Manoj Suryavanshi vs State Of Chhatisgarh on 5 March, 2020


Supreme Court of India

Manoj Suryavanshi vs State Of Chhatisgarh on 5 March, 2020

Author: M.R. Shah

Bench: Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah

                                                        1


                                                                              REPORTABLE

                                      IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                                    CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                   CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. ……….. OF 2020
                                   [Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 8682 of 2014]


         Manoj Suryavanshi                                                   .. Appellant

                                                      Versus

         State of Chhattisgarh                                               .. Respondent


                                                JUDGMENT

M. R. Shah, J.

Leave granted.

2. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned

judgment and order dated 08.08.2013 passed by the Division

Bench of the High Court of Chhatisgarh at Bilaspur in Criminal

Appeal No. 550 of 2013 and Criminal Reference No. 05 of 2013, by

which the Division Bench of the High Court has dismissed the said
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
JAYANT KUMAR ARORA
Date: 2020.03.05
16:42:06 IST
Reason:

appeal preferred by the appellant­original accused and has

confirmed the judgment and order of conviction and death sentence
2

awarded by the learned Trial Court for the offences punishable

under Section 302 of the IPC for having killed the three minor

children of the complainant Shivlal – P.W.18 and also for the

offences punishable under Section 364 of the IPC, the original

accused has preferred the present appeal.

3. As per the case of the prosecution, at 7.00 AM on 11.02.2011,

two sons of one Shivlal­original complainant – Vijay aged about 8

years, Ajay aged about 6 years and Kumari Sakshi aged about 4

years left their home in Darripara to attend the school at

Karaihapara and reached the school. On the school getting over at

11.30 AM, the three minors left the school for home on foot. When

they did not reach home, Shivlal­P.W.18 looked for the children in

the vicinity and went to school and enquired about the children.

On enquiry at the school, the teachers of the minor children told

Shivlal that the three minors had come to the school and on the

school getting over they had left the school for home on foot. That,

thereafter Shivlal and others looked for the three minors. On not

finding the three minor children, Shivlal­P.W.18 went to the police

station, Raipur and lodged the Missing Person Report. The missing
3

person report was registered in the Daily Journal (Ex. P­18) by the

Head Constable Krishna Kumar Koshle­P.W.17. During the search

of three minor children, one Ashok Patel­P.W.8 stated that he had

seen the minor children along with the appellant­accused near the

school. As per the case of the prosecution, on 11.02.2011,

Rameshwar­P.W.11 contacted the accused on cell­phone and talked

with him and the accused asked Shivlal­P.W.18 how he was feeling

when his children are missing. According to the prosecution, the

accused was working as labourer in the house of Shivlal. It was

alleged that the wife of the accused, namely Sumrit Bai, eloped with

the younger brother of the complainant, namely Shivnath Dhiwar

and with the view to take revenge, the appellant abducted the

minors and thereafter killed them. The FIR­Ex.24 was lodged

against the accused initially for the offences under Sections 363

and 364 IPC. According to the prosecution, after the FIR was

lodged, the accused was contacted on his mobile no. 9179484724.

The accused received the call and told that he was 60 kms away.

The Investigating Officer­P.W.24 asked the Head Constable Hemant

Aditya, Crime Branch to trace the said mobile number and to tell its
4

location. Then the Head Constable Hemant Aditya traced the

location of the said mobile and the location was found near Village

Lakhram. That, thereafter the Investigating team went to the

house of one Ashok Kumar Madhukar­P.W.13, a relative of the

accused. Initially, the accused was not in home. However,

thereafter continuing the search, they again went to the house of

the said Ashok Kumar Madhukar. According to the case of the

prosecution, thereafter the accused was found and brought to the

police station. He was interrogated in the presence of the

witnesses. A memorandum of statement Ex.P.2 was recorded

under Section 20 of the Evidence Act. On the basis of the

memorandum Ex.P.2 and at the instance of the accused, in the

barren land in Karaihapara – in the field of one Damodar Beldar,

the dead bodies of the three minors were recovered from the spot of

site. The Investigating Officer collected the incriminating materials

during the course of the investigation. The mobile of the accused

was also seized. The Investigating Officer conducted the

Panchnama of the dead bodies of the three minors. The dead

bodies were sent for post­mortem. One Dr. A.M. Srivastava­
5

P.W.23 conducted the post­mortem. The cause of death of the three

minors was strangulation and the deaths were found to be

homicidal. During the investigation, the Investigating Officer

received the call details – Ex.P.30 of the mobile phone of the

accused. During the investigation, the Investigating Officer

recorded the statement of the witnesses, including the statement of

the original complainant Shivlal and others. That the accused was

arrested as per the memorandum dated 13.02.2011. After

conclusion of the investigation, it was found that the accused had

first abducted and thereafter killed the three minors to take the

revenge as his wife eloped with the brother of the complainant

Shivlal and thereby committing the offences punishable under

Section 302 and Section 364 IPC. The Investigating Officer filed

the charge­sheet against the accused for the aforesaid offences.

The case was committed to the Court of Sessions. The accused

pleaded not guilty and therefore he came to be tried for the

aforesaid offences.

4. To prove the charges against the accused, the prosecution

examined as many as 24 witnesses as under:

6

P.W.    NAME AND DATE
NO.     OF DEPOSITION
P.W.1   Preetam Dhiwar       Witness who seen the minor
        15.06.2011           children with the accused for
                             the last time.
P.W.2   Hafiz Ali            Independent witness
        16.06.2011
P.W.3   Frukh Khan           Independent witness
        16.06.2011
P.W.4   Pooja Tiwari         Witness of minors leaving the
        16.06.2011           school together for home on
                             foot after the school getting
                             over.
P.W.5   Jilani Baig          Witness of minors leaving the
        17.06.2011           school together for home on
                             foot after the school getting
                             over.
P.W.6   Krishna Kumar        Witness of seizure of Registers
        Yadav                concerning the attendance of
        17.06.2011           the minors in school.
P.W.7   Damodar Singh        Witness     of  recording   the
        08.08.2011           statements of the prosecution
                             witnesses under Section 161
                             Cr.P.C.
P.W.8   Ashok Patel          Witness who seen the minor
        08.08.2011           children with the accused for
                             the last time.
P.W.9   Imrat Singh          Maternal uncle of the minor
        11.08.2011           children.
P.W.1   Shweta Tiwari        Witness of minors leaving the
0       12.08.2011           school together for home on
                             foot after the school getting
                             over.
P.W.1   Rameshwar            Independent witness
1       12.08.2011
P.W.1   Ashish Kumar         Witness who conducted the
2       Gupta                photography of the dead bodies
        20.9.2011            of the minors.
                              7


P.W.1   Ashok Kumar               Witness of the presence of the
3       Madhukar                  accused in his house situated
        20.09.2011                in Lakhram and of his being
                                  hidden.
P.W.1   Bharat Lal                Witness of the preparation of
4       Dewangan                  map of the spot of incident.
        21.09.2011
P.W.1   Anil Shitlani             Witness of seizure of mobile
5       21.09.2011                phone of the accused.
P.W.1   Bharat Lal                Witness of the dead bodies of
6       Chandravansi              the minors being taken to the
        22.09.2011                doctor for post­mortem
P.W.1   Krishna Kumar             The     Head­Constable      who
7       Koshle                    registered the missing report in
        22.09.2011                the Daily Journal
P.W.1   Shivlal Dhimar            Father of the minor children.
8       16.11.2011
P.W.1   Santosh Kumar             Witness     of   recording    of
9       Yadav                     statements during investigation
        17.11.2011                of missing report.
P.W.2   |Smit Manisha             Mother of the deceased minor
0       Dhimar                    children.
        17.11.2011
P.W.2   Dr. A.K.                  Doctor who conducted the post­
1       Shrivastava               mortem and gave the post­
        18.11.2011                mortem report.
P.W.2   Lav Kush Kashyap          Witness    of   recording  the
2       09.01.2012                statements of the prosecution
                                  witnesses under Section 161
                                  Cr.P.C.
P.W.2   Dr. A.M. Srivastava       Doctor who conducted the post­
3       17.02.2012                mortem and gave the post­
                                  mortem report.
P.W.2   B. Kujur                  The Investigating Officer
4       17.02.2012
                                 8


4.1 During the trial, the prosecution brought on record as many

as 41 documentary evidences. The relevant evidences are as under:

      SL.     DESCRIPTION                                  EX. NO.
      NO.
      4.      Seizure Memo of the attendance register      Ex.P1
              of the deceased dated 17.02.2011 at 3.30
              pm
      5.      Memorandum         of     accused    dated   Ex.P2
              13.02.2011
      8.      Seizure memo of school bags, plastic         Ex.P5
              bottle and soil from where Ajay’s body has
              been found.
      10.     Inquest / Panchnama of deceased Ajay         Ex.P7
      12.     Inquest / Panchnama of deceased Vijay        Ex.P9
      14.     Inquest / Panchnama of deceased Sakshi       Ex.P11
      18.     Site Map prepared by Patwari                 Ex.P12
      19.     Panchnama of Site Map in presence of         Ex.P13
              witnesses
      20.     Seizure Memo of mobile phone of accused      Ex.P14
      23.     Missing     Person      Complaint    dated   Ex.P16
              12.02.2011 filed by PW18, Shivlal
      24.     Roznamcha                                    Ex.18C
      31.     FIR No. 64/2011 under Section 363, 364       Ex.P25
              IPC registered by PS Ratanpur
      34.     Arrest Memo dated 13.02.2011                 Ex.P28
      35.     Intimation of arrest of relative             Ex.P29
      36.     CDR                                          Ex. P30
      39.     Report received from FSL Raipur              Ex.P33
      41      Village Map                                  Art. A


4.2 After closure of the evidence by the prosecution, further

statement of the accused under Section 313 CrPC was recorded.
9

The case of the accused was of a total denial. He did not examine

any witness in support of his defence. That, thereafter, on

appreciation of evidence and giving the fullest opportunity to the

accused, the learned Trial Court held the accused guilty for the

offences punishable under Sections 302 and 364 IPC. After

considering the aggravating and mitigating circumstances and after

having heard the accused on the quantum of sentence, the learned

Trial Court awarded the death sentence, which was numbered as

Reference No. 05 of 2013 before the High Court. Feeling aggrieved

and dissatisfied with the judgment and order of conviction passed

by the learned Trial Court, the original accused also preferred an

appeal before the High Court, being Criminal Appeal No. 550 of

2013. Both, the appeal preferred by the accused as well as the

reference case were heard together by the High Court. By the

impugned judgment and order, the High Court has dismissed the

appeal preferred by the accused and has confirmed the conviction

and the death sentence awarded by the learned Trial Court. Feeling

aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned judgment and order

passed by the High Court in dismissing the appeal preferred by the
10

accused and also confirming the death sentence awarded by the

learned Trial Court, the original accused has preferred the present

appeal.

5. Shri Singh, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the

appellant­original accused has vehemently submitted that in the

facts and circumstances of the case both, the learned Trial Court

and the High Court have committed grave error in holding the

appellant­original accused guilty for the offences punishable for the

offences under Section 302 and Section 364 IPC.

5.1 It is further submitted on behalf of the appellant­original

accused that both the Courts below ought to have appreciated that

there was no eye­witness to the incident and the whole conviction

was based on the circumstantial evidence. It is submitted that, in a

case of circumstantial evidence, unless the entire chain of events is

complete, which leads to the only conclusion that it is the accused

only who has committed the offence, a person cannot be convicted.

It is submitted that in the present case the prosecution has failed to

form a complete chain of circumstances and the instance which
11

leads exclusively to the conclusion that the appellant only was

guilty of committing the offence.

5.2 It is further submitted on behalf of the appellant­original

accused that both the Courts below have materially erred in holding

the appellant­original accused guilty for the offences punishable

under Sections 302 and Section 364 IPC for having killed the three

minor children relying upon the prosecution witnesses, more

particularly, P.W.1, P.W.8, P.W.13, P.W.18 and P.W.24 and other

eye­witnesses.

5.3 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the appellant­original accused that the case against the

appellant is based on three sets of circumstances: (i) last seen

evidence; (ii) recovery of bodies pursuant to a disclosure memo and

(iii) alleged calls made to the appellant during the search for the

missing children. It is further submitted that the prosecution has

sought to use the calls made to the appellant and the testimony of

P.W.13 as an extra­judicial confession made by the appellant. It is

submitted that such an extra­judicial concession is not admissible

in law.

12

5.4 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the appellant­original accused that to establish and prove

the last seen evidence, the prosecution has relied upon the

depositions of P.W.1 and P.W.8, whose evidences are full of material

contradictions. It is submitted that as such both the Courts below

have materially erred in heavily relying upon the depositions of

P.W.1 and P.W.8, insofar as last seen evidence is concerned.

5.5 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the appellant­original accused that so far as P.W.1 is

concerned, he has specifically stated that he was stating the

material evidence for the first time in the court. It is submitted that

though another witness – Surya Pratap Dhimar was present with

P.W.1 on 11.02.2011, the prosecution had chosen not to examine

the said witness. It is submitted that P.W.1 is neither credible nor

reliable. It is submitted that dropping of a cited witness Surya

Pratap Dhimar has been unexplained by the prosecution. It is

submitted that this circumstance will operate as a presumption

against the prosecution in terms of Section 114(g) of the Indian

Evidence Act.

13

5.6 Now, so far as the reliance placed upon the deposition of

P.W.8, who is the second last seen witness is concerned, it is

submitted that P.W.8 states that he communicated that he has

seen the accused with the deceased to P.W.9­Imrat Singh @ Mungi

Lal. It is submitted that, however, P.W.9 has categorically denied

knowing any person named as Ashok, where he resides. It is

submitted that he has affirmed that he had no conversation with

Ashok.

It is further submitted that as per the prosecution P.W.8

communicated his sighting of the missing children to P.W.18 and

his friends ­ P.W.2 and P.W.3. It is submitted that P.W.2 states

that they met Ashok Patel at about 6/6.30 pm near Dholpara, but

in his cross, has denied knowing Ashok Patel or having any

conversation with him. It is submitted that P.W.18 claimed that he

met P.W.8 near Darriparra prior to meeting P.W.2 and P.W.3. It is

submitted that though P.W.3 maintains that he met P.W.8 and

Dholpara, the testimony of P.W.18 belies the testimony of P.W.3. It

is submitted that the testimony of P.W.2, P.W.3 and P.W.18 that

they met P.W.8 is belied by P.W.8 himself who has unequivocally
14

affirmed that P.W.18 and his friends did not come to him searching

for the children. It is submitted that therefore it is not safe to rely

the testimony of P.W.8 also.

5.7 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the appellant­original accused that the prosecution has

not proved geographical proximity between the alleged sighting of

the appellant and the place of residence of the children; their school

or the location where the bodies were recovered. It is submitted

that there is no evidence on record to suggest that the fields where

the bodies were found were in the same direction as the children

were walking when they had been allegedly sighted.

5.8 It is further submitted that furthermore the medical evidence

concludes that the time of death of the children was between 12

noon on 11.02.2011 and midnight of the intervening night of

11/12.02.2011. It is submitted that therefore an alleged sighting in

the beginning of this period is not proximate to the time of death. It

is further submitted that even the missing person complaint dated

11.02.2011 does not refer to last seen evidence. It is submitted

that it was entered on the Roznamcha at 9.40 am on 12.02.2011. It
15

is submitted that the Roznamcha is silent on the suspicion of

kidnapping by the appellant. It is submitted that neither the

complaint nor the Roznamcha contain any last seen evidence or

evidence with respect to the alleged calls between the appellant and

P.W.18. It is submitted that the FIR that is lodged on 12.02.2011

at 11.40 pm has a mention of P.W.8. It is submitted that therefore

the last seen evidence of P.W.8 is recorded for the first time only on

the intervening of 12­13.02.2011, which is also the time of the

appellant’s arrest. It is submitted that it is the settled law that the

circumstance of last seen together cannot by itself form the basis of

conviction and can only be an incriminating circumstance. In

support thereof, the learned counsel for the appellant has relied

upon the decisions of this Court in the cases of Digamber

Vaishnav v. State of Chhattisgarh (2019) 4 SCC 522, Anjan

Kumar Sarma v. State of Assam (2017) 14 SCC 359 and Ganpat

Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh (2017) 16 SCC 353. It is

submitted that in light of the principles stated in the aforesaid

decisions, the testimony of P.W.8 does not inspire confidence and

cannot be relied upon as last seen evidence.

16

5.9 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the appellant that another circumstances considered by

the Courts below against the appellant is the calls and extra­

judicial confession.

5.10 It is submitted that the evidence against the appellant refers to

two calls involving the appellant. The first call is between the

appellant and P.W.11 and the second call is between the appellant

and P.W.18. It is submitted that with respect to P.W.11’s call,

P.W.11 categorically states that the call was on 12.02.2011 at night

which is when the appellant was in the custody of the police. It is

submitted that he further improved his version when he was re­

examined by the Trial Court. It is submitted that neither P.W.2 nor

P.W.18 has testified to this call. It is submitted that neither the

fact nor the contents of this call were put to the appellant during

his examination under Section 313 Cr.P.C.

5.11 It is further submitted that the prosecution has relied upon

the extracts of the appellant’s CDR­Ex.P30 (Call Details Report),

which does not contain any call made or received on 12.02.2011.

