Vs. State of Haryana  Insc 418 (1 October 2002)
Lahoti & Brijesh Kumar. R.C. Lahoti, J.
accused-appellant stands convicted under Section 302 IPC for murdering by
poisoning his own wife Prakash Devi and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for
life, also to pay a fine of Rs.5000/- and in default to further undergo R.I.
for 2 years. The case rests on circumstantial evidence.
Devi died an unnatural death on 7.8.1997 at about 4.50 p.m. About 15 years before his death she was married with the
accused. The couple lived happily and peacefully for about 3-4 years.
1986 they developed some differences leading to bickerings and strained
relationship in marriage. The appellant was serving as a school teacher. It is
alleged that he needed some money to construct a house and Sheotaj, PW4 the
father of Prakash Devi employed as Sub- Inspector of Police, had obliged the
son-in-law by giving a sum of Rs.50,000/- of his own and another sum of
Rs.30,000/- through his son. This obligation too failed to restore matrimonial
harmony in the couple. The wife initiated proceedings for recovery of
maintenance under Section 125 Cr.P.C. while the husband filed a suit seeking
dissolution of marriage by decree of divorce. On 14.3.1997 the husband, i.e.,
the accused-appellant lost in his suit. He preferred an appeal in the High
Court. On 16.7.1997 the matter was compromised with the intervention of elders
of the village. As per settlement the wife was to join the husband which she
failed to do.
prosecution further alleges that some 3 or 4 days prior to the death of Prakash
Devi her brother Virender Singh had come to Narnaul where the accused met him
and directed him to send Prakash Devi to join with him.
7.8.1997 Smt. Beena, wife of Virender Singh (PW-3), accompanied by Prakash Devi,
reached the house of the accused situated in a locality known as 'Housing
Board' Nasibpur at about 12.00 or 12.30 p.m. The accused was present in the house. Smt. Beena was asked by the
accused to sit in the outer room telling her that he wanted to speak to Prakash
Devi in privacy. Prakash Devi was taken by the accused in the inner room of the
house. The husband and wife were in conversation for about half-an-hour when Smt.
Beena heard the voice of Prakash Devi complaining of uneasiness. She went
inside the inner room. The accused told Prakash Devi that he had some tablet
with him which could be given to her to come out of her feeling of uneasiness.
Then he gave one tablet to Prakash Devi. After consuming the tablet Prakash Devi
felt more uneasy and vomited. Smt. Beena took Prakash Devi to Narnaul on a
rickshaw. She vomited once again outside the house. She also said that she
might not survive and requested for calling the accused so as to see him. Smt. Beena
accompanied by Parkash Kaur reached Navjeevan Hospital at Narnaul. The accused also
reached there on a scooter. The accused assured Smt. Beena of taking care of Prakash
Devi whereupon Smt. Beena left for her home at Dongra Ahir.
informed her family members, she once again came to Navjeevan Hospital, Narnaul, accompanied by her brothers-in-law Sardara and Siri
Chand. Navjeevan Hospital is run by Dr. Parveen Choudhary, a private medical
practitioner at whose instance the accused had shifted Prakash Devi to Civil Hospital, Narnaul. In fact, Dr. Parveen Chaudhary did not admit Prakash
Devi and as he suspected the case to be one of poisoning referred her
straightaway to Civil Hospital. He remembered Prakash Devi having been brought to him
between 3 and 4 p.m on that day. Smt. Beena and her
brothers- in-law reached Civil Hospital but only to find Prakash Devi dead.
Singh, Sub-Inspector of P.S. Narnaul had come to the hospital in connection
with investigation of some other offence.
Beena met him and informed him of the incident which had taken place. Rajender
Singh recorded the statement of Smt.
at 9.30 p.m. and forwarded the same to P.S. Narnaul
whereat, at 9.40 p.m. the statement of Smt. Beena was
registered as FIR and the investigation commenced.
