Showing posts with label suspicion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label suspicion. Show all posts

20 August 2020

Prosecution case has to stand on its own legs and cannot take support from the weakness of the case of defence

In fact learned Counsel for parties also have mostly relied upon the evidence of the prosecutrix only either to demonstrate that the offences have not been committed or committed. Law on the perspective to be adopted in such case can be found in following two judgments of the Hon. Apex Court. In Narender Kumar Vs. State (NCT of Delhi), AIR 2012 SC 2281 : (2012) CriLJ 3033 : (2012) 3 JCC 1888 : (2012) 5 SCALE 657 : (2012) 7 SCC 171 : (2012) AIRSCW 3391 : (2012) 4 Supreme 59 , Hon. Apex Court points out the settled legal proposition that once the statement of prosecutrix inspires confidence and is accepted by the court as such, conviction can be based only on the solitary evidence of the prosecutrix and no corroboration would be required unless there are compelling reasons which necessitate the court for corroboration of her statement. Corroboration of testimony of the prosecutrix as a condition for judicial reliance is not a requirement of law but a guidance of prudence under the given facts and circumstances. However, where evidence of the prosecutrix is found suffering from serious infirmities and inconsistencies with other material, prosecutrix making deliberate improvements on material point with a view to rule out consent on her part and there being no injury on her person even though her version may be otherwise, no reliance can be placed upon her evidence. Even in cases where there is some material to show that the victim was habituated to sexual intercourse, no inference of the victim being a woman of "easy virtues" or a women of "loose moral character" can be drawn. Such a woman has a right to protect her dignity and cannot be subjected to rape only for that reason. She has a right to refuse to submit herself to sexual intercourse to anyone and everyone because she is not a vulnerable object or prey for being sexually assaulted by anyone and everyone. Merely because a woman is of easy virtue, her evidence cannot be discarded on that ground alone rather it is to be cautiously appreciated. In view of the provisions of Sections 53 and 54 of the Evidence Act, 1872, unless the character of the prosecutrix itself is in issue, her character is not a relevant factor to be taken into consideration. Hon. Apex Court states that even in a case of rape, the onus is always on the prosecution to prove, affirmatively each ingredient of the offence it seeks to establish and such onus never shifts. It is no part of the duty of the defence to explain as to how and why in a rape case the victim and other witness have falsely implicated the accused. Prosecution case has to stand on its own legs and cannot take support from the weakness of the case of defence. However great the suspicion against the accused and however strong the moral belief and conviction of the court, unless the offence of the accused is established beyond reasonable doubt on the basis of legal evidence and material on the record, he cannot be convicted for an offence. There is an initial presumption of innocence of the accused and the prosecution has to bring home the offence against the accused by reliable evidence. The accused is entitled to the benefit of every reasonable doubt.

Prosecution case has to stand on its own legs and cannot take support from the weakness of the case of defence

Prosecution has to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and cannot take support from the weakness of the case of defence. There must be proper legal evidence and material on record to record the conviction of the accused. Conviction can be based on sole testimony of the prosecutrix provided it lends assurance of her testimony. However, in case the court has reason not to accept the version of prosecutrix on its face value, it may look for corroboration. In case the evidence is read in its totality and the story projected by the prosecutrix is found to be improbable, the prosecutrix case becomes liable to be rejected. The court must act with sensitivity and appreciate the evidence in totality of the background of the entire case and not in the isolation. Hon. Apex Court in matter before it observes that the facts and circumstances therein made it crystal clear that if the evidence of the prosecutrix was read and considered in totality of the circumstances along with the other evidence on record, in which the offence was alleged to have been committed, her deposition did not inspire confidence. The prosecution had not disclosed the true genesis of the crime. It therefore, found the appellant entitled to the benefit of doubt.[Para No.15]

18 August 2020

Bequeath of disproportionate share in Will does not make the Will suspicious or unnatural

Thus, from the tenor of the Will read with the document dated 30 September, 2000, it appears that Pravin had equal love and affection for Ashok and Dipti. However, Pravin was of the opinion that he had spent sufficient sums of money on Dipti to give her a comfortable life and hence he did not think it necessary to leave much of his properties to his daughter. However, it is not that Dipti was totally deprived by Pravin in the Will. As noted, 9% Relief Bonds with face value of Rs.31,00,000/- and Maturity Value of over Rs.48,00,000/- were left for Dipti. It has also come out from the evidence on record that Dipti and her husband are both well established in U.S.A. and between the two of them, they earn over 1 million U.S. dollars per year. This factor is also likely to have played in the mind of the testator in deciding that it was not necessary to leave much for Dipti who was financially more than secure. Just because the bequests in favour of the testator's two children are not equal and may even be disproportionate, the same in my view, per se would not amount to a suspicious circumstance or make the Will unnatural. A Will is generally made when the testator desires to alter the natural course of succession. As observed by the Apex Court in the case of Ramabai Padmakar Patil (Dead) v. Rukminibai Vishnu Vekhande (supra), a Will is executed to alter the natural mode of succession and by the very nature of things it is bound to result in either reducing or depriving the share of a natural heir. If a person intends his property to pass equally to his natural heirs there is no necessity at all of executing a Will. It is true that the propounder of a Will has to remove all suspicious circumstances. Suspicion means doubt, conjecture or mistrust. But the fact that the natural heirs or some of them have been excluded or a lesser share has been given to them, by itself without anything more, cannot be held to be a suspicious circumstance.[Para No.31]

