DELHI HIGH COURT HOLDS APPELLANTS-ACCUSED GUILTY OF COMMITTING MURDER OF THE DECEASED, BASED ON CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE
Recently, a two Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court comprising of Justice Mukta Gupta and Justice Anish Dayal passed a Judgment dated 23.12.2022 in the cases titled Suraj @ Sonu V. State, Criminal Appeal No. 571 of 2014 and Sonu Dahiya V. State the Govt of NCT of Delhi, Criminal Appeal No. 9 of 2015 and held that based on Circumstantial evidence, the Prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the Appellants – Accused committed the offence of murder of the Deceased.
In the present case, according to the Prosecution, a Police Patrol on 11.02.2011 found a dead body (Deceased) in Ruchi Vihar Forest, Delhi. As per the Rukka Ex. PW-13/A, FIR No.36 of 2011 was registered by PS Vasant Kunj (South). Since, no identity proof was found on the Deceased, a Public Outcry Notice with the photograph of the Deceased was published, which led to his identification as one, Bansidhar Patra by his office colleagues. Further investigation revealed (i) the involvement of the labour contractors employed with the Deceased’s Employer (M/s Saundraya Decorators) and (ii) subsequent recovery of mobile phone and ATM cards of the Deceased from the Appellants-Accused, Suraj and Sonu Dahiya.
The investigation was concluded, and Charge-Sheet was filed against the Appellants-Accused, whereby, various charges were framed against them, under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) (Punishment for murder) / Sec 201 of IPC (Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) / Sec 34 of IPC (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention). The Appellants pleaded not guilty of such Charges.
Trial Court Proceedings:
After conclusion of trial, the Trial Court, Delhi passed a Judgment dated 28.02.2014 convicting the Appellants for offences punishable under Section 302 / Sec 201 / Sec 34 of the IPC and thereby passed an Order dated 05.03.2014 sentencing the Appellants to life imprisonment for the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC and rigorous imprisonment for two years for the offence punishable under Section 201 IPC, wherein both the sentences were concurrent in nature. Aggrieved by the Trial Court Orders dated 28.02.2014 and 05.03.2014, the Appellants filed two Appeals before the Delhi High Court.
Whether the Trial Court of Delhi was correct in sentencing the Appellants-Accused to life imprisonment under Sec 302 IPC and rigorous imprisonment for two years under Sec 201 IPC?
High Court Observations:
The High Court passed Judgment dated 23.12.2022 and made the following observations:
- Based on an analysis of the Claims made by the Parties and the evidence that was on record, the High Court observed that as per the testimony of PW-6, the Doctor who conducted the Post-Mortem of the Deceased stated that the cause of death was asphyxia and that all injuries were ante mortem in nature i.e. occurred before death. Therefore, the Deceased’s death was established as homicidal in nature.
- Further, according to testimony of PW-3, the Project Manager for the Company where the Deceased worked, the Deceased departed at 6 p.m. and said he would return, but at around 8.30 p.m., when he contacted the Deceased, the latter mentioned that he was at Accused- Sonu Dahiya’s residence and would return shortly. In yet another call between 10.00 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. that PW 3 received from the Deceased, the latter mentioned that he would not come to the Mahipalpur Office and would go directly to the site. These calls are said to be fully corroborated by the Call Detail Record (CDR) of the Deceased.
- Thereafter, “The recovery from Sonu Dahiya was of six tablets of Alpraquil Ex. PW-28/F and his disclosure that he used two of the tablets to mix in the drink of the deceased. The post mortem report dated 8th August, 2011 Ex. PW-29/E confirms the presence of alprazolam along with ethyl alcohol in the stomach, intestine, liver, spleen, kidney and blood of the deceased. The deceased’s Nokia mobile phone was seized vide a seizure memo Ex. PW-28/H from appellant Sonu Dahiya with the IMEI No.358290034757208 which matches with the IMEI number mentioned in the CDR of the deceased i.e. 358290034757200. And, the election card of the deceased Ex. PW-28/G-1 was also seized vide a seizure memo Ex. PW-28/G from the appellant Sonu Dahiya”.
- Additionally, two ATM cards were also recovered from Accused-Suraj of Axis Bank and Indian Overseas Bank (Ex. PW-28/J). Most significantly, Rs. 68,000/- was taken out of the Deceased’s Bank Account using his ATM cards. This is supported by the Axis Bank Ex. PW-30/L Bank Account Statement and the testimony of PW-7, the Assistant Manager of Axis Bank, which shows a total withdrawal of Rs. 68,000 between 02.02.2011 and 14.02.2011. The said evidence was corroborated with the CCTV footage.
- That the High Court observed that “The prosecution has, therefore, been able to successfully complete the chain of circumstantial evidence inter alia on the basis of last heard evidence, corroboration by CDRs, non-reporting at work by the deceased and Sonu Dahiya, apprehension by the police of the appellants together, recoveries of the Alpraquil tablets, recovery of the mobile phone, election and ATM cards of the deceased, the withdrawal of Rs.68,000/- from the Axis Bank debit card of the deceased, the presence of appellant Suraj @ Sonu in the CCTV footage and recovery of the clothes of the deceased at the pointing out of the appellants”.
Thus, based on the aforesaid reasonings and upon examining the records of the case, the Delhi High Court passed a Judgment dated 23.12.2022 and held that based on circumstantial evidence, the Prosecution had proved that the Appellants – Accused committed murder of the Deceased, beyond reasonable doubt. Thus, the High Court upheld the Trial Court’s Order of Conviction and Order of Sentence dated 28.02.2014 and 05.03.2014 respectively. As a result, the High Court dismissed the Appeals filed by the Appellants-Accused.
5th Year, ICFAI Law School
Intern, The Indian Lawyer