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Mehtabbi W/O Khajamiya Vs. State of Maharashtra - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Appeal No. 512 of 1978
Judge
Reported in1982(2)BomCR32
ActsIndian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 - Sections 302; Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) , 1973 - Sections 154, 162 and 313; Evidence Act, 1872 - Sections 32
AppellantMehtabbi W/O Khajamiya
RespondentState of Maharashtra
Appellant AdvocateS.N. Loya Adv. for ; R.M. Agarwal, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateB.B. Jadhav, A.P.P.
DispositionAppeal allowed
Excerpt:
criminal - benefit of doubt - section 302 of indian penal code, 1860 - appeal against order of conviction under section 302 - deceased married to son of accused - no dying declaration against in-laws - no attempt to come out of room or try to extinguish fire - deceased was married hardly one and half month before date of incident - she was reluctant to go to her husband's house - prosecution failed to prove case beyond reasonable doubt - accused entitled to benefit of doubt - order of conviction set aside. - - 14. it is the prosecution case that head constable rajput tried to find out an executive magistrate in order to record a dying declaration but he was unsuccessful. 6) are not only proved by the prosecution but they are truthful and reliable, and on the basis of the said dying.....m.p. kanade, j.1. this criminal appeal by appellant-original accused is directed against an order of conviction dated june 27, 1978, passed by the learned additional sessions judge, aurangabad, sentencing her under section 302 of the indian penal code to suffer rigorous imprisonment for life.2. brief facts leading to this appeal are that the accused mehtabbi wife of khajamiya has living with her son and daughter-in-law, aziza, in the village padegaon in the district of aurangabad. the deceased aziza was married with the son of the accused, mansur khan, hardly one and a half month before the date of the incident. on may 13, 1977 at about 11-30 or so in the morning, aziza was burnt in the house belonging to the accused. it is the prosecution case that the accused mehtabbi poured kerosene.....
Judgment:

M.P. Kanade, J.

1. This criminal appeal by appellant-original accused is directed against an order of conviction dated June 27, 1978, passed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Aurangabad, sentencing her under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code to suffer rigorous imprisonment for life.

2. Brief facts leading to this appeal are that the accused Mehtabbi wife of Khajamiya has living with her son and daughter-in-law, Aziza, in the village Padegaon in the district of Aurangabad. The deceased Aziza was married with the son of the accused, Mansur Khan, hardly one and a half month before the date of the incident. On May 13, 1977 at about 11-30 or so in the morning, Aziza was burnt in the house belonging to the accused. It is the prosecution case that the accused Mehtabbi poured kerosene oil on the person of Aziza and set fire the deceased by lighting a matchstick and left the said house immediately. The place where the deceased Aziza and the accused were living at the material time was owned by Masur Khan, husband of the deceased. The said house is a tin shed. The said house has two doors, one, from the western side and the other from the eastern side. The western side door was closed from inside. The eastern side door was simply closed. The deceased received burn injuries and, therefore, started shouting from the said room where she caught the fire. One Lakharam (P.W. No. 1), who was standing in front of the office of the Gram Panchayat at village Padegaon, heard the shouts coming from the direction of the said house. The house is hardly about ten paces from the Gram Panchayat office. Lakharam (P.W. No. 1) rushed towards the house and having found that the western side door is closed, entered the house from the eastern side door where he saw some children had gathered. Lakharam (P.W. No. 1) pushed the door and saw Aziza wife of Mansur Khan crying and struggling. She had caught fire and her clothes were burning. He called one Reshmabai for help. He also poured a bucket full of water on the person of the deceased Aziza and the fire was extinguished. Aziza is said to have fallen down on the ground. Among other persons who had gathered in front of the said house, Mansur Khan, husband of the deceased, and one Maqbool were also present. It is further the case of the prosecution that Lakharam (P.W. No. 1), Maqbool and Mansur Khan, husband of the deceased, managed to take the victim in a rickshaw to the Medical College Hospital, which is popularly known as Ghati Hospital. Aziza was firstly admitted to a casualty ward. An entry was made in the case papers that she was brought to the casualty ward at 1-35 p.m. It is then, she was taken to Ward No. 14. It appears, the doctor who was in charge of the casualty ward informed the Police Constable, who was attached to the said Medical College Hospital to record medico-legal cases. The said Police Constable is Madhukar Ganpat Botke (P.W. No. 10). Botke noticed burn injuries on the person of Aziza. He questioned her as to how they were caused. It is his say that she replied that at about 11-30 a.m. her mother-in-law had set her on fire. The name of the mother-in-law was also disclosed to him. On getting the replies, he made an entry in his diary. The said entry is produced by the prosecution at Exh. No. 25. After taking the said entry, Police Constable Botke (P.W. No. 10) informed to the Cantonment Police Station on phone about the condition of Aziza. One Police Constable by name Patil received the phone and gave it to Head Constable Shivsing Sandusing Rajput, who was in charge of the Cantonment Police Station at the material time. Police Constable Botke gave a message to the said Rajput that Aziza had received burn injuries and that she was admitted to the hospital. He also informed the Head Constable that he had taken the medico-legal case entry bearing No. 672. Whatever information was given by Police Constable Botke (P.W. No. 10) to Head Constable Rajput was reduced in writing by Head Constable Rajput in the station diary. After taking entry in the station diary, Head Constable Rajput handed over the charge as Police Station Officer to Head Constable Pardeshi and immediately rushed to the Medical College Hospital at Aurangabad. He reached the hospital somewhere about 2 p.m. He came to know that Aziza was in Ward No. 14. He was told by the doctor that it was necessary to record a dying declaration. At this stage it is necessary to mention that Dr. Ayyar also examined Aziza in Ward No. 14. Dr. Ayyar enquired the patient about the history of the case. Deceased Aziza narrated the history of the case. Dr. Ayyar reduced the said history of the case in the medical papers which are at Exh. No. 14. It is the prosecution case that Head Constable Rajput tried to find out an Executive Magistrate in order to record a dying declaration but he was unsuccessful. Ultimately, he himself recorded the dying declaration of the deceased Aziza in the presence of the doctor. The said dying declaration is at Exh. No. 28. The said dying declaration is also countersigned by Dr. Ayyar. It is thereafter, Head Constable Rajput went to the Cantonment Police Station where Head Constable Pardeshi was acting as a Police Station Officer. On May 13, 1977, at about 5 p.m., Head Constable Pardeshi received a complaint lodged by Head Constable Rajput. The said complaint is at Exh. No. 20. On the basis of the said complaint, an offence was registered under section 307 of the Indian Penal Code against the accused.

