Ongole Ravikanth Vs.
State of A.P.  INSC 1133 (17 June 2009)
JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 840-841 OF 2003 Ongole Ravikanth ...Appellant
Versus State of A.P. ...Respondent
appellant has preferred these appeals against the judgment of the High Court of
Andhra Pradesh passed in Criminal Appeal No. 1613 of 1997 and Criminal Appeal
No. 1461 of 1998 whereby the High Court altered the judgment of conviction
against the appellant, recorded under Section 324 IPC by the Sessions Court,
Guntur in Sessions Case No. 274 of 1976. The High Court while setting aside the
conviction and sentence under Section 324 IPC convicted the appellant for the
offence punishable under Section 304 Part I of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and
sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years.
prosecution story, briefly stated, is that the deceased was married to the
appellant in the year 1994 and led marital life for about 1 = years and gave
birth to a daughter in 1995. It is alleged that even while living with his wife
the accused developed illegal intimacy with other women and was found flirting
with them and some times he used to bring those women to the matrimonial home.
deceased raised serious objections as to the conduct of the appellant indulging
in such immoral and objectionable activities. The appellant instead of mending
his ways frequently used to taunt her saying that "you can also have a
paramour if you want". On 11.1.1997 at about 9.00 p.m. when both the
deceased and the appellant were in the bedroom, the accused switched on the
tape-recorder; on that the deceased asked him to put off the same but the
appellant did not stop it and on the contrary he slapped the deceased which led
to a quarrel between them. The appellant mockingly suggested to the deceased to
go away with someone of her choice and leave him alone. Having been hurt by the
provocative words and the vulgar behaviour of the appellant she rushed into the
kitchen and brought kerosene and a matchbox. She poured the kerosene on
herself. The appellant obviously having snatched the match box from her lit the
match stick and threw the same on the deceased resulting in severe burns to her
vital organs of the body. Immediately, the deceased came out of the bedroom
with flames crying loudly. On hearing the cries and on seeing her in flames,
the father of the appellant and other neighbours poured water on her body and
covered her with a bed sheet. In the meantime, the appellant arranged an auto
and took her to her parents' house in the same locality and from there she was
shifted to Government General Hospital, Guntur by her brother (PW- 1).
requisition from the Hospital authorities, the Special Judicial First Class
Magistrate, Guntur recorded her dying declaration in the presence of the
Based on the
statement (Ex.P-4) the Police Station Pattabhipuram, Guntur issued First
Information Report (Ex. P-16) and registered the same as Crime No. 2 of 1997
for the offences punishable under Section 498-A and 307 IPC against the
appellant. While undergoing treatment the deceased succumbed to the burn
injuries on 18.1.1997 at 4.45 p.m. in the Government Hospital, Guntur. Upon
receiving information the police altered the provisions of law into Sections
498A and 302 IPC and accordingly issued the altered FIR. After completion of
the investigation, the police filed charge sheet against the appellant under
Sections 498A and 302 IPC.
prosecution in order to establish its case against the appellant altogether
examined 15 witnesses (PW-1 to PW-15) and 21 documents were got Exhibited (Ex.
P-1 to P- 21). The appellant pleaded of his false implication in the case.
learned Sessions Judge upon appreciation of the evidence available on record
held that prosecution established its case beyond doubt that the appellant lit
the match stick when the deceased herself poured kerosene on her body. However,
the learned Sessions Judge came to the conclusion that the appellant had no
intention to kill his wife.
In the result, the
learned Sessions Judge held that in the circumstances it cannot be said that
the appellant was having any knowledge that the burn injuries were likely to
cause the death of the deceased. But his act would certainly cause hurt to a
person and accordingly found the appellant guilty under Section 324 IPC. We
must express our anguish about the manner in which the learned Sessions Judge
has dealt with the matter.
