Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Whether the court must refute the statement of accused under S 313 of CRPC before convicting her?

IV. Failure to refute Section 313 CrPC statement
21. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 after the
prosecution closes its evidence and examines all its witnesses, the
accused is given an opportunity of explanation through Section 313(1) (b). Any alternate version of events or interpretation proffered by the accused must be carefully analysed and considered by the trial Court in compliance with the mandate of Section 313(4). Such opportunity is a valuable right of the accused to seek  justice and defend oneself.
Failure of the trial Court to fairly apply its mind and consider the
defence, could endanger the conviction itself. Reena Hazarika v. State of Assam, (2019) 13 SCC 289, ¶ 19. Unlike the prosecution
which needs to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, the accused
merely needs to create reasonable doubt or prove their alternate
version by mere preponderance of probabilities.{M Abbas v. State of Kerala, (2001) 10 SCC 103, ¶ 10.}

Thus, once a
plausible version has been put forth in defence at the Section 313
CrPC examination stage, then it is for the prosecution to negate such defense plea.
22. In the case at hand, the alternate version given by the appellant
could not be lightly brushed aside. Her two part defence, put
succinctly, was that first there was no male tenant at all and no one
except for her child and mother lived with her, and second, that she
was being falsely implicated as vengeance for filing a rape complaint against one Bhola Singh with whom the prosecutrix’s father used to work.
23. It is revealed that a rape complaint had indeed been made by the
appellant against Bhola Singh approximately seven months previous
to the present incident. Not only did she face difficulties in registering
an FIR of rape with the police, but she also had to take pains in filing
a private complaint and prosecuting the case against such third party.
In fact, the effect of these proceedings was in line with the appellant’s
defence, for in that rape trial the trial Court drew a damning
observation against her character (calling her a child trafficker) owing
to these proceedings.

24. Lastly, DW1,
who lived in the neighbourhood of the parties,
both supported the appellant’s claim that there was no male tenant in her home and created sufficiently reasonable connection between
Bhola Singh and the prosecutrix’s father by volunteering that PW2
was residing in Bhola Singh’s premises. Reliance on mere admission
by DW1
during crossexamination
that PW2
was a government
employee, neither negates the defense of false implication nor does it imply that PW2 couldn’t be working with Bhola Singh in a part time/casual capacity or staying in Bhola Singh’s house. Thus, the trial Court’s analysis of the appellant’s Section 313 defence ought to have been deeper, before concluding it as being false or untrustworthy.

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 283 of 2011

Parminder Kaur @ P.P. Kaur @ Soni Vs State of Punjab 

SURYA KANT, J.
Dated:DATED : 28.07.2020

1. The present Criminal Appeal has been preferred by Parminder
Kaur, impugning the judgment dated 30.11.2009 of the High Court of
Punjab and Haryana through which her challenge to a judgment dated
27.02.1999 passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Barnala was
turned down, thereby confirming her conviction of three years rigorous
imprisonment and fine of Rs. 2000 under Sections 366A and 506 of
the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”).
FACTS & CASE HISTORY
2. The prosecution story, as recorded in the FIR at around noon on
24.02.1996, was that the appellant was a single lady living with her
child, mother and a young boy as her tenant in the neighbourhood of the prosecutrix’s1 house. About a week prior to registration of the police complaint, the appellant called the prosecutrix to her house and
tried to entice her to indulge in illicit intercourse with the rich tenant boy in return for clothes and trips from him. The appellant at about 6.00 A.M. on 19.02.1996, allegedly pushed the visiting prosecutrix
into the room occupied by the tenant boy and bolted it from the
outside. It was only on hearing the prosecutrix’s screams that after
five minutes the door was unlocked, with her father (Hari Singh, PW2),
Bhan Singh and Karnail Singh standing outside. Swiftly, the boy
ran out of the room and successfully escaped. Upon the prosecutrix
emerging from the room, her father protested and expressed his
dismay to the bystanding appellant. Scared for their reputation, the
prosecutrix and her father returned to their home without reporting
the matter to anyone, except the prosecutrix’s mother. However, on
24.02.1996 at 7.00 A.M., the appellant caught hold of the prosecutrix outside her house and threatened to kill her brother if anyone was informed of the matter. The prosecutrix was able to escape the appellant’s clutches and worried at this highhandedness,
proceeded with her father towards the police station to report these two incidents and lodged a complaint.
3. During trial, the prosecution examined five witnesses, including
1 The name of the prosecutrix/victim has been withheld, in compliance with the ratio
in Bhupinder Sharma v. State of Himachal Pradesh, (2003) 8 SCC 551.