Devi, on reaching the Civil Hospital, was attended to at about 4.00 p.m. by Dr. Ajay Ram (PW-10) in casualty department of the
hospital. He sent an information (Exhibit PO) to the police informing the
police of Prakash Devi having been admitted in the hospital. The police reached
the hospital and sought for opinion of Dr. Ajay Ram if Prakash Devi was in a
position to make any statement. Dr. Ajay Ram found Prakash Devi's condition not
fit for making any statement. Prakash Devi expired at 4.50 p.m. intimation whereof was given by him to the police.
Dr. Ajay Ram gave Prakash Devi a stomach wash as it was suspected to be a case
of poisoning, gastric lavage was taken in a bottle, sealed and handed over to
the police. According to Dr. Ajay Mann the patient Prakash Devi was not fully
conscious when brought to the hospital yet she was in a position to reply to
some of the queries put to her. She did not give the history of poisoning.
However, she was vomiting and she had also vomited on the floor of the hospital
though the vomited material was not preserved as sample.
mortem on the dead body of Prakash Devi was performed by Dr. S.N. Sharma
(PW-1). As it was a suspected case of poisoning, a board was constituted for
conducting the post mortem. Dr. S.N. Sharma, Medical Officer was assisted by
Dr. Alka Bishnoi, Assistant Medical Officer. The post mortem was conducted at
10 AM on 8.8.1997 i.e. the next day of the death. On internal examination it
was found that the membranes of the brain were congested. Froth from the larynx
and trachea was coming out. Both the lungs were congested. Samples of blood
from heart, of frothy fluid coming out from the mouth, and pharynx and
esophagus were taken and preserved. In the stomach about 100 ml. of
semi-digested fluid was present. The mucusa was congested and showed puncture
form haemorrhage and at places it was ulcered. The stomach as a whole was
preserved. Parts of the small and large intestines and parts of liver, spleen
and kidneys were preserved. All these samples, duly sealed, were handed over to
the police for being sent to Chemical Examiner. The Medical Board did not
express any opinion on the cause of death. The opinion was reserved to be
expressed on the receipt of the report from the Chemical Examiner.
the samples which were collected and preserved for chemical examination were
forwarded to Forensic Science Laboratory of the State of Haryana situated at Madhuban,
Karnal. Vide letter dated 16.12.1997, the Deputy Director-cum-Assistant
Chemical Examiner of FSL, opined as under:
stained cotton's pad stated to be vomit of the deceased taken from the floor
and the piece of wet cloth along with wet earth stated to be 'vomit stained
earth' taken from the spot give an indication of the presence of aluminium phosphide
common poisoning could be detected in:
Stomach with contents in liquified form and emitting foul smell;
Parts of small and large intestine with its contents in liquified form and
emitting foul smell;
Parts of liver, spleen and kidneys in liquified form and emitting foul smell;
Blood from heart;
Saline preservative; and (vi) Gastric lavage of the deceased.
receipt of the report from FSL the same was shown to Dr. S.N. Sharma who
initially sought for some clarification from FSL. The FSL responded by saying
that viscera/stomach wash etc. of the deceased were screened for the detection
of common poisoning only and the same was found to be absent. Nothing could be
said about non-common poison being ordinarily inaccessible. After the above
said clarification from FSL, on 15.1.1998 the Medical Board consisting of Dr.
S.N. Sharma and Dr. Mrs. Alka Vishnoi opined "In view of the Aluminium Phosphide
(celphos) detected in two samples, opinion of the casualty Medical Officer case
of suspected poisoning and details as per indoor bed head ticket and post
mortem report, they were of the opinion that deceased Prakash Devi had died
because of Aluminium Phosphide (Celphos) poisoning.
we revert back to tracing the investigation how it proceeded. We have already
noted that the police had become active before 5 PM on 7.8.1997 on receiving an information from Dr. Ajay Mann that a
patient was admitted in the hospital as a suspected case of poisoning. The
police had reached the hospital and also was keen on recording the statement of
Prakash Devi. However, that could not be done. In any case, the statement of Smt.
