Citation: (2021) 1 SCC 596
Date of Decision: November 2, 2020
Bench: U. U. Lalit, Indu Malhotra, Krishna Murari
Original Copy: View
Statutes involved: The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, Indian Penal Code, 1860
Issues in question:
- Whether the circumstantial evidence, in this case, is unimpeachable in proving the Appellant’s guilt or if it leads to an unusual case?
- Whether the evidence is so solid and persuasive that any punishment other than the death penalty is out of the question?
Background of the case:
- In this instance, the victim was a two-and-a-half-year-old girl, and her father lodged an FIR with the Parwa Police Station in Yavatmal at 9:25 p.m. on February 11, 2013.
- “Because there was a Mahaprasad celebration in Duttatraya Temple in the hamlet on February 11, 2013, I went there for supper at about 7 p.m.,” her father said in the FIR. After eating, I went home about 7.30 p.m., but I didn’t see my daughter at the time. As a result, I asked about my daughter’s location with my father-in-law. On further investigation, I discovered that “Shatrughna Baban Meshram, a 21-year-old Zatala resident, kidnapped my daughter and claimed he would contact me”. Unfortunately, he took her away instead of reaching out to me. So I went to the village and looked for my daughter. In the new, under construction Anganwadi building, I spotted my daughter and Shatrughna Meshram. My daughter didn’t have any pants on her. It was next to it. Her private regions were swollen and her face was bitten. My daughter and I went out. Meanwhile, Baban Sambhaji Meshram, a 50-year-old man, arrived. He drove Shatrughna to his residence. I, along with my father-in-law and Vitthal Ghodam, drove my daughter from the hamlet to Kurli to see Dr Jaffar Siddiqui. She was examined by the doctor, who proclaimed her dead. So we went back home”.
- An investigation was conducted after the event was reported, and the following conclusions were made: “–Black and blue coloured markings are apparent on both cheeks, and an injury is visible on the left cheek. In the same way, both lips are bitten. There is also an injury on the chin.” According to the police report, there were further teeth marks on the victim’s stomach area and indications of forced sexual assault.
- Shortly after the crime was reported, the Appellant was detained and a spot panchnama was done. The victim’s whole trouser, pieces of flesh, and adult male chappals were discovered at the site. A medical examination was also performed on the Appellant, which indicated Even though damage to the tip of the glans penis. The extent of the destruction was also confirmed to have happened in less than 24 hours.
- The D.N.A. assessment of the relevant stuff, which included biopsies taken from the victim’s body, clothes, and blood samples, revealed that they are similar and from the same female source, and that they matched the maternal and paternal gene variants present in the deceased’s blood, as per the report.
- Dr Ulhas Digambar Lingawar’s testimony was delivered to the Appellant following the Code’s requirements, and the Appellant declared it untrue. When it was shown to him that the victim’s blood was found on his pants, he responded similarly.
- The main evidence used before the court, in this case, are as follows:
- The victim’s father presented the First Information Report and spoke about the victim’s examination by the doctor. The victim’s grandfather further described how the Appellant had taken the victim with him.
- According to him, the patient was already killed when she was taken to Dr Jaffar, with bruises and wounds all over her body.
- Also, Dr Ulhas Digambar Lingawar testified regarding the Appellant’s medical checkup.
- A grocery store owner, Chandrakant Narayan Bijapwar, was investigated. He claimed that the Accused came to his shop about 7 p.m. on 11.02.2013 and purchased Parle Biscuits and Laxminarayan Chiwada, but he could not recall who was with the Accused at the time. As a result, the witness was labelled hostile.
- The accused was sentenced to life in prison per Section 302 of the IPC and severe imprisonment for 25 years under Section 376A of the Indian Penal Code in this case. The convictions and sentences imposed by the lower courts for offences under the mentioned sections of the IPC, as well as of the POCSO Act, were also upheld by the Court.
- By Section 300 of the IPC, the Court found the Appellant guilty of criminal homicide equivalent to murder. Although the accused person was found guilty of a crime charged under the IPC, the court held that “there was no sufficient motive that would bring the case within any of the first three clauses of Section 300 IPC, the offence in the present case does not deserve the death penalty.”
- The Complainant was found guilty of violating Section 300 of the IPC. According to the Court, capital punishment is only imposed in such cases on a very rare basis. For the victim’s age of 2.5 years, the Court decided that the accused must have known that his sexual assault on her may result in her death or significant injury.
- At the same time, the appellant, could not be proven to have intentionally induced the victim’s demise. Although he is liable for all of the wounds, his conviction under the IPC does not fit within any of Section 300 IPC’s first three clauses.
- The Supreme Court held that “the circumstances are evident, consistent, and decisive in nature, and are of unimpeachable character in showing the guilt of the Appellant,” but it did not rule out other options.
- The sexual assault was harsh, and the Appellant’s conduct was twisted and barbarous, in my judgement. The fact that the Appellant did not purposefully cause any damage to take the victim’s life is, nevertheless, a strong argument in his favour.