SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS THE CONVICTION OF THE ACCUSED AS THE PROSECUTION PROVED STRONG CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE AGAINST THE ACCUSED
Recently, a two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice M.R. Shah and Justice C.T. Ravikumar, passed a Judgment dated 19.01.2023 in the case titled John Anthonisamy @ John v. State, Rep. by the Inspector of Police, Criminal Appeal No. 466 of 2017 and upheld the conviction of the Appellant-Accused (A-1) as he was convicted by the Ld. Trial Court on the basis of strong circumstances that were proved against A-1 by the Prosecution, and on the basis of A-1’s so-called confession statement received by the Police.
In the present case, as per the Prosecution, one, Mr. Kunjan (‘Deceased’) and one, John Anthonisam (‘A-1’) were employed as a driver by Prosecution Witness (PW) 1 who owned a Taxi bearing Regn. No. TN41P5856. On 26.06.2006 at about 06.30 a.m., the Deceased left his house after informing his wife i.e. PW 3. Thereafter, he did not return home. It was alleged that all the 5 Accused persons including A-1 had planned to hire the said Taxi driven by the Deceased for going to Udumalpet on 23.05.2006. Accordingly, the Deceased came in the Taxi to Thermutti Bus Stop. Then, the Deceased along with the Accused Persons proceeded towards Udumalpet in the said Taxi. The Accused asked the Deceased to stop the Taxi at an isolated place nearby Ammapatti village. As soon as the Taxi came to a halt, suddenly A-2 came to strangulate the Deceased by the neck which resulted in the death of the Deceased. All five Accused put the dead body of the Deceased into a pit and buried him. Thereafter, all five Accused ran away from the scene of the occurrence in the same Taxi.
Thereafter, PW-1 tried to contact the Deceased on 26.06.2006 over the phone, but his phone was found switched off. Then, PW-1 went to the house of the Deceased and informed PW 1’s Wife, PW-3 that after 26.06.2006 at about 6.30 am, the Deceased was not seen. After the search, the Deceased was not found and therefore, PW-1 made a Complaint at Pollachi Town East Police Station, Coimbatore District and the Police registered a case as Crime No. 363/2006 under Section 406 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) (Criminal Breach of Trust).
Thereafter, PW-11 started the investigation and recorded the statement of the relevant witnesses but later closed the case on 04.02.2007. The Learned Magistrate accepted the Closure Report. However, on 30.12.2007, PW-22, the former employer of A-1, went to the Police Station and handed over a Letter dated 29.12.2007 which was alleged to be written by A-1, wherein A-1 asked for monetary help from PW-22. Based on it, the investigation began and as per the statement of A-1, the place where the Taxi was hidden and the dead body was buried was recovered by the Police. The Police Officer (‘PW-30’) altered the case from ‘Criminal Breach of Trust’ under Section 406 IPC to one under Sections 302 IPC (Punishment for murder) and 396 IPC (Dacoity with murder).
Thereafter, during the investigation, based on the Disclosure Statement of A-1, PW-30 recovered the Taxi without the engine and the gearbox as identified by A-1. On completion of the investigation, PW-30 filed the Charge Sheet against all the Accused including A-1.
The case was committed to the Learned Sessions Judge, Court for Trial of Bomb Blast Cases, Coimbatore (‘Trial Court’). On appreciation of evidence, the Learned Trial Court convicted the A-1 (‘Appellant’) vide Judgment and Order dated 22.07.2014.
Feeling aggrieved by the Order and Judgment dated 22.07.2014 passed by the Learned Trial Court, the Appellant preferred a Criminal Appeal No. 171/2015 before the High Court of Madras. The High Court dismissed the said Appeal vide Judgment and Order dated 22.07.2016 and confirmed the Conviction and Sentence imposed by the Ld. Trial Court for the offences punishable under Sections 302 IPC (Punishment for murder) read with 201 IPC (Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender).
Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the Judgment and Order dated 22.07.2016 passed by the High Court of Madras, the Appellant preferred an Appeal before the Supreme Court of India.
Submissions of the Parties
The Ld. Counsel on behalf of the Accused submitted that the Ld. Trial Court, as well as the High Court, had convicted the Accused based on the confessional statement / extra-judicial confession which only establishes possession of stolen goods and it does not implicate the Accused of committing murder. Further, the place of burial was not discovered from A-1’s confessional statement but it was discovered already from A-2’s confession and extra-judicial confession. Thus, the Prosecution failed to establish the guilt of the Accused beyond reasonable doubt and/or to substantiate each link to sustain his conviction.
The Ld. Counsel appearing on behalf of the State contended that A-1 has shown the place of burial and also identified the Deceased’s body and the same has been proved by the Prosecution. Further, the stolen car was also recovered based on the Disclosure Statement made by the A-1. Moreover, based on the disclosure statement of the A-1, the engine and gearbox were found to be in the custody of the PW-17, who had purchased the said parts of the Taxi from A-1. Therefore, no error had been committed by the Trial Court and the High Court in convicting the Accused.
Supreme Court Observations:
The Apex Court passed a Judgment dated 19.01.2023 and made the following observations in this case:
1) That as per the Appellant’s contentions, A-1 had been convicted based on his confessional statement which was found in the Letter dated 29.12.2007. However, from the Judgment and Order passed by the Ld. Trial Court as well as the High Court, it cannot be said that the Appellant has been convicted based on his confessional statement, as the same had not to be proved.
2) In fact, the conviction of A-1 has been based upon the strong circumstances that have been proved by the Prosecution against A-1:
i) That on 04.02.2007, the case was closed, but the communication/Letter dated 29.12.2007 received by the Police on 30.12.2007 was the cause for reopening the said case. Thereafter during the Investigation, A-1 disclosed the place where he had buried the dead body of the Deceased. The dead body was dug up from the place identified by A-1 which proves that the Accused had exclusive knowledge of the place where the dead body was buried.
ii) That the Police recovered the Taxi that was stolen by A-1, from PW 16, to whom the A-1 had sold the Taxi. The said information was also disclosed by A-1 himself. Hence, it was another strong circumstance that had successfully been proved by the Prosecution against A-1.
iii) That the Prosecution had successfully proved that the engine and gearbox which were sold by the Appellant-A1 to PW-17, were duly recovered from PW-17. The said information was again derived from A-1’s disclosure.
iv) Thus, the Trial Court convicted A-1 and the High Court confirmed such conviction, based on the aforementioned strong circumstances proved against A-1, and not based on A-1’s so-called confession statement received by the Police in Letter dated 29.12.2007.
Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, the Supreme Court vide Judgment dated 19.01.2023, held that the Prosecution had proved the case against the A-1 beyond reasonable doubt and that A-1 had failed to adduce any evidence to prove his innocence. Thus, the Apex Court upheld the Trial Court Judgment dated 22.07.2014 and the High Court Judgment dated 22.07.2016 and thereby, confirmed the conviction of A-1. As a result, the Appeal filed by A-1 was dismissed.
The Indian Lawyer