Ellaiah Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh  Insc 432 (20 July 2006)
Mathur & R V Raveendran Raveendran, J.
appeal is directed against the judgment dated 19.3.2002 of the Andhra Pradesh
High Court in Criminal Appeal No.1571/1999, affirming the judgment of the first
Additional Sessions Judge, Ranga Reddy District in S.C. No.378/1997, convicting
the appellant under sections 302 and 201 IPC. The appellant has been sentenced
to undergo imprisonment for life for an offence under section 302 IPC and
imprisonment for 3 years for the offence under section 201 IPC; both the
sentences to run concurrently.
On 25.6.1996 at
about 10.30 p.m., the accused lodged a complaint
with Shamshabad Police Station. In brief, its contents were : He and his wife
Ponnamma were returning from Chalivendragudem village where Ponnamma's parents
were living. They halted at Shamshabad for his wife's medical check-up at an
hospital and thereafter proceeded on foot towards their village (Kothwalguda).
At about 9 p.m. when they were passing near HUDA
colony, four persons accosted them.
them started beating him, while the other two dragged his wife towards the
bushes. He managed to escape and ran to his village and informed his elder
brother and other villagers.
he returned to the spot along with his brother and other villagers, he found
his wife lying in an unconscious state and her ornaments were missing (that is,
half a tola of gold gundlu, half tola of gold ear studs and 35 tolas of silver
anklets). She was declared dead when she was taken to a doctor.
complaint was registered as Crime No.130/96 under sections 302 and 379 IPC. A
panchnama was drawn at the scene of occurrence and an inquest was held and the
investigation was taken up. On 30.6.1996, the parents of the deceased
approached the Investigating Officer and expressed a suspicion about the
accused. The IO found that the accused had absconded after the incident. He was
apprehended in his village on 3.7.1996 and brought to the Police Station, where
he gave a voluntary confessional statement (Ex. P-4) in the presence of Panch
witnesses. It came to light that the accused had pledged the silver anklets
(MO-2) of the deceased on 15.6.1996, the gold ear studs (MO-3) on 18.6.1996 and
the gold gundlu that is a string of 39 gold beads (MO-1) on 25.6.1996 with a
moneylender at Shamshabad, namely, Sampathraj (PW-4). In pursuance of the
information furnished by the accused, the IO seized the ornaments (MOs. 1, 2
and 3) as also pawn receipt books containing the duplicate of pawn receipts
being Exhibits P-1, P-2 and P-3 from PW-4, and his statement was recorded.
accused also took the IO and the Panch witnesses to his house and produced the
pledge Receipt No.8864 dated 15.6.1996 and Receipt No.8882 dated 18.6.1996
relating to the silver anklets and gold ear studs.
On completion of
the investigation, the accused was charged with the offence of murdering his
wife under section 302 and causing disappearance of evidence under section 201
IPC. The prosecution examined 9 witnesses.
The father of the
deceased (PW-1) stated that his daughter was married to the accused on 8.3.1996,
about 3 months prior to the incident; that he had given half tola gold gundlu to
his daughter; that the parents of the accused had given the gold ear-rings
(MO-3) and silver anklets (MO-2) to the deceased at the time of marriage; that
the accused had pledged all these ornaments; that on the fateful day, the
deceased and the accused had left his house together; that on the same day in
the late evening, the accused came and informed that the thieves had waylaid and
attacked him and his wife. PW-1 also stated that a few days after the incident,
he approached the Police and expressed his suspicion about the accused. The
mother of the deceased (PW-2), reiterated what was stated by her husband and
also stated that when her daughter came to her house a week prior to the
incident, she did not have the silver anklets and ear-studs and she was having
only the gold gundlu and that she (her daughter) had informed them that the
accused had pledged the articles and squandered the money.
of the accused (PW-3) stated that the accused came and informed him around 9
p.m. on the fateful day that when he was coming with the deceased, some thieves
attacked them; that he along with other villagers rushed to the scene of
occurrence; and that the accused told him that the thieves had committed theft
of the ornaments of the deceased.