It is submitted that even otherwise the production of CDR is
17

through the Investigating Officer who in turn receives it from the

Head Constable Hemant Aditya. It is submitted that there is no

material on record to show the manner in which the CDR was

obtained. It is submitted that even the CDR is not accompanied by

a certificate under Section 65­B of the Evidence Act. It is submitted

that therefore the calls/call details contained in the CDR­Ex.P30

are neither believable nor has been proved by the prosecution.

5.12 It is further submitted that so far as P.W.18 is concerned, he

has alleged a call made by him to the appellant on 11.2.2011. It is

submitted that the said call has not been corroborated by any other

witness. It is submitted that even it does not find mention in the

complaint, Roznamcha or the FIR, which are dated 11.2.2011. It is

submitted that there remains a discrepancy in P.W.18’s version of

when he lodged the missing person complaint.

5.13 It is further submitted that the prosecution has not seized the

phone, SIM card or any material with respect to P.W.18’s phone

records which would have proved the veracity of P.W.18’s

statement. It is submitted that even there is no material on record

to prove the phone number of P.W.18.

18

5.14 It is further submitted that so far as the confession made by

P.W.13­Ashok Kumar Madhukar is concerned, no other document

or witness mentions his presence during the alleged recovery

proceedings. It is submitted that the statement made by the

appellant do not amount to a confession of the offence as a whole,

or of any inculpatory fact. It is submitted that since the appellant

was in police custody at that time, any confession made by him

would be inadmissible in terms of Section 26 of the Evidence Act,

irrespective of whom the alleged confession was made to. It is

submitted that therefore both, the Trial Court and the High Court

have materially erred in convicting the appellant on the basis of

such call details and/or the alleged confessions made to the

respective witnesses.

6. Now, so far as the conviction based upon the recovery of dead

bodies of the deceased minors is concerned, it is submitted that the

said recovery was made from an open area that had been searched

previously. It is submitted that as per the settled preposition of law

the recovery made from an open place, accessible to all and which

is not in the exclusive knowledge of the accused cannot be the basis
19

of conviction. It is submitted that therefore the recovery of the

bodies at the instance of the appellant is full of suspicion.

6.1 It is further submitted that neither PW.7 nor P.W.22 who are

the independent witnesses to the disclosure memorandum and all

other documents relating to recovery proceedings on the intervening

night of 11.01.2011 and 12.1.2011, lend support to the recovery. It

is submitted that P.W.7 has specifically stated that he signed on

blank papers on the asking of the police and that he did not know

about the case. It is submitted that he has further stated that the

documents were not read over to him by the police and that no

notice/summons were given by the police to remain present for

seizures.

6.2 It is further submitted that P.W.22 also does not remember

the date on which the alleged events took place.

6.3 It is further submitted that all recovery related proceedings are

ante­dated and the same is proved from the evidence of P.W.22

himself. It is submitted that P.W.22 states that the interrogation of

accused continued till 9.00 pm on 12.02.2011 and that they went

to the field at 10.30­11.00 pm. It is submitted that even P.W.18
20

and P.W.22 testify that all documentation with respect to the

recovery was done the next day at 9.00 pm. It is further submitted

that even there is a discrepancy with respect to the time and place

of arrest of the appellant which renders the recovery doubtful. It is

submitted that therefore on the basis of the alleged recovery, the

appellant could not have been convicted.

6.4 It is further submitted that even the recovery cannot be said to

be voluntary as the appellant was detained in custody without any

formal arrest.

6.5 It is further submitted that even the medical and forensic

examination does not support the recovery. It is submitted that the

post­mortem reports of the victims indicate the presence of incised

wounds on the bodies caused by a hard and sharp/blunt object. It

is submitted that, however, no such weapon was recovered at the

instance of the appellant. It is submitted that the prosecution has

not put forth any evidence to show how such wounds were caused

by the appellant. It is submitted that there are so many lacunas at

the time of the alleged recovery at the instance of the appellant,

which creates a serious doubt on the credibility of the recovery. It
21

is submitted that therefore it is not safe to convict the appellant on

the basis of such recovery.

7. It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the appellant that the Courts below have committed grave

error in convicting the appellant solely based on (i) last seen

evidence; (ii) recovery of bodies pursuant to a disclosure memo and

(iii) alleged calls made to the appellant during the search for the

missing children and the so­called extra­judicial confession made

by the appellant, more particularly, when it is a case of

circumstantial evidence. It is submitted that in a case of

circumstantial evidence, even if one link is missing and the chain is

not complete which leads to the only conclusion that it is the

appellant­accused alone who has committed the offence, the

appellant could not have been convicted.

7.1 Now, so far as the judgment and order passed by the learned

Trial Court awarding the death sentence and confirmed by the High

Court is concerned, it is submitted that both the Courts below have

not appreciated and/or considered the mitigating and aggravating

factors while awarding the death sentence. It is submitted that
22

even the learned Trial Court imposed the death penalty/award of

sentence on the same day on which the appellant was convicted. It

is submitted that after the decision relating to his conviction was

given, the learned Trial Court held the hearing of the sentence on

the same day when the conviction was recorded i.e. 04.05.2013,

thereby violating the right of the accused to be given ample

opportunity to adduce the evidence of mitigation and to be heard on

the question of quantum of sentence as provided under Section

235(2) Cr.P.C. It is submitted that it has been consistently held by

this Court that sufficient time must be given to the accused on the

question of sentence, to show the grounds on which he may show

that sentence of life imprisonment may be awarded and not the

death penalty. In support thereof, the learned counsel for the

appellant has relied upon a recent judgment of this Court in the

case of Chhannu Lal Verma v. State of Chhattisgarh (2019) 12

SCC 438. It is submitted that the absence of providing a separate

hearing for sentence vitiates the sentencing process. It is submitted

that under these circumstances this Court has previously

commuted the sentence of death to one of imprisonment for life. In
23

support, reliance has been placed upon the decisions of this Court

in the cases of Santa Singh v. State of Punjab (1976) 4 SCC 190,

Rajesh Kumar v. State (NCT of Delhi) (2011) 13 SCC 706 and

Ajay Pandit @ Jagdish v. State of Maharashtra (2012) 8 SCC

43.

7.2 It is further submitted that even otherwise the death sentence

awarded by the learned Trial Court and affirmed by the High Court

is not sustainable. It is submitted that the learned Trial Court has

solely looked to the brutality of the crime to impose the death

penalty. It is submitted that this Court has rejected the contention

that the death penalty can be imposed on the basis of the crime

alone. It is submitted that consideration of the brutality or the

circumstances surrounding the crime alone renders meaningless

the objective of the sentencing exercise envisaged in death penalty

cases. Reliance has been placed upon the case of Bachan Singh v.

State of Punjab (1980) 2 SCC 684.

7.3 It is submitted that so far as the High Court is concerned, the

High Court has also committed a grave error in confirming the

death sentence. It is submitted that the High Court has not
24

properly appreciated the mitigating circumstances, such as the fact

that the accused can be rehabilitated in the society and is capable

of being reformed. It is submitted that as held by this Court in the

case of Ajay Pandit (supra), there is a duty on the High Court to

elicit the relevant facts while considering mitigating circumstances

and awarding sentence.

7.4 It is submitted that both the Courts below have not

appreciated and considered the fact that there was no criminal

antecedents. It is submitted that the High Court has also not

considered the fact that there is a possibility of the appellant being

reformed. It is further submitted that at the time when the alleged

offence was committed, the appellant was of a young age of 28

years. It is submitted that the young age of the appellant at the

time of commission of the offence has not been considered as the

relevant mitigating circumstance by the learned Trial Court as well

as the High Court, which ought to have been considered, as held by

this Court in the cases of Gurvail Singh v. State of Punjab (2013)

2 SCC 713 and Amit v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2012) 4 SCC 107.
25

7.5 It is further submitted that even otherwise in a case of

circumstantial evidence, as held by this Court in the case of Kalu

Ram v. State of Rajasthan [2015) 16 SCC 492, the doctrine of

prudence requires that a sentence of life be imposed, and ordinarily

death penalty should not be awarded. It is further submitted that

this Court in several judgments has commuted the death sentence

based on the doctrine of “residual doubt”. Reliance is placed on

the decisions of this Court in the cases of Sudam v. State of

Maharashtra (2019) 9 SCC 388 and Baba Vishwakarma v. State

of M.P. (2019) 9 SCC 689.

7.6 It is further submitted that even the conduct of the appellant

in the prison is very good, which is also a relevant consideration to

commute the death sentence to that of the life imprisonment.

