Singh Vs. State of Haryana  Insc 389 (12 September 2002)
C. Banerjee & Y.K. Sabharwal. Banerjee, J.
appellant Gurpreet Singh an Indian Air Force personnel had a love marriage with
one Kalpna, a Nurse in a Military Hospital (since deceased). Later the facts reveal that Gurpreet left
his job from Indian Air Force and joined as Assistant Vigilance Officer in Maruti
Udyog in Gurgaon and Kalpna was also adjusted in the same Maruti Udyog in a
section known as Bharat Seats. They lived in House No.C-2-113/4 D.L.F. Phase-I,
Qutab Enclave, Gurgaon and had a son Sudeep out of their lawful wedlock.
appears that the parties to the said marriage did not pull on well and the
deceased and the appellant made a joint petition (Ex.P.N.) before the learned
District Judge, Gurgaon under Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act seeking
divorce by mutual consent on 14.12.1993; though concededly they lived under one
roof till Kalpna breathed her last as noticed hereinbefore in this judgment.
The next date fixed in the petition was 17.7.1994.
on the further factual score it appears that purchase of flat No.C-2-113/4, Gurgaon
(Ex.A4) prior to filing of consent petition however was in the joint name of
both the spouses. The deceased thus had a half share in the flat and the
consent petition for divorce created a bounden obligation for the appellant to
pay a sum of Rs.3,00,000/- to the wife.
available in the matter depict that around 11.00 or 11.30 O'clock in the night
of 13/14.2.1994, there were some sounds of shrieks and cries from the house of Gurpreet
Singh and Ashok Mazumdar, (P.W.1), a Businessman, living in House No.113/3-2-2
D.L.F. Colony, Phase I, Gurgaon, not being aware of the happenings got up from
sleep and saw from the window that the smoke was emitting from the said
apartment and he noticed the appellant and his servant being present there. The
neighbourly gesture prompted him to telephone the police as well as the fire
brigade and Sub Inspector Bir Singh (P.W.5), on receipt of the wireless message
from Police Station Sadar, Gurgaon reached the spot located in the area of
Silver Oak Apartments, Qutab Enclave. The Sub Inspector found the
appellant-accused sitting in his room while the victim Kalpna lying in burnt
condition in another room. The two rooms were burnt but the room in which the
appellant-accused was sitting was not having marks of burns. The records depict
that the Sub Inspector despatched a ruqa that Kalpna had been murdered by
setting her on fire on the basis of which formal FIR Ex.PG/1 was recorded by
S.I. Devinder Singh.
burnt remains of the clothes of the deceased were taken into possession by
Inspector Murari Lal, (PW.7) who, as the records depict, recorded the statement
of Ashok Mazumdar (Ex.PA) and that of one Raj Kumar Chawla (since deceased).
Though 10/12 persons also gathered at the spot but they were not prepared to
state or disclose anything.
further depict that preparation of site plan (Ex.PQ) as also the inquest report
(Ex.PP). Five match sticks in a match box were taken into possession (Ex.PJ)
along with a plastic can with cap and a writing pad (vide recovery memos Exs.PK,
PL and PM). After the photographs Ex.PT/1 to PT/4 of the dead body were taken,
the same was sent for post-mortem examination.
16.2.1994, the appellant was arrested because Shri Ashok Mazumdar, PW.1 had
already mentioned in his statement to the police that about 15/16 days prior to
the occurrence he had seen Gurpreet Singh appellant giving beatings to Kalpna
and she was bleeding from her mouth and obviously he expected his hand in the
murder. There was the presence of the accused on the place of occurrence with
unusual calmness without any attempt even to explain how the occurrence took
place obviously led to the inference that he and none else had a hand in the
plan according to scales was got prepared from PW.3 Mool Chand Punia, a
Draftsman, who gave a note in the site plan that the deceased was stated to be
found in a complete sitting posture. The articles taken from the scene of
occurrence were despatched to the Forensic Science Laboratory.
15.2.1994 at 10.00 A.M., autopsy on the dead body of Kalpna deceased was
conducted by Dr. Sanjay Narula, PW.2 and he observed the following:
ligature mark on the neck could be commented because of charring. It was dead
body of an average built and nourished female wearing yellow metallic chain in
neck and yellow metallic kara on the left wrist. Body was totally burnt except
a tuft of hair.
attitude of the body was there. There was no clothes over the body. There was
no smell or kerosene or any other material from the body or hair.
examination of scalp revealed that it was burnt except a tuft of hair in the
body above the level of pelvis was totally charred.
muscles of abdomen and chest also charred exposing bone at places. Both lower
limbs were deep to superficially burnt showing red line of demarcation.
and tracheae were healthy but containing block particles. Heart was full of
cheery red colour blood.
duration between injuries and death was immediate." In the opinion of the
Doctor, the death was due to 100% burns which were sufficient to cause death in
the ordinary course of nature.