appellant as well as the State preferred appeals against the judgment of the
learned Sessions Judge. The High Court upon re-appreciation of the evidence and
more particularly relying upon the evidence of PWs -1, 3 and 4 coupled with the
dying declaration (Ex. P-4) held that there were serious disputes between the
appellant and his wife with regard to the wayward habits of the appellant
resulting in frequent quarrels between them which led to the incident on the
fateful day. The High Court also found the appellant himself put her on fire
which resulted in causing 60% burns all over the body and more particularly on
vital parts resulting in death of the deceased. The High Court found the
incident took place on the "spur of the moment" due to quarrel that
had developed in the bed room due to which the deceased poured kerosene on
herself, the accused lighted the match stick which ultimately resulted in her
death. In the result, the High Court found the appellant guilty of the offence
punishable under Section 304 Part I IPC and sentenced him to undergo rigorous
imprisonment for a period of seven years. Hence, these appeals by the accused
against his conviction and sentence under Section 304 Part I IPC. The State did
not prefer any appeal though it filed the charge sheet against the appellant
for the offence punishable under Section 498A and 302 IPC.
A.D.N. Rao, learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the High Court
committed serious error in coming to the conclusion that the appellant snatched
the match stick from the deceased and set her on fire which resulted in causing
60% of the burns all over the body. It was submitted that admittedly even
according to the prosecution the deceased poured kerosene on herself and came
with the match box, thereafter what happened is a matter for guess and in the
absence of any reliable evidence, there was no justification to convict the
appellant under Section 304 Part I of IPC.
short question which arises for our consideration in these appeals is whether
the High Court committed any error in convicting the appellant under Section
304 Part I IPC? The entire prosecution story rests upon the dying declaration
(Ex. P-4) recorded by the learned Judicial First Class Magistrate at about
11.30 p.m. on 11.1.1997. Be it noted that the incident had taken place on
11.1.1997 at about 10.00 p.m. in the house of the appellant. PW-4 who is none
other than the father of the appellant who did not support the prosecution case
on account of which he was declared hostile stated in his evidence that the
incident had taken place on 11.1.1997 at about 10 or 10.30 p.m. in his house in
the bedroom of the appellant and the deceased.
The deceased rushed
out of the bedroom crying loudly. He extinguished the fire by pouring water on
the body of the deceased and covered her with a bed sheet. The appellant took
the deceased in an auto to her parentís house and thereafter got her admitted
in the hospital. Dr. CH. Raghukula Kiran (PW-13) stated in his evidence that on
11.1.1997 at about 11.00 p.m. the deceased was brought to the casualty ward
with burn injuries by the appellant. He gave first aid to the injured and
thereafter sent Ex. P-3 requisition to the Judicial First Class Magistrate
According to him PW-2
came to the casualty ward of the hospital and recorded the statement of the
deceased. He was present at the time of recording of the statement and found
that the deceased was conscious and coherent at the time of recording her
statement by PW-2. He made an endorsement on the statement recorded by PW-2 to
the effect that the patient was conscious and coherent and she was in a fit
condition to give the statement. Ex. P-14 is the endorsement made on Ex. P-4.
the Judicial First Class Magistrate in his evidence in clear and categorical
term stated that having received the requisition from the hospital authorities
on 11.1.1997 at about 11.20 p.m. he proceeded to casualty ward of the hospital
and reached there at about 11.30 p.m. The duty doctor PW-13 was present at that
time. In order to satisfy himself as to whether the deceased was in a fit
condition to make her statement put some preliminary questions.
Having been satisfied
that she was in a fit state of mind to give statement proceeded to record the
dying declaration (Ex. P-4) as per her narration. He obtained the left thumb
impression of the deceased on Ex. P-4. In the cross examination he stated that
the deceased narrated the entire statement without any break or stop and the
actual words as stated by the deceased were incorporated in Ex. P-4. There were
no corrections in it. The duty doctor PW-13 made an endorsement to Ex. P-4 to
the effect that the patient was in a fit condition to give statement.
deceased in her dying declaration stated in clear and categorical terms that
the appellant used to quarrel with her whenever she questioned him about his
illegal and immoral activities of having illicit intimacy with some women. He
used to taunt her to develop illicit intimacy with someone of her choice. It
may be relevant to extract the relevant portion from her statement recorded by
the Judicial First Class Magistrate which is as follows:
during bed time he switched on the tape recorder. I objected for it saying that
it is allergy to me. Then he beat me on my cheek. He advised me to develop
illicit intimacy with some one and go away. On hearing it, I felt very much and
brought kerosene and myself poured kerosene on me and brought a match stick.