Beena was recorded by a Senior Officer of the local police station at 9.40 p.m. and treated as First Information Report under
Section 154 of Cr.P.C. whereupon a cognizable offence under Section 302 IPC was
registered. No steps were taken by the police for picking up the samples from,
or for preserving intact, the place of occurrence and the places where the
deceased is said to have vomited which was necessary to do for collecting and
preserving the most crucial evidence. This omission of the police becomes more
serious and assumes significance in the background that inquest was held on
7.8.1997 itself around 9.30
also very significant to note that in the inquest report which is in a printed proforma,
in the column entitled 'apparent cause of death' it is written "Celphos
tablet having been administered". A little later we will deal with this
observation and make our comments thereon.
that as it may, the police reached the house of the accused- appellant early
morning the next day at about 8.00 a.m.
According to Rajender Singh, S.I. (PW-7) the house of accused Jaipal was lying
locked. The key was collected from the house of a neighbour, the name and
particulars whereof are not known. On opening the house sample of vomited
material was collected from one place which was inside the room. Another sample
was collected from a place outside the house and situated at a distance of
about 150 yards from the house.
according to Smt. Beena (PW-3) the place where Prakash Devi had vomited for the
second time was situated at a distance about 25 ft. from the house of the
Trial Court and the High Court have placed reliance on the evidence of Smt. Beena
(PW-3), the sister-in-law of the deceased and Sheotaj (PW-4), the father of the
deceased and medical evidence read along with FSL report for the purpose of
concluding availability of three incriminating circumstances:-
on the part of the accused for causing the death of Prakash Devi,
available to the accused for administering poison to the deceased, and
Devi's death having been caused by poisoning.
three circumstances taken together, are enough, in the opinion of the Trial
Court and the High Court to fasten the guilt on the accused.
will take up the third piece of circumstantial evidence as the first and see
whether it has been established that the death of Prakash Devi was caused by
administering aluminium phosphide (celphos) or by poisoning.
have grave doubts if at all Prakash Devi's death was caused by poisoning. Dr.
S.N. Sharma has stated that liver and kidneys of the deceased were congested.
Membranes of the brain were congested.
were congested. Frothy fluid was coming out from the larynx and trachea. These
symptoms alone could not have persuaded Dr. Sharma to hold that it could have
been a case of poisoning. In spite of the availability of such facts the
Medical Board was not in a position to opine on the cause of death. It was
thought fit to await for the report of forensic science lab examination. He has
clearly stated that it is only on the findings made available by pathology of
viscera, kidneys, spleen, liver, stomach and blood which would reveal whether
there was poisoning. He admitted that the cause for congestion of several
organs as mentioned in the post mortem report could be due to other reasons as
well. That is why, he had sought for clarification from the FSL so as to
ascertain if the patient could have died due to some other poison inasmuch as aluminium
phosphide poisoning was absent from the viscera.
Sharma admitted during his cross-examination that aluminium phosphide has a
smell. If celphos table is kept open in a room it will fill the room with
smell. It is this characteristic of celphos poison emitting pungent smell which
renders it improbable to be administered deceitfully and that is why this
poison is not generally used in cases of homicidal death. Celphos once
administered or consumed spreads rapidly in the body and kidney, liver, spleen,
heart and lungs are affected by the poison. The presence of such poison having
been consumed would be revealed by pathological findings.
Sharma's opinion, as expressed during his deposition, has authoritative
support. Modi in Medical Jurisprudence & Toxicology (Twenty-Second Edition)
states (at pp.197-198) that Aluminium Phosphide (Celphos) is used as a fumigant
to control insects and rodents in food grains and fields. In reported cases of
poisoning, symptoms which have been found are burning pain in the mouth, throat
and stomach, vomiting mixed with blood, dyspnoea, rapid pulse, subnormal
temperature, loss of co-ordination, convulsions of a clonic nature and death.
In the solid form, it acts as corrosive in the mouth and throat as it
precipitates proteins. In postmortem appearance, the tongue, mouth and oesophagus
are oedematous and corroded. The mucous membrane of the stomach is corrugated,
loosened or hardened and is stained red or velvety. The intestines are
to Modi symptoms and signs of poisoning by aluminium phosphide are similar to
poisoning by zinc phosphide (p.197, ibid). The chief symptoms after the
administration of zinc phosphide are a vacant look, frequent vomiting with
retching, tremors and drowsiness followed by respiratory distress at death.
