Anant Chintaman Lagu Vs. The State of
Bombay  INSC 150 (14 December 1959)
CITATION: 1960 AIR 500 1960 SCR (2) 460
CITATOR INFO :
F 1963 SC 74 (38) RF 1970 SC1321 (16) F 1972
SC1331 (32) D 1984 SC1622 (156,170) R 1988 SC1011 (9,27)
Criminal Law-Murder by
poisoning-Circumstantial evidence -Poison not detected in body of
deceased-Conduct of accused, both before and after-Conviction for murder.
At the trial of a person for murder by
alleged poisoning, the fact of death by poisoning is provable by circumstantial
evidence, notwithstanding that the autopsy as well as the chemical analysis
fail to disclose any poison; though the cause of death may not appear to be established
by direct evidence, the medical evidence of experts and the circumstances of
the case may be sufficient to infer that the death must be the result of the
administration to the victim of some unrecognised poison or drug which acts as
a poison, and a conviction can be rested on circumstantial evidence provided
that it is so decisive that the court can unhesitatingly hold that the death
was not a natural one.
Per S. K. Das and M. Hidayatullah, jj.-Where
the evidence showed that the appellant who was the medical adviser of the
deceased, deliberately set about first to ingratiate himself in the good
opinions of his patient and becoming her confidant, found out all about her
affairs and gradually began managing her affairs, that all the time he was planning
to get at her property and had forged her signature on a dividend warrant and
had obtained undated cheque from her and then under the guise of helping her to
have a consultation with a specialist in Bombay took her in a train, and then
brought the patient unconscious to a hospital bereft of all property with which
she had started from home and gave a wrong name to cover her identity and wrong
history of her ailments, that after her death he abandoned the body to be dealt
with by the hospital as an unclaimed body, spread the story that she was alive
and made use of the situation to misappropriate all her properties, and that he
tried by all means to avoid postmortem examination and when questioned gave
false and conflicting statements, held that if the deceased died in
circumstances which prima facie admit of either disease or homicide by
poisoning one must look at the conduct of the appellant both before and after
the death of the deceased, that the corpus delicti could be held to be proved
by a number of facts which render the commission of the crime certain, and that
the medical evidence in the case and the conduct of the appellant unerringly
pointed to the conclusion that the death of the deceased was the result of the
administration of some unrecognised poison or drug which would act as a poison
and that the appellant was the person who administered it.
461 Per Sarkar, J.-If it could be established
in this case that the deceased had died an unnatural death, the conclusion
would be inevitable that unnatural death had been brought about by poison, but
the circumstances were not such that from them the only reasonable conclusion
to be drawn was that the deceased died an unnatural death. Held, that the
prosecution had failed to prove the guilt of the appellant.
Regina v. Onufrejczyk,  1 Q.B. 388, The
King v. Horry,  N.Z.L. 111, Mary Ann Nash's case, (1911) 6 Cr. App. R.
225 and Donnall's case, (1817) 2 C.& K, 308n, considered and relied on.
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal No. 73 of 1959.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated January 16/20th, 1959, of the Bombay High Court in Confirmation
case No. 25 of 1958 with Criminal Appeal No.
1372 of 1958, arising out of. the judgment
and order dated October 27, 1958, of the Sessions Judge, Poona, in Sessions
Case No. 52 of 1958.
A. S. R. Chtiri, S. N. Andley, J. B.
Dadachanji and Rameshwar Nath, for the appellant.
H. N. Seervai, Advocate-General for the State
of Bombay, Porus A. Mehta and R. H. Dhebar, for the respondent.
1959. December 14. The Judgment of S. K. Das
and Hidayatullah, JJ., was delivered by Hidayatullah, J. Sarkar, J., delivered
a separate Judgment.
HIDAYATULLAH J.-This appeal by special leave
is against the judgment of the Bombay High Court [J. C. Shah, J. (now of the
Supreme Court) and V. S. Desai, J.] by which it maintained the conviction of
the appellant, Lagu, under s. 302 of the Indian Penal Code, and confirmed the
sentence of death passed on him by Shri V. A. Naik (now Naik, J.) Sessions
The appellant was tried for the murder of one
Laxmibai Karve, and the charge held proved against him was that on or about the
night between November 12 and 13, 1956, either at Poona or in the course of a
railway journey between Poona and Bombay, he administered to the said Laxmibai
Karve, some unrecognised poison or drug which would act as a poison, 59 462
with the intention of causing her death and which did cause her death.
Laxmibai Karve was a resident of Poona where
she lived at 93-95, Shukrawar Peth. Before her marriage of she was known as
Indumati, Indutai or Indu Ponkshe. In the year 1922, she married Anant
Ramachandra Karve, a widower with a son by name, Vishnu. On her marriage, as is
the custom, she was named Laxmibai by the family of her husband and was known
as Laxmibai Karve. She was also known as Mai or Mai Karve. From Laxmibai there
were born two sons, Ramachandra (P.W. 1) and Purshottam alias Arvind, who died
Anant Ramachandra Karve was a moderately rich
man, who had been successful in business. He died in 1945 of pleurisy. He was
attended till his death by the appellant and his brother, B. C. Lagu, both of
whom are doctors. Anant Ramachandra Karve left a will dated February 28, 1944.
Prior to the execution of the will, he had gifted Rs. 30,000 to his son,
Vishnu, to set him up in business. By his will he gave the house No. 93-95,
Shukrawar Peth, Poona to Ramachandra with a right of residence in at least
three rooms to his widow, Laxmibai and a further right to her to receive Rs. 50
per month from the rent of the house. He assigned an insurance policy of Rs.
5,000 in her favour. The business was left to Ramachandra. The cash deposits in
Bank, Post Office and with other persons together with the right to recover
loans from debtors in the Bhor State were given to Purushottam alias Arvind.
Certain bequests of lands and debentures were made to Visbnu's children.
Laxmibai was also declared owner of all her ornaments of about 60 tolas of gold
and nose-ring and pearl bangles which were described in the will.
In addition to what she inherited from her
husband, Laxmibai inherited about Rs. 25,000 invested in shares from her
mother, Girjabai, and another 60 tolas of gold ornaments. In January 1954,
Purushottam alias Arvind died at Poona. By Purushottam's death Laxmibai also
inherited all the property held by him.
463 Thus, at the time of her death, Laxmibai
possessed of about 560 shares in diverse Electric' Companies, debentures in
South Madras Electric Supply Corporation and Mettur Chemical and Industrial
Corporation, a sum of Rs. 7,882-15-0 at the Bank of Maharashtra, a sum of Rs.
35,000 in deposit with one Vasudeo Sadashiv Joshi, gold and pearl ornaments and
sundry movables like clothes, house hold furniture, radio etc.
In the year 1946, Ramachandra, the elder son,
started living separately. There were differences between the mother and son.
The latter had suffered a loss in the business and had mortgaged the house with
one Shinde, who filed a suit, and obtained a decree but Vishnu filed a suit for
partition claiming that his one third share was not affected. Before this,
Ramachandra had closed his business in 195 1, and joined the military. He was
posted at different places, but in spite of their differences, mother and son
used to correspond with each other. In May, 1956, Laxmibai arranged and
performed his marriage, and he went away in June, 1956.
Laxmibai had contracted tuberculosis after
the birth of Purushottam. That was about twenty years before her death.
The lesion, however, healed and till 1946 her
health was not bad. From 1946 she suffered from diabetes. In 1948 she was
operated for hysterectomy, and before her operation, she was getting hysterical
fits. On June 15, 1950, she was examined by Dr, R. V, Sathe, who prescribed some
treatment. In July, 1950, she was admitted in the Wanless Tuberculosis Sanatorium
for pulmonary affection, and she was treated till November 15, 1950. Two stages
of thoracoplasty operations were performed, but she left, though a third stage
of operation was advised. In the operations, her leftside first rib and
portions of 2nd to 6th ribs were removed.
Laxmibai was, however, treated with
medicines, and the focus, it appears, was under control.
We now come to the events immediately
preceding her death.
Laxmibai had, through the appellant, taken an
appointment from Dr. Sathe of Bombay for 464 a consultation about her health,
for November 13, 1956, at 3-30 p. m. It was to attend this appointment that she
left Poona in the company of the appellant by Passenger train on the night of
November 12,1956, for Bombay. The train arrived at Victoria Terminus Station at
5-10 a. m. thirtyfive minutes late. It is an admitted fact that Laxmibai was
then deeply unconcious and was carried on a stretcher by the appellant to a
taxi and later to the G. T. Hospital, where she was entered as an in-door
patient at 5-45 a. m. She never regained consciousness and died at 11-30 a. m.
Her body remained it the G.T. Hospital till the evening of the 14th, when it
was sent to the J. J. Hospital morgue for preservation. Later, it was to be
handed over under the orders of the Coroner to the Grant Medical College for
the use of Medical Students. It was noticed there that she had a suspicious
ligature mark on the neck, and the body was subjected to postmortem examination
and the viscera to chemical analysis and then the body was disposed of. Both
the autopsy as well as the chemical analysis failed to disclose any poison and
the mark on the neck was found to be postmortem.
The appellant was the medical attendant and
friend of the family. He and his brother (also a medical practitioner) attended
on Anant Ramachandra Karve till his death. The appellant also treated
Purshottam alias Arvind for two days prior to his death on January 18, 1954. He
was also the medical attendant of Laxmibai and generally managed her affairs.
In 1955, he started living in the main room of the suite occupied by Laxmibai,
and if Ramachandra is to be believed, the reason for the quarrel between
Laxmibai and himself was the influence which the appellant exercised over the
mother to the disadvantage of the son. However that be, it is quite clear that
the son left Poona in June, 1956, and did not see his mother alive again.
The death of Laxmibai was not known to the
relatives or friends. The appellant also did not disclose this fact to anyone.
On the other hand, he kept it a close secret.
Soon afterwards, people began receiving 465
mysterious letters purporting to be from Laxmibai, stating that she had gone on
pilgrimage, that she did not intend to return and that none should try to find
She advised them to communicate with her
through the newspaper " Sakal ". Laxmibai also exhorted all persons
to forget her, as she had married one Joshi and had settled at Rathodi, near
Jaipur in Rajasthan. People who went to her rooms at first found them locked,
but soon the doors were open and the meveable property was found to have been
removed. Through these mysterious letters Laxmibai informed all concerned that
she had herself removed these articles secretly and that none was to be blamed
or suspected. It is the prosecution case that these letters were forgeries, and
that the appellant misappropriated the properties of Laxmibai, including her
shares, bank deposits etc.
The appellant has admitted his entire conduct
after the death of Laxmibai, by which he managed to get hold of her property.
His explanation was that he would have given the proceeds to some charitable
institution according to her wishes adding some money of his own to round off
He led no evidence to prove that Laxmibai
before she left Poona or at any time gave such instructions to him in the
matter. Meanwhile, the continued disappearance of Laxmibai was causing
uneasiness to her friends and relatives. On December 31, 1957, G. D. Bhave (P.
W. 8) addressed a complaint to the Chief Minister, Bombay. Similarly , Dr. G. N.
Datar (P. W. 5) also addressed a letter to the Chief Minister, Bombay on
February 16, 1958, and in both these petitions, doubts were expressed.
Ramachandra too made a report, and in consequence of a preliminary
investigation, the appellant was arrested on March 12,1958. He was subsequently
tried and convicted by the Sessions Judge, Poona. His appeal was also
dismissed, and the certificate of fitness having been refused, he obtained
special leave from this Court and filed this appeal.
The appellant's contention in this appeal is
that the prosecution has not succeeded in proving that 466 Laxmibai was
poisoned at all, or that there was any poison administered to her which would
evade detection, yet cause death in the manner it actually took place. The
appellant contends also that his conduct before the death of Laxmibai was bona
fide and correct, that no inference of guilt can be drawn from all the
circumstances of this case, and that his subsequent conduct, though suggestive
of greed, was not proof of his guilt on the charge of murder.
The conviction of the appellant rests on
circumstantial evidence, and his guilt has been inferred from medical evidence
regarding the death of Laxmibai and his conduct.' The two Courts below have
held that the total evidence in this case unerringly points to the commission
of the crime charged and every reasonable hypothesis compatible with the innocence
of the appellant has been successfully repelled.
A criminal trial, of course, is not an
enquiry into the conduct of an accused for any purpose other than to determine
whether he is guilty of the offence charged. In this connection, that piece of
conduct can be held to be incriminatory which has no reasonable explanation
except on the hypothesis that he is guilty. Conduct which destroys the
presumption of innocence can alone be considered as material. The contention of
the appellant, briefly, is that the medical evidence is inconclusive, and that
his-conduct is explainable on hypotheses other than his guilt.
Ordinarily, it is not the practice of this
Court to reexamine the findings of fact reached by the High Court particularly
in a case where there is concurrence of opinion between the two Courts below.
But the case against the appellant is entirely based on circumstantial
evidence, and there is no direct evidence that he administered a poison, and no
poison has, in fact been detected by the doctor, who performed the postmortem
examination, or by the Chemical Analyser. The inference of guilt having been
drawn on an examination of a mass of evidence during which subsidiary findings
were given by the two Courts below, we have felt it necessary, in view of the
extraordinary nature of this case, to satisfy ourselves 467 whether each
conclusion on the separate' aspects of the case, is supported by evidence and
is just and proper.
Ordinarily, this Court is not required to
enter into an elaborate examination of the evidence, but we have departed from
this rule in this particular case, in view of the variety of arguments that
were addressed to us and the evidence of conduct which the appellant has sought
to explain away on hypotheses suggesting innocence. These arguments, as we have
stated in brief, covered both the factual as well as the medical aspects of the
case, and have necessitated a close examination of the evidence once again, so
that we may be in a position to say what are the facts found, on which our
decision is rested.
That Laxmibai died within six hours of her
admission in the G. T. Hospital is not questioned. Her body was identified by
persons who knew her well from her photograph taken at the J. J. Hospital on
November 19, 1956. In view of the contention of the appellant that she died of
disease and/or wrong treatment, we have to determine first what was the state
of her health before she went on the ill-fated journey. ,This enquiry takes us
to the medical papers maintained at the institutions where she was treated in
the past, the evidence of some of the doctors who dealt with her case, of the
observation of witnesses who could depose to her outward state of health
immediately before her departure, and lastly, the case papers maintained by the
appellant as a medical adviser.
The earliest record of Laxmibai's health is
furnished by Dr. K. C. Gharpure (P. W. 17), who treated her in 1948.
According to Dr. Gharpure, she entered his
Nursing Home on April 6, 1948, and stayed there till April 24, 1948.
Laxmibai was then suffering from Menorrhagia
and Metrorrhagia for about six years. In 1946 there was an operation for
dilatation and also curettage. She had Diabetes from 1945 and hysterical fits
since 1939. On admission in Dr. Gharpure's Nursing Home, her blood pressure was
found to be 140/80 and urine showed sugar + + , albumin nil. She was kept in
the hospital and probably treated, and on the 11th, when a sub-total 468
hysterectomy was performed, she had blood pressure 110/75 and sugar traces (albumin
nil) before the Laguoperation.
According to Dr. Gharpure, the operation was
not for hysterical fits, and along with hysterectomy the right -ovary was
cysticpunctured and the appendix was also removed. A certificate was issued by
Dr. Gharpure (Ex. 121), in which the same history is given.
Laxmibai was next examined by Dr. Ramachandra
Sathe (P.W.25) on June 15, 1950. He deposed from the case file which he had
maintained about her complaints. A copy of the case papers shows that she was
introduced to him by the appellant. At that time, her weight was 120 lbs. and
her blood pressure, 140/90. Dr. Sathe noticed that diabetes had existed for
four years, and that she was being given insulin for 8 months prior to his
examination. He also noticed hysterectomy scar, and that she had a tubercular
lesion on the left apex 20 years ago. According to the statement of the
patient, she had trouble with tuberculosis from May 1949, and her teeth were
extracted on account of pyorrhoea.
She was getting intermittent temperature from
September 1949, and was receiving streptomycin and PAS irregularly.
She was then suffering from low temperature,
slight cough and expectoration. On examination, the doctor found that there was
infiltration in the left apex but no other septic focus was found. The evidence
does not show the treatment which was given, and the doctor merely stated that
he must have recommended a line of treatment to the patient, though he had no
record of it.
On July 13, 1950, Laxmibai entered the
Wanlesswadi T. B. Sanatorium, and stayed there till November 15, 1950. Her
condition is noted in two certificates which were issued by the Sanatorium -and
proved by Dr. Fletcher (P. W. 16), the Medical Superintendent. In describing
the previous history of the patient, the case papers showed that she had a
history of Pott's disease (T. B. of the spine) 20 years before. She had
diabetes for five years and history of hysterectomy operation two years before.
It was also noted that she had 469 T. B. of the lungs 15 years back, but had
kept well for 14 years and a new attack began in or about 1949. The certificate
describes the treatment given to her in these words:
" Patient was admitted on 13th July,
1950. X-Ray on admission showed extensive filtration on the left side with a large
cavity in the upper zone; the right side was within normal limits. She had
diabetes with high blood sugar which was controlled by insulin. Two stages of
thoracoplasty operations on the left side were done and there was good clearing
of disease but there was a small residual cavity seen and the third stage
operation was advised. The patient is leaving at her own request against
medical advice. Her sputum is positive. " From the above, it appears that
Laxmibai's general complaints were menstrual irregularities corrected by
hysterectomy, tuberculosis of the lungs controlled to a large extent by
thoracoplasty and medicines and diabetes for which she was receiving treatment.
In the later case papers, there is no mention of hysterical fits, and it seems
that she had overcome that trouble after the performance of hysterectomy and
the cysticpuncture of the ovary, for there is no evidence of a recurrence after
1948. Diabetes was, however, present, and must have continued till her death.
Next, we come to the evidence of some
witnesses who saw her immediately prior to her departure for Bombay on November
12, 1956. The first witness in this connection is Ramachandra (P.W. 1), son of
Laxmibai. He has given approximately the same description of her many ailments
and the treatment she underwent. He last saw her in June, 1956, when his
marriage was performed. According to him, the general condition of his mother
was rather weak, but before that, her condition had not occasioned him any
concern and he had not noticed anything so radically wrong with her as to
prompt him to ask her about her ailments. When he last saw his mother in June
1956, lie found her in good health.
Dr. Madhav Domadhar Bhave (P.W. 9), who knew
Laxmibai 470 intimately stated that he saw her last in the month of October,
1956, and that the condition of her health was good. No question was asked from
him in cross examination at all. His brother, G. D. Bhave, (P.W. 8), who is a
landlord, had gone to Laxmibai's house on November 8, 1956, and met her in the
presence of the appellant. Laxmibai had then told him that she was going to
Bombay with the appellant to consult Dr. Sathe in connection with her health.
She had also stated that she would be returning in four or five days. According
to the witness, she was in good health, and was moving about and doing her own
work. The next witness is Champutai Vinayak Gokhale (P.W. II), who met Laxmibai
on November 10 or 11, 1956. Champutai is a well-educated lady.
She is a B.Sc. of the Bombay University and
an M.A. of Columbia (U.S.A.) University. She said that she had gone to
Laxmibai's house to invite her for the birthday party of her son, which was to
take place on November 13, 1956. She found Laxmibai in good state of health,
and Laxmibai promised that though she would be going to Bombay, she would
return soon enough to join the party.
Similarly, Viswanath Janardhan Karandikar,
pleader of Poona, met Laxmibai on November 10 or,11 , 1956. Laxmibai had
herself gone in the afternoon to him to ask him whether her presence was
necessary in Poona in connection with the suit filed by Vishnu, to which we
have referred earlier. The witness stated that Laxmibai was in good state of
health 'at that time, and that he informed her that he did not propose to
examine her as a witness. She was again seen by Dattatreya Vishnu Virkar (P.W.
6) on the night of November 12, 1956, an hour before she left her house for
Virkar, who is a Graduate in Electrical
Mechanics and in Government service, was a tenant living in the same house.
Laxmibai, according to the will of her
husband, was entitled to Rs. 50 out of the rents from tenants. She went to
Virkar's Block at 8 p.m. and told him that she was going to Bombay to consult a
doctor in the company of the appellant and needed money. Virkar gave her Rs. 50
and 471 Laxmibai went back to her Block saying that she would give a receipt.
Later, she brought the receipt to Virkar seated at his meals, asked him not to
get UP and left the receipt in his room. The receipt signed by Laxmibai is Ex.
70, and is dated November 12, 1956. Shantabai (P.W. 14), a servant of Laxmibai,
was deaf and dumb, and her evidence was interpreted with the help of Martand
Ramachandra Jamdar (P.W. 13), the Principal of a Deaf and Mute School. It
appears that Shantabai had studied Marathi, and was able to answer questions
written on a piece of paper, replies to which questions she wrote in her own
hand. Some of the questions were not properly answered by Shantabai, but she
stated by pantomime that on the day on which she left, the appellant had given
two injections to Laxmibai. The learned Sessions Judge made a note to the
In the morning the accused gave Laxmibai one
injection and in the evening he gave the second one. (The signs were so clear
that I myself gathered the meaning and the interpreter was not asked to
interpret the signs). " Next, Laxmibai was seen by Pramilabai Sapre (P.W.
12) at 8 p.m. on November 12,1956. Laxmibai had told the witness that she was
going to Bombay to consult a doctor and Laxmibai again' passed her door at 9-15
p.m., when the witness was at her meals. Though Laxmibai told her not to
disturb herself, the witness did get up and saw her. The witness stated that
Laxmibai did not suffer from T. B. after the, operation but was suffering from
diabetes, and that she sometimes used to give Laxmibai her injections of
insulin but only till 1953. The last witness on the state of Laxmibai's health
is K. L. Patil (P. W. 60), who saw Laxmibai immediately before her departure
for the station.
He saw her standing at the Par in front of
her house with a small bag and small bedding. He then saw the appellant
arriving there, and Laxmibai presumably left in a rickshaw or a tonga, because
there was a stand for these vehicles in the neighbourhood. All this evidence
was not questioned except to point out-that Dr. Datar in his petition to the
Chief Minister had stated that Laxmibai was a 472 frank case of tuberculosis of
both lungs and an invalid (Ex. 68). But Dr. Datar explained that he had so
stated there, because it was being " circulated " that she had gone
on a long pilgrimage alone, and that it was most improbable.
Indeed, Dr. Datar said that Laxmibai was well
enough to do all her work and even cooked for herself.
From this mass of evidence given by persons
from different walks of life and most of them well-placed, it is clear enough
that Laxmibai was not in such a state of health that she would have collapsed
in the train, unless something very unusual took place. She was not in the
moribund state in which she undoubtedly was, when she reached the hospital.
Her general health, though not exactly good,
had not deteriorated so radically as to prevent her from attending to her
normal avocations. She appeared to have been quite busy prior to her departure
arranging for this matter and that, and she did not rely upon other persons'
help but personally attended to all that she desired. Right up to 915 or so in
the night, she was sufficiently strong and healthy to go about her affairs, and
indeed, she must have boarded the train also in a fit state of health, because
there is nothing to show that she was carried to the compartment in a state of
collapse or unconsciousness.
We have stated earlier that the appellant who
was presumably treating her for her ailments had maintained case papers to show
what treatment he was giving her from time to time. These case, papers are Ex.'
305, and commence on February 27, 1956. The medicines that have been shown as
prescribed in these case papers show treatment for diabetes, general debility,
tuberculosis, rheumatism and indigestion.
Much reliance cannot, however, be placed upon
this document, because these case papers significantly enough stop on November
12,-1956, and continue again from February 13, 1957, when Laxmibai was no more.
There are four entries of treatment given to Laxmibai between February 13 and
February 28, 1957, when Laxmibai had already died and her body had undergone
postmortem examination and been cremated.
