By: Janvi Shukla 
In the Supreme Court of India
|Name of the case||State (Through CBI) vs Santosh Kumar Singh|
|Citation||2007 CriLJ 964, 133 (2006) DLT 393|
|Date of judgement||October 6, 2010|
|Appellant||State (Through Cbi)|
|Respondent||Santosh Kumar Singh|
|Bench/Judge||Justice R. Sodhi, Justice P. Bhasin|
|Constitution/Statutes involved||The Indian Penal Code, 1870; The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973; The Indian Evidence Act|
|Important Articles/Sections Involved||The Indian Penal Code, 1860– Ss. 302, 354, 376 The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973– S. 313 The Indian Evidence Act, 1872– S. 6|
Priyadarshini Mattoo, a 25-year-old law student, was found raped and killed at her New Delhi residence on January 23, 1996. After investigating, the CBI submitted a charge sheet in which Santosh was named as an accused party. Within a few months, charges were brought against him, and the trial officially began before an additional session judge. Santosh Singh was finally acquitted in 1999 by an additional session judge after two long years. The Delhi High Court accepted the CBI’s appeal the next year, which was justice after six years of fighting. Santosh Singh was found guilty by the High Court and was given the death penalty. Santosh Singh challenged the High Court’s ruling to the Supreme Court. The death sentence from the High Court had been put on hold by the Supreme Court. The death punishment was changed to life in prison, but the Supreme Court upheld Santosh Kumar Singh’s conviction.
Since the dawn of humankind, sexual assault and rape have always been in civilization. Rape is a sort of sexual assault that typically involves sexual intercourse with the victim or engaging in other forms of sexual penetration without the victim’s permission. The IPC’s Section 354 punishes rape by imposing a maximum 2-year jail sentence for any attack or use of unlawful force on a woman.
Following an increase in terrorist attacks in the valley, Priyadarshini’s family had migrated to Jammu. She completed her B.com from MAM College before enrolling at Delhi University to pursue an LLB. Santosh Singh, a senior to Priyadarshini at Delhi University, fell in love with her when they were both students there. Priyadarshini consistently rejected the proposals he made to her. Santosh therefore started pursuing her. Priyadarshini’s family filed police reports, and she was given an escort for a while. However, it was all in naught since Santosh persisted on following her. She was discovered dead on January 23, 1996, at her uncle’s house. She was discovered dead on January 23, 1996, at her uncle’s house. She was viciously hit with a helmet 14 times after being raped. Then a wire was used to strangle her. Santosh Kumar, who had been bothering her for a while, was named the case’s top suspect. The primary defendant came from a prominent family. In the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry, his father, J.P. Singh, held the position of Inspector General of Police. Consequently, the fight for justice started.
Facts of the case
Priyadarshini Mattoo was an LL.B. student at the Campus Law Center at the University of Delhi. She had completed her fifth semester of L.L.B. course. The victim was a sixth-semester LL.B. student at the time of the murder. She was residing at B-10/7098, Vasant Kunj, with her parents.
Santosh Singh was also an L.L.B. student at the University of Delhi. The accused graduated from the said Campus Law Center with an LL.B. from the University of Delhi in December 1994. The accused got to know the deceased while he was a student at Campus Law Center. The accused got to know the deceased while he was a student at Campus Law Center. The accused had a bullet motorcycle with the number DLI SG 1122. The accused continued to travel to the abovementioned Law Center on a motorcycle even after graduating from the LL.B. program. The accused also stalked the deceased from the university to her home, and when she would go somewhere, the accused would sometimes follow her and frighten her there as well.
Despite the deceased’s requests and subsequent protests, the appellant continued to harass and threaten her. The deceased then filed numerous complaints against the appellant in various Police Stations because of which he was called in to the Police Station and told to act appropriately and A Personal Security Officer, Head Constable Rajinder Singh was also assigned for the security of the deceased after the deceased made numerous complaints against the accused in various police stations. The appellant also retaliated by filing a report with the university on October 30, 1995, alleging that the deceased was enrolled in two courses at the same time which was against university rules. When no action was taken, he followed up with two reminders, dated December 4 and December 20, 1995.
