& Ors Vs. State of Maharashtra  INSC 295 (14 May 1993)
Dayal (J) Yogeshwar Dayal (J) Kuldip Singh (J)
1993 AIR 2164 1993 SCR (3) 878 1993 SCC (3) 573 JT 1993 (4) 475 1993 SCALE
Indian Penal Code 1860-Ss. 302, 498A, 201 read with 34 and S. 306 read with
34-Burning of young married woman-Whether death by burning or
strangulation-Whether suicide or homicide-Held, facts indicate homicide, and
death by strangulation preceding burning.
Evidence-Held, cumulative effect or circumstances negatives innocence of
father-in-Law and husband--Mother-in-law and Sister-in-law may not have
participated, hence, acquitted.
was married to accused 2 on 28th April, 1984.
In the intervening night of 14115 September 1984, the accused found Sangita
burning. Sangita's body suffered 100% burns and the smell of kerosene was
noticed even in the spot panchnama. There had been problems relating to dowry,
and she had complained of ill-treatment and of being beaten because of failure
to pay the dowry amount.
trial judge acquitted accused 1-4 - her father-in-law, husband, mother-in-law
and sister-in-law respectively.
High Court examined the evidence a fresh, while castigating the trial judge for
having gone merely on the statement of the Public Prosecutor that only a case
under Ss. 306, 498-A and 34 was made out. The High Court Convicted the accused
under S.302 r/w 34, S.201 r/w 34 and 498-A r/w 34.
dismissing the appeal, this Court..
was a case of murder and not suicidal death.
not possible that there were no 'cries' from the deceased while she was
burning. This is not possible even in a case of suicide.
of the symptoms of internal and external injuries are common in 879 case (if
strangulation and burns. But some symptoms that occur in the case of
strangulation, and not in case of burns, are present in this case.
K.S. Narayan Reddy, The Essentials of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology 6th edn.
p. 55, relied on.
prosecution rests its case only on circumstantial evidence. Therefore, it is
necessary to examine the impelling circumstances attending the case and examine
whether the cumulative effect of those circumstances negatives the innocence of
the appellant-,; and serves a definite pointer towards their guilt and
unerringly leads to the conclusion that with all human probability the offence
was committed by the appellants and none else.
of U.P. v. Dr. Ravindra prakash Mittal, JT(1992)
2 SC 114 at 121. applied.
Taylor, Medical jurisprudence, relied on.
appreciation of the circumstances which arc established as being closely linked
to one another, the complicity of appellants 1 and 2 is not in doubt. But it is
not necessary that appellants 3 and 4 also participated in the murder of the
deceased. They are given the benefit of doubt and accordingly acquitted.
APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal Appeal No. 738 of 1992.
the Judgment and Order dated 16.11.1992 of the Bombay High Court in Crl. A. No.
148 of 1989.
Ms. Shefali Khanna and J.M. Khanna for the Appellant.
S.M. Jadhav and A.S. Bhasme for the Respondents.
Judgment of the Court was delivered by YOGESHWAR DAYAL, J.This is an appeal by
the four accused persons against the judgment of the Bombay High Court dated
16th November. 1992. Appellant No. 1 who was accused No. 1 was tried for the
offence of having 880 committed the murder of his daughter-in-law Sangita, wife
of appellant No. 2 who was accused No.2, during the night between 14th
September, 1984 and 15th September, 1984 at the residential house of the
appellants at Murtizapur with common intention and also for having treated her
with cruelty on account of dowry amount. In the alternative the appellants were
also charged for the offence of having abetted the deceased Sangita in
commission of suicide by subjecting her to cruelty. Appellant no.3, who was
accused No.3, is the wife of accused No.1 and appellant No.4, who was accused
No. 4. is their daughter. Appellants 1 to 4 are hereinafter called accused Nos.
