Tamil Nadu Vs. P. Muniappan  INSC
888 (2 December 1997)
PUNCHHI, M. SRINIVASAN
2ND DAY OF DECEMBER, 1997 Present:
Mr. Justice M.M. Punchhi Hon'ble Mr. Justice M. Srinivasan T.S. Arunchalam, Sr.
Adv., V.G. Pragasam, S. Balakrishnan, (Ms. Revathy Raghavan) Adv. for R.N. Keshwani,
Adv. for M/s. Arputham Aruna & Co. K.N. Basha, P.N. Ramalingam, V. Balaji
and A.T.M. Sampath, K.N. Gopal Singh, Advs. with him for the appearing Parties.
following Judgment of the Court was delivered:
appeal is by the State Government against the judgment of the High Court of
Madras setting aside that of the Additional principal Sessions Judge, Coimbatore and acquitting the respondent of
the charges under section 302 and 201 IPC. The Special Leave petition was filed
earlier by the brother of the deceased Nagammal against the same judgment of
the High Court. At the granting permission to petitioner to file the S.L.P.,
notice was ordered by this Court in the S.I.P. and later directed to be tagged
on to the above appeal.
respondent was working as Assistant Professor of Mathematics in Udumalpet College. He married Nagammal on 2.3.76. After marriage, he got
transferred to a college in Tiruppur. Nagammal became an Assistant Professor in
Vellalar Collage, Erode.
the respondent was highly educated, he was insisting on her resigning her job
and living with him as house wife. Besides, he along with his parents was
making repeated demands for dowry in the shape of household articles. As
regards their marriage life, the High Court has observed thus:
true tat the family life of Nagammal proved to be miserable .
the beginning there was misunderstanding between the couple and only for short
intermittent periods they had lived together.
the jewels and cash received by him at the time of marriage, the appellant had
been insisting that his wife should bring household articles necessary to set
up a new family establishment at Tirupur. While the parents of the appellant
were adamant that her daughter in law should resign her job, Nagammal very much
liked to be a working woman. It is the appellant who initiated divorce
proceedings against the deceased. A reading of Ex. P-2 the counter filed by Nagammal
would go to show that even though she was not prepared to quit the job, she was
equally anxious that she should live with her husband happily. Her statement in
the counter that she had not done any wrong to her husband and that she begs
him to forget and forgive if he had enter tained or found any mistake committed
by her reveals her state of mind."
the petition for divorce referred to by the High Court in the above passage,
the respondent had stated that his wife left his house on 8.7.76 with her
father and alleged that on 14.8.76, her father and brothers came to his house
along with her and by using force and violence took away with them jewels worth
about 35 1/2 sovereigns after attacking him and his mother. He introduced an
innuendo in Para 4 of his petition as follows:
The marriage for her was obviously intended to enable the respondent to go
about with greater freedom as a married women." That discloses the 'cynic'
That petition was filed on 24.11.1978. His wife Nagammal filed her counter on
12.3.79 expressing her anxiety to live with him. The matter was being adjourned
number of times on the ground that both counsel were not ready. On 21.6.82, the
court after noticing that both sides were not ready adjourned it finally to
8.7.82. On the latter date it was represented to the Court that the respondent
therein had committed suicide. However, the petition was dismissed for default
as the petitioner therein was absent. It is necessary to note that though the
respondent claimed to have taken her back and started living with her from
12.9.81, he did not withdraw the petition. According to PW7, he refused to
withdraw the petition. This shows that the respondent had a motive for not
withdrawing the petition.
is in evidence that though the respondent and his wife resumed their family
life in September 1981, they got separated again in December 1981 and joined
Sometime in April. On 27.6.1982, they came to live in the house in which Nagammal
was living till then with her friend and colleague, PW 6 Vasanthamani in order
to enable the couple to live together, PW 6 shifted to another house nearby. Within
five days thereafter Nagammal's life not with an unnatural end.
2.7.1982, Nagammal's body was found to be hanging from the roof of her kitchen.
The High Court has given a clear picture of what happened from 1.7.82 till the
conclusion of the post mortem in the following words: .1m16.