7.7 It is further submitted that the emotional disturbance of the

appellant at the time of the offence is a relevant consideration not to

award the death sentence. It is submitted that at the relevant time

the appellant was emotionally disturbed due to the elopement of his

wife with the uncle of the deceased minors. It is submitted that the

appellant’s acts were not the product of a long period of cold
26

blooded planning, but were instead actions committed during a

period of extreme emotional turmoil and disturbance after he had

come back from Chandigarh to Darripara after trying to find out his

wife. It is submitted that the aforesaid aspect has not been

considered by the Courts below.

7.8 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the appellant that, unfortunately, subsequently the wife of

the appellant has died and the liability to maintain the children

was/is upon his old aged mother. It is submitted that the

appellant’s mother is no longer capable of working and the entire

family survives on Rs.300/­ of old­age pension that she receives. It

is submitted that the daughter of the appellant was forced to drop

the school after class IX due to poverty. It is submitted that his one

daughter is married and the appellant has another daughter

Sanjana aged about 16 years. It is submitted that if the death

sentence of the appellant is converted to life, in that case, the

appellant would be in a position to work in the jail and earn

something which would be helpful to his mother and daughter. It
27

is submitted that while the death sentence is continued, the

appellant would not be in a position to do any work in Jail.

7.9 Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant has

further submitted that in many cases this Court has commuted the

death sentence imposed for heinous crimes. Reliance is placed

upon the decisions of this Court in the cases of Shaikh Ayub v.

State of Maharashtra (1998) 9 SCC 521, Allaudin Mian v. State

of Bihar (1989) 3 SCC 5, Dharmedrasinh v. State of Gujarat

(2002) 4 SCC 679, Nemu Ram Bora v. State of Assam &

Nagaland (1975) 1 SC 318, Rajesh Kumar (supra) and Brajendra

Singh v. State of M.P. (2012) 4 SCC 289.

7.10 Making the above submissions, it is prayed to allow the

present appeal and acquit the appellant­accused for the offences for

which he was tired. In the alternative, it is prayed to convert the

death sentence into the life imprisonment.

8. The present appeal is vehemently opposed by Shri Pranav

Sachdeva, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent­

State.

28

8.1 It is vehemently submitted by the learned counsel appearing

on behalf of the respondent­State that in the facts and

circumstances of the case both, the learned Trial Court and the

High Court have rightly convicted the accused for the offence

punishable under Section 302 IPC for having killed the three minor

children of the complainant and both the Courts below have rightly

awarded the death sentence.

8.2 It is vehemently submitted by the learned counsel appearing

on behalf of the respondent­State that the impugned judgment and

order passed by the High Court is a well­reasoned and has been

passed after hearing the parties and considering the entire facts

and circumstances and therefore the same is not required to be

interfered with by this Court in exercise of powers under Article 136

of the Constitution of India.

8.3 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the respondent­State that though the present case is

based on circumstantial evidence, however, the prosecution has

been successful in completing the chain of events which lead to the
29

only conclusion that it is the accused alone who had killed the three

innocent children.

8.4 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the respondent­State that in the present case the

prosecution has been successful in proving the motive for the

accused to take revenge and killing three minor children of the

complainant Shivlal­P.W.18.

8.5 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the respondent­State that thereafter the prosecution has

been successful in establishing and proving that the accused was

last seen together with the three minor children whose dead bodies

were found subsequently at the instance of the accused.

8.6 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the respondent­State that there are three relevant and

material circumstances against the accused, namely, (i) last seen

evidence; (ii) recovery of dead bodies pursuant to a disclosure

memorandum at the instance of the accused and (iii) call details

made to the accused. It is submitted that therefore the aforesaid

three sets of circumstances are proved by the prosecution against
30

the accused by examining P.W.1, P.W.8, P.W.13, P.W.16, P.W.18

and P.W.24.

8.7 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the respondent­State that by examining P.W.2, P.W.5 and

P.W.10 the prosecution has been successful in proving that all the

three deceased­three minor children had gone to the school on that

day and thereafter after the school was over, they left the school

together for home. It is submitted that the same is supported by

the relevant documentary evidence.

8.8 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the respondent­State that the minor children were last

seen together with the accused, has been established and proved by

the prosecution by examining P.W.1 and P.W.8.

8.9 It is submitted that the dead bodies of minors – Ajay, Vijay

and Kumari Sakshi – were recovered on the basis of the disclosure

memorandum Ex.P­2. It is submitted that Ex.P­2 and the recovery

of the dead bodies at the instance of the accused has been

established and proved by the prosecution beyond doubt, more

particularly, by examining P.W.7, P.W.22 and P.W.24.
31

8.10 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the respondent­State that during the course of the

investigation there were phone calls with the accused and the

conversation has been established and proved by Ex­P­30 – Phone

Call Details. It is submitted that the same have not been explained

by the accused.

8.11 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the respondent­State that in the present case even the

conduct on the part of the accused, more particularly, his absence

from the date of missing of the minor children till he was arrested

from the house of witness Ashok Kumar Madhukar­P.W.13 is a

relevant factor. It is submitted that the accused has failed to

explain his absence from the village and from his house.

8.12 It is submitted that in fact the accused was found in the house

of his relative Ashok Kumar Madhukar­P.W.13. It is submitted that

therefore it is established and proved that after committing the

offence the accused had taken the shelter in the house of his

relative Ashok Kumar Madhukar­P.W.13. It is submitted that even

there was an extra­judicial confession by the accused before Ashok
32

Kumar Madhukar­P.W.13 which has been established and proved

from the deposition of Ashok Kumar Madhukar­P.W.13.

8.13 It is further submitted that the death of the three minors was

homicidal deaths, which has been established and proved by

examining the doctors who conducted the post­mortem.

8.14 It is submitted that therefore the prosecution has been

successful in completing the chain of events. It is submitted that

therefore both the Courts below have rightly convicted the accused

for having killed the three minor children.

9. Now, so far as the submission on behalf of the accused that

there are material contradictions in the depositions of P.W.1, P.W.8,

P.W.18 and other witnesses is concerned, it is submitted by the

learned counsel for the respondent­State that the alleged

contradictions do not affect the case of the prosecution. It is

submitted that the aforesaid contradictions cannot be said to be the

material contradictions for which the benefit of doubt should be

given to the accused. It is submitted that most of the witnesses are

consistent with their statements under Section 161 Cr.P.C.

recorded by the Investigating Officer during the investigation. It is
33

submitted that there are no much improvements. It is further

submitted by the learned counsel appearing for the respondent­

State that the so­called/alleged contradictions in any way do not

affect the case of the prosecution and the material evidence with

respect to the last seen evidence; recovery of the dead bodies as per

the disclosure memorandum at the instance of the accused and the

phone call details with the accused and even the motive for the

accused to commit the offence.

10. Now, so far as the submission on behalf of the accused that

the incriminating circumstances against the accused from the

deposition of P.W.1 has not been put to the accused while recording

his statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C. is concerned, it is

submitted by the learned counsel appearing for the respondent­

State that, as such, the said irregularity shall not affect the

ultimate case against the accused. It is submitted that in any case

the case of the accused in his statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C.

is that of total denial. It is submitted that on the aforesaid ground

the accused cannot be acquitted.

34

11. Now, so far as the submission on behalf of the accused that

sufficient opportunity was not given to the accused on the sentence

inasmuch as the accused was heard on the sentence on the very

same day he was convicted is concerned, it is submitted that on the

aforesaid ground the judgment and order passed by the learned

Trial Court on sentence and confirmed by the High Court is not

required to be interfered with. It is submitted that after the

accused was held guilty, fullest opportunity was given to the

accused on sentence. It is submitted that elaborate submissions

were made by the learned Advocate appearing on behalf of the

accused on sentence and even on the death sentence also. It is

submitted that therefore as such no prejudice has been caused to

the accused.

12. Now, so far as the submission on behalf of the accused not to

confirm the death sentence and to convert the death sentence into

the life imprisonment is concerned, it is submitted by the learned

counsel appearing for the respondent­State that on striking the

balance between the aggravating circumstances and the mitigating

circumstances and considering the fact that the accused killed the
35

three minor children after abducting them, no sympathy should be

shown to such an accused. It is submitted that, therefore, as such

this is a fit case to award the death sentence and the case would

fall into the rarest of rare cases. Therefore, it is prayed to dismiss

the present appeal and confirm the death sentence.

13. Heard the learned counsel appearing for the respective parties

at length. We have also gone through and considered in detail the

Judgment and order passed by the learned Trial Court as well as

the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court

convicting and accused for the offences punishable under Sections

302 and 364 IPC. We have also gone through and considered in

detail the evidence on record ­ both oral and documentary.

13.1 The appellant­accused has been held guilty for having

committed the murder/killing of three minor children aged about 8

years, 6 years and 4 years respectively and has been convicted by

both the Courts below for the offences punishable under Sections

302 and 364 IPC. The learned Trial Court, after having held the

appellant­accused guilty for the aforesaid offences, has imposed the
36

death sentence, which has been confirmed by the High Court by the

impugned judgment and order.

