Read Judgment: Satye Singh & Another V. State of Uttarakhand

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, February 16, 2022: While noticing absence of cogent evidence adduced by the prosecution to prove the entire chain of circumstances which might have compelled the court to arrive at a conclusion that the accused husband only had burnt his wife to death, the Supreme Court has held that the Trial Court and the High Court had committed gross error of law in convicting the accused for the alleged crime, merely on the basis of the suspicion, conjectures and surmises.

A Division Bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Bela M. Trivedi observed that circumstances howsoever strong cannot take place of proof and that the guilt of the accused have to be proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt.

Going by the background of the case, Shashi Devi had married Satye Singh (Appellant/ Accused) four years prior to the date of incident which took place in 2009. Another accused- Indra Devi is the mother of Satye Singh. Upon being informed on telephone that one lady died due to burns, the Naib Tehsildar – Virendra Raj reached at the spot and made an entry of the said information after seeing that the dead body of the deceased was lying in the room in the burnt condition. After Sharad Singh (father of the deceased) gave a written complaint, a police case was registered; pursuant to which appellant was arrested. The Trial Court after appreciating the evidence on record convicted and sentenced both the accused, which came to be upheld by the High Court. Hence, present appeal. 

After considering the submissions, the Top Court noted that the entire case of the prosecution hinged on circumstantial evidence as there was no eye witness to the alleged incident. 

Though the accused had tried to propound the story of the deceased having committed suicide, both the courts had rightly not accepted the said story, in view of the clinching evidence of the Dr. Sanjay Kavdwal, who had carried out the post-mortem of the deceased and recorded the injuries found on the dead body of the deceased, which were ante-mortem in nature, added the Court. 

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Trivedi noted that the doctor had opined that the cause of death was Haemorrhage and shock due to ante mortem injuries.

The said doctor was cross-examined at length to prove that the injuries were not ante mortem and were due to burning only, however, the doctor had categorically denied the same and had further explained as to how and when the blisters would develop on the body on account of burning. From the said evidence of the doctor, there remains no shadow of doubt that the deceased Shashi had died a homicidal death”, added the Bench.

Justice Trivedi further found that the entire investigation carried out by the Investigating Officers was in a very cursory and shoddy manner, who had not bothered to investigate as to how the incident had taken place. 

There was no investigation carried out by either of the Investigating Officers as to at which place the deceased was killed and burnt, and how and by whom her burnt body brought in the Chhan, and there was no recovery and discovery of any incriminating articles made from the accused during the course of investigation and no attempt was made to collect any evidence much less cogent evidence to connect the accused with the alleged crime, noted the Bench.

The Top Court opined that the prosecution had miserably failed to prove the entire chain of circumstances which would unerringly conclude that alleged act was committed by the accused only and none else.

On the totality of circumstances and evidence on record, at the most it could be said from the evidence of the parents of the deceased that there was harassment by the accused to the deceased, though no charge u/s 498A of IPC was framed by the trial court against the accused. It could be further inferred from the evidence on record that the deceased Shashi had left the house on the previous evening of the alleged incident and that she was not found during the whole night, nonetheless such circumstance itself could not be said to be sufficient proof to come to a conclusion that accused had murdered and burnt Shashi as alleged”, added the Court.

Hence, the Apex Court acquitted the accused appellant from the charges levelled against him. 

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