Friday, July 18, 2014

woman murdered 1987. case at SC 2014. 27 yrs latr, husband's convictn confirmd! speedy justice?

woman murdered 1987. case at SC 2014. 27 yrs latr, husband's conviction confirmed! if such a henious crime takes 27 years to reach apex court, how are we to dispense speedy justice?

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                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA


                      CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1986  OF 2009

KHIM SINGH                                     … APPELLANT



                               J U D G M E N T

Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya, J.

      This appeal is directed against the judgment dated 24th  August,  2005 passed by the High Court of  Uttaranchal(now  Uttarakhand)  at  Nainital  in Criminal Appeal No.1388 of 2001 (Old No.-Criminal Appeal No.1165  of  1988). By the impugned judgment the High Court upheld the  judgment  and  order  of conviction dated 30th March, 1988, passed by the Sessions Judge,  Almora  in Sessions Trial No.54 of 1987, State vs. Khim  Singh,  whereby  the  accused-appellant was convicted for the offence punishable  under  Section  302  IPC and was sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life. ; ;

2.    Brief facts, giving rise to the present appeal as  emerging  from  the material on record, are that the accused Khim Singh was  residing  with  his wife Himuli Devi in his residential house at village Simgari. He has a  son, named Mohan Singh, who was  also  residing  with  them,  but  sometimes,  he resided with his grandmother, who resides in the adjacent house  of  Laccham Singh, brother of accused-Khim singh.  Earlier  accused-Khim  Singh  was  in service outside his village, but for the last 4-5 years  he  had  come  back and was working as labourer. His wife, Himuli Devi, was  a  short-  tempered woman and she often quarrelled with Khim Singh.  It  was  suspected  in  the village that she was a woman of loose character  and  on  account  of  this, accused-Khim Singh was also not in good terms with her. Often they  used  to be quarrelled with each other. On 17th July,  1987,  also  in  the  evening, they had a quarrel. Early in the morning of 18th  July,  1987,  one  Bahadur Singh (since deceased), a resident of the village, while  passing  in  front of the house of the accused-Khim Singh found that the door  was  closed  and there was none outside. He opened the door and went  inside  the  house  and found Himuli Devi lying dead. He raised an alarm, on which,  the  mother  of the accused also came there. He called the Sabhapati of the  village,  Bachi Singh also. They all saw that Himuli Devi was lying inside the room,  having injuries on her body and she was dead.

3.    The Sabhapati of the village, Bachi Singh, prepared a written  report, Ext.Ka-1. It was sent to the Patwari  of  the  Kshetra  through  one  Kishan Singh. In the said report, Sabhapati  mentioned  that  it  was  accused-Khim Singh who killed his wife Himuli Devi and requested the Patwari to come  and investigate the matter. The written report  was  received  by  the  Patwari, Narain Singh, at 11.30 a.m.  on  18th  July,  1987  and  on  that  basis  he prepared the FIR, Ext.Ka-3.  He  came  to  the  house  of  Bachi  Singh  and recorded his statement. Accompanied by Bachi Singh, he went to the house  of the accused, where Himuli Devi was found lying dead inside  the  house.  The dead body was taken into custody  and  the  inquest  report,  Ext.Ka-4,  was prepared and the dead body  was  sealed.  The  letter  with  a  request  for postmortem, Ext.Ka-5, was also prepared.  The  blood  stained  clothes  were taken into custody from the dead body and Fard, Ext.Ka-6 was prepared.  From the place where the dead body was lying, blood stained and plain earth  were also taken and sealed and a Fard,  Ext.Ka-7,  was  prepared.  The  scene  of occurrence was also  reflected  in  site  plan  Ext.Ka-8.  The  accused-Khim Singh, who was present  there,  was  arrested  and  a  Fard,  Ext.Ka-9,  was prepared. At the instance of the accused, a blood-stained Kulhari (axe)  was found inside the house and  a  Fard,  Ext.Ka-2,  was  prepared.  The  sealed articles were handed over to the peon and Fard, Ext.Ka-10 was prepared.  The statements of Manuli Devi (PW-1) and Khimuli Devi (PW-2) were  recorded.  In between 19th  and  22th  July,  1987  the  statements  of  other  witnesses, including Joga Singh (PW-5) were recorded. The  sealed  articles  were  sent for  chemical  examination.  The  investigation  was   completed   and   the chargesheet dated 22nd August, 1988, Ext.Ka-14, was  submitted  against  the accused. ; ;

