Circumstantial evidence was proved = Though the prosecution case is premised on circumstantial evidence in the absence of any eyewitness, the depositions of prosecution witnesses which have stood the rigour of cross­examination clearly support the prosecution version and establishes enmity between the accused and the deceased. This fact supported by PW1’s last seen evidence, her prompt 10 complaint to the police and the forensic evidence which correlates the recovered weapon to the physical injuries on the body of the deceased proves the prosecution case beyond any reasonable doubt independent of the extrajudicial confession.

Hon’ble Mr. Justice N.V. Ramana

NON­REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1990 OF 2012
SADAYAPPAN @ GANESAN …APPELLANT
VERSUS
STATE, REPRESENTED BY …RESPONDENT
INSPECTOR OF POLICE
J U D G M E N T
N.V. RAMANA, J.

  1. This appeal is directed against the Judgment dated
    13th December, 2011 passed by the High Court of
    Judicature at Madras in Criminal Appeal No. 346 of 2011
    whereby the Division Bench of the High Court dismissed
    the appeal preferred by the appellant herein and upheld
    his conviction and sentence passed by the Trial Court for
    the offence punishable under Section 302 read with
    Section 34, IPC.
  2. Prosecution case in brief is that Selvam @ Thangaraj
    (deceased), Karuppusamy (A1) and Sadayappan @
    Ganesan (A2/appellant herein) were neighbouring
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    agricultural land owners in the village of Kandavayal who
    used to go together for hunting of rabbits in the nearby
    forest area. Around 15 years prior to the incident, the
    deceased Thangaraj had negotiated to buy some
    agricultural land from A1 and paid him Rs. 30,000/­
    towards the sale value and took possession of the said
    land. However, despite repeated requests, A1 had never
    come forward for registering the sale deed in favour of the
    deceased. Owing to this, A1 and the deceased developed
    animosity towards each other. A2—appellant herein is the
    adjacent landowner who always supported A1 in avoiding
    registration of the sale deed. Despite animosity against
    the deceased, A1 and A2 kept on going to the forest for
    hunting along with him. On May 27, 2008 at about 11
    p.m., both A1 and A2 went to the house of deceased and
    insisted that he accompany them to the fields/forest.
    Eventually, the deceased went with them hesitatingly.
    When the deceased did not return home till 4 am in the
    morning, his wife—Rajammal (PW1) sent one Palanisamy
    (PW2—brother of the deceased) and Govindarajan (PW3—
    nephew of the deceased) to search for her husband. PWs
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    2 and 3, while searching for the deceased, found his dead
    body near the fields with bleeding injuries. They
    immediately rushed to PW1 and informed her of the
    same.
  3. On a complaint given by PW1, the Sub­Inspector of
    Police (PW14) at Sirumugai Police Station registered the
    crime under Section 302, IPC and Section 25 (1B)(a) of
    the Indian Arms Act against the accused. The Assistant
    Commissioner of Police (PW15—Pandian) took up the
    investigation and after completing the formalities of
    holding inquest and preparing inquest report (Ext. P21),
    sent the body of the deceased for post­mortem. On
    August 29, 2008 the accused appeared before the Village
    Administrative Officer (VAO) and confessed to committing
    the crime. When the VAO produced the accused with
    their confessional statements, the I.O. arrested them and
    at their instance recovered material objects including
    Single Barrel Muzzle Loading Gun (MO1), torch light with
    battery, blood stained and normal soil, torn clothes,
    lungi, towel etc. and sent them for chemical analysis.
    Subsequently, the learned Judicial Magistrate committed
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    the case to the Principal District and Sessions Judge,
    Coimbatore who framed charges against the accusedappellant under Section 302 read with Section 34, IPC.
    The appellant denied the charges and claimed to be tried.
  4. After an elaborate trial, the Trial Judge opined that
    the circumstantial evidence correlates with the accused
    and clearly proves that owing to prior enmity, A1 and A2,
    in furtherance of their common intention, committed the
    murder of the deceased with a gun shot from the
    unauthorized gun owned by accused­appellant. The Trial
    Court thereby found both the accused guilty and
    accordingly convicted the appellant herein under Section
    302 read with Section 34, IPC and sentenced him to life
    imprisonment and also to pay a fine of Rs. 10,000 vide
    order dated 18.05.2011. Both the accused preferred an
    appeal before the High Court which was dismissed vide
    order dated December 13, 2011. Aggrieved thereby, both
    the accused preferred separate appeals before this Court.
    It is pertinent to state that the appeal of the A1 stood
    abated owing to his death during its pendency. Thus, we
    are now concerned only with the appeal preferred by A2.
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  5. Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant
    contended that the courts below have incorrectly relied on
    the testimonies of interested witnesses who are relatives
    of the deceased. He submitted that the chain of
    circumstances connecting the appellant to the crime is
    incomplete. He further submitted that the courts below
    erred in holding that the appellant had motive to commit
    the alleged crime and shared a common intention with
    A1, inasmuch as the land dispute between A1 and the
    victim had already been settled amicably in the
    panchayat. He argued that A1, A2 and the victim were on
    friendly terms thereafter which is reinforced from the fact
    that they used to go to the forest for hunting together.
  6. Learned counsel appearing for the State, however,
    supported the judgment of the High Court and submitted
    that there was no occasion for this Court to interfere with
    it.
  7. We have heard the learned counsels for the parties
    and meticulously perused the material on record.
  8. Admittedly, the deceased, A1 and A2 (appellant
    herein) were neighbouring agricultural landowners and
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    used to go for hunting together. Further, there is no
    denial of the fact that around 15 years prior to the date of
    incident, the deceased and A1 had entered into a deal
