Maharashtra Vs. Priya Sharan Maharaj & Ors
 INSC 279 (11 March 1997)
RAY, G.T. NANAVATI
the learned counsel.
11.5.91, one Purushottam Wasudeo Deshpande lodged a complaint at the Dhantoli
Police Station, Nagpur that his two young daughters, Hema
and Meera were kidnaped by Priya Sharan Maharaj (Respondent No.1) with the help
of Suhasini (Respondent No.6) and Sharwari Devi (Respondent No.7.) On the basis
of this report an offence was registered under Section 365 and 366 IPC.
Investigation of that offence disclosed that Kripalu maharaj (respondent No.2),
who claims to be a spiritual teacher and has his Ashrams at Vrindavan and Mangadh,
is a highly immoral person and in order to satisfy his lust he, with help of
his disciples, including Respondent Nos. 1 and 3 to 7, used to entice young
girls and have sexual intercourse with them against their wish Respondent No.2,
through his disciples, used to impress upon the young girls that he is the incarnation
of Lord Krishna, that they should treat him as their husband and that what he
was doing with them was in the nature of 'Prasad' of God and by such acts they
were really blessed. The investigation further disclosed that Meera, Hema and
one Sulakshana were thus subjected to sexual intercourse by Kripalu Maharaj.
the offence which was registered against them earlier under Section 363 and 366
IPC was altered to an offence under Section 376 IPC and all the seven
respondent were shown as accused.
being chargesheeted, they were put up for trial before the learned Second
Additional Sessions Judge, Nagpur who had
framed the following charge :
That, you above named accused No.2, prior to 1987 at the house of one Nilu Chaurasia,
in front of Vijay Talkies, Nagpur, committed rape on one Kum. Meera D/o Purushottam
Deshpande, aged 26 years, r/o Nagpur, against he will and with her consent,
posing yourself, you are a devine spirit or Lord Krishna. So also, again in the
month of February, 1991, you accused No.2, posing yourself that your are a
divine spirit of Lord Krishna, committed rape on said Kum. Meera Deshpande, at
the house of one Shrivastava, Near Previnamee School, Nagpur. Again on 16th day of January, 1980
at about 5.00 p.m. at the house of one Khatri, Kadhi Chowk Nagpur, committed
rape on one Sulakshana D/o Shyamsundar Pehankar, a girl aged about 14 years,
r/o Juni Shukrawari, Nagpur. Again on 14.4.1990, at about 5 p.m. at the house of one R.P. Shrivastava, nagpur you committed rape on said Kum. Sulakshana,
posing yourself that you are a Divine Spirit of Lord Krishna.
also, in the month of Sept. 1986, at the house of one Chaurasia, Near Vijay
Talkies, nagpur, You accused No.2, posing yourself,
you are a Divine spirit of Lord Krishna, committed rape on one Kum. Hema @ Brijgauri
d/o Purushottam Deshpande, aged about 19 yrs., against her will and without her
consent, and thereby you above named accused No.2, committed an offence
punishable under Section 376 of Indian Penal Code, within my congnizance.
Secondly, that above named accused No.2 one the aforesaid day, date, time and
place, committed the offence of rape on the said girls, and that you above
named accused Nos. 1,3,4,5,6 and 7, in furtherance of your common intention,
abetted the said accused No.2 in the commission of the consequence of your
abetment. So also, you about named accused Nos.
to 7 were personally present at the time of commission of said offence, and
that your all thereby committed offences punishable under Section 109, 114/R/W
Section 34 of Indian Penal Code, within my cognizance.' Aggrieved by framing of
the charge the respondents had preferred a revision application but High Court
declined to interfere as it was open to the respondents to approach the
Sessions Court itself for granting the reliefs prayed for.
respondents, therefore, filed three applications in the Sessions Court. Exhibit
36 was for modification of the charge and Exhibits 37 and 41 were for
discharging them. At the time of hearing of these applications, Exhibit 36 was
not pressed. The learned Additional Judge rejected both the applications for
the order passed by the learned Additional Session Judge, the respondents
preferred Criminal Revision Application No. 130 to 1994 before the Nagpur Bench
of the High Court of Bombay. The High Court, by an unduly long order running
into 89 pages, allowed the Revision Application, quashed the charge framed
against the respondents and discharged them. The High Court was of the view
that as five acts of rape were committed during the period from September, 1986
to February, 1991 on three different girls, the charge as framed was i n
contravention of the provisions of Section 219 of the Code of Criminal
Procedure. It also held that the three girls had told lies and developed a
false story against the respondents and that "no prudent man can dare to
accept of believe" it. The state has, therefore, filed this appeal.
learned counsel for the appellant contended that the High Court far exceeded the
limits of consideration at Section 227 stage and that has led to failure of
justice. It committed an error of sifting and weighing the material placed
before the Court by applying the standard of test and proof which is to be
applied finally for deciding whether the accused is guilty or not. What was
required to be considered at that stage was whether the material placed before
the Court disclosed a strong suspicion against the accused. On the other hand,
relying upon the judgments of this Court in Union of India vs. Prafulla Kumar Samal
& Anr. (1979) 2 SCR 229 and Niranjan Singh Karam Singh Punjabi vs. Jitendra
Bhimraj Bijja & Ors. (AIR 1990 SC 1962), the learned counsel for the
respondents submitted that while considering and application for discharge, If
there is no sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused, the Court has
the undoubted power to sift and weigh the evidence for the limited purpose of
finding out whether or not a prima facie case against the accused is made out.