4.    The dead body was sent for postmortem which was conducted by Dr.  N.D. Punetha, on 19th July, 1987, at  11.30  a.m.  at  Bagesnwar.  He  found  the following ante mortem injuries on the dead body:

"1.   Incised wound 5 cm x 2 cm bone  deep  present  on  the  left  side  of mastoid region of the head. Margins were lacerated and well defined.

2.    Contusion 5 cm x 3 cm present on the occipital  region  of  the  head. Semi digested food material was coming out from the mouth."

5.    On internal examination, the bone under the two injuries was found  to be fractured. Clotted blood was also found beneath these  injuries.  In  the stomach, a small quantity of semi-digested food material  was  found.  There were gases in the small and large intestines. This death, in the opinion  of the Medical Officer resulted from shock and haemorrhage, caused by  the  two injuries, found on the  dead  body,  which  were  sufficient  for  death  in ordinary course of nature. The postmortem report, Ext.Ka-15,  was  prepared. The time since death was about one day and in the  opinion  of  the  doctor, this death could have occurred in the night of 17th/18th July, 1987. He  has also given an opinion that the injuries were caused with  some  heavy  sharp edged weapon like Kulhari. ; ;

6.     The  Patwari-Simgari,   after   completing   necessary   formalities, submitted a charge sheet dated  22nd  August,  1987,  against  the  accused, Ext.Ka-14, to the Court of CJM, Almora. Since the  offence  was  exclusively triable by the Court of Sessions, the case was  committed  to  the  Sessions Judge, Almora for trial of the  accused.  The  Sessions  Judge  charged  the accused under Section 302 IPC, who pleaded not  guilty  to  the  charge  and claimed to be tried.

7.    In order to bring home the guilt of the accused, the  prosecution,  in oral evidence, examined as many as seven witnesses, namely, Manuli Devi (PW-1)-mother-in-law of the deceased; Khimuli Devi (PW-2)-sister-in-law  of  the deceased(gotani), Mohan Singh(PW-3)-minor  son  of  the  deceased  with  the accused, Bachi Singh(PW-4), Joga Singh(PW-5)-  a  neighbour;  Narain  Singh-Patwari (PW-6) and Dr. N.D. Punetha(PW.7)  who conducted the  postmortem  on the dead body  of  the  deceased.  Prosecution  also  tendered  in  evidence affidavit of Bhagwat Singh, peon of Patwari, dated 5th  January,  1988.  All the documents referred to above were filed by  the  prosecution.  The  Trial Court on appreciation of evidence,  both  oral  and  documentary,  based  on circumstantial evidence held the accused-Khim Singh guilty  of  the  offence punishable under Section 302 IPC.

8.    Mr. Feroz Ahmed, amicus curiae appearing  on  behalf  of  the  accused assailed the judgment mainly on the ground that there is no  complete  chain of circumstantial evidence to bring home the guilt of the  accused.  It  was contended that the appellant cannot be  convicted  merely  on  suspicion  in absence of any eye-witness. It was also contended that  the  relatives  like mother-in-law (PW-1), sister-in-law (PW-2) and  even  the  neighbours  Bachi Singh (PW-4) and Joga Singh (PW-5) were declared  hostile  and  hence  there was no sufficient evidence to prove the accused guilty.