1 to 4.
story of the prosecution was as follows:- The accused run a printing press at
of accused No. 2 was settled with the 5th daughter of Madan lal (PW. 8). Few
days prior to the settlement of the marriage. marriage of her elder sister was
such marriages of both the daughters i.e. Sangita and Hemlata were celebrated
at Paratwada on 28th
over the marriage had taken place about a month prior to the marriage and the
same was finalised after about 2 or 3 days of such talks. At the time of finalisation,
accused No. 1 demanded Rs. 20,000 by way of hard cash as dowry, besides other
articles, add he himself had given such demands in writing vide Ext. 73. Though
agreed, Madan Lal, father of the deceased could not give Rs. 20,000 at the time
of marriage. He also could not give the gold agreed, though he assured to
comply with the demands later on getting the crops. After the marriage, on account
of the month of Shrawan, and as per custom, Sangita resided with her parents.
It was during her stay after the marriage that she was found disturbed and
sullen. Though she herself did not give out the reason therefore, but on
insistence by the father to know the reason she told him that accused No. 1 had
an evil eve on her and that other members of the family used to beat and ill
treat her because of the failure on the part of Madan Lai to pay the dowry
amount. Though Madan lal assured that he would come down to Murtizapur and
pursued the accused, but he could not visit Murtizapur. After the month of Shrawan,
Sangita returned to Murtizapur but not communication was made about her safe
return by the accused persons to her father. The accused persons had a
telephone connection and Madan Lal (PW.8), two three days prior to the date of
the incident contacted accused No. 1 on telephone. Accused No. 1 talked angrily
with Madan Lal.
then requested accused No. 1 to call Sangita on telephone. Sangita came on
phone and in answer to his query she broke down and Stated weeping and told Madan
lal as to why he did not send Ganesh Chaturthi Neg','Neg' means a customary
offer that the father of the bride has to pay on an auspicious day. It varies
according to financial capacity of the father. He told 881 Sangita that he had
committed it mistake and assured that he would be sending it immediately. On
the next day lie had got drawn a draft of Rs. 101/- on State Bank of India. Ext. 74-A is the said draft. It was
thereafter when Madan Lai was on a visit to Amravati that Madan Lal received a message about Sangita having got burnt on 15th September, 1984.
the night between 14th and 15th September. 1984 at about midnight the accused found Sangita not in her bed and smell
of burning. They found that in the rear side open space Sangita was burning and
lying down. According to the defence the doors were closed from inside and
there was no access to the said open space. Accused No. 1 informed the police
about the occurrence that he had seen through the window opening on the )pen
space. Accused No. 1 at about 3.45 a.m. on 15th September, 1994 submitted it report (Ext.82) to the
police wherein he had stated that about 2.
a.m. in the night Sangita
was found to be burnt and died in the bath-room. PW.9. Mundheh. the
investigating Officer gave instructions to the accused persons not to disturb
the situation. Initially on the report of the accused, accidental death was
registered. PW9 when reached the spot on 15th September. 1984 at about 10.00 a.m. he made spot Panchnama vide ext.63. He also found a
postcard. half burnt, (Ext. 62) by the side of the dead body. He thereafter
drew inquest panchnama (Ext.64). PW. 1 Bhanudas acted as a panch.
having convinced that it was a case of murder, lodged it report on behalf of
the State registering the offence punishable under Section 302 read with
Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. Dr. Lande, PW.3, on 15th September, 1994 at about 5.00 p.m. conducted the
Sessions Judge on the basis of the material filed with the challan. on 30th September, 1994 trained a charge under Sections
302.499-A and 201 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal code and thereafter
recorded the evidence of PWs. 1 to 9. Thereafter by an order dated 22nd August,
1988 the trial court framed an additional charge for the offence punishable
under Section 306 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The accused
persons challenged the framing of the additional charge before the High Court
but the challenge was defeated. The accused persons were accordantly tried.
