GURU DUTT PATHAK v. STATE OF U.P

BY:-Dhruti Dewangan

In the Supreme Court of India

NAME OF THE CASEGuru Dutt Pathak vs. State of Uttar Pradesh
CITATIONCriminal Appeal No. 502 of 2015
DATE OF THE CASE6 May 2021
APPELLANTGuru Dutt Pathak
RESPONDENTThe State of Uttar Pradesh
BENCH/JUDGEJustice D. Y. Chandrachud & Justice M.R. Shah
STATUES / CONSTITUTION INVOLVEDIndian Penal Code, 1860 & Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
IMPORTANT SECTIONS/ ARTICLESIndian Penal Code, 1860 – Sect. 34 and 302   Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 – Sect. 378

ABSTRACT

In the incident at hand, Pradhan of the village was on his way to the Yamuna River, which is close to his area, to answer nature’s call. The accused appeared out of nowhere from the Bajra field, armed with weapons and guns, and assaulted the deceased, who was shot dead on the scene. Following this, the victim’s son filed an F.I.R. against all the other defendants, which the Investigating Officer recorded. He submitted a charge sheet against one of the defendants, whereas the other three fled. The guilty were acquitted first by learned Trial Court, but the state filed suit in the Allahabad High Court of Judicature, which approved the appeal and overturned the learned Trial Court’s ruling, convicting the accused. The Accused filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the judgement of the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad.

INTRODUCTION

In the present case, it was held that when several defendants accused are confirmed to be credible and valid, the Supreme Court recently underlined that the state’s case is not jeopardised by the absence of eyewitnesses. Let us first see what is an eye witness.

An eyewitness is someone who has personally witnessed a crime. A criminal victim, on the other hand, can be an eyewitness. As a result, in court, an eyewitness is critical in distinguishing among facts and accusations or assertions made by both sides. People at the scene are those who testify about what they saw during the occurrence.

Their account frequently confirms the incident’s facts. When looking at judicial rulings, it becomes clear that eyewitnesses have played a central and vitally important role in the identification, arrest, and sentencing of offenders from the beginning of law enforcement. The mind is adept and flawless at capturing, storing, and retrieval of information about occurrences, which is the basic assumption for accepting eyewitness statements as significant evidence.

It is frequently questioned whether the three-tiered judicial system is required or not for the nation’s court system to function properly. The firm foundation and demonstrated utility of the courts demonstrate that a large country like India requires this current system of judicial procedure to provide the finest possible justice to its citizens. One High Court Judge, meanwhile, does not have the legal authority or power to override the judgement of another High Court judge, nor does one full bench of a High Court have the legal authority to override the decision of another Division Bench of the same Court.

An appeal, on the other hand, is when a person who has lost a case in an appeals court requests a higher court to re-examine the judgement of the trial court. India has emphasised that an acquittal can be reversed only if the Trial Court’s decision is not only incorrect but also irrational and contradictory.

It was held in this case that the High Court is authorised in intervening with and reversing an order of acquittal if the Trial Court erred in pronouncing judgement with facts on record that is admissible or misunderstanding the evidence. By Section 378 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the High Court has the jurisdiction to overturn a trial court’s decision if the conclusions were erroneous or it was required in the interests of justice.

FACTS OF THE CASE

According to the evidence, the deceased worked as the Pradhan of the region for more than 2 decades. The defendants had hatred against him. On the morning, the deceased was heading to the Yamuna River bed near his hamlet to heed to the call of nature, as was his custom. So, when the deceased arrived near Basic School, the 4 defendants appeared out of Bajra farm. Murlidhar and Gurudutt Pathak were allegedly equipped with lathis, Dharmraj Pathak was equipped with a spear, and Ramraj Pathak was allegedly loaded with a handgun, according to the charges.

The defendant used a spear and lathis to assault the victim. The victim was laid to rest on the ground. They used lathis to smash his head. On hearing the disturbance, first witness Satrughan Pathak, his brother Ramsukh Pathak, Lalmani Pathak, and Shiv Shankar, who were all really nearby, raced towards the victim, immediately suspect Ramraj Pathak fired a bullet from his handgun, and all the defendants fled with their weapons. The dead died on the scene, and his death was immediate.

The victim’s son, Satrughan Pathak, filed an FIR against all the offenders for crimes charged under Section 302 read with 34 IPC. Sukhram Sonkar, the investigating officer, looked into the FIR. He took notes on the witnesses’ testimonies. On the spot, he created the Panchnama. After a brief search, he apprehended the suspect Murlidhar Pathak during the process of his detention, police officials inflicted wounds on his person close the Fagawa River bridge.  

The post-mortem was done by Dr Nisar Ahmad. He saw that the death was caused by shock and bleeding as a result of the injuries. The Investigating Officer submitted a charge – sheet over Murlidhar Pathak and three other absconding suspects once the inquiry was completed. All of the defendants rejected the allegations, and as a result, they were brought to trial for the aforementioned offences. The prosecution called up to 8 witnesses to establish their case.

The eyewitnesses were PW2 and PW4, and the Investigating Officer was PW7. At the conclusion of the trial, the Trial Court found guilty all of the alleged criminals, primarily on the basis of eyewitnesses were linked and engaged witnesses; no independent witness had been examined and PW2 and PW4, the victim’s sons, may be considered chance testimony, the location of occurrence was not proven by the court proceedings there was no event for the deceased to attain the alleged location and there was the absence of burn incidents on the deceased’s person.