473 The extent to which her treatment, if
any, went in the period covered by the case papers may or may not be truly
described by the appellant in these papers, but we are definitely of the
opinion that the entries there cannot be read without suspicion, in view of the
extraordinary fact described by us here. It appears, however, that the last
insulin injection was given to her on September 27, 1956, though the appellant
stated in his examination as accused in the case that she was put on Nadisan
tablets for diabetes.
The appellant was questioned by the Sessions
Judge as to the State of her health, and he stated that Laxmibai on the day she
left for Bombay had a temperature of 100 degrees and was suffering from
laryngitis, pharyngitis, and complained of pain in the ear. What relevance this
has, we shall point out subsequently when we deal with the medical evidence and
the conclusions of the doctors about it.
The next question which falls for
consideration is whether the appellant and Laxmibai travelled in the same
compartment on the train. The train left Poona at 10 p.m., and it is obvious
enough that it was a comparatively slow and inconvenient train. We have no
evidence in the case as to whether the appellant travelled with Laxmibai in the
same compartment, but both the Courts below have found from the probabilities
of the case that he did. The best person to tell us about this journey is
necessarily the appellant, and reference may now be made to what he stated in
regard to this journey. The appellant had arranged for the examination of Laxmibai
by Dr. Sathe at Bombay. He was the family physician and also a friend. Laxmibai
was an elderly lady and the appellant was for some time previous to this
journey living in the main room of her block. There would be nothing to prevent
the appellant from travelling in the same compartment with his patient, who
might need his attention during the journey. The appellant denied in Court that
he had travelled in the same compartment, but his statements on this part of
the events have not been quite consistent. After Laxmibai died and the question
arose about the disposal of her body, the police at 474 Poona were asked to
contact the appellant to get some information about her. On November 16, 1956,
before any investigation into ail offence of any kind was started, the
appellant was questioned by the police, and he gave a written statement in Ex.
365. He stated there as follows:
"I, Anant Chintaman Lagu, occupation
Medical practitioner, age 40 years, residing at H. No. 431/5, Shukrawar and
dispensary at H. No. 20, Shukrawar Peth, Poona 2, on being questioned, state
that on the night of 12th November, 1956, 1 left Poona for Bombay by the train
which leaves Poona at 10 p.m. I reached Victoria Terminus at 5-15 a.m. on 13th
November, 1956. In my compartment I bad a talk with a woman as also with other
passengers. On getting accomodation in the train almost all of us began to doze
and at about 12 p.m. we slept. As Byculla came, -we started preparations for
getting down. At that time one woman was found fast asleep. From other
passengers I came to know that her name was Indumati Panse, about 36 years old
and she had a brother serving in Calcutta. Other passengers got down at V. T.
The woman, however, did not awake. 1, therefore, looked at her keenly and found
that she was senseless. Being myself a doctor, I thought it my duty to take her
to the hospital.
I, therefore, took her to the G.T. Hospital
in a taxi. I know that that hospital was near. As I had taken the said woman to
the hospital, the C.M.O. took my address. I have no more information about the
woman. She is not my relation and I am not in any way responsible for
her." It will appear from this that he was travelling in the same
compartment as Laxmibai, though for reason's of his own he did not care to admit
that he was taking her to Bombay.
Similarly, in the hospital when he was
questioned about the patient he had brought for admission, he stated to Dr.
Ugale (P. W. 18), Casualty Medical Officer, that the lady had suddenly become
unconscious in the train. This fact was noted by Dr. Ugale in the bed-head
ticket, and Dr. Ugale has stated on oath that the information was supplied by
475 the appellant himself. To Dr. Miss Aneeja, who was the House Physician on
the morning of November 13, the appellant also stated the same thing. Dr. Miss
Aneeja had also made a separate note of this, and stated that the information
was given by the appellant. In view of these statements 'made by the appellant
at a time when he was not required to face a charge, we think that his present
statement in Court that he travelled in a separate compartment cannot be
The train halted at various stations en
route, and evidence was led in the case, of the Guard, K. Shamanna (P. W. 37),
who deposed from his memo book (Ex. 214). This train made 26 halts en route
before it arrived at V. T. Station. Some of these halts were of as many as 20
minutes. It is difficult to think that the appellant would not have known till
he arrived at Victoria Terminus that his patient was unconscious, and the fact
that he mentioned that she became suddenly unconscious shows that be knew the
exact manner of the onset. Without, however; speculating as to what had
actually happened, it is quite clear to us that Laxmibai was in the same
compartment as the appellant, a fact which was not denied by the learned
counsel in the arguments before us. If we were to accept what the appellant
stated as true, then Laxmibai lost her consciousness suddenly. It is, however,
a little difficult to accept as true all that the appellant stated in this
behalf, because be told a patent lie to the police when he was questioned, that
he knew nothing about the woman or Who she was, but took her to the hospital as
an act of humanity when he found her unconscious. There is nothing to show beyond
this statement to the police in Ex. 365 that there were other passengers in the
compartment; but if there had been, the attention of these passengers would
have been drawn to the condition of Laxmibai, and some' one would have advised
the calling of the Guard or the railway authorities at one of these stations at
which the train halted. The circumstances of the case, therefore, point to the
appellant and Laxmibai being in the compartment together, and the preponderance
of 476 probabilities is that the compartment was not occupied by any other
We shall leave out from consideration for the
present the circumstances under which Laxmibai was admitted in the G. T.
Hospital and the treatment given to her. We shall now pass on to her death and
what happened thereafter and the connection of the appellant with the
circumstances resulting in the disposal of the dead body. We have already
stated that the appellant was present in the hospital till her death. We next
hear of the appellant at Poona. On the afternoon of November 13, 1956, Dr'
Mouskar (P. W. 40), the Resident Medical Officer of the Hospital, sent a
telegram (Ex. 224) to the appellant, and it conveyed to him the following
" Indumati expired. Arrange removal
reply immediately." The telegram was sent at about 2 p.m. The appellant in
reply did not send a telegram, but wrote an inland letter in which he stated
that the name of the woman admitted by him in the hospital had been wrongly
shown as "Paunshe", and that there was an extra "u" in it.
He also stated that he had informed her brother at Calcutta about the death,
and that the brother would call at the hospital for the body of his sister. The
name of the brother was shown as Govind Vaman Deshpande. The letter also stated
that the appellant was writing in connection with the woman aged 30 to 35 years
admitted in the hospital at 6 a.m. on November 13, 1955, and who had expired
the same day at 11 a.m. The name of the brother in this letter is fictitious,
because Laxmibai bad no brother, much less a brother in Calcutta and of this
name. Thereafter, the appellant took no further action in the matter till the
police questioned him on the 16th, two days after he had sent the letter. It
seems that the appellant did not expect the police to appear so soon, and he
thought it advisable to deny all knowledge about the lady he had taken to the
hospital by telling the police that he did not know her. The inference drawn
from these two pieces of conduct by the Courts below is against the appellant,
and we also agree. We have already stated that from then onwards, the 477
appellant did not care to enquire from the hospital authorities as to what had
happened to his patient's dead body, and whether it had been disposed Of or
not. He also did not go to Bombay, nor did he inform Dr. Sathe about the
cancellation of the appointment. In his examination, he, however, stated that
he attempted to telephone to Dr. Sathe, but could not get through, as the
instrument was engaged on each occasion. One expects, however, that he would
have in the ordinary course written a letter of apology to Dr. Sathe, because
he must have been conscious of the fact that he had kept the Specialist waiting
for this appointment; but he did not. It is said that the appellant need not have
taken this appointment and could have told a lie to Laxmibai; but the
appointment with Dr. Sathe had to be real because if the plan failed, Laxmibai
would have been most surprised why she was brought to Bombay. With this ends
the phase of events resulting in the death of Laxmibai. We shall deal with the
events in the hospital later, but we pursue the thread of the appellant's
Prior to the fateful journey, Laxmibai had
passed two documents to the appellant. They are Exs. 285 and 286. By the first,
Laxmibai intimated the Bank of Maharashtra, Poona, that she was going to
withdraw in the following week from her Savings Bank account a sum of money
1,000 and Rs. 5,000. The other document was a
bearer cheque for Rs. 5,000, also signed by Laxmibai but written by the
appellant. The appellant presented the first on November 17 after writing the
date, November 15, on it and the second on November 20, after writing the date,
November 19, and received payment. Prior to this, on November 12, 1956, when
Laxmibai was alive and in Poona he had presented to the Bank of Maharashtra a
dividend warrant for Rs. 2,607-6-0 to Laxmibai's account writing her signature
himself. This was hardly necessary if he was honest. The signature deceived the
Bank, and it is obvious that he was a consummate forger even then. Of course,
he put the money into Laxmibai's account, but he had to if he was to draw it
out again on the strength of these 61 478 two documents. The question is, can
we say that he was honest on November 12, 1956? The answer is obvious. His
dishonest intentions were, therefore, fully matured even before he left Poona.
Thereafter, the appellant converted all the property of Laxmibai to his own
use. He removed the movables in her rooms including the pots and pans,
furniture, clothes, radio, share scrips and so on, to his own house. He even
went to the length of forging her signature on securities, transfer deeds,
letters to banks and companies, and even induced a lady magistrate to
authenticate the signature of Laxmibai for which he obtained the services of a
woman who, to say the least, personated Laxmibai. So clever were the many ruses
and so cunning the forgeries that the banks, companies and indeed, all persons
were completely deceived. It was only once that the bank had occasion to
question the signature of Laxmibai, but the appellant promptly presented
another document purporting to be signed by Laxmibai, which the bank accepted
with somewhat surprising credulity. The long and short of it is that numerous
persons were imposed upon, including those who are normally careful and
suspicious, and the appellant by these means collected a sum of no less than
Rs. 26,000 which he disposed of in various ways, the chief, among them being
the opening of a short term deposit account in the name of his wife and himself
and crediting some other amounts to the joint names of his brother, B.C. Lagu,
and himself. We do not enter into the details of his many stratagems for two
reasons. Firstly because, all this conduct has been admitted before us by his
counsel, and next because he has received life imprisonment on charges
connected with these frauds.Suffice it to say that if the appellant were to be
found guilty of the offence, sufficient motive would be found in his dealings
with the property of this unfortunate widow after her death. If murder there
was,it was to facilitate the action which he took regarding her property.
If the finding of his guilt be reached, then
his subsequent conduct would be a part of a very deepseated plan beginning
almost from the time when he 479 began to ingratiate himself into the good
opinion of the lady. The fact, however, remains that all this conduct cannot
avail the prosecution, unless it proves conclusively some other aspects of the
We cannot, however, overlook one or two other
circumstances which are part of this conduct. We have already stated briefly
that the appellant cause all persons to believe that Laxmibai was alive and
living at Rathodi as the happily married wife of one Joshi. Both Joshi and
Rathodi were equally fictitious. In this connection, the pleader, the son, the
friends and the relations of Laxmibai were receiving for months after her death
letters and communications purporting to be signed by her, though written at the
instance of the -appellant by persons, who have come and deposed before the
Court to this fact. These letters were all posted in R. M. S. vans, and the
prosecution has successfully proved that they were not posted in any of the
regular post offices in a town or village. These letters show a variety of
details and intimacies which made them appear genuine except for the
handwriting and the signature of Laxmibai. For a time, people who received
them, though suspicious, took them for what they were worth, and it appears
that they did not worry very much about the truth. -It has now been
successfully proved by the prosecution and admitted -by the appellant's counsel
before us that these letters were all sent by the appellant with the sole
object of keeping the people in the dark about the fact of death, so that the
appellant might have time to deal with the property at leisure. The appellant
asserts that he thought of this only after the death of Laxmibai. It seems
somewhat surprising that the appellant should have suddenly gone downhill into
dishonesty, so to speak, at a bound. The maxim is very old that no one becomes
dishonest suddenly; nema fuit repente turpissimus. What inference can be drawn
from his conduct after the death of Laxmibai is a matter to be considered by
us. And in this connection, we can only say at this stage that if some prior
conduct is connected intrinsically, with conduct after death, then the motive
of the appellant would be very clear indeed.
480 We now pass on to the evidence of what
happened in the hospital and the total medical evidence on the cause of death.
This evidence has to be considered from different angles. Much of it relates to
the condition of Laxmibai and the treatment given to her; but other parts of it
relate to the conduct of the appellant and the information supplied by him.
There is also further evidence about the disposal of the body and the enquiries
made into the cause of death.
These must be dealt with separately. For the
present, we shall confine ourselves to the pure medical aspect of the case of
Laxmibai during her short stay in the hospital.
When Laxmibai was admitted in the hospital,
Dr. Ugale (P.W.18), the Casualty Medical Officer, was in charge. He made a
preliminary examination and recorded his impressions before he sent the patient
to Ward No. 12. He obtained from the appellant the history of the attack, and
it appears that all that the appellant told him was " Patient suddenly
became unconscious in train while coining from up country.
History of similar attacks frequently
before". It also appears that the appellant told him that the lady was
liable to hysterical fits, and that was set down by Dr. Ugale as a provisional
diagnosis. So much of Dr. Ugale's evidence regarding the health of Laxmibai as
given by the appellant.
Now, we take up his own examination.
According to Dr. Ugale, there were involuntary movements of the right hand,
which he noticed only once. Only the right hand was moving.
He found corneal reflex absent. Pupils were
normal and reacting to light. So far as central nervous system and respiration
were concerned, he detected nothing abnormal.
According to him, there was no evidence of a
hysterical fit, and he stated that he queried that provisional diagnosis which,
according to him, was supplied by the appellant.
According to Dr. Ugale, the name of the
patient was given as lndumati Paunshe.
The patient was then made over to the care of
Dr. Miss Aneeja (P. W. 19). Dr. Miss Aneeja was then a raw Medical Graduate,
having passed the M.B.B.S. in June, 1956. She was working as the House
Physician, 481 and was in charge of Ward No. 12. She was summoned from her
quarters to the Ward at 6-15 a.m. and she examined Laxmibai.
We leave out of account again the
conversation bearing upon the conduct of the appellant, which we shall view
subsequently. He told her also about the sudden onset of unconsciousness, and
that there was a history of similar attacks before. We are concerned next with
the result of the examination by Dr. Miss Aneeja, bearing in mind that she was
not a very experienced physician. She found pulse 100, temperature 99-5,
respiration 20. The skin was found to be smooth and elastic nails, conjunctiva
and tongue were pink in colour lymphatic glands were not palpable; and bones
and joints had nothing abnormal in them. The pupils of the eyes were equal but
dilated, and were not then reacting to light.
She found that up to the abdomen and the
sphincter the reflexes were absent. The reflexes at knee and ankle were normal,
but the plantar reflex was Babinsky on one foot, and there was slight rigidity
of the neck.
It appears that Laxmibai was promptly given a
dose of a stimulant and oxygen was started. Dr. Miss. Aneeja also stated that
she gave an injection of insulin (40 units) immediately. Much dispute has
arisen as to whether Dr. Miss Aneeja examined the urine for sugar, albumin and
acetone before starting this treatment. It is clear, however, from her
testimony that no blood test was made to determine the level of sugar in the
blood. A lumbar puncture was also made by Dr. Miss Aneeja and the
cerebro-spinal fluid was sent for chemical analysis. That report is available,
and the fluid was normal. According to Dr. Miss Aneeja, the Medical Registrar
who, she says, was Dr. Saify, recommended intravenous injection of 40 units of
insulin with 20 C.C. of glucose, which were administered. According to her,
Laxmibai was also put on glucose intragastric drip.
Dr. Miss Aneeja stated that the urine was
examined by her three times, and in the first sample, sugar and acetone were
present in quantities. The first examination, according to her, was at 6-30
a.m., the next at 8-30 a.m. and the last at 11 a.m. She stated that she 482 had
used Benedict test for sugar and Rothera's test for acetone. In all the examinations,
according to her, there was no albumin present. Dr. Miss Aneeja also claims to
have phoned to Dr. Variava, the Honorary Physician, at 6-45 or 7 a.m., and
consulted him about the case. According to her, Dr. Saify, the Registrar of the
Unit, visited the Ward at 830 a.m. and wrote on the case papers that an
intravenous injection of 40 units of insulin with 20 C.C. of glucose should be
administered. According to her, Dr. Variava visited the Ward at 11 a.m., and
examined Laxmibai, but the patient expired at 11-30 a.m. We do not at this
stage refer to the instructions for postmortem examination left by Dr. Variava
which were noted on the case papers, because that is a matter with regard to
the disposal of the dead body, and we shall deal with the evidence in that
The evidence of Dr. Miss Aneeja shows only
this much that she was put in charge of this case, examined urine three times
and finding sugar and acetone present, she started a treatment by insulin which
was also supplemented by administration of glucose intravenously as well as by
intragastric drip. Apart from one dose of stimulant given in the first few
minutes, no other treatment beyond administration of oxygen was undertaken. She
had also noted the observations of the reflexes and the condition of the
patient as they appeared to her on examination.
There is a considerable amount of
contradiction between the evidence of Dr, Miss Aneeja and that of Dr. Variava
as to whether acetone was found by Dr. Miss Aneeja before Dr. Variava's visit.
According to the learned Judges of the Court below, the first urine examination
deposed to by Dr. Miss Aneeja and said to have been made at 6-30 a.m. was never
performed. The other two examinations were made, as the urine chart (Ex. 127)
shows. It is, however, a question whether they were confined only to sugar and
albumin but did not include examination for acetone. We shall discuss this
point after we have dealt with the evidence of Dr. Variava.
483 Dr. Variava (P.W. 21) was the Honorary Physician,
and was in charge of this Unit. According to him, he went on his rounds at 11
a.m., and examined Laxmibai from 11 a.m. to 1115 a.m. He questioned Dr. Miss
Aneeja about the line of treatment and told her that she could not have made a
diagnosis of diabetic coma without examining urine for acetone. Dr. Variava
deposed that the entry regarding acetone on the case papers was not made when
he saw the papers at 11 a.m. He then asked Dr. Miss Aneeja to take by catheter
a sample of the urine and to examine it for acetone.
Dr. Miss Aneeja brought the test-tube with
urine in it, which showed a light green colour, and Dr. Variava inferred from
it that acetone might be present in traces. According to Dr. Variava,
Laxmibai's case was not one of diabetic coma, and he gave two reasons for this
diagnosis, namely, that diabetic coma never comes on suddenly, and that there
are no convulsions in it, as were described by Dr. Ugale.
Dr. Variava also denied that the phone call
to him was made by Dr. Miss Aneeja. Dr. Variava stated that before he left the
Ward he told Dr. Miss Aneeja that he was not satisfied that the woman had died
of diabetic coma and instructed her that postmortem examination should be asked
In connection with the evidence about the
examination of the urine, we have to see also the evidence of Marina Laurie,
nurse (P.W. 59), who stated how the entries in the urine chart came to be made.
It may be pointed out that the urine chart showed only two examinations for
sugar, at 8-30 a.m.
and 11 am., and not the one at 6-30 a.m. The
entry about that was made on the case papers under the head " treatment
" by Dr. Miss Aneeja, and it is the last entry I acetone + + ' which Dr.
Variava stated was not on the papers at the time he saw them. Indeed, Dr. Variava
would not have roundly questioned Dr. Miss Aneeja about the examination for
acetone, if this entry had been there, and Dr. Miss Aneeja admits a portion of
Dr. Variava's statement when she says that she examined the urine on Dr.
Variava's instructions and 484 brought the test-tube to him, in which the urine
was of a light green colour.
Now, the urine chart does not show an
examination of the urine at 6-30 a.m. According to Dr. Miss Aneeja, she
examined the urine, carried the impression of colour in her mind, and noted the
result on the case papers. She was questioned why she adopted the unusual
course, but stated that it often happened that the urine chart was not prepared
and the result was not taken to the case papers. However it be, Dr. Variava is
quite positive that the entry about acetone did not exist on the case papers,
and an examination of the original shows differences in ink and pen which would
not have been there, bad all the three items been written at the same time. It
also appears that even at 8-30 a.m. the urine was examined for sugar only
because the entry in the urine chart shows brick-red colour which is the
resulting colour in Benedict test and not in Rothera's test.
Similarly, at II a.m. the urine chart shows
only a test for sugar because the light green colour is not the resulting
colour of Rothera's test but also of the Benedict test.
Indeed, Dr. Variava was also shown a
test-tube containing the urine of slight greenish colour, and his own inference
was that acetone might be present in traces. There is thus nothing to show that
Dr. Miss Aneeja embarked upon a treatment for diabetic coma after ascertaining
the existence of acetone. All the circumstances point to the other conclusion,
namely, that she did not examine the urine for acetone' and that seems to be
the cause of the questions put by Dr. Variava to her. We have no hesitation,
therefore, in accepting Dr. Variava's evidence on this part of the case, which
is supported by the evidence of the course, the urine chart and the interpolation
in the case papers.
From all that we have said, it is quite clear
that the treatment given to her for diabetic coma was based on insufficient
data. There was also no Kussmaul breathing (Root & White, Diabetes
Mellitus, p. 118); her breathing was 20 per minute which was normal. Nor was
there any sign of dehydration, 485 because the skin was smooth and elastic, and
the Babinsky sign was a contra indication of diabetic coma. This is borne out
by the diagnosis of Dr. Variava himself, who appears positive that Laxmibai did
not suffer from diabetic coma, and is further fortified by the reasons given by
Dr. H. Mehta (P.W. 65), to whose evidence we shall have occasion to refer
Two other doctors from the hospital were
examined in connection with Laxmibai's stay. The first was Dr. J. C.
Patel, who was then the Medical Registrar of
Unit No. 1. It seems that Dr. Saify, the permanent Medical Registrar, was on
leave due to the illness of his father, and Dr. J. C. Patel was looking after
his Unit. Dr. J. C. Patel went round with Dr. Variava at 11 a.m., and in his
Variava examined Laxmibai. He has no
contribution to make, because he says he does not remember anything. The only
piece of evidence which he has given and which is useful for our enquiry is
that in the phone book (Ex. 323) in which all calls are entered, no call to Dr.
Variava on the morning of the 13th was shown. The evidence of Dr. J. C. Patel
is thus useless, except in this little respect. The other doctor, Dr. Hiralal
Shah (P. W. 72) was the Registrar of Unit No. 2. After Laxmibai entered the
hospital, Dr. Miss Aneeja sent a call to him, and he signed the call book (Ex.
322). Dr. Hiralal Shah pretended that he did not remember the case.
He stated that if he was called, he must have
gone there, and examined the patient; but he stated in the witness-box that he
did not remember anything. All the three doctors, Dr. Miss Aneeja, Dr. Patel
and Dr. Hiralal Shah, denied having made the entry " Insulin 40 units 1.
V. with 20 C. C.
glucose." Dr. Miss Aneeja says that it
was written by Dr. Saify, who, as we shall show presently, was not present in
Bombay at all on that day.
We do not propose to deal with the cause of
the death, before adverting to the findings of Dr. Jhala (P.W. 66), who
performed the autopsy and Dr. H. S. Mehta (P. W. 65), to whom all the case
papers of Laxmibai were handed over for expert opinion. Dr. Jhala performed the
postmortem operation on November 23, 62 486 and he was helped by his
assistants. Though the body was well-preserved and had been kept in the
air-conditioned morgue, there is no denying the fact that 10 days had passed
between the death and the postmortem examination.
The findings of Dr. Jhala were that the body
and the viscera were not decomposed, and that an examination of the vital
organs could be made. Dr. Jhala found in the stomach 4 oz. of a pasty meal
and,' oz. of whitish precipitate in the bladder. He did not find any other
substance which could be said to have been introduced into the system. He
examined the brain and found it congested. There were no marks of injury on the
body; the lungs were also congested and in the upper lobe of the left lung
there was a tubercular focus which, in his opinion, was not sufficient to cause
death ordinarily. He also found Atheroma of aorta and slight sclerosis of the
coronary. He stated that the presence of the last meal in the stomach indicated
that there was no vomitting. He found no pathological lesion in the pancreas,
the kidney, the liver and any other internal organ.