9.    In this case, there was no eye-witness of  the  occurrence.  The  case was based on the circumstantial evidence. Manuli Devi (PW-1), the mother  of the accused in her testimony, stated that  there  was  quarrel  between  the accused and his wife, Himuli Devi,in the evening of 17th July, 1987, on  the festival of Harela. On the next morning, i.e. 18th July, 1987,  one  Bahadur Singh found the door of the house of the accused closed and when  he  pushed the door, he found Himuli Devi lying dead inside the  house.  Bahadur  Singh called Bachi Singh (PW-4), the Sabhapati. Thereafter, the Patwari also  came on the spot. However, she stated that after  the  dispute  between  accused-Khim Singh and Himuli Devi she had not seen accused-Khim Singh and  she  was declared hostile. However, she admitted that in the house  only  Khim  Singh and his wife were living. His son Mohan Singh was living with  her.  Khimuli Devi (PW-2), is the wife of Lachham Singh, brother of the  accused,  sister-in-law of the deceased Himuli Devi (gotani). According to her, she  did  not know whether any quarrel took place between the accused  and  the  deceased. She had gone to her field on the day of Harela festival.  The  next  morning also, she had gone to the field, but when she  came  back,  she  saw  Himuli Devi lying dead. Mohan Singh (PW-3), is the minor son  of  the  accused.  He stated that he was inside the house of his grandmother and he did  not  know as to what happened in the house of his father. ; ;

10.   Bachi Singh (PW-4), is the Pradhan of  the  village.  He  stated  that Khim Singh and his wife Himuli Devi often quarrelled.  It  was  also  talked amongst the villagers that the wife of the accused was  of  loose  character and on that count accused Khim Singh was annoyed  with  his  wife  and  they frequently quarrelled. He further stated that on 17th  July,  1987,  in  the evening, there was a quarrel between  Khim  Singh  and  his  wife,  deceased Himuli Devi. Early in the morning, at about 6.30 a.m.,  the  mother  of  the accused came to him and informed that Himuli Devi had not got  up  and  Khim Singh was also not there. When he went to the house of Khim Singh, he  found that the door was open and found that Himuli  Devi  was  lying  injured  and dead. Khim Singh was not  found  there.  Bahadur  Singh,  Joga  Singh(PW-5), Lachham singh, Ram Singh and others also came and by that time,  Khim  Singh was also found coming towards his house.  He  also  testified  that  he  got prepared the written report,Ext.Ka-1, scribed  by  Bahadur  Singh,  and  the same was sent to the Patwari concerned. He further stated that when  Patwari came, a blood stained Kulhari was recovered from the house at  the  instance of the accused and the  Fard,  Ext.Ka-2,  was  prepared.  Joga  Singh(PW-5), another resident of the village, in his testimony, very hesitatingly  stated that the wife of accused was not of loose character. He stated that he  went to the house of Khim Singh when the Sabhapati called  him  there.  There  he found Himuli Devi dead. Accused-Khim Singh was not  present  there  at  that time, but after a short-while he was seen coming to his house. Narain  Singh (PW-6), Patwari,is the  Investigating  Officer  and  Dr.  N.D.Punetha(PW-7), conducted postmortem on the dead body. Both of  them  are  formal  witnesses and had proved their report. The evidence of Mohan Singh (PW-3), aged  about 8 years, minor son of the accused-Khim Singh, is not at all material. ; ;

11.   The accused-appellant in  his  statement  under  Section  313  Cr.P.C. denied the accusations levelled against him. He, denied that  his  wife  did not obey him and he used to quarrel with her. He also denied  that  she  was of loose character and that he was  annoyed  with  her  on  that  count.  He asserted that he was not present  there  at  the  alleged  time  of   death, therefore, there was no question of quarrel and altercation between him  and his wife. The accused did not disclose as to where he was  on  the  relevant date. However, he denied the  recovery  of  blood  stained  Kulhari  at  his instance. He claimed that the witnesses were  inimical  to  him  hence  they have falsely given evidence against him. In reply  to  question  No.11,  the accused stated that he cannot claim if his wife was murdered by  Kulhari  on the relevant date and time. He admitted that Patwari arrested  him  on  18th July, 1987. He also claimed that he had no reason to kill his wife, who  had been living with him for the last about 17 years.