the prosecutrix (PW1),
her father (PW2),
the draftsman who prepared
the site plan (PW3),
the headmistress who proved the prosecutrix’s
age (PW4)
and the investigating officer (PW5).
The appellant, in turn,
both denied all allegations and examined one witness of her own – a neighbour, Gurnail Singh (DW1)
and offered an alternate version in
her statement under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,
1973 (“CrPC”), claiming that there was no tenant at all in her home
and that the complaint was nothing but motivated revenge at the
instance of one Bhola Singh against whom she had levelled allegations of rape a few months ago.
4. This alternate version was summarily rejected by the trial Court
which concluded that the appellant’s claim of the complaint being at
the instance of Bhola Singh was unlikely both because malicious
prosecution of sexual abuses involving minors, at the instance of third parties, was improbable; and even DW1 in his crossexamination had admitted that Hari Singh was a permanent employee of the Irrigation Department and could not be a Karinda (employee) of Bhola Singh as claimed by the appellant.
5. Relying upon the school records produced by DW4,
the Court
observed that the prosecutrix was studying in Class VII with date of
birth as 12.04.1982, thereby unimpeachably making her a minor.
Without delving into the elements of Section 366A or 506 IPC, or

whether each individual ingredient had been satisfied by the
prosecution, the learned Additional Sessions Judge focused on
negating the defences projected by the appellant. In response to the
contradictions between important aspects of the prosecutrix and her
father’s testimonies, like differences in physical description and
antecedents of the male tenant and the inability of the witnesses and
the police to catch or trace the boy, the trial Court instead noted that
there was no reason to disbelieve the prosecutrix and her father. The  fiveday delay in registration of the FIR was condoned for having arisen out of natural fear of reputation of the prosecutrix and her
family, as well as the mild severity of the case. Similarly, the nonexamination
of the other two independent witnesses, Bhan Singh and
Karnail Singh was ignored as being normal reluctance of bystanders in
cases where there was no rape or assault.
6. Accordingly, the trial Court held that the appellant had
intentionally induced the prosecutrix to perform illicit intercourse with
her male tenant, and that she had also criminally intimidated the
prosecutrix by threatening her family member. Noting the large
number of dependents that the appellant had to support as a single
lady, and considering the lack of commission of any assault or rape
against the prosecutrix, the appellant was concurrently sentenced to
three years rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs 2,000 (or further six months rigorous imprisonment in lieu thereof) under Section 366A,
and one year rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs. 1,000 (or further
three months rigorous imprisonment in lieu thereof) under Section
506 of IPC.
7. The aggrieved appellant approached the High Court which too
refused to interfere with the order of conviction. While dismissing the
appeal, the High Court observed that the statement of the accused
under Section 313 CrPC appeared to be an afterthought,
and that in
the absence of any evidence proving enmity between the parties it was
impossible that anyone would falsely implicate a woman in such like
offence. The minority of the prosecutrix was noted as having been
proved, and the testimonies of PW1 and PW2 were held to be
impeccable and corroborating each other completely. Similar to the
trial Court, the High Court also explainedaway
the delay in
registration of FIR as a result of family reputation put at stake in
matters of sexual offence cases. Other omissions in the form of nonexamination
of Bhan Singh and Hari Singh and failure to catch or
trace the identity of the male tenant were deemed insignificant and
immaterial.
CONTENTIONS OF PARTIES
8. The judgments of the trial Court and High Court have been
elegantly assailed before us by learned counsel for the appellant who contended that the testimonies of the two star witnesses,
being full of material contradictions, are far from reliable. The delay in registration
of the FIR and the lack of any attempt to catch or even later trace the
male tenant showed that the story was concocted by the prosecutrix’s
family with ulterior motives. Reliance was also placed on the denial
and alternate version put forth by the appellant in her statement
under Section 313 CrPC, and the failure of the Courts below to either
examine such statutory statement indepth
or for the prosecution to
belie it effectively. Emphasis was laid on the statement of DW1
who volunteered during his crossexamination that PW2
was then living in the house owned by Bhola Singh, the person against whom the appellant had alleged rape. The deleterious effect of these proceedings on Bhola Singh’s trial and his subsequent acquittal on grounds that Parminder Kaur (the appellant here) was a lady of questionable character who indulged in trafficking of minors, was highlighted to show colourable motive behind registration of this case against the appellant.
9. On the contrary, learned state counsel supported the impugned
judgment(s) by placing emphasis on the concurrent findings of the
Courts below. Reliance was also placed on PW2’
s crossexamination
wherein he himself denied knowing Bhola Singh, to counter the
allegation of false implication by the prosecutrix.

ANALYSIS
I. Sweeping generalisations and superficial analysis
10. Having heard learned counsel for the parties at considerable
length through video conferencing, we find from the impugned orders
that the Courts below failed in making the desired attempt to delve
deep into the factual matrix of this case. Many aspects, as discussed
hereunder, have completely been ignored or only dealt with hastily.
Further, the reasoning is generic and is premised upon generalisations
which may not be necessarily true always. It is indisputable that
parents would not ordinarily endanger the reputation of their minor
daughter merely to falsely implicate their opponents, but such clich├ęs ought not to be the sole basis of dismissing reasonable doubts created and/or defences set out by the accused.
11. Similarly, the fiveday
delay in registration of the FIR, in the
facts and circumstances of this case, gains importance as the father of the victim is an eyewitness to a part of the occurrence. It is difficult to appreciate that a father would await a second incident to happen before moving the law into motion. Sweeping assumptions concerning delays in registration of FIRs for sexual offences, send a problematic signal to society and create opportunities for abuse by miscreants.
Instead, the facts of each individual case and the behaviour of the
parties involved ought to be analysed by courts before reaching a

