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Calcutta High Court frees a 72-year-old convicted for murder after over 13 years in prison

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Facts of the Case

In 2006, appellants Kabita Pyne and Sanjib Das filed a Criminal Appeal (CRA) against the judgement passed on 12th and 13th of July 2006, wherein Sanjib Das (CRA 477) and Kabita Pyne were convicted under Sections 302/34/201, i.e. life under imprisonment for murder of Kabita Pyne’s husband Tapas Pyne on 3rd September 1996. The appellants were also charged under Section 201/34 according to which they called the doctor to examine the deceased under false pretence. The conviction was based on the confession of Ipsita Pyne, daughter of the accused and a juvenile in conflict with the law.

The prosecution’s case rests on the testimonies of the neighbours that was corroborated by the testimony of the daughter. However, Ipsita has withdrawn the testimony since then which calls to question the entire judgement according to the appellants’ counsel. In 2006, the appellants pleaded not guilty and after the conviction, they appealed to the Calcutta High Court.

Arguments of the Counsel

The Prosecution states that the Court should dismiss the appeal on these grounds:

  • Kabita Pyne’s neighbours had testified that there was a matrimonial dispute between Kabita Pyne and the deceased.
  • According to the retracted confession of Ipsita Pyne, on 3rd of September 1996, Tapas Pyne was assaulted by Kabita Pyne’s deceased son Mriganko and daughter Ipsita along with Mriganko’s friends to force him to sign a transfer of property deed.
  • Other corroborating evidence is the fact that both the appellants were present in the house as well as the seizure of incriminating articles; the murder weapon (a screwdriver and wooden stick), and a blood-stained deed with Tapas Pyne’s handwriting.
  • Anita Seal, sister of the deceased also testified that she witnessed injuries on her brother’s body.
  • On the examination of the body of the deceased, the body showed abrasions on the arms, legs and the head. There is no evidence that the deceased got the injuries due to accidentally falling from the stairs.
  • Ipsita Pyne’s testimony also suggested that it was upon Kabita Pyne’s bidding that they forced the deceased to sign the deed of transfer.

The counsel on the behalf of Kabita Pyne argued that her conviction was based on her daughter’s confessional statement that has been retracted.

  • Quoting the case “Kashmira Singh Vs. State of M.P., AIR 1952 SC 159”, the counsel states the Supreme Court Judgement that upholds a retracted confession cannot be used with aby other corroborating evidence on record. Apart from the aforementioned confessional statement, there is no other material evidence on record proving the involvement of the appellant in the death of her husband. Sanjib Das’ counsel makes the same argument.
  • On the testimonies of various witnesses, the counsel contended that “none of them had seen the accused actually assault the victim
  • The heart of the deceased was enlarged and alcohol was present in his system. The Medical Expert expressed doubt on whether the death was homicidal or not.
  • The M.E did not think that the injuries were sufficient for causing death and he could have fallen off the stairs.
  • According to the retracted statement, the deceased was drunk and tried to assault his son. His son retaliated and as the conflict became physical, his friends Sanjib and Prasun also held him back. After the repeated assault, the deceased fell to the ground. Kabita Pyne showed concern after her husband fell to the ground. Therefore, the intention to kill cannot be proved.
  • On the appeal of Sanjib Das, the counsel argues that none of the witnesses saw him at the crime scene and the prosecution has no independent evidence vis-i-vis his role. Therefore, he must be acquitted.
  • The charges under Section 201/34 of giving false information cannot be proved as the person in question, Rana who called the doctor was never cross-examined.

The Court’s Judgement: Converting the conviction

The Division Bench was presided by Justice Suvra Ghosh and Justice Joymalya Bagchi. After carefully examining the evidence and the arguments of the counsel, they converted the conviction recorded against Kabita Pyne from Sec 302/34 IPC to under Sec 304(1)/34. The conviction of Sanjib Das was set aside.

The judge stated, “Kabita has already suffered rigorous imprisonment for 14 years. Hence, the sentence imposed upon her is converted to one already undertaken….

[googlepdf url=”” download=”Download Judgement PDF” width=”100%” height=”900″]

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