3. As the Sub-Inspector of Police was on leave, Head Constable Pardeshi took over the investigation and on the same day he went to village Padegaon at the spot. A panchanama of the scene of offence was drawn by him in the present of Lakharam (P.W. No. 1) and one Ranuba. Two empty bottles smelling of kerosene, burnt remains of a saree, one match box and hair bunches were found lying on the spot. They were all seized under the said spot panchanama which is at Exh. 6. All articles seized under the said panchanama are Article No. 1 in the case. The Investigating Officer thereafter recorded the statement of six of seven witnesses. When the Head Constable was at village Padegaon, news of Aziza's death in the Ghati Hospital at Aurangabad reached to him. He, therefore, immediately went to the hospital. The dead body was already removed to morgue from Ward No. 14. The concerned nurse had taken the clothes on the person of the dead body and she handed over the same to the Investigation Officer. The said clothes consisted of a burnt saree, two petty coats and a brassiere. They were all seized under a panchanama in the presence of panch witnesses which is at Exh. 22. The clothes attached under the said panchanama are Articles Nos. 2 to 5 in the case.

4. Thereafter, the accused Mehtabbi was immediately taken to the Police Station by one constable and she was arrested by the Police Station Officer on the same day, that is, May 13, 1977, in the police station. As it was too late, inquest panchanama could not be made on the night of May 13, 1977. On the next morning on May 14, 1977 at about 7 a.m., in the presence of panchas inquest panchanama was drawn which is at Exh. No. 18, and the dead body thereafter was sent for post mortem examination through one constable. Head Constable Pardeshi carried out the investigation till May 17, 1977, and further investigation was handed over to Sub-Inspector of Police Shikare (P.W. No. 13). On completion of the investigation, the Sub-Inspector of Police filed a charge-sheet against the accused under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code before the Judicial Magistrate, Aurangabad and by his order dated September 8, 1977, the learned Judicial Magistrate committed the accused to the Court of Sessions to stand her trial as the offence under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code was exclusively triable by the Court of Sessions. The learned Additional Session Judge, Aurangabad, then framed a charge under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code against the accused. The accused pleaded not guilty to the said charge and claimed to be tried.

5. The defence of the accused was that she was not at all presence the house right from 10.30 a.m. At about 10.30 a.m., she had handed over a tiffin to her husband at S.T. Depot and from S.T. stand, she went in the Jungle. According to her, she returned back to the house at 5 p.m. The policemen were already present at her house and she come to know from the policemen that her daughter-in-law had sustained burn injuries and she died in the hospital. She admitted that she was taken to the Police Station and there she was arrested. In her statement under section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, she has narrated that Aziza was insisting for living separately with her husband from the accused.