Zinc phosphide acts as a slow poison and is decomposed by hydrochloric acid in
the stomach with the liberation of phosphine which acts as a respiratory
poison. Being a very fine powder zinc phosphide adheres firmly to the crypts in
the mucous membrane of the stomach, and a very small quantity only in the
stomach even after vomiting is sufficient to cause death by slow absorption.
released from zinc phosphide (rat poison) and from aluminium phosphide, is
mainly used as a fumigant to control insects and rodents in food grains and
fields. Liberated from the metal phosphides by the action of water or acids,
gaseous phosphine exerts more potent pesticidal action, for it penetrates to
all areas otherwise inaccessible for pesticide application. Pathological
findings from phosphine inhalation are pulmonary hyperemia and oedema. It
causes both fatty degeneration and necrosis of liver. (p.174, ibid) Our
attention was invited, as was done in the High Court and the Trial Court, to a
paper entitled 'Toxicology Acute Aluminum Phosphide Poisoning in Northern
India' written by Dr. Mitra Basu and Prof. S.B. Siwach, Head, Deptt. of Medicine,
Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Rohtak and published in Current
Medical Journal, Vol.I, No.5, July 1995. The authenticity of this article has
not been doubted by the High Court nor questioned either in the High Court or
in this Court. The learned authors have noticed the aluminium phosphide having
emerged as a major health problem in northern India when these cases first
started coming in 1984 and hardly any literature being available earlier on
this malady. In Post- Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Rohtak about 2000
cases were reported which were all suicidal.
briefly sum up the opinion of the learned authors from their published paper. Phosphine
gas (active ingredient of ALP) causes sudden cardiovascular collapse; most
patients die of shock, cardiac arrhythmias, acidosis and Adult Respiratory
Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Aluminium phosphide is available in the form of
chalky white tablets. When these tablets are taken out of the sealed container,
they come in contact with atmospheric moisture and the chemical reaction takes
place liberating phosphene gas (PH3) which is the active ingredient of ALP.
This gas is highly toxic and effectively kills all insects and thus preverves
the stored grains. When these tablets are swallowed, the chemical reaction is
accelerated by the presence of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and within
minutes phosphine gas dissipates and spreads into the whole body. The gas is
highly toxic and damages almost every organ but maximal damage is caused to
heart and lungs. Sudden cardiovascular collapse is the hallmark of acute
poisoning. Patients come with fast thready or impalpable arterial pulses, unrecordable
or low blood pressure and icy cold skin. Somehow these patients remain
conscious till the end and continue to pass urine despite unrecordable blood
pressure. Vomiting is a prominent feature associated with epigastric burning
patients will be smelling foul (garlic like) from their breath and vomitus.
Many of them will die within a few hours. Those who survive for some time will
show elevated juglar venous pressure, may develop tender hepatomegaly and still
later Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), renal shut down and in a very
few cases toxic hepatic jaundice. The active ingredient of ALP is phosphine gas
which causes extensive tissue damage. A spot clinical diagnosis is possible in
majority of cases of ALP poisoning. However, ALP on account of its very pungent
smell (which can drive out all inmates from house if left open) can not be taken
Ajay Mann (PW-10) who was the first to attend on Prakash Devi stated that the
symptoms which he noted present in Prakash Devi could be the symptoms in the
case of food poisoning, virus infection and gastroenteritis. Dr. Parveen Chaudhary
of Navjeevan Hospital to whom Prakash Devi was carried by Smt. Beena and who
had seen her between 3 to 4 p.m. on the fateful day was of the opinion that it
was on account of smell coming out from the mouth of the patient that he
suspected it to be a case of poisoning. However, his statement was not recorded
by police during investigation. The letter under which he referred Prakash Devi
to Civil Hospital did not mention the fact of any smell coming out from the
mouth of Prakash Devi. Assuming that Dr. Parveen Chadudhary is right in stating
that some foul smell was coming out from the mouth of Prakash Devi, seen in the
light of the statement of Dr. Ajay Mann, it is clear that such foul smell would
come even in the case of virus infection or gastroenteritis and merely from
foul smell it cannot be doubtlessly concluded to be a case of celphos poisoning
have doubts about the genuineness of the samples of vomit said to have been
seized from two places i.e. inside the house and outside the house. We have
already pointed out the fatal omission on the part of the police in protecting
the two places where valuable and clinching evidence as to the cause of death
could have been available and the fatal delay in collecting the samples.
