(Prayer:Criminal Appeal has been filed under Section 374 of Cr.P.C. against the judgment, dated 02.03.2016 made in S.C.No.18 of 2014, by the Sessions cum Mahalir Neethimandram (Fast Track Mahila Court), Tuticorin.)
S. Nagamuthu, J.
1. The appellant is the sole accused in S.C.No.18 of 2014 on the file of the Sessions cum Fast Track Mahila Court, Thoothukudi. He stood charged for the offences under Sections 302, 397, and 201 r/w 511 IPC. By judgment dated 02.03.2016, the trial Court convicted him under all the charges and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for life and to pay a fine of Rs.1,000/-, in default to undergo rigorous imprisonment for one year for the offence under Section 302 IPC; to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and to pay a fine of Rs.1,000/-, in default to undergo rigorous imprisonment for one year for the offence under Section 397 IPC and to undergo rigorous imprisonment for four years and to pay a fine of Rs.1,000/-, in default to undergo rigorous imprisonment for one year for the offence under Section 201 r/w 511 IPC. Challenging the said conviction and sentence, the appellant is before this Court with this appeal.
2. The case of the prosecution in brief is as follows;
(a) The deceased in this case was Mrs.Balasithammal @ Suhi. PW1 is her husband. They were residing at Karuppur Village in Tuticorin District. The deceased used to take goats to the nearby fields for grazing every day in the morning and return in the afternoon along with goats. The accused also used to take his goats to the nearby fields for grazing. In the usual course, on 13.07.2012, around 10.00 a.m., the deceased had taken her goats to a nearby field full of Velikaruvai trees. It is alleged that the accused also had come there with his goats around 11.00 a.m. on the same day. It is further alleged that the accused wanted the deceased to lend the jewels worn by her. Since she refused and resisted, it is alleged that the accused attacked her with a wooden-log on her head, forehead and other parts of the body. The deceased fell down and died. Thereafter, the accused removed a gold chain weighing two sovereigns, a gold ring weighing 1/2 sovereign, a pair of gold earrings weighing 1/4 sovereign and a pair of silver anklets, all worth about Rs.60,000/-. In order to erase the evidence, according to the prosecution, the accused burned the body by using sticks and fire. But, he could not succeed in burning the body in full. Leaving the half burned body, he fled away from the scene of occurrence. The occurrence was not witnessed by any one.
(b) PW1, the husband of the deceased, expected the deceased to return home around 12.00 noon, in the usual course. Since she did not return till 7.00 p.m. He, along with his children, went in search of the deceased into the field full of Karuvelam bushes and trees. Around 10.00 p.m. they found the deceased lying in the midst of Karuvelam bushes. PW1 found injuries on her head and other parts of the body. He found the above jewels missing from the dead body. On 14.07.2012 at 8.00 a.m., he went to Ettaiyapuram Police Station and made a complaint vide Ex.P1. On the basis of the said complaint, a case was registered in Crime No.109 of 2012 under Sections 302 and 379 IPC. Ex.P9 is the FIR.
(c) PW12, the then Inspector of Police, took up the case for investigation. He proceeded to the place of occurrence on 14.07.2012 at 9.30 a.m., prepared an observation mahazar and a rough sketch and recovered bloodstained earth and sample earth from the place of the occurrence. He conducted inquest on the body of the deceased at 10.00 a.m. and then, forwarded the body for postmortem.
(d) PW6 - Dr.Ravisankar conducted autopsy on the body of the deceased on 14.07.2012 at 3.35 p.m. He found the following injuries on the body of the deceased:
1. A lacerated injury on the forehead about 5 x 1.5 cm x bone depth. On exploration of wound, there is tissue fracture of frontal bone.
2. A lacerated injury on the right temporal region about 3 x 1 cm bone depth or exploration tissue fracture involving right temporal bone.
3. A lacerated injuries on occipital region about 5 x 2 cm bone depth. On exploration (torn) wound, multiple fracture of occipital bone into pieces. On further exploration of wound, there is fracture involving left parietal bone also with fracture of membrane.