moneylender (PW-4) stated that the accused and his other family members were
coming to his shop for taking money by pledging articles. He also referred to
the pledging of silver anklets on 15.6.1996, gold ear-studs on 18.6.1996 and
gold gundlu on 25.6.1996 by the accused. He stated that he advanced the accused
Rs.1,500 against the pledge of gold gundlu. He also stated that the silver
Anklets and gold ear-studs (MOs. 2 and 3) were seized from his shop along with
receipt books (Ex. P-1, P-2 and P-3) from his shop, a few days after the last
pledge (25.6.1996). N. Anjaiah (PW-5) stated that the accused gave a voluntary
confessional statement (Ex. P-4) about murdering his wife, that he and other
witnesses went to the shop of PW-4 and in their presence, MOs. 2 and 3 and
receipt books P-1, P-2 and P-3 were seized; and that, subsequently, the gold
gundlu was shown to him at the Police Station.
Dr. N. Kotaiah
(PW-6) who had conducted the post mortem over the dead body of the deceased,
described the injuries noticed. He stated that the death was due to asphyxia as
a result of throttling. He detailed the external injuries (bruises around the
throat) and incised wound on the lateral side of the right eye of the deceased,
and stated that the internal examination disclosed fracture of the hyoid bone.
PW-7 was a Panch
witness. PW-8 was the S.I. of Police who had received the written complaint (Ex.
P-1) from the accused and registered the case as Crime No.130/96. The I.O.
(PW-9) gave evidence about the investigation, voluntary confessional statement
of the accused in the presence of Panches, seizure of MOs. 1 to 3 and receipt
books P-1 to P-3 from PW-4.
On the said
evidence, the trial court by its judgment dated 30.7.1999 found the accused
guilty of the offences under sections 302 and 201 IPC. The appeal filed by the
accused was dismissed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court, affirming the findings
of the trial court. The courts have concurrently held that though there were no
eye-witnesses to the incident, the prosecution had proved the guilt of the
accused beyond doubt by the following chain of circumstantial evidence :
admitted that he was with the deceased when the incident occurred. In effect,
the deceased was last seen with the accused. This was admitted by the accused
in his complaint (Ex. P-11) and to his brother (PW-3);
In his complaint
(Ex. P-11), the accused stated that the thieves who attacked him and his wife,
had taken away her ornaments (half a tola of gold gundlu, half a tola of
ear-studs and 35 tolas of silver anklets). But the accused had himself pledged
the said ornaments with PW-4 on various dates on 15.6.1996 (silver anklets),
on 18.6.1996 (gold studs) and on 25.6.1996 (gold gundlu) under Ex. P-1, P-2 and
P-3 and they were recovered from PW-4 on the basis of disclosure made by the
accused. This clearly showed that the accused had made a false statement in his
complaint that the thieve had stolen them;
accused stated that he was beaten by two of the attackers, there were no
injuries on his body.
The High Court
has relied on the decision in Birbal v. State of Madhya Pradesh [2000 (10) SCC 213] where, in somewhat similar
circumstances, this Court had affirmed the conviction based on circumstantial
evidence consisting of three circumstances :
the accused and
the deceased leaving together
returning alone and giving a false explanation that the deceased would come
statement of the
accused while in custody leading to the discovery of the dead body.
We find that the
concurrent findings recorded by the courts below are based on cogent reasoning.
The chain of circumstances pointing out conclusively to the guilt of the
accused, is complete. The story of thieves attacking him and his wife is a
concoction intended to shift the blame. However, as the appellant has assailed
the decision of the High Court on several grounds, we will deal with them.
submission is that the ornaments of the deceased were not in fact taken away by
the accused. The learned counsel for the appellant relied on the evidence of
PW-1 that when he went to the scene of occurrence and saw the body of his
daughter, he found the Mangalasutram, Mettelu and nose stud on the body.