The State claims that the deceased provided an explanation dated 1.12.1995 in response to the show-cause notices claiming that the deceased was an M. Com. student back in 1991. The deceased had not yet taken the third-year LL.B. exam. The deceased emphasized that the accused had been harassing her for the last approximately 1.5 years in her justification. The deceased stated that the complaint was unfair. The University of Delhi delayed the deceased’s LL.B. 5th semester results pending a judgement on the case.
On 23.1.1996, Personal Security Officer Head Constable Rajinder Singh failed to arrive at the deceased’s apartment on time. As a result, the deceased drove to the University of Delhi with her parents, who were also scheduled to appear at Tis Hazari Courts for a civil case. They left the house about 9:15 a.m. They arrived at Tis Hazari Courts about 10.15 a.m. The parents of the deceased appeared in the Tis Hazari Courts. HC Rajinder Singh, Personal Security Officer, who was supposed to be at the deceased’s apartment, instead arrived at the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. Rajinder Singh, the head constable, spotted the accused riding the said bullet motorcycle near the Faculty of Law.
The deceased arrived at the Faculty of Law at 10.30 a.m. The dead arrived at class around 11:15 a.m. till 12 p.m. The deceased also completed her form of selection for the topics. The dead drove out from the Faculty of Law in her Maruti automobile, accompanied by Personal Security Officer HC Rajinder Singh. On her way back, the deceased checked to see whether her parents were accessible at Tis Hazari Courts. Not finding them, the deceased returned to her home at 1.45 p.m. The deceased instructed Head Constable to pay her a visit at around 5.30 p.m.
After the deceased arrived at her place, Virender Prasad, the house staff, left around 2.30 p.m. To visit his acquaintance Vishnu Prasad Chaurasia alias Bishamber at Lt. Col. S.K. Dhar’s apartment in Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi. Virender Prasad, the servant, returned about 4.55 p.m. The servant went out with the dog after buying medications. Meanwhile, the accused arrived to the deceased’s home. The accused is alleged of standing at the entrance of the deceased’s flat towards the staircase at around 4.50 p.m. with a helmet fitted with a visor in his hand by a neighbor, Shri Kuppuswami. The State further alleged in the report that Shri Jaideep Singh Ahluwalia, Security Supervisor, spotted the accused about 5.30 p.m. near the deceased’s house. Shri O.P. Singh, Advocate, also observed the accused on his bullet motorcycle exiting the parking lot of B-10 Vasant Kunj and moving towards the Vasant Kunj area around 5.30 p.m. On 23.1.1996, about 5.30 p.m., Personal Security Officer HC Rajinder Singh arrived at the deceased’s house with Constable Dev Kumar.
The officer rang the bell of the deceased’s flat, but nobody replied. HC Rajinder Singh then proceeded to the other door, which was on the courtyard side. The door was knocked on. There was no response once again. The two entered the deceased’s bedroom since it was half open and discovered her body lying beneath the double bed. The incident was immediately reported by the Head Constable to Police Station Vasant Kunj by SHO At 5.45 p.m., Inspector Surinder Sharma arrived at the scene, and a report referencing the abovementioned facts was recorded. The investigation was given to Inspector Lalit Mohan, Additional SHO, Vasant Kunj. When he, Sub-Inspector Sushil Kumar, Sub-Inspector Padam Singh, Head Constable Satish Chand, and other police officers arrived at the deceased’s home, they discovered her body lying beneath the double bed with the cord of the electric heat convector tied around her neck. Additionally, he saw blood stains all over the body. Following the complaint of the deceased’s father, in which the events of the day were detailed, a case under section 302 of the IPC was lodged at the Vasant Kunj Police Station.
It was also stated that after completing their work in the Tis Hazari Courts, he and his wife visited Safdarjung Enclave and from there he went on to attend an official meeting at Vikas Kuteer, ITO whereas his wife visited the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, and it was upon returning to his residence at 7.30 p.m. that he discovered that his daughter had been murdered.
The murder scene was photographed during the inquest procedures began by Inspector Lalit Mohan, and some hair discovered on the dead corpse, shattered bits of glass, and blood stains surrounding the dead body were collected. The heat convector’s electric cord, which had been used for strangling, was also confiscated. Inspector Lalit Mohan recorded the statements of Col. S.K. Dhar, Mr. C.L. Mattoo, the complainant, and Mrs. Rageshwari Mattoo, the deceased’s mother, and numerous others. The dead corpse was then taken to the Safdarjung Hospital. Mrs. Rageshwari Mattoo raised the possibility that the respondent was the culprit in her statement, and he was brought into the inquiry on the night of January 23rd and 24th, 1996. He was also taken before Inspector Lalit Mohan, who detected soreness on his right hand and an unbandaged or plastered injury.
