Manju vs The State Of Delhi on 17 December, 2019


Supreme Court of India

Manju vs The State Of Delhi on 17 December, 2019

Author: R. Subhash Reddy

Bench: Mohan M. Shantanagoudar, R. Subhash Reddy

Crl.A.No.1268 of 2013



                                                                     REPORTABLE

                                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                       CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1268 OF 2013



                           Manju                                        ....Appellant

                                                      Versus


                           State of Delhi                           ....Respondent




                                                  J U D G M E N T

R. Subhash Reddy, J.

1. This criminal appeal is filed by the sole accused,

aggrieved by the judgment dated 12th March 2010 passed

in Criminal Appeal No.168 of 2010 by the High Court of

Delhi at New Delhi, by which the appellant herein was

convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the

offence punishable under Section 302, IPC.

2. The appellant herein was admitted in the maternity

Signature Not Verifiedward of the Lady Hardinge Medical College Hospital and
Digitally signed by
GULSHAN KUMAR
ARORA
Date: 2019.12.17
16:36:42 IST
Reason:

delivered a baby girl around 12:30 in the afternoon on

24th August 2007. It is the case of the prosecution that

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Crl.A.No.1268 of 2013

as the new born was a baby girl, as such the appellant-

mother has caused her death by strangulation after baby

was handed over to her at 04:30 p.m. on the said date.

On 26th August 2007 post-mortem was conducted on the

dead body and the doctor opined that cause of death was

asphyxia due to ante mortem strangulation. On 31st

August 2007 a case was registered against the appellant

for the offence under Section 302 IPC, for causing

death of her new born baby. She was tried for the

charge under Section 302 IPC by the court of Additional

Sessions Judge, Fast Track Court, New Delhi. In her

statement, she has not pleaded guilty and claimed

trial, as such, she was tried in Sessions Case No.78 of

2009 by the Additional Sessions Judge, New Delhi. To

prove the charge against the appellant, prosecution in

all, has examined 23 witnesses. The evidence against

the accused was put to her and her statement was

recorded under Section 313, Cr.P.C. she has pleaded her

innocence and deposed that she has been falsely

implicated by the police in connivance with the

hospital authorities, to shift the blame from doctors

on duty.

3. The trial court, by judgment dated 19.12.2009, by

recording a finding that prosecution has been able to

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Crl.A.No.1268 of 2013

prove complete chain of circumstances and proved its

case beyond reasonable doubt, has held the appellant-

accused is guilty for the commission of offence under

Section 302 IPC and by order dated 22.12.2009 imposed

the sentence of imprisonment for life and to pay a fine

of Rs.2000/-.

4. As against the conviction recorded and sentence

imposed the appellant carried the matter in appeal to

the High Court and the High Court by the impugned

judgment, confirmed the conviction and sentence imposed

on the appellant.

5. We have heard Ms. Mahalakshmi Pavani, learned

senior counsel appearing for the appellant and

Mr. Anmol Chandan, learned counsel appearing for the

State of Delhi.

6. It is contended by learned senior counsel

appearing for the appellant that there are no eye

witnesses to the incident, and the incident is said to

have happened in the ward of the hospital, where the

delivery took place. The conviction is based solely on

circumstantial evidence and the chain of circumstances

is not complete. It is submitted that the appellant had

no reason to commit the murder of her new born baby

girl as she already had a male child and her parents-

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Crl.A.No.1268 of 2013

in-law had died even before she was married. By

referring to the oral evidence of PW-8 and PW-9, it is

submitted that even according to the deposition of said

witnesses it is clearly established that the new born

was kept in the incubator with an oxygen mask. Further

the appellant-mother was sleepy in view of the drugs

administered on her and by the time she has seen the

child, the new born was dead. It is submitted that the

trial court as well as the High Court has committed

error in convicting the appellant in absence of proving

chain of circumstances, leading to her conviction. It

is also brought to the notice of this Court that though

incident occurred on 24th August 2007 post-mortem was

conducted on the body only on 26th August and further,

crime was registered on 27th August 2007. It is

submitted, if the totality of evidence is taken into

consideration, the guilt of the accused-appellant is

not proved beyond reasonable doubt and the judgments of

the High Court as well as the trial court are based on

surmises and conjectures.

7. On the other hand, it is contended by the learned

counsel appearing for the State, after the birth of the

child the new born was kept in the incubator upto 04:30

p.m. and after 04:30 p.m. baby girl was handed over to

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Crl.A.No.1268 of 2013

the appellant herein. Thereafter she was found dead by

nursing staff of the hospital. Further it is submitted

that though the conviction rests on circumstantial

evidence, chain is established to prove the guilt of

the accused-appellant, and there are no grounds to

interfere with the well considered judgment of the

trial court, as confirmed by the High Court.

8. Having heard learned counsel on both sides, we

have perused the impugned judgments and other material

placed on record.