1.7.1982 Thursday Nagammal came to the colleague wearing a new yellow sari and
jacket. PW 2 Ponnathal was a co-demonstrator with Nagammal in Tirupur Women's
College. She and PW6 Vasanthamani asked her why she was wearing new sari on
that day while t is customery to wear new clothes only on Fridays. Nagammal
told her friend that her husband had presented the sari and jacket
commemorating her joining Vellalar College on 1.7.19976. Now he had changed
very much and even blessed her for happy life. she was wearing a new sari on
that day as per the desire of her husband. Nagammal was very happy and in the
evening she returned home from the college with PW-6 Vasanthamani did not
notice any injury on her face.
about 6.00 PM on 1.7.1982, PW6 Vasanthamani left
her house on account of some Personal work and returned at about 8.00 PM. She found that doors and windows of the portion
where nagammal was residing were closed from inside. There was no light. She
did not call Nagammal because after a long time the appellant had come to live
with his wife on that day.
PW 11 Kandasamy
is the next door neighbour of Nagammal. On 1.7.1982, after attending a marriage
he and his wife Renuka came back to their house at about to .30 PM or 11.00 PM. At that time nobody was sleeping on the pial of Nagammal's
house. PW 10 Tirupathi is also a resident of Ramasamy Mudaliar compound. On
that night he went to a late show movie and returned to the house. Since the
door of the compound wall was locked he rang p the call bell and the appellant
opened the door. When he wen to his portion this witness found that the
appellant took his bed on the pial of the house where he was residing with Nagammal.
morning of 2.7.1982 all the residents of Ramasamy Mudaliar Compound purchased
their morning mild as usual. At about 6.30 AM the wife of PW 11 Kandasamy informed her husband that Nagammal did not
come out of her house to purchase milk even though milkman flew his horn. when
PW 11 Kandasamy came out of the house he found the appellant was lying in the pial
of his house.
he asked him why he was sleeping outside, the appellant told hi that because
his wife was having her menstrual period he had taken his bed outside. He added
that even though he had knocked the door Nagammal did not turn up. PW 11 Kandaswamy
told the appellant that he could have slept in a room inside the house. The
appellant replied that Nagammal had asked him to sleep replied that nagammal
had asked him to sleep outside. PW 6 Vasanthamani also noticed that nagammal
did not turn up to get the mild till 6.00 AM. When she wanted to enquire she found the appellant was standing
outside the door of his house. One door alone was opened. PW 6 Vasanthamani
called Nagammal through that window but there was no reply. There after the
residents of that compound gathered there and one Renganathan climbed the roof,
removed the tiles and found that Nagammal was hanging.
PW 8 Chanasekhar
an is an Assistant Professor of Chikkanna College firupur where the appellant
is working. On 2.7.1982 at about 7.00 AM the appellant came there weeping. He told him that his wife had died
and asked him to inform this to their colleagues. PW 8 Chanasekharan went to
the house or PW 5 Ramanujulu another professor of the same College and passed
on the message.
2.7.1982 at 10.00 AM the appellant came to Tirupur South
Police Station and lodged Ex. p-44 complaint about the death of his wife. PW 21
Sub-Inspector received and recorded it as Crime No. 374 of 1982 of his station
under Section 174 of the Criminal procedure Code.
prepared Ex. p-45 the printed copy of the FIR. Then he reached PW 13 Rajalakshmi,
Principal of the woman's College where Nagammal was working were present. PW 3 Subramaniam
the Principal of the Chikkana College was also there.
front door of the house was found bolted from inside. PW 21 Sub Inspector
kicked the door and pushed it with his Inspector kicked the door and pushed it
with his hands. M.D.3 the latch of the bolt from inside gave way and fell down.
PW 2 Ponnathal
also went inside along with PW 21 Sub Inspector. She found Nagammal hanging in
Sub Inspector prepared Ex. P.
observation mahazar and EX.P. 89 rough sketch of the place. He conducted
request to 1.30 PM. EX.
is the inquest report. He as examined the appellant and others at the time of
inquest. He also recovered M.D.4 Rope, M.D. 2 Ball Point Pen and M.D.3 Latch of
the Lock and Ex.P. 13 a suicide note dated 1.7.1982 purported to have been
written by Nagammal under Nagammal from that place under Ex.p.90 mahazar. Ex. p
13 was shown to PW 3 principal and PW 13 Principal. He also seized the jewels
from the body of Nagammal under Ex. P.91 mahazar. On the same day he had
examined PW 6, PW 10 and PW 11.