6. The learned Additional Sessions Judge in the course of the trial examined the witnesses produced by the prosecution. The prosecution mainly relied upon the evidence of Lakharam (P.W. No. 1), who had overheard the statement made by the deceased to the doctor and the police constable that kerosene oil was poured on her by her mother-in-law, the accused, had set on fire by lighting a matchstick. He has also acted as a panch to the panchanama of the scene of offence. The other witnesses is one Khajamiya Abdul Karim (P.W. No. 4), who happens to be a cousin of the deceased. According to him, he visited the hospital where Aziza was admitted and on being asked Aziza stated to him that her mother-in-law, the accused, poured kerosene of and lighted a matchstick. The third witness examined by the prosecution is Dr. Ayyar (P.W. No. 6). He had examined the deceased Aziza and in the medical papers he has recorded the history of the incident as obtained from the patient which is at Exh. No. 14. Wherein it is stated that Aziza reported that her mother-in-law poured kerosene oil and set her on fire by a matchstick. The prosecution further relied on the evidence of Police Constable Botke (P.W. No. 10), who was attached to the Medical College Hospital in an out-post for medico-legal cases. He was informed by Dr. Ayyar (P.W. No. 6) that a medico-legal case is admitted and he was to take a note of it. Accordingly, Botke immediately for the medico-legal cases. The said entry is at Exh. No. 25. Lastly, the prosecution very strongly relied upon the evidence of Head Constable Rajput (P.W. No. 12) who was informed by Police Constable Botke about the medico-legal case. He rushed to the hospital and made enquiries with Aziza and whatever statement she had given to the said Head Constable Rajput has been reduced in writing by him, which is at Ex. No. 28. Besides this evidence, the prosecution also examined two more witnesses, one Abidabi Mansur Khan (P.W. No. 3) who is the first wife of Mansur Khan, husband of the deceased, and Shaikh Abdul shaikh Chotubhai (P.W. No. 2), who is the father of Abida. They have stated that Abida received ill-treatment at the hands of her mother-in-law, that is, the accused. There are two more witnesses examined by the prosecution. They are Khajamiyan (P.W. No. 4), about whom a reference is already made above and Khurshidbi Abdul Karim (P.W. No. 5). According to Khajamiyan (P.W. No. 4), Aziza on enquiry told him that her husband was not present in the house at the time when she was set on fire by her mother-in-law, the accused, by pouring kerosene oil. This witness has further stated that Aziza stayed at her mother's place for two days and thereafter she was sent back to her husband's house at Padegaon. Fatima, mother of the deceased, herself took Aziza to Padegaon; Aziza stayed there for hardly 15 days and after 15 days the accused reached her to her house in Mominpura. She stayed there for 5 or 6 days and during the said period, she was bitterly complaining about the ill-treatment at the hands of the accused. According to this witness, Aziza was telling that she did not want to return back to Padegaon on account of the ill-treatment from the mother-in-law, the accused. Similar was the statement reiterated by another witness Khurshdbi Abdul Karim (P.W. No. 5).

7. The learned Additional Sessions Judge on appreciation of evidence on record disbelieved the oral dying declaration made to Lakharam (P.W. No. 1) by the deceased and to Khajamiyan (P.W. No. 4). However, it is held by the learned Additional Sessions Judge that the dying declaration recorded by Police Constable Botke (P.W. No. 10) at Exh. 25 and the dying declaration recorded by Head Constable Rajput at Exh. 28 and counter-signed by Dr. Ayyar (P.W. No. 6) are not only proved by the prosecution but they are truthful and reliable, and on the basis of the said dying declarations he recorded a conviction against the accused and sentenced her under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code as stated above. Against the said order of conviction and sentence, the present appeal has been filed by the accused.

8. Shri S.N. Loya, learned Counsel appearing in support of the appeal, submitted that the order of conviction and sentence passed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge is erroneous inasmuch as the said dying declaration at Exhs. Nos. 14, 25 and 28 are not satisfactorily proved by the prosecution and even if it is held that the dying declarations are proved by the prosecution, they are not truthful and reliable. It is further argued by Shri Loya that the documents at Exh. Nos. 25 and 28 cannot be relied upon because of inherent infirmities in the very existence of the said documents. It is pointed out by Shri Loya that Exh. No. 29 is the by-product of Exh. No. 25 and if Exh. No. 25 is discarded as not truthful, then Exh. No. 29, which is an entry in the station diary, should automatically be discarded and no reliance can be placed on Exh. No. 29. Shri B.B. Jadhav, learned Additional Public Prosecutor appearing for the State, tried to justify the finding recorded by the learned Additional Sessions Judge. It is pointed out by Shri Jadhav that the written dying declarations at Exhs. Nos. 14, 25 and 28 are proved by the evidence on record and they are truthful and reliable.

9. Before we proceed to examine the evidence pertaining to these dying declarations referred to above, it is advisable to discuss two documents which are at Exh. No. 20 and Exh. No. 25 on record. Exh. No. 20 is treated by the learned Additional Sessions Judge as a complaint or a first information report lodged by Head Constable Rajput and reduced in writing by Head Constable Pardeshi. In our opinion, the complaint at Exh. No. 20 cannot be treated as first information report. In this connection, evidence of Police Constable Botke (P.W. No. 10) and Head Constable Rajput (P.W. No. 12) will be material. Police Constable Botke (P.W. No. 10) was attached to the outpost in the Medical College Hospital. At about 1.30 p.m. on May 13, 1977 Casualty Medical Officer asked him to take an entry regarding one medico-legal case. Accordingly, he made an entry in his diary to that effect. It was in respect of Aziza, the deceased. After taking the said entry, he gave information to the Cantonment Police Station on phone. One constable by name Patil received the phone in the Police Station. Head Constable Rajput (P.W. No. 12), who was working as the Police Station Officer in the said police station, received the phone message from Constable Botke (P.W. No. 10). Head Constable Rajput (P.W. No. 12) was informed by Police Constable Botke that the deceased Aziza had received burn injuries and that she was admitted in the hospital. He also informed him that he had taken the medico-legal case entry. Whatever information was given by Police Constable Botke to Head Constable Rajput on phone was reduced in writing in the station dairy by Head Constable Rajput. That station diary is produced by the prosecution at Exh. No. 29. The entry at Exh. No. 29 mentions that a lady by name Aziza, aged 16 years, of Padegaon was burnt on May 13, 1977 at 11.30 hrs. at Padegaon by her mother-in-law by name Mehtabbi wife of Khajamiya by pouring kerosene on her body. Having reduced the said entry in the station diary, Head Constable Rajput signed the same. The question is as to whether the entry made in the station diary on the basis of a phone message would be a first information report or the statement recorded by Head Constable Pardeshi of Head Constable Rajput at Exh. No. 20 will be the first information report. Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure lays down that an information given to a Police Officer incharge of the Police Station in respect of a cognisable offence which is reduced in writing and signed by him should be treated as a first information report. All these ingredients are satisfied by the entry in the station diary at Exh. No. 29. The said information given on the phone was in respect of a cognisable offence and was made to a Police Officer incharge of the Police Station which he had reduced in writing and signed the same. Undoubtedly, the said entry at Exh. No. 29 in the station diary is based upon an information through a phone from Police Constable Botke (P.W. No. 10). Now, it is well-settled that any information given on phone in respect of a cognisable offence to a Police Officer incharge of the Police Station will be treated as first information report provided the said information received through the phone is reduced in writing by the Police Officer in charge of the Police Station and signed by him. In view of this position of law, it must be held that the entry in the Police Station diary at Exh. No. 29 would be first information report in the present case and not a complaint reduced in writing by Head Constable Pardeshi at Exh. No. 20. It is further found from the evidence of this case that Head Constable Rajput, after making an entry in the Police Station diary, immediately rushed to the hospital and started investigation of the case. He had recorded the statement of deceased Aziza which is now terms as a dying declaration made by her which is at Exh. No. 28 and thereafter he come back to the Police Station and informed Head Constable Pardeshi about the said case which has been reduced in writing. Once, the investigation starts in a case, any statement recorded during the course of the investigation would not be admissible in evidence as provided by section 162 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Having regard to the established facts available on record, it is clear that complaint at Exh. No. 20 cannot be treated as a first information report and the same would not be admissible in evidence as having been record after the investigation started and shall be hit by the provisions of section 162 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It will also have to be held that in the present case the document at Exh. No. 29 would be treated as first information report and not he document at Exh. No. 20.