He gave the opinion after the receipt of the
Chemical Analyser's report that death could have occurred due to diabetic coma.
It must be remembered that Dr. Jhala was not
out to discover whether any offence had been committed. He was making a
postmortem examination of a body which, under the Coroner's order, had been
handed over to the medical authorities with a certificate from a hospital that
death was due to diabetic coma. It was not then a medico-legal case; the need
for postmortem had arisen, because the peon had noticed certain marks on the
neck, which had caused some suspicion. After discovering that the mark on the
neck was a postmortem injury, all that he had to do was to verify whether the
diagnosis made by the G.T. Hospital that death was due to diabetic coma was
admissible. He examined the body, found no other cause of death, and the
Chemical Analyser not having reported the administration of poison, he accepted
the diagnosis of the G. T. Hospital as correct. Dr. Jhala, however, stated that
there were numerous poisons which could 487 not be detected on chemical
analysis even in the case of normal, healthy and undecomposed viscera. He
admitted that his opinion that death could have occurred due to diabetic coma
was an inaccurate way of expressing his opinion.
According to him, the proper way would have
been to have given the opinion death by diabetes with complications." As
we have said, all these papers were placed before Dr. H.
S. Mehta for his expert opinion. It is to his
evidence we now turn to find out what was the cause of death of Laxmibai. In
the middle of March 1958, Dr. Mehta was consulted about this case, and he was
handed over copies of all the documents we have referred to in connection with
the medical evidence, together with the proceedings of the Coroner's inquest at
Bombay. According to Dr. Mehta, opinion was sought from him about the cause of
death of 'Indumati Paunshe' and whether it was from diabetic coma, any other
disease or the administration of a poison. Dr. Mehta was categorical that it
was not due to diabetic coma.
He was also of the opinion that no natural
cause for the death was disclosed by the autopsy, and according to him, it was
probably due to the administration of some unrecognisable poison or a recognisable
poison which, due to the lapse of time, was incapable of being detected by
analysis. He gave several reasons for coming to the conclusion that Laxmibai
did not suffer from diabetic coma.
Each of his reasons is supported by citations
from numerous standard medical authorities on the subject, but it is
unnecessary to cite them once again. According to him, the following reasons
existed for holding that Laxmibai did not suffer from diabetic coma:
(1) Convulsion never occur in diabetic coma
According to Dr. Mehta, the involuntary
movements described by Dr. Ugale must be treated as convulsions or tremors. We
are of opinion that Dr. Ugale would not have made this note on the case papers
if he had not seen the involuntary movements. No doubt, these involuntary
movements had ceased by the time the patient was carried to Ward No. 12,
because Dr. Miss Aneeja made a note that they were not observed in 488 the
Ward. But Dr. Ugale was a much more experienced doctor than Dr. Miss Aneeja,
and it, is possible that Dr. Miss Aneeja did not notice the symptoms as
minutely as the Casualty Medical Officer.
(2) Diabetic coma never occurs all of a
sudden and without a warning. There are premonitary signs and symptons of
prodromata. In the case, there is no evidence to show how Laxmibai became
unconscious. We have, however, the statement of the appellant made both to Dr.
Ugale and Dr.
Miss Aneeja that the onset was sudden. Dr.
Mehta was crossexamined with a view to eliciting that a sudden onset of
diabetic coma was possible if there was an infection of any kind. A suggestion
was put to him that if the patient suffered from Otitis Media, then sometimes
the unconciousness came on suddenly. It may be pointed out that the appellant
in his examination stated that on the day in question, Laxmibai had a
temperature of 100 degrees, laryngitis, pharyngitis, and complained of pain in
That statement was made to bring his defence
in line with this suggestion. Dr. Mehta pointed out that Dr. Jhala had opened
the skull and had examined the interior organs but found no pathological lesion
there. According to Dr. Mehta, Dr. Jhala would have detected pus in the middle
ear if Otitis Media had existed. The fact that no question suggesting this was
put to Dr. Jhala shows that the defence is an afterthought to induce the Court
to hold that death was due to diabetic coma, or, in other words, to natural
causes. We are inclined to accept the evidence of Dr. Jhala that he and his
assistants did not discover any pathological lesion in the head or the brain.
Otitis Media would have caused inflammation of the Eustachian tube, and pus
would have been present. No such question having been put, we must hold that
there was no septic focus which might have induced the sudden onset of diabetic
coma. It was also suggested to Dr. Mehta that there was a tubercular infection
and sometimes in the case of tubercular infection diabetic coma suddenly
supervened. The tuberculosis in this case was not of such severity as to have
caused this. Dr. Jhala referred 489 to the septic focus in the apex of the left
lung, but he stated that it was riot sufficient to have caused the death of
Laxmibai. Illustrative cases of sudden diabetic coma as a result of tubercular
infection were not shown, and the condition of Laxmibai, as deposed to by
witnesses right up to 9 p.m. on the night of November 12, 1956, does not
warrantthe inference that she had diabetic coma suddenly as a result of this
(3) Dr. Mehta also stated from the case
papers maintained by the appellant from February 15, 1956, to November 12,
1956, that during that time, Laxmibai did not appear to have suffered from any
severe type of acidosis. The appellant in his examination in Court stated that
Laxmibai was prone to suffer from acidosis, and that he had treated her by the
administration of Soda Bi-carb. In the case papers, Soda Bicarb has been
administered only in about 8 to 10 doses varying between 15 grains to a dram.
It is significant that on most of the occasions it was part of a Carminative
mixture. The acidosis, if any, could not have been so severe as to have been
corrected by such a small administration of Soda Bi-carb, because the acidosis
of diabetes is not the acidity of the stomach but the formation of fatty acids
in the system. Such a condition, as the books show, may be treated by the
administration of Soda Bicarb but in addition to some other specific treatment.
(Joslin, Root & White, Treatment of
Diabetes Mellitus, p. 397).
(4) A patient in diabetic coma is severely
(Root & White-Diabetes Mellitus p. 118).
We have already pointed out that there was no dehydration, because the skin was
soft and elastic and the tongue was pink. The eye balls were also normal and
were not soft, as is invariably the case in diabetic coma. Dr. Mehta has
referred to all these points.
(5) Nausea and vomiting are always present in
true diabetic coma. There is nothing to show either from her clothes or from
the smell of vomit in the mouth or from any other evidence that Laxmibai had vomitted
in the train. Dr. Jhala who performed the 490 postmortem examination had stated
that Laxmibai could not have vomitted because in her stomach 4 oz. of pasty
meal was found. The same fact is also emphasised by Dr. Mehta.
(6) In diabetic coma, there will befall of
blood pressure, rapid pulse; there will be Kussmaul breathing or air hunger.
The respiration of Laxmibai was found by Dr. Ugale and Dr. Miss Aneeja to be
normal. The temperature chart in the case, Ex. 129, gives in parallel columns
the respiration corresponding to a particular temperature, and the temperature
of 99.5 degrees (Fahrenheit) found by Dr. Miss Aneeja corresponds to
respiration at 20 times per minute. Dr. Variava, Dr. Ugale or Dr. Miss Aneeja
also did not say anything about the Kussmaul breathing, and the pulse of 100
per minute according to Dr. Mehta was justified by the temperature which
Laxmibai then had. Indeed, according to Dr. Mehta, in diabetic coma the skin is
cold, and there was no reason why there should be temperature. According to Dr.
Mehta, there was no evidence of any gastric disturbance, because the condition
of the tongue was healthy. Dr. Mehta also pointed out that the Extensor reflex
called the, Babinsky sign was not present in diabetic coma, while according to
Dr. Miss Aneeja it was present in this case.
Dr. Mehta then referred to the examination of
the urine for sugar and acetone, and stated that the examination for sugar was
insufficient to determine the presence of Ketonuria, which is another name for
the acidosis which results in coma. We have already found that the examination
for acetone was not made and there was no mention of acetone breath either by
Dr. Ugale or by Dr. Miss Aneeja, which would have been present if the acidosis
was so advanced.
(Root & WhiteDiabetes Mellitus, p. 118).
(8) Lastly, the examination of cerebro-spinal
fluid did not show any increase of sugar and no affection in the categories of
meningial irritation was disclosed by the chemical analysis of the fluid.
(Physician's Hand. book, 4th Edn., pp. 115-120). The neck rigidity which was
noticed by Dr. Miss Aneeja did not have, therefore, 491 any connection with
such irritation, and it is a question whether such a slight neck rigidity
existed at all.
These reasons of Dr. Mehta are prefectly
valid. They have the support of a large number of medical treatises to which he
has referred and of even more. which were referred to us during the arguments,
all which we find it unnecessary to quote. We accept Dr. Mehta's testimony that
diabetic coma did not cause the death of Laxmibai. It is significant that the
case of the appellant also has changed, and he has ceased to insist now that
Laxmibai died of diabetic coma.
The treatment which was given to Laxmibai
would have, if diabetic coma had existed, at least improved her condition
during the 5 hours that she was at the hospital. Far from showing the slightest
improvement, Laxmibai died within 5 hours -of her admission in the hospital,
and in view of the contra indications catalogued by Dr. Mehta and accepted by
us on an examination of the medical authorities, we are firmly of opinion that
death was not due diabetic coma.
We now deal with events that took place
immediately after Laxmibai expired. We have already shown that at that time Dr.
Variava was present and was questioning Dr. Miss Aneeja about her diagnosis of
diabetic coma. Before Dr. Variava left the Ward, he told Dr. Miss Aneeja that
he was not satisfied about the diagnosis, and that a postmortem examination
should be asked for. This endorsement was, in fact, made by Dr. Miss Aneeja on
the case papers, and the final diagnosis was left blank. Dr. Miss Aneejia says
that she left the Ward at about 11-30 a.m. and was absent on her rounds for an
hour, then she returned to the Ward from her quarters at about 1 p.m. and went
to the office of Dr.' Mouskar, the Resident Medical Officer. According to her,
she met Dr. Saify, the Registrar, at the door, and he had the case papers in
his hands. Dr. Saify told her that the Resident Medical Officer thought that
there was no need for a postmortem examination, as the patient was treated in
the hospital for diabetic coma. Dr. Saify ordered Dr. Miss Aneeja to cancel the
endorserment about 492 postmortem and to write diabetic coma as the cause of
death, which she did, in Dr. Saify's presence. This is Dr. Miss Aneeja's
explanation why the postmortem was not made, though ordered by Dr. Variava.
Dr. Mouskar's version is quite different.
According to him, the case papers arrived in his office at 1 p.m. He had seen
the endorsement about the postmortem and the fact that the final diagnosis had
not been entered in the appropriate column. Dr. Mouskar admitted that he did
not proceed to make arrangements for the postmortem examination. According to
him, the permission of the relatives and the Coroner was necessary. He also
admitted that he did not enquire from the Honorary Physician about the need for
postmortem examination. He was thinking, he said, of consulting the relatives
and the person who had brought Laxmibai to the hospital. Dr. Mouskar sent a
telegram at 2 p.m. to the appellant, which we have quoted earlier. He explained
that he did not mention the postmortem examination, because he was waiting for
the arrival of some person connected with Laxmibai. He further stated that
between 4 and 5 p.m. he asked the police to remove the body to the J. J.
Hospital morgue and to preserve it, and sent a copy of his requisition to the
Coroner. According to him, on the 15th the Coroner's office asked the hospital
for the final diagnosis in the case. He stated that he asked one out of the
three: Honorary Physician, the Registrar or the House Pbysician,-about the
final diagnosis, though he could not say which one. He had sent the papers
through the call-boy for writing the final diagnosis, and he received the case
papers from the Unit, with the two corrections, namely, the cancellation of the
requisition for postmortem examination and the entry of diabetic coma as the
final diagnosis. He denied that he had any talk with Dr. Saify regarding the
It,would appear from this that there are
vital differences in the versions of Dr. Miss Aneeja and Dr. Mouskar.. The
first contradiction is the date on which the case papers were corrected and the
second, about Dr. SaifY's intervention in the matter. Dr. SaifY, 493
fortunately for him, had obtained leave orders and had left Bombay on November
8, 1956, for Indore, where his father was seriously ill. He was, in fact,
detained at Indore, because his father suffered from an attack of coronary
thrombosis, and he had to extend his leave. All the relevant papers connected
with his leave have been produced, and it seems that Dr. Saify's name was
introduced by Dr. Miss Aneeja either to avoid taking responsibility for
correction, on her own, of the papers, or to shield some other person, who had
caused her to make the corrections. Here, the only other person, who could
possibly have ordered her was the Resident Medical Officer, Dr. Mouskar, who at
1 p.m. had received the papers and had seen the endorsement about the
postmortem examination. Dr. Mouskar's explanation that he sent the telegram to
the appellant for the removal of the body without informing him about the
postmortem examination is too ingenious to be accepted by any reasonable
person. Dr. Mouskar could not ordinarily countermand what the Honorary
Physician had said without at least consulting him, which he admits he did not
do. This is more so, if it was only a matter of the hospital's reputation.
Whether the corrections were made by Dr. Miss Aneeja in the wards when the
call-boy took the papers to her (a most unusal course for Dr. Mouskar to have
adopted) or whether they were made by Dr. Miss Aneeja in the office of Dr.
Mouskar, to the door of which, she admits she had gone, the position remains
the same. Dr. Miss Aneeja no doubt told lies, but she did so in her own
interest. She could not cancel the requisition about postmortem examination on
her own without facing a grave charge in which Dr. Mouskar would have played a
considerable part. The fact that this correction did not trouble Dr. Mouskar
and that his dealings with the body were most unusual points clearly to its
being made at his instance. Dr. Miss Aneeja invented the story about Dr. Saify
as a last resort knowing that unless she named somebody the responsibility
would be hers. The corrections were made at the instance of Dr. Mouskar,
because Dr. Mouskar admits that he sent the papers to the 63 494 Ward for final
diagnosis in the face of the endorsement for postmortem examination, and Dr.
Miss Aneeja admits making the corrections at the door of Dr. Mouskar's office.
In our opinion, both of them are partly
correct. Dr. Mouskar made the first move in getting the papers corrected, and
Dr. Miss Aneeja corrected them not at the door of the office, because there was
no Dr. Saify there but in the office, though she had not the courage to name
Dr. Mouskar as the person who had ordered the correction. Dr. Mouskar's
telegram and his sending the body to another morgue without the postmortem
examination show only too clearly that it was he who caused the change to be
made. It is also a question whether the correction about 'acetone + + 'was not
also made simultaneously. We do not believe that the corrections were made as
late as November 15, because his telegram for the removal of the dead body and
its further removal to the J.
J. Hospital would not fit in with the
endorsement for postmortem examination on the case papers.
Now, the question is not whether Dr. Mouskar
made the correction or Dr. Miss Aneeja, but whether the appellant had anything
to do with it. Dr. Miss Aneeja stated that the appellant was present till the
visit of Dr. Variava was over and this is borne out by the reply of the
appellant, because in the inland letter he mentioned the time of the death
which the telegram did not convey to him and which he could have only known if
he was present in the hospital. We believe Dr. Miss Aneeja when she says that
the appellant was present at the hospital, and the circumstances of the case
unerringly point to the conclusion that he knew of the demand for a postmortem
examination. Though Dr. Mouskar and the appellant denied that they met, there
is reason to believe that the appellant knowing of the postmortem examination
would not go away without seeing that the postmortem examination was duly
carried out or was given up.
Dr. Mouskar and the appellant both admitted
that they were together in the same class in 1934 in the S P. College, Poona,
though both of them denied that 495 they were acquainted with each other. Dr.
Mouskar stayed in Poona from 1922 to 1926, 1931 to 1936 and 1948 to 1951. The
appellant was practising at Poona as a doctor, and it is improbable that they
did not get acquainted during Dr. Mouskar's stay, belonging, as they do, to the
same profession. Dr. Mouskar further tried to support the appellant by saying
that at 1 p.m. when he saw the case papers the entry about acetone was read by
him. He forgot that in the examinationin-chief he had stated very definitely
that he had not read the case papers fully and had only seen the top page. When
he was asked for his explanation, he could not account for his conduct in the
witness-box, and admitted his mistake. There are two other circumstances
connected with Dr. Mouskar, which excite considerable suspicion. The first is
that he mentioned hysterical fits as the illness from which Laxmibai suffered
when Dr. Ugale had questioned it and postmortem had been asked for to establish
the cause of death. The next is that the call book of the hospital for the
period was not produced by him as long as he was in office. When he retired,
the call book was brought in by his successor, and it established the very
important fact that it was not Dr.
Saify, the Registrar, who was summoned but
Dr. Shah, who had also signed the call book in token of having received the
call. Dr. Mouskar's conduct as the Resident Medical Officer in having the
postmortem examination cancelled was a great lapse, and it is quite obvious to
us that the finding by the two Courts below that this was done at the request
of the appellant is the only inference possible in the case. The alternative
suggestion in the argument of the appellant's counsel that Dr. Mouskar thought
that Dr. Variava was making " a mountain out of a mole hill " and
that " the reputation of the hospital was involved " does not appeal
to us, because if that had been the motive, Dr. Mouskar would have talked to
Dr. Variava and asked him to revise his own opinion. The cancellation of the
requisition for postmortem examination came to Dr. Variava as a surprise,
because he stated that he had heard nothing about it.
496 From the above analysis of the evidence,
we accept the following facts: The appellant was present in the hospital till
the death of Laxmibai, and in his presence, Dr. Variava examined Laxmibai and
questioned the diagnosis of Dr. Miss Aneeja and gave the instructions for the
postmortem examination. Dr. Variava's stay was only for 15 minutes, and at the
end of it, Laxmibai expired. The statement of the appellant that he caught the
10-30 train from Bombay to Poona because he was asked by the Matron to leave
the female ward, and that he was going back to get a female attendant from
Poona, is entirely false. He took no action about a female attendant either in
Bombay or in Poona, and he could not have left by the 10-30 train if he was
present in the hospital till 11-30 a.m. We are also satisfied that Dr. Miss
Aneeja did not cancel the endorsement about the postmortem examination on her
own responsibility. She was ordered to do so. We are also satisfied that it was
not Dr. Saify who had given this order, but it must have been Dr. Mouskar, who
did so. We are also satisfied that Dr. Mouskar did not induce Dr. Miss Aneeja
to cancel the postmortem by sending the case papers through the call-boy of her
Ward, but she was summoned to the office, to the door of which she admits she
had gone. We are, therefore, in agreement with the two Courts below that Dr.
Mouskar caused these changes to be made, and that Dr. Miss Aneeja did not have
the courage to name the Resident Medical Officer, and lied by introducing the
name of Dr. Saify. We are also satisfied that Dr. Mouskar and the appellant
were acquainted with each other not only when they were in College together but
they must have known each other, when Dr. Mouskar was residing at Poona. The
cancellation of the postmortem examination was caused by the appellant, because
Dr. Mouskar's explanation on this part of the case is extremely unsatisfactory,
and his failure to consult Dr. Variava, if it was only a hospital matter, is
extremely significant. The appellant's immediate exit from the hospital and the
telegram to him at Poona show that Dr. Mouskar knew where the appellant was to
be 497 found. The telegram conveyed to the appellant that the postmortem was
not to be held, because it said that the body should be immediately removed.
Now, the appellant, as we have said, took no
action about Laxmibai's death and kept this information to himself. He did not
also arrange for the removal of the body. He sent an inland letter which, he
knew would take a day or two to reach the hospital. He knew that the body would
be lying unclaimed at the hospital, and that the hospital could not hold the
body for ever without taking some action. The appellant is a doctor. He has
studied in medical institutions where bodies are brought for dissection
purposes, and he must be aware that there is an Anatomy Act, under which
unclaimed bodies are handed over to Colleges after 48 hours for dissection. He
also knew that the cause of death would become more and more difficult to
determine as time passed on, and it is quite clear that the appellant was
banking on these two circumstances for the avoidance of any detection into the
cause of death. He had also seen to it that the postmortem examination would
not be made, and he knew that if the body remained unclaimed, then it would be
disposed of in accordance with the Anatomy Act. He wrote a letter which he knew
would reach the hospital authorities, and he named a fictitious brother who, he
said, could not arrive before the 16th from Calcutta. This delay would have
gained him three valuable days between the death and any likely examination,
and if the body remained unclaimed, then it was likely to be disposed of in the
manner laid down in the Anatomy Act. The anticipations of the appellant were so
accurate that the body followed the identical course which he had planned for
it, and it is an accident that ten days later a postmortem examination was
made, because an observant peon noticed some mark on the neck which he thought,
was suspicious. But for this, it would have been impossible to trace what
happened to Laxmibai, because the hospital papers would have been filed, the
body dissected by medical students and disposed of and the relatives and
friends kept in the dark about the whereabouts of Laxmibai by spurious letters.
498 This brings us to another piece of
conduct which we have to view. When Laxmibai boarded the train, she had a
bedding and a bag with her, which she was seen carrying at the Par by Patil (P.
W. 60) on the night she left Poona. There is a mass of evidence that Laxmibai
was in affluent circumstances, and always wore on her person gold and pearl
ornaments. There is also evidence that she had taken Rs. 50 from -Virkar the
night she travelled, and presumbly she was carrying some more money with her,
because she had to consult a specialist in Bombay and money would be required
to pay him. When she reached the hospital in the company of the appellant, she
had no ornaments on her person, no money in her possession and her bag and
bedding had also disappeared. As a matter of fact, there was nothing to
identify her or to distinguish her from any other indigent woman in the street.
There is no explanation which any reasonable person can accept as to what
happened to her belongings. It is possible that the bag and the bedding might
have been forgotten in the hurry to take her to the hospital, but her gold
ornaments on her person could not so disappear. The appellant stated that he
noticed for the first time in the taxi that she had no ornaments on her person;
but there would be no need for him to notice this fact if Laxmibai started
without any ornaments whatever. In view of the fact that Laxmibai's entire
property soon passed into the hands of the appellant, it is reasonable to hold
that he would not overlook the valuable gold and pearl ornaments in this
context. Further, the absence of the ornaments and other things to identify
Laxmibai rendered her anonymity complete, in so far as the hospital was
concerned, unless information to that end was furnished by the appellant only.
In the event of Laxmibai's death in the hospital, no complication would arise
if she did not possess any property and the body would be treated as unclaimed,
if none appeared to claim it.
In addition to the stripping of the lady of
her belongings, the appellant took measures to keep her 499 identity a close
secret. No doubt, he gave her name as " Indumati ", but he added to
it her maiden surname in a garbled form. According to Dr. Ugale, the name given
was " Paunshe ". In every one of the other papers, the name appears
to have been corrected by the addition of some letter resembling Ilk " but
not in the case papers. Dr. Ugale swore that he had not heard the name "
Paunshe " before, though his mother-tongue is Marathi, and he is himself a
Maharashtrian. He, therefore, asked the appellant to spell the name, and he was
definite that -the name was written as spelt by the appellant. There is,
however, other evidence coming from the appellant himself to show that he did
not give the correct maiden surname of -Laxmibai, because in the letter he
wrote to the hospital he only stated that there was an extra " u " in
the name as entered in the papers but did not mention anything about " k
". His solicitude about the name and its spelling in the case papers
clearly shows that his mind even under the stress of these circumstances was
upon one fact only that the name should remain either " Paunshe " or
" Panshe " and not become " Ponkshe ". Indeed, one would
expect the appellant to have given the name " Laxmibai Karve " or
" Indumati Karve " instead of " Indumati Ponkshe ", and
much less, " Indumati Paunshe ". There must be some reason for the
appellant choosing the maiden surname, even if he gave the correct maiden name.
The reason appears to be this: Either he had to say at the hospital that he did
not know the name, or he had to give some name. If he said that he did not know
the name, it would have caused some suspicion, and the matter would then have
been entered in the emergency police case register. This is deposed to by the
doctors in the hospital. By giving the name, he avoided this contingency.