17.2.1994, at 10.00
A.M. the said doctor
also medico legally examined the appellant and found the following injuries on
Infected superficial burn wound with light brown scab with few pus points, size
3 cm X 1 cm over bridge of nose.
cm X 2 cm infected burn wound with same features as one over left ala of nose.
(3) 2 mmX
1 mm wound with same features as one over left side of face.
Circular .5 cm diameter wound with same features as one over forehead just
above medical end of right eye brow.
cm X 5 cm blister over sole of left foot. No open wound slight erythema around
blister. This blister extends at base of fourth and fifth toe.
cm diameter blister over left border of left foot.
opinion of the Doctor the injuries were simple in nature having been caused by
view of the aforesaid evidence collected against the appellant, he was put to
trial for murder of his wife Kalpna. The entire evidence was put him in his
statement under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. He mostly
claimed ignorance regarding the circumstances in which the death of the
deceased took place. He took up the plea that in fact he along with DW.1 Ravinder
Nath Puri had taken the dinner together around 9.00 P.M.in his Apartment and
had gone to Gymkhana Club where he received a telephonic message around 11.00 P.M. from Raj Kumar a neighbour of the accused that the
house was emitting fire.
Ravinder Nath Puri, DW.1 reached the scene of occurrence and in his attempt to
extinguish the fire, received burn injuries noticed above. He also stated that
his wife had no grouse against him and he had reached much after the place got ablazed
and that he was involved falsely. The learned trial Judge did not place
reliance on the story set up by the appellant-accused. The conclusions arrived
at were that the appellant was not innocent as he claimed to be, but was the
actual offender - The liability of loan, differences he had with his wife and
the deceased having a half share in the apartment, led to the job of eliminating
her. According to the findings the appellant took a false plea of alibi and had
nothing to do in Gymkhana Club late in the night. As a matter of fact, the
learned Sessions Judge recorded that the burns on the appellant were received
when he was trying to burn the wife rather than was extinguishing the fire and
the pose of the deceased sitting on a sofa as shown in photographs (Ext. PT/1
to PT/4) was such that if she had either committed suicide she would have run
here and there and posture could not have been the way as it transpires from
the records. This is more so by reason of the factum of presence of the
appellant in the house when he committed the act of murdering his wife,
observed the learned Judge. Accused did not disclose anything nor gave any
explanation of the situation confronted to him and the only inference that
could be drawn was that he committed the crime.
basis of the aforesaid the appellant was convicted under Section 302 of the
Indian Penal Code and was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for life.
appeal against the order of conviction and sentence, the High Court rejected
the contentions in support of the appeal with a positive finding that there
exists sufficient circumstantial evidence on record to connect the accused with
the sordid crime he committed.
proceeding further however and since the injuries as noticed above relate to
burn, we feel it expedient to note the observations of this Court in Arvind
Singh v. State of Bihar (2001 (6) SCC 407) wherein one of us (Banerjee, J.)
dealt with such injuries in quite some detail. This Court observed :
Burn injuries are normally classified into three degrees. The first being
reddening and blistering of the skin only; second being charring and
destruction of the full thickness of the skin;
being charring of the tissues beneath the skin, e.g. fat, muscle and bone.
it noted here that if the burn is of a distinctive shape a corresponding hot
object may be identified being applied to the skin and thus abrasions will have
distinctive patterns but in the event a burn injury is the cause of death then
60% cases are of septicaemia and 34% cases are of bronchopneumonia. Where
infection was by pseudomonas pyocyanea, spread to unburnt skin ulceration may
occur, and internal infection by this organism is especially liable to damage
the walls of blood vessels. Gram-negative shock may also occur. The external
examination in the normal cases are found in the body being removed from a
burnt building and in the event of such a removal the cause of death would be
inhalation of fumes rather than septicaemia as noticed above.
event the body is not removed from the room and same remains in situ, an
examination of the scene must be attempted, as with any other scene of
suspicious death, note being taken as regards the position of the body, clothes
remaining if any and identifiable objects in the room and so on. The
examination of the burns is also directed to ascertain their position and
depth, as to whether they were sustained in life or not, and whether their
situation gives any indication of the path taken by the flames or the position
of the body when the fire started. If the body is very severely burnt then all
the skin surface may be destroyed, even sometimes making it rather difficult
for identification of the body. A body that is badly burnt assumes the
appearance known as "pugilistic attitude" and this is due to heat
stiffening and contraction of the muscles, causing the arms to become flexed at
the elbows and the hands clenched, the head slightly extended and the knees
bent. The appearance resembles the position adopted by a person engaged in a
fight and has led on occasions to suspicion that the death occurred during some
violent crime. In fact, of course, the body will assume this position when the
fire started. The other aspect of the burn injury is that heat ruptures may be
are splits of the skin, caused by contraction of the heated and coagulated
tissues, and the resultant breaches look like lacerated wounds.