Then my husband lit the match stick. Then the time was 10 or 10.30. Then I ran
My father in law
Ongole David covered me with blanket and poured water. Later I was brought to
(Emphasis is of ours)
deceased passed away on 18.1.1997 while undergoing treatment in hospital at
Guntur. PW-10 is the Professor of Forensic Medicine, Guntur College, Guntur who
in his evidence stated that he received a requisition from the Executive
Magistrate to conduct the post-mortem examination of the dead body of the
deceased. He conducted the post- mortem examination during which he found the
"1. 60% infected
burns present over face, front of neck, chest and upper 2/3rd part of abdomen
over all sides, upper limbs except dorsum of hands on both sides, left glutei
region, part of front of middle part of both thighs.
2. Two venesection
wounds with sutures and dressing present, one on the inner aspect of each
this evidence is not sufficient to convict the appellant? Shri A.D.N. Rao,
learned counsel for the appellant did not make any submission as regards Ex. P-
4 dying declaration except contending that the contents of Ex. P-4 do not
disclose that it was the appellant who lit the match stick resulting in fire
and causing burns on the body of the deceased. The submission was that courts
below indulged in guess work in the absence of any evidence in convicting the
objective and critical assessment of the material available on record discloses
that requisition was immediately sent to the Judicial First Class Magistrate
after the victim was taken to the hospital at about 10.00 p.m., on 11.1.1997.
The recording of the dying declaration by PW-2 commenced at about 11.30 p.m. and
went on till about 11.55 p.m. It means the victim was speaking coherently and
was in a fit condition to make a statement.
is well settled and needs no restatement at our hands that dying declaration
can form the sole basis for conviction. But at the same time due care and
caution must be exercised in considering weight to be given to dying
declaration inasmuch as there could be any number of circumstances which may
affect the truth. It has been repeatedly held by this Court that the courts
have always to be on guard to see that the dying declaration was not the result
of either tutoring or prompting or a product of imagination. It is the duty of
the courts to find that the deceased was in a fit state of mind to make the
dying declaration. In order to satisfy itself that the deceased was in a fit
mental condition to make the dying declaration, the courts have to look for
Gujarat (1992)2 SCC 474, K. Ramachandra Reddy State of Maharashtra ( 2002) 6
SCC 710 & Nallapati AIR 2008 SC 19].
the light of the law laid down by this Court we have critically examined dying
declaration (Ex. P-4) made by the deceased and the surrounding circumstances.
There is no doubt whatsoever the statement made by the deceased was on her own
volition. It was voluntarily made without any coercion or tutoring of anyone.
The statement is natural and coherently made by the deceased in a fit state of
There is nothing on
record to doubt the evidence of PW- 2 who recorded the dying declaration and
evidence of duty doctor (PW-13) who certified that the deceased was in fit
state of mind to make her statement. Except PW-2 and PW-13 no other individual
was present when she made the statement. We do not find any reason whatsoever
not to accept the dying declaration. The question is whether the contents do
not disclose any offending act by the appellant? The deceased in clear and
categorical terms stated that she poured kerosene on herself and it was the
appellant who lit the match stick resulting in fire and causing 60% burns which
ultimately led to her death. The appellant instead of preventing the deceased
pouring kerosene upon herself lit the match stick resulting in fire and causing
The appellant knew
very well that the body of the deceased was drenched with kerosene yet he
indulged in the cruel act of lighting the match stick. In the circumstances, we
find it difficult to accept the submission that the contents of dying
declaration (Ex.P- 4) do not disclose the commission of any offence by the
appellant. Can it be said that the appellant was not aware that his act was
likely cause serious burn injuries to the deceased. The appellant was in fact
charged for the offences punishable under Sections 498A and 302 IPC. We do not
know what view the court would have taken had there been an appeal by the State
as against the acquittal of the appellant under Section 302 IPC? Suffice it to
say that the High Court took a very lenient view in convicting the appellant
for the offence punishable under Section 304 Part I IPC and sentencing him to
undergo rigorous imprisonment only for a period of seven years.
other point is urged.
the aforesaid reasons we confirm the conviction of the appellant for the
offence punishable under Section 304 Part I of IPC and the sentence awarded by
the High Court.
appeals fail and are accordingly dismissed.
(B. Sudershan Reddy)