By giving a garbled name, he avoided the
identity, if by chance that name came to the notice of some one who knew
Laxmibai. His intention can only be interpreted in the light of his subsequent
conduct and the use to which be put this altered name. We have already seen
that he did the fact of death from every 500 one and wrote to people that the
woman was alive. He had two opportunities of correcting this name which he had
noticed very carefully on the case papers. The first was when he wrote the
letter to the hospital in which he insisted that " u " should be
omitted but did not add " k ". The other was when on the 16th the
police questioned him and he stated that he did not know who the woman was. He
also gave the age of the woman wrongly, and perhaps, deliberately :-see the
correction and over writings in the inland letter he wrote on November 14,
1956. Immediately after the death of Laxmibai, he misappropriated a sum of Rs.
5,000 by presenting two documents, Exs. 285 and 286, without disclosing to the
Bank that the person who had issued the cheque was no more. All this subsequent
conduct gets tied to his conduct in giving the name as " Indumati Paunshe
" or " Panshe "; and it shows a foreknowledge of what was to
happen to Indumati at the hospital. It also shows a preparation for keeping the
fact of her death hidden from others to facilitate the misappropriation of her
property, which as we know, eventually took place starting from November 15,
that is to say, two days following her death.
No explanation worth considering exists why
this name was given, and the effort of the counsel for the appellant that he
was probably on intimate terms with Laxmibai and chose to call her by her
maiden name rather than her married name is belied by the fact that in every
document in which the name has been mentioned by the appellant, he has
adderssed her as Laxmibai Karve and not as Indumati Ponkshe. There is no
evidence that this elderly lady was anything more than a foolishly trusting
friend of this man who took advantage of her in every way.
Then, there is the conduct of the appellant
in not disclosing to the hospital authorities the entire case history of
Laxmibai and the treatment which he had been giving her as her medical
attendant. Instead of telling the doctor all the circumstances of her health, he
told him that the woman was suffering from hysterical fits, which fits,
according to the 501 evidence in the case, did not recur after 1948. He also
did not give any particulars of the onset of unconsciousness in the train. Even
the fact that Laxmibai had suffered from diabetes for some years was not
mentioned, and this shows that he was intent upon the medical attendants in the
hospital treating the case from a scratch and fumbling it, if possible. To him,
it appears to us, it was a matter of utter indifference what treatment was
given to her, an attitude which he continued to observe even after his patient
had died. In our opinion, therefore, the conduct at the hospital appears
significantly enough to suggest that he anticipated that Laxmibai was doomed,
and he was intent upon seeing to it that no one but himself should know of her
death and that a quiet disposal of her body should take place.
We may mention here one other fact, and that
is that the G.T. Hospital, is situatted at a distance of 5 or 6 furlongs from
the Victoria Terminus Station, whereas the St. George's Hospital is said to be
only 50 feet away from the main entrance. Why an unconscious woman was carried
first on a stretcher and then in a taxi to this distant hospital when she could
have been carried straight to the hospital on the stretcher itself, is not
explained. There is of course, this significant fact that at the St. George's
Hospital he would not have been able to pull his weight with the medical
authorities, which he was able to do with Dr. Mouskar because of his
acquaintance with him. This choosing of the hospital is of a piece with the
choosing of an inconvenient train which would make detection difficult, arrival
at the hospital when it would be closed except for emergency cases, and the
patient likely to be waited upon by a raw and inexperienced doctor in the early
hours of the morning. We, however, cannot say this too strongly, because it is
likely that Laxmibai herself chose to travel by a night train. But the whole of
the conduct of the appellant prior to the death of Laxmibai appears to be of a
piece with his conduct after her death, and we are satisfied that even before
her entry into the hospital, the appellant had planned this line of conduct.
64 502 Our findings thus substantially accord
on all the relevant facts with those of the two Courts below, though the
arrangement and consideration of the relevant evidence on record is somewhat
different. It is now necessary to consider the arguments which have been
advanced on behalf of the appellant. The first contention is that the essential
ingredients required to be proved in all cases of murder by poisoning were not
proved by the prosecution in this case.
Reference in this connection. is made to a
decision of the Allahabad High Court in Mst. Gujrani v. Emperor (1) and two
unreported decisions of this Court in Chandrakant Nyalchand Seth v. The, State
of Bombay(2) decided on February 19, 1958, and Dharambir Singh v. The State of
Punjab (3) decided on November 4, 1958. In these cases, the Court referred to
three propositions which the prosecution must establish in a case of poisoning:
(a) that death took place by poisoning;
(b) that the accused had the poison in his
possession ; and (c) that the accused had an opportunity to administer the
poison to the deceased. The case in Dharambir Singh V. The State of Punjab (3)
turned upon these three propositions.
There, the deceased had died as a result of
poisoning by potassium cyanide, which poison was also found in the autopsy. The
High Court had disbelieved the evidence which sought to establish that the
accused had obtained potassium cyanide, but held, nevertheless, that the
circumstantial evidence was sufficient to convict the accused in that case.
This Court did not, however, accept the
circumstantial evidence as complete. It is to be observed that the three
propositions were laid down not as the invariable criteria of proof by direct
evidence in a case of murder by poisoning, because evidently if after poisoning
the victim, the accused destroyed all traces of the body, the first proposition
would be incapable of being proved except by circumstantial evidence.
Similarly, if the accused gave a victim something: to eat and the victim died
immediately on the ingestion of that food with symptoms of poisoning and (1)
A.I.R. 1933 All. 394. (2) Cr. A. No. 120 Of 1957.
(3) Cr. k. No. 98 of 1958.
503 poison, in fact, was found in the
viscera, the requirement of proving that the accused was possessed of the
poison would follow from the circumstance that accused gave the victim
something to eat and need not be separately proved.
There have been cases in which conviction was
maintained, even though the body of the victim had completely disappeared, and
it was impossible to say, except on circumstantial evidence, whether that
person was the victim of foul play, including poisoning. Recently, this Court
in Mohan v. State of U. P. (1) decided on November 5, 1959, held that the proof
of the fact of possession of the poison was rendered unnecessary, because the
victim died soon after eating pedas given by the accused in that case, and he
had not partaken any other food likely to contain poison. In Dr. Palmer's case
(2) , strychnine was not detected, and the accused was convicted by the jury
after Lord Chief Justice Campbell (Cresswell, J. and Mr. Baron Alderson-,
concurring) charged the jury that the discovery of the poison on autopsy, was
not obligatory, if they were satisfied on the evidence of symptoms that death
had been caused by the ministration of the strychnine. The conduct of Palmer,
which was also significant, was stressed inasmuch as he had attempted to thwart
a successful chemical analysis of the viscera, and had done suspicious acts to
achieve that end.
In Dr. Crippen's case (3), the conduct of the
accused after the death of Mrs. Crippen in making the friends and relatives
believe that Mrs. Crippen was alive was considered an incriminatory
circumstance pointing to his guilt. No doubt, in Dr. Crippen's case (3), the
body was found and poison was detected, but there was no proof that Dr. Crippen
had administered the poison to her, that being inferred from his subsequent
conduct in running away with Miss Le Neve.
In the second case of this Court, the poison
was availiable to the victim, and it was possible that she had taken it to end
an unhappy life.
The cases of this Court which were decided,
proceeded upon their own facts, and though the three (1) Cr. A. No. 108 of
1959. (2) Notable Trials Series.
(3) Notable Trials Series.
504 propositions must be kept in mind always,
the sufficiency of the evidence, direct or circumstantial, to establish murder
by poisoning will depend on the facts of each case. If the evidence in a
particular case does of not justify the inference that death is the result of
poisoning because of the failure of the prosecution to prove the fact
satisfactorily, either directly or by circumstantial evidence, then the benefit
of the doubt will have to be given to the accused person. But if circumstantial
evidence, in the absence of direct proof of the three elements, is so decisive
that the Court can unhesitatingly hold that death was a result of
administration of poison (though not detected) and that the poison must have
been administered by the accused person, then the conviction can be rested on
In a recent case decided in England in the
Court of Criminal Appeal (Regina v. Onufrejczyk(1), the body of the victim was
not found at all. And, indeed, there was no evidence that he had died, much
less was murdered. The accused's conduct in that case which was held decisive,
was very similar to the conduct of the present appellant. He was in monetary
difficulties, and the victim was his partner, whom he wished to buy out but did
not have the money to do so.
One fine day, the partner disappeared, and
his body was not found, and it was not known what had happened to him. The
activities of the accused after the disappearance of his partner were very
-remarkable. To people who enquired from him about his partner, he told all
manner of lies as -to how a large and dark car had arrived in the night and
that three men bad carried off his partner at the point of a revolver.
To a sheriff 's officer he stated that his
partner had gone to see a doctor. He also asked a lady to send him some sham
registered letters and forged other documents. Lord Chief Justice Goddard
stated the law to be that in a trial for murder, the fact of death could be
proved by circumstantial evidence alone, provided the jury were warned that the
evidence must lead to one conclusion only, and that even though there was no
body or even trace of a body or any direct evidence as to (1)  1.Q.B 388.
505 the manner of the death of a victim, the
corpus delicti could be held to be proved by a number of facts, which rendered
the commission of the crime certain. pertinent to remember that Lord Goddard
observer during the course of argument that there was no virtue in the words
" direct evidence ", and added:
"It would be going a long way,
especially these days when we know what can be done with acid, to say that
there cannot be a conviction without some proof of a body. If you are right you
have to admit that a successful disposal of the body could prevent a
conviction." It is obvious that Lord Goddard had in mind the case of John
George Haigh (1) who, as is notorious, disposed of bodies by steeping them in
acid bath, destroying all traces. It is, in this context, instructive to read a
case from Now Zealand to which Lord Goddard also referred, where the body of
the victim was never found, The King v. Horry (2 ). The statement of the law as
to proof of corpus delicti laid down by Gresson,J. (concurred in by Fair,
A.C.J., Stanton, J. and Hay, J.) was approved by Lord Goddard with one slight
change. The statement of the law (head-note) is as follows :
" At the trial of a person charged with
murder, the fact of death is provable by circumstantial evidence,
notwithstanding that neither the body nor any trace of the body has been found,
and that the accused has made no confession of any participation in the crime.
Before he can be convicted, the fact of death should be proved by such
circumstances as render the commission of the crime morally certain and leave
no ground for reasonable doubt: the circumstantial evidence should be so cogent
and compelling as to convince a jury that upon no rational hypothesis other
than murder can the facts be accounted for." Lord Goddard did not agree
with the words " morally certain " and stated that he would have
preferred to say " such circumstances as render the commission of the
crime certain." (1) Notable Trials Series.
(2) [1952) N.Z.L.R. 111.
506 The same test has been applied by Wills
in his Book on Circumstantial Evidence, and the author has quoted the case of
Donellan (1), where the conduct of Donellan in rinsing out a bottle in spite of
the wife of the victim asking him not to touch those bottles, was treated as a
very significant evidence of guilt. Butler, J., charged the jury that:
" if there was a doubt upon the evidence
of the physical witnesses they must take into their consideration all the other
circumstances either to show that there was poison administered or that there
was not, and that every part of the prisoner's conduct was material to be
considered." Similarly, in Donnall's case (2 ), Abbot, J., according to
Wills, in summing up, said to the jury that: "there were two important
questions: first did the deceased die of poison? and if they should be of
opinion that she did, then whether they were satisfied from the evidence that
the poison was administered by the prisoner or by his means. There were some
parts of the evidence which appeared to him equally applicable to both
questions, and those parts were what related to the conduct of the prisoner
during the time of the opening and inspection of the body; his recommendation
of a shell and the early burial; to which might be added the circumstances, not
much to be relied upon, relative to his endeavours to evade his apprehension.
His Lordship also said, as to the question whether the deceased died by poison,
I in considering what the medical men have said upon the one side and the
other, you must take into account the conduct of the prisoner in urging a hasty
funeral and his conduct in throwing away the contents of the jug into the
chamber utensil'." In Rex v. Horry (3), where the entire case law in
England was presented for the consideration of the Court, it was pointed out by
the Court that there was no rule in England that corpus delicti must be proved
by direct evidence establishing the death of the person (1) Gurneys Rep. (1781)
(2) (1817) 2 C. & K 308n.
(3)  N.Z.L.R. 111.
507 and further, the cause of that death.
Reference was made to Evans v. Evans(1), where it was ruled that that corpus
delicti might be proved by direct evidence or by " irresistible grounds of
presumption ". In the same case, it has been pointed out that in New
Zealand the Court upheld numerous convictions, where the body of the victim was
The rule of law stated by Sir Matthew Hale in
Pleas of the Crown Vol. 2, p. 290 that " I would never convict any person
of murder or manslaughter, unless the fact were proved to be done, or at least
the body found dead " was not accepted in this and other bases. Lord
Goddard also rejected the statement as one of universal application, in the
case to which we have already referred.
The case of Mary Ann Nash(2) is illustrative
of the proposition that even though the cause of death may not appear to be
established by direct evidence, the circumstances of the case may be sufficient
to infer that a murder has been committed. In that case, the prisoner had an
illegitmate son, 5 years old. There was evidence to show that the mother
desired to put the child out of her way.
One day in June, 1907, the mother left the
house and returned without the child. She made several statements as to what
had happened to the child, which were found to be untrue. As late as April
1908, the body of a child was discovered in a well. Decomposition had so far
advanced that even the sex of the child could not be determined.
There was nothing therefore to show whether
death was natural or violent, or whether it had occurred before or after the
body was put into the well. The case was left to the jury. On appeal, it was
contended that there being no proof how death took place, the judge should not
have left the case to the Jury but ought to have withdrawn it. Lord Chief
Justice delivering the judgment of the Court of Appeal referred to the untrue
statements of the prisoner about the wherebouts of the child, and observed as
" All these statements were untrue. She
bad an object in getting rid of the child, and if it had been (1) 161 E.R. 466,
(2) (1911) 6 Cr. App. R. 225.
508 lost or met with an accidental death, she
had every interest in saying so at once. It is said there is no evidence of
violent death, but we cannot accept that Mr. Goddard cannot have meant that
there must be proof from the body itself of a violent death. . . . In view of
the facts that the child left home well and was afterwards found dead, that the
appellant was last seen with it, and made untrue statements about it, this is
not a case which could have been withdrawn from the jury." There is no
difference between a trial with the help of the jury and a trial by a Judge in
so far as the appraisement of evidence is concerned. The value of the evidence
in each case must necessarily be the same. If the case of Mary Ann Nash (1)
could be left to the jury, here too the case has been decided by the two Courts
below concurrently against the appellant on evidence on which theY could
legitimately reach the conclusion whether an offence of murder had been
established or not.
A case of murder by administration of poison
is almost always one of secrecy. The poisoner seldom takes another into his
confidence, and his preparations to the commission of the offence are also
secret. He watches his opportunity and administers the poison in a manner
calculated to avoid its detection. The greater his knowledge of poisons, the
greater the secrecy, and consequently the greater the difficulty of proving the
case against him. What assistance a man of science can give he gives; but it is
too much to say that the guilt of the accused must, in all cases, be
demonstrated by the isolation of the poison, though in a case where there is
nothing else such a course would be incumbent upon the prosecution. There are
various factors which militate against a successful isolation of the poison and
its recognition. The discovery of the poison can only take place either through
a postmortem examination of the internal organs or by chemical analysis. Often
enough, the diagnosis of a poison is aided by the information which may be
furnished by relatives and friends as to the symptoms 1 161 E R. 466 491 509
found on the victim, if the course of poison has taken long and others have had
an opportunity of watching its effect.
Where, however, the poision is administered
in secrecy and the victim is rendered unconscious effectively, there is nothing
to show how the deterioration in the condition of the victim took place and if
not poison but disease is suspected, the diagnosis of poisoning may be rendered
difficult. In Chapman's case(1), the victim (Maud Marsh) was sent to Guy's
Hospital, where the doctors diagnosed her condition to be due to variousmaladies
including cancer umatism and acute dyspepsiaIt is clear that doctors can be
deceived by the symptoms of poison into believing tHat they have a genuine case
of sickness on hand. In Dr. Palmer's case (2), two medical witnesses for the
defence diagnosed the case from the symptoms as being due to Angina Pectoris or
epilepsy with tetanic complications.
The reason for all this is obvious. Lambert
in his book "The Medico-Legal Post-Mortem in India (pp. 96,99.100) has
stated that the pathologist's part in the diagnosis of poisoning is secondary,
and has further observed that several poisons particularly of the synthetic
hypnotics and vegetable alkaloids groups do not leave any characteristic signs
which can be noticed on postmortem examination. See Modi's Medical
Jurisprudence and Toxicology, 13th Edn., pp.
450-451 and Taylor's Principles and Practice
of Medical Jurisprudence, Vol. ll,p. 229. The same is stated by Otto Saphir in
his book " Autopsy " at pp. 71 and 72. In Dreisbach's Handbook of
Poisons. 1955, it is stated that pathological findings in deaths from narcotic
analgesics are not characteristic. He goes further and says that even the
laboratory findings are non-contributory. The position of the pathologist who
conducts a postmortem examination has been summed up by Modi in Medical
Jurisprudence and Toxicology, 13th edn., p. 447 as follows:
" In order to make a probable guess of
the poison and to look for its characteristic postmortem appearances, it is
advisable that a medical officer, before (1) Notable Trials Series.
(2) Notable Trials Series.
65 510 commencing a postmortem examination on
the body of a suspected case of poisoning, should read the police report and
endeavour to get as much information as possible from the relatives of the
deceased regarding the quality and quantity of the poison administered, the
character of the symptoms with reference to their onset and the time that
elapsed between the taking of the poison and the development of the first
symptoms, the duration of the illness, nature of the treatment adopted, and the
time of death. He will find that in most cases the account supplied by the
police and the relatives is very meagre, or incorrect and misleading. His task
is, therefore, very difficult, especialy when many of the poisons except
corrosives and irritants do not show any characteristic postmortem signs and
when bodies are in an advanced state of decomposition . . . ".
Similarly, Gonzales in Legal Medicine and
Toxicology states at p. 629:
" The question of whether or not a
negative toxicologic examination is consistent with death by poison can be
answered affirmatively, as may persons overcome by carbon monoxide die after
twenty-four hours, at which time the gas cannot be determined in the blood by
Likewise, the organs of individuals who have
been poisoned by phosphorus may not contain the toxic substance responsible for
death if they have managed to survive its effects for several days.
Many conditions seriously interfere with the
toxicologic examination, such as postmortem decomposition . . . . ".
We need not multiply authorities, because
every book on toxicology begins with a statement of such a fact. Of course,
there is a chemical test for almost every poison, but it is impossible to
expect a search for every poison.
Even in chemical analysis, the chemical
analyser may be unsuccessful for various reasons. Taylor in his Principles and
Practice of Medical Jurisprudence, Vol. 11, p. 228 gives -three possible
explanations for negative findings, viz., (1) the case 511 may have been of
disease only; (2) the poison may have been eliminated by vomitting or other
means or neutralised or metabolised; and (3) the analysis may have been
faultily performed. Svensson Wendel in Crime Detection has stated at p. 281
" Hypnotics are decomposed and disappear
very quickly-some even in the time which elapses between the administration and
the occurrence of death.
Circumstantial evidence in this context means
a combination of facts creating a net-work through which there is no escape for
the accused, because the facts taken as a whole do not admit of any inference
but of his guilt. To rely upon the findings of the medical man who conducted
the postmortem and of the chemical analyser as decisive of the matter is to
render the other evidence entirely fruitless.
While the circumstances often speak with
unerring certainty, the autopsy and the chemical analysis taken by themselves
may be most misleading. No doubt, due weight must be given to the negative
findings at such examinations. But, bearing in mind the difficult task which
the man. of medicine performs and the limitations under which he works, his
failure should not be taken as the end of the case, for on good and probative
circumstances, an irresistible inference of guilt can be drawn.
In the present case, the effort of the
appellant has been to persuade the Court that the death of Laxmibai was
possibly the result of disease rather than by poison. During the course of the
case and the appeal, various theories have been advanced and conflicting
diagnoses have been mooted.
The case of the appellant has wavered between
death by diabetic coma and by hypoglycemia, though relying upon the condition
of the arteries and the aorta and the rigidity of the neck-, suggestions of
coronary complications and renal failure have also been made. We have shown
above that this was not a case of diabetic coma, because of the absence of the
cardinal symptoms of diabetic coma. This also is the opinion of Dr. Variava and
Dr. Mehta, though Dr. Jliala, for reasons which we have indicated, accepted it.
The appellant argued again the case 512 from the angle of diabetic coma, but
later veered in favour of hypoglycemia. This change noticeable not only in the
arguments before us but also throughout the conduct of the case is merely to
confuse the issue, and create, if possible, a doubt, which would take the mind
away from the surrounding circumstances, and focus it only upon the medical
aspect of the case. Full advantage has been taken of the findings of Dr. Ugale
and Dr. Miss Aneeja, which suggest partly an onset of diabetic coma, partly of
hypoglycemia, and partly of renal failure. There is no true picture of any one
disease. The rigidity of the neck was not reflected in the chemical analysis of
the cerebro-spinal fluid and was negatived, in so far as renal failure is
concerned, by the negative findings about albumin. Diabetic coma stood ruled
out by the presence of the Babinsky sign and the suddenness of the onset, the
negative aspect of acetone breath and the rather remarkable failure of the
specific treatment given for it to have worked any change. Driven from these
considerations to -such doubtful suggestions as coronary complications of which
no physical evidence was found by Dr. Jhala, the appellant put his case 'on
hypoglycemia, and relied upon the fact that at the hospital 40 units of insulin
intravenously and another 40 units subcutaneously were administered. Medical
text-books were quoted to show that in the case of hypoglycemic coma the
introduction of even a small quantity of insulin sometimes proves fatal.
The learned Advocate General stoutly resisted
this move, which was at variance with the case as set out before the High
Court, because it is obvious enough that if one accepted the theory of
hypoglycemic coma, the only injections of insulin causing such shook would be
proved to have been given at the hospital and not by the appellant.
Here, the position, however, is not so
difficult for the State, because Laxmibai was found to have 4 oz. of pasty meal
in her stomach, and with food inside her, the possibility of hypoglycemia
taking place naturally was extremely remote. If it was hypoglycemic coma due to
excessive administration of insulin, then it must have been administered prior
to its onset, and who could have 513 given it but the appellant ? Even though
coma supervenes suddenly, the patient passes through symptoms of discomfort,
and Laxmibai would have told the appellant about it in the train. The appellant
mentioned nothing of this to Dr.
Ugale. If an excessive dose of insulin was
given by the appellant, the question of intent would arise, and the conduct
shows the intention. There were no pronounced symptoms of hypoglycemia either.
Laxmibai just passed from unconsciousness to death without the manifestation of
any of the signs associated with the syndrome of hypoglycemic death. It is also
to be remembered that hypoglycemic coma is generally overcome by the
administration of a very small quantity of glucose (5 or10 grams of glucose
Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus by Joslin,
Root and White, p. 350. The 40 units given intravenously were mixed with 20 C.
C. of glucose and carried the palliative with
them. Even otherwise, Laxmibai was receiving glucose by intragastric drip, and
during the three and a half hours, there should have been an improvement. The
surprising part is that the administration of the insulin and glucose brought
about no visible symptoms in the patient either for better or for worse. She
passed into death, and the inference can only be that she did not die of these
diseases of which she was either suspected or for which she was treated but of
something else, which could not answer to the treatment given to her. Dreisbach
in his Handbook on Poisons at p. 27 has stated that coma also results from the
action of several poisons.
