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This article has been written by Prakhar Prabhat Srivastav. 

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar

Introduction

In accordance with the established procedure of law, in order to make a person liable for commission of an act prohibited by law i.e., a criminal act one must establish the fundamental principle of criminal liability according to which there must be a wrongful act accompanied by a wrongful intention. This cardinal principle is incorporated in the Latin maxim “actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea, which states that an act alone is not guilty unless accompanied by a guilty mind” and is further reiterated by Honorable Supreme Court time and again in the cases before it.

Thus, intention is an indispensable part of a crime. Intention as defined by Honorable Supreme Court is “the conscious exercise of mental faculties of a person to do an act, for the purpose of accomplishing or satisfying a purpose”. However, in certain cases there can be more than one person involved for the purpose of satisfying the purpose that ultimately led to formulation of the concept of common intention which means “a pre-oriented plan and acting in pursuance to that plan” and it requires a pre-arranged plan and pre-supposes the prior consent, therefore there must be prior meeting of minds in order to establish the ingredient of common intention. 

Throughout the course of this case commentary on Murugan v. State of Tamil Nadu, I will try to examine the essential aspects of the incident that made the court to upheld the conviction of the appellant due to the presence of chain of events against the appellant without any break that made it the case of common intention.

Essential details of the case

Citation: (2018) 16 SCC 96 

Court: Hon’ble Supreme Court of India 

Appellant(s):  Murugan 

Respondent(s): State of Tamil Nadu

Bench: R.K. Agrawal, Abhay Manohar Sapre 

Date of Judgement: May 02, 2018

Concerned statutes and provisions: Section 364 and 302/34 of the Indian Penal Code1860, Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code 1973 and Article 136 of the Constitution of India 

Counsel for appellant(s): Chitrangda Rastravara

Counsel for respondent(s): M. Yogesh Kanna

Present Status: Judgement stands

Facts of the case

One man who was of the name Kumar (since dead) was the uncle of a girl named Geetha who at the time of offence was a small girl studying in sixth standard whereas Kumar was a married man living separately from his wife. They used to live in a same locality at a short distance and with time Kumar had developed liking for Geetha and wanted to marry her but the father of Geetha, Murugan was not happy with the Kumar’s proposal of marrying Geetha. He used to say that Kumar had already ruined the life of his wife and is now trying to ruin her daughter’s life as well. Kumar on the other hand used to threaten Geetha that he will kidnap and marry her.

On 01/12/2002, during the afternoon when Geetha was alone at house, Kumar went to her house and asked for chili that he needed to cook the mutton to which Geetha denied but he entered the house, took chili on his own and while leaving he again threatened her by saying that one day, he will kidnap her and rape her and on the same day around 10 P.M. Kumar along with his cousin brother Murugan (appellant in this case) went to his house to invite Geetha’s father for a drink and non-veg. dinner at his house. Geetha’s father accepted the invitation and went along with them to their house. When he did not return to the house by 11 P.M., Geetha alone went to Kumar’s house to enquire about her father. On reaching at Kumar’s place, she found the trio sitting on an iron cot and dining together in the room and she was told that her father will be back to home shortly but since her father didn’t return home till the next day morning, she along with her mother Saroja went to Kumar’s house to find the reason behind the delay in return. They found the front door of Kumar’s house closed on arriving there, therefore both of them pushed the front door and when the door opened, they found Murugan’s (Geetha’s father) dead body lying in the room near the iron cot with multiple injuries on his body.

The above chain of incidents led to the filing of FIR dated 02/12/2002 by Geetha which was registered as a crime under sections 302/364/34 of IPC, it led to the arrest of Kumar and appellant on 03/12/2002 and on completion of investigation a chargesheet was filed by the police against Kumar and the appellant and the case was then committed to Additional sessions judge but before the commencement of the trial main accused Kumar died that abated the trial against him but the trial against the co-accused continued and the prosecution succeeded to prove the charges against him that led to his conviction under section 364 and 302 read along with section 34 of IPC, that awarded him life imprisonment under section 302 and seven years punishment under section 364 accompanied by a fine amount of Rs 5000 and Rs 1000 respectively.

The appellant aggrieved by the order of learned additional sessions judge approached the High Court of Judicature at Madras through criminal appeal but his appeal was dismissed by the High Court and the order passed by additional sessions judge was upheld.

This appeal is filed against the final order passed by the High Court of Judicature at Madras on 25/04/2007 that dismissed the appeal and upheld the orders passed by additional sessions judge.

