of Andhra Pradesh Vs. Gangula Satya Murthy  INSC
1452 (19 November 1996)
Anand, K.T. Thomas Thomas, J.
of sixteen (Satya Vani) was raped and throttled to death. This was the gravamen
of the charge put against respondent Gangula Satya Murthy alias Babu. Sessions
Court convicted him under Section 502 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code and
sentenced him to imprisonment for life and rigorous imprisonment for 7 years
respectively under the two counts.
appeal, a Division Bench of the High Court of Andhra pradesh acquitted him.
This appeal by special leave has been filed by the State of Andhra Pradesh in challenge of the said order of
shall state the facts of the case as put fourth by the prosecution:
was a student of 10th Standard. She was residing with her parents in the
village Talluru (East Godawari District). Respondent Babu, a married youngman,
was residing with his mother in their house situated near the house of the
deceased. Satya Vani used to visit respondent`s house to see television programmes
as there was no television set available in her house. Respondent developed, in
course of time, an infatuation for Satya Vani, but the overtures made by him
not favourably reciprocated by her.
evening of 26.11.1991. Satya Vani was sent by her parents to the house where
her grand-parents lived with some errand. While returning from there she
stopped into respondent`s house for seeing the telecast programmes.
was all alone then in that house as his mother had gone to the town to see a
cinema show. Taking advantage of the absence of anyone else in the house,
respondent subjected Satya Vani to sexual intercourse by forcibly putting her
on the cot. When she threatened that she would complain it to her parents
respondent caught hold of her neck and throttled her to death. A little later
respondent went out of the house bolting it from outside.
Vani did not return home even after a song time her parents became panicky and
they made hectic enquiries for her. When respondent`s mother reached home by
about 10 P.M., she sound Satya Vani`s dead body lying on the cot in her house,
and she immediately conveyed the frightening new to her anxious parents.
was informed of the matter and an FIR under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal
Procedure was prepared, and the inquest on the dead body was held by the Sub
Inspector of Police. During autopsy it was revealed that Satya Vani was
subjected to sexual intercourse and her death was due to throttling.
2.12.1991, respondent was physically produced before the police by two
residents of the locality (PW-6 and PW-7) on the premise that respondent had
admitted his guilt to them. A letter which Satya Vani had addressed to the respondent
was also delivered to the police. After completing the investigation,
respondent was challaned.
court found on evidence, which is entirely circumstantial, that respondent had
raped the deceased girl and killed her by throttling. Accordingly the
respondent was convicted and sentenced as aforesaid.
following circumstances were found by the sessions court as established firmly
by the prosecution:
Vani was seen entering the house of the respondent by about 5.30 P.M.:
After some time respondent was seen going out of the house bolting the door
Death of Satya Vani took place inside the house of the respondent some time
between 6 P.M. and 10 P.M.;
She was subjected to sexual intercourse before her death and she died due to
Respondent alone was present in the house during the relevant time besides the
Extra Judicial confession was made by the respondent to PW-6 and PW-7.
Division Bench of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, however, expressed the view
that possibility of deceased`s death due to consumption of poison, could not be
ruled out in this case. Learned Judges entertained the doubt that the injuries
on the neck including the fracture of the hyoid bone could have ben post-mortem
injuries. Further, the extra judicial confession spoken to by PW-6 and PW-7 was
to acted on by the High Court due to certain infirmities pointed out in the
judgment. Resultantly, the High Curt reversed the judgment of the sessions
court and passed the order of acquittal.
counsel, who argued for the State, seriously assailed the reasoning of the High
Court for reaching the findings. When we perused the records in the light of
the arguments addressed by both sides we are of the opinion that the High Court
has manifestly erred in reversing the findings arrived at by the trial court.
We shall now advert to our reasons.
Trinadahrao (PW-10) of the Government Hospital who conducted the post-mortem
examination has recorded his observations in the certificated as follows:
are ante-mortem in nature. Two finger pressure abrasions were present on the
right as well as on the left side of the neck placed anteriorly, which
continued up to the root level on the back of the neck. A fresh vaginal tear on
the inner vaginal walls posterior to labia minora, fracture of the right hyoid
bone and extravagation of blood on both sides of the neck were found. Both
lungs were congested. Emphysematoas bullae were present on the surface of both
the lungs." When the vaginal swabs collected from the deceased were
examined under microscope, presence of dead non-motile spermatozoa were
observed by the doctor.
High Court has reached the conclusion that fracture of the hyoid was likely to
be a post-mortem injury caused while the dead body was carried in a rickshaw.
Learned Judges have advanced the following reasons for reaching the said conclusion
Witnesses who were present at the inquest as well as the investigating officer
did not notice any abrasion or other injury on the nick of the dead body;
Dr. Trinadharao (PW-10) admitted in cross-examination that "if pressure is
applied by fingers, only contusions are possible bur not abrasions."