Their defence through out was a total denial.
appears that during arguments the Prosecutor did not think it proper to press
for the diffence punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the
Indian penal Code.
to the Prosecutor the only case made out was for the offences punishable under
Sections 306, 498-A read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The trial
court endorsed the view of the Public Prosecutor and did not 882 discuss the
relevant evidence it all on the charge of Section 302 and recorded a finding of
acquittal in that behalf. He also held that the charge of Section 201 also did
learned trial Judge also held that the prosecution hits not been able it) prove
that the accused persons with their common intention treated Sangita with
cruelty or thereby abetted her to commit suicide. He accordingly acquired all
the accused persons for the offence punishable under Section 306 read with
Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code.
State filed all appeal against their order of acquittal and the High Court on
appeal castigated the trial judge for having gone merely oil the statement of
the public Prosecutor without applying his own mind on the evidence.
High Court examined the evidence afresh.
High Court posed a question is to whether the nature of death of Sangita was
suicidal or homicidal and ultimately gave a finding that it was a case of
homicidal death and found all the accused guilty under Section 302 read With
Section 34 and Section 201 read with Section 34. The accused were also find
guilty under Sections 498-A read with Section 34. For the offence under Section
302 read with Section 34 all of them were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment
`for life and different fines. For the offence under Section 201 read with
Section 34 all the accused persons were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for
three years and each of them was fined Rs.1,000/-. For the offence under Section
498-A read with Section 34 all of them were sentenced to one year rigorous
imprisonment and a fine of Rs.2,000.
counsel for the defence, however, submitted before the High Court that the
charge under Section 302 read with Section 34 did not survive tit view of the
concession made by the Prosecutor and also in view of the framing of the
additional charge under Section 306 read with Section 34.
also submitted that the framing of the additional charge negated the theory of
murder in pith and substance.
High Court, however negatived this submission and on consideration of the
evidence convicted all the accused persons as stated above.
of Sangita suffered 100% burn injuries and smell of kerosene was even noticed
in the spot panchanama. The description 1005 burn does not really fully 883
convey the condition of the body. Asper the inquest report the dead body was
lying on its back in the open court-yard at the back side of the house of the
accused. Both the legs were partly stiffen. Both the hands were partly bent and
lying at side. Hairs on the head burnt and-even fleshy portion is also burnt at
some places. There was slight hair at some portion of head. Complete body was
burnt and skin on it also peeled up. Face had became red and black. Eyes were
closed and burnt. Nose was burnt and blood was cozing from the nose and mouth.
Tongue was slightly protruding out.
of the left side was totally burnt and right side was partly burnt. Ash of
burnt cloth was visible on stomach. A partly burnt small piece of the border of
saree was lying there. Some pieces of saree, burnt and sticking each other,
were lying on the stomach. Skin on palm of both hands was peeled up and was
appearing reddish. Skin on the complete body was burnt and peeled up. On
observing the body by turning its upside down, the complete body was burnt from
back side. On observing the private parts of the deceased through Pancha No.3
it was stated that private parts were burnt and there was no injury and to
ascertain the actual cause of death, the dead body was sent to the Civil
Surgeon, Murtizapur for post-mortem.
to Dr. Lande, who conducted the postmortem, on opening of trachea black
particles were found. He recorded that probable cause of death was 100% burn with
bum shock with asphysix.
basis of medical evidence the High Court again felt the necessity to ascertain
whether the act of pouring kerosene oil was voluntarily by the victim or the
act of a third person. The High Court felt that the trial court has not even
discussed the medical evidence or the inquest report and hastily reached the
conclusion that it was a case of suicidal death. According to the High Court
the entire approach of the trial court was thoroughly unsatisfactory and
grossly erroneous. After going through the evidence the High Court gave the
following findings:-- That the deceased could not control her emotional
out-burst even during the presence of her father -in-law while talking on
telephone. The deceased was a young girl of 20 years. A determination to suffer
extreme pain in silence could not be a matter of speculation. "In third
degree injuries, as per Dr. Lande, the victim suffers extreme pain. Such
injuries will make the person to give out cries and shouts for help." The
shouting and crying of the deceased was not only obvious but inevitable.
