Parminder Kaur @ P.P.Kaur @ Soni vs The State Of Punjab on 28 July, 2020


Try out our Premium Member services: Virtual Legal Assistant, Query Alert Service and an ad-free experience. Free for one month and pay only if you like it.

Supreme Court of India

Parminder Kaur @ P.P.Kaur @ Soni vs The State Of Punjab on 28 July, 2020

Author: Surya Kant

Bench: N.V. Ramana, S. Abdul Nazeer, Surya Kant

                                                                            REPORTABLE
                                   IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                  CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                                   CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 283 of 2011


       Parminder Kaur @ P.P. Kaur @ Soni                             ..... Appellants(s)
                                                 VERSUS
       State of Punjab                                              .....Respondents(s)

                                               JUDGMENT

SURYA KANT, J.

1. The present Criminal Appeal has been preferred by Parminder

Kaur, impugning the judgment dated 30.11.2009 of the High Court of

Punjab and Haryana through which her challenge to a judgment dated

27.02.1999 passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Barnala was

turned down, thereby confirming her conviction of three years rigorous

imprisonment and fine of Rs. 2000 under Sections 366A and 506 of

the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”).

FACTS & CASE HISTORY

2. The prosecution story, as recorded in the FIR at around noon on
Signature Not Verified

24.02.1996, was that the appellant was a single lady living with her
Digitally signed by
DEEPAK SINGH
Date: 2020.07.28
16:08:59 IST
Reason:

child, mother and a young boy as her tenant in the neighbourhood of

Page | 1
the prosecutrix’s1 house. About a week prior to registration of the

police complaint, the appellant called the prosecutrix to her house and

tried to entice her to indulge in illicit intercourse with the rich tenant

boy in return for clothes and trips from him. The appellant at about

6.00 A.M. on 19.02.1996, allegedly pushed the visiting prosecutrix

into the room occupied by the tenant boy and bolted it from the

outside. It was only on hearing the prosecutrix’s screams that after

five minutes the door was unlocked, with her father (Hari Singh, PW­

2), Bhan Singh and Karnail Singh standing outside. Swiftly, the boy

ran out of the room and successfully escaped. Upon the prosecutrix

emerging from the room, her father protested and expressed his

dismay to the by­standing appellant. Scared for their reputation, the

prosecutrix and her father returned to their home without reporting

the matter to anyone, except the prosecutrix’s mother. However, on

24.02.1996 at 7.00 A.M., the appellant caught hold of the prosecutrix

outside her house and threatened to kill her brother if anyone was

informed of the matter. The prosecutrix was able to escape the

appellant’s clutches and worried at this high­handedness, proceeded

with her father towards the police station to report these two incidents

and lodged a complaint.

3. During trial, the prosecution examined five witnesses, including

1
The name of the prosecutrix/victim has been withheld, in compliance with the ratio
in Bhupinder Sharma v. State of Himachal Pradesh, (2003) 8 SCC 551.

Page | 2
the prosecutrix (PW­1), her father (PW­2), the draftsman who prepared

the site plan (PW­3), the headmistress who proved the prosecutrix’s

age (PW­4) and the investigating officer (PW­5). The appellant, in turn,

both denied all allegations and examined one witness of her own – a

neighbour, Gurnail Singh (DW­1) and offered an alternate version in

her statement under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,

1973 (“CrPC”), claiming that there was no tenant at all in her home

and that the complaint was nothing but motivated revenge at the

instance of one Bhola Singh against whom she had levelled allegations

of rape a few months ago.

4. This alternate version was summarily rejected by the trial Court

which concluded that the appellant’s claim of the complaint being at

the instance of Bhola Singh was unlikely both because malicious

prosecution of sexual abuses involving minors, at the instance of third

parties, was improbable; and even DW­1 in his cross­examination had

admitted that Hari Singh was a permanent employee of the Irrigation

Department and could not be a Karinda (employee) of Bhola Singh as

claimed by the appellant.

