Vs. State of M.P.  INSC 74 (29 January 2010)
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 212
OF 2010 (Arising out of S.L.P.(Crl.) No.5813 of 2007) Satni Bai ..............
Appellant Versus State of Madhya Pradesh (Now Chhattisgarh)
mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon
us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with
us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still she cling
to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds
of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts"
It is in this backdrop, we seek to introduce the facts of this
case : A wicked mother is facing life sentence having been convicted under
Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code for killing her own son with an axe by the
Court of First Additional Judge, Ambikapur in Case no. 366 of 1996. On appeal,
the conviction is upheld by the Division Bench of the Chhattisgarh High Court.
The appellant, Satni Bai is the mother of the deceased.
belongs to a tribal community. She has filed this appeal from prison, where she
is undergoing her sentence of life imprisonment.
represented by amicus curiae in this appeal.
The case of the prosecution is that, on 18.8.1996, Heera PW-1 and
his elder brother Naihar Sai had gone to the forest in the morning to collect
wood and at about 1.00 P.M., they returned to the house and when they were
sitting inside the house, they heard the cries of his daughter, Sumitra PW-4
and Anita, the daughter of his younger brother. On hearing the cries, they came
out of the house and went towards the side from where the sound of cries were
heard and saw Kannilal (deceased) lying in a pool of blood.
lodged the report P-1 in the Police Station, Sitapur. A.K.Tiwari PW-7 was
officiating in the post of Station House Officer, Sitapur. He had recorded the
statements of Heera PW-1 Balobai PW-2 and Sumitra PW-4. Heera PW-1 had stated
that the appellant/accused was standing near the dead body of Kannilal with a
bloodstained axe in her hand. As the appellant was attempting to run away from
the scene of crime, he instructed his wife Balobai PW-2 to stop her and snatch
the bloodstained axe from her. He had also stated, that, there were bloodstains
on the clothes of the appellant as well. Balobai PW-2 in her statement before
the police had stated, on the date of the incident they were sitting in the
house and on hearing the cries of her daughter Sumitra PW-4, she came out of
the house and saw appellant's son was lying dead and she saw the appellant
standing near the dead body with the wooden part of the axe in her hand and the
metal part of the axe on the floor. She had also stated, that, when the
appellant started running away from the place, on instructions from her
husband, she caught hold of appellant and locked her inside the house.
After recording the report P-1, the Station House Officer,
Sitapur, left for the scene of occurrence and after giving notice to the
Panchas, he had prepared Panchanama of the dead body of Kannilal. He had taken
into his possession the blood stained axe on production by Heera PW-1 and also
blood stained saree of the accused. He had also taken into possession the blood
stained soil and plain soil from the place of occurrence. The investigating
officer had also prepared the site plan. Thereafter, the dead body of deceased
Kannilal was sent to the hospital situated at Sitapur for post mortem
examination. The post mortem was carried out by Dr.K.K Datta PW-8, who in his
detailed report had stated that the axe wound on the left side of the head of
the deceased was sufficient to cause the death. The blood stained articles were
sent for examination to the Forensic Science Laboratory and, according to the
report, blood was found on the saree of the accused and the weapon of offence -
axe. After completion of the investigation, a charge sheet was filed against
the appellant in the court of Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Ambikapur, who
in turn committed the case to the Sessions Judge for trial.
The prosecution in order to establish the charge against the
appellant/accused, examined eight witnesses including Heera PW-1, his wife
Balobai PW-2 and their daughter Sumitra PW-4, but were declared hostile and
cross examined by State counsel.
accused when questioned under Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code,
denied all the incriminating circumstances brought against her and reiterated
about her being innocent.
The trial court raised the following questions for determination:
Whether the prosecution was successful in establishing that the death was
homicidal in nature ? 2) Whether the prosecution was successful in establishing
that the accused with the intention of causing death, caused the death of
To answer the first question in the affirmative, the trial court
has placed reliance on the post mortem report of the doctor. To answer the
second question, the trial court has taken into consideration the
circumstantial evidence available on record, since the sole eye witness Sumitra
PW-4 has turned hostile. The trial court had also taken other factors into
consideration like the recovery of bloodstained axe and saree of the appellant,
for which there was no proper explanation on the part of the appellant. Based
on these materials on record, the trial court after holding the appellant
guilty for the commission of offence under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code
for committing the murder of her son Kannilal has sentenced her to undergo
imprisonment for life.
Since the appeal filed against the judgment and order of the trial
court is dismissed by the High Court, the accused is in appeal before us.
We have heard amicus curiae for the appellant and the learned
counsel for the State. The learned amicus-curiae submitted that the evidence on
record does not establish the case of homicide and that at any rate the chain
of circumstances is not so complete as to lead to the hypothesis of guilt of
It has been consistently laid down by this Court, that, when a
case rests only on circumstantial evidence, the inference of guilt can be
justified only when all the incriminating facts and circumstances are found to
be incompatible with the innocence of the accused or the guilt of any other
person. The circumstances from which an inference as to the guilt of the
accused is drawn, have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt and have to be
shown to be closely connected with the principal fact sought to be inferred
from those circumstances. [See State of U.P. vs. Satish, (2005) 3 SCC 114].