Depressants, sedatives and hypnoties all
cause death by coma (ibid. p. 201). The symptoms, according to the author, are
sleepiness, mental confusion, unsteadiness rapidly followed by coma with slow
shallow respiration, flaccid muscles and absent deep reflexes. The difference
between coma due to disease and coma as the result of poisons is stated by him
in the following words:
Coma from poisoning presumably results from
some interference with brain cell metabolism. In attempting to combat the
effects of drugs which induce coma, remember that no agents are known 514 which
will specifically overcome the metabolic derangements of drug-induced coma. The
mechanism of action of cerebral stimulant drugs is also unknown, but these
drugs presumably act by depressing some inhibiting function in the cell.
There is no evidence that any stimulants
specifically oppose the cellular metabolic depression induced by the depressant
drugs such as the barbiturates." No specific antidote is known for the
sedative and hypnotic drugs. (Ibid. p. 202).
The condition of Laxmibai clearly indicated
an impairment of the central nervous system. It is no doubt true that in some
cases of coronary thrombosis, coma supervenes; but it is idle to suggest in the
present case that Laxmibai was afflicted by this type of coma, because Dr.
Jhala who performed the postmortem examination and opened the coronary arteries
found no evidence of thrombosis. According to Otto Saphir, a myocardial infarct
is easily detected. (Autopsy, pp. 301-302). Coma in Laxmibai's case, as we have
shown above, was not the result either of acidosis, hypoglycemia, renal failure
or meningial irritation. Her liver, pancreas and kidney were found to have no
pathological lesions, and it is significant that no question was even attempted
to establish that the opinion of Dr. Jhala on this part of the case was
incorrect. Learned counsel for the appellant suggested that the examination by
Dr. Jhala might have been superficial, and might not have included a
microscopical examination of sections of some of the vital organs normally
affected by diabetes. This suggestion, in our opinion, ought to have been put
forward during the cross-examination of the witness, and it is unfair now to
suggest that the opinion that no lesions were found was based on either
improper or inadequate examination. We hold that Dr. Jhala performed the
examination adequately, and he was also helped by his assistants.
Here, we pause to ask a question why the
appellant brought up the question of hysterical fits at all. He could have said
that Laxmibai was a diabetic, and that it was likely she had coma by reason of
that 515 disease. The suggested diagnosis given by the appellant was so
unlikely that Dr. Ugale questioned it then and there.
There is nothing in the Wanlesswadi T.B.
Sanatorium papers or in Dr. Sathe's evidence to show that Laxmibai had
hysterical fits after her hysterectomy operation. No suggestion was made to the
doctors in Court that Laxmibai might have had hysterical fits. The condition of
the muscles and the absence of deep reflexes clearly show that this was just
another piece of deception. It is not possible to hold that the appellant gave
the full particulars to Dr. Miss Aneeja. No suggestion was made to her or to
Dr. Ugale that any information other than what was noted in the case papers was
furnished. There is no case for holding 'that Laxmibai had a relapse of
It would, therefore, appear that Laxmibai's
condition was not due to any disease, because diseases inducing coma generally
leave some trace behind, and also respond to medication. No doubt, in some
cases the pathological findings after death from diabetic coma have been
negative, but the question is if this was such a case. We have, on the one
hand, the fact that numerous poisons causing coma leave no identifiable trace
in the victim after death, and, on the other, that sometimes the autopsy does
not disclose any discoverable signs in a patient who dies after an attack of
diabetic coma or disease. The appellant can be presumed to have had knowledge
of these poisons. The appellant challenged the Advocate-General to show from
any standard book that the symptoms found by the doctors accorded with any
known poison. Here, it must also be remembered that a man with knowledge may
manipulate not one but more drugs to achieve his purpose, and the cardinal
signs of poisoning on the victim may, as a result, be either obliterated or, at
least significantly modified. We give one example on ,which a certain amount of
knowledge is possessed even by laymen.
A poison of which one of the symptoms would
be the contracting of the pupils of the eyes may be side-tracked by putting into
the eyes of the victim a drug like atropine, which by its local 516 action
dilates the pupils. We give this example, because most of us know the action of
atropine on the eyes, and because the example also shows how easily a person
with knowledge may confuse the symptoms by a simple trick. We are not
suggesting that this is what has happened in this case; but when we have to
deal with a case of crime versus natural death, we cannot overlook the
possibility of some ingenious artifice having been used to screen the action.
If Laxmibai died in circumstances which prima
facie admit of either disease or homicide by poisoning, we must look at the
conduct of the appellant who brought her to the hospital, and consider to what
conclusion that conduct unerringly points. If the appellant as an honest
medical man had taken Laxmibai to the hospital and she had died by reason of
disease, his conduct would have been entirely different. He would not have
taken her to the hospital bereft of property with which she started from home;
he would not have given a wrong or misleading name to cover her identity; he
would not have given a wrong age and wrong history of her ailments; he would
not have written a letter suggesting that she had a brother in Calcutta, which
brother did not exist; he would not have abandoned the corpse to be dealt with
by the hospital as an unclaimed body; he would not have attempted to convince
the world that she was alive and happily married; he would not have obtained
her property by forgeries, impersonation and other tricks indulged in both
before and after her death; but he would have informed her relatives and done
everything in his power to see that she was properly treated and stayed on to
face whatever inquiry the hospital wished to make into the cause of death and
not tried to avoid the postmortem examination and would not have disappeared,
never to reappear. His prevarications about where' Laxmibai was, make a big and
much varied list, and his forgeries cover scores of documents. In the words of
Baron Parke in Towell's case (1):
Circumstantial evidence is the only evidence
which can in cases of this kind lead to discovery.
(1)(1854) 2 C. & K. 309.
517 There is no way of investigating them
except by the use of circumstantial evidence; but it most frequently happens
that great crimes committed in secret leave behind them some traces, or are
accompanied by some circumstances which lead to the discovery and punishment of
the offender... Direct evidence of persons who saw the fact, if that proof is
offered upon the testimony of men whose veracity you have no reason to doubt is
the best proof; but, on the other hand, it is equally true with regard to
circumstantial. evidence, that the circumstances may often be so clearly
proved, so closely connected with it, or leading to one result in conclusion,
that the mind may be as well convinced as if it were proved by
eye-witnesses." The appellant in this case took some risk in taking
Laxmibai to the hospital arid in giving his name there; and these aspects were,
in fact, stressed as arguments in the case.
As regards the first part, the argument
overlooks that what appears to us to be a risk might not have so appeared to
the appellant, who might have been sure of his own ability to screen himself.
To him, the death of Laxmibai at the hospital without discovery of poison would
be the greatest argument in his favour that he had acted honestly. The second
argument is equally unacceptable to us. The appellant could not take the risk
of a false name and address, if he was intending that the body should be
disposed of as unclaimed. By giving his own address he could keep the strings
in his own hands. If he gave an address and no reply came from that address,
the hospital would suspect foul play. If he gave the address of Laxmibai,
people in Poona would know of this mysterious death, and they would remember
the death of Purshottam alias Arvind in 1954. At that time also a postmortem
examination on the body of Arvind was held (see, evidence of Ramachandra (P. W.
1)), and the explanation of the appellant given in writing on January 22, 1954,
is set out below in his own words:
" My name is Anant Chihtaman Lagu,
age... years, residing at No. 431/5, Madiwale Colony, Poona, on 66 518 being
questioned state that I am the family doctor of Karve family in H. No. 94-95,
Shukrawar. The deceased Purshottam Anant Karve belongs to that family. He came
from Bombay to Poona on Saturday, the 16th January, 1954. He had come to me on
Sunday, the 17th February, 1954, for medicine for weakness. I treated him for 2
clays, on 17th and 18th.
He had neither told me that there was
poisoning in his stomach, nor did I detect any even when I examined and treated
him. He became unconscious 5 hours before his death. He was taken to the
Sassoon Hospital at 9 p.m. on 18th January, 1954. He was taken to the Sassoon
Hospital because his disease was increased in unconsciousness and also because
his mother as also myself and Dr. Joshi were of the same opinion. He died there
in about 30 to 45 minutes.
The fact that there was deliberate poisoning
by somebody, was neither revealed in my examination nor did Purshottam Karve
speak to me anything about it during the time I treated him 2 days before. What
exactly was the cause of death could not be revealed during my treatment. I do
not know if somebody is on bad terms with him. There are rumours about suicide
but there is no reason or any circumstance whatsoever for doing so. " A
false address would have started enquiries at the hospital end. Laxmibai's own address
would have started speculation in Poona. It was for this reason that the
appellant had to choose another place and to trim between fact and fiction so
that he might be able to deal with the matter himself Of course, Laxmibai did
have an address of her own which could have been given, and which did not cease
to be her address because she had got an attack of coma, from which people are
known to recover.
These arguments, however, are of no avail, in
view of the appellsnt's entire conduct now laid bare, which conduct has been
proved to our satisfaction to have begun not after the death of Laxmibai but
much ,earlier. This conduct is so knit together as to make a net-work of
circumstances pointing only to his guilt, 519 The case is one of extreme
cunning and premeditation.. The appellant, whose duty it was to care for this
unfortunate lady as a friend and as her medical adviser, deliberately set about
first to ingratiate himself in her good opinion, and becoming her confidant,
found out all about her affairs.
All this time he was planning to get at her
property after taking her life. He did not perpetrate his scheme at Poona,
where the death might have brought a host of persons to the hospital. He
devised a diabolical scheme of unparalleled cunning and committed an almost
perfect murder. But murder, though it hath no tongue, speaks out sometimes. His
method was his own undoing; because even the long arm of coincidence cannot
explain the multitude of circumstances against him, and they destroy the
presumption of innocence with which law clothed him. In our judgment, the two
Courts below were perfectly correct in their conclusion that the death of
Laxmibai was the result of the administration of some unrecognised poison or
drug which would act as a poison, and that the appellant was the person who
administered it. We, accordingly, confirm the conviction.
As regards the sentence of death passed on
the appellant by the Sessions Judge and confirmed by the High Court, it is the
only sentence that could be imposed for this planned and cold-blooded murder
for gain, and we do not interfere with it.
The appeal fails, and it will be dismissed.
SARKARJ.-In my opinion this appeal should be
The appellant was tried by the Sessions
Judge, Poona, on a charge under s. 302 of the Indian Penal Code for the murder
of Laxmibai Karve on November 13, 1956, by administering poison, to her and was
convicted and sentenced to death.
His appeal to the High Court at Bombay
against the conviction and sentence failed. He has now appealed to this Court
with special leave.
The evidence against the appellant is all
The question to be decided in this appeal is
520 whether that evidence is such that the only reasonable conclusion from it
is that the appellant was guilty of the charge brought against him.
Laxmibai Karve, the deceased, was the widow
of one Anant Karve who was a businessman of Poona. Laxmibai was married in 1922
at the age of eleven to Anant Karve, then a widower.
Her maiden name was Indumati Ponkshe. After her
marriage she was given the name Laxmibai but was also called Indumati or
Indutai or Mai Karve or simply Mai. It does not appear that after her marriage
she had been known by her father's surname of Ponkshe, a fact the significance
of which will appear later.
Anant Karve had a son named Vishnu by his
first wife. By Laxmibai he bad two sons, Ramchandra and Purshottam also called
Anant Karve died in 1945 leaving a will. By
his will he gave Laxmibai a right of residence in tree rooms in his dwelling
house at No. 93-95, Shukrawar Peth, Poona and a right to receive Rs. 50 per
month from the rent of that house which was in part let out, and made certain
other bequests to her. He devised the rest of his properties to his sons.
Besides what she had received from her husband, Laxmibai in 1954 inherited the
properties of Purshottam who had died interstate and unmarried in that year.
She further inherited a large sum of money and gold ornaments of considerable
value from her mother, Girjabai, who had died in 1946 or 1947. She bad also
considerable valuable ornaments of her own. Her total assets amounted in 1956
to about Rs. 80,000. Part of her liquid assets were held in shares and
debentures in limited companies. She had also certain moneys in an account in her
name in the Bank of Maharashtra. A considerable sum was due to her from one
Joshi to whom she had given a loan.
After the death of her husband, differences
cropped up between Laxmibai and her elder SOD, Ramchandra. In 1946 Ramchandra
started living separately from his mother in the same house and used to take
his food in a hotel In October 1952, Ramchandra joined military 521 service as
a craftsman and left Poona. Since joining service till the death of Laxmibai he
was not residing at Poona but came there now and then. In May 1956, Laxmibai
got Ramchandra married.
After her husband's death Laxmibai lived in
the three rooms in premises No. 93-95, Shukrawar Peth, Poona, in which she had
been given a right of residence by her husband's will.
Her younger son Purshottam also appears to
have gone out of Poona on service in 1953, and he died in January 1954.
Since then Laxmibai had been living all by
herself. She had however certain relatives in Poona.
The appellant is a medical doctor. He and his
brother B. C. Lagu, also a doctor, had been the family physicians of Anant
Karve during his life time and attended him in his last illness. After his
death the appellant continued to be Laxmibai's family doctor. It is clear from
the evidence that Laxmibai had great trust and confidence in the appellant and
depended on him in all matters concerning her moneys and investments. It was he
who went to the Bank for withdrawing and depositing moneys for her. In 1955 he
actually took on rent a big hall in premises No. 93-95, Shukrawar Peth for his
personal use and had been in occupation of it since then.
Laxmibai did not possess very good health.
She had developed a tuberculous lesion some twenty years before her death but
it had healed. She was a chronic diabetes patient since 1946 and started having
hysterical fits since 1939.
She suffered from menorrhagia and
metrorrhagia since 1942.
On April 11, 1948, Dr. Ghorpure, a surgeon
performed an operation on her which is described in these terms:
Abdomen opened by mid-line sub-umbilical
incision-Subtotal hysterectomy done. Rt. ovary cysticpunctured Appendicectomy.
Abdomen closed after exploring other viscera which were normal.
In 1949 she suffered from pyorrhoea and had
her teeth taken out. In 1950 the tuberculous affection became active and on
June 15, 1950, she consulted Dr. Sathe, a lung specialist, who found that there
was tuberculous 522 affection of the left lung and he recommended a line of
treatment. This treatment was carried out by the appellant but apparently did not
achieve much result. On July 13, 1950, she got herself admitted into the
Wanlesswadi Tuberculosis Sanatorium at Miraj in Bombay for treatment of the
tuberculosis. Two thoracoplasty operations were performed on the left lung and
she was recommended a third such operation which she was unwilling to undergo
and left the hospital at her own desire. In the course of these operations nine
of her ribs on the left side were removed.
The report given by this hospital on November
17, 1950, reads thus:
Patient was admitted on 13th July, 1950.
X-Ray on admission showed extensive filtration on the left side with a large
cavity in the upper zone; the right side was within normal limits. She had
diabetes with high blood sugar which was controlled by insulin. Two stages of
thoracoplasty operation on the left side were done and there was good clearing
of disease but there was a small residual cavity seen and the third stage
operation was advised. The patient is leaving at her own request against
medical advice. Her sputum is positive.
There is no evidence that after she left
Wanlesswadi Sanatorium she had any relapse of any of her previous illnesses
earlier recounted. It appears from the evidence of her relation one Datar, a
medical man, that Laxmibai had been completely invalid being a frank case of
tuberculosis of both the lungs but in November 1956, her health was good and
she was cooking her food and moving about in the house.
The other evidence also shows that she was
carrying on her daily avocations of' life in a normal way at that time.
After her death her body was found to be well
She had however to have ordinary medical
attention constantly and the diabetes had continued though controlled.
The appellant treated her all along and the
fees paid to him appear debited to Laxmibai's account.
I have so far been stating the earlier
history of the case and now come to the more immediate events. On November 8,
1956, Laxmibai had Rs. 5,275-09 in her 523 account in the Bank of Maharashtra.
On a date between November 8 and 10, she signed two papers the first of which
was a notice to the Bank reading I desire to withdraw an amount exceeding Rs.
1,000 up to about Rs. 5,000 in the next week from My savings Bank Account"
and the other was a withdrawal slip or cheque and it read, " Pay Bearer
the sum of Rupees Five thousand only which please debit to the 2account of
Laxmibai Anant Karve". None of these papers bore any date and the, bodies
of them, were in the appellant's handwriting. These papers were made over by Laxmibai
to the appellant and he did not present them to the Bank till after her death.
On November 12, 1956, the appellant paid to the credit of Laxmibai's account in
the Bank a dividend warrant dated November 10, 1956, for Rs. 2,607-6-0 drawn in
her favour by a company on the Bank of Maharashtra, after signing her name on
the back of it himself.
The appellant had fixed up an engagement with
Dr. Sathe of Bombay, who has been named earlier, for November 13, 1956, at 3
p.m. for examining Laxmibai. On November 8, 1956, Bhave, a relation of
Laxmibai, called on Laxmibai and found the appellant there. Laxmibai told him
that she proposed to go to Bombay with the appellant for consulting Dr. Sathe
for her health and that she would be returning in four or five days. On
November 10 or 11, she saw a lawyer Karandikar, also a relation, and informed
him that she intended to go to Bombay with the appellant for consulting a
physician. About the same time Champutai, daughter of Bhave mentioned earlier,
came to Laxmibai's house to invite her to attend the birthday party of her son
which had been fixed for November 13. Laxmibai told Champutai that she was
going to Bombay and if she was able to come back in time, she would attend the
party. At about 8 p.m. on November 12, Laxmibai went to Virkar, who was a
tenant of the house where she lived, and informed him that she was going to
Bombay by the night train to consult a doctor and requested him to pay Rs. 50
on account of the rent then due for meeting the expenses of the 524 journey to
Bombay. The amount was paid by Virkar to her.
She told Virkar that she expected to return
to Poona after three or four days. About the same time she met Pramilabai,
another tenant of the house, and told her that she was going to Bombay with the
appellant by the night train to consult Dr. Sathe. A little later she was seen
by a third tenant Krishnaji, standing in front of the house with a small bag
and bedding. Krishnaji also saw the appellant on the road going away from the
house. All these people have said that they found Laxmibai in a good state of
health and going about performing her normal avocations of life. There was a
passenger train leaving Poona for Bombay at 10 p.m. Laxmibai and the appellant
went by this train to Bombay on November 12, 1956. Though the appellant denied
this, the Courts below have found that they travelled in the same compartment.
The train reached Victoria Terminus Station, Bombay, at 5-10 a.m. on November
13. Laxmibai had then gone into a comatose condition. The appellant procured a
stretcher and carried her into a taxi with the help of porters and took her to
Gokuldas Tejpal Hospital, usually called for short G.T. Hospital, which is
about six furlongs from the station. They reached the hospital at about 5-45
a.m. Laxmibai was taken to the Outdoor Department where Dr. Ugale, the Casualty
Officer in charge, admitted her 'into the hospital. According to Dr. Ugale, the
appellant told him that the name of the unconscious woman was Indumati Paunshe
and her age was forty. The appellant gave as the address of the patient the
address of his own dispensary at Poona, namely, " C/o Dr. Lagu 20-B,
Shukrawar, Gala No. 12, Poona 2 ". Dr. Ugale said that the appellant at
his request spelt the name "Paunshe" and he took it down as spelt by
the appellant. On enquiry about the history of the patient by Dr. Ugale the
appellant told him that the patient suddenly became unconscious in the train
while coming from upcountry and that there was a history of similar attacks
frequently before. Dr. Ugale also said that the appellant told him that he
thought that the case was one of hysterical fit from 525 which she frequently
suffered. He did not tell Dr. Ugale that the patient suffered from any other
disease. He said that he had brought the unconscious woman to Bombay for
getting her examined by a specialist and that she was his patient. Dr. Ugale
entered in the appropriate record of the hospital called the case paper, all
that the appellant told him and what he himself had noticed. As a result of his
own examination Dr. Ugale found that the patient was making some involuntary
movement, the corneal reflex was absent, the pupils were normal and reactive.
He found nothing abnormal in the cardiovascular system or the respiration.
There was a clerk sitting by the side of Dr. Ugale when the appellant was
speaking to him and he made the necessary entries in another record of the
hospital. In that record the name of the patient appears as Indumati Pankshe.
Dr. Ugale examined the person of Laxmibai and found no ornament or cash on her.
Within four or five minutes of the time that
she arrived at the Outdoor Department of the hospital, Laxmibai was removed to
Ward No. 12.
Dr. Anija, a young woman doctor, who had
passed out the previous June, was then the House Physician in attendance at
that ward. The appellant accompanied Laxmibai to the ward and introduced
himself to Dr. Anija as Dr. Lagu, which is his name. He told her that while
travelling in a train from upcountry the patient had got unconscious and therefore
he had brought her straight from the station to the hospital and that before
the journey the patient was alright. He further said that the patient had
similar attacks before.
The appellant also told Dr. Anija that he was
the family physician of the patient and a family friend and spoke of some of
the illnesses from which the patient had earlier suffered. Dr. Anija made some
notes in the case paper of what she heard from the appellant and then examined
the patient, the result of which she also similarly noted in the case paper.
Thereafter, according to Dr. Anija, she tested the patient's urine in a
laboratory attached to the ward and recorded the finding on the case paper. She
then administered some stimulant and oxygen and also 67 526 gave an injection of
40 units of insulin as she thought,' as a result of the urine test, that the
case was one of diabetic coma. There is some dispute as to whether the urine
was examined by Dr. Anija at this time and as to when the entries on the case
paper of the results of the examination had been made. This will be discussed
Dr. Anija examined the urine of the patient
for the second time at about 8-30 a.m. and that also disclosed a certain
quantity of Sugar. She said that she then sent a call to the Registrar of the
ward, who was her immediate superior, to come and see the case. The Registrar
came and, according to Dr. Anija, directed that the patient be given another 40
units of insulin with 20 c.c. of glucose by intravenous injection and that she
be also given " intra-gastric glucose drip " and this was done at
about 9 a.m. At about 11 a.m.
the HonorarY Visiting Physician, Dr. Variava,
came to the hospitals Dr. Anija told him that it was a case of diabetic coma.
Dr. Variava then himself examined the patient and thereafter asked Dr. Anija
why she thought it to be a case of diabetic coma, to which Dr. Anija replied
that she did so because there was sugar present in the urine. Dr. Variava then
asked her whether she had examined the urine for acetone to which she replied
that she had not. Dr. Variava thereupon reprimanded her by saying " How
can you diagnose a case of diabetic coma without ascertaining acetone in the
urine ?" Thereafter under the directions of Dr. Variava, Dr. Anija again
tested the urine and showed it to Dr. Variava who thought that the urine
contained a slight trace of acetone. Shortly after this urine test the patient,
that is, Laxmibai expired. It was then about 11-30 a.m. Dr.
Variava then told Dr. Anija that he did not
think that the case was one of diabetic coma and that therefore he wanted a
postmortem examination of the body of the deceased. Dr. Anija then made a note
on the case paper stating " Asked for postmortem " and put her
signature below the entry. She did not then put down anything in the column
there about the final diagnosis. Dr. Variava did not wait to see the entry
about 527 postmortem being made by Dr. Anija but left to attend other cases. It
is clear that the appellant was present in the hospital up to the time of the
death Of Laxmibai though in his statement in the trial Court he had denied
this. There is no evidence as to how long he remained in the hospital after
Laxmibai's death but it is clear that he was in Poona on November 14.
There was arrangement in the hospital for
conducting postmortem examinations. The case papers along with note "
Asked for postmortem " had been sent by Dr. Anija to the Resident Medical
Officer of the hospital, Dr. Mouskar. It was his duty to arrange for the
postmortem examination. The case paper came to Dr. Mouskar's office at 1 p.m.
but he did not proceed to make any arrangement for having a postmortem
examination held. Instead, at about 2 p. m. he sent an official telegram to the
appellant at Poona at the address which he had given to Dr. Ugale and which was
recorded in the case paper. The telegrams were in these words:
" Indumati expired arrange removal reply
immediately." On November 14, the appellant wrote from Poona a letter in
reply to the telegram. This letter was in these terms:
" I have already telegraphed to the
brother of Shrimati Indumati Panshe at Calcutta, earliest he will reach Bombay
on the 15th November, 1956, Thursday. His name is Govind Vaman Deshpande; he
will enquire as Indumati Panshe. I have seen the name of the patient entered in
the Ward Book as Indumati Pannshe as 'n' extra. Please correct' it. I am
writing all these things in connection of a case woman aged 30-35 years
admitted in G. T. Hospital at 6 a.m. on Tuesday 13th November, 1956, and
expired the same day at about 11 a.m. Shri Govind Vaman Deshpande will take the
body and do the necessary funeral function according to Hindu rites."
