Court: Supreme Court of India
Citation: 1994 SCC (2) 220: 1994 SCR (1) 37
Bench: Anand, A.S. (J) Singh N.P. (J)
Theme: The question of law revolves around the admissibility of circumstantial evidences in the absense of absolute evidences.
Subject: Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and Indian Penal code,1860
FACTS OF DHANANJOY CHATERJEE V. STATE OF WEST BENGAL
- Hetal Parekh a young 18 years old school-going girl was raped and murdered in her flat No. 3-A, on the third floor of ‘Anand Apartment’. The appellant was challenged and tried for rape and murder and also for an offence under Section 380 IPC, for committing theft of a wrist watch from the said flat. The appellant, Dhananjoy was one of the security guards deputed to guard the building Anand Apartment’ by M/s. Security and Investigating Bureau of which Mr. Shyam Karmakar was the proprietor.
- On 2nd March, 1990, Hetal (deceased) complained to her mother Yashmoti Parekh that the appellant had been teasing her on her way to and back from the school and had proposed to her on that day to accompany him to cinema hall to watch a movie. Yashmoti told her husband Nagardas Parekh on about the behavior of the appellant towards their daughter, who in turn complained to Shyam Karmakar and requested him to replace the appellant.
- At the asking of Shyam Karmakar, who came to meet Nagardas in his flat in that connection, he gave a written complaint also and the appellant was transferred and a transfer order posting the appellant at ‘Paras Apartment’ was issued by Shyam. Bijoy Thapa, a security guard at Paras Apartment was posted in his place, at Anand Apartment. The transfer was to take effect from March 5, 1990.
- As per their normal routine, Nagardas Parekh and his son Bhawesh Parekh, father and brother of the deceased respectively, left for their place of business and college in the morning on March 5, 1990. Bhawesh returned to the flat at about 11.30 a.m. and after taking his meals, left for his father’s place of business as was his routine. The deceased returned to her flat after taking her examination at about 1 p.m.
- Yashmoti, the mother of the deceased used to visit Laxmi Narayan Mandir between 5 and 5.30 p.m. daily. As usual, on the date of the occurrence also she left for the Temple at about 5.20 p.m. Hetal deceased was all alone in the flat at that time. Shortly after Yashmoti, the mother of the deceased left for the Temple, the appellant met Dasarath Murmu, another security guard who was at that time on duty at the building and told him that he was going to Flat No. 3-A for contacting his office over the telephone. The appellant used the lift to go to the said flat and committed the alleged crimes.
- At about 6.05 p.m. Yashmoti returned from the Temple. On reaching her flat, she rang the bell repeatedly but there was no response and nobody opened the door. She raised alarm which attracted several of her neighbors. They also rang the bell and knocked at the door but there was no response. Eventually, the lock of the door was broken open by the neighbors, their servant and the liftman, and as she entered the flat along with some of her neighbors, she found the door of her bedroom open.
- Yashmoti found Hetal lying on the floor unconscious. The doctor after examining the deceased, pronounced her dead. Thereafter her father informed the Bhawanipore Police Station at about the telephone. On receipt of the telephonic message, sub-inspector Gurupada Som, the acting duty officer, rushed to the place of occurrence along with some other police personnel and recorded the FIR on the statement of Yashmoti Parekh, the mother of the deceased and commenced investigation.
- The sessions Judge in this case relying upon circumstantial evidence found the accused guilty and therefore, sentenced him to death. The appeal of Dhananjoy Chatterjee for proving his innocence was also rejected by the Calcutta High court and thereafter by the Supreme Court.
ISSUES IN DHANANJOY CHATERJEE V. STATE OF WEST BENGAL
1. Whether The Appellant Was The Assailant Who Had Raped And Murdered The Defenseless Young Girl?
2. Whether The Appellant Had A Motive To Commit The Alleged Crime?
3. Whether The Case Falls Under The Rarest Of The Rare Cases?
4. Whether This Case Establishes The Statement Of Circumstantial Evidence To Be Admissible In The Court Of Law?
Whether The Appellant Was The Assailant Who Had Raped And Murdered The Defenseless Young Girl?
