Sunday, August 14, 2022

Supreme Court dismisses appeal by man convicted for raping 14-year-old girl in West Bengal

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The Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal of a man convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for raping a 14-year-old girl.  

A two-judge bench of Justices S. Abdul Nazeer & Krishna Murari has upheld the order passed by the High Court. The counsel for the petitioner submitted that he was languishing in jail for the last 17 years.

Originally, the petitioner was convicted for raping and murder of minor girl by the sessions court but then on an appeal filed before the High Court his conviction under Section 302 was altered to Section 304, Part 1 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code along with co-convicts. 

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Justice Mumtaj Khan and Justice Jay Sengupta of the Calcutta High Court had rejected the long delay in filing of the complaint by the mother of the victim, and said,

“It is a most unfortunate case where the de facto complainant found her daughter ravished by the appellant then throttled by the appellant nos. 1 and 2 and thereafter the victim forcibly taken away by all the appellants in the garb of going for medical treatment and finally the victim deceased surreptitiously and illegally cremated in a burning ghat without any post-mortem examination and even without the consent of the victim’s parents.”

The High Court had noted,

“It appears from the evidence of some witnesses that the accused and the victims and others belonged to different groups, without any elaboration on the nature of distinction. The only distinction between the accused and the others seems to be that between the powerful and the weak. The threats given by the appellants were so severe and ominous that the victim’s family could not immediately react and were made to wait for a ‘bichar’ in the village as was rather condescendingly acceded to by the appellants.”

The FIR contains the facts of the matter which is as follows :-

Ujjawal Halder, petitioner-convict, lured the minor girl by telling her that her mother had sent him to call the girl for some urgent work. Later, the girl asked her mother to go and meet their neighbour Minati Halder, who asked for her. 

The mother of a minor girl did not return for quite some time, thereafter the mother qua complainant went to the house of Minati Halder and found her daughter’s body in the room, naked and in blood-stained clothes. Ujjawal ran away from the spot as soon as he saw the mother of the 14-year-old minor girl.  

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The girl told her mother that it was Ujjawal who called her on false pretext, took undue advantage of vacant house, forcibly raped her. Ujjawal tried to strangulate the minor girl, when she told him that she will disclose about the said incident to all.  

It was another accused who strangulated the minor girl. In the meantime, members of the complainant house along with members reached at the place of occurrence. All accused persons shut the door and told them that they will themselves take her to hospital. On the way to a hospital, victim girl died in a van.

Doctor stated to the witnesses that victim girl had died and accused persons had carried her to the cremation ground for burning. Soon thereafter, witnesses saw that the body of a girl was being cremated and intimidated them that if anyone informs the police about the said incident, they would kill them.

The mother of the victim preferred complaint under section 156(3) of CrPC before Sub Divisional Magistrate, Murshidabad under Sections 201, 302, 376 of IPC,1860 against the petitioner convict Ujjawal and other co-accused persons. Then upon the direction of the court, an FIR was registered under aforesaid sections.

The Division Bench of the High Court of Calcutta observed,

“Of course, there is a delay in lodging FIR more than five months, but such delay was not properly explained by the complainant qua mother of victim girl as contended by counsel of Ujjawal Halder is not at all justified.”

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The High Court was of the view, prior to altering the charges from 302 IPC to 304 IPC that appellants in taking the victim to the doctor robs the prosecution of its sheen that the appellants possessed the necessary intent to murder the victim.

This case fits for culpable homicide not amounting to murder for all accused persons, observed Justices Khan and Sengupta.

The Calcutta High Court judges held, “Although the corpus delicti is not available in present case due to obvious reasons, there are independent witnesses to the facts and circumstances of the case which complete a chain unerringly pointing towards the guilt of the appellants.” 

The bench had concurred view, after analysing trial court record that after raping the victim girl, they forcibly kept her in their custody. So, this created as an additional link in chain of circumstances appearing against Ujjawal and other accused persons.

Various pronouncements of the Apex Court laid down on proposition of delay in FIR such as Mehraj Singh (L/Nk.) vs. State of U.P.;
AIR 2007 SC 155: Ramdas & Ors. vs. State of Maharashtra; (2014) 9 SCC 365. 

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For the state, the counsel emphasised upon the conviction and sentence, thus by submitting the fact that victim, a minor girl was under control of accused persons.

Testimony of post-occurrence witness also supports the prosecution case who saw victim being strangulated.  

The High Court of Calcutta altered offence for all accused persons including the Petitioner Ujjawal Halder from Section 302 to Section 304-I, 201 IPC read with section 34 IPC and sentenced to R.I. for 10 years and also in default, to serve 6 months of Simple Imprisonment.  Thus, appeal was partly allowed by High Court.

“Sentences to run concurrently, as mentioned in the judgment passed by the Learned Additional Sessions Judge, 1st Fast Track Court, Murshidabad,”

-the HC had ordered

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