5. Relying upon the school records produced by DW­4, the Court

observed that the prosecutrix was studying in Class VII with date of

birth as 12.04.1982, thereby unimpeachably making her a minor.

Without delving into the elements of Section 366A or 506 IPC, or

Page | 3
whether each individual ingredient had been satisfied by the

prosecution, the learned Additional Sessions Judge focused on

negating the defences projected by the appellant. In response to the

contradictions between important aspects of the prosecutrix and her

father’s testimonies, like differences in physical description and

antecedents of the male tenant and the inability of the witnesses and

the police to catch or trace the boy, the trial Court instead noted that

there was no reason to disbelieve the prosecutrix and her father. The

five­day delay in registration of the FIR was condoned for having

arisen out of natural fear of reputation of the prosecutrix and her

family, as well as the mild severity of the case. Similarly, the non­

examination of the other two independent witnesses, Bhan Singh and

Karnail Singh was ignored as being normal reluctance of bystanders in

cases where there was no rape or assault.

6. Accordingly, the trial Court held that the appellant had

intentionally induced the prosecutrix to perform illicit intercourse with

her male tenant, and that she had also criminally intimidated the

prosecutrix by threatening her family member. Noting the large

number of dependents that the appellant had to support as a single

lady, and considering the lack of commission of any assault or rape

against the prosecutrix, the appellant was concurrently sentenced to

three years rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs 2,000 (or further six

Page | 4
months rigorous imprisonment in lieu thereof) under Section 366A,

and one year rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs. 1,000 (or further

three months rigorous imprisonment in lieu thereof) under Section

506 of IPC.

7. The aggrieved appellant approached the High Court which too

refused to interfere with the order of conviction. While dismissing the

appeal, the High Court observed that the statement of the accused

under Section 313 CrPC appeared to be an after­thought, and that in

the absence of any evidence proving enmity between the parties it was

impossible that anyone would falsely implicate a woman in such like

offence. The minority of the prosecutrix was noted as having been

proved, and the testimonies of PW1 and PW2 were held to be

impeccable and corroborating each other completely. Similar to the

trial Court, the High Court also explained­away the delay in

registration of FIR as a result of family reputation put at stake in

matters of sexual offence cases. Other omissions in the form of non­

examination of Bhan Singh and Hari Singh and failure to catch or

trace the identity of the male tenant were deemed insignificant and

immaterial.

CONTENTIONS OF PARTIES

8. The judgments of the trial Court and High Court have been

elegantly assailed before us by learned counsel for the appellant who

Page | 5
contended that the testimonies of the two star­witnesses, being full of

material contradictions, are far from reliable. The delay in registration

of the FIR and the lack of any attempt to catch or even later trace the

male tenant showed that the story was concocted by the prosecutrix’s

family with ulterior motives. Reliance was also placed on the denial

and alternate version put forth by the appellant in her statement

under Section 313 CrPC, and the failure of the Courts below to either

examine such statutory statement in­depth or for the prosecution to

belie it effectively. Emphasis was laid on the statement of DW­1 who

volunteered during his cross­examination that PW­2 was then living in

the house owned by Bhola Singh, the person against whom the

appellant had alleged rape. The deleterious effect of these proceedings

on Bhola Singh’s trial and his subsequent acquittal on grounds that

Parminder Kaur (the appellant here) was a lady of questionable

character who indulged in trafficking of minors, was highlighted to

show colourable motive behind registration of this case against the

appellant.

9. On the contrary, learned state counsel supported the impugned

judgment(s) by placing emphasis on the concurrent findings of the

Courts below. Reliance was also placed on PW­2’s cross­examination

wherein he himself denied knowing Bhola Singh, to counter the

allegation of false implication by the prosecutrix.

Page | 6
ANALYSIS

I. Sweeping generalisations and superficial analysis

10. Having heard learned counsel for the parties at considerable

length through video conferencing, we find from the impugned orders

that the Courts below failed in making the desired attempt to delve

deep into the factual matrix of this case. Many aspects, as discussed

hereunder, have completely been ignored or only dealt with hastily.

