Gorle S. Naidu v State of A.P. and Ors.

The paramount consideration of the Court is to ensure that miscarriage of justice is prevented.

Case name:Gorle S. Naidu v State of A.P. and Ors.
Case number:Appeal (crl.) 232-234 of 1997
Court:SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Bench:DORAISWAMY RAJU. J ARIJIT PASAYAT. J
Decided on:15/12/2003
Relevant Act/Sections:The Indian Penal Code, 1860
  • BRIEF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
    • The appeals are interlinked and relate to a Division Bench judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court whereby the respondents were acquitted.
    • The deceased persons Kurmi Naidu and Meesala Jogulu were residents of Patharlapalle village. There was a fire accident in their village i.e. Patharlapalle wherein more than four hundred houses were burnt. The Government and the insurance company sanctioned Rs.500/- and Rs.1,000/- respectively to owner of each of the houses which was burnt. A group of persons headed by Hari Babu (A-29) started saying that they had got sanctioned the amount and asked the recipients to pay Rs.100/- each. The persons, who did not pay the amount so demanded came and complained to PW-4.
    • On that score a group rivalry started. One group was headed by A-29 and the other group by PW-4. In the year 1989, G. Ramarao (A-5) started ’Indira Priyadarsini Yuvajana Sangam’. The said Sangam started collecting Rs.50/- from each of the members. Whenever any village refused to join the Sangam, the members of that Sangam used to damage their agricultural implements like carts etc., and also the crops. The said Sangam entertained a grouse against PW-4 thinking that he was causing obstruction to their activities.
    • About one year prior to the death of the deceased (on 10.4.1991) all the accused and some others attacked the house of PW-4 by hurling bombs. As there was no safety in the village, and threat to his life, PW-4 started living in the house which is situated in his land at Nakkalacheruvu.
    • Three months prior to the present incident the deceased Kurmi Naidu came down to Patharlapalle from Madras. All the household supply cards which were taken away by the group of A-29 in his village were kept in the house of A-15. So some residents of Patharlapalle sent a petition to the Mandal Revenue Officer who came to the house of A-15 (Gorle A. Kasavayya) and seized 375 cards. This led to further grouse against PW-4 as he was considered responsible for such seizure of the household supply cards.
    • Thereafter, all the accused decided to do away the life of PW-4. Gorle Ramarao (A-5) is the President of Yuvajana Sangam. Some of the accused and other villagers are members of the Sangam. On 23.12.1990 PW-5 accompanied the deceased to Visakhapatnam. On return from Visakkhapatnam, at Ranasthalam one Komati Satyam informed the deceased and PW-5 that Haribabu and his group were lying in wait for Kurmi Naidu on the road leading to Patharlapalle, and thereafter they changed their route and proceeded to Nakkalacheruvu via Theppalavalasa. Due to fear of the Sangam headed by A-5 some persons joined in that Sangam. A-5 asked the members to commit thefts of coconuts or carts. Some amounts were collected in the name of Yuvajana Sangam and spent away by A-5 for consumption of alcohol.
    • The members of the Sangam used to beat the followers of PW-4 and also took away household supply cards from their houses and kept them with A-15. Three weeks prior to the death of deceased when PW-4 was present in his house, he heard A-2, A-3, A-9, A-10, A-17 and A-37 and some others were talking in the Sangam, and it was decided to do away with the life of PW-4 and his son (deceased Kurmi Naidu). One day prior to death of deceased, when PW-9 went to the bank at 12 noon, he found A-1, A-2, A-3, A-5, A-10, A-18, A-19, A-26 and A-37 and some others and at that time A-37 was telling others that Kurmi Naidu had gone to Srikakulam and while returning to the village he should be done to death near Haribabu’s garden, which was suitable for the purpose.
    • One day prior to the death of deceased, G. Ramana (PW-10) was proceeding to the village at about 11 p.m. and when he peeped through beneath the eves of cattle shed of P. Ramamurthy (PW-2) he found all the accused persons. He heard telling A-29 to other accused that the deceased Kurmi Naidu and his father were coming in their way and therefore they have to be killed. He found liquor bottles with glasses. On the next day PW-10 informed PW-4 all that he had heard. But PW-4 did not heed to his words. On the date of occurrence at about 2 p.m. while he was returning from his land, he saw A-3 armed with crowbar like spear, A-1 armed with wooden plank and the remaining accused persons armed with stout sticks proceeding towards Kosta side from Peddagudibadi.