10. It is pertinent to note that document at Exh. No. 25, an entry recorded by Police Constable Botke (P.W. No. 10) in his diary, is treated as a dying declaration of the deceased by the learned Additional Sessions Judge. A plain reading of the said document at Exh. No. 25 shows that it is only a report made by the Police Constable Botke and it is not a dying declaration or a statement made by the deceased and having been reduced in writing by the said constable. It is true that in the evidence on oath, Police Constable Botke has stated in paragraph 2 of his deposition that he questioned deceased Aziza, as to how the burns were caused and she replied that her mother-in-law had set her on fire by pouring kerosene. We do not find that the statement of the witness is reflected in the report at Exh. No. 25. It is nowhere stated in the said report that on making enquiries, Aziza made any statement to him. It is well-settled that a dying declaration must be a statement made by the deceased to a person to whom it is made. It must be the last word of the deceased in relation to the cause of death. We do not find in report at Exh. No. 25 that such a statement has been reduced in writing by Police Constable Botke (P.W. No. 10). Accordingly, the document at Exh. No. 25 cannot be treated as a dying declaration as suggested by the prosecution. In our judgment, the learned Additional Sessions Judge committed an error in relying upon the said document at Exh. No. 25 as a dying declaration and further committed an error in holding that a truthful dying declaration was made by the deceased to Police Constable Botke. It is also necessary to state that Police Constable Botke was not entitled to make any investigation or to record a complaint in respect of a cognisable offence when he was in the Medical College Hospital. The diary which he has mentioned cannot be treated as a station diary as contemplated by section 172 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It is merely a book maintained by a constable attached to a hospital to record the medico-legal cases. It is, therefore, no importance could be attached to the said entry made by the said constable. For these reasons, the said document at Exh. No. 25 is completely ignored from consideration of the material evidence on record in order to dispose of this appeal.

11. Now we propose to consider the material evidence on record so as to decide as to whether the prosecution has proved it case beyond reasonable about in order to convict the accused under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. It is a common ground that important and material evidence is that of Lakharam (P.W. No. 1), Madhukar Botke (P.W. No. 10), Dr. Ayyar (P.W. No. 6) and Head Constable Rajput (P.W. No. 12). Lakharam (P.W. No. 1) is the first person to see the condition of deceased Aziza in the house at Padegaon. He has tried to extinguish the fire by pouring water on the person of deceased Aziza and that he made arrangements with the assistance of Mansur Khan and one Maqbool to take her to the Medical College Hospital. This part of the evidence of this witness is not seriously challenged by the defence in the cross-examination and we do not find any reason to disbelieve the same, because the other evidence on record substantially corroborates the statement of this witness. Admittedly, Aziza was taken to the hospital and she was admitted in the casualty ward of the hospital. This witness has been declared hostile on the ground that he did not support the prosecution case that the accused was present at the time when he entered the house of the deceased on hearing the humane cry and noticing the smoke coming out of the house. He has been contradicted with reference to his police statement by the Public Prosecutor in the cross-examination. The fact remains that a part of the statement of this witness cannot be accepted to be true and reliable. It is well-settled that evidence of a hostile witness cannot be totally disregarded if a part of the statement is found reliable. The said portion of the evidence which supports the case of the prosecution can be accepted and relied upon. So, from the evidence of Lakharam (P.W. No. 1), it is established by the prosecution that deceased Aziza received burn injuries in her house at village Padegaon and she was removed from the place and thereafter admitted in the Medical College Hospital.