Laxmibai had in fact no brother of the name of Govind Vaman Deshpande and in
fact the appellant 528 had sent no telegram as he stated in the letter. The
statements in the letter were all false. The letter was received in the office
of Dr. Mouskar in the afternoon of November 15.
Not having received any reply from the
appellant to his telegram, Dr. Mouskar on November 14, at about 4 p. m., sent
the following information to the Inspector of Police-A Esplanade P. S., Bombay.
Sir, I am to state that Smt. Indumati
Paunshe, Hindu, female, aged 40 years was admitted in Ward No.Xll for treatment
of hysterical fits on 13th November, 1956, at 5-45 a. m. She died on the same
day at 11-30 a.m.
The address given at the time of admission is
C/o Dr. Lagu, 20B, Shukrawar, Gala No. 12,
A telegram on the above address has already
been sent, but without any response.
It is therefore requested that the body may
please be removed and taken to the J. J. Hospital Morgue for avoiding
decomposition." A copy of this letter was sent to the Coroner for
information. The letter was written as in the G. T.
Hospital there was no air conditioned morgue
and there was one in the J. J. Hospital.
On receipt of this letter the police
immediately wrote to the Coroner for permission to remove the body from the G.
T. Hospital to the J. J. Hospital. The permission was granted by the Coroner at
about 7-50 p.m. on the same day. The body was thereupon removed from the G. T.
Hospital to the J. J.
Hospital morgue at about 9 p.m. on November
On the same day, that is, November 14, at
about 9-30 p. m.
the police again wrote to the Coroner stating
that it had received a report from the Resident Medical Officer, G. T.
Hospital of the death of one Indumati
Paunshe, referring evidently to the letter which Dr. Mouskar had earlier on the
same day written to the 529 police,and that Indumati appeared to have no
relatives in Bombay and further that the cause of death was not certified and
requesting in the circumstances that an inquest over the death might be held.
What happened about this request will be stated later.
On November 15, the Bombay police sent a
wireless message to the police at Poona intimating that on November 13, one
Indumati Paunshe, who had been admitted to the G.T. Hospital for treatment of
hysterical fits, had died on the very day in the hospital and her address was
" C/o Dr. Lagu, 20B, Shukrawar, Gala No. 12, Poona 2 " and asking
that enquires might be made at the above address and the relatives might be
asked to claim the dead body which was lying unclaimed.
Pursuant to this message, the Poona police
interviewed the appellant at Poona on November 16, when he made the following
"On November 12 he left Poona for Bombay
by the 10 p.m.
train and had gone off to sleep. Towards the
end of the journey when he started preparing to get down at Bombay, he found
one woman fast asleep. From other passengers he came to know that her name was
Indumati Paunshe about 35 years of age and she had a brother serving in
Calcutta. When other passengers got down at Victoria Terminus Station in
Bombay, the woman did not awake. He thereupon looked at her keenly and found
her senseless. Being himself a doctor he thought it his duty to take her to the
hospital and so took her to the G. T. Hospital in a taxi. As he had taken that
woman to the hospital, the Casualty Medical Officer took his address.
He had no more information about the woman.
She was not his relation and he was not in any way responsible for her."
The statement so made by the appellant was received by the Bombay police from
the Poona police on November 17.
I now come back to the events that were happening
I have earlier stated that the case paper had
not initially given the final diagnosis as to the 530 cause of Laxmibai's death
but bore the endorsement "Asked for postmortem ". At some stage, as
to which the evidence is conflicting and which I will have to discuss later,
the endorsement " Asked for postmortem " was crossed out and the
words "diabetic coma " were written on the case paper as the caus of
the death of the patient. Both of these alterations had been made by Dr. Anija
who put her signature under the crossed out entry. Dr. Mouskar on November 15,
sent to the Coroner a certificate of the death of the patient Indumati in the
G. T. Hospital stating therein diabetic coma as the cause of her death. By this
time the alteration in the case paper had clearly been made, crossing out the
direction as to postmortem examination and stating therein diabetic coma as the
cause of death. On the same day, that is, November 15, the police wrote a
letter to Dr.
Mouskar, apparently in ignorance of the death
certificate issued by him, requesting him to send per bearer the cause of the
death of " Indumati ". This letter was sent with a copy, the idea
being that the original would be retained by the Hospital and the copy returned
with an acknowledgement of the receipt of the original made on it. Both these
were however produced from the police custody without any endorsement by the
hospital acknowledging the receipt of either. The copy bore the following
remark, "Diabetic coma, Dr. N. S. Variava, G. T. Hospital." It is
clear on the evidence that the endorsement had not been made by Dr. Variava.
Dr. Anija also denied having made it though before the police she admitted that
the words " Diabetic coma " had been written by her. Dr. Mouskar said
that neither the original nor the copy had ever come to him and he thought that
the endorsement "Diabetic coma" might be in Dr. Anija's hand writing
but he could not say by whom the words "Dr. N.S. Variava, G. T.
Hospital" had been written adding that the words " Dr. N. S. Variava
" had not been written by Dr. Variava. The question as to who made the
endorsement will be discussed later.
On receipt of the death certificate from Dr.
Mouskar, the Coroner's office made on the letter of the police 531 dated
November 14, asking an inquest to be made, which I have earlier mentioned, an
endorsement directing that no inquest was necessary as the Resident Medical
Officer, G. T.
Hospital had certified the cause of death and
had issued the death certificate. On November 19, the Coroner's office directed
that the dead body might be disposed of as unclaimed after taking a photograph
of it. A photograph of the dead body was duly taken on the same day. In the
meantime the Grant Medical College had written to the Coroner on November 17,
for authority to take over certain unclaimed dead bodies lying in the J.J.
Hospital mortuary, for dissection purposes and thereupon the Coroner made an
order directing that the dead bodies might be made over to the Grant Medical
College. Pursuant to this order, the dead bodies, which included that of
Laxmibai, were then made over to the Grant ,Medical College on November 20,
1956. When the dead body of Laxmibai was about to be taken to the dissection
hall, some scratches on the neck were detected.
The Professor of Anatomy of the College did
not thereupon allow the body to be dissected and brought the discovery to the
notice of the police. The police then wrote to the Coroner that in view of
this, a postmortem and an inquest might be held. Accordingly, under the
instructions of the Coroner, Dr. Jhala, Police Surgeon, Bombay, held a
postmortem examination of the body of Laxmibai on November
23. He found no sign of decomposition in the
body nor any characteristic smell of any recognisable poison. He also found the
scratches on the neck to be postmortem. Dr. Jhala sent the viscera to the
Government Chemical Examiner who sent the report of his examination on December
19, 1956, wherein he stated that he was unable to detect any poison in the
viscera. Thereupon, Dr. Jhala submitted his postmortem report stating that in
his opinion death could have occurred on account of diabetic coma. In the
meantime, after the postmortem examination, the body of Laxmibai had been made
over to the Hindu Relief Society for cremation on November 24 and the cremation
had been duly carried out.
532 It is now necessary to go back to Poona
and relate what the appellant did after Laxmibai's death. To describe it
summarily, the appellant did not give any one the information of Laxmibai's
death but on the contrary.
represented that she was alive and moving
about from place to place and in the meantime misappropriated most of her
I will now give some details of his
activities in relation to Laxmibai's moneys. It will be remembered that about
November 8, the appellant had taken from Laxmibai a notice to the Bank for
withdrawal of money and a withdrawal slip, none of which bore any date. The
appellant inserted on the notice of withdrawal the date November 15, 1956, and
lodged it in the Bank on the same day or soon thereafter.
On the withdrawal slip he inserted the date
November 19, 1956, and on November 20, presented it to the Bank and drew out a
sum of Rs. 5,000 from Laxmibai's account. He subsequently put in to the credit
of her account diverse cheques and by April 1957, bad drawn out by forging her
signature practically the whole amount in her credit totalling about Rs. 10,000
including the sum of Rs. 5,000 withdrawn on November 20, 1956. The appellant
also embarked on a systematic course of forgeries of the signature of Laxmibai
on various fabricated documents, including share transfer deeds, as a result of
which, before the end of 1957, he misappropriated a large part of the liquid
assets belonging to Laxmibai's estate. When some of the forged signatures of
Laxmibai had been doubted by the authorities to whom they had been presented
with the object of being acted upon, the appellant even went to the length of
getting a woman to falsely impersonate Laxmibai before a Magistrate and thereby
procured the latter to certify forged signatures of Laxmibai as genuine
signatures. He also clandestinely denuded Laxmibai's flat of its entire
contents. None of her ornaments has been recovered after her death. In the
meantime, he had been falsely representing to various persons, including all
friends and relatives of Laxmibai, that he had met her on several dates after
November 13, when she was already 533 dead. He manufactured various letters
purported to be written by her from distant places in India and addressed to
her relatives in Poona stating that she was going round on a pilgrimage.
Eventually, he fabricated letters purported to have been written by her to her
relatives in which it was stated that she had married one Joshi and bad settled
down in a place called Rathodi near Jaipur -and did not intend to return to
Poona. There is in fact no place of the name of Rathodi. His idea in
manufacturing these letters was to create a false impression in the minds of
Laxmibai's friends and relatives that she was still alive and this he did with
the object of gaining time to misappropriate her properties.
It is not necessary to go into the details of
this part of the conduct. The substance of it is that he made full use of the
situation arising out of Laxmibai's death to misappropriate by all kinds of
dishonest means most of her properties and to facilitate the misappropriation
assiduously spread the story that she was alive. It may be stated that the
appellant was put on -his trial on charges of misappropriation and other allied
charges and found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for life.
The long absence of Laxmibai had gradually
made her relatives grow suspicious about her fate and they approached the
police but no trace of Laxmibai could be found. Several petitions were sent to
the higher police officers and also to the Chief Minister of Bombay. In the
end, the matter was entrusted to Mr. Dhonde, Deputy Superintendent of Police,
C. I. D., Poona, for enquiry. Mr. Dhonde made various investigations and
eventually on March 13, 1958, interrogated the appellant. The appellant then
told him that be had taken Laxmibai to the G. T. Hospital, Bombay, and admitted
her there, and that she died there on November 13, 1956. The police made
enquiries at the G. T. Hospital and was able to find the clothes which Laxmibai
wore when she died. These were identified by Laxmibai's relations.
The photograph of the dead body of Laxmibai
also helped to prove her identity. After certain further enquiries, the police
sent up the 68 534 appellant for trial on a charge of murder of Laxmibai with
the result I have earlier mentioned.
The prosecution case is that the appellant
caused the death of Laxmibai by administering to her a poison which was
undetectable. On the evidence in this case it has to be held, as the Courts
below have done, that there are poisons which cause death but are undetectable.
I do not wish to be understood as saying that death by poisoning cannot be
proved without proof of detection of poison in the deceased person's system
after his death. I quite agree that the circumstances may be such that the only
reasonable conclusion that can be drawn is that death was an unnatural death.
In this view of the matter, I do not consider it necessary to discuss the cases
cited at the bar and in the judgments of the Courts below. They are all
illustrative of the proposition that a crime can be proved by circumstantial
evidence, a proposition which I fully accept. In one of them, namely, Regina v.
Onufrejczyk(1) guilt was held proved from the circumstances of the case
notwithstanding that there was no body or trace of a body, or any direct
evidence as to the manner of death of a victim. The legal proposition that
arises in the present case may be put in the words of Wills in his treatise on
Circumstantial Evidence which has been quoted in the judgment of the High
It would be most unreasonable and lead to the
grossest injustice, and in some circumstances to impunity for the worst of
crimes, to require, as an imperative rule of law, that the fact of poisoning
shall be established by any special and exclusive medium of proof, when that
kind of proof is unattainable, and especially if it has been rendered so by the
act of the offender himself. No universal and invariable rule, therefore, can
be laid down; and every case must depend upon its own particular circumstances;
and the corpus delicti must, like anything else, be proved by the best evidence
reasonably capable of being adduced, and by such an amount and combination of
relevant facts, whether direct or circumstantial, as to establish the factum
probandum (1)  1 Q. B. 388.
535 to the exclusion of every other
reasonable hypothesis. (7th Ed., p.,385) ".
In the present case, therefore, the
circumstances must be such that no other conclusion than that Laxmibai died of
poisoning and that the poison was administered by the appellant, can reasonably
be drawn. The Courts below have found that the circumstances of this case fully
establish this. I have come to a different conclusion. In my view, the
circumstances are not such that from them the only reasonable conclusion to be
drawn is that Laxmibai died of poisoning. If that conclusion cannot be drawn,
of course no question of the appellant having poisoned her arises. I may also
say that if Laxmibai could be said to have died of poisoning, I would have no
reason to disagree with the view of the Courts below that it was the appellant
who had administered the poison.
I proceed now to consider the question
whether Laxmibai had died of poisoning. I do not suggest that poison had to be
found in her system. In my view, if it could be established in this case that
Laxmibai had died an unnatural death the conclusion would be inevitable that
that unnatural death had been brought about by poison; no other kind of
unnatural death could be possible on the facts of this case.
The real question in this case then is
whether Laxmibai had died an unnatural death. I think the Courts below also
considered that to be the only question in this case. I have earlier said that
no poison was detected in the postmortem examination. So far as direct evidence
of the cause of death goes, which in this case is all opinion evidence, we have
the evidence of three doctors. All that Dr. Variava said was that death was not
due to diabetic coma. The Courts below have accepted this evidence and I find
no reason to take a different view. Then there is Dr. Jhala, who conducted the
postmortem examination. He had stated in the port-mortem examination report
that the cause of death was diabetic coma. In his evidence in Court he said
that the opinion stated in his report was not based on his pathological
findings and that the proper way of describing the cause of 536 death would be
by stating " death by diabetes with complications ". He also referred
to certain complications such as, atheroma of aorta with slight sclerosis of
coronary. In the end he was asked by the Court, " Would you agree with the
view that the proper opinion on the pathological data available before you
should have been that the cause of death was not ascertainable or could not be
ascertained ?" His answer was, " My answer is that on pathological
data I would agree to the answer proposed. We have however to see the clinical
data also. " On the clinical data he would have said that death was due to
diabetes with complications, but he conceded that that opinion was somewhat
speculative. These two doctors therefore did not suggest that death was due to
any unnatural cause. Dr. Variava did not in his evidence say that he had
directed the postmortem examination to be done because he suspected any foul
play. It would appear that be did not suspect any foul play for he did not
require the case to be marked as a medico-legal case.
The most important direct evidence as to the
cause of death and on which the prosecution has greatly relied, is the, opinion
of Dr. Mehta who appears to be a medical man of some eminence. All the papers
connected with the illnesses of Laxmibai and the postmortem examination report
bad been given to him and he had made a thorough study of them. The net result
of this study would appear from his evidence, the relevant part of which I
think it right now to set out. He said:
" On a careful consideration of the
entire material placed before me I am definitely of the opinion that the cause
of death of Indumati Paunshe as mentioned in the case record and the Coroner's
inquest, viz., diabetic coma, cannot be true. In my opinion, the cause of death
may probably be due to:
(1)Administration of some unrecognisable
poison, i.e., some poison for the detection of which there are no definite
(2)Administration of some recognisable poison
for which there are chemical tests, but which tests 537 could not be obtained
on account of deterioration of the poison remaining in the dead body which was
kept in the morgue for considerable time after death without postmortem being
performed and which was already undergoing decomposition prior to the actual
postmortem examination as is clear from the absence of rigor mortis. Rigor
mortis is means stiffening of muscles. The above opinion that the probable
cause of death may be due to administration of poison is further fortified by
the fact that the postmortem did not reveal any definite pathological lesion to
account for the sudden rapid death of the deceased.
The question then arises whether she died a
natural death, i.e., due to any other disease or diseased condition. The
postmortem notes do not show anything abnormal beyond congestion of organ is
and tubercular focus in the left lung. Congestion of organs occurs in majority
of the cases after death of the person and particularly more so when so many
days have elapsed between death and postmortem examination. Some decomposition
is bound to be going on.
There is still possibility of death being due
to poison in spite of the fact that the poison was not detected in the
postmortem examination. Two reasons can be assigned for non-detection of
poison: (1) There are no definite chemical tests for each and every poison.
There are some poisons which cannot be detected on chemical analysis. (2) There
may be a recognisable poison in the sense that there are tests for its
detection. But the poison may not be detected on account of deterioration of
the poison remaining in the body for a considerable time before the postmortem
examination and it has undergone decom. position or oxidation...........
The possibility of death being due to
poisoning cannot be ruled out." 538 I do not think that the Courts below
thought that the evidence of Dr. Mehta established that death must have been
due to an unnatural cause. If they did, I find myself unable to agree with
them. The substance of Dr. Mehta's evidence is that death may " probably
be due to " some poison, " the probable cause of death maybe due to
administration of some poison", the posibility of death being due to
poisoning cannot be ruled out. It will have been seen that Dr. Mehta posed a
question whether Laxmibai had died a natural death. That question he did not
answer beyond stating that the postmortem examination did not show anything
abnormal beyond congestion of organs and a tubercular focus in the left lung
and that such congestion of organs occurs in the majority of cases after death.
It is clear that Mr. Mehta could not say with conviction that death had been
caused by poisoning nor that death could not have been due to natural causes.
The net result of the evidence of the medical experts is clearly that it cannot
be said with definiteness how death was caused. In this view, nothing really
turns on the fact that shortly prior to her death Laxmibai was found to have
been in good health, which of course can only mean as good a health as a
confirmed invalid like her could have. It cannot be definitely inferred from
the fact that she was in good health that she had not died a natural death. If
such an inference was possible, the doctors who gave evidence would have given
a clear opinion but this they did not.
In this state of the evidence the Courts
below have founded themselves on various circumstances of the case, most of
which I have earlier related, in coming to the conclusion that Laxmibai bad met
with an unnatural death.
These circumstances I now proceed to
The first thing that I wish to discuss is the
fact that after Laxmibai's death the appellant started on a systematic career
of misappropriating her assets. I am unable to conclude from this that the
appellant had caused her death.
It is reasonably possible to think that he
made use of the opportunity that came is way on Laxmibai's death to
misappropriate her 539 properties and had not caused her death. The fact that
the appellant deliberately kept back the information of Laxmibai's death from
her relatives and falsely created the impression in their minds that she was
alive, does not advance the matter. This was clearly done with a view to give
him time in which to carry out his scheme of misappropriating her properties. I
quite concede however that these circumstances may take on a different colour
from other circumstances, but I have found no such circumstance..
The next circumstance is the conduct of the
appellant in obtaining from Laxmibai her signatures on the undated notice of
withdrawal to the Bank and the withdrawal slip. The bodies of these documents
are in the handwriting of the appellant. The Courts below have thought that the
appellant obtained the signatures of Laxmibai on blank papers and filled them
in the forms they now stand after the death of Laxmibai and utilised them to misappropriate
They came to this conclusion from the fact
that these documents were admittedly without dates and had been subsequently
dishonestly utilised. It has been held from this that the appellant had during
her life time a design on her moneys and therefore it becomes likely that he
caused her death. I am unable to agree with this conclusion. It would be
difficult to hold from the fact that the appellant had a design on Laxmibai's
moneys that he had also a design on her life or that her death was, an
unnatural death. But apart from that there is reason to think that when
Laxmibai signed these documents their bodies had already been written up. That
reason is this. It will be remembered that on November 12, 1956, the appellant
had put to the credit of Laxmibai's account in the Bank a dividend warrant in
her favour for Rs. 2,607-6-0. The balance to the credit of her account on
November 12, 1956, became as a result of this deposit, Rs. 7,882-15. Now it is
obvious that if the appellant had filled in the bodies of the notice of
withdrawal and the withdrawal slip after the death of Laxmibai he would not
have mentioned the amounts therein as Rs. 5,000 but would have increased it to
a 540 figure nearer the balance because he undoubtedly had set about to
misappropriate the moneys in that account and in fact he actually withdrew
almost the entire balance in that account later by forging Laxmibai's
signatures on other appropriate documents. Therefore, it seems to me that the
bodies of the notice of withdrawal and the withdrawal slip had been written out
before Laxmibai put her signatures on them.
Furthermore, the evidence clearly establishes
that even during Laxmibai's life time the appellant used to present to the Bank
cheques signed by Laxmibai for withdrawal of moneys and signed on the reverse
of such cheques in acknowledgement of receipt of the moneys. He also used to
deposit moneys in the Bank to the credit of her account. It is quite possible
that the two documents mentioned had come into the appellant's possession in
the usual course of managing Laxmibai's banking affairs. The fact that Laxmibai
had not put dates on the documents would indicate that it was not intended that
they would be presented to the Bank immediately for there is no reason to think
that Laxmibai had not noticed that the documents did not-bear any date.
She seems to have been quite a capable woman
managing her own affairs well. The Courts below have thought that there was no
need for her to have wanted to withdraw such a large amount. The appellant said
that she wanted to invest the money if), some fixed deposit which would have
yielded a higher return but he actually lent it to a friend whom however he
refused to name. The Courts below have disbelieved the appellant's case. Even
so it does not seem to me possible to hold that Laxmibai did not want to
withdraw any moneys and the appellant had fraudulently got her to put her
signatures on blankpapers. I have earlier given my reason for this. It was not
necessary for the appellant to have got her to sign blank papers and there is
nothing to show that she would have done that even if the appellant had asked
I may here mention that no adverse inference
can be drawn from the fact that the appellant put in the 541 dividend warrant to
the credit of Laxmibai's account: it proves no guilt. But it is said that the
appellant forged the name of Laxmibai on the back of it. The High Court thought
that this forgery proves that the appellant had during the lifetime of Laxmibai
entertained the intention to misappropriate her property. I am wholly unable to
see how that conclusion could be reached from this or how in fact the forgery
proves anything against the appellant. By the forgery, as it is called, the
appellant was putting the money into the account to which it lawfully belonged;
he did not ,thereby give it a different destination. Furthermore, he need not
have signed her name himself. In the normal course Laxmibai would have signed
it herself if asked to do so and given it to the appellant for being sent to
the credit of her account. There is no reason to think that she would not have
signed it if the appellant had asked her to do so. The dividend warrant was in
Laxmibai's favour and had been drawn on the Bank of Maharashtra. It was being put
to her credit in the same Bank. The Bank was therefore not likely to scrutinise
with any care the payee's signature on the dividend warrant. That may have been
nature reason why it was left to the appellant to sign Laxmibai's name on the
dividend warrant for putting it into the Bank. But whatever view is taken I
cannot see how it helps at all in solving any question that arises in this
case. The trial Court found it a riddle and did not rely on it.
Next, it is said that the appellant falsely
denied that he travelled in the same compartment with Laxmibai on their journey
to Bombay. The denial was no doubt false. But it had been made at the hearing.
He had admitted to the doctors at the hospital and to the Poona police on
November 16, 1956, that he and the deceased had travelled in the same
compartment. This falsehood therefore does not establish that the death of
Laxmibai was an unnatural death, a question which I am now investigating. The
fact that they travelled in the same compartment may no doubt have given him an
opportunity to administer poison to her and to that extent it is of course
relevant, 542 It is also said that there was a hospital called St.
