1. Mst. Piyajo, aged 17 years, has been convicted under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code for the murder of her husband Nanka on 23rd September 1955 at village Raghunathpur and sentenced to imprisonment for life thereunder by the Additional Sessions Judge, Ambikapur.
2. The accused Piyajo and her husband Nanka (deceased) lived in village Raghunathpur with Nanka's brother Bhudhau (P. W. 1) and their mother Mangli. Mahadeo (P. W. 2), who is the elder brother of Nanka, lives in the same village but separate from them. They belong to Korba Adiwasi tribe. The males and females of this tribe are addicted to take liquor. On 23rd September, 1955, the accused and her husband went to the liquor shop in the village which is situated outside the basti. Late in the night the accused alone returned to the village. Next morning, the two brothers of Nanka went in search of him and found his dead body lying in the mud in his field in which paddy crop was standing. He had injuries on his neck and head.
3. On receiving the first information report from Mahadeo (P. W. 2), Sub-Inspector Laxman singh (P. W. 19) went to the field and held the inquest. The dead body was sent for post-mortem examination. A silver ring (Article A) was found in the field at a distance of about 30 to 40 paces from the spot where the dead body of Nanka was lying. The dhoti (Article C) belonging to the deceased was seized from the house of the father of the accused in village Silsilia.
4. Dr. Mahajan (P. W. 22) held the autopsy. He found four incised wounds on the left side of the head and neck. In his opinion, death was due to shock and haemorrhage as a result of the injuries to the head and neck. All the injuries were ante mortem and were sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. It is established that Nanka's death was homicidal.
5. The prosecution case is that Piyajo used to work as a coolie under masons at the school building at Raghunathpur, The deceased had scolded her as she overstayed after the work was finished in the evening. He had also threatened to beat her for coming home late. On 23rd September 1955, in the evening, both the husband and wife drank liquor at the liquor shop at Raghunathpur, and thereafter on their way back home the accused killed her husband when he was in a drunken state and threw his dead body in the mud in his paddy field.
6. The accused abjured her guilt. She denied the entire prosecution story.
7. There is no direct evidence in this case. The accused has been convicted by the Additional Sessions Judge on the following circumstantial evidence :
1. The accused and the deceased were last seen together after consuming liquor.
2. The axe (Article A-1), which is said to have been used for assaulting the deceased, was discovered by the accused from a place about 40 paces from their house.
3. The dhoti (Article C) belonging to the deceased, which he had carried with him on the date of the occurrence, was recovered from the house of the father of the accused in village Silsilia.
4. The sari (Article B), which was seized from the person of the accused, was found to be stained with human blood.
5. The silver ring (Article A) belonging to the accused was found near the dead body of the deceased
8. Etwa (P. W. 3) has deposed that while he was returning from the house of the kotwar he saw Nanka and Piyajo both standing in their courtyard. They were putting on clothes and were ready for going out. He enquired from them where they were going, and Nanka told him that they were going to the liquor shop. Mangli (P. W. 6) is the mother of the deceased. She says that on Friday, in the morning at about 9 or 10 a. m. when her son Nanka and daughter-in-law Piyajo went to the liquor shop for drinking wine, Nanka had wrapped the dhoti (Article C) around him.
None of the two returned home till sunset. She, therefore, set out in search of them and went to the house of the Kotwar. He was out and while she was talking to his wife, Piyajo came there. On being questioned she told her that Nanka had got drunk and as he asked her to go ahead she had come away. She further said that he would be following. She does not say that at this time she saw dhoti (Article C) with her. Parvati (P. W. 9) is the wife of Sohan (P. W. 10) who owns the liquor shop. Both of them say that at about 6 o' clock in the evening Nanka and Piyajo were drinking liquor at their shop.
Nanka offered them some liquor and they drank it. Nanka and Piyajo remained sitting at the liquor shop till late in the evening. Muletan Sao (P. W. 14) used to sit at the counter of the liquor shop. He supports the testimony of Parvati and Sohan. He further says that after drinking liquor Nanka and Piyajo went away from the liquor shop. There is no reason to disbelieve the testimony of the above-named prosecution witnesses. It has been established by the prosecution that both the deceased and the accused were last seen together leaving the liquor shop late in the evening after consuming liquor.
9. The evidence of Mangli (P. W. 6) that the accused alone returned in the evening to the house of the kotwar is supported by Kamal Kunwar (P. W. 7), wife of the kotwar. After informing them that the deceased had asked her to go ahead and was following, the accused slept in the house of the kotwar for the night. The following morning she went to her father's house in village Silsilia. There she met her step-mother Sanjho (P. W. 16). According to the latter, the accused came to her weeping and, when questioned by her father, told him that somebody had killed her husband Nanka and thrown away the corpse.