14. We are conscious of the fact that it is a case of circumstantial

evidence and therefore before convicting the accused on the basis of

circumstantial evidence, the prosecution has to prove beyond doubt

and complete the chain of events which lead to the conclusion that

it is the accused alone who has committed the offence. Therefore,

in the facts and circumstances of the case, it is required to be

considered whether the prosecution has been successful in

establishing the complete chain of events which lead to the

conclusion that it is the appellant­accused alone who has

committed the offence?

15. Having gone through the impugned judgment and order

passed by the High Court as well as the judgment and order of

conviction passed by the learned Trial Court and the case of the

prosecution, the appellant­accused has been convicted mainly

based on three sets of circumstances: (i) last seen evidence; (ii)

recovery of bodies pursuant to a disclosure memo and (iii) alleged
37

calls made to the appellant during the search for the missing

children.

16. Before considering the submissions made on behalf of the

accused, few findings recorded by the learned Trial Court and

confirmed by the High Court, are required to be first referred to.

The prosecution has been successful in establishing and proving

that the accused was having enmity with Shivlal­father of the three

deceased minor children. The same has been established and

proved by the prosecution by examining Shivlal­P.W.18, Manisha­

P.W.20 and Rameshwar­P.W.11. The prosecution has been

successful in proving that on 11.02.2011 all the minors deceased

Ajay, Vijay and Kumari Sakshi went to the school from their house.

The prosecution has also been successful in establishing and

proving that on 11.02.2011 at about 11.30 hours the deceased

minors left for home on foot; that the minors did not return to their

home. On 11.02.2011 at about 12.00 noon – 1.00 pm, the

deceased were seen going with the accused in school uniform with

their school bags. Therefore, the accused was last seen together

with the deceased minors. That, after the incident, the accused was
38

not found at his house and was missing even from the village.

During the search by Shivlal­P.W.18 and others and after the

accused was not found in the village, there were phone calls on the

mobile of the accused. That, thereafter, the accused was found

from the house of his relative Ashok Kumar Madhukar­P.W.13.

Immediately after his arrest, the dead bodies were recovered/found

along with the school bags etc. from the place shown by the

accused himself. The aforesaid are the chain of events which led to

the conclusion that the accused first kidnapped the three minor

children and thereafter killed all of them. The phone­calls made to

the accused has been established and proved by the prosecution by

examining the Investigating Officer and by producing the call details

from the mobile company as Ex.P.30.

17. Now, so far as the evidence of the accused having last seen

together with the deceased is concerned, the prosecution has

heavily relied upon the depositions of P.W.1 and P.W.8. So far as

the reliance placed upon the deposition of P.W.1 is concerned, it is

the case on behalf of the accused that while recording his statement

under Section 313 Cr.P.C., the incriminating material on the basis
39

of the deposition of P.W.1 that he saw the accused with the

deceased minors at around 1.00 pm on the afternoon of

11.02.2011, was not put to him and therefore, to that extent, the

deposition of P.W.1 cannot be relied upon. However, it is required

to be noted that while recording the statement of the accused under

Section 313 Cr.PC., the deposition of P.W.1 was specifically referred

to. Therefore, not asking a specific question arising out of the

deposition of P.W.1, in the facts and circumstances of the case,

cannot be said to be fatal to the case of the prosecution. Even

otherwise, the accused was last seen together with the deceased

minors has been established and proved by the prosecution by

examining P.W.8­Ashok Patel. P.W.8­Ashok Patel in his deposition

has specifically stated that he saw the accused with all the three

minors deceased at around 12.00 hours on 11.02.2011. He has

identified/recognized the accused present in the court. He has also

stated that he knew the complainant Shivlal and he recognized all

the three minor children of Shivlal. The said witness has been

thoroughly cross­examined by the defence. However, from the

cross­examination, the defence has failed to make out any case
40

which may doubt either the credibility and/or what the said witness

has stated in his examination­in­chief. He is an independent

witness on the evidence of last seen together. We see no reason to

doubt the same. There may be some contradictions, but according

to us, those contradictions are not material contradictions, which

may doubt the credibility of the said witness and/or may be fatal to

the case of the prosecution. Thus, the prosecution has been

successful in establishing and proving that the accused was last

seen together with all the three minor children at about 12.00 noon

on 11.02.2011 after they left the school.

17.1 At this stage, it is required to be noted that the prosecution

has proved beyond doubt that all the three minors went to the

school in the morning of 11.02.2011 and thereafter they left for the

home at about 11.30 hours. That, thereafter, at about 12.00 hours,

the accused was seen with all the three minor children. At this

stage, it is required to be noted that after Ashok Patel disclosed to

Shivlal­P.W.18 and others that he had seen the accused with the

three minor children on 11.02.2011 at about 11.30 hours, the

name of the accused was specifically mentioned in the missing
41

report given by Shivlal on 11.02.2011 and the same was also

mentioned in the FIR. In the FIR, it was specifically mentioned that

during the investigation of missing person No. 3/11, he had

enquired the complainant and Ashok Patel and Ashok Patel told

that he saw the minor children with the accused. Thus,

considering the entire evidence on record, we see no reason to

doubt the credibility of P.W.8­Ashok Patel. He is an independent

witness and no mala­fides are alleged against him on behalf of the

accused.

18. Now, the next important evidence against the accused is the

recovery of dead bodies which were found from the places shown by

the accused after his arrest. During the course of the investigation,

the dead bodies were found from the places shown by the accused,

the places which the accused alone could have known. Therefore,

there is a recovery of the dead bodies along with the school dress

and bags at the instance of the accused. It has been established

and proved from the disclosure memo. The disclosure memo has

been exhibited. Therefore, the aforesaid circumstance definitely

goes against the accused.

42

19. One another circumstance which goes against the accused is

that after the incident of missing of three minor children, the

accused was not found in his house and even in the village. He was

contacted on his mobile phone. Initially when he was tried to be

contacted, his mobile phone was found switched­off. However,

thereafter, he could be contacted on mobile when Rameshwar­

P.W.11 phoned the accused Manoj on 12.2.2011 at about 11.00

p.m. As per the said witness, at about 11.00 p.m. he phoned the

accused Manoj and asked him “Where are you” and the accused

told that he is present in his house. According to the said witness,

the accused also told when he was asked whether any information

about the where­about of Shivlal’s children was received, initially

the accused replied that he do not know. But, thereafter, he told

that “When my children are crying Guddu @ Shivlal was enjoying,

now when his children are missing how is he feeling”.

19.1 However, it is required to be noted that the accused was not

present in his house at all. From the evidence on record, it appears

that the concerned witnesses – Shivlal and others found that the

accused Manoj was not in his house. Phone calls made at 11.00
43

pm on the mobile of the accused in the night of 11.02.2011 has

been established and proved by the prosecution by producing the

call details from the mobile company (produced as Ex.P.30). The

accused has failed to give any explanation on the same in his

statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C. Non­examination of the

officer of the mobile company cannot be said to be fatal to the case

of the prosecution, more particularly, when the CDR has been got

exhibited, through the deposition of the Investigating Officer and

when the same was exhibited, no objection was raised on behalf of

the defence. Even otherwise, it is required to be noted that the

mobile SIM No. 9179484724 was seized from the accused at the

time of his arrest and which is proved as per the seizure memo.

Therefore, the prosecution has proved that the mobile SIM No.

9179484724 belonged to the accused.

20. One other important evidence against the accused is the

deposition of P.W.13­Ashok Kumar Madhukar. The accused was

found hiding in the house of said Ashok Kumar Madhukar situated

at village Lakharam which is 5­6 kilometers away. It is true that

the said witness has turned hostile. However, in the cross­
44

examination by the prosecution, P.W. 13 has specifically stated that

the accused Manoj told him that the children of Shivlal had gone

missing and Shivlal has lodged a report against him and the police

is looking for him. He has specifically stated in the cross­

examination that he engaged the accused Manoj in conversation

and thereafter the police came and took Manoj after arresting him.

Therefore, the fact that the accused was found from the house of

said Ashok Kumar Madhukar from village Lakharam has been

established and proved, despite the said Ashok Kumar Madhukar

has turned hostile. As per the settled proposition of law, even the

deposition of the hostile witness to the extent it supports the case of

the prosecution can be relied upon. The accused has failed to

explain his conduct in his statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C.

about his missing from the house and even the village after the

incident of kidnapping. He has also failed to explain the reason

why he was found from the house of Ashok Kumar Madhukar. It

may be that there is some doubt created by the defence about the

place where the accused was arrested. However, the fact remains

that the accused was arrested from village Lakharam on
45

13.02.2011. According to the defence, the accsued was arrested on

12.02.2011 evening. But the same is not established and proved

from the evidence. On the contrary, as per the deposition of Ashok

Kumar Madhukar, he was arrested on 13.02.2011. Even as per

the arrest memo, the accused was arrested on 13.02.2011.

