The Allahabad High Court on Friday upheld the conviction of a man for brutally murdering his wife and four minor daughters.
The Division Bench of Justice Rajeev Singh and Justice Ramesh Sinha passed this order while hearing a Criminal Appeal filed by Ramanand @ Nandlal Bharti (Jail Appeal).
The appellant, Ramanand alias Nandlal Bharti, was charged by the Sessions Judge, Lakhimpur Kheri in Sessions for an offence punishable under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code. Order dated November 4, 2016, the Sessions Judge convicted and sentenced him to death and fine of Rs 20,000 and in default of payment of fine to undergo imprisonment for one year. Aggrieved by the conviction and the sentence imposed, the appeal was filed.
In this case, on January 22, 2010, when informant Shambhu Raidas was present at his home situated in Village Namdarpurwa, Police Station Dhaurahra, District Lakhimpur Kheri, his brother-in-law Ramanand alias Nand Lal, who is the resident of Namdarpurwa hamlet of Amethi, Police Station Dhaurahra, Lakhimpur Kheri, came to his house at about 6:30 a.m. and told him that in the intervening night of 21/22.01.2010, he along with his wife (Smt. Sangeeta) and daughters were sleeping in his house. In the night, at 1:00 a.m., someone knocked on his door.
Thereupon, the appellant asked who was knocking on his door but there was no response. Thereafter, he (accused/appellant) went to the roof of his house and saw that among them one person was a resident of Village Basheda, who fired a shot upon him (accused/appellant), however, he escaped unhurt.
Thereafter, the appellant jumped on the ground floor. At the same time, one of the miscreants gave a blow to his head with the butt of a gun. Thereupon, he (accused/appellant) ran away from there and by concealing himself in the field, saw that the miscreants had jumped into his house and thereafter smoke was coming out from his house. He (Ramanand) reached Behman Purwa at the crusher of Khalik as well as at Ram Nagar Lahbadi and told about the incident but no one came to help him.
After hearing the aforesaid narrated version from the appellant, the informant Shambhu Raidas along with his nephew Pratap reached the house of the appellant and saw that Sangeeta, wife of appellant and his daughters Tulsi aged about 7 years, Lakshmi aged about 5 years, Kajal aged about 3 years and another daughter aged about one and a half month, have been murdered and their dead bodies were burning. On seeing this, the informant and his nephew Pratap started pouring water in order to extinguish the fire.
In the meanwhile, the appellant started enjoying the heat by sitting near a fire in the courtyard. The informant and his nephew snubbed him saying that his wife and children had been murdered and he was still enjoying the heat. On this, the appellant became angry and went away from there. The dead bodies were lying there. The informant Shambhu Raidas went to P.S. Dhaurahra narrated the said incident to the police and lodged the FIR at the police station Dhaurahra.
While challenging the judgment, Rajesh Kumar Dwivedi, Amicus Curiae appearing on behalf of the appellant, has contended that there are several lacuna in conducting the investigation viz. FIR is antedated; the FIR/Special Report was not forwarded to Magistrate concerned forthwith; the scribe of the written report was not produced in the witness box by the prosecution; blood-stained and plain earth soil was not recovered by the Investigating Officer from the spot; and Investigating Officer also did not take and send the samples of blood-stained and plain plaster from the room in which the dead bodies were allegedly burning after the assault, for chemical examination to Forensic Science Laboratory.
It has further been contended by Dwivedi that no motive has been established by the prosecution against the appellant to commit the murder of his own wife and four minor daughters. He also contended that according to the recovery memo, blood-stained bank i.e. a weapon of assault and blood-stained clothes (Pant & shirt) were recovered under Section 27 of the Evidence Act on January 24, 2010, at 09.50 a.m. on the pointing out of the appellant but it is a fake recovery as it is not made in accordance to the provisions of Section 27 of the Evidence Act.
Counsel for the appellant has further submitted that the trial court had found conviction against the appellant in view of the provisions of Section 106 of the Evidence Act, 1972. He submitted that the onus is on the prosecution to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt against the appellant and the presumption, which has been raised against the appellant for recording his conviction in the present case, is not sustainable in the eyes of law.