The material placed before the Court must disclose grave suspicion against the
accused. When two views are equally possible and if the Court finds that the
material produced before it while giving rise to grave suspicion against the
accused, it will be fully within its right to discharge the accused. He also
submitted that at Section 227 stage the Judge cannot act merely as a post
office or a mouthpiece of the prosecution, but has to consider the broad
probabilities of the case, the total effect of the evidence and the documents
produced before the Court, any basic infirmities appearing in the case and so
on. This is what the learned Additional Sessions Judge failed to do and the
High court has done. He has thus supported the judgment passed by the High
law on the subject is now well-settled, as pointed out in Niranjan Singh
Punjabi vs. Jitendra Bijjaya (1990) 4 SCC 76, that at Sections 227 and 228
stage the Court is required to evaluate the material and documents on record
with a view of finding out if the facts emerging therefrom taken at their face
value disclose the existence of all the ingredients constituting the alleged
offence. The Court may, for this limited purpose, sift the evidence as it
cannot be expected even at that initial stage to accept all that the
prosecution states as gospel truth even if it is opposed to common sense or the
broad probabilities of the case.
at the stage of framing of the charge the Court has to consider the material
with a view to find out if there is ground for presuming that the accused has
committed the offence or that there is not sufficient ground for proceeding
against him and not for the purpose of arriving at the conclusion that it is
not likely to lead to a conviction.
we find from the judgement of the High Court is that the learned Judge, in
order to ascertain the correct legal position, referred to various decisions
and quoted extensively from them but did not apply the law correctly.
judgment also contains some quotations which have no relevance. After referring
to the case law, the learned Judge has observed as under :- "Considering
the facts and circumstances as obtained in the instant case, I am reminded of
the learned observation of their Lordships while discussing or reflecting on
the criminal cases." and thereafter quoted the following passage from the
decision of this court in State of Punjab vs. Jagir Singh Baljit Singh and Karam
Singh (AIR 1977 Supreme Court 2407) :
Criminal trial is not like a fairy tale wherein one is free to give flight to
itself with the question as to whether the accused arrainged at the trial is
guilty of the crime with which he is charged.
is an event in real life and is the product of interplay of different human
emotions. In arriving at the conclusion about the guilt of the accused charged
with the commission of a crime, the court has to judge the evidence by the
yardstick of probabilities, its intrinsic worth and the animus of witnesses.
Every case in the final analysis would have to depend upon its own facts. although
the benefit of every reasonable doubt should be given to the accused, the
courts should not at the same time reject evidence which is ex facie
trustworthy on grounds which are fanciful or in the nature of
conjectures." That was not a case dealing with the scope and nature of
enquiry at the stage of framing of charge. Those observations were obviously
made in the context of appreciation of evidence and standard of proof required
for convicting the accused. This clearly indicates that the learned Judge
failed to apply the correct test.
following observations again lead us to that conclusion:
conscious thought to the rival submission of the learned counsel or the
parties, it is abundantly clear that except the statements of prosecutrix, there
is no evidence directly or indirectly to corroborate their testimonies.
to Kr. Sulakshana she was molested initially on 16.1.1990 an subsequently on
14.4.1990 however there is no disclosure to anyone including her parents.
Considering her age at the relevant time, no injuries were found as indicated
by Modi. Similarly though Ku. Meera alleged that she was molested prior to 1987
and in February, 1991, instead of disclosing to stay in the company of the
applicant No.2 Kripaluji Maharaj and his disciples. She not from place to place
to preach the tenents of the cult of Kripaluji Maharaj.
though it is alleged by Ku. Hema and she was molested in the month of
September, 1986, she is not the case of the prosecution that these two sisters
disclosed about the indence activities of Kripaluji Maharaj amongst themselves.
Meera and Hema both are graduates and Ku. Sulakshna was adolesent. It cannot be
expected from such educated girls to continue to accompany the person who
according to them, proved to be demon and to continue in his cult propagating
his teachings. The conduct of all three girls not being in consonance with
normal dispositions of prudent human beings corroboration thus, becomes a
necessity or eminent. Taking broad view of the matter, particularly various
infirmities and improbabilities, no man of prudence will any importance to the
story unfolded. It is, thus, clear that except the bare words of these three
girls, their is no other evidence to corroborate their story. Anything said by
victim at or about the time of occurrence, to their parents/and/or others,
would form part of res-gestae. Such conduct can be a corroborative piece of
evidence of her/their evidence. In other words, subsequent conduct not only is
relevant but important and material.