The Prosecution on the basis of circumstantial evidences argued that the appellant was the one who raped the deceased. The appellant used to follow and tease the deceased every time she used to come back and go to school. She had also complained to her parents about this and accordingly, a transfer order was made of the appellant to Paras apartment. Also, he had used the lift for going to the fiat of the deceased which is evident from the testimony of the guard of the lift. Also, his semen was found inside the vagina of the deceased. On the place of incident, a cream coloured button of the appellant’s shirt was also found which later on after investigation was proved to be that from the shirt of the appellant. Also, the appellant had escaped after this incident and after many raids by the police, he could not be found and after many months he was arrested from the house of his uncle where he was hiding behind grass straws. Also, his shirt and trouser which he was wearing at the time of the incident was recovered from the house of appellant. Also, the watch of the deceased which was stolen from her flat at the time of incident was also recovered from his house. The counsels strictly relied upon the evidences which were collected from the crime scene and also the fact that appellant used to tease the deceased was one of the main arguments laid down during the proceedings.
The counsel for the appellant argued that the appellant had gone to cinema hall just after performing his duty at Anand apartment and after watching the movie, he had bought some fruits and then rushed to his village for attending the thread ceremony of his brother and he was not present at the place of incident when this event took place.
Whether The Appellant Had A Motive To Commit The Alleged Crime?
The counsel for Prosecution stated that Yes, the appellant had motive to commit the alleged crime as we can see from the evidences that the deceased was being teased by the appellant when she used to go to or came back from the school. She had brought it to the notice of her mother on a number of occasions, the latest in the series being on 2.3.1990. Yashmoti informed her husband Nagardas about the complaints. From the testimony of Nagardas, it transpires that after he came to know about the misbehaviour of the appellant from his wife on 2.3.1990, he called some other dwellers of the Apartment to apprise them of the same. Mahendra Chauhatia and Harish Vakharia have deposed that they had been called by Nagardas who reported to them that the appellant had been teasing his daughter and that he had suggested that the appellant should be replaced by another security guard. They both agreed. The testimony of new security guard has remained totally unchallenged in cross-examination. After consulting Nagardas the employer of the appellant, to meet him and according to the statement of Karmakar he came to the flat of Nagardas on 3.3.1990, where he was informed about the teasing of his daughter by the appellant, deposed that Nagardas told him to replace the appellant by another security guard and even handed over a written complaint.
The counsel for the defendant argued that the delay in the seizure of complaint and the transfer order, on 29.6.1990 were indicative of the fact that both the documents had come into existence subsequently as an afterthought.
Whether The Case Falls Under The Rarest Of The Rare Cases?
This case was of the nature of ‘rarest of the rare cases’ because in this case the deceased had been killed very severely and mercilessly by the security guard whose duty was to protect. So, the appellant must be awarded capital punishment.
The counsel for Appellant followed that the case does not fall under the category of ‘rarest of the rare cases’ because these kinds of crime are very obvious these days and in most of these crimes the capital punishment is not awarded to the culprit.
BRIEF ANALYSIS OF CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE WITH REFERENCE TO ISSUE IV:
According to Indian Evidence Act, 1872, circumstantial evidence is also known as indirect evidence. It relates to a series of facts other than the particular fact sough to be proved it is the evidence that is drawn not from direct observation of the fact at issue but from events or circumstances surround it is a proof of a fact which tends to prove whether something is true or not. It is usually a theory supported by a significant quantity of corroborating evidence. This kind of evidence is important because nearly all the criminal are careful not to generate direct evidence and they try to avoid demonstrating criminal intent. Therefore to prove mens rea, the prosecution resorts to circumstantial evidence.
The well known rule governing circumstantial evidence is that each and every incriminating circumstance must be clearly established by reliable evidence and the circumstances proved must be from the chain of events from which the only irresistible conclusion about the guilt of the accused can be safely drawn and no other hypothesis against the guilt is possible.
JUDGMENT: DHANANJOY CHATERJEE V. STATE OF WEST BENGAL
SUPREME COURT ON ISSUE 1
All the circumstances referred to above and relied upon by the prosecution have been conclusively established by the prosecution. They arc specific and of clinching nature and all of them irresistibly lead to the conclusion that the appellant alone was guilty of committing rape of Hetal and subsequently murdering her. All the circumstances which have been conclusively established are consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the appellant and are totally inconsistent with his innocence. Not only in the cross-examination of various prosecution witnesses, but even during the arguments, has nothing been pointed out as to why any of the witness for the prosecution should have falsely implicated the appellant in such a heinous crime. The court, therefore, in complete agreement with the trial court and the High Court that the prosecution has established the guilt of the appellant beyond a reasonable doubt and the court, therefore, uphold his conviction for the offences under Sections 302, 376 and 380 of IPC.