Undisputedly, none had heard the cries or shouts of the deceased while she was
in flames. This circumstance alone does not support the probability of suicidal
The trial court has wrongly read the contents of letter Ext. 62 and its
interpretation is highly illegal.
Sangita returned from Paratwada after "Shrawani Mass" just a week
before the incident, probably by 7th September, 1984. She was subjected' to
insinuation and accused used to refer her as "awara",
"loafer". "badmash", She wanted to convey this to her
father through post card (Ext.62) which seemingly not delivered. By this letter
she requested her father not to visit Murtizapur. This letter never reached post
off-ice and the message could not be passed to Madan Lai, PW. 8. Before
accomplishing her design to convey this message, she could not bring an end to
her life. Sangita could not simply think of committing suicide while in
possession of Ext.62.
at the time of incident, as per the post mortem report. was having, a pregnancy
of 3-4 months and this is also not in tune with the act of commission of
Sessions Judge omitted to discuss the complete evidence of Dr. Lande and the
post mortem report Ext.50. As per post mortem report the eye-ball and tongue of
the deceased were protruding. Dozing of the blood was found from the nose and
mouth. In case of death due to burning such injuries cannot be sustained.
was assaulted before she was set on fire. There might be a definite attempt to
cause death by strangulation before pouring kerosene oil on her person. Relying
of the evidence of PW.1, Shivraj, a neighbour who heard a shriek of' woman as a
result of strangulation coming from the house of the accused. Taking into
account tile medical evidence read with the testimony of PW.1, Shivraj, Sangita
met with tile homicidal death.
of cloth half burnt was also found by the side of the body. The ball was used
for gagging her mouth as a precautionary measure to handicap her from raising
cries or shouts. PW.5, Bhanudas, had also noticed dragging marks in the
court-yard and the deceased after assault was dragged and kept at the spot.
in flames Sangita did not make any movement. She was completely motionless.
latching of doors of the compound was not accepted as an act of the deceased.
Latching of doors and pouring of kerosene after assault was a farcical venture skilfully
and conveniently made to bring colour of suicide to the incident.
The High Court then posed the question as to who is responsible for homicidal
death of Sangita. It was held that it could not be an act of an individual It
was joint venture. There is no direct evidence. Undisputedly the payment of
Rs.20,000/- was not made nor the tither items mentioned in Ext. 73 were given
till the date of incident.
second visit, the deceased had disclosed to her father, Madan Lal. that the
members of in-laws' family had beaten and ill-treated her for the reason of
non-fulfillment of dowry and other articles. A reading of the letter indicates
that the accused persons had very serious grievance against Sangita and her
parents for non fulfillment of dowry demands.
of handkerchief at the instance of accused No. 1 in pursuance of a disclosure
statement and the seizure thereof vide Ext.69 from a drawer of the table of the
office. The handkerchief was smelling, kerosene oil. It was concealed at a
place which was not normally or ordinarily used for keeping the handkerchief.
handkerchief was used at the time of the incident.
of the accused persons made any attempt to reach the spot even though they
noticed the death of Sangita. They merely allowed the body to be burnt. Accused
persons had quoted exact time of death in Ext.82 which means that they were
mentally alert and conscious of the happening in the house.
refusal to disclose the death of Sangita to the chowkidar of the locality,
PW.2, Rahadursingh. The meeting with chowkidar Bahadursingh was falsely denied
in the statement under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
death occurred by Sangita while she was in their custody. The incident with its
gravity and extent cannot in any manner go unnoticed. As such the accused
persons were duty bound to offer plausible explanation. Their action was
concerted. well thought out. well planned.
the aforesaid findings all the accused persons were found guilty by the High
Court and the appellants have come up in appeal before this Court.