The offender has been cleared of the charges brought against him under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The state, therefore, appealed the decision at the High Court of Allahabad, which was granted, and the Court upheld the petition, overturning the verdict of the honourable Trial Court and convicting the guilty. Defendants nos. 1 to 3 ended up dead during the proceeding of the appeal, hence the argument against the applicant initial charge no.4 was continued. The Accused appealed to the Supreme Court against the verdict of the Allahabad High Court.

ISSUES RAISED BEFORE THE COURT

  • Should the accused be found guilty under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860?
  • Can the unavailability of eyewitnesses weaken the evidence in the case?
  • Is it correct that the High Court, under Section 378 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, does have the authority to intervene with the judgement of the competent Trial Court?

ARGUMENTS FROM THE APPELLANT SIDE

  • The accused called up to eight witness testimony in trial court to establish their case.
  • They also claimed that the trial court relied solely on eyewitness testimony and that no independent witness have been called, however when the high court affirmed the trial court’s verdict, they were dissatisfied.
  • They argued that there is no damage from of the firing gun in the clinical evidence that is post mortem has been proved, which refutes the prosecution’s case.
  • Also, it has been argued that the motivation has still not been established and proven of killing him.
  • Arguments also include that the FIR was improperly dated and that the police has failed to substantiate the specific location of the event.
  • The accused’s attorneys contend that the High Court cannot intervene with the trial court’s decision of acquittal where two perspectives are feasible and the order is based on the facts on record, arguing that this goes further than scope of section 378 Cr. P.C. The lawyers requested that the appeal be allowed and that the High Court’s ruling be overturned.

ARGUMENTS FROM THE RESPONDENT SIDE

  • The Government’s counsel has vigorously argued that, the High Court made no error in overturning the acquittal judgement and order and, as a result, convicted the accused.
  • It is argued that, being the first appeal court to review the trial court’s decision, the High Court is entitled in reappreciating all of the information on the records and reaching its conclusion as it was established   in the case of Umedbhai Jadavbhai v. State of Gujarat (1978).
  • It is claimed that the appellants – accused number. 4 mentioned the hostility in his 313 testimonies.
  • It is also argued that in this case, the defendant has established and proven the actual location of the incident/occurrence, as well as described the injuries sustained by one of the defendants.
  • It is claimed that in the depositions of eyewitnesses, it was established that, according to the prosecution’s evidence, there was a fire shot, but it was in the air, and the firearm incurred no harm.

RELATED PROVISIONS

Indian Penal Code, 1860 –

Section 34 – Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention –

When a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the 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.

Section 302 – Punishment for murder –

Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 –

Section 378 – Permission to conduct the prosecution. —

(1)   Any Magistrate inquiring into or trying a case may permit the prosecution to be conducted by any person other than a police officer below the rank of the inspector; but no person, other than the Advocate-General or Government Advocate or a Public Prosecutor or Assistant Public Prosecutor, shall be entitled to do so without such permission:

Provided that no police officer shall be permitted to conduct the prosecution if he has taken part in the investigation into the offence with respect to which the accused is being prosecuted. (2)   Any person conducting the prosecution may do so personally or by a pleader.

JUDGEMENT

The Supreme Court reviewed the scope of Section 378 of CrPC and cited one of its decisions, Umedbhai Jadavbhai (1978). In this particular instance, the Court noted that if an appeal is properly admitted vs an acquittal order, the High Court has the right to re-appreciate the entire evidence and to give weight to the Session Judge’s decision if it was reached after fuller understanding of the findings. In another case, K.Gopal Reddy v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1979), the Supreme Court held that if the trial court rejects creditable evidence, it is the high court’s obligation to intervene in the interest of justice.

Surinder Kumar vs. State of Punjab (2020), for example, held that if no independent witness was interviewed, the inference that the accused was wrongfully implicated could not be drawn. In Rizwan Khan v. State of Chhattisgarh (2020), this Court observed and ruled that independent witness questioning is not an absolute need, and that such non-examination is not always fatal to the original trial.

The occurrence is not denied by the accused, according to the supreme court. According to the evidence in the case, the location of the event has been established and proven, and the prosecution has proven the location of the event as stated in the FIR. The Court sees no basis to overturn the High Court’s decision and order, which reversed the acquittal and found the accused guilty. We wholeheartedly concur with the High Court’s conclusion. As a result, the current appeal is dismissed. 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court determined that Guru Dutt Pathak, the original accused no. 4, was given temporary bail, which was not prolonged by this court, and the current appeal is therefore dismissed; if the guilty has not surrendered yet, he must submit himself immediately to serve out his punishment.

The Honourable Supreme Court examined all of the reasons why the trial court acquitted the defendant and concluded that the trial court’s conclusions were erroneous. The Honourable Supreme Court considered the observations made by the High Court on each point and concluded that the High Court made no error in interfering with the learned Trial Court’s verdict and the suspect’s sentence. There is direct proof in the shape of dependable and trustworthy eyewitnesses.

CONCLUSION

The Honourable Supreme Court evaluated the High Court’s opinions on each point and found that the High Court did not err by interfering with the learned Trial Court’s judgement and sentence for the suspect. Direct evidence in the form of competent and trustworthy eyewitnesses is available.  Several defendants implicated in this case have also been proven to be credible and legitimate.

It was said that the case should not be resolved only on the basis of eyewitness testimony. I support this ruling because higher courts should have the power to overturn lower court decisions. And in my opinion, is always not about the eyewitness whose statement makes the case argument strong but also incidents and evidence records show a clear way towards the decision.


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