Further, the reasoning is generic and is premised upon generalisations

which may not be necessarily true always. It is indisputable that

parents would not ordinarily endanger the reputation of their minor

daughter merely to falsely implicate their opponents, but such clichés

ought not to be the sole basis of dismissing reasonable doubts created

and/or defences set out by the accused.

11. Similarly, the five­day delay in registration of the FIR, in the

facts and circumstances of this case, gains importance as the father of

the victim is an eye­witness to a part of the occurrence. It is difficult to

appreciate that a father would await a second incident to happen

before moving the law into motion. Sweeping assumptions concerning

delays in registration of FIRs for sexual offences, send a problematic

signal to society and create opportunities for abuse by miscreants.

Instead, the facts of each individual case and the behaviour of the

parties involved ought to be analysed by courts before reaching a

Page | 7
conclusion on the reason and effect of delay in registration of FIR. In

the facts of the present case, neither is Section 366A by itself a sexual

offence in the strict sense nor do the inactions of the prosecutrix or

her father inspire confidence on genuineness of the prosecution story.

No steps were taken to avail of medical examination of the victim, nor

was the Panchayat or any social forum approached for any form of

redress till the occurrence of the second alleged incident.

12. Further, it is beyond comprehension that the prosecutrix’s father

and his two male associates failed to stop the tenant boy who was

allegedly about to commit a sexual offence with the minor victim and

neither did they later make any attempt to even register a complaint

against him. Strangely, the prosecution has acquiesced to such

disappearance of the boy from the scene. Still further, the father of the

prosecutrix merely registered his protest to the appellant on the scene,

instead of reacting instinctively and approaching police authorities

when faced with possible trafficking of his daughter. This conduct of

belatedly proceeding against only the prosecutrix creates a lurking

suspicion against the prosecution case and it may not be totally

improbable to infer that it was a malicious attempt at the behest of

Bhola Singh to falsely implicate a weak rape victim and stifle her

ability to seek justice.

   II.     Shoddy investigation and prosecution

                                                                  Page | 8

13. The original record elucidates the lack of serious effort on part of

either the investigation agency or the prosecutor to bring home the

appellant’s guilt. Save for the initiative of the prosecutrix and her

father to register the complaint, no substantive evidence has been

gathered by the police. Despite the male tenant having been residing

with the appellant allegedly for many months, the police were unable

to even discover his name, let alone his antecedents or location.

Further, DW­1 casts an impressionable doubt on the existence of the

boy in the first place. This is further buttressed by the fact that PW­1

and PW­2 differed in their physical description of the boy’s age,

clothing and his whereabouts. If the boy was indeed a tenant and if he

did live there for months, it is highly mootable that he couldn’t have

been traced.

14. The spot map prepared by PW­3 also has glaring omissions. The

location of Bhan Singh’s house and the place where the appellant

allegedly threatened the prosecutrix on 24.02.1996 are not even

marked. Letters which the prosecutrix alleged in her examination­in­

chief and police complaint that the appellant got written from her,

have not been produced during trial. These could have shed light on

the relationship between the accused, prosecutrix and the male tenant

prior to the incident. It is the duty of the prosecution to lead the best

evidence in its possession, and failure to do so ought to lead to an

Page | 9
adverse inference.2

15. Non­examination of Bhan Singh and Karnail Singh is also a

noticeable lapse, given the gaps in the prosecution story. It appears

that no serious attempt was made to get them examined to resolve the

contradictions in the testimonies of PW­1 and PW­2. Such lack of

examination of material independent witnesses, adversely affects the

case of the prosecution. This Court in Takhaji Hiraji v. Thakore

Kubersing Chamansing and others3, viewed that:

“19. … It is true that if a material witness, who would unfold the
genesis of the incident or an essential part of the prosecution case,
not convincingly brought to fore otherwise, or where there is a gap or
infirmity in the prosecution case which could have been supplied or
made good by examining a witness who though available is not
examined, the prosecution case can be termed as suffering from a
deficiency and withholding of such a material witness would oblige
the court to draw an adverse inference against the prosecution by
holding that if the witness would have been examined it would not
have supported the prosecution case. …”

III. Gross mis­appreciation of conflicting testimonies

16. Ordinarily, the Supreme Court ought not to re­appreciate

evidence. However, where the courts below have dealt with the

material­on­record in a cavalier or mechanical manner which is likely

to cause gross injustice, then this Court in such exceptional
2
Musauddin Ahmed v. State of Assam, (2009) 14 SCC 541, ¶ 11­15.
3
(2001) 6 SCC 145.

Page | 10
circumstances may justifiably re­appraise the evidence to advance the

cause of justice. There is no gainsaying that such re­assessment ought

not to take place routinely and ought not to become substitution of an

otherwise plausible view taken by the Courts below.

17. The trial Court has summarily disregarded the contradictions

highlighted by the defense side, on the premise that such

contradictions had no material bearing and that there was no reason

to disbelieve the prosecutrix. The High Court too has opined that PW­1

and PW­2 have completely corroborated each other and their

testimonies were impeccable. These reasons, in our considered

opinion, are not only contrary to the record but they also lead to an

impermissible reversal of the burden of proof imposed in criminal

trials. There are numerous clear contradictions between the

testimonies of these two star­witnesses, which we find fatal to the

prosecution case.

18. First, PW­1 states that when the door was unlocked from

outside, only her father (PW­2) and Bhan Singh were present outside.

However, this contradicts both the information she gave in the police

complaint and the testimony of her father (PW­2) who states that

additionally a third person, Karnail Singh, was also present. Second,

the prosecutrix’s description of the male tenant differs significantly

from that of her father. Whereas PW­1 estimated his age at about 26

Page | 11
years and described him as wearing a pant­shirt, PW­2 believed the

boy to be 18­19 years’ old and wearing a banian, underwear and dirty

shirt. Third, on the antecedents of the anonymous boy, the prosecutrix

stated that he was residing with the appellant for a year, whereas this

period was materially less at only 2­3 months per her father. Fourth,

whereas prosecutrix claimed that her father and Bhan Singh

unsuccessfully attempted to catch the tenant while he was escaping

from the room, PW­2 himself states that he was too perplexed to either

run or raise any alarm. Fifth and most notably, on the point of

recording of the FIR, the testimonies of PW­1, PW­2 and PW­5 all differ

noticeably. Whereas PW­1 claims that the complaint was recorded by

PW­5 while sitting on a “patthar” (stone), PW­2 claims that the same

was recorded by PW­5 while sitting on a “concrete bench” in the

waiting shed of a bus stand in the presence of two other policemen.

Most intriguingly, PW­5 gives an entirely third version, claiming that

he was present at the bus stand with five other police officials and

that the statement was written not by him but by another ASI, who

placed the papers on the bonnet of the jeep while standing.

19. In addition to these inconsistencies which cast a serious shadow

of doubt over the version of events put forth by the prosecution, the

accounts of PW­1 and PW­2 are superficial and lack detail. Important

links of the story, including what happened in the crucial five minutes

Page | 12
when the girl was locked inside the room or how the male tenant

reacted, are missing.

20. Similarly, other links of the story are grossly inconsistent and

don’t fit with each other. PW­2 admits to being not at home and

instead outside Bhan Singh’s house during the initial part of the

incident, which as per the prosecutrix’s statement was a 10­minute

walk from the spot of the crime. It is thus unlikely that PW­2 could

have heard the prosecutrix’s screams from such afar or could have

covered such a significant distance in less than five minutes as

claimed by PW­1. There are, thus, mutual contradictions in the

prosecution story.