PW-10 has further stated in his deposition that if the fracture on the hyoid
bone was ante-mortem there would have been corresponding bleeding but no such
bleeding noted by the doctor during the autopsy.
The doctor witness has stated that it is possible for causing fracture of the
hyoid bone when a dead body is carried in auto-rickshaw.
cannot resist expressing our distress that the High Court has chosen to advance
fragile reasons to upset a well reasoned conclusion reached by the trial court
that the deceased was throttled to death. The mere fact that witnesses present
at the inquest had escaped noticing the small abrasions on the neck of the dead
body is too tenuous a ground for holding that such abrasions would have come
into existence after the inquest was held overruling the definite opinion of
the medical man (who saw the injuries) that they were ante-mortem injuries. It
is totally incorrect to say that no abrasion would be caused if pressure is
applied with fingers would quite possibly cause abrasions as well. Similarly
the observation of the High Court that no bleeding was noticed at the site of
the fracture of the hyoid bone is not factually correct as PW-10 had noted in
the post-mortem certificate that there was extravagation of blood on both sides
of the neck.
High Court has adverted to vet another reason for holding that death might not
have been caused due to throttling. The vomitted material found on the cot and
mouth of the dead body was not sent for chemical examination, and hence the
High Court concluded that " it is also possible that death might have been
caused due to asphyxia by poisoning." We are disturbed very much as the
High Court has overlooked, if not ignored, the evidence of Dr. Trinadharao
(PW-10) that viscera comprising of stomach contents, intestine, piece of lever
and also a kidney had been forwarded to the chemical laboratory for analysis
and PW-10 had reserved his final opinion till he got the result of such
analysis. When he later received the chemical examination report he pronounced
his final opinion that the death was due to asphyxia as no poison was detected
in the viscera. The report of the chemical examiner is available in the
records. Section 293 of the Code would enable the court to use the said
document in evidence. Inspite of such unassailable materials the High Court has
arrived at the finding that "in the facts and circumstances of the case it
cannot be ruled out in its entirety that death was not caused due to
poisoning." One of the circumstances relied on by the prosecution is that
respondent had confessed the guilt to PW-6 and PW-7.
other words, prosecution relied on the extra judicial confession of the
respondent spoken to by the said two witnesses, they buttonholed the respondent
and confronted him with certain questions pertaining to the death of the
deceased and then respondent had blurted out to them of what happened.
Witnesses further deposed that respondent took out a letter and showed it to
them. Witnesses thereupon took him to the police station where that letter was
- Sub Inspector of Police confirmed that those two witnesses brought the
respondent to the police station and produced Ext. P-13 letter.
of the evidence of PW-6 and PW-7 stands vouchsafed by Ext. P-13 letter as the
same was proved to be a letter written by the deceased to the respondent. PW-12
Assistant Director, Forensic Science Laboratory, who was also a Handwriting
Expert examined the handwriting on the letter with the admitted handwriting of
the deceased found in some answer sheets (which police collected from the
Principal of the School where Satya Vani studied - PW-13) PW-12 gave cogent
reasons for his conclusion that both were written by the same person. A reading
of the contents in that letter admits of no doubt that it was addressed to the
respondent in this case.
aforesaid extra judicial confession was relied on by the trial court but the
High Court did not act on it for two reasons. First is a seeming disparity
between the time of making the confession as spoken to by the witnesses and the
time mentioned by the police on the strength of station records. The second
reason is that the said extra judicial confession was reduced to writing as
Ext. P-7, inside the police station and hence it is hit by Section 26 of the
true that in the deposition PW-6 and PW-7 have said that it was at 7 A.M. that the respondent made the confession to them. But the
Sub Inspector said that accused was produced in the police station at 7.30 P.M. We think that much should not have been made out of
that disparity as there could be a possibility of making an error in recording
the time A.M. for P.M. We say this because both PW-6 and PW- 7 uniformly said
that they took the respondent to the police station situated about 3 kilometers
away. As the police records show that they produced him at 7030 P.M. it is only
inferential that respondent would have made the confession on the evening and
not during morning hours. At any rated it is not proper to jettison an
otherwise sturdy piece of evidence of extra judicial confession on the ground
of such a rickety premise.
other reasoning based on Section 26 of the Evidence Act is also fallacious. It
is true any confession made to a police officer is inadmissible under Section
25 of the Act and that ban is further stretched through Section 26 to the
confession made to any other person also if the confessor was then in police
custody. Such "custody" need not necessarily be post arrest custody.