Bequeath of disproportionate share in Will does not make the Will suspicious or unnatural

    In S. Sundaresa Pai vs. Sumangala. T. Pai (supra), the Hon'ble Supreme Court observed at Paragraph 7 of the judgment inter alia as follows:
"The uneven distribution of assets amongst children, by itself, cannot be taken as a circumstance causing suspicion surrounding the execution of the will. One son was given bulk of immovable properties; another none; another half share in one immovable property; other half being given to the plaintiff and another daughter and husband were given nothing. It is also not in dispute that some properties were given in gift to the plaintiff by her mother during her lifetime. There was nothing unnatural."[Para No.51]

22 July 2020

If a judge decides a case for any extraneous reasons then he is not performing his duty in accordance with law

The first and foremost quality required in a Judge is integrity. The need of integrity in the judiciary is much higher than in other institutions. The judiciary is an institution whose foundations are based on honesty and integrity. It is, therefore, necessary that judicial officers should possess the sterling quality of integrity. This Court in Tarak Singh v. Jyoti Basu [(2005) 1 SCC 201] held as follows:-
“Integrity is the hallmark of judicial discipline, apart from others. It is high time the judiciary took utmost care to see that the temple of justice does not crack from inside, which will lead to a catastrophe in the judicial- delivery system resulting in the failure of public confidence in the system. It must be remembered that woodpekers inside pose a larger threat than the storm outside.”[Para No.6]
If a judge decides a case for any extraneous reasons then he is not performing his duty in accordance with law

   The behavior of a Judge has to of an exacting standard, both inside and outside the Court. This Court in Daya Shankar v. High Court of Allahabad and Others [(1987) 3 SCC 1] held thus:
“Judicial Officers cannot have two standards, one in the court and other outside the court. They must have only one standard of rectitude, honesty and integrity. They cannot act even remotely unworthy of the office they occupy.”

    Judges are also public servants. A Judge should always remember that he is there to serve the public. A Judge is judged not only by his quality of judgments but also by the quality and purity of his character. Impeccable integrity should be reflected both in public and personal life of a Judge. One who stands in judgments over others should be incorruptible. That is the high standard which is expected of Judges. [Para No.8]

02 June 2020

No conviction on the basis of surmises and conjectures or suspicion howsoever grave it may be

There can be no conviction on the basis of surmises and conjectures or suspicion howsoever grave it may be. Strong suspicion, strong coincidences and grave doubt cannot take the place of legal proof.

  In para 14 of its judgment Hon'ble Supreme court in case of Digamber Vaishnav and another vs State of Chandigarh (2019) 4 SCC 522, has held as under:

No conviction on the basis of surmises and conjectures or suspicion howsoever grave it may be
"14. One of the fundamental principles of criminal jurisprudence is undeniably that the burden of proof squarely rests on the prosecution and that the general burden never shifts. There can be no conviction on the basis of surmises and conjectures or suspicion howsoever grave it may be. Strong suspicion, strong coincidences and grave doubt cannot take the place of legal proof. The onus of prosecution can't be discharged by referring to very strong suspicion and existence of highly suspicious factors to inculpate the accused nor falsity of defence could take the place of proof which the prosecution has to establish in order to succeed, though a false plea by the defence at best, be considered as an addition circumstance if other circumstances unfailingly point to the guilt."

29 May 2020

Discharge of accussed: if no grave suspicion exist

  • When discharge of accused can be granted ?
  • What has to be considered while deciding framing of charge against accessed?

   It is a settled principle of law that at the stage of framing of charge, Magistrate can sift the evidence for limited purpose. Detailed scrutiny is not to be done. Prosecution story need not be accepted as gospel truth. If the charge is found to be groundless, then the Magistrate on consideration of the police report and the documents and making such examination as deemed appropriate, may discharge the accused, but if there is ground to presume that accused has committed an offence, the charge can be framed. The basic concept is that the Court has to see the prima facie nature of the case at the time of framing of charge. Broad probability of the case can be considered. Following principles are to be kept in mind at the time of framing of charge:-

25 April 2020

Principles governing the proof of a Will

As per Section 63 of the Succession Act, inter alia, requires that the Will ought to be attested by two or more witnesses. Hence, any document propounded as a Will cannot be used as evidence unless at least one attesting witness has been examined for the purpose of proving its execution.