Dr. R.K. Wadhwa of the Safdarjung Hospital examined him at 3.45 a.m. and discovered two injuries on his person one a swelling on the right-hand dorsum lateral aspect, discomfort with crepitus and the second, scar marks old and healed multiple both lower limbs and on the chest. A right-hand X-ray was also recommended by the doctor. The appellant’s nail scrapings and hair samples were also obtained and given over to Sub-Inspector Shamsher Singh. After the X-ray, a fracture of the 5th metacarpal bone of the right hand was identified, and according to Dr. Wadhwa, the injury was serious in nature and inflicted by a blunt weapon. The appellant was then permitted to go home and told to return to the Police Station at 9 a.m. on January 25, 1996.
The dead body was also subjected to a post-mortem on January 25, 1995, at the Safdarjung Hospital, by a Board of Doctors comprised of Dr. Chander Kant, Dr. Arvind Thergaonkar, and Dr. A.K. Sharma, who found 19 injuries on the dead body and observed that the private parts showed black, curly non-matted pubic hair, the hymen intact with no tearing present, and admitting only one finger. The doctors also obtained two vaginal swabs and slides, which were sealed in a glass bottle, as well as blood and hair samples. The deceased’s clothing was also taken into possession and sealed. The Board further determined that the death was caused by strangling by ligature and that the injuries on the deceased body were sufficient to induce death in the normal course of nature. Inspector Lalit Mohan inspected the deceased’s residence on the 25th of January 1996, after the post-mortem proceedings were completed, and took a greeting card written by the appellant from her chamber. The Inspector also seized a helmet with the visor missing and suggesting that it had cracked, as well as the appellant’s Bullet motorbike. The Inspector also took sample of his handwriting.
It appears that the murder occurred in very heinous circumstances, and that the respondent was the son of a very senior police officer serving in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and was on the verge of being posted as Additional Commissioner of Police, Delhi, sparked outrage, which was backed up by the deceased’s parents, who were concerned that they would not receive a fair deal from the Delhi Police. Faced with this dilemma, the Delhi Government requested that the probe be taken over by the Central Bureau of Investigation in a letter dated January 24, 1996. According to the prosecution, the Government made this decision in response to the Commissioner’s particular request. After the inquiry was completed, the accused was legally charged.
- Should the lack of fairness on the part of the CBI warrant such a negative response to the proof by presumption of law?
- whether a DNA fingerprint test was able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty?
- Whether the accused’s guilt and the circumstantial evidence can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt before he may be found guilty of the crime committed?
Argument from the Appellant side
- The learned trial judge was certain that the accused was the only person who had committed the victim’s murder, according to the learned ASG, but he still gave him the benefit of the doubt on the poorly constructed grounds that the CBI had been unfair to the accused by withholding crucial evidence that it had gathered during the investigation when nothing was concealed.
- learned ASG further challenged the trial court’s conclusion that the postmortem report, found the deceased’s underwear to be stain-free but the CCMB’s report indicated there was a stain. Counsel responded that the findings are obviously incorrect because the postmortem examination was done by doctors using their naked eyes, while the DNA test was done by doctors using an instrument called an ultraviolet trans illuminator that was specifically made for the purpose and can identify stains that are otherwise invisible to the naked eye.
- According to ASG, the claim of unfair play is unjustified because the CBI really recorded the medical testimony that the Respondent intended to rely on. Additionally, the CBI cannot be held responsible for the disappearance of Varinder Singh, the deceased’s servant, as they made every effort to locate the witness but were unable; in fact, Const. Shyam was questioned for the same reason.
- The learned ASG argued that it was incorrect for the trial court to rule that the prosecution’s evidence supporting the DNA testing was inadmissible and to reject it. He argued that the trial court rejected the DNA tests because the chain of custody of the material sent for the test indicates that there is a probability of tampering and the test’s technique is unfair and improper, and the experts are not qualified to conduct the tests. It was argued that the evidence on record conflicts with the trial court’s conclusion that there is a chance that the material sent for a DNA test has been tampered with.