    through which land was sold to the deceased, but the
    same was never registered. Additionally, record shows
    that A2—the appellant herein, whose land was adjacent
    to that of A1, always supported A1 in the matter of
    delaying the registration of land in favour of the deceased.
    This is the factual matrix of enmity between the accused
    and the deceased which serves as motive for the offence.
    Despite this, the deceased kept on going to the forest for
    hunting with the accused persons. These facts are
    abundantly clear from the testimonies of PWs 1, 2, 3, 4
    and 6.
  9. Further, PW1 – wife of the deceased (complainant),
    who is the witness to the last seen, supported the
    prosecution version and deposed that two days prior to
    the incident she had pressed A1 to register the land, but
    he kept quiet and went away. She further stated that
    owing to this pre­existing enmity, the accused persons
    were motivated to eliminate her husband. Thus, on the
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    fateful night, the accused had come, armed, to take the
    deceased along with them to the forest, a request which
    was acceded to by the deceased hesitatingly.
  10. With respect to the deposition of PWs 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6
    which firmly establish the prosecution version, the
    learned counsel for the appellant contended that they are
    inter­related and interested witnesses, thus, making their
    evidence unreliable.
  11. Criminal law jurisprudence makes a clear distinction
    between a related and interested witness. A witness
    cannot be said to be an “interested” witness merely by
    virtue of being a relative of the victim. The witness may
    be called “interested” only when he or she derives some
    benefit from the result of a litigation in the decree in a
    civil case, or in seeing an accused person punished. [See:
    Sudhakar v. State, (2018) 5 SCC 435].
  12. In the case at hand, witnesses maybe related but
    they cannot be labelled as interested witnesses. A
    scrutiny of their testimonies which has stood the rigour of
    cross­examination corroborates the prosecution story.
  13. PW2—brother of the deceased and PW3—nephew of
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    the deceased, clearly deposed that when they came to
    know from PW1 that the deceased did not turn up after
    leaving home at 11 pm on the previous night, they went
    in search of him and found his dead body in ‘Vaalaithope’.
    Similarly, PW4 – another nephew of the deceased has also
    deposed that upon coming to know from his brother—
    PW3 about the death of his uncle, he along with his
    mother went to ‘Vaalaithope’ where they found the dead
    body of the deceased. PW6—another nephew of the
    deceased also deposed in his statement that when he
    went to Sirumugai Police Station he saw the accused
    persons there and witnessed their confessional
    statements recorded by the police. He also stated that he
    accompanied the police with the accused to the place of
    occurrence where normal and blood stained mud was
    collected, and that he signed the observation Mahazar
    (Ex.P7).
  14. Going by the corroborative statements of these
    witnesses, it is discernible that though they are related to
    each other and to the deceased as well, their evidence
    cannot be discarded by simply labelling them as
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    “interested” witnesses. After thoroughly scrutinizing their
    evidence, we do not find any direct or indirect interest of
    these witnesses to get the accused punished by falsely
    implicating him so as to meet out any vested interest. We
    are, therefore, of the considered view that the evidences of
    PWs 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 are quite reliable and we see no
    reason to disbelieve them.
  15. With respect to forensic evidence, Dr. T. Jeya Singh
    (PW12), who conducted post mortem on the body of the
    deceased, found prominent injures on the body of the
    deceased and opined that the deceased died due to shock
    and haemorrhage from multiple injuries (perforating and
    penetrating) which were possible due to piercing of
    pellets. The post mortem report and chemical analysis
    report confirms the gun shot and proves that the gun
    powder discovered on the body and clothes of the
    deceased was the residue of the gun (MO1). The
    ownership of this gun (MO1), which was discovered on
    the basis of his extra­judicial confession, has not been
    disputed by the appellant in his Section 313 Cr.P.C.
    statement.
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  16. The counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant
    agitated the genuineness and admissibility of the extrajudicial confession of the accused on the basis of which
    recovery of gun (MO1) was made. He questioned the same
    on the basis of absence of the examination of the VAO
    who allegedly recorded the same. It is to be noted that the
    record indicates that the VAO could not be examined due
    to his death before the commencement of the trial.
    However, it is clear that the said confessional statement,
    was sent by the VAO to the Inspector of Police along with
    a covering letter (Ext. P14). Moreover, the Village
    Assistant—PW11, even though turned hostile, had
    specifically deposed that the said extra judicial confession
    was recorded by the VAO.
  17. Though the prosecution case is premised on
    circumstantial evidence in the absence of any eyewitness, the depositions of prosecution witnesses which
    have stood the rigour of cross­examination clearly
    support the prosecution version and establishes enmity
    between the accused and the deceased. This fact
    supported by PW1’s last seen evidence, her prompt
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    complaint to the police and the forensic evidence which
    correlates the recovered weapon to the physical injuries
    on the body of the deceased proves the prosecution case
    beyond any reasonable doubt independent of the extrajudicial confession.
  18. Thus, the High Court was justified in upholding the
    conviction of the appellant and did not commit any
    illegality in passing the impugned judgment which merits
    interference. Therefore, the appeal being devoid of merit
    stands dismissed.
    ……………………………….……..J.
    (N. V. RAMANA)
    ………………………………………J.
    (MOHAN M. SHANTANAGOUDAR)
    NEW DELHI;
    APRIL 26, 2019.
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