    A Will is executed to alter the ordinary mode of succession and by the very nature of things it is bound to result in earlier reducing or depriving the share of natural heirs. If a person intends his property to pass to his natural heirs, there is no necessity at all of executing a Will. It is true that a propounder of the Will has to remove all suspicious circumstances. Suspicion means doubt, conjecture or mistrust. But the fact that natural heirs have either been excluded or a lesser share has been given to them, by itself without anything more, cannot be held to be a suspicious circumstance specially in a case where the bequest has been made in favour of an offspring.

     The propounder has to prove the legality of execution of the Will as also the genuineness thereof by proving the testamentary capacity of the testator as also his signatures and further by proving absence of suspicious circumstances.

proof-of-will    When there are suspicious circumstances regarding the execution of the will, the onus is also on the propounder to explain them to the satisfaction of the court and only when such responsibility is discharged, the court would accept the will as genuine. Even where there are no such pleas, but circumstances give rise to doubt, it is on the propounder to satisfy the conscience of the court. Suspicious circumstances arise due to several reasons such as with regard to genuineness of the signature of the testator, the conditions of the testator's mind, the dispositions made in the will being unnatural, improbable or unfair in the light of relevant circumstances or there might be other indications in the will to show that the testator's mind was not free. In such a case, the court would naturally expect that all legitimate suspicion should be completely removed before the document is accepted as the last will of the testator.[Para No.10.3]

Principles governing the adjudicatory process concerning proof of a Will could be broadly summarized as follows:–

  • 1. Ordinarily, a Will has to be proved like any other document; the test to be applied being the usual test of the satisfaction of the prudent mind. Alike the principles governing the proof of other documents, in the case of Will too, the proof with mathematical accuracy is not to be insisted upon. 
  •  2. Since as per Section 63 of the Succession Act, a Will is required to be attested, it cannot be used as evidence until at least one attesting witness has been called for the purpose of proving its execution, if there be an attesting witness alive and capable of giving evidence. 
  •  3. The unique feature of a Will is that it speaks from the death of the testator and, therefore, the maker thereof is not available for deposing about the circumstances in which the same was executed. This introduces an element of solemnity in the decision of the question as to whether the document propounded is the last Will of the testator. The initial onus, naturally, lies on the propounder but the same can be taken to have been primarily discharged on proof of the essential facts which go into the making of a Will. 
  •  4. The case in which the execution of the Will is surrounded by suspicious circumstances stands on a different footing. The presence of suspicious circumstances makes the onus heavier on the propounder and, therefore, in cases where the circumstances attendant upon the execution of the document give rise to suspicion, the propounder must remove all legitimate suspicions before the document can be accepted as the last Will of the testator. 
  •  5. If a person challenging the Will alleges fabrication or alleges fraud, undue influence, coercion et cetera in regard to the execution of the Will, such pleas have to be proved by him, but even in the absence of such pleas, the very circumstances surrounding the execution of the Will may give rise to the doubt or as to whether the Will had indeed been executed by the testator and/or as to whether the testator was acting of his own free will. In such eventuality, it is again a part of the initial onus of the propounder to remove all reasonable doubts in the matter. 
  • 6. A circumstance is “suspicious” when it is not normal or is ‘not normally expected in a normal situation or is not expected of a normal person’. As put by this Court, the suspicious features must be ‘real, germane and valid’ and not merely the ‘fantasy of the doubting mind. 
  •  7. As to whether any particular feature or a set of features qualify as “suspicious” would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. A shaky or doubtful signature; a feeble or uncertain mind of the testator; an unfair disposition of property; an unjust exclusion of the legal heirs and particularly the dependents; an active or leading part in making of the Will by the beneficiary thereunder et cetera are some of the circumstances which may give rise to suspicion. The circumstances above-noted are only illustrative and by no means exhaustive because there could be any circumstance or set of circumstances which may give rise to legitimate suspicion about the execution of the Will. On the other hand, any of the circumstance qualifying as being suspicious could be legitimately explained by the propounder. However, such suspicion or suspicions cannot be removed by mere proof of sound and disposing state of mind of the testator and his signature coupled with the proof of attestation. 
  •  8. The test of satisfaction of the judicial conscience comes into operation when a document propounded as the Will of the testator is surrounded by suspicious circumstance/s. While applying such test, the Court would address itself to the solemn questions as to whether the testator had signed the Will while being aware of its contents and after understanding the nature and effect of the dispositions in the Will?
  •  In the ultimate analysis, where the execution of a Will is shrouded in suspicion, it is a matter essentially of the judicial conscience of the Court and the party which sets up the Will has to offer cogent and convincing explanation of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the Will.

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