4. Abrasion on left elbow.
5. Abrasion on left forearm.
6. No evidence of violation and sexual harassment of genital organs.
Ex.P3 is the Postmortem Certificate. He gave opinion that the injuries found on the body of the deceased would have been caused by a weapon like MO.8. He further opined that the death of the deceased was due to shock and haemorrhage due to the multiple injuries.
(e) PW12, during the course of investigation, recovered the bloodstained clothes from the body of the deceased. On 17.07.2012 at 6.00 p.m. he arrested the accused in the presence of PW8 - the Village Administrative Officer and another witness. On such arrest, he gave a voluntary confession in which he disclosed the place where he had hidden the jewels and stick. In pursuance of the same, he took the Police and witnesses to his house and from the cattle shed, he took out MO.1 - gold chain, MO.2 a pair of gold earrings, MO.3 gold ring and MO.4 - a pair of silver anklets (they were identified to be as stolen properties). He also produced a bloodstained causrine stick (MO.8). PW12 recovered the same under mahazar. On returning to the Police Station, he forwarded the accused to the Court for judicial remand and produced the materials objects also to the Court. At his request, the material objects were sent for chemical examination. The report revealed that there was human bloodstains on all the material objects, including on the stick recovered from the accused. On completing the investigation, he laid charge sheet against the accused.
(f) Based on the above materials, the trial Court framed charges, as detailed in the first paragraph of this judgment. The accused denied the same. In order to prove the charges on the side of the prosecution, as many as 12 witnesses were examined and 16 documents and 18 material objects were marked.
(g) Out of the said witnesses, PW1 the husband of the deceased has stated that in the usual course, on 13.7.2012 at 10.00 a.m. the deceased went to the nearby field taking the goats for grazing. At that time, she was wearing MOs.1 to 4. He has further stated that the deceased did not return home at 12.00 noon in the usual course. Therefore, he went in search of the deceased. When he searched the deceased along with others, at 10.00 p.m. he found the dead body of the deceased lying in the midst of the Karuvelam pushes and trees. The jewels were found missing. He has also stated about the complaint made to the Police. He has identified, MOs.1 to 4 as of jewels lastly worn by the deceased. PW2 is also a resident of the same village. He has stated that he went in search of the deceased along with PW1 and found the dead body of the deceased. PW3 has stated that on 13.07.2012 around 3.00 p.m. when he was returning to the Karuppur Village from Ettayapuram at Naripatti road, he found the accused coming from the opposite direction in a bicycle. When he enquired him, the accused told him that he was going to tonsure her head. On the same day, in the night, he came to know that the deceased was found lying dead in the bushes. PW4 has stated that on the date of the occurrence in the morning, he found the accused and the deceased going together with the goats, at the place of occurrence, for grazing.
(h) PW5 has stated that on the date of the occurrence, she was also grazing her goats somewhere near the place of occurrence. At that time, she found the accused and the deceased going together with their goats for grazing. PW6 has spoken about the postmortem conducted and his final opinion regarding the cause of death. PW7, yet another resident of the same village, has stated that around 11.00 a.m. he found the accused and the deceased going together for grazing the goats. PW8 - the Revenue Inspector has spoken about the preparation of the observation mahazar and the rough sketch at the place of occurrence and subsequent arrest of the accused, the confession made by him and the recovery of MOs.1 to 4 and other material objects. PW9, a constable, has stated that he took the dead body from the place of occurrence to the hospital for postmortem. PW10 has spoken about the registration of the case on the file of PW1. PW11 has stated that he handed over the FIR to the learned Judicial Magistrate. PW12 has spoken about the investigation done and the final report filed.
(i) When the above incriminating materials were put to the accused under Section 313 of Cr.P.C., he denied the same as false. However, he did not choose to examine any witness nor to mark any document on his side. The defence of the accused was a total denial. Having considered all the above, the trial Court convicted the appellant, as detailed in the first paragraph of this judgment. That is how he is before this Court with this appeal.
3. We have heard the learned counsel for the appellant and the learned Additional Public Prosecutor appearing for the respondent and we have also perused the records carefully.