Though, the house of the accused is situated in a locality inhabited by people
and not in a secluded place yet the two witnesses to the seizure memo of the
samples are Virender Singh, husband of Smt Beena (PW-3) and brother of the
deceased, and one police employee namely Balbir Singh, ASI. It was suggested by
the defence, during the cross- examination of Dr. S.N. Sharma, that the samples
of vomit would give positive findings regarding aluminium phosphide (celphos)
if it was sprinkled over the vomit before lifting the samples.
Trial Court has disbelieved the recovery of vomitus from the two places by the
Investigating Officer. In the opinion of the Trial Court the evidence relating
to such seizure of vomitus was not trustworthy for two reasons: firstly, it is
not mentioned in the FIR or in the statement of Smt. Beena (PW-3) that aluminium
phosphide was administered by the accused to the deceased, and secondly, it is
also not mentioned either in the FIR or in the police statement of Smt. Beena
(PW-3) that the deceased had vomited inside the house. The Trial Court has also
commented adversely on the lapse on the part of the Investigating Officer in
not promptly seizing the samples of vomitus. The High Court has also doubted
the recovery and seizure of vomitus from the room in view of this material fact
finding omission in the FIR amongst other relevant factors. Though the High
Court was inclined to place reliance on the seizure of vomitus from the place
situated outside the house. However that recovery too has its own infirmities.
As we have already noticed the vomitus has been seized from place situated at a
distance of 150 yards from the house of the accused while according to Smt. Beena
the deceased had vomited at a place just about 25 feet from the house. It is
difficult to reconcile the two depositions as to the distance. Secondly, in a
village it is highly doubtful that vomitus would remain lying untampered and
intact for the period of more than 16 hours overnight and on a thoroughfare.
From the presence of aluminium phosphide in the sample of vomitus, in the facts
and circumstances of the case it is not safe to infer the deceased having been
administered aluminium phosphide because a safe link between the vomitus
samples and the deceased is not established. Sample of vomitus from the
hospital was not taken for whatever reasons.
on the state of the evidence as it exists we cannot conclude positively that aluminium
phosphide (celphos) was administered to the deceased. This finding has also to
be read in the light of very pertinent statement made by Smt. Beena. According
to her while the accused and the deceased were busy talking in the inner room,
the witness was sitting just outside in the outer room. When she entered in the
inner room Prakash Devi complained of feeling uneasy.
never stated that she was administered anything by the accused or anything
given by the accused was consumed by the deceased or that anything which the
deceased was made to consume by the accused was the cause of her feeling of
uneasiness. On the contrary it was in the presence of the witness Smt. Beena
that the accused offered to give the deceased a tablet which could remove the
feeling of uneasiness. Such table according to Smt. Beena was of two colours;
half portion was blue and half portion was white. Such could not have been the colour
of celphos tablet. If only the tablet given by the accused to the deceased was celphos
it is not likely that the deceased would have consumed it inasmuch as the
pungent smell of celphos would have alerted Prakash Devi and Smt. Beena and
certainly the deceased would not have consumed the tablet. It also sounds
unnatural, and therefore doubtful, if the accused would administer any
poisonous tablet to the deceased by calling her to his house and at a point of
time either when Smt. Beena was sitting just outside the room or when she was
present inside the room. The presence of smell in the room, if any celphos
tablet had remained in open there would not have escaped the attention of Smt. Beena.
But she does not depose to the presence of any smell in the room having been
felt by her.
