmonoxide. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the deceased had died due to shock or it was a homicide. The Supreme Court observed that there was no evidence to suggest that the deceased had any tendency to commit suicide. The door was not bolted from inside. All the circumstances established that the death was not due to suicide.
The Supreme Court further observed that the deceased was alive and in the company of her husband and in-laws and within a few minutes thereafter she was reported dead while in the house solelyoccupied by the accused-appellant and his family members. The Supreme Court further observed that the false plea of suicide is yet another relevant fact and when the death had occurred in their custody, the accused was under and obligation in his statement under Section 313 of the Code, at least to give a plausible explanation for the cause of her death. No such attempt was even made excepting denying the prosecution case. The Supreme Court concluded that these facts are completely inconsistent with the innocence, but consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is a prime accused in the commission of gruesome murder of his wife. It is pertinent to note that in this case, the Supreme Court commented on the absence of motive in the case based on circumstantial evidence. The relevant observations of the Supreme Court are as under :
“The failure to discover motive by appropriate clinching evidence may be a weakness in the proof of the prosecution case, but it is not necessarily fatal as a matter of law. Proof of motive is never an indispensable factor for conviction. In Atley v. State of U.P., AIR 1955 SC 807, this court held that where there is clear evidence that the person has committed the offence, it is immaterial where no motive for commission of the crime has been shown. Therefore, even in the case of circumstantial evidence, absence of motive which may be one of the strongest links to connect the chain would not necessarily become fatal provided the other circumstances would complete the chain and connect the accused with the commission of the offence, leaving no room for reasonable doubt, even from the proved circumstances”.
50. In State of Rajasthan v. Kashi Ram, AIR 2007 SC 144, the Supreme Court considered similar question. In that case, the deceased was the wife of the accused. The allegation was that he was ill-treating the deceased. The accused was last seen with the deceased. Thereafter, he had disappeared and the house was found locked. The doors of the house were removed and dead bodies of the deceased and his daughter were found inside his house. The Supreme Court was considering the question whether in such circumstances, an inference ought to be drawn against the accused under Section 106of the Evidence Act because the circumstances under which the deaths had occurred were within the special knowledge of the accused. The Supreme Court referred to its judgment in Joseph s/o. Kooveli Poulo v. State of Kerala (2000) 5 SCC 197 where it has observed as under :
“Such incriminating links of facts could, if at all, have been only explained by the appellant, and by nobody else, they being personally and exclusively within his knowledge. Of late, courts have, from the falsity of the defence plea and false answers given to court, when questioned, found the missing links to be supplied by such answers for completing the chain of incriminating circumstances necessary to connect the person concerned with the crime committed (see State of Maharashtra v. Suresh, (2000) 1 SCC 471). That missing link to connect the accused appellant, we find in this case provided by the blunt and outright denial of every one and all the incriminating circumstances pointed out which, in our view, with sufficient and reasonable certainty on the facts proved, connect the accused with the death and the cause for the death of Gracy”.
51. The Supreme Court referred to Ram Gulam Chaudhary & Ors. v. State of Bihar (2001) 8 SCC 311, where it has observed as under :
“In the absence of an explanation, and considering the fact that the appellants were suspecting the boy to have kidnapped and killed the child of the family of the appellants, it was for the appellants to have explained what they did with him after they took him away. When the abductors withheld that information from the court, there is every justification for drawing the inference that they had murdered the boy. Even though Section 106 of the Evidence Act may not be intended to relieve the prosecution of its burden to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, but the section would apply to cases like the present where the prosecution has succeeded in proving facts from which a reasonable inference can be drawn regarding death. The appellants by virtue of their special knowledge must offer an explanation which might lead the Court to draw a different inference”.
52. The Supreme Court referred to Sahadevan alias Sagadevan v. State represented by Inspector of Police, Chennai (2003) Vol.
1 SCC 534 and quoted the following paragraph :
“Therefore, it has become obligatory on the appellants to satisfy the court as to how, where and in what manner Vadivelu parted company with them. This is on the principle that a person who is last found in the company of another, if later found missing then the person with whom he was last found has to explain the circumstances in which they parted company. In the instant case, the appellants have failed to discharge this onus. In their statement under Section 313 Cr. PC they have not taken any specific stand whatsoever.