PW 21 Sub Inspector sent the body for post mortem through PW 20 Constable with
Ex. P.74 requisition and Ex. P.77 Printed form. PW 16 Dr. Vijyalakshmi commenced
the post mortem in the government Headquarters hospital, Tirupur at 3.30 PM on
2.7.1982 she found that rigor mortis was present in both lower limbs and passed
away in both upper limbs. It was moderately nourished body. She found these
ante-mortem injuries on the body.
Burnt area of the skin about 1/2 cm. in diameter on the bridge of the nose.
area of the skin about 1/2 cm in diameter on the left temporat region and left
cheek present. Skin charred.
scar about 2 cm on the medical aspect of the left ankle.
Abrasion j cm x 1/2 cm with scab formation on the left knee.
ligature mark which was superficial about 2 cm in breadth, well defined, was
seen above the thyroid cartilage running obliquely upwards interrupted at the
back reaching mastoid process behind the ears. knot mark was seen on the right
side of the neck. On dis- section, the subcutaneous tissue under the ligature
mark was pale and glistening. Rigor mortis present in both lower limbs. Rigor
mortis passed off in both upper limbs. Eye lids were partially opened on both
sides. Tongue portruded between the teeth.
of Saliva from the right angle of the mouth was present.
were clenched. Teeth were complete. Abdomen distended. There was no fracture of
ribs. Heart weight 300 grams Congested Hyoid bone intact. Stomach contained 150
grams of digested food particulars.
1400 grams congested. Spleen 150 grams congested. Kidneys 150 grams each
congested. Intestine distended with gas. Bladder empty, Uterus normal. Weight
normal scalip - no fracture. Brain weight 1300 grams.- Pale. The viscere was
preserved and sent for chemical analysis. No poison was detected in the viscera
sent. On reviewing the post mortem findings and Chemical Examiner's report, she
gave the opinion that the deceased would appear to have died as asphyxia due to
suicidal hanging between 11.30
PM of 1.7.1982 and 3.30 AM of 2.7.1982.
48 is the post mortem certificate issued by her Ex.p.51 is the Chemical examiner's
the receipt of the same she has given her final opinion in Ex.P. 75 and 876
(sic) that the deceased has died of hanging.
to her external injury Nos. 1 and 2 in Ex. 48 could have been caused by any hot
object like cigarete with flame. There is no resistinging injuries around those
the first instance, the case was registered under Section 174 Cr. P.C. and
investigated. Later on the orders of D.I.G., C.I.D. Madras the CBCID took up
the investigation. After examination of witnesses the charges were got altered
to Sec. 306 IPC and 327 IPC. On 4.7.83, the respondent was arrested. After
examining some more witnesses the charges were altered to Section 302 IPC and
201 IPC. On completion of investigation a chargesheet was filed on 6.1.84. The
respondent denied the charge and claimed that she committed suicide. The Court
of Sessions found him guilty on both counts and convicted and sentenced him to
imprisonment for life under Section 302 IPC and one year rigorous imprisonment
and fine of Rs. 100/- under Section 201 IPC. On appeal, the High Court has set
aside the judgment and order of the trial and acquitted the respondent.
stated by the High Court, the case depends upon circumstantial evidence only.
We have already pointed out that the respondent was never interested in living
with his wife. He was not only making demands for various household things but
also insisting on resigning her job. There is ample evidence to show that he
was treating her cruelly. PW 6, PW 7 and PW 9 have deposed that the respondent
was demanding the consent of Nagammal either for divorce or for his second
marriage. PW 2 and PW 12 have stated that the beat her in public in front of
lip Top Lodge and Jeevabai School one day when she was going to the College. PW
6 and PW 12 have stated that nagammal had told them about his drinking and
compelling her to drink against her will. In this regard, we are eschewing from
consideration the evidence of PW 1. PW 9 is a friend of the respondent's mother
told him that Nagammal should give consent for second marriage of the
respondent. Nothing has been placed on record to discredit the aforesaid
witnesses. The trial court has accepted their evidence and the High Court has
not disbelieved them.