Lastly, Dwivedi has contended that the extreme penalty of death awarded to the appellant by the trial Court is too harsh and excessive in nature and as an alternate penalty the punishment of imprisonment for life would meet the ends of justice if the Court arrives at a conclusion otherwise as the case of the prosecution is solely based upon the extra-judicial confession, which confession is neither reliable nor has been recorded in accordance with law.
Counsel appearing for the State, while supporting the impugned judgment of the trial and pleaded for confirmation of death penalty, argued that the appellant was living along with his wife and children in the same house, in which the incident had taken place. The appellant, in his statement under Section 313 CrPC, has not denied his presence at the place of occurrence and on the other hand, injuries sustained on his person goes to show that he was present at the time of the incident and has committed the murder of his wife and four minor children.
Counsel for the State has further contended that the case is of circumstantial evidence and the prosecution has succeeded in establishing every circumstance of the chain of events that would fully support the view that the appellant is guilty of the offense. The trial court while dealing with the judgment under appeal, upon proper appreciation of evidence, thus, has come to the right conclusion.
We have given thoughtful consideration to the rival submissions advanced by Counsel for the parties and have gone through the lower Court record and the impugned judgment and order passed by the trial Court, the Court said.
The Court held that,
In the instant case, there is no eye-witness of the incident and it is a case of circumstantial evidence. In a case of circumstantial evidence, the onus lies upon the prosecution to prove the complete chain of events which shall undoubtedly point towards the guilt of the accused. Furthermore, in case of circumstantial evidence, where the prosecution relies upon an extra-judicial confession, the Court has to examine the same with a greater degree of care and caution. It is a settled principle of criminal jurisprudence that extra-judicial confession is a weak piece of evidence.
Wherever the Court, upon the due appreciation of the entire prosecution evidence, intends to base a conviction on an extra-judicial confession, it must ensure that the same inspires confidence and is corroborated by other prosecution evidence.
Keeping in mind the principles of law, we proceed to examine the instant case whether the prosecution has been able to establish a chain of circumstances so as to not leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion that the allegations brought against the accused persons are sufficiently proved and established.
Counsel for the appellant has raised an argument that the motive, which has been suggested by the prosecution to commit the murder of his wife and children by the appellant is absolutely a weak one as the prosecution has failed to prove the same but the said argument of the Counsel for the appellant does not appear to have much substance.
“From the aforesaid analysis of the evidence on record, it is established that the prosecution has proved beyond doubt that the appellant has the motive to commit the murder of his wife and his four minor children and, therefore, the contention of the Counsel for the appellant on this score is not sustainable and the same is rejected also,” the Court opined.
In the instant case, from a perusal of the record and the evidence brought on record, we are of the view that though there are some lapses on the part of the Investigating Agency in the investigation, the prosecution has established the case against the appellant beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the plea of the appellant in this regard is not sustainable and is, accordingly, rejected.
“Having gone through the facts and circumstances of this case, we find that there was ample evidence on record to establish that the accused/convict committed pre-planned and premeditated murder of his wife and minor innocent children and such evidence has been led by the prosecution to establish this fact. More so, the appellant cut the body of the deceased and inflicted severe incised wounds. Thus, it is beyond doubt that the manner in which crime is committed by banks and thereafter buried the dead bodies by pouring kerosene oil, is brutal, cruel and gruesome”, the Court said.
“For the reasons aforesaid, we are of the view that we are in complete agreement with the view taken by the trial Court convicting and sentencing the accused for the offense punishable under Section 302 I.P.C. The instant case falls in the category of ‘rarest of rare case’, warranting capital punishment. Hence, the death sentence awarded to the appellant under Section 302 of IPC is liable to be confirmed”, the Court observed.
“In view of the above and for the reasons stated hereinabove, Criminal filed by the appellant from jail fails and the same deserves to be dismissed and is, accordingly, dismissed. However, we confirm the death reference under Section 366 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 made by the learned Sessions Judge, Lakhimpur Kheri in the light of discussions made above,” the Court ordered.