are usually only a few inches, but may be up to 1 or 2 ft in length. Normally
they lead to no difficulty in interpretation, since they occur only in areas of
severe burning, and normally over fleshy areas of the body, like calves and
thighs where lacerations are uncommon. However, when they occur in the scalp
they may cause greater difficulties. They can usually be distinguished from
wounds inflicted before the body was burnt, by their appearance, position in
areas of maximum burning and on fleshy areas, and by the associated findings on
internal examination. (See in this context Taylor's Jurisprudence.)
Although shock due to extensive burns is the usual cause of death, delayed
death may be due to inflammation of the respiratory tract caused by the
inhalation of smoke. Severe damage, at least to the extent of blistering of the
tongue and upper respiratory tract, can follow the inhalation of smoke."
Apropos the burn injury, the report of the Forensic Science Laboratory, Haryana,
seem to be of some relevance, as such the same is set out hereinbelow:
Residues of petroleum were detected in Exhibits 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Carbon monoxide was detected in Exhibit-6 (Blood.)" In this context, the
observations of the High Court in the judgment impugned ought also to be noticed
: The High Court did delve into the matter rather elaborately and with due
importance it deserved. The High Court stated :
most important factor in the case remains to be that the photographs Ex.PT/1 to
PT/4 are of the most vital importance. Kalpna deceased had been shown in a sofa
Ex.P1 in a sitting posture i.e. like a pugilistic pose. She is in an absolute
sitting pose on a sofa. If one looks towards the side of the head the entire
flames had gone on the wall towards the head. The deceased Kalpna has not moved
here or there. If she had moved here or there the burns would have been on
other portion of the wall of the room. These photographs Exs.PT/1 to PT/4 as
mentioned above were not being brought in evidence and were brought on record
during the course of evidence on payment of costs. There was a clever attempt
on the part of the appellant that he did not want these photographs to come on
already indicated that there was no one who could be taking interest to
prosecute the appellant. This posture of the deceased clearly established that
if the case had been that of suicide she would have tried to struggle and move
here and there rather than to be killed on the sofa itself. So these
photographs are important piece of evidence in the chain of circumstances. To
recapitulate the situation, the death of the deceased was immediate after the
burns. The visual examination of the scene of occurrence found by the
Investigating Officer who prepared the inquest report Ex.PP revealed that the
fire had been so intense that even the blades of the electrical fan were found
to be moulded. Window of the room was burnt and door frame and door closer were
also burnt. Smell of petrol had been found in the articles sent to the Forensic
Science Laboratory vide report Ex.PO." Coming back on to the merits of the
matter now, it thus appears that there is no direct evidence available so as to
connect the appellant with the incident but only circumstantial evidence : It
is however now well settled that while circumstantial evidence alone and by
itself to form the basis of conviction, provided, however, there is no snap in
the chain of events: the chain of events must thus be complete in such a way so
as to point to the guilt of the accused person and to none others it is not a
mere matter of surmise or conjecture but the events ought to be so tale-tale
that one cannot but come to the conclusion that accused is the guilty person.
Standard of proof has thus to be at a much higher degree lest an innocent
person gets the blame therefor. The approach of the Court thus ought to be
extremely cautious and upon proper circumspection as regards the appraisal of
the available evidence on record. Various citations were referred to by the
parties during the course of hearing, but the law seems to be so well-settled,
that we may not detain ourselves on that score.
this juncture a brief recapitulation of events may be worthwhile so as to
assess the situation ourselves in its proper perspective. Mazumdar heard a
shriek gets up and finds smoke coming out of Ahluwalia's window : on seeing the
smoke, came out of the house and met Ahluwalia and the servant who, in fact,
said to have informed him of the fire in the house and thereupon informs the
Police as also the fire brigade this is the statement said to have been
recorded by the Police under Section 161 Cr.P.C.: In the witness box however,
there is some variation and Mr. K.T.S. Tulsi, the learned Senior Advocate
appearing in support of the appeal has been rather emphatic that reliance on
Section 161 statement in preference to the other evidence available from Mazumdar
has been the key feature in the matter of acceptance of the prosecutor's
version rather than a total disbelief of the same.
it is now well-settled that in the event of a portion of evidence not being
consistent with the statements given under 161 and the witness stands declared
hostile that does not, however, mean and imply total rejection of the evidence.