12.   Himuli Devi died in the night intervening 17th  and  18th  July,  1987 and her death  was  fully  proved  by  the  postmortem  report  prepared  by Dr.N.D.Punetha(PW-7). It is not disputed that  the  deceased  suffered  from ante mortem injuries, as detailed above. It is also not  disputed  that  two injuries found on  the  person  of  the  deceased  were  sufficient  in  the ordinary course of nature to cause death. It has not  been  challenged  that the ante mortem injuries could be self-inflicted.  The  prosecution  thereby established that the deceased Himuli Devi died as a result  of  ante  mortem injuries sustained by her in the  night  intervening  17th  and  18th  July, 1987.

13.   From the perusal of the entire evidence on record, we  find  that  the prosecution in order to bring home the guilt of the accused has relied  upon the testimony of Manuli Devi(PW-1), Khimuli Devi (PW-2),  Bachi  Singh(PW-4) and Joga Singh (PW-5). In order to see whether frequent quarrels were  there between the accused and his wife, the  statements  of  these  witnesses  are relevant to be discussed. ; ;

14.   Manuli Devi(PW-1), is the mother of the accused and  mother-in-law  of the deceased. That being so, there can be  no  reason  for  her  to  falsely implicate her son in the commission of murder. In her statement  she  stated that the wife  of  Khim  Singh,  Himuli  Devi,  did  not  obey  Khim  Singh, therefore, Khim Singh was unhappy with her. She further stated that  on  the festival of Harela in the evening, there was a quarrel  between  Khim  Singh and his wife. The next day in the morning, when  Bahadur  Singh  opened  the door of the house of Himuli Devi, she also found Himuli Devi lying dead.  In her cross-examination she further testified  that  in  the  evening  of  the alleged mis-happening the accused was present in the  house  and  he  had  a quarrel with his wife. She  also  stated  that  Himuli  Devi  was  s  short-tempered woman and had often the accused  assaulted  her.  She  also  stated that earlier Himuli Devi had gone to jungle  to  hang  herself.  The  entire testimony of such a natural witness cannot  be  thrown  out  merely  if  the prosecution asked to declare her hostile and on their request she was cross-examined by the prosecution. The first circumstance  that  Himuli  Devi  was short-tempered was further corroborated by the statement of Bachi Singh (PW-4) Pradhan of the village.  Generally  the  Pradhan  of  the  village  keeps general information regarding the family matters and tries  to  settle  such matter in the village. Pradhan is instrumental to settle family disputes  at his level, therefore, as and when any such incident happens, the Pradhan  is immediately intimated. In the instant  case,  Pradhan  (PW-4)  prepared  the written report, got it scribed by  Bahadur  Singh,who  had  first  seen  the deceased lying dead inside her house and called the Pradhan  immediately  on the spot. In his statement, Bachi Singh, Pradhan, specifically  stated  that Khim Singh and his wife often used to quarrel and there was a rumour in  the village that Himuli Devi was a woman of loose character and  on  account  of the result accused Khim Singh was unhappy with her.

15.   Joga Singh (PW-5), is also a resident  of  the  same  village.  Though hesitatingly, this witness stated that so far as he knew  the  character  of Himuli Devi  was  good.  The  learned  Sessions  Judge  observed  that  such statement of Joga Singh(PW-5) is indicative of  fact  that  probably  Himuli Devi was a woman on whom Joga  Singh  (PW-5)  never  intended  to  make  any specific remark. However, Joga Singh (PW-5)  stated  that  accused  and  his wife sometimes used to have amicable relation and  sometimes  they  used  to quarrel. ; ;

16.   From the above narration of the testimony of the witnesses, it can  be concluded that for the reason aforesaid, the accused was  unhappy  with  his wife Himuli Devi and this resulted in quarrels between them off and on.  The quarrel took place even in the evening preceding the date of the death.

17.   In the night intervening 17th and 18th  July,  1987  Himuli  Devi  was killed by means of a Kulhari. Except accused Khim Singh nobody was  residing in the said house. Therefore, Himuli Devi could not be killed  as  a  result of assault by anybody else other  than  the  accused.  The  conduct  of  the accused in the morning of 18th  July,  1987  was  unnatural.  He  failed  to explain as to where he remained on the fateful night. In the  background  of the  aforesaid  circumstances,  it  has   to   be   examined   whether   the circumstances relied upon by the prosecution formed a series of  events  and whether the chain of circumstantial evidence was complete,  which  could  be sufficient to show involvement of the accused in the commission of murder.