George's Hospital within a few yards of the
Victoria Terminus Station but the appellant took the unconscious Laxmibai to
the more distant G. T. of Hospital with an ulterior purpose. That purpose it is
said was that in the G. T. Hospital his friend Dr. Mouskar, was the Resident
Medical Officer and the appellant wanted to secure his help, if necessary, in preventing
the discovery of the crime that he had committed. The appellant said that he
chose the G. T. Hospital as he was familiar with it but not with the St. George's
Hospital. This seems to me to be too insignificant a thing. The St. George's
Hospital was no doubt very near, but the G. T. Hospital was not very far away
either. There is nothing to show that the appellant knew that Dr. Mouskar was
on duty on the day in question. There is neither any evidence to show how much
the two were friendly or how far Dr. Mouskar would have gone to help the
Furthermore, as the appellant had
administered a poison which was undetectable, it is not clear what help he
anticipated he would require from Dr. Mouskar. Again, he must have known that
as the Resident Medical Officer, Dr. Mouskar was not in charge of the treatment
of patients in the hospital but only performed administrative functions and
that the unconscious Laxmibai would have to be treated by other doctors. It
cannot be said that if these other doctors found anything wrong, Dr. Mouskar
could have done much to help the appellant. So it seems to me impossible to
draw any inference against the appellant from the fact that he had taken the
unconscious Laxmibai to the comparatively distant G. T. Hospital. It is then
pointed out that when Laxmibai was admitted to the G. T. Hospital, she had no
ornaments on her person and no moneys with her and even her bag and bedding had
disappeared. It is suggested that the appellant had removed them and that this
again proves that he had conceived the idea of misappropriating her properties
even during her life time which supports the theory that he caused her death.
Now the bedding and bag can be dismissed at once, 543 There is no evidence as
to what they contained. They were of small sizes. It is reasonable to think
that in the bag Laxmibai had taken a few wearing apparels which she might need
for her stay in Bombay which the evidence shows she thought would not be of
more than four days. The box and the bedding, must, therefore, have been of
very insignificant value. As regards ornaments, the evidence is that usually
she wore certain ornaments which might be of some value. None of the witnesses,
however, who saw her the day she left Poona, has said that they found ornaments
on her person. It is not at all unlikely that as she was going to Bombay and
was not sure where she would have to put up there, she had as a measure of
safety, taken off the ornaments she usually wore, before she left Poona. Then
again, if the appellant had taken off the ornaments from the person of Laxmibai
he must have done it in the train or while taking her to the hospital. Now it
is too much to assume that in the compartment in which they were travelling
there were no other passengers. The removal of the ornaments would have been
noticed by the other passengers or if done later, by the stretcher bearers or
the taxi driver.
None of these persons was called. Neither is
there any evidence that any search for them had been made. Therefore, it seems
to me that on the evidence on record it cannot be said definitely that the
appellant removed any ornaments from the person of the unconscious Laxmibai.
With regard to the money, she must have brought some with her to meet her
expenses in Bombay. It is more than likely that she had entrusted the moneys to
the appellant for safety which the appellant never returned. There is no
evidence that she had more than Rs. 50 with her and there is no reason to think
that she was carrying a large sum. The disappearance of the money does not
prove that the appellant had conceived the design of getting rid of her.
Then we find the appellant describing
Laxmibai in the Hospital by the name 'Indumati Paunshe'. It is said he did this
to prevent her identity being discovered after her death and that this shows
that he had 544 already poisoned her and knew that she was going to die.
Now, so far as the name Indumati is
concerned, that was one of her names. The -papers that the appellant maintained
in connection with Laxmibai's treatment show that he mostly called her by that
name and never called her Laxmibai. He said that he was used to calling her by
her maiden name of Indumati Ponkshe and gave that name to Dr. Ugale by sheer
force of habit. Dr. Ugale however said that as he did not follow the surname he
asked the appellant to spell it and took it down as spelt, namely, as "
Paunshe ",. The Appellant denies that he gave the name Paunshe but says he
said " Ponkshe ". The appellant's version receives support from the
fact that the hospital clerk who also took down the name for another record of
the hospital as the appellant was giving it to Dr. Ugale, took it down as
" Indumati Pankshe ". Therefore, there is some doubt whether Dr.
Ugale heard the name correctly. However that may be, I doubt if the name
Paunshe indicates that the appellant gave it with a view to prevent disclosure
of identity. It is said that his plan was to disappear after Laxmibai's death
so that her body would become unclaimed and be disposed of as such. If that were
Bo, then nothing would turn on the name. It is only when people came to know
that a woman of the name of Indumati Paunshe had died that the question as to
who she was would have &risen. In view of the fact that the appellant had
given Indumati's address as care of himself at Poona, it would be known that
she belonged to Poona. I am very doubtful if an enquiry made at Poona for
Indumati Paunshe would have kept back the real identity. Indumati or Laxmibai
had disappeared mysteriously; her maiden name was Ponkshe. People interested in
her would surely have been led by the name Indumati Paunshe to enquire if it
was Laxmibai Karve. So it seems to me that if the appellant had really wanted
that the woman he took to the hospital should never be discovered to have been
Laxmibai, he would have used a totally different name. I am unable to hold that
the use of the name " Indumati Paunshe " is any clear evidence of the
guilty intention of the appellant. In this connection I have to refer to the
545 appellants letter of November 14, 1956, to the G.. T. Hospital in which he
pointed out that in the hospital record the name had been taken down as "
Pannshe " that is s, with an extra " n " and this should be
corrected. By this time the appellant had clearly conceived the idea that the
news of the death of Laxmibai should be prevented from becoming public. He had
also misled the hospital authorities by informing them that Indumati's brother
would arrive to take over her body; as already stated, she had no brother.
Therefore this attempted correction in the
name by deleting the extra " n " is really irrelevant; the extra
" n " would not in any event have made the discovery of the identity
of the dead person easier. What led the appellant to make this attempt cannot
however be ascertained.
Then I have to consider the fact that the
appellant told Dr. Ugale that Laxmibai had become unconscious of a hysterical
fit and she had a history of similar attacks before. It is said that this story
about hysterical fit is false and had been conceived to hide the fact that she
had been poisoned.
The appellant had denied that he had
mentioned hysterical fit to Dr. Ugale and said that he had only stated that she
had suddenly become unconscious. That he had mentioned sudden onset of unconsciousness
in the train is admitted by Dr. Ugale. It is somewhat curious that the
appellant would have mentioned both " hysterical fit " and "
patient suddenly became unconscious in the train ". It is significant that
"hysterical fit" was entered in the case paper by Dr. Ugale under the
head " Provisional Diagnosis " a thing, for which I think, the doctor
in charge has some responsibility. It may also be stated that Dr. Anija did
not, say that the appellant mentioned hysterical fit to her.
In these circumstances I have some doubt if
the appellant had in fact mentioned hysterical fit " to Dr. Ugale.
I will however proceed-on the basis that the
appellant did mention hysterical fit to Dr. Ugale. Now, there is evidence that
for nine years upto 1948 Laxmibai had suffered from hysterical fits. There is
no 546 evidence one way or the other whether she had such fits thereafter. If
she had not, the prosecution could have easily produced evidence of it. The
only evidence on which the prosecution relied was that of Laxmibai's son,
Ramachandra. All that he said was that between 1943 and 1948 his mother
suffered from fits and that in 1956 when he had come to Poona for his marriage
his mother was not suffering -from fits. 'Now, Ramachandra does not appear to
have much knowledge of his mother's health. He did not even know what kind of
fits these were nor that his mother suffered from diabetes. Apart from the
nature of his evidence, it has to be remembered that he was living separtely
from his mother since 1946 and was away from Poona since 1952. It cannot
therefore be said that it would have been improbable for the appellant to have
thought that Laxmibai had a relapse of a hysterical fit.
I now come to the fact that the address of
Laxmibai given by the appellant to the hospital authorities was his own
address. It is said that he did so deliberately to ensure all communications
concerning her from the hospital coming to him; that he knew that Laxmibai was
going to die and wanted that nobody else would know of her death. I find some
difficulty in appreciating this. I do not see what communication could be
addressed by the hospital authorities to Laxmibai after her death or when she
was lying ill in the hospital. Further there was no other address which the
appellant could have given. Laxmibai lived alone in her flat and when she was
away, there would be no one there to receive any communication addressed to her
at that address.
Her only son Ramachandra was away from Poona.
She was clearly more friendly with the appellant than with her other relatives,
none of whom was a very near relative. In these circumstances and particularly
as he had taken Laxmibai to Bombay it seems only natural that he would give his
own address. Again if he had given Laxmibai's own address, that would have
served his purpose as well for he had a room in her house and because of his
friendly relation with 547 Laxmibai, would have been in charge of her flat in
her absence as he in fact was. It would not have been difficult for him to
ensure that any letters that came 'for Laxmibai would reach him. He could also
have given an entirely false name and address and disappeared from the scene
the body of Laxmibai would then, whether
there was postmortem examination or not, have been disposed of in due time as
an unclaimed body and nobody would have ever known what had happened to
Laxmibai. Indeed, it is the prosecution case that this was the appellant's plan
and things happened just as he had planned and that is why he deliberately
brought Laxmibai to the hospital and gave his own address. What strikes me is
that this plan would have worked with any false address given. I am therefore
unable to think that the fact that the appellant gave his own address is a
circumstance which can be reasonably explained only on the hypothesis of his
I come now to the most important circumstance
on which the Courts below have strongly rested their conclusion. It is said
that the endorsement made on the hospital case paper reading " Asked for
postmortem " under the direction of Dr. Variava had been crossed out and
under the heading " Cause of death " in that paper the entry "
diabetic coma " had been interpolated. The Courts below have found that it
is the appellant who had procured these alterations to be made with the help of
his friend Dr. Mouskar. If this is so, then no doubt it would be a very strong
circumstance pointing to the guilt of the appellant for the only reasonable
explanation of this act would be that he wanted to prevent a postmortem
examination which might reveal that Laxmibai had been poisoned. As I have
already said, the alterations had no doubt been made. But in my view, there is
no evidence whatever to show that the appellant had anything to do with them.
Before state my reasons for this view, it is
necessary to set out the relevant evidence on this point. Dr. Anija admits that
she made the alterations but she says that she did it in these circumstances:
After 548 she had made the endorsement "Asked for postmortem " on the
case paper, she asked the sister in charge of the ward to send 'the case -paper
to Dr. Mouskar whose duty it was to do the needful as regards the postmortem
examination, and herself followed Dr. Variava on a round of the wards, which
took her about an hour. About 12-30 p.m. she proceeded to Dr. Mouskar's office
to make enquiries as to when the postmortem examination was to be held. She met
Dr. Saify, the Registrar of Unit No. 1 of the hospital in which Ward No. 12 was
included, outside Dr. Mouskar's office. Dr. Saify had the case paper in his
hand and he told her that Dr. Mouskar thought that there was no need for
holding a postmortem examination as the case had been treated as one of
diabetic coma and also asked her to cancel the direction about the postmortem
examination and to show in the column meant for cause of death, " Diabetic
coma ". As Dr. Saify was her official superior, she accordingly carried
out his directions and made the alterations in the case paper as required.
I will now refer to Dr. Mouskar's evidence on
this aspect of the case which was as follows: The case paper relating to
Laxmibai came to his office at 1 p.m. on November 13. At that time the
endorsement " Asked for postmortem " was still there and diabetic
coma had not been shown as the cause of death. There was arrangement in the
hospital for postmortem examination but he did not proceed to arrange for it
immediately as on the face of it it was not a medico-legal case nor a road-side
case. It was the invariable practice to ask for the permission of the Coroner
for holding the postmortem examination in all cases but before doing so it was
necessary in nonmedico-legal cases to get the permission of the relatives of
the deceased for holding the postmortem examination. In that view of the matter
at 2 p.m. he sent the telegram to the appellant at his address as appearing in
the case paper. He never met the appellant in the hospital.
On the next day, that is, November 14, about
4 p.m. he wrote to the police to remove the dead body to their air conditioned
morgue in the J. J. Hospital 549 for better preservation as no reply to the
telegram had been received. till then. He sent a copy of this letter to the
Coroner. On the morning of November 15, somebody from the Coroner's office rang
him up and asked him about the final diagnosis. He thereupon sent the case
paper through a ward boy to Unit No. 1 with an oral message either to the
Honorary physician,, the Registrar or the Assistant Houseman as to whether they
were able to tell him about the final diagnosis and whether they still insisted
on postmortem examination. He did this as there was no final diagnosis uphill
then and as the physicians often changed their minds in a non-medico-legal
case. After about half an hour the case paper came back to him and he found
that the final diagnosis had been stated as " Diabetic coma " and the
endorsement "Asked for postmortem" had been crossed out. He then
wrote out the death certificate and sent it to the Coroner.
The Courts below have disbelieved both Dr.
Anija and Dr. Mouskar as to their respective versions regarding the manner in
which the, case paper had been altered. It has to be noticed that a art from
the evidence of these two doctors, there is no other evidence on this question.
The Courts below have held that the alteration was made by Dr. Anija at the
direction of Dr. Mouskar and that Dr. Mouskar had been persuaded to give that
direction by the appellant whose friend he was, on a representation that he,
the' appellant, was the patient's old family doctor and knew the case to be one
of diabetic coma and that it would save the family humiliation if the dead body
was not cut up for a postmortem examination. They also held that the alteration
was made on November 13, soon after the death of Laxmibai and before the
appellant had left Bombay for Poona. They have further held that Dr. Mouskargot
the alteration made as a friendly act for the appellant and that he was in no
way a conspirator in the crime. There is no direct evidence to support this
finding but it has been inferentially arrived at from the evidence of these two
The reasons on which this finding is based
may be thus stated: (a) Dr. Mouskar was an old friend of the 70 550 appellant;
(b) both Drs. Anija and Mouskar had lied with regard to this part of their
evidence; (c) Dr. mouskar's conduct after the death of Laxmibai and his
evidence in court showed that he wanted to assist the appellant; (d) Dr. Anija
being very much junior to Dr. Mouskar had been prevailed upon by the latter to
give false evidence; and (e) lastly, that no 'one excepting the appellant could
have been interested in avoiding the postmortem examination.
As to the first reason, the only evidence on
this question is that of Dr. Mouskar. All that he said was that in 1934 he and
the appellant had studied Inter Science in a college in Poona together and that
he had stayed in Poona for three different periods, namely 1922-26, 1931-36 and
1948-51. He also said that while studying together he had come to know the
appellant by name but had never talked to him and had never come in contact
with him since 1934. The Courts below have disbelieved the later part of the
evidence of Dr. Mouskar and have held that he and the appellant were friendly.
This finding does not seem to me to be based on strong grounds. No reason has
been given as to why Dr. Mouskar should be disbelieved. The prosecution led no
evidence to show that the two were friendly. No witness has been found to say
that the two were seen talking to each other in the hospital. It has not been
noticed, that the difference in age between the two was twelve years.
I will take the, next three reasons together.
They are that Drs. Anija and Mouskar had both lied and that the conduct and the
evidence of Dr. Mouskar showed that he wanted to help the. appellant and
lastly, that Dr. Anija gave false evidence only as she dared not estrange Dr.
Mouskar who held a much higher position. There is no doubt that Dr. Anija told
lies. The first lie was that she had tested the urine at 6-30 a.m. for acetone.
She also interpolated into the case paper an entry showing that she had found
acetone in the urine which she said she examined at 6-30 a.m. Dr.
Variava said that he took her to task for
diagnosing the case as diabetic coma without having tested the urine for acetone,
which she told him she had not 551 that acetone had been found on the first
examination of urine was not there when he saw it at about 11 a.m. The second
lie which Dr. Anija said was that she put through a telephone call to Dr.
Variava about 7 a.m. and told him about the symptoms she had found and that she
had been giving insulin. She said that Dr. Variava agreed with her diagnosis
and asked her to continue the treatment she had started. That this is untrue,
will appear from the fact that Dr. Variava denied that this talk had taken
Variava's recollection is supported by the
fact that on arrival at the hospital he doubted if the case was of diabetic
coma and the treatment given was the correct one.
Further, there is a call book in the hospital
on which telephone calls made by the house physicians are entered.
There is no entry there showing a call having
been made by Dr. Anija on Dr.Variava. The third lie that she said was that it
was Dr. Saify who told her outside Dr. Mouskar's office to make the alteration
in the case paper. It has been clearly established that Dr. Saify was not on
November 13 in Bombay at all. He was then on leave and in Indore.
I come now to Dr. Mouskar. No' art of his
evidence has been directly found to be false. The Courts below have disbelieved
him on improbabilities. The first improbability they found was in Dr. Mouskar's
explanation that he did not arrange for the postmortem examination immediately
as he considered the permission of the Coroner and the relatives of the
deceased necessary before holding the postmortem examination and that this was
the invariable practice in non-medico-legal cases. I do not know why it should
be said that this practice is improbable. The prosecution did not lead any
evidence to show that there was no such practice as spoken to by 'Dr. Mouskar.
That the Coroner's permission had to be taken would be borne out by the fact as
appearing in the correspondence, that the police asked the Coroner to hold an
inquest as the cause of death was not known. The Courts below referred to the
telegram that Dr. Mouskar sent to the appellant at about 2 p.m. on November 13
and observed that if Dr. Mouskar had delayed the postmortem examination only in
order to obtain the 552 consent of the relatives, then the telegram would not
have asked the appellant to arrange for the removal of the dead body. Dr.
Mouskar said that he had intended to ask for the permission to hold the
postmortem examination when the appellant appeared on receipt of his telegram.
The Courts below have not accepted this explanation. It does not seem to me
that this explanation is so absurd that it must be rejected. No other view
would fit in with the circumstances of the case. This I will explain now.
It has to be remembered that the finding of
the Courts below is that Dr. Mouskar was not in any sense a conspirator with
the appellant in the crime. The learned Advocate General of Bombay, who
appeared for the respondent, also made it clear that he did not suggest that
Dr. Mouskar was in any conspiracy. On the evidence on the record it would be
impossible to hold that Dr. Mouskar was in any conspiracy with the appellant.
There is no reason whatever for him to have done that. There is no evidence of
such friendship between the appellant and Dr. Mouskar from which it can
possibly be inferred that Dr. Mouskar would have become a party to secreting a
diabolical crime committed by the appellant. The trial Court expressly held,
"I do not think that at that time Dr. Mouskar realised that there was anything
suspicious about the death of Laxmibai, nor do I think that he was aiding or
abetting the suppression of truth by cancelling the postmortem examination.
" The High Court also took the same view. We then come to this that if Dr.
Mouskar had procured the cancellation of the direction for postmortem
examination, he had done so without thinking that there was anything suspicious
about the death of Laxmibai, and only to oblige his friend, the appellant, by
saving the family of the; deceased from humiliation by cutting up her body. Now
that being so, when Dr. Mouskar got the direction cancelled at the appellant's
request, he would naturally expect the appellant to take charge of the body and
to remove it for cremation. Evidently, the appellant had disappeared for
otherwise Dr. Mouskar would not have sent him a telegram to Poona. What would have
been the normal reactions then of an 553 innocent man in Dr. Mouskar's
position? He would have been very much surprised. He would have thought that he
had been let down. It is not too much to think that he would have grown
suspicious. As an innocent man, as he has been found to be, the only thing he
could then possibly have done was to have restored the direction for postmortem
examination and to proceed to take steps to have it held. I cannot imagine that
an innocent man in such circumstances would have acted otherwise. It will be
remembered that the appellant's reply to the telegram was not received for over
two days and in the meantime Dr. Mouskar did nothing in the matter. I find it
impossible to hold that Dr. Mouskar, innocent as he was, would have waited all
this time and done nothing about the postmortem examination at all. It would
have been impossible for him then to have asked if the doctors in charge of the
case still wanted a postmortem examination as he actually did. If he was not a
party to any conspiracy with the appellant, I cannot think it possible for him
to have sent the telegram to Poona asking the appellant to remove the body
after he had been innocently made to obtain a cancellation of the direction and
found that the appellant had disappeared. I may also add that if the appellant
had duped Dr. Mouskar and procured him to obtain a cancellation of the
direction for postmortem examination, it would be extremely unlikely for him to
have taken the risk of disappearing from the hospital without making any
arrangement for the disposal of the body for then he could not be sure ,whether
the postmortem would be held or not. It would have been more natural for him to
have taken over the body and cremated it. That would not have affected his
design, as alleged by the prosecution, to have evidence of the natural death of
Laxmibai created and to have kept back the know]-edge of her death from her
relatives. I therefore think that the telegram instead of showing that Dr.
Mouskar had already obtained a cancellation of the direction for postmortem
examination rather indicates that that direction had not till then been
cancelled as is Dr. Mouskar's own evidence. This makes the explanation 554 of
Dr. Mouskar as to why he sent the telegram a very probable explanation.
Now, there are other things which would
support Dr. Mouskar's evidence. On November 14, about 4 p.m. he wrote to the
police intimating them that a Hindu female named Indumati Panshe who had been
admitted into the hospital on November 13 at 5-45 a.m. for treatment of
hysterical fits had died the same day at 11-30 a.m.' He further stated in that
letter that a telegram had been sent to the address given at the time of the
admission of the patient but without a response and requested that the dead
body might be removed to the J. J. Hospital morgue. This would indicate two
things. First, that Dr. Mouskar was surprised at having received no answer from
the appellant to his telegram and that being so, if he had been innocently
induced to get the case paper altered, he would not have permitted the
alteration to remain there. The second thing it shows is that Dr. Mouskar even
in the afternoon of November 14 referred to hysterical fits as the illness of
This would be impossible if the prosecution
case is true, namely, that at about 1 p.m. on November 13, Dr. Mouskar had
procured Dr. Anija to state in the case paper that the cause of death was
The next thing that the Courts below have
found against Dr. Mouskar is that his story of having received a telephone call
from the Coroner's office on the morning of November 15 asking for the final
diagnosis of the case was unbelievable.
I find no reason to disbelieve Dr. Mouskar.
His evidence is strongly supported by the death certificate which he issued on
that date stating diabetic coma as the cause of death.
There is no reason to think that Dr. Mouskar
would have issued this certificate on the 15th unless he had been asked about
the cause of death. Furthermore, the police on that date had actually wanted to
know the cause of death as will appear from their letter of November 15. If the
police could ask, I do not see why the Coroner's office could not.
In that letter the police asked Dr. Mouskar
to send per bearer the cause of death to enable them to dispose of the dead
body. I have earlier referred to this letter. It is on a copy 555 of this that
the endorsement " Diabetic coma, Dr. N. S. Variava, G. T. Hospital"
had been made. There is no other explanation as to why Dr. Mouskar sent the
death certificate on this date and not on any other date. Indeed, if he was
under the impression that the appellant or a relative of the deceased would
come and take charge of the-body for cremation, as the prosecution case must
be, then he would not have issued the death certificate for that was wanted
only to enable the police to dispose of the dead body.
Therefore it seems to me likely that Dr.
Mouskar had been asked by the Coroner about the cause of death. Now if he was
so asked, it does not strike me as wholly improbable that he asked the
physicians in charge whether they were then in a position to state the cause of
death or still insisted on a postmortem examination. It has to be remembered
that till then no suspicion attached to the case.. Dr. Mouskar said that he had
seen the physicians change their opinion in such matters and had therefore
asked whether a postmortem examination was still required. It has also to be
remembered that Dr. Mouskar had no knowledge that the direction for postmortem
examination had been given by Dr. Variava. All that he knew was that such a
direction appeared over the signature of Dr. Anija. It does not seem to me
improbable that Dr. Mouskar on being asked by the Coroner to state the cause of
death would have enquired of the physicians in charge about it. If this version
is not true, then the only other probable theory would be that the alteration
in the case paper had been made at 1 p.m. on November 13, which as I have
earlier said, cannot be accepted in view of the telegram and the other records
in this case. It was also said that Dr. Mouskar's version cannot be accepted
for it was not possible for him to make enquiries about the cause of death
through a ward boy. I think this would be too insignificant a ground for
disbelieving Dr. Mouskar.