Issues of the case

  • Whether the sentence awarded to the accused justified in light of the chain of circumstances of the particular case?
  • Whether the concerned provisions of the statute were rightly interpreted while deciding the case?
  • Whether the prosecution examined the evidence with due diligence?
  • Whether any piece of relevant evidence was not considered by the courts below or there existed any perversity or absurdity in findings of the court below?

Concerned rules

Honorable Supreme Court of India “has the authority to grant in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India” but normally the Apex court does not interfere with the concurrent findings of the trial court and High Court unless there is sufficient ground to do so and specially with respect to criminal cases Supreme Court held that “it will grant special leave only if there has been gross miscarriage of justice or departure from legal procedure, such as, which vitiates the whole trial or if the finding of the fact were such as shocking to the judicial conscience of the court”. Thus, in order to gain relief from the Apex Court through special appeal against the orders of the subordinate court and the high court, the convict must have enough evidence to highlight the gross miscarriage of justice.

According to Indian Penal Code “whosoever commits murder should be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable for fine” and there must be direct or circumstantial evidence leading to inescapable conclusion that the person had died and that the accused are the persons who had committed the murder. Further, “when a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of a common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone” hence, “if two or more persons, with common intention to commit murder participated in the acts done in furtherance of that common intention, would be all guilty of murder”.

According to Indian Penal Code, “whoever kidnaps or abducts any person in order that such person may be murdered or may be so disposed of as to be put in danger of being mur­dered, shall be punished with imprisonment for life or rigor­ous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine” and this section is applicable if a person has been abducted with the intention to be murdered and in such cases if the person abducted is done to death, it is for the accused to explain, to the satisfaction of the court, the way he dealt with the victim. In absence of such an explanation, the court may presume that the abductor has caused the death thus, diverging it from the cardinal rule of criminal law according to which the burden of proof lies on the prosecution whereas the accused is assumed to be innocent till proven guilty.

Analysis of the facts 

In order to make an overt act or omission punishable by law, prosecution must establish a presence of intention to commit or omit that offence and from the circumstantial chain of evidence in the discussed case, we can clearly infer that Kumar had a grudge against Murugan (deceased) because he had denied Kumar’s proposal to marry his daughter Geetha and his evil intention can also be inferred from his threatening remarks against Geetha wherein he warned that he will forcefully marry her and will kidnap and rape her.

The prosecution further proved that Kumar along with the appellant (Murugan) went to Geetha’s house to invite her father (deceased), who in turn accepted the invitation and went to his house to have dinner with Kumar and the appellant, and also as both Kumar and appellant were cousins and knew each other very well, thus it’s easy to infer the possibility of them having the prior common intention to murder the deceased and therefore they can be made liable for punishment under section 302/34.

The fact that Geetha had gone to Kumar’s house around 11 P.M. to look for her father and on reaching there she found Kumar, his father and the appellant sitting on the iron cot and having dinner and according to postmortem report the deceased was killed between 11 P.M.-12 P.M., the appellant during the cross examination was not able to disprove the circumstances deposed against him but only kept denying his involvement in the crime thus, we can infer that the deceased was in the company of the appellant and Kumar when killed.

The invitation to deceased by Kumar and appellant with the intention to abduct him and murder him concurrently and the appellant’s failure to establish the fact that he was not involved in the crime attracted punishment enshrined in section 364 of IPC.

The eight circumstances, beginning with the motive against the deceased due to his disagreement over Kumar’s proposal to marry his daughter Geetha, followed by the close relation between the appellant and Kumar being cousins, the next being their combined visit to deceased’s house to invite him for dinner to Kumar’s house, then the establishment of fact by Geetha that the trio (Kumar, appellant and the deceased) had dinner at Kumar’s house followed by Murugan’s immediate death after dinner then, Kumar’s confessional statement followed by the recovery of weapon and cloths at the instance of Kumar and the dead body found lying near the iron cot where the trio had last dinner with Kumar and the appellant constituted a chain of event against the appellant that made it easier for the court to draw a strong conclusion against Kumar and appellant for having committed the murder of accused.

The finding of the Apex court was similar to that of the subordinate court and the High court and the appellant the convict must have enough evidence to highlight the gross miscarriage of justice and therefore was not successful in gaining relief through special petition in accordance with Article 136 of the constitution of India.

Conclusion

Thus, from the discussions above we can infer that it was a case of common intention of two accused persons who killed the deceased and appellant’s failure to prove his innocence beyond reasonable doubt and the prosecution’s success in establishing a chain of circumstantial evidence against the appellant without any break accompanied by the theory of accused last seen in the company of the deceased strengthened the stance taken by the subordinate court and the High court, that rightly led to the dismissal of appeal filed by the appellant.


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