12. It is then, we turn to the evidence of Madhukar Botke (P.W. No. 10). This witness was attached to the outpost in the Medical College Hospital. He was informed about the medico-legal case of deceased Aziza. Botke immediately rushed to the casualty ward and got information from the hospital and made an entry in a diary which is numbered as MLC/642/DBK, which is brought on record at Exh. No. 25, we have already discussed the legal effect of the said document at Exh. No. 25 hereinabove. It is after taking the said entry, he informed the Cantonment Police Station that the said medico-legal case was admitted in the hospital. The evidence of this witness is an important link in the entire narration of the facts of this case. Unless Police Constable Botke informs to this Police Station and a Police Officer incharge of the said police station receives such an information on phone, no further investigation could have been possible. From the evidence of Head Constable Rajput it is very clear that he had received the phone message from Police Constable Botke and on the basis of the information received from Botke, he entered the same in the station diary which is at Exh. No. 29. From the nature of things, it is obvious that Police Constable Botke and Head Constable Rajput had acted upon the information they received, one from the hospital and the other from Botke and these informations were reduced in writing by way of entries in the concerned books. Shri Loya, learned Counsel, criticised the evidence of these two witnesses very vehemently and pointed out that the evidence of Police Constable Botke should be discarded on the ground that the entry made by him is very suspicious. The said entry, namely, MLC/672, is not reliable in view of the contradictory statements made by the said witness. Shri Loya also criticised the evidence of Head Constable Rajput and contended that the entry in the station diary at Exh. No. 29 is also highly suspicious because the said original station diary has been eaten up by white ants. The learned Additional Sessions Judge observed in the course of recording the deposition of this witness that the station diary was perused, most of the pages including the relevant page were eaten up by white ants. The relevant entry being damaged by white ants cannot be known. It is further mentioned that the entire station diary is numbered as 133/77. This is the only ground on which Shri Loya contended that the said entry is a got-up and concocted entry and the same must have been made subsequently. We are unable to accept such a submission of Shri Loya. As stated above, the Police Officer incharge of the Police Station must have received a phone message from Police Constable Botke and thereafter an entry has been made in the station diary by Head Constable Rajput. There is no serious criticism about the contents of the entry made in the station diary, but what is argued is that the same appears to have been made subsequently and not on the date it is alleged to have been made. This criticism of Shri Loya does not appear to be well-founded. The evidence of Head Constable Rajput discloses that he immediately rushed to the Medical College Hospital. He reached there at 2 p.m.; that deceased Aziza was admitted in the hospital at 1.35 p.m. which established by the medical papers produced on record at Exh. No. 14. He has recorded the statement of deceased Aziza thereafter and ultimately a complaint came to be lodged by him at the Cantonment Police Station at about 5 p.m. From these facts, established by the evidence of Head Constable Rajput, it is not possible to accept the criticism of Shri Loya. One more fact which strengthen this finding is that Dr. Ayyar (P.W. No. 6) who is an independent witness, has stated in his evidence that Head Constable Rajput has recorded the statement of deceased Aziza in his presence, which is at Exh. No. 28. He has countersigned the said statement in the Medical College Hospital. The said evidence of Dr. Ayyar (P.W. No. 6) sufficiently corroborates the fact that Head Constable Rajput rushed to the hospital immediately at 2 p.m. and recorded the statement of deceased Aziza. From all this evidence it is clear that Exhs. Nos. 25 and 28 have been rightly recorded by the said two witnesses, Police Constable Botke and Head Constable Rajput

13. Now, there is one more document which requires a special reference and that document is at Exh. No. 14. Dr. Ayyar (P.W. No. 6) was in charge of Ward No. 14 on the material date in the said Medical College Hospital. Deceased Aziza having been transferred to Ward No. 14 from casualty ward was examined by Dr. Ayyar. In the course of examination of the patient, Dr. Ayyar asked the patient about the history of the case. He enquired from the patient-deceased Aziza as to what was the cause of the injuries sustained by her. The history given by the deceased has been reduced in writing by Dr. Ayyar. It shows that because of the previous quarrels and unhealthy atmosphere in the family, patients mother-in-law poured kerosene oil over her and lighted a matchstick and went out. This document at Exh. No. 14 is treated as a dying declaration by the learned Additional Sessions Judge having been made by deceased Aziza to Dr. Ayyar. Now, this document is also seriously challenged by the defence on various grounds. Shri Loya submitted that the time mentioned by Dr. Ayyar in the case papers is 2-10 p.m. By this, he tried to point out inter se contradictions between the evidence given by Dr. Ayyar (P.W. No. 6) and Head Constable Pardeshi (P.W. No. 9). Head Constable Pardeshi has stated that when the phone message was received, Head Constable Rajput was the Police Station Officer ; he handed over the charge to him at 11-50 a.m. and immediately left for Ghati Hospital. In paragraph 12 of his deposition, he has further stated that from 11-50 a.m. to 4-30 p.m. Head Constable Rajput did not contact him from hospital on phone. Relying upon the said cross-examination of the witness, Shri Loya contended that the time mentioned in Exh. No. 14 should not be accepted as correct and, therefore, the said entry in the document at Exh. No. 14 should be treated as a concoction and an afterthought. We cannot persuade ourselves to accept this submission of Shri Loya. The evidence of Dr. Ayyar fully supported by Head Constable Rajput. So far as Head Constable Pardeshi (P.W. No. 9) is concerned, we would like to observe that he confused himself as to the time factor. One cannot conceive that a phone was received in the Police Station at 11-30 a.m. when the incident itself has occurred at 11-30 a.m. on May 13, 1977. Lakharam's evidence clearly shows that more than an hour was required to take the patient to the Medical College Hospital. The patient was for some time in casualty ward and thereafter she was transferred to Ward No. 14 of which Dr. Ayyar was incharge. It is also not possible to accept the evidence of Head Constable Pardeshi when he stated that at 11-50 a.m. Head Constable Rajput handed over the charge of the Police Station to him. Head Constable Rajput has stated in his evidence that he rushed to the hospital at 2 p.m. on that day. From the evidence of Dr. Ayyar and Head Constable Rajput, it is reasonably probable to hold that the patient was transferred to Ward No. 14 at 2-10 p.m. and Head Constable Rajput rushed to the hospital at 2 p.m. It is in this context it appears to us that Head Constable Pardeshi has either been misled about the timings in the cross-examination or he confused himself as to the actual things that have taken place on the said date. Accordingly, we disbelieve the said statement of Head Constable Pardeshi that he received the phone message at 11-30 a.m. and that at 11-50 a.m. Head Constable Rajput handed over the charge of the Police Station to him. It is far these reasons, we are not inclined to accept the criticism of Shri Loya that Dr. Ayyar made any wrong entry in the medical papers of deceased Aziza.