- He argued that because Head Constable Rajender Singh, who had been appointed as the deceased’s personal security officer, had categorically testified that he had seen the Respondent wearing the helmet with a visor at the College in the morning, the trial court erred in failing to recognize this circumstance. As a result, kuppuswamy’s testimony on the Respondent’s appearance in front of the dead person’s home wearing a helmet gains greater credibility. Furthermore, the Respondent never claimed that the helmet was not his, and he acknowledges that it is his helmet. It should be noted that the trial court’s conclusion about the prosecution’s failure to send the helmet for inspection was factually incorrect.
- It was argued that the trial court had already noted that the prosecution cannot be held accountable for failing to question Virender Singh. It was further argued that the learned trial court made a verdict against the prosecution while having documented arguments in favor of the prosecution and, as a result, ought to be set aside as being completely perverse.
Argument from the Respondent side
- The learned Counsel arguing for the respondent, Santosh Kumar Singh, on the other hand, argued persuasively that the trial court erred in concluding that the accused’s harassment of the dead constituted a motivation or that the harassment itself was proven.
- He submitted that a thorough examination of the evidence reveals nothing to suggest that the accused’s behavior is anything more than the accused’s desire for a closer relationship with the deceased. His wish to befriend the deceased cannot be considered a motive for rape, let alone murder.
- In support of his claim that Kuppuswami, is not a trustworthy witness, Learned Counsel cited a Supreme Court ruling from G.B. Patel and Anr. v. State of Maharashtra. He argued that Kuppuswami’s statement inspires no confidence and is an introduction planted by the Investigating Officer, as was attempted to be done with Jaideep Singh Ahluwalia.
- Counsel contends that the trial court wrongly used Section 6 of the Evidence Act to treat the mother of the deceased, Smt. Rajeshwari Mattoo’s suspicion that the accused had a hand in the incident as a relevant fact. This suspicion was held by her that the accused had some involvement in the incident.
- Counsel stated that the prosecution’s attempt to demonstrate that the respondent’s injury was recent is barely supported by the evidence as Dr. G.K. Chaubey, testified that swelling and hemorrhage will last for around two weeks following a fracture. Blood has accumulated in the hematoma, causing tenderness, which will last till the swelling.
- Regarding rape and sexual activity, the defense claimed that Inspector Lalit Mohan testified that there was no evidence on the scene that suggested the dead had been raped. The outcome of the CFSL assessment of the items retrieved from the home does not link the Respondent to any of the exams.
- Counsel strongly contended that the evidence, including the deceased’s underwear, a bundle of clothing made by the doctor during the postmortem examination, the allegedly tampered-with vaginal swab and vaginal slide and blood samples from the accused, were all exhibits. He said that even though the Respondent’s blood type is unquestionably O+, even the underwear that was confiscated from the accused shows that A Group semen was there.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860
- Section 302
According to Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, a person who commits murder shall be punished with the death penalty or a life sentence in jail as well as a heavy fine. No one is exempted from the crime of murder under the IPC.
- Section 354
Anyone who assaults or uses unlawful force on a woman with the intent to offend or knowing that doing so will likely offend her modesty is punishable by imprisonment of either kind for a time that may extend to two years, by fine, or by both.
- Section 376: Punishment for rape–
Those who commit rape, except for those covered by subsection (2), are subject to fines and imprisonment of either kind for a duration that may not be less than seven years but may be for life or for a term that may extend to ten years. If the victim of the rape is the offender’s wife and she is not under the age of twelve, he or she is subject to imprisonment of any description for a term that may extend to two years. With the caveat that the court may impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than seven years for sufficient and unique grounds to be indicated in the ruling.
The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
- Section 313: Power to examine the accused–
1. In every inquiry or trial, for the purpose of enabling the accused personally to explain any circumstances appearing in the evidence against him, the Court-
2. may at any stage, without previously warning the accused, put such questions to him as the Court considers necessary;
3. shall, after the witnesses for the prosecution have been examined and before he is called on for his defence, question him generally on the case: Provided that in a summons- case, where the Court has dispensed with the personal attendance of the accused, it may also dispense with his examination under clause (b).
4 The accused shall not render himself liable to punishment by refusing to answer such questions, or by giving false answers to them.
5. The answers given by the accused may be taken into consideration in such inquiry or trial, and put in evidence for or against him in any other inquiry into, or trial for, any other offence which such answers may tend to show he has committed.