Apart from the oral evidence, there is documentary evidence in the shape of
letters written by Nagammal, the genuineness of which cannot be assailed. We
are not referring here to the doubtful letters Exs. P 27, P 29, P30, P 31 and p
32 written to PW 7 and Ex.P. 38 written to PW 9 whose genuineness has not been
challenged bear ample testimony to the extent to which the respondent was
prepared to go to make her life miserable. Ex. P 27 shows that the respondent
had taken her signatures on blank papers. It also shows that he viewed her with
suspicion when she returned one day late from the college. In spite of the fact
that all the jewels and F.D. receipts were entrusted to him in October, 1981, nagammal
was sent to her parents' house shortly thereafter. All the above evidence lands
to the conclusion that the respondent did not at any time have a genuine desire
to live with Nagammal.
counsel for the respondent has argued before us that the marriage was a happy
one and there was no hitch between nagammal and the respondent. According to
him her parents wanted to enjoy her earnings and book all steps to keep her
away from her husband. The contention is not acceptable. It goes against the
teeth of the evidence referred to by the High Court which we have already extracted.
We have no doubt that the respondent was responsible for Nagammal's suffering. it
is in this background the evidence relating to her death should be appreciated.
There is no dispute that the death of Nagammal is unnatural. Admittedly, the
respondent was the only other occupant in the house where her death occurred in
the respondent had supper with her in the night.
to Ex.p-44, he slept in the outside Verandah as there was no ventilation inside
(Vide Ex. P. 44). In Ex. p- 66, he has stated that nagammal wanted him to sleep
outside as she wanted to wake up at 4.30 AM next morning, clean the house, wash the clothes and go to temple and
that he could sleep undisturbed till 7.00 AM. The third version is in the written statement filed by him under
Section 313 Cr. P.C.. It is stated thus: "After husband and wife relations
1 used to come outside and sleep for want of air and my wife used to sleep
inside by bolting the door from inside." PW 11 has deposed that the
respondent told him to because Nagammal was in her periods she told him to
sleep outside. In the oral examination under Section 313 Cr. P.C. a specific
question was put to him that he told PW 11 that Nagammal wanted him to sleep
outside. The respondent simply denied it. Thus the respondent has given
different explanations for his sleeping outside separately within a few days
after joining his wife.
The respondent has given a reason for Nagammal committing suicide. According to
him she was having acute stomach pain during her period and during coitus. This
cannot be true on the face of it because of her written statement under Section
313 Cr. P.C. There is no evidence to support his version excepting his own
statement. Reliance is placed on Ex. p. 35 issued by one Dr. S. Balakrishnan on
3.6.1988 that she had 'pelvic infection' since the previous day. The doctor has
not been examined . The colleagues of Nagammal have not heard of her stomach
pain. The post mortem examination of the body of the deceased has not disclosed
any infection. According to P-35, the doctor devised her to take rest for three
weeks only. there is no evidence to show that she was taking any medicine. In
any event, there is absolutely no evidence to show that Nagammal was suffering
from such acute pain or far that matter any other ailment which could goad her
to commit suicide.
According to the High Court, the mental and physical torture endured by Nagammal
in the hands of her husband made her desperate to put an end to her life. The
said inference is wholly unreasonable and unwarranted. The High Court has after
referring to the circumstances that Nagammal accepted a lower post after
resigning a higher post in order to facilitate her living with her husband and
that the evidence of PWs 2 and 6 proved that Nagammal was very happy on
1.7.1982 observed: "But we do not know what transpired between the husband
and wife after 6.00 PM on that day". The High Court has compltely over
looked the letters written by Nagammal which prove clearly that Nagammal was
not such a weak-minded person to commit suicide on a sudden provocation of
which we ave no evidence whatever. The evidence makes out clearly that Nagammal
had a strong mental frame and was keen on living with her husband. The sequence
of events does not lead to any inference that something happened during the
night which made her commit suicide immediately.
it is a case of suicide, there is no explanation for burn injuries. The High
Court has held that she chose to terminate her life of her own accord perhaps
on account of the torture she had undergone in the hands of her cruel husband'.
Does the High Court refer here to torture before 27.6.1982. or on 1.7.1982?