14. It is then submitted by Shri Loya that it was not a part of the duty of a doctor to record a dying declaration and, therefore, the document at Exh. No. 14 should be discarded out of consideration. It is true that doctors are not expected to record dying declarations unless exigencies demand that such a dying declaration should be recorded by a doctor. A machinery provided for recording a dying declaration should be utilised for the said purpose. It may also be stated that doctors while taking the history of the case should not act as Police Officers to investigate as to who had committed the offence. But, if it is found that in the ordinary course of nature, a doctor has recorded a statement of a witness in the nature of the history of the case and if it is not tainted with any partisan attitude by the doctor, we do not find any impropriety in recording a history of the case by a doctor while examining a patient. We do not find, having regard to the evidence tendered by this witness, that he had intended to side any of the parties to the dispute. He had no acquaintance with either of the parties, the deceased or the accused. The deceased had 90 per cent burns on her person. Her physical condition was precarious and it is in this context the evidence of Dr. Ayyar has got to be viewed and appreciated. We have given a very conscious consideration to the evidence of Dr. Ayyar and we find that he is an independent, trustworthy and reliable witness. The document at Exh. No. 14 has been written by him in the ordinary course of his duties and it is not tempted with an implication whatsoever. It is, therefore, the criticism of learned Counsel for the accused in respect of the evidence of this witness cannot be accepted. In view of the reasons stated above, we hold that the document at Exh. No. 14 which is termed as a dying declaration has been sufficiently proved by the evidence of Dr. Ayyar and it can be safely accepted as a genuine document prepared by Dr. Ayyar.

15. It is then, we turn to Exh. No. 28, which is a document relied upon by the prosecution as a dying declaration of deceased Aziza. The said statement at Exh. No. 28 is recorded by Head Constable Rajput. He has stated that when he went to Ghati Hospital, he made an enquiry with deceased Aziza. He was satisfied that she was conscious and was in a position to give a statement. The Medical Officer was also present there. He also made an enquiry with the doctor. He was told by the doctor that deceased Aziza was mentally fit and was in a position to give a statement. Accordingly, he recorded the statement as per the information and narration given by deceased Aziza and then he read it out to her in token of having given the correct statement. Witness Rajput tried to obtain a thumb mark of the deceased. He has further stated that he obtained the thumb mark but the portion was burnt and hence complete thumb mark could not be obtained and he made a note to that effect below the half thumb mark. He put his signature below the said document at Exh. No. 28. Dr. Ayyar has also stated that he was present at the time when the statement at Exh. No. 28 was recorded by Head Constable Rajput and further stated that he certified that Aziza was fully conscious and mentally fit to give such a statement. He had made an endorsement in the margin to that effect and that bears his signature below the same. The evidence of Dr. Ayyar (P.W. No. 6) and Head Constable Rajput (P.W. No. 12) clearly established that Head Constable Rajput recorded the statement of deceased Aziza and deceased was mentally fit to give the said statement. Shri Loya, learned Counsel for the defence, attacked the evidence of Head Constable Rajput on two or three grounds. Firstly, it is contended by him that Head Constable Rajput should not have recorded a dying declaration but should have approached an Executive Magistrate, an independent agency, to record such a dying declaration. He further submitted that if a dying declaration is recorded by an investigating agency, it should be discarded as not reliable. He pointed out that Head Constable Rajput having made an entry in the station diary recorded the said dying declaration at Exh. No. 28 during the course of investigation and it is, therefore, the said dying declaration should be looked with suspicion and a corroboration of the said document at Exh. No. 28 in material particulars should be available in the record of the case. Shri Loya further emphasised about the timing of recording the said dying declaration. In our view, there is no substance in any of the contentions and submissions made by Shri Loya. It is true that the investigating agency normally should not record a dying declaration and the services of the Executive Magistrate should be utilised for that purpose. The Supreme Court in Munnu Raja and another v. The State of Madhya Pradesh, : 1976CriLJ1718 , observed that investigating officers are naturally interested in the success of the investigation and the practice of the Investigating Officer himself recording a dying declaration during the course of investigation ought not to be encouraged. Relying upon the said observations, Shri Loya submitted that the document at Exh. No. 28 should be discarded. We are not inclined to accept such a submission of Shri Loya. It is amply clear by the evidence of Head Constable Rajput that he had tried to contact an Executive Magistrate for recording the dying declaration. He could not utilise the services of the Executive Magistrate because, they were not available at their houses. A reasonable explanation has been given by Head Constable Rajput as to why a dying declaration could not be recorded through the services of Executive Magistrate. Dr. Ayyar (P.W. No. 6) insisted that the dying declaration should be recorded before Morphine injection was given. Deceased Aziza had 90 per cent burns on her person and it is in the fitness of things that Dr. Ayyar wanted to give some relief to the patient from pains and agonies she was suffering. In these circumstances Head Constable Rajput was placed. He had no alternative except to record the dying declaration by himself with all the necessary precautions to be taken for the purpose of recording such a declaration. Dr. Ayyar was present at the time of recording the dying declaration. Head Constable Rajput was satisfied that the patient was mentally fit to give dying declaration and the same was certified by the doctor. For the reasons stated above, we do not find any infirmity or legal difficulty to disregard such a dying declaration when no other independent agency could but used. What the Supreme Court has laid down in the Munnu Raja's case (supra) is that if the services of the Executive Magistrate are available and the investigating agency has not tried to contact the Magistrate or utilise his services for recording the dying declaration, the practice of Investigating Officer himself recording a dying declaration should be discouraged. The Supreme Court has not laid down that every dying declaration which is recorded by an Investigating Officer should be disbelieved and discarded from consideration. Having regard to the facts of each and every case it will have to be decided as to whether a dying declaration recorded by the Investigating Officer can be relied upon or not, and if a satisfactory explanation is provided for by the prosecution that the services of the Executive Magistrate could not be had at the emergent time to record a dying declaration, then we do not find any legal impediment not to rely upon the dying declaration recorded by an Investigating Officer, provided the officer gives an acceptable explanation for not utilising the services of the Executive Magistrate. It is in this view of the matter, the submission of learned Counsel cannot be accepted.