court on application of appellant Nos. 3 and 4 i.e. another-in-law and
sister-in-law of the deceased, admitted them to be on hail.
from the inferences noticed by the High Court there are certain other features
in the post mortem report Ext. 15 which may also be noticed at this state. It
is stated in paragraph 13 of the post mortem report that the whole (if skin of
face 886 was burnt and Covered at places with black soot. Eye ball slightly
protruding Tongue was protruding from mouth. Blood stained discharge from nose
and mouth. In paragraph 17 it is noticed heirs of the scalp, eye lashes, both
ears, eyes, whole neck. whole chest. whole abdomen suffer from burns.
and pubic hairs also burnt. Black soot was present over burnt area of face,
chest, abdomen. In paragraph 19 it is stated Brain & Meninges congested. In
paragraph 20 it is stated Larynx.Trachea and Bronchi-congested, on opening,
troches. black particles seen inside human. Right lung left lung-congested.
Right ventricle of the heart was full whereas left was empty. In paragraph 21
it is stated liver and gall bladder-congested. pancreas and suprarenals -
congested. spleen - congested, kidneys - congested and bladder - empty, i.e. parenchymatous
organs show intense venous congestion.
Narayan Reddy, M.D. D.C.P., M.I.A.F.M., F.I.M.S.A., F.A.F.Sc., Professor of
Forensic Medicine, Osmania Medical College Hyderabad in his well known treatise
THE ESSENTIALS OL FFORENSIC MEDICINE AND TOXICOLOGY. Sixth Education at page
255 gives descriptions of internal as well as external symptoms of manual
strangulation. At page 255 while dealing with signs of asphyxia. the learned
author observes : "The face may be livid, blotchy and swollen, the eyes
wide open, bulging and suffused, the pupils dialated, the tongue swollen, dark-cloured
and protruded. Petechial hemorrhages are common into the skin of the eyelids,
face, forehead, behind the cars and scalp. Bloody froth may escape front the
mouth and nostrils and there may he bleeding from the nose and cars. The hands
are usually clenched. The genital organs may be congested and there may be
discharge of urine, faeces and seminal fluid." While internal injuries
described little later included as under "The larynx. trachea and bronchi
are congested and contain frothy. often blood stained mucus.
lungs are markedly congested and show ecchymoses and larger subaerial
fluid blood exudes on section. Silvery- looking spots under the pleural surface
due to rupture of the air cells which disappear on pricking. are seen in more
than 505 cases.
organs show intense venous congestion and in young persons ecchymoses are
usually seen on the heart and kidneys. The brain is contested and shows petechial
hemorrhages. The right side of the heart is full of dark fluid blood and the
the cavities are full if the heart stopped during diastole." Whereas in
burn injuries the learned author at pages 237-238 observes."the 887 brain
is usually shrunken, firm and yellow to light brown due to cooking. The dura
matter is leathery." (dura matter is meninges of the brain). If the death
has occoured from suffocation. aspirated blackish coal particles are seen in
the nose, mouth and whole of the respiratory track. Their presence is proof
that the victim was alive %,.hen tile fire occurred. The pleurae are contested
or inflamed. The lungs are usually congested. may be strunken and rarely
anemic...... Visceral congestion is marked in many cases...... The heart is
usually filled with clotted blood.