18.   Manuli Devi (PW-1), clearly stated that in the evening of  17th  July, 1987, Khim Singh and his wife had a quarrel. She,  however,  added  that  it was before the sunset. Manuli Devi being the mother  of  the  accused  is  a very natural  witness  and  the  credibility  of  her  testimony  cannot  be discarded. It is in her statement  that  she  lived  with  her  another  son Lachham Singh in a separate house, which is adjacent to  the  house  of  the accused. She stated in unequivocal terms that Khim Singh and his wife  lived together and she(Himuli Devi) did not obey the accused. Bachi Singh  (PW-4), who is also a close neighbor, also stated that on the  festival  of  Harela, i.e., on 17th July, 1987 at about 6.30 p.m., a quarrel  took  place  between the accused and his wife and the shouts were heard by  him.   This  part  of his statement has not been challenged in the corss-examination. Bachi  Singh (PW-4), being  Pradhan  of  the  village  is  an  independent  witness  and, therefore, there was no reason for him to falsely implicate the accused  for the offence of murder. Therefore, the prosecution successfully  proved  that there was a quarrel between the  accused  and  his  wife  in  the  preceding evening. ; ;

19.   The accused in his statement under Section 313  Cr.P.C.  in  reply  to the question Nos. 3 and 4 stated that on 17th July, 1987 he was not  at  his house. Such statement cannot be  believed  in  absence  of  any  explanation given by the accused as where he was in the  night  between  17th  and  18th July, 1987. The accused could not explain as to where he was  in  the  night of 17th July, 1987.  The  conduct  of  the  accused  was  unnatural  in  not disclosing the place where he remained  in  the  fateful  night,  making  it clear that his statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C. was not believable.  From the testimony of the real mother of the accused, Manuli Devi (PW-1) as  well as Bachi Singh (PW-4), Pradhan of the village, it is fully established  that the accused was very much present in the house  on  the  fateful  night  and there was a quarrel between the accused and his wife. In the absence of  any reason for leaving his house, it can be held that the  accused  remained  in his house in that night.

20.   Joga Singh(PW-5), in his testimony stated that  when  Khim  Singh  was found in the morning, he was asked about  his  whereabouts,  in  the  night, which he could not explain.

21.   Learned Sessions Judge for the said reason in  the  judgment  observed that "this conduct of the accused in  not  explaining  the  alleged  absence from the house would go to show the case taken by him  that  he  was  absent from the house is not believable. Obviously, the prosecution has  been  able to establish beyond doubt that this accused was present at his house in  the night between 17th and 18th July, 1987. Having considered  the  material  on record, the High Court was unable to disagree with the  finding  arrived  at by the learned Sessions Judge on the point that the accused Khim Singh,  was very much present in his house on the fateful day and we  do  not  find  any reason to disagree with such finding. Thus, the third circumstance is  fully proved by the prosecution. ; ;

22.   The statement of Bachi Singh (PW-4), who clearly stated that  none  of the residents of the village had any enmity with the  deceased  Himuli  Devi is very relevant. It is evident from the record that the accused  failed  to assign any reason for the alleged enmity of the villagers and he  could  not utter a single word to that  effect  in  his  statement  under  Section  313 Cr.P.C. Therefore, there is no reason to infer that anybody  else  from  the village could have committed the murder of Himuli Devi who was in the  house along with the accused-husband  on  the  fateful  night.  The  Investigation Officer, Narain Singh (PW-6), Patwari, was examined by the  prosecution.  He clearly stated that at the instance of the  accused,  Kulhari  used  in  the crime was recovered.  He  was  cross-examined  by  the  defence.  In  cross-examination, he clearly denied the suggestion that the  Kulhari  (weapon  of assault) was not recovered at the  instance  of  the  accused.  The  Medical Officer, Dr. N.D. Punetha (PW-7) in his examination  in  chief  stated  that ante mortem injury No.1 on the  person  of  the  deceased  could  have  been caused by heavy sharp-edged weapon such as Kulhari  and  injury  No.2  could have been caused by the blunt/rear side blow of Kulhari or by  fall  on  the stony surface. This part of his statement was not questioned in  his  cross-examination. It has come in the statement of  Investigation  Officer  (PW.6) that Kulhari recovered on the pointing of the accused was blood-stained  and hair was stuck on it. He  was  cross-examined  regarding  the  blood-stained portion  of  the  Kulhari  and  the  weight  of  the  Kulhari,  etc.  It  is established  that  blood-stained  Kulhari-Ext.Ka-2   was   seized   by   the Investigating Officer at the house of the accused.