16. The second limb of attack by Shri Loya is with regard to the timing mentioned in the document at Exh. No. 14. His criticism is with reference to giving of Morphine injection to the deceased Aziza. According to him, the patient was admitted at 2.10 p.m. and as her condition was serious and precarious the doctor must have given Morphine injection or a tranquilliser as earliest by 10 to 15 minutes. Witness Rajput has stated that he recorded the dying declaration at 2.45 p.m. and if the doctor had given injection as prescribed within 10 to 15 minutes, then it must be inferred that the patient was under the influence of the injection and was not in a position to give a statement as claimed by Head Constable Rajput. This submission of Shri Loya does not appear to be correct and well founded. In the medical papers at Exh. No. 14, the doctor has clearly stated that Injection Morphine 15 mg. was to be given after recording dying declaration. Dr. Ayyar (P.W. No. 6) also stated in his evidence that he asked Head Constable Rajput to make arrangements for recording a dying declaration and it is, thereafter, Head Constable Rajput tried to contact an Executive Magistrate, but as he was unsuccessful, hence he himself recorded the dying declaration. Having regard to the prescription by the doctor in the medical papers at Exh. No. 14, it is rather difficult to accept the submission of learned Counsel that Morphine injection must have been given earlier of the statement recorded by Head Constable Rajput. From the evidence of Dr. Ayyar and Head Constable Rajput it is established that the statement at Exh. No. 28 recorded by Head Constable Rajput was genuinely recorded by him.

17. We are also not impressed by the submission of Shri Loya that Khajamiyan (P.W. No. 4) had an opportunity to tutor deceased Aziza to give a statement falsely implicating the accused.

18. From the evidence discussed above, it is clear that the prosecution has sufficiently established the genuineness of the documents at Exhs. Nos. 14 and 28. We do not find any infirmity whatsoever in the recording of dying declaration by Dr. Ayyar at Exh. No. 14 and by Head Constable Rajput at Exh. No. 28.