In Joseph vs. State of Kerala, [(2000) 5 SCC 197], the court has
explained under what circumstances conviction can be based purely on
circumstantial evidence. It is observed, that, "it is often said that
though witnesses may lie, circumstances will not, but at the same time it must
cautiously be scrutinized to see that the incriminating circumstances are such
as to lead only to a hypothesis of guilt and reasonably exclude every
possibility of innocence of the accused.
also be no hard and fast rule as to the appreciation of evidence in a case and
being always an exercise pertaining to arriving at a finding of fact the same
has to be in the manner necessitated or warranted by the peculiar facts and
circumstances of each case. The whole effort and endeavor in the case should be
to find out whether the crime was committed by the accused and the
circumstances proved form themselves into a complete chain unerringly pointing
to the guilt of the accused."
This court in the case of Padala Veera Reddy v. State of Andhra
Pradesh, (AIR 1990 SC 79), has observed that when a case rests on
circumstantial evidence, the following tests must be satisfied:
circumstances from which an inference of guilt is sought to be drawn, must be
cogently and firmly established;
those circumstances should be of a definite tendency unerringly pointing
towards the guilt of the accused;
circumstances, taken cumulatively, should form a chain so complete that there
is no escape from the conclusion that within all human probability the crime
was committed by the accused and none else; and (iv)the circumstantial evidence
in order to sustain conviction must be complete and incapable of explanation of
any other hypothesis than that of the guilt of the accused and such evidence
should not only be consistent with the guilt of the accused but should be in
consistent with this innocence.
In C. Chenga Reddy and others v. State of Andhra Pradesh, (AIR
1996 SC 3390), this Court has held that:- "In a case based on
circumstantial evidence, the settled law is that the circumstances from which
the conclusion of guilt is drawn should be fully proved and such circumstances
must be conclusive in nature. Moreover, all the circumstances should be complete
and there should be no gap left in the chain of evidence. Further, the proved
circumstances must be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the
accused and totally inconsistent with his innocence."
In State of U.P. vs. Ashok Kumar Srivastava, [(1992) 2 SCC 86], it
was pointed out that great care must be taken in evaluating circumstantial
evidence and if the evidence relied on is reasonably capable of two inferences,
the one in favour of the accused must be accepted. It was also pointed out that
the circumstances relied upon must be found to have been fully established and
the cumulative effect of all the facts so established must be consistent only
with the hypothesis of the guilt.
The principles that would emerge from these decisions is that
conviction can be based solely on circumstantial evidence, but it should be
tested on the touchstone of law relating to circumstantial evidence laid down
by this Court.
Keeping in view the settled legal principle, we have re-
appreciated the evidence on record. It is true that this case is not of direct
evidence of committing murder of deceased Kannilal by the accused/appellant,
who is none other than the mother of the deceased, but is based on
circumstantial evidence and the circumstances brought on record by the
prosecution are of two categories: That the accused was seen at the place of
occurrence holding blood stained axe in her hand near the dead body of the
deceased Kannilal and she also tried to run away from the place of occurrence;
that the axe which was snatched from the accused by Balobai and the saree of
the accused were found stained with the blood. To prove the first circumstance,
the prosecution has examined Heera PW-1, Balobai PW-2 and Sumitra PW-4. PW-1
has stated that on the fateful day when he returned from the forest at about
1.00 P.M., he heard the cries of Sumitra and came out of the house, went
towards the court yard of Naihar Sai and saw the dead body of Kannilal in the
was standing there holding axe in her hand and he lodged the report, P-1. This
witness has been declared hostile by the prosecution.
prosecution was allowed to cross examine this witness, on which he has stated
that the portion `A' to `A' of the report P-3 shows that the girls were crying
that the aunt has murdered Kannilal. The accused was running away with the axe
and the axe was snatched from her and she was tied, all this was informed by
him while lodging the report, P-
3. He had
also stated in the report P-3, that the axe was smeared with blood and hair and
accused's garments were also stained with blood.
cross-examination, he has stated that the place of occurrence was the house of
Naihar Sai who is his brother. His wife Balobai was scolding Satni (accused)
and on their remonstrations, Satni (accused) tried to run away, but, before
that the accused was sitting by the side of her son Kannilal (deceased). The
above evidence of Heera PW-1 is corroborated by the evidence of Balobai PW-2
and Sumitra PW-4. In the cross-examination of these witnesses, the defence has
not been able to elicit any circumstance which shows that the accused was not
present when Heera PW-1 and Balobai PW-2 went to the scene of occurrence and,
therefore, the presence of the accused at the place of occurrence near the dead
body of her son Kannilal holding blood stained axe in her hand is established.