Forensic Scientific examination of several organs of the body of the deceased
and the samples collected from the body exclude the presence of aluminium phosphide
(celphos). The victim, according to the prosecution case died within about 4
hours, of the poison having been allegedly administered to her. Postmortem was
performed within 18 hours of the time of death. None of the symptoms suggesting
administration of celphos as stated by Modi and the two authors Dr. Mitra Basu
and Prof. S.B. Siwach were found to be present. The manner in which aluminium phosphide
acts on being ingested, the presence of powder or symptoms of damage caused by phosphine
must have been detected in stomach, intestines, liver, kidney and gastric lavage.
But none has been found. Merely because of the presence of foul smell it cannot
be said to be a case of poison having been administered to the deceased. The
finding of the Trial Court and the High Court that the deceased died because of
poisoning cannot therefore be sustained.
also not inclined to hold that the accused had the opportunity available to him
of administering poison to the deceased.
availability of the second circumstance is also ruled out. So far as the
question of motive is concerned, again, clear motive for the accused to cause
the death of the deceased cannot be spelt out. The parties had separated and
then reconciled. The accused was inclined to resume the conjugality of
marriage. That is why he had insisted with his brother-in-law that his wife
should join him. The deceased came to the accused accompanied by her
sister-in-law. The husband and wife were talking to each other in the close
presence of the wife's sister-in-law. There was no dispute or altercation
between the two. In our opinion the present one is not a case where it can be
held that the accused had a clear motive for administering poison to the
apart, merely because the accused could have had a motive for causing the death
of Prakash Devi it would not by itself be enough to sustain the finding of
guilty against him.
is no evidence adduced by the prosecution to hold that the accused had the
poison in his possession prior to the time of the incident. The police had
learnt from Smt. Beena that the accused had taken out the tablet from a box and
given it to the deceased for inhaling. The investigation was not directed
towards inspecting and seizing the box wherefrom the tablet was taken out.
Moreover, celphos is chalkish white while the tablet which is said to have been
given by the accused to the deceased was blue and white. In all probability it
could not have been celphos. 1984 SC 1622 this Court has held :
the cases of murder by administration of poison the Court must carefully scan
the evidence and determine the four important circumstances which alone can
justify a conviction:
is a clear motive for an accused to administer poison to the deceased,
the deceased died of poison said to have been administered,
the accused had the poison in his possession,
he had an opportunity to administer the poison to the deceased."
hasten to add that the availability of the third piece of evidence as necessary
to establish the case of murder by poisoning has been doubted in some of the
later decisions. To wit, in Bhupinder there may be very many facts and
circumstances proved against the accused which may call for tacit assumption of
the factum of possession of poison with the accused, and therefore, the
insistence on proof of presence of poison with the accused is neither desirable
nor 1960 SC 500 is a case peculiar to its own facts and this Court by a
majority of 2:1 held that even in the absence of a decisive finding as to the
exact cause of death and on a finding that the death of the victim was the
result of the administration of some unrecognized poison or drug which would
act as a poison, a finding as to guilt can be arrived at based on
circumstantial evidence. It was the case of extreme cunning and pre-meditation.
The conduct of the accused after the death of his wife was unusual and abnormal
and was so knit together as to make a network of circumstances pointing only to
his guilt. Still the majority opinion observed :
evidence in this context means, a combination of facts creating a network
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." In the present case
we do not find any abnormality in the conduct of the accused. He is an educated
person, a teacher. If only he had administered any poison to the deceased he
would not have gone to the private clinic and government hospital where
poisoning as a cause of death would be immediately known or at least strongly
suspected by the doctor attending on the victim. Rather the accused wanted to
be in the company of the deceased and to have her treated. He attended on her
at Navjeevan Hospital and took her to Civil Hospital.
also noteworthy that the deceased had complained to Smt. Beena of feeling some
uneasiness even prior to her having been administered a tablet by the accused.
In all probability the deceased had consumed something before coming to meet
the accused or may be she had suffered food poisoning or virus infection which
could be innocuous.
questions remain unanswered which we deem it proper to mention before parting.
