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Section 201 IPC- Causing Disappearance of Evidence and Giving False Information

Causing Disappearance of Evidence - Based on the criminal jurisprudence not only person who committed crime is guilty but also person conspired to complete the crime is even guilty, section 201 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with:
Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender.’ This section deals with the circumstances where person cause disappearance of the evidence with intention to screening the offender from legal punishment.

This section deals with the two acts:
Disappearance of evidence and giving false information, dealing with the issue of disappearance of evidence, where main elements may constitute as:
  1. Evidence must be disappeared from offence committed, means offence must have been committed,
  2. Accused must have knowledge of the offence committed,
  3. There should be absolute intention to disappear evidences to screening the offender from legal punishment.[i] 
These three elements may help prosecution to prove case beyond reasonable doubt. The terminology of the offence where word- ‘whoever’ extends to not only accused who screens the main offender but also in some cases main offender who have committed the offence and then also disappeared the evidences, as court may charge the offender for both the offences separately. Prosecution had to prove that accused already aware or had reason to believe that offence had been committed. The offence under section 201 is non- cognizable, bailable but not compoundable.[ii]

In the recent case:
Dinesh Kumar Kalidas v. State of Gujarat[iii], where appellant’s wife committed suicide of which news was keep hidden by appellant from police, for which he was charged was charged for section 498A, 201 of IPC.

The main offence was of cruelty due to which she committed suicide, later he got acquittal from main offence then issue arose whether the conviction under Section 201 of IPC could have been maintained while acquitting appellant of the main offence under Section 498A of the IPC?, court came to the decision that charge of section 201 will be still maintain as he intentionally did not give intimation to police.

But still these three elements did not work as blanket rule whereas, this evidence differs from circumstances of the cases where, even in the murder cases it is not only sufficient that mere removal of dead body from place where crime was committed to constitute the guilt under disappearance of evidence[iv],

In the case Harbans Lal vs The State[v] on 30 July, 1965 the accused was not held guilty for the act of removing body from and hanging it on the tree because even this act was not sufficient to cause evidence of murder to disappear, whereas a noteworthy point in this case as- prosecution was able to prove intention of accused that to screen the offender from punishment but this only element was proved based on the facts of the case. Furtherance to essential ingredient of intention, prosecution should be able to prove knowledge on behalf of accused that offence has already accrued.

In the case Jitendra Nath vs Ram Phal Bansal & Anr, 17th May, 2010[vi] court criticized impugned order of learned magistrate and held that ‘to have a personal interest to cause disappearance of evidence is immaterial to prove essential ingredients of the section 201 IPC’. ‘Only reason to believe that accused has knowledge that offence has committed is relevant to prove a section 201 IPC, not motivation of causing disappearance of evidence.

Giving False Information- the offence of giving false information should be categorized under the offence against public justice, where liability is imposed on accused for being hindrance to provide public justice to victim from the judiciary by not only hiding the truth but also giving information contrary to the truth. Mainly these issues deal with the giving false information regarding the factual foundations of the case. The issue of giving false information is always question of fact.

As already stated, that giving false information is essential ingredient of section 201 IPC accompanying with the causing disappearance of evidence, though court deals them separately as separate questions and issues because these are the different acts of accused with the similar intention to screening the offender from legal punishment. So, ingredients for giving false information remains same as other ingredients of section 201 as- offence must have committed and accused should have given the false information in order to screening the offender from punishment.

Further for discussing the case- Kodali Puranchandra Rao and Another v/s Public Prosecutor[vii], where police investigation officer was charged under section 201 IPC for giving false information to higher authorities at the time of reporting. In the factual foundations of the case where 3 dead bodies were found in river and lake, apart from proper investigation investigating officer formed a story as prostitutes were raped and then they committed suicide, there were many flaws in the investigation and it was not even accompanied with the post mortem.

Further apart from discussing all the question of facts court directed prosecution to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt as to reverse finding of the case, prosecution must prove- offence has committed, the accused person ( here investigating officer) must have reason to believe or knowledge about commitment of an offence, gave information which he believe or knew to be false and lastly intention of an accused particularly to screening the offender from punishment.

Similar provisions in IPC:
By understanding this section of IPC with their elements, also there are some other section which carry the same elements are nature of offences. Such offences with the same element and nature are covered under IPC sections- Section 202, Section 203, Section 204.

These sections and some other section are covered under nature of offences where they are dealing with the issues of dishonesty on behalf of the accused but above-mentioned section is different on the ground that, in these cases accused are trying to make hindrances in trial. These acts are need to be proved with the elements of knowledge and intention on behalf of accused.

Disappearance of evidence under section 201 of IPC should not be seen only as a substantive offence but also as evidence which circumstantial in nature. Prosecution in cases to prove joint liability in cases where charges are framed as common intention ( section 34 IPC ), common object ( section 149 IPC ) and criminal conspiracy ( section 120-A IPC ). So, in the cases where there is pre- meeting of minds and planning to do an offence where accused have role protect offender from screening by disappearing the evidence then it led to participation/ membership of accused in the offence, which element is sine quo non for to prove above mentioned offences of joint liability.

Defenses available against the section 201 IPC- As conviction under section 201 is given only after prosecution able to prove the main offence committed by the accused or any other person, unless the main offence is proven accused can not be convicted under section 201 IPC. Ex- Conviction for charges U.S./ 302, 201 IPC can give only after it is proved that main offence (302- Murder) has occurred. Secondly to lack of knowledge and intention of accused may help defense side to prove a case as:
balance of probabilities. If prosecution fails to prove that accused have knowledge or reasons to believe that offence has committed or act committed by the accused is without intention to screening the offender then court may set aside a conviction under section 201 IPC. [viii]

End-Notes:
  1. Sukhram vs State Of Maharashtra on 17 August, 2007, CASE NO. : Appeal (crl.)  1203 of 2006.
  2. Sukender Debnath, Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender (Section 201 of IPC), http://www.shareyouressays.com.
  3. Dinesh Kumar Kalidas v. State of Gujarat, CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 265-266 OF 2018,(Arising out of S.L.P.(Criminal) Nos. 1815-1816 of 2016).
  4. SC’s Recent Verdict on Offence of Causing Disappearance of Evidence under IPC, By vakilno1.com, 15th February 2018.
  5. SC’s Recent Verdict on Offence of Causing Disappearance of Evidence under IPC, By vakilno1.com, 15th February 2018.
  6. Jitendra Nath vs Ram Phal Bansal & Anr. CRL.REV.P 832/ 2006.
  7. Kodali Puranchandra Rao and Another v/s Public Prosecutor, Criminal Appeal No. 392 of 1974.
  8. Hanuman and Ors. Vs State of Rajasthan. 1994 Supp (2) SCC 39.

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