IV. Failure to refute Section 313 CrPC statement

21. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 after the

prosecution closes its evidence and examines all its witnesses, the

accused is given an opportunity of explanation through Section 313(1)

(b). Any alternate version of events or interpretation proffered by the

accused must be carefully analysed and considered by the trial Court

in compliance with the mandate of Section 313(4). Such opportunity is

a valuable right of the accused to seek justice and defend oneself.

Failure of the trial Court to fairly apply its mind and consider the

defence, could endanger the conviction itself. 4 Unlike the prosecution

4
Reena Hazarika v. State of Assam, (2019) 13 SCC 289, ¶ 19.

Page | 13
which needs to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, the accused

merely needs to create reasonable doubt or prove their alternate

version by mere preponderance of probabilities. 5 Thus, once a

plausible version has been put forth in defence at the Section 313

CrPC examination stage, then it is for the prosecution to negate such

defense plea.

22. In the case at hand, the alternate version given by the appellant

could not be lightly brushed aside. Her two­part defence, put

succinctly, was that first there was no male tenant at all and no one

except for her child and mother lived with her, and second, that she

was being falsely implicated as vengeance for filing a rape complaint

against one Bhola Singh with whom the prosecutrix’s father used to

work.

23. It is revealed that a rape complaint had indeed been made by the

appellant against Bhola Singh approximately seven months previous

to the present incident. Not only did she face difficulties in registering

an FIR of rape with the police, but she also had to take pains in filing

a private complaint and prosecuting the case against such third party.

In fact, the effect of these proceedings was in line with the appellant’s

defence, for in that rape trial the trial Court drew a damning

observation against her character (calling her a child trafficker) owing

to these proceedings.

5

M Abbas v. State of Kerala, (2001) 10 SCC 103, ¶ 10.

Page | 14

24. Lastly, DW­1, who lived in the neighbourhood of the parties,

both supported the appellant’s claim that there was no male tenant in

her home and created sufficiently reasonable connection between

Bhola Singh and the prosecutrix’s father by volunteering that PW­2

was residing in Bhola Singh’s premises. Reliance on mere admission

by DW­1 during cross­examination that PW­2 was a government

employee, neither negates the defense of false implication nor does it

imply that PW­2 couldn’t be working with Bhola Singh in a part­

time/casual capacity or staying in Bhola Singh’s house. Thus, the trial

Court’s analysis of the appellant’s Section 313 defence ought to have

been deeper, before concluding it as being false or untrustworthy.

V. Charge of Criminal Intimidation

25. Proving the intention of the appellant to cause alarm or compel

doing/abstaining from some act, and not mere utterances of words, is

a pre­requisite of successful conviction under Section 506 of IPC. 6 The

trial Court has undertaken no such separate analysis or recorded any

finding on this count, thus calling into question the conviction for

criminal intimidation. Further, the nature of this charge is such that it

is a derivative of the main charge of ‘procuration of minor girls’. Given

the facts of this case where the common testimony of PW­1 on both

6
Manik Taneja & Anr. v. State of Karnataka & Anr., (2015) 7 SCC 423, ¶ 12.

Page | 15
charges has been doubted, it would be unwise to rely upon it as the

sole piece of evidence to convict the appellant for criminal intimidation

without any other corroboration.7

CONCLUSION

26. We are thus of the considered view that the prosecution has

failed to discharge its burden of proving the guilt of the appellant

under Section 366A and 506 of the IPC beyond reasonable doubt.

Thus, for the reasons aforesaid, the appeal is allowed and the

conviction and sentence awarded by the Courts below are set aside.

The appellant is acquitted and consequently set free.

…………………………….. J.

(N.V. RAMANA)

…………………………… J.

(SURYA KANT)

……………………………J.

(KRISHNA MURARI)

NEW DELHI
DATED : 28.07.2020

7
Kamij Shaikh v. Emperor, AIR 1948 Pat 73, ¶ 5.

Page | 16



Source link