SUPREME COURT ON ISSUE 2
The Supreme Court did not find any force in the submission of appellant. Nagardas who gave a written complaint to Shyam Karmakar and delivered the transfer order to the appellant were not challenged in the cross-examination about the same. Even the investigating officer was not asked for an explanation as to why the documents had been seized so late. In any event the seizure of the documents on 29.6.1990, after the appellant had been arrested only a couple of weeks earlier would not go to show that the documents were either fabricated or were an afterthought. His transfer from ‘Anand Apartment’ on the allegation that he had teased the deceased, therefore, provided sufficient motive for him not only to satisfy his lust and teach a lesson to the deceased girl for spurning his offer but also as a measure of retaliation for being reported to his employer and being transferred from Anand Apartment to Paras Apartment on the basis of the said complaint. The transfer of the appellant on grounds of his improper behavior with the deceased was an aspersion on his character and that appears to have provided him the immediate motive for committing the crime in retaliation and even may be to remove the evidence of committing rape on the deceased. The court, therefore, is of the opinion that the prosecution has successfully established the existence of motive on the part of the appellant to commit the crime.
SUPREME COURT ON ISSUE 3
In the court’s opinion, the measure of punishment in a given case must depend upon the atrocity of the crime; the conduct of the criminal and the defenseless and unprotected state of the victim. Imposition of appropriate punishment is the manner in which the courts respond to the society’s cry for justice against the criminals. Keeping in view the medical evidence and the state in which the body of the deceased was found, it is obvious that a most heinous type of barbaric rape and murder was committed on a helpless and defenseless school-going girl of 18 years. The offence was not only inhuman and barbaric but it was a totally ruthless crime of rape followed by cold blooded murder and an affront to the human dignity of the society. The savage nature of the crime has shocked our judicial conscious. There are no extenuating or mitigating circumstances whatsoever in the case. The order of sentence imposed on the appellant by the courts below for offences under Section 376 and 380 IPC are also confirmed along with the directions relating thereto as in the event of the execution of the appellant, those sentences would only remain of academic interest. This appeal failed and is hereby dismissed.
SUPREME COURT ON ISSUE 4
All the circumstances referred to above and relied upon by the prosecution have been conclusively established by the prosecution. They arc specific and of clinching nature and all of them irresistibly lead to the conclusion that the appellant alone was guilty of committing rape of Hetal and subsequently murdering her. All the circumstances which have been conclusively established are consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the appellant and are totally inconsistent with his innocence. The witnesses produced by the prosecution have withstood the test of cross-examination well and their creditworthiness and reliability has not been demolished in any manner. All the circumstances established by the prosecution, as discussed above, are conclusive in nature and specific in details. They are consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the appellant and totally inconsistent with his innocence. We are, therefore, in complete agreement with the trial court and the High Court that the prosecution has established the guilt of the appellant beyond a reasonable doubt and we, therefore, uphold his conviction for the offences under Sections 302, 376 and 380 IPC.
APPLICABLE SINCE 11 JANUARY, 1994
The whole discussion essentially brings us back to the fundamental question of whether Circumstantial evidence is a sole base of conviction or not. Undeniable the conclusion would be affirmative in true spirit .Undoubtedly; circumstantial evidence plays a pivotal role in criminal case. Circumstantial evidence” which helped prosecution nail in various landmark cases mentioned above was heavily based on circumstantial evidence. A popular misconception is that circumstantial evidence is less valid or less important than direct evidence. This is only partly true: direct evidence is generally considered more powerful, but successful criminal prosecutions often rely largely on circumstantial evidence, and civil charges are frequently based on circumstantial or indirect evidence. In practice, circumstantial evidence often has an advantage over direct evidence in habit is more difficult to suppress or fabricate. Where the case is not based entirely or substantially on circumstantial evidence, a modified direction in respect of circumstantial evidence may be appropriate when summing-up in respect of an element of the offence which is bed entirely or substantially on circumstantial evidence.
Contributed by: Aum Purohit (Student, Institute of Law, Nirma University)