Immediately thereafter, during the course of the investigation and

as per the disclosure memo, the dead bodies of the deceased minor

children were recovered at the instance of the accused. Therefore,

as such, the chain of events established and proved by the

prosecution as under:

(1) That all the three minor children went to the school in

the morning of 11.02.2011;

(2) That all three minor children left the school at about

11.30 a.m. on 11.02.2011;

(3) That the accused was last seen together with the

deceased minors at about 12.00 hours – 1.00 p.m. on

11.02.2011;

(4) That there was a prior enmity between the accused and

the complainant Shivlal­father of the deceased minor children
46

as the wife of the accused ran away with the brother of Shivlal

and that the children of the accused were without their mother

and therefore he took the revenge how Shivlal would feel if his

children are missing;

(5) That the accused was missing from his house and even

the village from the time of the incident of kidnapping;

(6) There were phone calls with the accused on his mobile

no. 9179484724 on the night of 11.02.2011;

(7) That he was hiding in the house of Ashok Kumar

Madhukar and he was arrested from village Lakharam from

the house of Ashok Kumar Madhukar on 13.02.2011 and/or

at least from Village Lakharam;

(8) Recovery of dead bodies of the minor children from the

place shown by the accused, which are recovered from the

place/places for which the accused alone could have the

knowledge; and

(9) That the death of the minors were homicidal death.

21. As per the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the accused,

there are contradictions in the depositions of various witnesses,
47

more particularly, P.W.1 and P.W.8 having told that they had seen

the accused with the minor children on 11.02.2011 and even with

respect to the telephonic calls and having talked with the accused

after 11.02.2011. However, having considered the so­called

contradictions pointed out by the learned counsel appearing on

behalf of the accused and other evidences, we are of the opinion

that those contradictions are not material contradictions which may

ultimately affect the case of the prosecution as a whole. The minor

discrepancies and inconsistencies in the statements of the

prosecution witnesses and the minor lacuna in the investigation led

by the police cannot be a reason for discarding the entire

prosecution case, if the evidence is otherwise sufficient and

inspiring to bring home the guilt of the accused. As observed by

this Court in the case of Leema Ram v. State of Haryana [AIR

1999 SC 3717], there are bound to be some discrepancies between

the narrations of different witnesses, when they speak on details,

and unless the contradictions are of a material dimension, the same

should not be used to jettison the evidence in its entirety. It is

further observed that corroboration of evidence with mathematical
48

niceties cannot be expected in criminal cases. Minor embellishment,

there may be, but variations by reason therefore should not render

the evidence unbelievable. Trivial discrepancies ought not to

obliterate an otherwise acceptable evidence. The Court shall have

to bear in mind that different witnesses react differently under

different situations: whereas some become speechless; some start

wailing while some others run away from the scene and yet there

are some who may come forward with courage, conviction and belief

that the wrong should be remedied . So it depends upon individuals

and individuals. There cannot be any set pattern or uniform rule of

human reaction and to discard a piece of evidence on the ground of

his reaction not falling within a set pattern is unproductive.

Therefore, we are of the opinion that the so­called minor

discrepancies/contradictions do not ultimately affect the case of the

prosecution. The benefit of such minor discrepancies/

contradictions should not go to the accused, more particularly,

when from the other evidences on record the guilt of the accused

has been established and proved.

49

22. Thus, for the reasons sated above, we are of the opinion that

the High Court has not committed any error in upholding the

conviction of the accused for the offences punishable under

Sections 302 and 364 IPC. We are in complete agreement with the

view taken by the learned Trial Court as well as the High Court in

so far as convicting the accused for the offences punishable under

Section 302 and 364 IPC for having killed three minor children aged

about 8 years, 6 years and 4 years respectively.

23. Now, so far as the capital punishment imposed by the learned

Trial Court and confirmed by the High Court is concerned, it is the

case on behalf of the appellant­accused that as the learned Trial

Court heard the accused on sentence the very same day on which

the conviction was recorded and as such an error has been

committed by the learned Trial Court and therefore it vitiates the

award of sentence, reliance has been placed upon the decisions of

this Court in the cases of Santa Singh (supra), Allaudin Mian

(supra), Rajesh Kumar (supra), Ajay Pandit @ Jagdish (supra)

and a recent decision of this Court in Chhannu Lal Verma (supra).

While considering the aforesaid submissions, the object of Section
50

235(2) Cr.P.C. is required to be considered. The object and purpose

of Section 235(2) Cr.P.C. is that the accused must be given an

opportunity to make a representation against the sentence to be

imposed on him. Sub­section (2) of Section 235 satisfies a dual

purpose; it satisfies the rule of natural justice by affording to the

accused an opportunity of being heard on the question of sentence

and at the same time helps the court to choose the sentence to be

awarded. So, what is required to be considered is whether at the

time of awarding of sentence, sufficient and proper opportunity has

been given to the accused or not and when the capital punishment

is awarded, whether the accused has been given the opportunity to

point out the aggravating and mitigating circumstances or not? An

identical question came to be considered by this Court in a recent

decision of this Court in the case of Accused ‘X’ v. State of

Maharashtra in Review Petition (Criminal) No. 301 of 2008 in

Criminal Appeal No. 680 of 2007 dated 12.04.2019. Before this

Court the very decisions on which the reliance has been placed now

by the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the accused, which

are referred to hereinabove, were pressed into service. This Court
51

had the occasion to consider the very submissions made on behalf

of the accused, more particularly, the conviction and the sentence

on the very day on which the conviction was recorded. In

paragraphs 29 to 34, this Court has observed and held as under:

“29. Two recent three Judge Bench decisions of this
Court on this aspect merit our consideration. Firstly, in
the decision dated 28.11.2018 in Chhannu Lal Verma v.
State of Chhattisgarh (Criminal Appeal Nos. 14821483 of
2018), this Court observed that not having a separate
hearing at the stage of trial was a procedural impropriety.
Noting that a bifurcated hearing for conviction and
sentencing was a necessary condition laid down in
Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar, (2009) 6 SCC
498, the Court held that by conducting the hearing for
sentencing on the same day, the Trial Court failed to
provide necessary time to the appellant therein to furnish
evidence relevant to sentencing and mitigation. We find
that this cannot be taken to mean that this Court
intended to lay down, as a proposition of law, that
hearing the accused for sentencing on the same day as
for conviction would vitiate the trial. On the contrary, in
the said case, it was found on facts that the same was a
procedural impropriety because the accused was not
given sufficient time to furnish evidence relevant to
sentencing and mitigation.

30. Secondly, in the decision dated 12.12.2018 in
Rajendra Prahladrao Wasnik v. State of Maharashtra,
(Review Petition (Crl.) Nos. 306­307 of 2013), this Court
made a general observation that in cases where the death
penalty may be awarded, the Trial Court should give an
opportunity to the accused after conviction which is
adequate for the production of relevant material on the
52

question of the propriety of the death sentence. This is
evidently at best directory in nature and cannot be taken
to mean that a pre­sentence hearing on a separate date is
mandatory.

31. It may also be noted that in the older three­
Judge Bench decision of this Court in Malkiat Singh
Case (1991) 4 SCC 341, the Court observed that keeping
in mind the two­Judge Bench decisions in Allauddin
Mian Case (supra) and Auguswamy v. State of Tamil
Nadu, (1989) 3 SCC 33, wherein it had been laid down
that a sentence awarded on the same day as the finding
of guilt is not in accordance with law, the normal course
of action in case of violation of such procedure would be
remand for further evidence. However, on a perusal of
these two decisions we find that their import has not
been correctly appreciated in Malkiat Singh Case (supra),
since the observations in Allauddin Mian Case (supra), as
relied upon in Anguswamy Case (supra), regarding
conduct of hearings on separate dates, were only
directory. Be that as it may, it must be noted that the
effect of Malkiat Singh Case (supra) has already been
considered by this Court in Vasanta Sampat Dupare v.
State of Maharashtra
(2017) 6 SCC 631, wherein it was
already noted that the mere non­conduct of the pre­
sentence hearing on a separate date would not per se
vitiate the trial if the accused has been afforded sufficient
time to place relevant material on record.

32. It may not be out of context to note that in case
the minimum sentence is proposed to be imposed upon
the accused, the question of providing an opportunity
under Section 235(2) would not arise. (See Tarlok Singh
v. State of Punjab
, (1977) 3 SCC 218; Ramdeo Chauhan
v. State of Assam
, (2001) 5 SCC 714).