Alwa (P. W. 17), father of the accused, corroborates the testimony of Sanjho. He also says that at his instance Sanjho escorted the accused to Raghunathpur at her husband's house the same evening. On reaching Raghunathpur, they met Mangli (P. W. 6) and Sumari (P. W. 18) who is the sister of deceased's father. At that time, no one enquired from the accused about Nanka, nor did they disclose that the accused had told them that Nanka had been killed and his body was lying in the field. There is nothing in the conduct of the accused to connect her with the crime.
10. A dhoti was seized the following day from the house of Alwa under seizure memo Ex. P-11. It was subsequently identified by Mangli (P. W. 6) as belonging to the deceased. Aiwa (P. W. 17) has deposed that when Piyajo came to his house in the morning on Saturday she was wearing one sari and had covered herself with another. When she returned to Raghunathpur, she left the sari with which she had covered herself.
He and his wife Sanjho (P. Ws. 17 and 16) when asked to identify the article with which the accused had covered herself and which was seized from their house identified the article as Article B. It is therefore not definitely established that the accused had covered herself with Article C, the dhoti of the deceased, when shecame to her parents' house on Saturday morning and that she had left it there. The sari (Article B), which was worn by the accused, was seized from her person under seizure memorandum Ex. P-12. The tabbal (Article A-1) was recovered at the instance of the accused from the bari of Jarha. The above articles were sent to the Chemical Examiner who detected blood stains on them.
The Serologist could not determine the origin of the blood stains on the axe (Article A-1) and the dhoti (Article C) but the sari (Article B) was found to be stained with human blood. The accused has in her defence staled that she was in menses which accounted for the blood stains found on the sari (Article B). The explanation given by the accused cannot be ruled out. Nobody had seen the accused or the deceased carrying the axe (Article A-1) with them when they left their house in the morning for going to the liquor shop or at any time thereafter. Under these circumstances the aforesaid article cannot be considered as incriminating the accused.
11. The ring (Article A) was seized from the embankment of the paddy field where the dead body of Nanka was found. It has been identified as belonging to the accused by the mother of the deceased, Mst. Mangli (P. W. 6), the brothers of the deceased Budhan and Mahadeo (P. Ws. 1 and 2) and the village lohar Bartiya (P. W. 13) who claims to have prepared it. It is a common silver ring with a hook having a half-rupee coin bearing an impression of the King Edward the VII, affixed to it.
There is nothing special about it and Bartiya (P. W. 13) admits that he has made several similar rings for various other people. No special reason has been given by the witnesses for identifying it. We have read the evidence regarding the identification of the ring and it does not impress us as reliable. The discovery of the ring (Article A) near the dead body of Nanka, in our opinion, does not therefore connect the accused with the crime.
12. The dead body was found in the paddy field of the deceased himself. P. W. 14 Mulelan Sao says that there is only one way and no other for coming to the liquor shop from Raghunathpur and that it is a busy way, with traffic 'even in the night. The dead body was found lying only about 25 paces from this busy road (See the evidence of Lachhmansingh, Sub-Inspector P. W. 19) and yet there is no evidence of anybody having seen them on this road or near it on the date of the incident after they left the liquor shop.
There is also the evidence of Kamal Kunwar (P. W. 7) that when an enquiry was made from her as to where she had been, she had replied that after drinking liquor, her husband had asked her to go ahead and that he would follow her and had further put an oath that she will not go to the house of Nanka, which suggests that she was not with the deceased when he met his death, and there is no evidence to prove to the contrary.
13. The only piece of evidence which can be said to be against her is the statementmade by her (Ex. P-9) in pursuance of which she discovered the blood-stained balua (Article A-1) from the field of Jarha. The admissible portion of Ex. P-9 is :
'the balua ...... is hidden in the badi of Jarha. Come along, I shall produce the same.'
She does not say that she had hidden it and consequently there is no evidence of her exclusive possession of this article even if it be held to be incriminating -- which there is reason to doubt -- as the origin of the blood stains on this article could not be ascertained by the Serologist as they had disintegrated. Under the circumstances, no use can be made of this discovery to fasten the authorship of the crime on the accused.
14. Circumstantial evidence in order to furnish a basis for conviction requires a high degree of probability, that is, so sufficiently high that a prudent man, considering all the facts and realizing that the life and liberty of the accused depends upon the decision, feels justified in holding that the accused committed the crime. It must be consistent and consistent only with the guilt of the accused. If any rational explanation is possible, then there is an element of doubt of which the accused must be given the benefit.
15. In our opinion, all the circumstances, on which the Additional Sessions Judge has based the conviction of the accused in this case arc not conclusively established and some of the facts established are not consistent only with the guilt of the accused. We therefore hold that the prosecution has failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond all reasonable doubt.
16. The conviction of the accused under Section 302, I. P. C. and the sentence of imprisonment for life passed on her thereunder are accordingly set aside and she is acquitted. She shall be set at liberty forthwith.