Jharkhand HC overturns conviction and death sentence for accused rape and murder


Overturning a death sentence for the double offense of rape and murder punishable under Sections 376 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code, the High Court of Jharkhand strongly noted that trial courts should not be swayed by the nature of the offense and must properly sift the evidence before reaching any conclusion.

Declaring that in this case the trial court had condemned the appellant summarily, without discussing in depth the testimony of the witnesses, a bench of division of Judges Raongon Mukhopadhyay and Sanjay Prasad noticed,

“The learned trial court should have refrained from being overtly possessed by the nature of the offence, which is undoubtedly horrific and heinous, and should instead have dissected the evidence appropriately before concluding; it had arrived.”

The appeal was brought against the judgment of the Magistrate Court, convicting the accused of offenses under Section 376, read together with Section 320 of the Indian Penal Code. Under the sentence, the accused was sentenced to capital punishment and fined Rs. 50,000/-.

According to the FIR filed, it is revealed that when the informant was walking through the Chowk in the village, he saw the accused taking his daughter away under the guise of playing, along with two other children. When at 7 p.m. his daughter did not return home, he went to the accused’s home to inquire. However, the accused then gave an evasive answer. Later, he learned that his daughter had been raped and murdered. His body was found lying in a nearby field.

Considering that the child witness (who also played with the accused and the victim) remained silent when asked if she had been tutored by the mother of the deceased and the police, the Court observed,

“Silence speaks louder than words” would be an apt adage to describe her examination-in-chief and what she said during her cross-examination. »

He referred to Suryanarayana v. State of Karnataka, in which it was held that the testimony of the child witness could not be rejected per se. Nevertheless, as a rule of caution, the court is required to consider such evidence with careful consideration and only after being satisfied of the quality of the statements and their reliability, basing its conviction on acceptance of the child’s statement. witness. It has further been held that the corroboration of the testimony of a child witness is not a rule but a measure of caution and prudence.

The Court further relied on the “last sight theory” principle as discussed in the case Satpal c. Haryana State, where it has been argued that the last seen theory is a kind of weak evidence on its own to find a conviction on the same singularly. It was further held that if there was any doubt or break in the link of the chain of circumstances, the benefit of the doubt should go to the accused.

In the present case, the High Court noted a considerable interval of time between the time when the appellant was last seen with the deceased and the recovery of the body. Further, there was no allegation that the appellant fled after the incident.

Furthermore, the Court noted that on the basis of the confessions of the accused, two underwear were recovered from different places. However, there is nothing in the record to indicate that the underwear belonged to the Appellant and the deceased. In this regard, the Court noted,

“The mere recovery of the underwear would not point the needle of suspicion at the caller in the absence of any authentication of the underwear and in the absence of a forensic examination.”

Noting further that the Appellant, after being arrested, was not sent for a medical examination, the Court observed that the investigation was conducted in a very casual manner. He mentioned the case of Sunil Kundu v. Jharkhand State, where the fact of shortcomings in the investigation was taken into consideration. He noted that the failings committed in the investigation of a case are gross and go to the fundamental root of the case, which is written in large. “With the shortcomings of the investigation, there is the lack of evidence for the prosecution”, he added.

Case Title: State of Jharkhand v. Durga Soren and other related cases

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