The tablet said to have been administered by the accused to the deceased was at
about 12.30 p.m. Soon Smt. Beena took the deceased to Navjiwan Hospital. The
distance between the house of the accused and Navjiwan hospital is about two
kilometers. The two ladies went to the hospital in a rickshaw.
they reached at the hospital sometime between 3 and 4 p.m.
could not have taken so long in reaching Navjiwan hospital from the house of
the accused. Where did they remain in between? Nobody knew what was
administered to the deceased or what she had consumed which led to her death
until the doctors gave opinion on receipt of the FSL report and on their
queries being answered. Yet a single track investigation with a pre-conceived
notion appears to have begun from the very inception. The letter, (Exhibit PA)
written on 7.8.1997 by S.I. P.S. Narnaul to the Civil Hospital requesting for
autopsy to be held on the dead body of Prakash Devi mentions the death having
been caused by Celphos tablet having been administered to her. The same fact is
stated in the report on inquest which was held at 9.30 p.m. on 7.8.1997. The
post- mortem report, which is in a pro-forma, in its preliminary part in column
No.20 "information furnished by police" mentions the cause of death
as 'by celphos tablet, having been administered' and still the doctors were not
positive in their opinion, i.e., they did not record their approval of the
suggestion made by the police. The correspondence between the police and the
doctors suggests that the police was insisting on the doctors, who constituted
the medical board, giving an opinion that the deceased had died on account of celphos
having been administered to her. The doctors initially resisted endorsing the
police suggestion and sought for a clarification from the Forensic Science
Laboratory. The opinion given by FSL as late as on 24.12.1997 was also
non-committal one and yet the doctors changed their opinion and said on
15.1.1998 in their supplementary report that the deceased Prakash Devi had died
because of aluminium phosphide (celphos) poison. Though we are not recording
any positive finding in that regard yet we cannot resist observing that the
father of the deceased as also the brother-in-law of the deceased being police
personnel of a place nearby to the place of the incident probably they had
successfully prevailed over the doctors who yielded into giving an opinion
which would implicate the accused.
with advantage quote the following observation of this which is very apt to the
case before us :
Chemical Examiner was repeatedly of the opinion that there was no poison
content found in the viscera. Dr. Ahluwalia gave his opinion on consideration
of the out-door ticket, bed-head ticket and history of the case. The symptoms
of vomiting, temperature, convulsions and quick pulse were there. He opined
that death of Ranjit Singh could have resulted from zinc phosphide but he could
not rule out the possibility of his death due to some virus infection. He
further stated when referred to Modi's Medical Jurisprudence that zinc phosphide
being a very fine powder adheres very firmly to the crypts in the mucous
membrane of the stomach. It also appears from the evidence that the poison
after going into the blood must have entered viscera of the deceased. No zinc
powder was found adhering to the crypts in the mucous membrane of the stomach
of Ranjit Singh.
of the child was within 24 hours of the administering of the poison. In all
probability if it would have been caused due to the intake of the poison by him
the Chemical Examiner must have detected traces of it in the viscera. The other
two children it appears had taken very little quantity of the poison and they
soon recovered only by stomach wash. It is not clear from any piece of evidence
in this case that the deceased child had taken a larger quantity of the
poisoned gur. The possibility of his death due to any virus infection or any
different cause other than the one attributable to poisoning cannot be ruled
out." Dealing with a case of circumstantial evidence the Court has to be
circumspect. A note of caution was sounded by a Constitution (1838) 2 Lew CC 227
mind was apt to take a pleasure in adapting circumstances to one another, and
even in straining them a little, if need be, to force them to form parts of one
connected whole; and the more ingenious the mind of the individual the more
likely was it, considering such matter, to overreach and mislead itself, to
supply some little link that is wanting, to take for granted some fact
consistent with its previous theories and necessary to render them
complete." The High Court and the Trial Court have unwittingly fallen into
the same dangerous trap which the Constitution Bench has cautioned to be
unhesitatingly of the opinion that the prosecution has utterly failed in
proving such chain of circumstantial evidence as would fasten the guilt on the
accused leaving no room for doubt. The appeal is allowed. The conviction of the
accused under Section 302 IPC and the sentence passed thereon by the Trial
court and upheld by the High Court are set aside. The accused-appellant is
acquitted. He shall be released forthwith if not required to be detained in any