33. There cannot be any doubt that at the stage of
hearing on sentence, generally, the accused argues based
53

on the mitigating circumstances in his favour for
imposition of lesser sentence. On the other hand, the
State/the complainant would argue based on the
aggravating circumstances against the accused to
support the contention relating to imposition of higher
sentence. The object of Section 235 (2) of the Cr.P.C is to
provide an opportunity for accused to adduce mitigating
circumstances. This does not mean, however, that the
Trial Court can fulfill the requirements of Section
235(2)
of the Cr.P.C. only by adjourning the matter for
one or two days to hear the parties on sentence. If the
accused is ready to submit his arguments on this aspect
on the very day of pronouncement of the judgment of
conviction, it is open for the Trial Court to hear the
parties on sentence on the same day after passing the
judgment of conviction. In a given case, based on facts
and circumstances, the Trial Court may choose to hear
the parties on the next day or after two days as well.

34. In light of the above discussion, we are of the opinion
that as long as the spirit and purpose of Section
235(2)
is met, inasmuch as the accused is afforded a
real and effective opportunity to plead his case with
respect to sentencing, whether simply by way of oral
submissions or by also bringing pertinent material on
record, there is no bar on the pre­sentencing hearing
taking place on the same day as the pre­conviction
hearing. Depending on the facts and circumstances, a
separate date may be required for hearing on sentence,
but it is equally permissible to argue on the question of
sentence on the same day if the parties wish to do so.”

Thus, there is no absolute proposition of law that in no case there

can be conviction and sentence on the same day. There is no
54

absolute proposition of law laid down by this Court in any of the

decisions that if the sentence is awarded on the very same day on

which the conviction was recorded, the sentencing would be

vitiated.

23.1 So far as the reliance placed upon by the learned counsel

appearing on behalf the appellant upon the decision of this Court in

the case of Santa Singh (supra) is concerned, on considering the

entire judgment and the facts in that case, we are of the opinion

that the said decision shall not be applicable to the facts of the case

on hand and/or the same shall not be of any assistance to the

accused. In that case before this Court, it was found that the

learned Trial Court did not give the accused an opportunity to be

heard in regard to the sentence to be imposed on him and by one

single judgment convicted the accused and also sentenced him to

death.

23.2 Similarly, the decision of this Court in the case of Allaudin

Mian (supra) also shall not be applicable to the facts of the case on

hand. In the case before this Court, it was found that the death

sentence was imposed by the Trial Court without affording proper
55

opportunity of hearing as contemplated under Section 235(2)

Cr.P.C. No reasons were recorded for awarding the death sentence

which as such were mandatory and thereafter on merits this Court

found that the death sentence was no warranted.

23.3 Applying the law laid down by this Court in the aforesaid

decisions, more particularly, in the case of Accused ‘X’ (supra) to

the facts of the case on hand and on considering the reasoning

given by the learned Trial Court as well as the High Court, we are of

the opinion that there is sufficient compliance of the provisions of

Section 235(2) Cr.P.C. The learned Trial Court heard the accused

on the aspect of proposition of sentence separately which is clear

from paragraphs 76 to 82 of the judgment of the learned Trial

Court. Hence, based on the material on record, we are satisfied

that the learned Trial Court fully complied with the requirements of

Section 235(2) Cr.P.C. The learned Trial Court had considered the

mitigating circumstances pointed out on behalf of the accused and

also considered the aggravating circumstances which warranted the

death sentence. Thus, it cannot be said that the accused was not

given any sufficient opportunity to put forward his case on
56

sentence. It also cannot be said that the learned Trial Court has

not given any special reasons while awarding the death sentence.

After considering the aggravating circumstances and the crime i.e.

the magnitude and the manner of the commission of the crime in

the form of kidnapping and thereafter murdering three minor

children, while awarding the death sentence the learned Trial Court

has considered the following aggravating circumstances against the

accused:

“A. This point is not disputed that the accused was
annoyed with Shivlal (PW­18) because 10 days prior
to the incident his wife Sumrit Bai eloped or got
eloped by the brother of Shivlal (PW­18) as there
was a love affair between Sumrit Bai and uncle of
the minors deceased Ajay, Vijay and Sakshi. In this
regard evidence is also available on record.

B. As well as this point is also considerable that being
acquaintance with the accused and having faith on
accused all the three minors innocent Ajay, Vijay
and Sakshi left the school with the accused and
were missing. Hence, breaching the faith of all the
three innocent minors the accused has committed
the offence of kidnapping.

C. It is also considerable that the accused has
committed culpable homicide of all the three minors
Ajay, Vijay and Sakshi whose age was in between 4
to 8 years. There was 10 days sufficient time gap
between the incident of eloping accused’s wife with
Shivnath, the uncle of the minors and the date of
57

committing culpable homicide of the minors.
Hence, the act of the accused is not the act
committed under grave and sudden provocation.
On the basis of evidence available on record the act
of the accused is afterthought with planned
manner.

D. It is also considerable that accused has brutally
committed homicidal death of all three minors Ajay,
Vijay and Sakshi by processing their neck forcefully
who have no concern with the matter of eloping his
wife Sumrit Bai.

E. It is also considerable that accused has brutally,
mercilessly and cowardly committed murder of all
three minors Ajay, Vijay and Sakshi who were
tender age of 4­8 years and were completely unable
to resist and defend themselves at the time of
incident.

F. At the time of committing the said act accused had
two children thinking over it the accused did not
have to do the said act. In the light of the said act
committed by the accused the question of
maintaining their minor children is secondary.

G. It is also considerable that the said act of the
accused is the act which gives challenge to the
social security of the society.”

Thus, the submission on behalf of the accused that as the sentence

was recorded on the same day on which the conviction was

recorded and therefore it has vitiated the award of sentence, cannot
58

be accepted. As observed hereinabove, there is a total compliance

of the provisions of Section 235 (2) as well as Section 354 Cr.P.C.

24. Now, so far as the submission on behalf of the accused that

while awarding the capital punishment the learned Trial Court has

solely looked to the brutality of the crime is concerned, it is

factually incorrect. On considering the rival discussions as well as

the reasons given by the learned Trial Court while awarding the

capital punishment, it appears that the brutality of the crime was

considered to be one of the reasons and not the sole reason.

25. However, at the same time, the prayer on behalf of the accused

not to impose the death penalty and to convert the same into life

imprisonment, in the facts and circumstances of the case, requires

consideration. Therefore, now the question which is posed for

consideration of this Court is whether, in the facts and

circumstances of the case, the death sentence is warranted?

25.1 While answering the aforesaid questions, few decisions of this

Court on when the death sentence is warranted are required to be

referred to and considered.

59

25.2 After analyzing many decisions of this Court on imposition of

death sentence, namely, Bachan Singh (supra); Machhi Singh v.

State of Punjab (1983) 3 SCC 470; Mohd. Chaman v. State (NCT

of Delhi) (2001) 2 SCC 28; Aloke Nath Dutta v. State of W.B.

(2007) 12 SCC 230; State of Punjab v. Manjit Singh (2009) 14

SCC 31; Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar v. State of

Maharashtra (2009) 6 SCC 498; Sebastian v. State of Kerala

(2010) 1 SCC 58; Rajesh Kumar (supra); Ramesh v. State of

Rajasthan (2011) 3 SCC 685; Amit (supra); and Mohinder Singh

v. State of Punjab (2013) 3 SCC 294, the decisions which were

relied upon on behalf of the accused and after considering few

decisions of this Court involving death sentence which were relied

upon on behalf of the State, ultimately, this Court in the case of

Sushil Sharma v. State (NCT) of Delhi (2014) 4 SCC 317 in

paragraphs 100­104 has observed and held as under:

“100. In light of the above judgments, we would
now ascertain what factors which we need to take into
consideration while deciding the question of sentence.

Undoubtedly, we must locate the aggravating and
mitigating circumstances in this case and strike the right
balance. We must also consider whether there is
60

anything uncommon in this case which renders the
sentence to life imprisonment inadequate and calls for
death sentence. It is also necessary to see whether the
circumstances of the crime are such that there is no
alternative but to impose death sentence even after
according maximum weightage to the mitigating
circumstances which speak in favour of the offender.

101. We notice from the above judgments that mere
brutality of the murder or the number of persons killed
or the manner in which the body is disposed of has not
always persuaded this Court to impose death penalty.
Similarly, at times, in the peculiar factual matrix, this
Court has not thought it fit to award death penalty in
cases, which rested on circumstantial evidence or solely
on approver’s evidence. Where murder, though brutal, is
committed driven by extreme emotional disturbance and
it does not have enormous proportion, the option of life
imprisonment has been exercised in certain cases.
Extreme poverty and social status has also been taken
into account amongst other circumstances for not
awarding death sentence. In few cases, time spent by the
accused in death cell has been taken into consideration
along with other circumstances, to commute death
sentence into life imprisonment. Where the accused had
no criminal antecedents; where the State had not led any
evidence to show that the accused is beyond reformation
and rehabilitation or that he would revert to similar
crimes in future, this Court has leaned in favour of life
imprisonment. In such cases, doctrine of proportionality
and the theory of deterrence have taken a back seat. The
theory of reformation and rehabilitation has prevailed
over the idea of retribution.