9. In this case it is clear from the record that the

conviction of the appellant herein is based on

circumstantial evidence. The trial court mainly relied

on the evidence of two staff nurses – PW-8 and 9, who

have deposed that baby girl was placed with the mother

at about 04:30 p.m. and the child was found dead by

06:30 p.m. The husband of the appellant was examined by

the prosecution as PW-7. In his deposition he has

stated that on 24th August 2007 he had taken his wife,

i.e., the appellant herein to Lady Hardinge Medical

College Hospital, for delivery and on the same day at

around 12:00 noon appellant gave birth to a female

baby. He was called to the labour room and the nurse

had shown him the new born baby and at that time eyes

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Crl.A.No.1268 of 2013

of the baby were closed. She was not moving and she was

not weeping. He has also stated that there was also a

red mark on the nose of the child. At around 05:00 p.m.

again when he was called by the nurse and he was

informed that child had expired and on questioning,

staff have not given any reason for death. Further it

is also stated that he was not allowed to meet his wife

and he was allowed only after post-mortem was conducted

on the body of the child on 26th August 2007. None of

the doctors on duty on the date of delivery was

examined. PW-8, staff nurse was examined. In her

deposition she has stated that new born was under

observation in incubator. She has deposed that the new

born was handed over to the mother at around 04:30 p.m.

by taking her out of the incubator. Thereafter at

around 06:30 p.m. during rounds Ward Doctor found baby

was sick. PW-8 in her cross-examination has stated that

baby was on oxygen mask in the incubator. Another staff

nurse, by name, Sangeeta Rani was examined as PW-9 who

has deposed that on the date of incident she joined

duty at 03:00 p.m. and new born baby had been kept in

the incubator and had been on oxygen mask.

10. By considering the oral evidence on record and

taking into consideration the post-mortem report, the

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Crl.A.No.1268 of 2013

appellant was convicted for the offence by attributing

motive that she has strangulated her because the new

born is a baby girl. There is no evidence on record to

draw such a conclusion against the appellant. It is

clear from the evidence on record, as deposed by PW-7,

they already had a male child of the age of 5 years.

He has also stated that as they already had a male

child, they wanted a female child to complete the

family. He further stated that his brother had three

daughters which shows that the family was not orthodox

and was not averse to have a female child. It is clear

from the evidence on record that immediately after

birth the baby was put in incubator with oxygen mask

and it is also clear that she has not opened the eyes

and she did not cry. PW-7, though he was declared

hostile by the prosecution, but he has stated in his

deposition that he was called to the labour room at

05:00 p.m. to inform that his baby had expired and he

was not allowed to see her wife who is the appellant

herein upto 26th August 2007 on which date dead body of

the baby girl was sent for post-mortem. It is also to

be noticed that there is no reason for sending the body

for post-mortem on 26th August when the baby girl died

on 24th August 2007. At the same time, it is also to be

noticed that the crime was registered against the
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Crl.A.No.1268 of 2013

appellant only on 31st August 2007. It is true that in

the post-mortem, doctor has opined that death is due to

asphyxia and there were marks of strangulation, but at

the same time if totality of evidence on record is

considered, motive is not established and it is totally

unnatural for the appellant-mother to kill her own baby

by strangulation. It is also clear from the record that

in view of the drugs administered on her she was sleepy

and drowsy. In absence of any clear evidence on record,

High Court as well as the Trial Court committed error,

in attributing motive to the appellant that, she has

killed her baby as she was female. The Trial court as

well as the High Court has based conviction on

presumptions without any basis. It is fairly well

settled that to base conviction solely on the

circumstantial evidence, unless chain of circumstances

is established conviction cannot be recorded. From the

totality of evidence on record it is clear that the

baby girl was put in incubator with an oxygen mask and

she has also not opened her eyes and she did not cry

after birth. There was a possibility of natural death.

Though the doctor has opined in the post-mortem report,

the cause of death is asphyxia but in absence of any

clear evidence on record it is not safe to convict the

appellant for the offence under Section 302 IPC. As
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Crl.A.No.1268 of 2013

the evidence on record is not sufficient to bring home

the guilt of the accused, beyond reasonable doubt. We

are of the considered view that the appellant is

entitled to benefit of doubt, for acquittal from the

charge framed against her.

11. For the aforesaid reasons, this criminal appeal is

allowed. The judgment of the trial court dated

19.12.2009, as well as the impugned judgment of the

High Court dated 12.03.2010, in Criminal Appeal No. 168

of 2010 by the High Court of Delhi are set aside,

consequently the appellant is acquitted of the charge

framed against her. As the appellant is on bail, her

bail bonds stand cancelled.

……………….. J.

[MOHAN M.SHANTANAGOUDAR]

……………….. J.

[R. SUBHASH REDDY]

New Delhi.

December 17, 2019.

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