According to the learned counsel, the items referred were nothing but MOs. 1, 2
and 3 --- gold gundlu, silver anklets and ear-studs. It is contended that if
all the three ornaments were found on the body of the deceased, there was no
question of the accused pledging them or putting forth any false story. This
contention, to say the least, is bereft of any merit. What PW-1 found on the
body of the deceased was a Mangalasutram (a yellow thread worn by married
women), Mettelu (toe rings) and nose stud. On the other hand, PW-1 has
described the missing ornaments of the deceased, which were pledged by the
accused, as gold gundlu (which is a string of 39 gold beads), silver anklets
and ear-studs. Therefore, the contention that the pledged ornaments were found
on the body of the deceased and they could not have been pledged by the
accused, is wholly untenable. In fact, this contention runs against the defence
of the accused and the specific statement of the accused in the complaint dated
25.6.1996 that the thieves had stolen the three ornaments (half tola gold
gundlu, half tola ear-studs and 35 tolas of silver anklets). If they were still
on the body of the deceased, they could not have been stolen.
contention is that there is a variation in the evidence of PWs.1 and 2. It is
pointed out that while PW-1 has stated that he gave half a tola of gold gundlu,
ear-studs and Mettelu to his daughter, his wife has stated that what was given
to the deceased was only half a tola of gold gundlu (consisting of 39 gold
beads) and that MO-2 and MO-3 (silver anklets and ear studs) were given by the
parents of the accused. Who gave the ornaments to the deceased is not material.
What is relevant is what was alleged to be stolen, but was found to have been
pledged. Further, PW-1 himself has clarified in his further
examination-in-chief that the gold gundlu (MO-1) was given by him to his
daughter, and the silver anklets and ear-studs (MOs.2 and 3) were given to his
daughter by the parents of the accused at the time of marriage.
contention of the accused is based on the evidence of PW-3, the brother of the
accused, who had stated that when he went to the scene of occurrence and
enquired with the deceased (as to what happened), she told him that four
persons came and beat her and that after informing him so, she collapsed. It is
contended that this piece of evidence clearly established that the accused and
deceased were waylaid and attacked by four unknown persons. We find no merit in
the contention. PW-3 is the elder brother of the accused and is obviously
interested in saving him. PW-3 was treated as hostile and cross-examined and it
was suggested that he had tried to improve upon his statement given to Police
wherein he had stated that the deceased was unconscious when he went to the
site of occurrence. In the complaint, the accused clearly stated that he
escaped from the attackers, ran to his village, informed his elder brother and
other elders of the village and that immediately they followed him and came to
the spot where his wife was lying in an unconscious condition. If the deceased
was in a conscious state, when the accused, his brother and other villagers
reached the spot, the accused would have certainly mentioned it in his
complaint and, at all events, would have examined the villagers. The statement
of PW-3 that he went on a scooter earlier and found the deceased in a conscious
condition, is contrary to the statement of the accused in his complaint that
his brother and villagers followed him, which shows that he, his brother and
villagers reached the scene of occurrence together.
contention is that the seizure of the ornaments was not established. Reference
is made to the evidence of Investigating Officer, PW-9, who stated that MOs.1
to 3 (gold gundlu, silver anklets and ear-studs) were seized from the shop of
PW-4. PW-4 also stated in his examination-in-chief that MOs.1 to 3, which were
pledged with him by the accused, were handed over to the police when police
came to his shop along with the accused. But in his cross-examination, he
stated that he had kept the ornaments with his bankers, that he brought the
said articles from the bankers and produced them before the Police only on the
next day. PW-5 also had stated that only MOs. 2 & 3 were seized from the
shop of PW-4 and that MO1 was shown to him in the police station. The learned
counsel, therefore, submitted that there was no valid seizure in the presence
of Panch witnesses. We may note that both PWs.4 and 5 were also treated as
hostile and cross-examined. Their evidence however clearly establishes that the
receipt books P-1 to P-3 were seized from PW-4 and MOs.2 and 3 were also seized
from the shop of PW-4. Even if there is any discrepancy as to whether MO.1 was
seized at the shop of PW-4 or whether he brought it and gave it to the Police
Station on the next day, the said discrepancy has no relevance. The evidence of
PW-4 clearly establishes that the accused had pledged MOs.1 to 3 with him. The
evidence of PW-4, PW-5 and PW-8 also establishes that they were recovered from
PW-4 on the information furnished by the accused.
contention was urged. The appellant has not been able to make out any infirmity
in the order of the High Court. The appeal has no merit and is, accordingly,