23.   Homicidal death of Himuli Devi is corroborated by the conduct  of  the accused in the morning of 18th July, 1987. Joga  Singh  (PW-5)  stated  that when the  accused  was  found  in  the  morning,  he  was  asked  about  his whereabouts in the night and he was not able to  explain  it.  Even  Khimuli Devi (PW-2) wife of the brother of the accused, Lachham Singh,  stated  that accused was outside the house in  the  morning  wandering  here  and  there. Although accused was raising hue and cry that his wife was killed, he  never bothered to contact the Pradhan or the Patwari concerned to lodge  a  report in the matter. However, statement of the accused that he was not present  at the house in the night seems to be  unbelievable  considering  the  positive and credible testimony of Manuli Devi (PW-1) and  other  witnesses  referred to above.

24.   Bachi Singh (PW-4), stated that door of the house of the  accused  was not bolted from inside. This  is  one  of  the  incriminating  circumstances which can be taken into consideration to conclude  that  the  accused  after committing offence opened the door and went out.

25.   The statements of Manuli Devi (PW-1)-mother of  accused,  Bachi  Singh (Pw-4)- Pradhan and Khimuli Devi (PW-2)-  sister-in-law  also  suggest  that the accused was last seen with the deceased.

26.   The above narration of chain of circumstantial  evidence  relied  upon by the prosecution in the present  case  lead  to  the  inference  that  the accused is guilty for the offence of  murder  of  Himuli  Devi  as  all  the circumstances taken together lead to only hypothesis of  the  guilt  of  the accused-appellant. The chain of circumstantial evidence relied upon  by  the prosecution  is  complete  to  hold  the  accused  guilty  of  the   offence punishable under Section 302 IPC. We hold that  the  accused-appellant  Khim Singh was rightly convicted and sentenced under Section  302  IPC  for  life imprisonment by the learned Sessions Judge as affirmed by the High Court. ; ;

27.   As a result, the appeal preferred  by  the  accused-appellant  has  no force and the same is liable to be dismissed. The  appeal  is,  accordingly, dismissed. The impugned judgment under appeal is upheld. We  appreciate  the endeavour made by the learned amicus curiae, Mr. Feroze Ahmed  in  assisting the Court in the matter and direct to pay a sum of Rs.7,000/- as fee to  the amicus curiae.


                                     (SUDHANSU JYOTI MUKHOPADHAYA)


                                           (V. GOPALA GOWDA)


JULY 8, 2014.

ITEM NO.IB (For Judgment)    COURT NO.6          SECTION II

               S U P R E M E  C O U R T  O F  I N D I A

                       RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS

Criminal Appeal No(s). 1986/2009

KHIM SINGH                                       Appellant(s)


STATE OF UTTRAKHAND                             Respondent(s)

Date :08/07/2014 This appeal was called on for judgment today.

For Appellant(s)                     Mr. Feroz Ahmed (A.C.)

For Respondent(s)                        Mr. Jatinder Kumar Bhatia, Adv.

            Hon'ble Mr. Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya  pronounced  the judgment of the Bench comprising His Lordship and  Hon'ble  Mr.  Justice  V. Gopala Gowda.

            The appeal is dismissed in terms of the signed judgment.

(Sukhbir Paul Kaur)                    (Usha Sharma)

   Court Master                          Court Master

    (Signed reportable judgment is placed on the file)


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