The present case is that of Parminder Kaur alias P. P. Kaur alias Soni v. State of Punjab, wherein the bench consisted of J. N. V. Ramana, J. Surya Kant, and J. Krishna Murari. The Supreme Court, ordinarily, does not re-appreciate the evidence. However, in cases where courts below delay with evidence in a mechanical manner, the Court draws an exception.
Brief Facts of the Case
The present case is a criminal appeal. It arises out of the judgment of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. Therein, the Court confirmed the conviction of the Appellant. The Appellant is convicted under Sections 366A and 506 of IPC.
On 24.02.1996 an FIR was recorded against the Appellant. The incident alleged in FIR had happened a week prior. The Appellant called the prosecutrix to her house. Thereafter, the Appellant tried to entice the prosecutrix to engage in illicit intercourse with her tenant. The prosecutrix was confined in a room, bolted from outside. Hearing the screams, prosecutor’s father unlocked the door. The matter was not reported until a week later.
Proceedings at Trial Court
The prosecution examined five witnesses. The age of the prosecutrix was proved by the headmistress of the school. The Appellant examined one witness and offered an alternate version. The Appellant claimed that there was no tenant. And that the case was motivated by revenge. The alternate version was rejected by the trial Court. Thereby, convicted the Appellant.
Proceedings at High Court
Absence of evidence proving enmity between parties, the High Court observed the alternate story as an afterthought. Further, the delay in filing FIR was explained-away as result of family reputation.
Arguments before the Court
It has been submitted that there are many discrepancies in the testimonies of the witnesses. The lack of attempt to catch the tenant, shows that the story is concocted. The statement of the Appellant under Section 313 of CrPC was denied without due consideration. Lastly, the case was registered with a motive of revenge. Per contra, it was submitted that findings of the Trial Court were correct.
The Court analysed the findings of the Trial Court. The Court observed that many aspects were ignored by the Trial Court. With respect to dismissing of reasonable doubts the Court made the following observation:
“It is indisputable that parents would not ordinarily endanger the reputation of their minor daughter merely to falsely implicate their opponents, but such clichés ought not to be the sole basis of dismissing reasonable doubts created and/or defences set out by the accused.”
A more important observation was regarding the delay in filing the FIR. The Court could not accept the fact that a father would delay filing a complaint. Furthermore, it was observed that no medical examination was performed of the victim. Nor was the Panchayat or any social forum approached, till the second incident. The prosecution has acquiesced to disappearance of the tenant. The tenant was about to allegedly commit a sexual offence.
The Court further emphasized on the shoddy investigation. The Court found glaring omission in the maps submitted. The Court referred to Takhaji Hiraji v. Thakore Kubersing Chamansing and others, (2001) 6 SCC 145. The Court therein emphasised on examination of independent witnesses. It stated that non-examination of independent witnesses adversely affects the prosecution’s case.
The Court made observations regarding re-appreciation of evidence. Generally, the SC ought not to re-appreciate evidence. However, the Court made the following observation:
“…where the courts below have dealt with the material record in a cavalier or mechanical manner which is likely to cause gross injustice, then this Court in such exceptional circumstances may justifiably reappraise the evidence to advance the cause of justice. There is no gainsaying that such reassessment ought not to take place routinely and ought not to become substitution of an otherwise plausible view taken by the Courts below.”
The Court found that the prosecutrix stated that there were 2 people when she came out of the room. However, her father stated there were three. Further, the description of the male tenant by the prosecutrix and her father differ. While one witness suggested running after the tenant, another stated no one tried to chase. Additionally, testimonies of the witnesses all differ on the point of FIR. The Court further found inconsistencies.
The Court further observed that an opportunity under Section 313 of CrPC is a valuable right. The Court referred to Reena Hazarika v. State of Assam, (2019) 13 SCC 289, ¶ 19. Therein the Court commented on failure of the trail court to consider Section 313 statement. It stated that failure to apply its mind and consider the defence could endanger the conviction. Hence, due regard must be given to the accused’s alternate version.
The Court held that the prosecution failed to discharge its burden. The burden to prove guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Thereby, they allowed the appeal and set aside the conviction and sentence awarded.
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