The word "custody" used in Section 26 is to be understood in pragmatic
sense. If any accused is within the ken of surveillance of the police during
which his movements are restricted then it can be regarded as custodial
surveillance for the purpose of the Section. If he makes any confession during
that period to any person be he not a police officer, such confession would
also be hedged within the banned contours outlined in Section 26 of the
the confession made by the respondent to PW-6 and PW-7 was not made while he
was anywhere near the precincts of the police station or during the
surveillance of the police. Though Ext. P-7 would have been recorded inside the
police station its contents were disclosed long before they were reduce to
writing. We are only concerned with the inculpatory statement which respondent
had made to PW-6 and PW-7 before they took him to the police station. So the
mere fact that the confession spoken to those witnesses was later put in black
and white is no reason to cover it with the wrapper of unadmissiblility. We
find that the High Court has wrongly sidelined the extra judicial confession.
fact that body of (Satya Vani) was found on the cot inside the house of the
respondent is a very telling circumstance against him. Respondent owed a duty
to explain as to how a dead body which was resultant of a homicide happened to
be in his house. In the absence of any such explanation from him the
implication of the said circumstance is definitely adverse to the respondent.
Court has extricated the appellant from the indictment of rape on the erroneous
assumption that it would have been a consented copulation. Learned Judges have
relied on two circumstances in support of the said assumption. One is that
there was no nail mark on the breast or face or thigh or private parts of the
deceased for indicating resistance offered by her Second is that PW-10 doctor
did not notice any hymen for the deceased. In that realm also the High Court
committed serious error in skipping the contents of Ext P-13 letter and also
the injury on the right side of the posterior labia minora, (we have mentioned
it supra). of course that injury by it self is not conclusive proof of
resistance but it cannot be ignored altogether. In Ext. P-13 letter, she
cautioned the respondent not to have a leering on her. She deprecated in her
letter the idea of a married man enjoying another lady by terming it an act of
"grave sin". Further, in his extra judicial confession made to PW-6
and PW-7, respondent had said that he took the girl by force and kept her on
the cot as he was long nurturing the lust to enjoy her. The doctor had found
fresh vaginal tear on the fight side of the inner vaginal wall posterior.
injury is indicative of forcible sexual intercourse.
to the medical opinion also the presence of fresh vaginal tear, showed that the
deceased had been subjected to sexual intercourse prior to her death. The very
fact that the sexual intercourse was soon followed, if not contemporaneous
with, by the act of throttling is strongly suggestive of a vehement resistance
offered by the female victim.
have absolutely no doubt that the above circumstance are sufficient to reach
the irresistible inference that she was ravished by the respondent despite her
High Court after considering the medical evidence, while dealing with the
question of rape opined:
is no direct evidence to show that the accused alone had sexual intercourse
with her. The deceased was aged 16 years." We are rather distressed on
this comment. By using the word "alone" the High Court almost cast a
stigma on the prosecutrix as if, apart from the appellant, there were other
persons also who had sexual intercourse with her.
is no basis at all for such an assumption. There was no warrant for recording
such a finding and if we may say so, with respect, the finding is an
express our strong disapproval of the approach of the High Court and its
casting a stigma on the character of the deceased porsecutrix. Even if the Curt
formed an opinion, from the absence of hymen, that the victim had sexual
intercourse prior to the time when she was subjected to rape by the appellant,
she had every right to refuse to submit herself to sexual intercourse by the
appellant, as she certainly was not a vulnerable object or prey for being
sexually assaulted by anyone and this position becomes all the more clear from
the contents of the letter Ex. P-13 as already noticed.
therefore, conclude that the High Court erred substantially in upsetting the
conviction and sentence passed by the sessions Judge supported by sound and
sturdy reasons. We, therefore, allow this appeal and set aside the order of
acquittal. We restore the conviction and sentence passed on the
respondent/accused by the trial court. The bail bond shall stand cancelled. The
respondent shall be taken into custody forthwith to undergo the remaining part
of the sentence.
parting with the case, we would like to point out that the Courts are expected
to show great responsibility while trying an accused on charges of rape.
must deal with such cases with utmost sensitivity. The Courts should examine
the broader probabilities of a case and not get swayed by minor contradictions
or insignificant discrepancies in the statement of the witnesses, which are not
of a fatal nature to throw out allegations of rape. This is all the more
important because of late crime against women in general and rape in particular
is on the increase.
an irony that while we are celebrating woman`s rights in all spheres, we show
little or no concern for her honour.
a sad reflection and we must emphasise that the courts must deal with rape
cases in particular with utmost sensitivity and appreciate the evidence in the
totality of the background of the entire case and not in isolation. One of us
(Dr. Anand J.) has observed in State of Punjab vs. Gurmit Singh and others (1969) 2 SCC 384 thus :
courts, therefore, shoulder a great responsibility while trying an accused on
charges of rape. They must deal with such cases with utmost sensitivity."
We think it is appropriate to reiterate those observations in this case.