The Indian Evidence Act, 1872
- Section 6
Regardless of whether they happened at the same time and location or at different times and locations, facts that, while not in dispute, are sufficiently related to a fact in dispute to form a component of the same transaction are significant.
On July 17, 1997, Shri S.C. Mittal, Additional Sessions Judge, heard the case. In an order dated July 17, 1997, Shri S.C. Mittal, learned Additional Sessions Judge, was pleased to charge the accused with violating Sections 376 and 302 of the IPC. He pleaded not guilty and requested a trial.
As there were no eyewitnesses to the incident, the prosecution relied on circumstantial evidence presented through oral and documentary evidence. After the prosecution examined 51 witnesses and closing arguments were heard, the trial court concluded that it would be in the best interests of justice to summon Dr. G.V.Rao of the CCMB as a court witness since he had done the DNA test in consultation with Dr. Lalji Singh. The court noted that the accused’s continued stalking of the deceased despite complaints to the police demonstrated his utter disregard for the law. The court then considered circumstances and determined that the appellant had in fact been observed riding a motorcycle in the University Campus Law Centre on January 23, 1996, while wearing a helmet with an intact visor, and that, later that day, in the afternoon, Sh. Kuppuswami had observed him at the gate of the deceased’s home carrying a helmet.
The court also stated that when the helmet was seized on January 25, 1996, it was found to be in a badly damaged state, and that the broken pieces of the visor recovered from the crime scene smeared with the blood of the deceased proved conclusively that the visor had been broken during the commission of the murder as it had been used to force the dead person to submit. As a result, the court determined that the appellant was observed in the deceased’s residence around 4.50 p.m. the trial court found no convincing evidence against the appellant regarding situation No.6, stating that due to the unpredictable traffic in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, the time issue could not be considered conclusive. The trial court observed that DSP Ohri had not considered the defence story that the appellant had suffered an injury on the metacarpal about 10 days prior to the murder and thus had not given the court an opportunity to review the evidence on this aspect and had thus not acted fairly.
The court went on to state that the accused has also failed to assist the court in discharging the onus that was placed on him to justify his defence in claimed injury. As a result, in the face of an injury, on the 5th metacarpal on the day of the act of murder, with swelling and tenderness, the court believes that the damage is likely fresh, but it cannot claim that the accused’s defence is not plausible due to the CBI’s lack of fair play. The trial court then developed its own hypotheses before rejecting the DNA report provided by the CCMB, Hyderabad, as well as the testimonies of Dr. Lalji Singh and Dr. G.V. Rao. Judge G.P. Thareja declared “Though I know he is the man who committed the crime, I acquit him, giving him the benefit of doubt”.
The trial judge gave the respondent the benefit of the doubt for the murder accusation while clearing him of the rape allegation since it was unproven. After being granted permission to appeal, the State filed its appeal because it felt wronged.
- In the High Court
The case was appealed to the High Court, which reversed the trial court’s decision and sentenced the defendant to death. Santosh Kumar Singh was found guilty of rape and murder under sections 376 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code by the Delhi High Court on October 17, 2006, and was given the death penalty. The Court’s decision was based on several compelling arguments. The Court also criticized the Delhi Police’s slowness and prejudice in assisting Mattoo after she filed a complaint against Singh as his father; J.P. Singh was the then-senior IPS officer and Director General of the Delhi Police at the time. The High Court convicted Santosh Singh and he was awarded the death penalty
- In the Supreme Court
Santosh Singh challenged high court’s decision and appealed in Supreme Court in 2007. The Supreme Court had put a stay on high court’s death sentence. The court also issued a notice to CBI on an appeal filed by the convict against the high court’s judgment. In oct 2010. Sc upheld the conviction of Santosh Kumar Singh but reduced the death sentence to life imprisonment
Rule of Law is not intended for individuals who uphold the law or their close family members. Isn’t this strategy teaching the kids of those with access to the legal system that they, too, may break the law without consequence. Why shouldn’t those who establish laws consider the need for a system that is free from bias and independent of those who uphold justice when someone commits a crime.
 Author is a 3rd semester student at Amity Law School, Lucknow.
 Indian Kanoon, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1290716/ (last visited Jul. 25, 2022).
 See The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §302.
 See The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §354.
 See The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §376.
 The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 §313.
 The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 §6.