I may now deal with the letter of the police
dated November 15 to Dr. Mouskar asking for the cause of the death. It will be
remembered that this letter was sent along with a copy of it and on the copy
the endorsement " Diabetic coma, Dr. W. S. Variava. G. T. Hospital "
had been made. Dr. Mouskar denied that these letters ever came to him. The
Courts below have been unable to accept his denial. Their view is that it is
Dr. Mouskar who got the endorsement set out above, to be made and is falsely
denying it. I am unable to appreciate why Dr. Mouskar should falsely deny it.
He was innocent. He had on that date issued the death certificate. He could
easily have admitted the fact, if he had made the endorsement or got it made.
Now it seems to me that there is no evidence that the letter was produced
before Dr. Mouskar. In normal course, as spoken to by police Inspector Kantak,
who had written this letter, the original would have been retained at the
office of Dr. Mouskar and only the copy would have come back to the police with
an acknowledgment of the receipt of the original endorsed on it. That did not
happen. Both the copy and the original were received back by Kantak. The bearer
who was sent to deliver the letter was not called. There is therefore no
evidence whatever that the letters were actually delivered or what had actually
happened. On the contrary, the return of both copies to the police would show
that they had not been delivered to Dr. Mouskar for if the letter had been
delivered, then there is no reason why Dr. Mouskar would not have given a
formal reply to it stating that diabetic coma was the cause of death. He would
have had no difficulty in doing so because on the same day he sent the death
certificate mentioning diabetic coma as the cause of death.
He had no reason to take to subterfuge and to
get the words " Diabetic coma. Dr. N. S. Variava. G T. Hospital "
written on the copy by somebody. It would therefore appear that there is no
reason to disbelieve Dr. Mouskar when he said that he bad not received the
letters and had nothing to do with the endorsement made on the copy of the
What might have happened was that the death
certificate having been earlier issued, some clerk in the office returned these
letters and by way of an informal communication of the cause of death made the
endorse. ment on the copy. It may be stated here that Dr. Anija admitted to the
police that the words " Diabetic coma " in the endorsement had been
written by her 557 but in court she denied that she had written them. This is
another instance which makes me greatly doubt her veracity.
It may be that she had written the words
" Diabetic coma " and got some one else to write out the rest of the
I come now to the last fact which the Courts
below have thought fit to disbelieve, in the evidence of Dr. Mouskar.
I have earlier mentioned that when Laxmibai
was lying unconscious in Ward No. 12, Dr. Anija had sent for the Registrar. Dr.
Anija stated that the Registrar whom she sent for was Dr. Saify. This is untrue
for, as I have already said, it has been proved clearly that Dr. Saify was not
in Bombay at all on that day. Now it appears that the hospital kept a call book
in which a House Physician wanting to call the Registrar would make an entry
and send it to the Registrar. This call book was produced on September 2, 1958,
and it showed that Dr. Anija had herself written down the name of Dr. Shah as
the Registrar whom she was calling.
What therefore had happened was that Dr.
Saify being away on leave to the knowledge of Dr. Anija, she had sent the call
to Dr. Shah. This call book conclusively proves that Dr.
Anija's statement that she had been told by
Dr. Saify, the Registrar, to make the alteration in the case paper is false.
Dr. Mouskar had said in his evidence that he could not trace this call book.
The Courts below have thought that he was lying and was deliberately preventing
this call book from coming to light so that Dr. Anija might not be contradicted
by her own writing that it was Dr. Shah whom she had sent for which in its turn
would show that her story that it was Dr. Saify who had asked her to make the
alteration in the case paper was false. Now Dr. Mouskar's evidence was
concluded on August 25, 1958, and he had retired from the office of the
Resident Medical Officer on August 14 preceding. Dr. Anija's evidence was taken
down on August 18 and August 19, 1958. 1 do not see why if the call book was
considered to be of that importance, the police could not produce it after Dr.
Mouskar had left office. It was actually produced from the hospital and must
have been lying there all the time. The next thing to be noticed is that there
is 558 nothing on the record to show that Dr. Mouskar was interested in
establishing that Dr. Saify was on duty on November 13 and therefore prevented
the call book from being produced. In fact, Dr. Mouskar in his evidence about
Dr. Saify stated that " he was not working in the hospital on the 13, 14
and 15 November., I think also that he was not staying in his quarters during
that period and I did not see Dr. Saify on these days at all." Therefore,
there is no basis for suggesting that Dr. Mouskar deliberately prevented the
production of the call book. I may here state that there is nothing in the
evidence of Dr. Mouskar which goes to show that he was supporting Dr. Anija in
any of her lies.
The Courts below have excused the lies of Dr.
Anija in the view that she had told them as she dared not estrange Dr. Mouskar.
Again, there seems to me to be no basis for this finding. There is nothing on
the record to show that Dr. Anija expected anything from Dr. Mouskar or would
have been in any difficulty if she had told the truth even at the risk of
putting Dr. Mouskar in a difficult situation. There is no evidence that Dr.
Anija had any talk directly with Dr. Mouskar concerning the case of the
unconscious Laxmibai and therefore she could not and did not directly contradict
anything that Dr. Mouskar said. Again, it is clear from the evidence that Dr.
Anija had left the hospital on January 31, 1957. She had worked there without
any remuneration. There is no evidence that she had anything to do with the
hospital or its Resident Medical Officer, after she had left the hospital.
Again, on the date that Dr. Anija gave evidence, Dr. Mouskar had already
retired from his office at the hospital. In these circumstances, I find no
justification for the conclusion that Dr. Anija had lied only out of fear of
Dr. Mouskar. I might also point out that the only lie in Dr. Anija's evidence
which the Courts below thought she said out of fear or at the persuasion of Dr.
Mouskar was her statement that it was Dr. Saify who had told her that Dr. Mouskar
had wanted the direction as to postmortem examination crossed out and diabetic
coma written as the cause of death. I have earlier stated that dr. Mouskar has
gone against this part of 559 Dr. Anija's evidence by saying that Dr. Saify was
not in Bombay on the day in question. It is clear therefore that it was not Dr.
Mouskar who had wanted that Dr. Anija should interpose Dr. Saify between him
and her in the matter of the direction for altering the case paper. Further, if
Mouskar really wanted that Dr. Anija should
put the blame for the alteration on somebody else, then Dr. Anija would not
have mentioned that Dr. Saify told her that Dr. Mouskar, had wanted the
alteration. She would simply have said that it was at Dr. Saify's order only
that she made the alteration or put the responsibility on Dr. Shah. The Courts
below have been unable to explain why Dr. Anija brought in Dr. Saify at all. I
think this is capable of an explanation as I will show later. The net position
therefore is that Dr. Anija was clearly lying; there is no clear proof that Dr.
Mouskar had lied at all. On the contrary, his evidence and conduct would seem
to be consistent with the contemporaneous record and there is no material on
which it can be found that Dr. Anija told the lies as she was afraid of Dr.
I come now to the last reason on which the
Courts below found that it must have been the appellant who procured the
alteration in the case paper. It has been said that no one else was interested
in getting that done. I take it that this does not mean a finding that the
appellant was interested in getting the alteration made for then of course his
guilt would already have been assumed. What it means is that if it is not
possible to find reasonably that anyone else was interested in getting the
alteration made, then it would fit in with the theory that the appellant had
committed the crime and therefore was interested in getting the alteration
made. The real question is, can it be reasonably said on the evidence that
there was no one other than the appellant who could be interested in getting
the alteration made ? I think it cannot. On the facts established and without
making any assumption one way or the other, it seems to me very probable that
it was Dr. Anija who was interested in preventing the postmortem examination
and therefore in making the interpolations on the case paper. I will now state
m reasons for this view.
560 I have earlier stated that Dr. Anija
examined the urine of the patient at 6-30 a.m. on November 13. There is an
entry with regard to it in the case paper, which reads 'Sugar + + +
Albumin-Acetone + + There is little reason to doubt that Dr. Anija did examine
the urine at that time for sugar, for otherwise she was not likely to have
started the insulin injections. She gave two of these, one at 6-30 a.m. and the
other at about 9 a.m. Dr. Variava's recollection is that when the case paper
was shown to him about 11 a.m. the entry "Sugar + + + Albumin-" was
there but the entry " Acetone + + " was not there and that Dr. Anija
told him that she had not examined the urine for acetone. The entry "
Acetone + + " was clearly interpolated in the case paper later. It wasbe cause
she had not tested the urine for acetone but had none the less started the
treatment for diabetic coma that Dr. Variava had taken her to task and asked
her to test the urine for acetone. All this clearly shows that Dr. Anija had
interpolated the entry " Acetone + + " at some later time.
The trial Court thought that Dr. Mouskar
having invented the theory of diabetic coma " must have also thought it
necessary to make entries regarding the presence of acetone + +. in the case
record " to support this false diagnosis.
This is nobody's case. Such a finding would
necessarily mean that Dr. Mouskar was in conspiracy with the appellant to hide
the crime by creating evidence in support of natural death of the patient. The
findings of the trial Court that Dr. Mouskar was innocent and that he had
procured Dr. Anija to make the -entry " Acetone + + " cannot stand
The latter ending must be rejected as it is
purely inferential. The High Court did not find that the entry " Acetone +
+ " had been made by Dr. Anija at the persuasion of Dr. Mouskar. But it
appears to have taken the view that Dr. Anija having been induced by Dr.
Mouskar to state diabetic coma as the cause of death, herself incorporated
before the papers were submitted to the Coroner an entry with regard to the
examination of the urine in the case paper and in that entry included " Acetone
+ + ". Whether the High Court is right in its view that the entire entry
as to the result 561 of urine test at 6-30 a.m. of November 13, 1956, had been
made in the case paper later is a matter which I need not discuss. The only
question is who made the entry " Acetone + + " and when. I may state
here that the papers were sent to the Coroner at the time Of the postmortem
examination, namely,, on November 22, 1956. According to the High Court,
therefore, the entry " Acetone + + " had been made by Dr. Anija on
her own and Dr. Mouskar had nothing to do with it and that Dr. Anija made the
entry not at about 1 p.m. on November 13, 1956, when she crossed out the
direction for postmortem examination and wrote out diabetic coma as the cause
of death but almost nine days later. The High Court did not accept that part of
Dr. Mouskar's evidence where he said that he was positive that the entry "
Acetone + + " was in the case paper when it reached him at 1 p.m. on
13. Earlier he had said that he had not read
the case paper fully when it first came to him. Dr. Mouskar was plainly making
a mistake. It is nobody's case that it was then there. Even on the prosecution
case it was added sometime later, that is, when after the receipt of the case
paper Dr. Mouskar had been persuaded by the appellant to procure a cancellation
as to the direction for postmortem examination.
We then come to this that the entry "
Acetone + +" had been made by Dr. Anija on her own. If she did this, she
must have had some reason for it. I cannot imagine that reason being anything
else excepting to create evidence in support of her diagnosis of diabetic coma.
The next lie which Dr.
Anija spoke and which I wish now to refer, is
the false story of her telephone talk with Dr. Variava at about 7 a.m.
She said that she then informed Dr. Variava
about the condition of the patient and that she had started insulin injection
and further that Dr. Variava told her to continue the treatment. I have earlier
said that this statement was a clear falsehood and given reasons for this view.
It is nobody's case, and it could not be, that Dr. Mouskar had asked her to
tell this lie. Why then did she do so? Again, the only possible reason that I
can think of is the same that I have given earlier, namely, that she was keen
on 'creating evidence in support of the line of treatment that she had given to
562 the patient. She had been treating the patient as a case of diabetic coma.
It is clear from her evidence and of course from that of Dr. Variava, that he
had reprimanded her for adopting that line of treatment without having tested
the urine for acetone. She had clearly made a mistake in the treatment of the
case and this might have put her in a difficulty with the hospital authorities
and also in her future professional career. It was clearly her interest to see
that her mistake was not finally established as a result of the postmortem
examination which had been directed by Dr. Variava. In these circumstances, she
was under a great temptation to prevent the postmortem examination which might
have revealed her mistake. It must be remembered that she had just started on
her professional career and was a very young person. I am unable therefore to
hold that, apart from the appellant there was no one else who could have been
interested in crossing out the direction as to postmortem examination and
inserting diabetic coma as the cause of death. In the circumstances that I have
mentioned, it seems quite probable that Dr. Anija had made the alteration in
the case paper entirely on her own and to save herself from the possible
effects of her mistake. It also seems probable to me that Dr. Anija had made
the alterations on November 15, when Dr. Mouskar had sent the case paper
through the ward boy for ascertainment of the cause of death.
I have earlier said that Dr. Anija had
falsely introduced Dr. Saify as the person who had told her that Dr. Mouskar
had wanted the direction as to postmortem examination to be crossed out and
diabetic coma to be stated as the cause of death. I have also said that Dr.
Mouskar did not support Dr. Anija as to the presence of Dr. Saify in the
hospital on the day in question. Why then did Dr. Anija introduce the name of
Dr. Saify ? I have said that the Courts below have not been able to find any
explanation as to why Dr. Anija introduced the name of Dr. Saify. It seems to
me that when the alteration which she had made on her own, was found out in the
course of the investigation, she had to give some explanation as to why she had
made it. She thought of saying that she did it under the orders of Dr. Mouskar
who was very 563 much her senior and whom she was bound to obey. But she also
realised that Dr. Mouskar was sure to deny that he had asked her to make the
alteration and as against his, her evidence was not likely to be accepted. It
was therefore that she hit upon the idea of interposing Dr. Saify in between
her and Dr. Mouskar in the hope that Dr. Saify being also a very young person,
there was some chance of her evidence being accepted as against his. Apart from
that there does not appear to be any other explanation as to why Dr. Anija
introduced the name of Dr. Saify. She had clearly forgotten while inventing
this story that Dr. Saify was away on leave but that of course makes no
difference for if she had remembered it, she might have named somebody else,
probably Dr. Shah or Dr. Patel who worked in Unit No. 2 of the Hospital. Then
it has to be remembered that Dr. Anija admitted to the police that she had
written out the words " Diabetic coma " on the letter from the police
of November 15, asking for the cause of death and this she later denied.
All this would make more probable the view
that it was Dr. Anija who in order to prevent the detection of the mistake made
by her in the treatment of Laxmibai had the endorsement "Asked for post-,
mortem " crossed out and inserted in the case paper diabetic coma as the
cause of death and that she had not been asked by Dr. Mouskar to make the
alteration in the case paper.
I think it right to state here that it cannot
be said that Dr. Shah was also to blame for the wrong diagnosis of diabetic
coma. Dr. Anija said that pursuant to her call the Registrar came at about 8-45
a.m. and approved of her diagnosis and advised a further insulin injection of
40 units. She also said that the Registrar wrote on the case paper the words
"Inj. Insulin 40 units Iv. glucose 20 c.c." By " the Registrar
" she was of course referring to Dr. Saify. It is clear from the call book
that it was Dr. Shah, who was the Registrar of Unit No. 2 who had been sent for
by Dr. Anija. Dr. Shah said in his evidence that he must have gone to the
patient pursuant to the call but he had no recollection of the case at all. He
denied that the entry " Inj. Insulin 40 units Iv. glucose 20 c.c."was
in his hand writing. Dr. Patel who was 564 officiating as the Registrar of Unit
No. 1 in the absence of Dr. Saify on leave, also denied that that entry was in
his handwriting. Dr. Shah said from the sequenceof time noted in the call book
and the case paper, that he must have gone to the ward before 6-30 a.m.
According to Dr. Shaw he could not have seen the case paper when he called
because he was not the Registrar of Unit No. 1. He admitted that he must have
advised Dr. Anija, about the case. What the advice was we do not know. It is
clear however that Dr. Anija had started treating the case as diabetic coma and
given 40 units of insulin before she sent for the Registrar. Indeed according
to her, the Registrar, who must have been Dr. Shah, arrived at 8.45 a.m. So we
get that Dr. Anija started treatment of diabetic coma and gave insulin prior to
6-30 a.m. and her statement that the Registrar wrote down the direction for a
second insulin injection of 40 units at 8-45 a.m. is false. It is therefore
clear that the treatment given to the unconscious Laxmibai had been under the
judgment of Dr. Anija alone. It would follow that Dr.Shah had no responsibility
for that treatment. This is also supported by the fact that Dr. Anija did not
tell Dr. Variava that Dr. Shah had also thought it to be a case of diabetic
There is another circumstance against the
appellant which must now be noticed, and that is that the appellant left the
hospital soon after the death of Laxmibai without showing the least care as to
what happened thereafter. This conduct considered with the appel. lant's letter
of November 14, 1956, stating falsely that " Indumati's " brother
would come to take over her body and further considered with the subsequent
conduct of the appellant in fraudulently misappropriating the deceased
Laxmibai's money clearly indicates that immediately after the death of Laxmibai
the appellant had conceived the idea of misappropriating her properties. It has
been suggested that it would be somewhat strange that the dishonest intention
cropped up in the appellant's mind so suddenly and therefore it is reasonable
to think that he had entertained that design even during the lifetime of
Laxmibai. The Courts below have accepted that suggestion. I cannot say that
that is an unreasonable view to take.
565 But supposing the appellant had during
Laxmibai's lifetime cast a covetous eye on her properties, would that be enough
to justify a finding that her death had been an unnatural death ? I do not
think it would. The design may provide a motive for murder; but the murder,
that is, in this case an unnatural death, cannot be proved by it. That design
does not exclude the possibility that Laxmibai died a natural death and the
appellant made full use of the opportunity thereby provided to carry his design
I think I should mention here one other
aspect of the case.
The trial Court observed that the symptoms
found in the record as to the last illness and death of Laxmibai all clearly
pointed to the conclusion that death was due to hypoglycemia and that
hypoglycemia might be one of the possible causes of her death. The trial Court
however held that there was nothing to show in the symptoms that hypoglycemia
could have been of spontaneous origin though the matter was not very clear. It
would seem that the trial Court thought that the hypoglycemia had been induced
by two injections of insulin given by the appellant to Laxmibai sometime on
November 12. The trial Court for this purpose relied on the evidence of
Shantabai a maid servant employed by Laxmibai, who said that on November 12,
the appellant gave Laxmibai two injections. This maid servant was deaf and dumb
and her evidence must be of doubtful value.
However that may be, there is nothing to show
that death was caused by hypoglycemia brought about by the two injections given
by the appellant, assuming that he had given them. It has to be remembered that
in the hospital Laxmibai was given two further injections of insulin of 40
units each. It may be that these injections really caused her death. That is a
possibility which on the finding of the trial Court cannot be brushed aside.
Now, if that is so, then clearly the appellant is not responsible for the death
of Laxmibai. He had done nothing to induce Dr. Anija or any of the other doctors
in the hospital to give more insulin to Laxmibai.
There is no evidence to that effect. Dr.
Anija was clear in her evidence that she never consulted Dr. Lagu regarding the
diagnosis that death was due to diabetic. I need not further into this aspect
of the 566 matter for all that I wish to point out is that the trial Court had
thought that hopoglycemia might be the cause of death. The High Court, thought
that it was not possible in view of the absence of evidence about the time
taken for insulin to induce hypoglycemia to hold that death was due to
hypoglycemia induced by a massive dose of insulin. It seems to me that if there
was no evidence, that was the fault of the prosecution and not of the
appellant. In all cases and particularly in a case of this kind, it is the duty
of the prosecution to prove that the death was an unnatural death and exclude
by evidence completely, the possibility of death having been caused by some
instrumentality other than the appellant. This is another reason for saying
that it has not been clearly established in this case that Laxmibai's death was
an unnatural death or has been caused by the appellant.
I have so long been discussing the facts
which are supposed to lead towards the guilt of the appellant. I propose now to
deal with some of the facts which seem to be in his favour. The prosecution
case is that the appellant had in the train administered to her an undetectable
poison which caused her death. Now, if the appellant had done that, he must
have made a plan for it before he started on the journey to Bombay with her
from Poona. It seems unlikely that if he had done that, he would have made no
effort to keep it a secret that he was taking her to Bombay. The evidence is
clear that he made no such effort. The next fact that has to be faced by the
prosecution is that the railway compartment would be a most unusualplace in
which to administer a poison. The appellant could not have expected that there
would be a compartment for Laxmibai and himself in which there would be no other
passenger. Indeed the trial Court thought that there must have been other
passengers in that compartment. That being so, it becomes improbable that the
appellant had planned to poison her in the train. Again, it has been proved as
a fact by Dr. Sathe himself that the appellant had made an appointment with him
for November 13. Was it necessary for him to have done this if he knew that
Laxmibai would die before the hour fixed with Dr. Sathe ? Further, if he had
administered 567 a poison to Laxmibai, would he have taken her to a. public
hospital? That would have been impossible unless the appellant was perfectly
certain that the poison was absolutely undetectable. That requires a great deal
of knowledge of poisonous drugs which there is no evidence to think the
appellant possessed. But assume that the appellant was so certain that the
poison would never be detected, why then should he have worried about the
postmortem examination at all? If it is found that the appellant had not
prevented the postmortem examination being held, there would be very little on
which to base his conviction for the murder of Laxmibai by poisoning. Nor can
it be said that the appellant was not sure whether the poison would be detected
or not, but none the less took the risk of taking the unconscious Laxmibai to
the G. T.hospital in the hope that if any difficulty arose, he could rely on
Dr. Mouskar to help him. There is no evidence on which we can hold that Dr.
Mouskar would have helped him if any suspicion as to Laxmibai's death having
been caused by poision had arisen. It has to be remembered that Dr. Mouskar was
not doing the work of a physician in the hospital but was in charge only of the
administration. All these are very strong circumstances indicating that the
appellant had not administered any poison to Laxmibai on the train. Very cogent
reasons would be required to dispel the presumption in favour of the appellant
arising from them. I find no such reasons in the case.
In the net result the circumstances appear to
me to be these. First, the appellant had a design during Laxmibai's lifetime to
misappropriate her properties. This only supplies the motive for causing her
death but does not prove that the death which occurred, was an unnatural death.
Secondly, the appellant did not give to the
hospital the correct name of Laxmibai : the name given however was not such as
from it her identity could never have been discovered. Thirdly, the appellant
gave his own address instead of that of Laxinibai. It seems to me that that was
a natural thing for him to have done in the circumstances of the case for there
would have been no one in Laxmibai's flat to receive her letters and there was
no other address which the appellant could have 568 given. Further, the address
given necessarily connected the appellant with the last hours of Laxmibai's life-a
conduct not very probable in a person who had brought about her death. The
theory that that address was given only to ensure that communications from the
hospital concerning the dead Laxmibai should reach the appellant is not very
plausible. It is clear that if the appellant had not given his own address, the
only other address he could possibly have given would have been Laxmibai's
address. I am unable to appreciate what communication the hospital could have
sent to Laxmibai at her address after her death or when she lay in the
hospital. In any event, the appellant would have had no difficulty in getting
hold of any such communication sent to Laxmibai's own address. Fourthly, the
appellant told Dr. Ugale that Laxmibai had had a hysterical fit. It is doubtful
whether he said so, and also whether, if he did, it was purposefully false.
What purpose it served is not clear. The appellant did not mention hysterical
fit to the doctor in charge of the treatment nor did he do anything to induce
her to take a different line of treatment from that which she had adopted. He
did nothing to induce any idea in her mind as to the cause of the illness or
the disease. In these circumstances it does not seem possible to hold that
hysterical fit had been mentioned by the appellant to prevent detection of the
fact that Laxmibai had been poisoned. Lastly, come the series of the
appellant's acts from immediately after Laxmibai's death indicating his
intention to acquire her properties and the acquisition thereof by deception
and forgery. These cannot prove that Laxmibai died an unnatural death.
Considering them all together, I am unable to think that the only reasonable
conclusion possible is that Laxmibai died an unnatural death.
In my view the prosecution has failed to
prove the guilt of the appellant.
In the result I would allow the appeal.
BY COURT. In accordance with the opinion of
the majority, the appeal is dismissed.