4. This is a case based on circumstantial evidence. In a case of this nature, it is absolutely necessary for the prosecution to prove the circumstances projected by it beyond reasonable doubts and such proved circumstances should form a complete chain so as to unerringly point to the guilt of the accused and there should not be any alternative hypothesis which would be inconsistent with the guilt of the accused. Keeping this broad principle in mind, let us now analyse the circumstances projected by the prosecution.
5. The first and foremost circumstance is that on 13.07.2012 at 10.00 a.m. the deceased had gone to the nearby field taking her goats in the usual course for grazing. PW1 has spoken about the said fact. PWs.4 and 5 have found the accused and the deceased going together towards the place of occurrence taking goats for grazing. Thereafter, the deceased was not seen anywhere. PW1 has stated that he along with others went in search of the deceased and at last around 10.00 p.m., on the same day, he found the dead body of the deceased. The doctor, who conducted autopsy, had found a number of injuries on the body of the deceased and he has opined that the death of the deceased was due to shock and haemorrhage due to the injuries sustained by assault. He has further opined that the said injuries could have been caused by an attack with a stick like MO.8. We find no reason to reject the opinion of the doctor. From these evidences, the prosecution has clearly established that the deceased had died some time between 11.00 a.m. and 10.00 p.m. on 13.07.2012 and the said death was a homicide.
6. PW1 has further stated that lastly, when the deceased had gone for grazing the goats, she was wearing MOs.1 to 4 jewels and on the dead body the said jewels were found missing. Thus, the prosecution has proved that the deceased was done to death by somebody and these jewels have been removed. In other words, the death of the deceased and robbery had taken place in one and the same occurrence.
7. Now the question is who was the perpetrator of the said crime. PW4, PW5 and PW7 have stated that they found the accused and the deceased going together taking their respective goats towards the place of occurrence for grazing. They had seen them around 11.00 a.m. Though these witnesses have been cross examined at length, nothing was elicited to discredit their evidences. From these evidences, the prosecution has established that the the accused was in the company of the deceased around 11.00 a.m. on the day of the occurrence.
8. PW3 has stated that around 3.00 p.m. he found the accused alone going in his bicycle. When PW3 enquired him, he told that he was going to tonsure his head. Thus, from this evidence, the prosecution has established that around 3.00 p.m. the accused alone was found. Thereafter, the accused was arrested on 17.07.2012 at 6.00 p.m. This fact has been spoken by PW8, the Village Administrative Officer and PW12. According to these witnesses, on such arrest, the accused gave a voluntary confession, in which he disclosed the place where he had hidden the jewels and in pursuance of the same, he took PW8, another witness and PW12 to his house and produced MOs.1 to 4 from the cattle shed which was behind his house. He, then, produced MO.8 - stick from his house from the hide out. We find no reason to reject the evidence of PW8. It needs to be mentioned that PW1 identified these jewels which were worn by the deceased on the date of occurrence. The accused has got no explanation to offer as to how he came to possess these stolen properties viz., MOs.1 to 4.
9. The learned counsel for the appellant would submit that PW1 has stated that the jewels were handed over by the mother of the accused. But, we are unable to give much weightage for this evidence, because PW8, the Village Administrative Officer, has not stated that PW4 was present when the jewels were recovered. Thus, in our considered view, it has been clearly established that the accused was found in possession of the jewels worn by the deceased for which the accused has got no explanation to offer. Therefore, we find reasons to raise a presumption under Section 114of the Indian Evidence Act. Thus, the accused was the perpetrator of the crime. Of-course, this presumption is rebuttable, but the accused has not rebutted such presumption either by means of direct evidence or by means of substantial evidence. He has not rebutted the said fact presumed under Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act. This presumed fact which stands unrebuttedis duly supported by the circumstance that lastly, the accused was found in the company of the deceased. From these circumstances, we hold that the prosecution has clearly established the charges against the accused.
10. Now turning to the quantum of punishment, the trial Court has imposed only minimum punishment which also does not require any interference at the hands of this Court. We do not find any merit at all in this appeal.
11. In the result, this Criminal Appeal fails and the same is accordingly dismissed. The conviction and sentence imposed on the appellant/accused in S.C.No.18 of 2014 is confirmed.