102. On the other hand, rape followed by a cold­
blooded murder of a minor girl and further followed by
disrespect to the body of the victim has been often held
61

to be an offence attracting death penalty. At times, cases
exhibiting premeditation and meticulous execution of the
plan to murder by levelling a calculated attack on the
victim to annihilate him, have been held to be fit cases
for imposing death penalty. Where innocent minor
children, unarmed persons, hapless women and old and
infirm persons have been killed in a brutal manner by
persons in dominating position, and where after ghastly
murder displaying depraved mentality, the accused have
shown no remorse, death penalty has been imposed.
Where it is established that the accused is a confirmed
criminal and has committed murder in a diabolical
manner and where it is felt that reformation and
rehabilitation of such a person is impossible and if let
free, he would be a menace to the society, this Court has
not hesitated to confirm death sentence. Many a time, in
cases of brutal murder, exhibiting depravity and sick
mind, this Court has acknowledged the need to send a
deterrent message to those who may embark on such
crimes in future. In some cases involving brutal murders,
society’s cry for justice has been taken note of by this
Court, amongst other relevant factors. But, one thing is
certain that while deciding whether death penalty should
be awarded or not, this Court has in each case realising
the irreversible nature of the sentence, pondered over the
issue many times over. This Court has always kept in
mind the caution sounded by the Constitution Bench
in Bachan Singh [Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, (1980)
2 SCC 684 : 1980 SCC (Cri) 580] that Judges should
never be bloodthirsty but has wherever necessary in the
interest of society located the rarest of the rare case and
exercised the tougher option of death penalty.

103. In the nature of things, there can be no hard­
and­fast rules which the court can follow while
considering whether an accused should be awarded
death sentence or not. The core of a criminal case is its
facts and, the facts differ from case to case. Therefore,
62

the various factors like the age of the criminal, his social
status, his background, whether he is a confirmed
criminal or not, whether he had any antecedents,
whether there is any possibility of his reformation and
rehabilitation or whether it is a case where the
reformation is impossible and the accused is likely to
revert to such crimes in future and become a threat to
the society are factors which the criminal court will have
to examine independently in each case. Decision whether
to impose death penalty or not must be taken in the light
of guiding principles laid down in several authoritative
pronouncements of this Court in the facts and attendant
circumstances of each case.

104. We must also bear in mind that though, the
judicial proceedings do take a long time in attaining
finality, that would not be a ground for commuting the
death sentence to life imprisonment. Law in this behalf
has been well settled in Triveniben [Triveniben v. State of
Gujarat
, (1989) 1 SCC 678 : 1989 SCC (Cri) 248] . The
time taken by the courts till the final verdict is
pronounced cannot come to the aid of the accused in
canvassing commutation of death sentence to life
imprisonment. In Triveniben [Triveniben v. State of
Gujarat
, (1989) 1 SCC 678 : 1989 SCC (Cri) 248] , the
Constitution Bench made it clear that though ordinarily,
it is expected that even in this Court, the matters where
the capital punishment is involved, will be given top
priority and shall be heard and disposed of as
expeditiously as possible but it could not be doubted that
so long as the matter is pending in any court, before final
adjudication, even the person who has been condemned
or who has been sentenced to death has a ray of hope. It,
therefore, could not be contended that he suffers that
mental torture which a person suffers when he knows
that he is to be hanged but waits for the doomsday.
Therefore, the appellant cannot draw any support from
63

the fact that from the day of the crime till the final
verdict, a long time has elapsed. It must be remembered
that fair trial is the right of an accused. Fair trial involves
following the correct procedure and giving opportunity to
the accused to probabilise his defence. In a matter such
as this, hurried decision may not be in the interest of the
appellant.”

25.3 In the case of Absar Alam v. State of Bihar (2012) 2 SCC

728, it is observed and held by this Court that the mental condition

of the accused, which led to assault, cannot be lost sight of. It is

further observed that the mental condition or state of mind of

accused is one of the factors that can be taken into account in

considering the question of sentence.

25.4 Thus, from the catena of decisions of this Court, more

particularly, the decisions referred to hereinabove, for deciding on

the issue of sentence, the aggravating circumstances and mitigating

circumstances must be located and the right balance must be

adopted. What can be said to be the mitigating circumstances has

been dealt with and considered by this Court in the case of Bachan

Singh (supra). As observed by this Court in the case of Bachan

Singh (supra), the following can be said to be the mitigating
64

circumstances which are required to be considered while deciding

on the issue of death sentence.

“(1) That the offence was committed under the
influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance.

(2) The age of the accused. If the accused is young
or old, he shall not be sentenced to death.

(3) The probability that the accused would not
commit criminal acts of violence as would constitute a
continuing threat to society.

(4) The probability that the accused can be reformed
and rehabilitated.

The State shall by evidence prove that the accused
does not satisfy Conditions (3) and (4) above.

(5) That in the facts and circumstances of the case
the accused believed that he was morally justified in
committing the offence.

(6) That the accused acted under the duress or
domination of another person.

(7) That the condition of the accused showed that he
was mentally defective and that the said defect impaired
his capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct.”

25.5 In light of the above judgments, we would now ascertain the

factors which we need to take into consideration while deciding on

the question of sentence. We must locate the aggravating and

mitigating circumstances in this case and strike a right balance.

In the present case, the following are the mitigating

factors/circumstances:

65

(i) That the offence was committed under the influence of

extreme mental or emotional disturbance. The accused was

emotionally disturbed due to the elopement of his wife with the

uncle of the deceased and that his children were suffering in

absence of their mother with them. The accused was so much

disturbed and troubled is also born out from the deposition of

one of the witnesses that on mobile the accused told how

Shivlal is feeling without his children.

(ii) There are no criminal antecedents.

(iii) At the time of commission of the offence the accused was

28 years of age and his conduct in prison is reported to be

good.

(iv) That he belongs to a poor family and is the only son of

his parents, and

(v) That he has got an old aged mother who is taking care of

two daughters of the accused, out of which one is married

now.

25.6 On the other hand, the only aggravating circumstance pointed

out by the State is that the manner in which the incident took place
66

and three minors were brutally killed. Except the above, no other

aggravating circumstances are pointed out on behalf of the State.

Therefore, striking the balance between aggravating circumstances

and mitigating circumstances, we are of the opinion that in the

facts and circumstances of the case, more particularly, the mental

condition of the accused at the time of the commission of the

offence and that the accused was under extreme mental

disturbance due to his wife eloped with the uncle of the deceased

and his children were deprived of the company of their mother, the

mitigating circumstances are in favour of the accused to convert the

death sentence to life imprisonment. It is true that the court must

respond to the cry of the society and to settle what would be the

deterrent punishment for an abominable crime. It is also equally

true that a larger number of criminals go unpunished thereby

increasing criminals in the society and law losing its deterrent

effect. .It is also true that the peculiar circumstances of a given

case often results in miscarriage of justice and makes the justice

delivery system a suspect; in the ultimate analysis, the society

suffers and a criminal get encouraged. Sometimes it is stated that
67

only rights of criminals are kept in mind, the victims are forgotten.

However, at the same time, while imposing the rarest of rare

punishment, i.e. death penalty, the Court must balance the

mitigating and aggravating circumstances of the crime and it would

depend upon particular and peculiar facts and circumstances of

each case. The mitigating circumstances as observed by this Court

in the case of Bachan Singh (supra) and the mitigating

circumstances in the present case, if are considered cumulatively

and more particularly, that the accused was under the extreme

mental disturbance because of the reasons stated hereinabove, we

are of the opinion that, in the peculiar facts and circumstances of

the case, the death penalty is not warranted and the same be

converted to life imprisonment.

26. In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, the

present appeal succeeds in part. The Judgment and Order passed

by the learned Trial Court and confirmed by the High Court

convicting the accused for the offences punishable under Sections

302 and 364 IPC is hereby confirmed. However, the death

sentence imposed by the learned Trial Court, confirmed by the High
68

Court, is converted into the life imprisonment. It is further

observed and directed that the life means till the end of the life with

the further observation and direction that there shall not be any

remission till the accused completes 25 years of imprisonment.

The present appeal is partly allowed to the aforesaid extent.

…………………………..J.

(UDAY UMESH LALIT)

…………………………..J.

(INDIRA BANERJEE)

…………………………..J.

(M. R. SHAH)

New Delhi;

March 05, 2020.



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