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Case Commentary on Ravi Mandal v/s State of Uttarakhand

Facts According To Prosecution
A FIR has been filed by Man Singh on 01/11/2001 at 7:30 am stating that his son Chhotu herein referred as deceased was murdered by Ravi Mandal and Govind and hide his body in the forest.

According to Man Singh, a day before at about 9o' clock on 31/10/2001, his son was with Ravi and Govind. Later, on 10.11.2001, Man Singh provided the police with a statement in writing indicating that the deceased's companion was Shabbir rather than Govind, along with Ravi and a man named Mazhar Khan. It was claimed in this written material that Babloo had tricked him into assuming the name Govind.

Police arrested Shabbir and Ravi during the investigation process on the basis of written statement of Man Singh. They also discovered "12 bore country made pistol with one live cartridge" from Shabbir and also "a knife" from Ravi Mandal. Due to this a case under Arms Act was also registered against them.

Appellant: Ravi Mandal and Shabbir v/s Respondent: State of Uttarakhand
In The Supreme Court Of India
Criminal Appeal: 511 of 2011 with 2345 of 2011

Date of judgment: May 18, 2023
Bench: Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Manoj Misra
Judgment was delivered by Honorable Justice Manoj Mishra

10 Witnesses were examined in the trial procedure:
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  1. Man Singh: according to him the chronology of events was, in the evening of 31/10/2001 Babloo visited his house and asked them for food on demand of deceased, Ravi and Govind. Mother of deceased packed the food and Babloo left the place. On 01/11/2001, in the morning a constable along with two others came there and informed him about his son's dead body lying in the forest. He then visited the place and brought the body straight to the police station and lodged an FIR. The body was sent for medical evidences like autopsy.
  2. Chandan Singh: According to him, Ravi, Shabbir, and the deceased came to his shop on 31/10/2001 at around 7 pm and from there went towards the cinema hall. After that, at 12:30 am he saw Shabbir and Ravi proceeding from the forest and walking unusually fast with blood stains on their hands and clothes, respectively. When they saw him, they threatened him with the same consequences. On the morning of 01/11/2001, he got to know about the deceased's body being recovered from the forest. During cross-examination, he claimed that he was coming from his parents' house who live separately from him and he did not make his shop on the land of Ravi's Mother. In addition to this, he stated that he got scared to inform the police and admitted that he got arrested and is on bail but plead ignorance to the claim that the bail was arranged by Man Singh.
  3. Urmila Devi: Mother of the deceased, she admitted to cooking food and also denied the surety of Chandan.
  4. Mahendra Khuana: He went to the movie on the night of 31/10/2001, and when he came out to ease himself, he saw Ravi, Shabbir, and the deceased going towards the forest. After some two to three minutes, he heard a gunshot, and some five to seven minutes later, he saw Ravi and Shabbir walking fast and saying they finally settled the conflict with "chhotu." He did not tell this to anyone but in the morning, he made statements to the police.
  5. Hunuman Prasad: He turned hostile and denied that he saw Shabbir firing a gunshot and Ravi holding the deceased's leg.
  6. Babloo: According to him, the deceased asked him to bring him food from his house and he was alone. He did the same but when he returned, he saw no one there, so he kept it there only on the door of the cinema. The prosecution termed him hostile and showed him a signature of his admitting that he saw Shabbir and Ravi with the deceased. He also stated about police torture during the investigation.
  7. According to the autopsy report: He died due to shock caused by an ante mortem gunshot.
  8. According to the Investigation officer: the arrest was made on 24/11/2001 at 3:30 pm because they were trying to abscond and they were arrested with the same weapon. He stated that on 15/11/2001 they recovered catridge from the spot and during arrest, live catridge was recovered. And forensic report stated the catridges been fired from the gun recovered from Shabbir. According to him dead body was lying on the spot. And Mahendra did not come to give him statement rather they get there to recover the same.
Under section 313 of CrPC: Ravi denied all the accusation but did not provide any evidences.

Shabbir also denied them and also denied the recovery of any incriminating weapon.

Trail Court convicted Ravi and Shabbir under section 302 r/w 34 of IPC and awarded them life imprisonment and also one year Rigorous imprisonment under Section 201 of IPC. And one year rigorous imprisonment with five thousands rupee fine to Shabbir and the same to Ravi under Section 4/25 of Arms Act. Trial Court based its decision on the testimonies of Chandan and Mahendra and on the theory of last seen.

High Court upheld the conviction
  1. Whether the story of prosecution is self made or not based on the contradiction as to whether the body was present in the police station during lodging of FIR?
  2. Whether FIR was correct or not as any mention of movie has been made and no mention of food was there?
  3. Whether circumstances are beyond reasonable doubt to prove that the blind murder was done by accused?

Contentions Of The Parties
Appellants' contention:
Ravi Mandal: as far as the last seen theory is concerned, both Man Singh and Umrila did not seen deceased with him neither Babloo saw them together. Chandan should not be considered as a reliable source as he did not inform the same earlier and his name is not shown in charge sheet as witness and he was also not present at crime scene and no proper explanation has been provided. Mahendra too did not give satisfactory reason for his presence at the odd hours and his testimony has been denied by investigation officer regarding his giving statement in police station or not. Even Babloo denied his presence. This cannot be said that deceased was last seen with him.

The site plan was also made after the so called discovery of weapons by police. No public witness was there. There are also conflicting statements like whether the body was present in the spot while lodging FIR. The name of Govind was substituted after finding that Govind is also dead. Man Singh himself admitted that his son has criminal cases in past so the possibility of him having many enemies cannot be denied.

Shabbir: the contentions of Shabbir are also same as Ravi and in addition to that, he stated his name was not initially there and money related matter was with Govind. No public witness to support the story of recovery of country made pistol. And also suspicion and no reasonable explanation as to why forensic examination of pistol happened before 15/01/2002 as it was according to prosecution recovered on 24/11/2001.