(glands above kidneys) may he enlarged and congested.
of these symptoms or internal and external injuries are common in case of
strangulation and burn like face is swollen and distorted, the tongue
protruded. the lungs are usually congested visceral congestions is marked in
is to he noticed in the present case is that there are hardly "any
cries" as per the defence also by the deceased.
is not possible even in case of suicide. Even if the burns ,ire inflicted with
suicidal intent tile victim is bound to cry out of pain. Admittedly there was
no cries and, therefore, it was not a Case of suicidal burn but the deceased
was put in a condition where she could not cry and yet get burnt by third
As is clear
from the aforesaid commentary of Dr. K.S. Narayan Reddy that if it was a case
of merely burns the blood of the heart would have got clotted. Even the
postmortem report does not say that asphvsix was due to burn. Coupled with all
the internal injuries which occur in the case of strangulation. are present in
pointed out by the High Court there is no direct evidence to connect the
appellants with the offence of murder and the prosecution entirely rests its
case only on circumstantial evidence. There is a series of decisions of this
Court propounding the cardinal principles to be followed in cases in which the
evidence is of circumstantial nature. It is not necessary to repapitulate all
those decisions except stating the essential ingredients as noticed by Pandian,
J. in the case reported as The State of Uttar Pradesh v. Dr. Ravindra Prakesh
J. in the case 2 SC 114 at 121, to prove quilt of an accused person by
circumstantial evidence. They are:- (1) The circumstance from which tile
conclusion is drawn should be fully proved;
circumstances should he conclusive in nature;
the facts so established should he consistent only with the hypothesis of guilt
and inconsistent with innocence:
circumstances should. to a moral certainty, exclude the possibility of guilt of
any person other than the accused." Now let us examine the impelling circunistances
attending the case and examine whether tile cumulative effect of those
circumstances negatives tile innocence of tile appellants and serves a definite
pointer towards their guilt and unerringly leads to the conclusion that with
all human probability the offence was committed by the appellants and none
is no doubt that when the incident occurred there was no outsider its the
house. The circumstances which ire establislied its having closely linked up
with one another may be noticed 1) The motive for the occurrence.
place where the tragic incident occurred was in possession and occupation of
occurrence had happened in the wee hours when body else would have had ingress
at the place where the incident allegedly occurred.
appellants admit their presence.
positive features, which occurred, had it been it pure case of burning, there
would he evidence of vomiting.
positive opinion of the doctor that the death was due to asphysix as well apart
from 100% burns.
deceased was carrying fetus of 3-4 months 8) The extensive use of kerosene as
seen from the burn shows that the deceased was practically 889 drenched as sort
of a bath with kerosene.
Total absence of any shout or cries except one which was heard by way o f
strangulation by PW. 1.
Blood in heart was not found clotted.
ventricle heart was full of blood but left ventricle wits empty.
Besides total burning of neck was to destroy evidence of attempted
burn brain is usually shrunken and firm whereas in strangulation it is
noticed by Pandian, J. in the aforesaid decision, opinion of Taylor in Medical
Jurisprudence is quoted below. It reads thus:
uncommonly the victim who inhales smoke also vomits and inhales some vomit,
presumably due to bouts of coughing, and plugs of regur- gitated stomach
contents mixed with soot may be found in the smaller bronchi, in the depths of
the lungs." By the time a person could take a bath of kerosene she is
likely to get fainted and would not be in a position thereafter to burn herself.
A total burning, of the face and the neck shows that even at portions where she
was not wearing any clothes were not burnt. It could only be possible if she
had poured kerosene on her head and face also.
not understood as to how the unposted post card found near the dead body was
not burnt when the whole body had got burnt. It in fact indicates that the
planting of the post card was to show that it was a case of suicidal death.
passes all human probabilities that the appellants have satisfied themselves by
watching through the window the burning of daughter-in-law without any due and
cry or without and serious attempt to save her.
thus satisfied that it was a case of murder and not suicidal death. So far as
the accomplicity of appellants 1 and 2 are concerned, there is no doubt. But
890 it is not necessary if appellant Nos. 3-4 i.e. mother-in-law and
sister-in-law of the deceased have also participated in the murder of the
the aforesaid reasons we dismiss the appeal on behalf of appellant. Nos. 1 and
2 but give benefit of doubt to appellant Nos. 3 and 4 and accept the appeal on
their behalf. They are accordingly acquitted. The convictions and sentences of
appellant Nos. 1 and 2 are upheld.