    • On the date of occurrence i.e. 10.4.1991 at about 9 p.m. PW-1 left for Srikakulam, where he collected some amount from S.M. Pyarijan (PW- 17) and after purchasing a dhoti he came to Kasta junction. At that time both the deceased (Kurmi Naidu and Jogulu) were coming on a motorcycle. When PW-1 made a request to them for a lift, they agreed and all three were proceeding towards Patharlapalle village on the motorcycle. Similarly, V. Sreeramulu (PW-2) was returning to Surampeta village after handing over the cycle which which he had hired from P. Jagannadham (PW- 18) at Kosta junction. D. Ankamma (PW-3) after collecting cashew nuts and mangoes was on way to her house at Patharlapalle in the afternoon.
    • When deceased 1 and 2 reached about one kilometer after Derasam near the mango grove of A-29, A-1 armed with a wooden plank beat deceased (Kurmi Naidu) on his head. Thereafter, the motorcycle proceeded further to a distance of 50 yards and at that place there is a culvert. At that time A-4, A-12 and A-25 placed a cart across the road. Therefore, the deceased persons and PW-1 stopped the motorcycle. A-5 and A-6 beat deceased (Kurmi Naidu) with stout sticks on the head. When the deceased (Jogulu) guestioned the accused about such highhandedness, A-2 beat him with a stout stick on his head and as a result of such assaults, deceased Jogulu fell down.
    • Thereafter A-4, A-7, A-9, A-10, A-11, A-13, A-26 beat deceased Kurmi Naidu indiscriminately. When deceased Kurmi Naidu fell down, A-3 poked on his throat with a spear. Then A-1, A-4, A- 7 and A-9 tied the deceased Kurmi Naidu with a rope and carried him towards eastern side. A-23, A-24, A-27 and A-28 tied deceased Jogulu with a rope and also carried him towards eastern side. When some of the accused were saying that PW-1 should not be allowed to live and thought of throwing him into a well, he ran towards eastern side. But fell down at Lankalacheruvu tank bund. Then some of the accused beat him and tied him in the cattle shed.
    • At about 7 p.m., some of the accused came there and untied him and threatened him that he should not reveal the incident to anybody and if he revealed the same, he would be killed. Thereafter PW-1 went to his house and informed about the incident to his elder brother Silla Arjuna. The Sub Inspector of Police, Jagannadharajapuram N. Rama Rao (PW- 24) received a phone message about the kidnapping of Kurmi Naidu on 10.4.1991 at about 5.30 p.m. Then he immediately proceeded to Patharalapalle and he was told by the police personnel present in the picket that persons were talking about kidnap of deceased Kurmi Naidu. At about 9 p.m., the Inspector of Police namely, Kamalanadha Rao came to Pathalapalle. Then they received a vague information that PW-1 who is resident of Sillapeta had sustained injuries.
    • Thereafter, the Sub- Inspector and the Inspector of Police proceeded to Silapeta and found PW-1 with injuries. On the basis of PW-1’s narration, PW-24 scribed a report. Then the Sub-Inspector went to the police station and registered a case. He sent the original first information report to the Court. When the Inspector of Police tried to send PW-1 to the hospital, he refused. Then PW-25 examined PW-1 and recorded his statement and seized M.Os. 6 to 8 in the presence of mediators under mediator’s report.
    • Then the Inspector of Police, the Sub-Inspector and other police personnel formed a special party and combed the area in search of the dead bodies of the deceased in the nearby thrashing floors. On 11.4.1991, early morning at about 5.45 a.m. they noticed two dead bodies in the mango grove of A-25, and the motorcycle was also found nearby. Thereafter they noticed the place of occurrence which is at a distance of about one furlong from the place where two dead bodies were found. On the basis of information lodged, investigation was done and on completion thereof charge sheet was filed for the alleged commission of offences punishable under Sections 147, 148, 201, 307, 323, 326, 341, 342, 397, 302 read with Section 149 and Section 120B and 109 IPC.
    • The High Court by the impugned judgment found that the prosecution version was full of holes, did not appear credible and the so-called eyewitnesses’ evidence does not inspire confidence. Consequentially, the High Court felt that the accused persons were entitled to acquittal and accordingly directed. The State’s appeal was consequentially dismissed. Thus the present case at hand against the judgement of the trial court.
  • ISSUE BEFORE THE COURT:

Considering the large number of accused persons, should minor discrepancies in evidences have found favour with the High Court to direct acquittal?

  • RATIO OF THE COURT
    • Court opined that though mere acquittal of large number of co-accused persons does not per se entitle others to acquittal, the Court has a duty in such cases to separate the grain from the chaff. If after sieving the untruth or unacceptable portion of the evidence residue is sufficient to prove the guilt of the accused, there is no legal bar in convicting a person on the evidence which has been primarily disbelieved vis-‘-vis others. But where they are so inseparable that any attempt to separate them would destroy the substratum on which the prosecution version is founded, then the Court would be within its legal limits to discard the evidence in total.
    • In this case the occurrence allegedly took place at about 4.00 p.m. on 10.4.1991, FIR was lodged at about 11.30 p.m. and reached Court at about 10.00 a.m. on 11.4.1991. The delay, considering the fact that there was police outpost just in front of PW4’s house and Court was at a very short distance, has not been explained. Additionally, as rightly submitted by learned counsel for the accused-respondents, A-2 was not indicated to be the author of the assaults so far as deceased Jogulu is concerned There is clear contradictions between the version of PW-1 on the one hand and PWs 2 and 3 on the other as regards the assailants of deceased No.2 (Jogulu). The evidence of PW-3 who claimed to have informed PW-4 is equally baffling.
    • According to the prosecution version, the dead bodies were found 15 to 20 yard from the culvert near which the alleged occurrence took place. It is highly improbable that when PW-4 went for searching the dead bodies on allegedly getting information about the assaults, they could not trace the bodies. The plea that he could not lodge the FIR and had to wait for searching by police which purportedly got the dead bodies early in the morning is equally implausible. Certain other factors, which otherwise would not have been of much relevance, have assumed importance in the present case.
    • If PW-1 had stated before the police, the details as contained in the FIR, there was really no necessity of calling a dog squad on 11.4.1991. This to a great extent shows that the police were not sure who the assailants were. Admittedly, dog squad was taken to the place of occurrence at about 1.00 p.m. on 11.4.1991, and dogs were taken to various houses in the village to know about the assailants. PW-24’s statement that dogs are taken when assailants are not known is very significant.
    • There is no embargo on the appellate Court reviewing the evidence upon which an order of acquittal is based. Generally, the order of acquittal shall not be interfered with because the presumption of innocence of the accused is further strengthened by acquittal.
    • The golden thread which runs through the web of administration of justice in criminal cases is that if two views are possible on the evidence adduced in the case, one pointing to the guilt of the accused and the other to his innocence, the view which is favourable to the accused should be adopted. The paramount consideration of the Court is to ensure that miscarriage of justice is prevented.
    • If the impugned judgment is clearly unreasonable and relevant and convincing materials have been unjustifiably eliminated in the process, it is a compelling reason for interference. These aspects were highlighted by this Court in Shivaji Sahabrao Bobade and Anr. v. State of Maharashtra (AIR 1973 SC 2622)
  • DECISION HELD BY COURT:

Court held that It would not be appropriate in the circumstances of the case to interfere with the elaborately discussed and well-reasoned judgment of the High Court. The appeals fail and are dismissed.

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