Read Judgment: Shakuntala Shukla vs. State of Uttar Pradesh & Another

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, September 9, 2021:The Supreme Court has ruled that once the accused has been convicted by the Trial Court, there shall not be any presumption of innocence thereafter and therefore, the High Court shall be very slow in granting bail to the accused pending appeal who has been convicted for serious offences punishable u/s 302/149, 201 r/w 120B IPC.

The Division Bench of Justice D.Y Chandrachud and Justice M.R Shah observed that the High Court has not considered the seriousness of the offence and the gravity of the accusation against the accused and their antecedents and conduct by giving threats to the witnesses during trial and even thereafter.

The observation came pursuant to appeals filed by the widow of the deceased assailing the judgment passed by the Allahabad High Court releasing the private respondents (accused were convicted by the trial Court for the offences u/s 302/149, 201 r/w/s 120B IPC) on bail, pending the criminal appeals.

The case pertains to the fact that the dead body of one Kripa Shankar Shukla alias Bajrang Shukla was found lying in the well of one Chandramani Pandey. Accordingly, an application was moved at the police station Bansdeeh. However, no proper investigation was carried out by the police.

Later, the appellant (wife of the deceased) moved an application before the President of India stating that she is a widow of Kripa Shankar Shukla and her husband was murdered in the night when he was coming back to his village and thereafter the dead body was thrown in the well to create confusion.

Accordingly, Ministry of Home Affairs, U.P Govt. directed for investigation of the matter by CB-CID, wherein names of the accused came into light. Later, CB-CID submitted the charge-sheet against the accused Swaminath Yadav and other co-accused and the Trial Court framed charges under the IPC.

During the investigation by Crime Branch, it was found that one Jainath Yadav, the then Sub-Inspector of Police Station Bansdeeh, under the orders of Station House Officer (SHO), investigated the incident of death of the deceased, in order to save the accused deliberately, stated that the deceased was under the influence of liquor and died by drowning.

Whereas in the post mortem report no symptoms of death by drowning were found. It was also found during the investigation that even the Doctor had in the post mortem report of the deceased deliberately mentioned the wrong reason for death in order to save the accused.

The Trial Court accordingly passed an order to prosecute the then SHO, Sub-Inspector and the Doctor. During trial, the witnesses stated that before they gave the evidence/statements, they were threatened by the accused. Accordingly, the Trial Court convicted the then Investigating Officer and the Doctor who performed the post mortem. However, the High Court released them on bail.

The trial Court has specifically observed while appreciating the evidence of the prosecution witnesses that the accused gave threats repeatedly to the prosecution witnesses and villagers and threatened them that if they give evidence against the accused, they would suffer the dire consequences”, observed the Top Court.

The Division Bench further found that the High Court had not very seriously considered the two FIRs filed during trial for the offences u/s 504 & 506 IPC against the accused for giving threats to the complainant side and others.

The High Court has very casually observed that two cases for the offences under Sections 504 & 506 IPC are of a simple nature and that “these two cases will not constitute the criminal history of the accused”, added the Bench.

The Supreme Court was at pains to note that the order granting bail to the accused pending appeal lacked total clarity on which part of the judgment and order can be said to be submissions and which part can be said to be the findings/reasonings. It was opined that whenever a judgment is written, it should have clarity on facts; on submissions made on behalf of the rival parties; discussion on law points and thereafter reasoning and thereafter the ultimate conclusion and the findings and thereafter the operative portion of the order.

Therefore, while allowing the appeal, the Apex Court concluded that the High Court had committed a grave error in releasing the accused on bail pending appeals against the judgment and order of conviction for the offences u/s 302/149, 201 r/w 120B IPC.

The Top Court also directed the accused to surrender forthwith to serve out the sentence imposed by the trial Court, failing which the trial Court has been directed to issue warrants of arrest against them and take them into custody forthwith.

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