Read Order: Jakir v. State Of Haryana
Chandigarh, April 4, 2022: While dealing with a revision petition against the orders of the Lower Courts convicting and sentencing the accused in a cow slaughter matter, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that once the petitioner was being tried for offences under the Cow Slaughter Act, it was essential and integral for the prosecution to establish that the recovered meat was beef and that such determination couldnot be made on the basis of physical examination.
“The same being integral and fundamental to the criminal prosecution of the petitioner, in the absence of any lab report/chemical examination to conclusively determine that the recovered meat was beef, the petitioner cannot be held liable under the Cow Slaughter Act”, held Justice Vinod S. Bhardwaj.
Essentially, in this case, the petitioner was arrested for having stored fresh beef inside his scooter after slaughtering a cow. 20 kgs of freshly cut beef was recovered from the polythene bag packed in the storage compartment of the scooter which did not bear any registration number. An FIR was registered under Section 5/8 of the Cow Slaughter Act.
Upon consideration of the evidence, the Trial Court held the accused guilty and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for a period of one year. Aggrieved, the petitioner preferred an appeal wherein the conviction was upheld but the sentence was reduced. Hence, the instant revision petition was filed impugning the decisions of the Lower Courts.
Primarily, the case of the prosecution was that the prosecution did not join any independent witness at the time of recovery and no test identification parade was conducted by the police as well as the prosecution to establish the identity of the person, especially when the petitioner is stated to have escaped. It was also contended that even though the scooter, from which the recovery was affected, was taken in possession by the police, however, no attempt was made to trace the owner of the scooter and the petitioner could not be linked to the said scooter.
The Counsel also submitted that even after the arrest of the petitioner, no recovery of any nature whatsoever at the instance of the petitioner was effected to show that he indulged in any cow slaughtering. It was further argued that no chemical examination was carried out to determine that the seized meat was beef and that the veterinary surgeon gave his opinion only on the basis of his visual inspection of the seized meet.
Addressing the argument of the petitioner on non-examination of an independent witness at the time of raid and recovery, the Court opined that such non-examination would not vitiate the recovery. Justice Bhardwaj further added that the necessity to join an independent witness is a rule of prudence and not a requirement of law. Also, the Court did not find the argument of the false implication of the petitioner in the case to be plausible.
The Court further added that the case of the prosecution cannot be demolished for a mere failure on the part of the police to associate an independent witness from the general public and that the petitioner failed to point out any illegality, infirmity or perversity either in the manner of recovery or the recovery itself.
“He has also not been able to establish any motive with the police party or the investigating agency to falsely implicate the petitioner in the said case”, held the Court.
Regarding the second argument of the petitioner on the absence of the test identification parade, the Court held that the same was rendered bereft of any strength or merit considering the fact that the Investigating Officer specifically stated that he knew the accused, who made good his escape. Thus, the Court concluded that there was hence no occasion or reason for conducting any test identification parade.
Thirdly, the submission of the petitioner regarding the non-establishment of the ownership of the scooter was held to be devoid of merits, by the Court. The Court noted that the Investigating Officer specifically stated before the Court in his deposition that he saw the petitioner selling the meat in question on the said Scooter. Resultantly, the Court held that the factum of ownership was inconsequential.
“Assuming for the sake of argument that the petitioner was not the owner of the vehicle, yet the owner cannot be held vicariously liable for being criminally prosecuted, considering the fact that prosecution has been able to establish that it was the petitioner who was in possession of the scooter at the time of registration of the case and had made good his escape”, stated the Court.
Insofar as, failure on the part of the prosecution to establish any further recovery to corroborate the commission of an offence by the petitioner was concerned, the Court held that the same would not defeat the case of the prosecution as effecting of any further recovery would only be additional contemporary evidence which would be admissible only to the extent of a corroborative material to draw a presumption against the petitioner.
Lastly, on the chemical examination of the material recovered to ascertain its nature, the Court held that once the petitioner was being tried for offences under the Cow Slaughter Act, it was essential and integral for the prosecution to establish that the recovered meat was beef and that such determination cannot be made on the basis of physical examination. Further, the Court held that the same being integral and fundamental to the criminal prosecution of the petitioner, in the absence of any lab report/chemical examination to conclusively determine that the recovered meat was beef, the petitioner could not be held liable under the Cow Slaughter Act.
It was held by the Court,“I am of the opinion that prosecution has failed to establish conclusively and beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt that the petitioner had indulged in slaughtering of cow and sale of beef. The report filed by the veterinary surgeon is a document that may at best create a suspicion. However, it is well settled position in law that suspicion, howsoever grave, cannot be substituted for evidence.”
Thus, while holding the petitioner to be entitled to benefit of doubt, the revision was allowed.