The Supreme Court then concluded as under :
“24. It is not necessary to multiply with authorities. The principle is well settled. The provisions of Section 106 of the Evidence Act itself are unambiguous and categoric in laying down that when any fact is especially within the knowledge of a person, the burden of proving that fact is upon him. Thus, if aperson is last seen with the deceased, he must offer an explanation as to how and when he parted company. He must furnish an explanation which appears to the Court to be probable and satisfactory. It he does so, he must be held to have discharged his burden. If he fails to offer an explanation on the basis of facts within his special knowledge, he fails to discharge the burden cast upon him bySection 106 of the Evidence Act. In a case resting on circumstantial evidence if the accused fails to offer a reasonable explanation in discharge of the burden placed on him, that itself provides an additional link in the chain of circumstances proved against him. Section 106does not shift the burden of proof in a criminal trial, which is always upon the prosecution. It lays down the rule that when the accused does not throw any light upon facts which are specially within his knowledge and which could not support any theory or hypothesis compatible with his innocence, the Court can consider his failure to adduce any explanation, as an additional link which completes the chain. The principle has been succinctly stated in Re. Naina Mohd. AIR 1960 Madras, 218.”
“In a case based on circumstantial evidence where no eye-witness account is available, there is another principle of law which must be kept in mind. The principle is that when an incriminating circumstance is put to the accused and the said accused either offers no explanation which is found to be untrue, then the same becomes an additional link in the chain of circumstances to make it complete. This view has been taken in a catena of decisions of this Court.”
54. The above judgments state that false explanation can form the missing link in the chain of circumstances connecting the accused to the crime. But in all the judgments other circumstances on record were incompatible with a third possibility or case. In Ganeshlal the Supreme Court held that in the case based on circumstantial evidence absence of motive would be immaterial, if other circumstances complete the chain and connect the accused with the commission of the offence leaving no room for reasonable doubt even from the proved circumstances. We have recorded our conclusion that the prosecution has failed to prove motive. The evidence discloses that the accused and the deceased were in love with each other, they were to get married, they were to go to movies and picnics together, they had willingly come to Bhushi dam and booked a room in Ashoka hotel and according to PW 9, the rickshaw driver, who brought them to the hotel from Bhushi dam, they were in extremely good mood. If the relationship between the two was strained, if the deceased was forced to occupy Room No. 9, those circumstances would have helped in completing the chain and established the offence of murder. But such circumstances are absent here. Perhaps there are some circumstances which have not been brought on record. Therefore, though the defence of the accused is false, we have a reasonable doubt about the manner in which the incident took place. There is some other hypothesis which may perhaps make out a lesser offence and call for a lesser punishment. We wonder why the accused was in a semi-conscious state in the hotel room. Why was he rowdy in the hospital and had to be sedated? If the accused and the deceased were in love with each other and there was so such intimacy between the two that they were found naked in the room and that there is evidence to suggest that they had sexual intercourse and that there was no rape, was there any grave and sudden provocation which prompted the accused to take such a drastic step? Did he have intention to kill the deceased?
Is he guilty of a lesser offence like 304 Part I or Part II?
55. Well settled principles of criminal jurisprudence forbid us to make out a third story when the prosecution and the defence do not come out with unvarnished truth.
56. In this connection it will be useful to refer to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Jamuna Choudhary & Ors. v. State of Bihar, AIR 1974 SC 1822. In that case the trial court had acquitted 18 out of 31 accused on the ground that no overt act had been proved against them. It had, however, convicted the appellant under Section 302 of the IPC and sentenced him to life. The High Court held that the appellant could only be held guilty under Section 304 Part II of the IPC and sentenced him to 5 years RI. The Supreme Court was of the view that on the evidence on record, it would not be safe to hold that it was the appellant only who inflicted the fatal injury. The Supreme Court further observed that it cannot be quite definite about the circumstances in which the injury was inflicted (emphasis supplied). While acquitting the appellant of the charge under Section 304 Part II, IPC the Supreme Court observed as under:
“As neither the prosecution nor the defence have, in the case before us, come out with the whole and unvarnished truth so as to enable the court to judge where the rights and wrongs of the whole incident or set of incidents lay or how one or more incidents took place in which so many persons, including Laldhari and Ramanandan, were injured, court can only try to guess or conjecture to decipher the truth, if possible. This may be done, within limits, to determine whether any reasonable doubt emerges on any point under consideration from proved facts and circumstances of the case”.
57. In Chintaman Rajaram Kharkar v. The State of Maharashtra, 1995 (2) BCR 74, this court on the facts before it came to a conclusion that neither the prosecution nor the defence is coming out with true facts and it was difficult to say who was the aggressor. This court relied on the Supreme Court’s judgment in Jamuna Choudhary and after quoting the paragraph reproduced by us hereinabove observed that in such a situation the only option with the court is to acquit the accused.
58. Therefore, if against the background of extremely cordial relations between the accused and the deceased, we are unable to accept the prosecution version and, we are also unable to accept the defence version and, if we feel that unvarnished truth has not come before us, we can only try or guess or conjecture to decipher the truth, if possible. But that has to be done within limits and that has to be done only to determine whether any reasonable doubt emerges on any point under consideration from proved facts and circumstances of the case and, if reasonable doubt emerges the accused must get the benefit of doubt. We cannot at this stage spin a third version. For instance, we cannot at this stage come to a conclusion on the basis of evidence before us that the accused had no intention to kill the deceased; or that there was some grave and sudden provocation due to which he acted on the spur of the moment. We cannot at this stage hold that the accused is at the most guilty of Section 304 Part I or Part II of the IPC. Nor can we definitely come to a conclusion that this is a case of murder.