It is also established from the evidence of these witnesses that the accused
tried to run away from the place of occurrence and she was caught by Balobai
PW-2. These witnesses are closely related to the appellant. From their
deposition, a clear and consistent picture emerges that when they gathered at
the courtyard being alarmed by the cries of Sumitra (daughter of Heera) and
Anita (daughter of the appellant), they saw that the appellant was standing
with a bloodstained axe near the body of her son, Kannilal.
tried to run away, and Balobai restrained her and seized the axe from her
possession. The axe as well as the saree of the appellant was blood stained
according to the witnesses. There are no inherent contradictions in the
testimony of these witnesses. The defence has been unable to dispel the chain
of events which emerge from the testimony of these witnesses.
Next comes the second circumstance. The blood stained axe and the
blood stained saree of the accused was taken into possession by the
investigating officer as has been recorded in the seizure memo.
sent to Forensic Science Laboratory for examination and the report received
mentions that both the articles were found blood stained. Therefore, it is
proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was standing with the blood
stained axe near the dead body of the deceased Kannilal.
The third circumstance is the post mortem report prepared by Dr.
K.K Datta, which revealed the following wounds on the body of the deceased:
incised wound measuring 12 X 1.5 cm till mandible bone deep in the cheek.
Incised wound measuring 10 X 1.5 cm on left side behind the head, from which
the brain was visible.
Incised wound 6 X 1 cm deep till bone, on left side of the neck, deep till
Incised wound 7.5 X 1.5 cm deep till vertebrae.
to Dr. Datta, wound No.2 was life endangering and there is no doubt this was
caused by the axe which was recovered from the hands of the accused. We find
that the post mortem report coupled with the testimony of the witnesses
presents a very clear and cogent chain of the events which occurred on the
fateful day unerringly points towards the guilt of the appellant. The picture
emerging has also not been refuted satisfactorily by the defence.
The learned Amicus Curiae appearing for the appellant submits that
the appellant is the mother of the deceased child and it is not possible for a
mother to possibly kill her own child. She further submits that because of the
illiteracy and ignorance of the appellant, she has been falsely implicated for
the death of her child.
Motherhood is one of the most precious gifts endowed upon mankind
and there is no relationship more pristine and pure than that of a mother and
her child. No mother in normal circumstances can tolerate even a scratch on the
body of her child. Basic instinct of a mother is well explained by a well known
author Washington Irving in one of his books, wherein he has said, that,
"a father may turn his back on his child; brothers and sisters may become
inveterate enemies; husbands may desert their wives, and wives their husbands.
mother's love endures through all; in good repute; in bad repute, in the face
of the world's condemnation, a mother still loves on, and still hopes that her
child may turn from his evil ways, and repent; still she remembers the infant
smiles that once filled her bosom with rupture, the merry laugh, the joyful
shout of his childhood, the opening promise of his youth; and she can never be
brought to think him an unworthy." In the present case, the appellant was
found standing near the dead body of her son with a bloodstained axe in her
hand. The normal reaction for any mother would have been to go hysterical and
clutch the body of her son. But, what is the reaction of a mother in the
present case, as stated by PW-1 and PW-2 in their evidence, who came near the
scene of occurrence on hearing the cries of Anita and Sumitra, that the accused
tried to flee away from the scene of the crime before being restrained. This
kind of reaction and lack of remorse would not have been forthcoming had she
been innocent. This unusual reaction to the death of her son who was aged 4 at
the time of his death, in no uncertain terms point towards her involvement in
the crime. In our view, this is an unusual case and therefore the plea that a
mother is not capable of killing her own son, in the absence of any evidence to
the contrary cannot be accepted.
from this, at the time of questioning under Section 313 Cr.P.C., the appellant
instead of making at least an attempt to explain or clarify the incriminating
circumstances inculpating her and connecting her with the crime by her total
denial of everything when those circumstances were brought to her notice by the
Sessions Court, she not only lost the opportunity but stood self condemned.
There is also no question of falsely implicating the appellant.
witnesses are her close relatives. Heera PW-1 being the brother- in-law of the
appellant and Balobai PW-2 being the sister-in-law of the appellant, had no
enmity nor animosity against the appellant.
regard to the issue of Sumitra PW-4, being declared a hostile witness by the
prosecution and the contradictions in her testimony, it needs to be kept in
mind that the witness is a 16 year old girl, with an impressionable mind. It is
very likely that she was shocked beyond belief at the site of the dead body
and it is not possible to comprehend how she would have reacted. Different
people react differently to crisis situations, so it is very much possible that
with the passage of time between the occurrence of the crime and recording of
her testimony, her memory of the incident would have blurred. That by itself is
not enough to set aside the conclusion reached at by the courts below.
For all the reasons stated supra, we have no hesitation to agree
with the findings of the Division Bench of the High Court holding the appellant
guilty of the offence under Section 302 I.P.C.
the appeal fails and it is dismissed.
.................................J.[ P. SATHASIVAM ]
.................................J.[ H.L. DATTU ]
January 29, 2010.