three girls levelled allegations against the applicant No.2 Kripaluji Maharaj
after the lapse of considerable time i.e. after months and years and,
therefore, the probability as depicted by the defence that if was at the
instance of Nityanand, cannot be overruled. I needs mention that no report was
lodged by either of the girls ay any time. It is also clear from the record
that Nityanand's statement which was recorded on 11.5.1991 i.e. on the day on
which the F.I.R. was lodged by Purushottam Deshpande. Subsequently only the
statements of all the three prosecutrix came to be recorded.
in the F.I.R. there is no whisper that at any time, the applicant no.2 had
committed rape on any of the prosecutrix or on any other disciples.
evidence does not become reliable merely because it has been corroborated by
number of witnesses of the same brand.
this case, there is unreasonable inordinate or extra- ordinary delay in
leveling allegations of physical molestation or rape committed, by all the
three prosecutrix against a saintly old man of 69 years of age who renounced
the world and engrossed in spiritual world. The explanation as could be
revealed from the statements as could be revealed from the statements of the prosecutrix
that the disciples of Kripaluji Maharaj all the while stated that he is an
incarnation of God and whatever happened with them, be taken as a 'Prasad' or
blessing of God and so not to the chestity is the jewel of the Indian woman and
no woman will consider the sexual intercourse against her will as 'Prasad' or
'Blessing of God'.
also does not stand to reason that a saintly man who has thousands/millions of
disciples all over India, direct his own disciple and in their presence will
commit sexual intercourse the pracharak of his cult.
the overall effect of the evidence collected by the prosecution, there is
according to me, no ring of truth. No prudent man can dare to accept or believe
the infirm and improbable evidence of the prosecutrix.
these facts go to show that the girls evidently told lies and developed false
story against the applicant no.2 and his disciples." The above quoted
paragraphs from the judgment clearly disclose that the High Curt was much
influenced by the submission made on behalf of the defence that Kripalu Maharaj
is a saintly old man, who has renounced the world, who is engrossed in
spiritual activity and who has thousands/millions of disciples all over India
and, therefore, he was not likely to indulge in the illegal acts alleged
against him. It failed to appreciate that it is not unusual to come across
cases where the so-called spiritual heads exploit you girls and women who
become their disciples and come under their spell. Moreover, the reasoning of
the High Court that it also does not stand to reason that a saintly man who has
thousand/millions of disciples all over India would commit sexual intercourse
with the praharak of his cult in presence of his disciples stands vitiated
because of the vice of misreading the statements. The three girls have nowhere
stated in their statements that R-2 had sexual intercourse with them in
presence of other disciples.
High Court gave too much importance to the conduct of the three victims and the
delay in disclosing those illegal acts to their parent and the police. What the
High Court has failed to appreciate is how a victim of such an offence will
behave would depend upon the circumstances in which she is placed. It often
happens that such victims do not complain against such illegal acts immediately
because of factors like fear or shame or uncertainties about the reactions of
their parents or husbands in case of married girls or women and the adverse
consequences which, they apprehend, would follow because of disclosure of such
acts. What the three girls had stated i n their statements was not inherently
improbable or unnatural. They have disclosed the reasons why they could not
immediately complain about those illegal acts for such a long time. What the
High Court has failed to appreciate is that while making complaint to the
police or giving their statements they were not required to give detailed
explanations. As stated earlier, what the Court has failed to appreciate is
that while making a complaint to the police or giving their statements they
were not required to give detailed explanations. As stated earlier, what the
Court has to consider at the stage of framing of the charge is whether the
version of the person complaining together with his/her explanation is prima
facie believeable or not.
was, therefore, not proper for the High Court to seek independent corroboration
at that stage and to quash the charge and discharge the accused in absence
thereof. It was also improper to describe the version of Sulakshana as false
because no extensive injuries were noticed on her person while she was examined
by a doctor on the basis of some observations made in Modi's textbook on
"Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology". We do not think it proper to
say anything further as, in the view that we are taking, the accused will have
to face a trial and whatever observations we make now may cause some prejudice
to them at the trial.
would only say that the High Court was wholly wrong in discarding the material
placed before the Court as false and discharging the accused on the ground.
us also the learned counsel for the respondents had made a grievance that the
charge as framed was not in accordance wit Section 219 of the Criminal
Application, Exhibit 36, was made to the Sessions Court for modifications of
the charge so as to make it consistent with Section 219. That application was
not pressed and the Court was invited to dispose of the other application made
by them for quashing the charge and discharging them. As we are inclined to
allow this appeal the Sessions Court will have to now consider afresh whether
the charge is required to be altered or amended.
therefore, allow this appeal, set aside the judgement and order passed by the
High Court and direct the Sessions Court to proceed further with the trial in
accordance with law. The trial Court shall do so after re- examining the
material and hearing the learned Public Prosecutor and the lawyer for the
accused on the question of amending or altering the charge so as to make it
consistent with the relevant provisions of the Code and also after considering
whether it will be possible to try all the offences at one trial or that they
will have to be tried separately.