59. It was argued that since the prosecution has not unfolded the events which had occurred in the room and if we feel that the defence has also not come out with the truth, we should direct the trial court to take additional evidence having recourse to Section 391 of the Code or we should order a retrial. While persuading us to send the case for retrial, counsel for the complainant relied upon Zahira which arises out of Gujarat riots. In a communal frenzy many persons were killed in Gujarat. One such incident occurred in Best Bakery. The case ended in acquittal. The High Court upheld the acquittal. Zahira, one of the eye-witnesses appealed against the acquittal to the Supreme Court.
She contended that she was forced to depose falsely and turn hostile on account of threats and coercion. Her case was that the investigation was perfunctory, biased and faulty. Fresh trial was sought on the ground that large number of witnesses have turned hostile; the trial court should have exercised powers under Section 311 of the Code to recall and reexamine the witnesses whose evidence was essential to the just decision of the case; injured witnesses were not examined; relatives of the accused were examined as witnesses and the application made under Section 391 of the Code praying that additional evidence in the form of affidavit of injured witnesses be taken on record was rejected by the High Court.
The Supreme Court considered these grievances and observed that the case before it was without parallel and comparison. According to the Supreme Court, the case stood on its own as an exemplary one, special of its kind. In the facts of the case, the Supreme Court felt that the trial court and the prosecutor were remiss in some ways.
The Supreme Court felt that the acquittal was based on the evidence of threatened and terrorized witnesses. The Supreme Court ordered retrial considering the nature of the additional evidence sought to be adduced. The Supreme Court, however, clarified that it should not be understood to have held that whenever additional evidence is accepted, retrial is a necessary corollary.
60. Counsel for the complainant also relied on Satyajeet Banerjee.
In that case, the appellant were accused of offences under Sections 498A and 306 of the IPC. The trial court acquitted the accused but in a revision preferred by the mother of the deceased, the High Court set aside the acquittal and directed a de novo trial after observing that the trial court should have exercised its powers under Section 311 of the Code. The High Court ordered retrial after observing that the trial court would be free to arrive at independent conclusion in accordance with law and in the suggested formula in the judgment.
Before the Supreme Court on behalf of the prosecution, reliance was placed on Zahira. The Supreme Court observed that Zahira was an extraordinary case where there was a mock trial. The witnesses were terrified and intimidated to keep them away from the court. The Supreme Court observed that Zahira cannot be applied to all cases against the established principles of criminal jurisprudence, where acquittal of accused is for want of adequate and reliable evidence.
However, since the retrial had already commenced, keeping in view the stage of the trial, the Supreme Court refused to interfere with the order of retrial.
61. Undoubtedly, in this case, the investigation could have been conducted in a better manner. The trial court should have also taken more care and used its powers under the Code to control the winding cross-examination and particularly ought to have exercised its power under Section 311 of the Code. But this case cannot be equated with Zahira. In Satyajeet Banerjee, the Supreme Court has clarified that Zahira cannot be applied to all cases. There is no allegation that any witness was threatened to make any particular statement in the court. At no stage, any objection was raised as regards the conduct of the investigating agency or the manner in which learned Judge conducted the trial. All the relatives of the deceased have been examined and they have not made any grievance that either the investigating officer terrorized them or trial court merely acted as a spectator and the prosecutor was inept. It is also well settled that a retrial cannot be ordered to fill in the lacunae in the prosecution case.
Almost six years have passed after the incident. Once we come to the conclusion that as regards the incident which occurred within the four walls of the hotel room, there is a third possibility, at this stage to remand the matter or direct that fresh evidence be taken would be giving a chance to the prosecution to fill in the lacunae in its case by making out a third case, which we cannot do. This is not a case, where we can either take additional evidence or direct additional evidence to be taken or send the case for retrial.
62. There is yet another important aspect of the matter. We are dealing with an appeal against acquittal. We have already noted the principles laid down by the Supreme Court which we are expected to keep in mind. We must not forget that the presumption of innocence of the accused is strengthened by an order of acquittal and merely because we feel that some other view is possible, we cannot disturb the trial court’s view if it is a reasonably possible view. In this case, we are of the opinion that the trial court’s ultimate view that the accused deserves to be acquitted is a reasonably possible view though it is difficult for us to entirely agree with its reasoning. In our opinion, the accused will have to be given benefit of doubt.
63. The appeal as well as the writ petition are, therefore, disposed of in the aforestated terms.
(SMT. RANJANA DESAI, J.) (SMT. MRIDULA BHATKAR, J.)