Respondents' contention:
State contended that Babloo admitted that food was asked by deceased and also Man Singh and his wife supported that by stating that the food for three has been provided. Chandan and Mahendra confirmed the presence of accused at the spot of body a night before. There is no motive on the part of Chandan and Mahendra and same was not proved by accused. Not being immediate to inform does not make Chandan' testimony unreliable. Even Hanuman who turned hostile admits that he saw them together. The chain of circumstances has been clearly made and also evidences are proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Whether the story of prosecution is self made or not based on the contradiction as to whether the body was present in the police station during lodging of FIR?
The present Court analyzed the case and stated that the rival story of investigation office and Man Singh regarding the presence of body in police station creates a reasonable doubt as to whether this is self made story or not and this doubt is very important to clarify which was not done.

The prosecution story developed into things to make it look like a chain of circumstances like making up of story of binging food as the same was already known to Man Singh but still this part was not present in FIR. Even according to investigation office, Man Singh admitted that his son has not been coming home for a long time. This creates doubt as to whether asking for food was also self made or not. Investigation officer also claimed that Man Singh followed Babloo and saw deceased and Ravi together and after some time Shabbir also and this statement has not been stated by Man Singh anywhere in Court.

Whether FIR was correct or not as any mention of movie has been made and no mention of food was there?
FIR no doubt cannot contain every minute detail but in FIR the suspicion is on Govind and motive of murder was due to money matters with Govind. There was in FIR no mention of Shabbir. No mention as to how body was found there. No mention as to who has seen Ravi and Govind with deceased. In addition to that there was no mention of movie and Babloo story about taking food.

Whether circumstances are beyond reasonable doubt to prove that the blind murder was done by accused?
There was no eyewitness to the commission of crime. So, to prove this case the witnesses should be trustworthy or reliable. The conviction was primarily based on the last seen theory as given by Chandan and Mahendra. Chandan was not considered as a reliable witness by this court as first he was not in charge sheet as a PW. He gave his statements through affidavit that too on 18/02/2002 on the date charge sheet was prepared that is for after 3 and half months later which creates suspicion.

The court then relied on the case of  Kali Ram v State of Himachal Pradesh [1] Which held that "if a witness professes to know about a gravely incriminating circumstance against a person accused of the offence of murder and the witness keeps silent for over two months regarding the said incriminating circumstance against the accused, his statement relating to the incriminating circumstance, in the absence of any cogent reason, is bound to lose most of its value".

In the present case there was a delay of more than two months and also the reason is not reasonable as the accused were already arrested so no chance of threats. The presence of Chandan at the place is also quite suspicious as he stated his time of dinner is 11 pm and he stated after having dinner he went to his parents' house, parents were not confronted to clarify the position.

Mahendra was also declared as unreliable witness in this case as he told he came to ease himself outside because there were charges to use theatre's washroom which appears to be false as investigation officer contradicts the same. He is one of the chance witnesses in this case and in the settled case of "Rajesh Yadav v State of Uttar Pradesh[2] and Jarnail Singh v State of Punjab"[3]it is stated that is there are doubts regarding the presence then the witness should not be considered. He inclined Govind in police presence and later denied. Police even not disclosed why there was need to collect his statements in his house was said by them.

Investigation officer when stated about the information of accused coming before their arrest did not provide the record and even did not made arrest and seizure of weapon in front of any independent person. Even officer who investigated weapons made site plan after almost one month without any reasonable explanation.
Conviction was set aside.

Defects Of Law
The Trial Court and High Court just accepted the version of Mahendra and Chandan without evaluating the statements properly. They deviated from the settled legal principles that statement must get confidence. Under 313 of CrPC: Shabbir was not confronted with the forensic report of using the weapon recovered from him. It is upon prosecution to establish the conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

That In accordance with Section 3[4] of the Indian Evidence Act, "evidence" is defined as "all assertions and proposals which the Court permits to be provided before it by witness testimony when dealing with the fact-in-issue for the matter which is under investigation, it is referred to as Oral Evidences," and "all additional records in backing up the aforementioned," such as the Memorandum of Arrest, Memorandum of Seizure, Ballistic Report, Charge-sheet, FIR Copying, Medical Report, etc.

In the current judicial and pragmatic setting, witness is unquestionably the sight and hearing of the law. The significance of the proof and the trustworthiness of the witness must now be resolved legally in accordance with basic legal concepts and the Evidence Act's legal standards.

For example, the witness may be an opportunity observe, partner observe, vision observe, or opposed witness; however, even if a witness becomes opposed at another point of the trial, the judge cannot dismiss all of his statements on the same grounds, and as a precaution, it must be confirmed with his admission of guilt under Section 164 of the CrPC[5].

In a very similar case of "Dinesh Kumar v State of Haryana"[6] the court set aside the conviction on the basis that the theory of last seen cannot be made on an unreliable witness and prosecution failed to prove complete chain of circumstances. For the purpose to provide fair justice, proof must be investigated with the utmost care and hard work.

Relevant testimony on which the conviction or acquittal is based should be strongly in favor.[7] Judges under Section 165 of Indian Evidence Act can also cross examine the witnesses it they find any discrepancies'. Judges who are delivering the judgment and sentence should not just sit there and accept everything at face value, instead it should consider the evidences from every angle.

  1. (1973) 2SCC 808
  2. (2022) 12 SCC 200
  3. (2009) 9SCC 719
  4. Section 3, Indian Evidence Act.
  5. Section 164, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  6. 2023 Live Law (SC) 395
  7. Vasa Chandra Sekhar v Poona Satyanarayana Manu/SC/0394/2000

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