There is no doubt that the torture or the conduct of the respondent prior to
27.6.1982 could not have persuaded Nagammal to commit suicide. Thus the cause
of her death could have sprung up only on 1.7.1982 night. According to the
respondent he had coitus with her and she wanted to get up early in the
morning, clean the house and go to the temple. Obviously she had no reason to
commit suicide. it is in that background, the following circumstances in the
case should be considered:
respondent had strong motive to put her out of the way before the petition for
divorce fixed for 8..7.2 finally was taken up for hearing. The respondent had
developed hatred towards her and drove her out of the house (vide Ex.p-2 Para
5). He refused to withdraw the petition for divorce though she came to live
with him. he was repeatedly insisting upon her consent for his second marriage
was the only other occupant of the house in which she met with the unnatural
His Varied explanations for sleeping separately outside the house are totally
The burn injuries on the body of Nagammal which were not in existence on the
evening of 1.7.1982. There being no resist injuries the only inference possible
in the circumstances is that the respondent caused them before or after her
dishevelled hair and the disturbed dress with the jacket and bra being open
show that there was a struggle before her death. The witnesses who saw her body
have deposed that the saree was just put around the body. Her feet were
touching the floor. There is no evidence to show that the cardboard box alleged
to have been by the side of the body could have borne her weight.
The conduct of the respondent in rushing to the police station without going
inside the house and finding out whether she was dead is also relevant.
The "thali'(mangalsutra) was not on the neck of the deceased but it was
with the respondent.
above circumstances lead to only one conclusion, that is, the respondent is
guilty. We have taken care to omit disputed pieces of evidence. Unfortunately,
the High Court has failed to consider the above evidence on record before
upsetting the judgment of the trial court and thus its judgment is vitiated.
The High Court has observed that when the doctor has expressed two views, the
one that is favourable to the accused must be taken into account. As a general
proposition, it may be true. But medical evidence cannot be considered in
isolation. After all, medical opinion is based on inferences drawn from various
facts present. It is not as if homicide is completely ruled out by the doctors.
Hence, their evidence must be taken in conjunction with all the circumstantial
evidence on record. The entire circumstantial evidence points to homicide only,
and the medical evidence is not to the contrary. Thus we have no doubt that the
death of Nagammal was homicidal only.
The trial court has referred to Ex.P-13, the slip of paper purporting to be a
'suicide note' and held that it was fabricated by the accused. The High court
has opined that the read note has been suppressed and another has been
substituted in its place after C.B.C.I.D. Police came into the picture. There
is no support in the evidence for this opinion is based on the statement of PW
1 that the writing in the note was in red ink and the signature was in blue ink
but in Ex.p 13 the writing as well as the signature are in blue ink. PW 1 has
stated that the Sub-Inspector of police refused to show the note to him when he
asked for it. PW 1 claims to have been told by his father that the writing was
in light red colour ink and signature was in blue ink. Hence his evidence is of
no use. If the original note was in two different inks, that itself could be a
circumstance against the accused as it would show that the writing was by one
person and the signature was by another. On the other hand, if the writing and
the signature were by the same person but in two different inks it would mean
that the writing and signature were at a different times. There was only one
ball point pen at the spot. We have referred to the above aspects only to show
that a definite conclusion that there was a substitution of the note is not
possible. However, we are prepared to omit Ex. P-13 completely from
consideration in this case. The other evidence on record is sufficient to prove
the quilt of the accused on both counts 17. As we have rested our conclusion on
the evidence on record, it is unnecessary to refer to S. 113-A of the Evidence
Act or the judgments in Gurbachan Singh Versus Satpal singh and others, (1990)
1 S.C.C 445 and Lakhjit Singh and Another Versus State of Punjab 1994 Supp. 1
S.C.C. 173 relied on by learned counsel for the appellant. Nor is it necessary
to advert to the judgments in Sangarbonia Sreenu Versus State of A.P. A.I.R.
1997 S.C. 3233 and State of Maharashtra Versus Ashok chotalal Shukla 1997
S.C.C. (Cr l.) 1186 cited by learned counsel for the respondent.
Thus we hold that the judgment and order of the trial court are correct. The
appeal is allowed. The judgment of the High Court is set aside. He conviction
and sentence imposed by the trial court are restored. The bail stands cancelled
and respondent shall be taken into custody for forthwith.