The portion which stands in favour of the prosecution or the accused may be
accepted but the same shall be subjected to close scrutiny. It is in this
context the observations of this Court in State of U.P. vs. Ramesh Prasad Misra
& Anr. (1996 (10) SCC 360) seem to be rather apposite and the same is thus
set out hereinbelow :
The question is whether the first respondent was present at the time of death
or was away in the village of DW 1, his brother-in-law. It is rather most
unfortunate that these witnesses, one of whom was an advocate, having given the
statements about the facts within their special knowledge, under Section 161
recorded during investigation, have resiled from correctness of the versions in
the statements. They have not given any reason as to why the investigating
officer could record statements contrary to what they had disclosed. It is
equally settled law that the evidence of a hostile witness would not be totally
rejected if spoken in favour of the prosecution or the accused, but it can be
subjected to close scrutiny and that portion of the evidence which is
consistent with the case of the prosecution or defence may be accepted. One
clinching circumstance, viz., that PW 2 and PW 6 had heard some quarrels in the
house of the respondents and the deceased was crying out, is not on record as
substantive evidence. PW 2 and PW 6 had no regard for truth; they fabricated
the evidence in their cross-examination to help the accused which did not find
place in their Section 161 statements that they had seen one man of white
complexion and aged between 30 to 35 years, going to the house of the deceased
on the fateful night and leaving the house at 8.00 a.m. on the next day."
Next, however, is the plea of alibi as raised by the appellant when the husband
stated that after the dinner he alongwith a friend went to Gymkhana Club for a
coffee and it is only at the club that he was informed of the fire in the house
which prompted the appellant to return to his house immediately. This plea of
alibi stands disbelieved by both the courts and since the plea of alibi is a
question of fact and since both the courts concurrently found that facts
against the appellant, the accused, this Court in our view, cannot on an appeal
by special leave go behind the above noted concurrence finding of fact. This
stands well settled for about five decades and reference may be made to the
decision of this Court in Thakur Prasad vs. State of Madhya Pradesh(1954 Crl.Law
there is no eye-witness available in the matter under consideration and the
prosecution case is sought to be established from the circumstantial evidence
and it is in this sphere the settled law as noticed above is that circumstances
from which the conclusion of guilt is drawn should be proved and thus
circumstances must be conclusive in nature. The established circumstances
should also be complete and there should not be any missing link in the chain
of evidence. The court ought thus to scrutinise the evidence and deal with each
circumstance and thereafter find the chain of the established circumstances
being complete, in the event, the answer is in the affirmative, there should
not be any hesitation in the matter of return.. of a verdict of guilt on the
basis of circumstantial evidence. In the event, however, there is a snap in the
chain and the conclusion may not steadfastly point or reach the accused, the
latter is entitled to a benefit of doubt. In this context the observations of
this Court in Kundula Bala Subrahmanyam & Anr. vs. State of Andhra Pradesh
(1993 (2) SCC 684) lends credence to the view expressed above.
indeed a relevant fact in the contextual facts that parties admittedly, were
having estranged relationship : As a matter of fact, divorce proceedings has
already been initiated a payment of Rs.3,00,000/- is to be effected to the wife
by the husband and this is being consented to in writing since divorce was by
mutual consent of the parties.
to be noticed that whereas there is no eye-witness account but the incriminating
conduct and activity of the accused have been proved by overwhelming evidence.
The investigating officer found the appellant sitting in the other room and the
body of the wife totally burnt in a sitting posture that of course goes on well
with the Medical Jurisprudence as noticed above since heat would have the
effect of stiffening and contraction of muscle causing the arms to become flex
and knees bent. The photographs produced before the Court show the devastation
of fire, obviously a definite attempt to see that one does not survive in any
event. The appellant-accused has not offered any reason nor explanation except
a plea of alibi which the High Court ascribed to be as false denial as noticed
hereinbefore. The chain of events dispels any doubt as sought to be suggested
by Mr. Tulsi and there seems to be sufficient evidence on record to connect the
appellant with a brutal killing of a wife, the motive of which is apparent.
social evil popularly described as bride-burning thus does not show a descending
graph in spite of the legislature stepping up and introducing penal provisions therefor.
The sordid tale of young girls becoming victims of lust for money and other
materialistic objects continues the appeal in the present case thus is also no
wake of the aforesaid, we are unable to record our concurrence with the
submissions of Mr. Tulsi. The appeal therefore fails. The conviction and
sentence passed against the appellant as confirmed by the High Court is upheld
and the appeal is dismissed. The appellant to serve out the sentence.