19. Having recorded a finding that these two written dying declarations are genuinely recorded, the point that follows for our consideration is as to whether the said two dying declarations given by the deceased are truthful and reliable. It is in this context, it must be seen whether the death of deceased Aziza was either a homicidal death or a suicidal or accidental. It is must be seen as to whether are there any circumstances on record which can pursued us to record a finding that the deceased committed suicide or whether are there circumstances in the case which throw a shadow or cloud on the culpable homicide by an act of the accused resulting into the death of Aziza. In our opinion, there are certain circumstances on record which do not find a proper explanation in the evidence of the prosecution. The prosecution failed to fill up vacuum and that vacuum creates a serious doubt about the prosecution case. It is well known that even nature ab hors vacuum. In the present case, the most important circumstance which creates a doubt as to whether the accused has done an act which had resulted into the death of Aziza, is, the presence of the accused at the material time on the scene of offence, when Aziza received burns on her person. The learned Additional Sessions Judge has recorded a finding that the prosecution has failed to prove the presence of the accused in the house at 11.30 a.m. on May 13, 1977. (Lakharam (P.W. No. 1) had been declared hostile with reference to the presence of the accused in the house at 11.30 a.m. The evidence of Lakharam has rightly been rejected and discarded on the point of the presence of the accused in the house at the material time. There is no other evidence on record to hold that the accused, mother-in-law of deceased, was present after 10.30 a.m. on May 13, 1977. The accused has stated in her statement under section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure that she left the house at 10.30 a.m. with a tiffin to the S.T. depot to give in to her husband and she returned by 5 p.m. when the policemen were already present in the house. In the absence of any evidence whatsoever on record, it must be held that the prosecution has failed to prove the presence of the accused in the house on the fateful day after 10.30 a.m. This is a serious infirmity in the prosecution case which cannot brushed aside so lightly as that. A second important circumstance which also cannot be lost sight of is that deceased Aziza had not made any statement or disclosure to any of the persons gathered in the house about the pouring of kerosene and setting fire by the mother-in-law. Lakharam (P.W. No. 1) has categorically stated that no disclosure was made by the deceased to him when he tried to pour bucket full of water on her person. It has also come on record that within half an hour Mansur Khan, husband of the deceased, arrived at the scene of offence. If she was really conscious and was mentally fit, she would have immediately stated no her husband Mansur Khan that his mother, the accused, poured kerosene on her person and set her a fire, but even that disclosure does not appear to have been made by the deceased. Had such a disclosure been made to the husband, Lakharam (P.W. No. 1) would have stated in his deposition about the same. It is in this context, it is necessary to refer ton the evidence of Khajamiyan (P.W. No. 4) and Khurshdbi Abdul Karim (P.W. No. 5). Khajamiyan (P.W. No. 4), who happens to be a cousin of deceased Aziza has stated that Aziza stayed with them in their house for 5/6 days; she was bitterly complaining about the ill-treatment at the hands of Mehtabbi : she was telling him that she did not want to return back to Padegaon on account of ill-treatment from her mother-in-law. He further stated that on eighth day of her stay with them, her husband, Mansur Khan, came to her for taking her to Padegaon, but in his presence also she complained of ill-treatment. She was asking the witness that she should not be sent to Padegaon; Mansur Khan then assured her that at least on that occasion she should accompany him and he further assured that he would undertake that no such ill-treatment would be given to her. This witness further stated that Mansur Khan then even suggested that in the case of ill-treatment, would stay separate from his mother. The maternal aunt of the deceased, Khurshidbi (P.W. No. 5) also stated that Aziza was reluctant to go with Mansur Khan. Aziza, according to this witness, stated to her that she was being ill-treated at the hands of Mehtabbi. This witness thereupon advised her that she was then recently married and everything would be adjusted in the course of time. Mansur Khan also assured her that nothing would happen and asked her to accompany him. With this background, it was but natural for deceased Aziza to narrate to her husband as to what had happened on May 13, 1977, but the evidence of Lakharam (P.W. No. 1) does not disclose that she made any such statement to her husband. It is also not disputed by learned Counsel for the State that she did not give any oral dying declaration to any one and a blissful silence was maintained by her till Dr. Ayyar recorded the history of the case at Exh. No. 14. Now, this circumstance also creates a doubt as to the truthfulness of the statements made by the deceased. A third circumstance, namely, that the deceased had not made any attempt whatsoever to come out of the room or try to extinguish or get rid of the fire engulfed to her in the said room, is also relevant in this case. A young girl of 16 or 17 years of age, being alone in the room at 10.30 or 11.30 in the morning, in the ordinary course, ought to have resisted any attempt whatsoever, if made, to throw kerosene on her person and light a fire thereto. The narration given by Lakharam (P.W. No. 1) is that he saw the deceased standing burning with the clothes and a smoke coming out of the room. On pouring a bucket full of water by this witness, she fell down. That also creates a serious doubt about the story set up by the prosecution. One more circumstance which requires to be committed upon is that the deceased was married hardly one and a half month before the date of the incident. She was rather reluctant to go to her husband's house. On an assurance given by the husband, she went to the husband's house. Mansur Khan's first wife, Abida, left the house, as evidence shows, because of the ill-treatment and was living with her parents. The deceased could have escaped from the house if really she was tortured by the accused. Lakharam (P.W. No. 1) has stated that the house has two doors, one from western side which was closed from inside, and the other from eastern side. Some children had gathered outside the door which was simply closed. A serious doubt arises as to why she was not able to come out of the room from eastern side door which was simply closed. If at all the mother-in-law had poured kerosene on her person, she would have been alerted by its smell and would have tried to escape from the situation. Nothing of this sort seems to have happened. Lakharam discloses in his evidence that she was in a standing position and her clothes were burning. On pouring a bucket full of water, she fell down. Having regard to her age and having regard to the situation in which she is alleged to have received the burn injuries, it is rather hard to come to a conclusion that the accused must have been responsible for the act alleged against her. As stated above, a doubt is entertained as to whether the accused had poured kerosene oil and set on fire the clothes of the deceased and the deceased remain quiet and motionless without any attempt to get rid of the whole situation. The empty bottles are seized from the house of the accused. A stove and a match box were also seized. The stove was not found broken, as panchanama does not state so, so as to infer that burn injuries were caused to the deceased because of any accident. The cumulative effect of all these circumstances does not lead us to an irresistible conclusion that the accused had been responsible to throw kerosene oil and set fire to the clothes of the deceased. In our opinion, therefore, the accused is entitled to a benefit of doubt. For the reasons stated above, this appeal deserves to be allowed.

20. In the result, the criminal appeal is allowed. The order of conviction and sentence passed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Aurangabad, dated June 27, 1978, under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code in Sessions Case No. 82 of 1977 is set aside and the accused is acquitted of the charge levelled against her. The accused is no bail, the bail bond stands cancelled.


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