conclusion on the reason and effect of delay in registration of FIR. In
the facts of the present case, neither is Section 366A by itself a sexual
offence in the strict sense nor do the inactions of the prosecutrix or
her father inspire confidence on genuineness of the prosecution story.
No steps were taken to avail of medical examination of the victim, nor
was the Panchayat or any social forum approached for any form of
redress till the occurrence of the second alleged incident.
12. Further, it is beyond comprehension that the prosecutrix’s father
and his two male associates failed to stop the tenant boy who was
allegedly about to commit a sexual offence with the minor victim and
neither did they later make any attempt to even register a complaint
against him. Strangely, the prosecution has acquiesced to such
disappearance of the boy from the scene. Still further, the father of the
prosecutrix merely registered his protest to the appellant on the scene,
instead of reacting instinctively and approaching police authorities
when faced with possible trafficking of his daughter. This conduct of
belatedly proceeding against only the prosecutrix creates a lurking
suspicion against the prosecution case and it may not be totally
improbable to infer that it was a malicious attempt at the behest of
Bhola Singh to falsely implicate a weak rape victim and stifle her
ability to seek justice.
II. Shoddy investigation and prosecution

13. The original record elucidates the lack of serious effort on part of
either the investigation agency or the prosecutor to bring home the
appellant’s guilt. Save for the initiative of the prosecutrix and her
father to register the complaint, no substantive evidence has been
gathered by the police. Despite the male tenant having been residing
with the appellant allegedly for many months, the police were unable
to even discover his name, let alone his antecedents or location.
Further, DW1
casts an impressionable doubt on the existence of the
boy in the first place. This is further buttressed by the fact that PW1
and PW2
differed in their physical description of the boy’s age,
clothing and his whereabouts. If the boy was indeed a tenant and if he
did live there for months, it is highly mootable that he couldn’t have
been traced.
14. The spot map prepared by PW3
also has glaring omissions. The
location of Bhan Singh’s house and the place where the appellant
allegedly threatened the prosecutrix on 24.02.1996 are not even
marked. Letters which the prosecutrix alleged in her examinationinchief
and police complaint that the appellant got written from her,
have not been produced during trial. These could have shed light on
the relationship between the accused, prosecutrix and the male tenant
prior to the incident. It is the duty of the prosecution to lead the best
evidence in its possession, and failure to do so ought to lead to an

adverse inference. Musauddin Ahmed v. State of Assam, (2009) 14 SCC 541, ¶ 1115.
15. Nonexamination
of Bhan Singh and Karnail Singh is also a
noticeable lapse, given the gaps in the prosecution story. It appears
that no serious attempt was made to get them examined to resolve the
contradictions in the testimonies of PW1
and PW2.
Such lack of
examination of material independent witnesses, adversely affects the
case of the prosecution. This Court in Takhaji Hiraji v. Thakore
Kubersing Chamansing and others (2001) 6 SCC 145., viewed that:
“19. … It is true that if a material witness, who would unfold the
genesis of the incident or an essential part of the prosecution case,
not convincingly brought to fore otherwise, or where there is a gap or
infirmity in the prosecution case which could have been supplied or
made good by examining a witness who though available is not
examined, the prosecution case can be termed as suffering from a
deficiency and withholding of such a material witness would oblige
the court to draw an adverse inference against the prosecution by
holding that if the witness would have been examined it would not
have supported the prosecution case. ...”
III. Gross misappreciation
of conflicting testimonies
16. Ordinarily, the Supreme Court ought not to reappreciate
evidence. However, where the courts below have dealt with the
material on record in a cavalier or mechanical manner which is likely to cause gross injustice, then this Court in such exceptional
circumstances may justifiably reappraise the evidence to advance the cause of justice. There is no gainsaying that such reassessment
ought not to take place routinely and ought not to become substitution of an otherwise plausible view taken by the Courts below.
17. The trial Court has summarily disregarded the contradictions
highlighted by the defense side, on the premise that such
contradictions had no material bearing and that there was no reason
to disbelieve the prosecutrix. The High Court too has opined that PW1
and PW2
have completely corroborated each other and their
testimonies were impeccable. These reasons, in our considered
opinion, are not only contrary to the record but they also lead to an
impermissible reversal of the burden of proof imposed in criminal
trials. There are numerous clear contradictions between the
testimonies of these two starwitnesses,
which we find fatal to the
prosecution case.
18. First, PW1
states that when the door was unlocked from
outside, only her father (PW2)
and Bhan Singh were present outside.
However, this contradicts both the information she gave in the police
complaint and the testimony of her father (PW2)
who states that
additionally a third person, Karnail Singh, was also present. Second,
the prosecutrix’s description of the male tenant differs significantly
from that of her father. Whereas PW1
estimated his age at about 26 years and described him as wearing a pantshirt, PW2 believed the boy to be 18-19
years’ old and wearing a banian, underwear and dirty
shirt. Third, on the antecedents of the anonymous boy, the prosecutrix stated that he was residing with the appellant for a year, whereas this period was materially less at only 23
months per her father. Fourth,
whereas prosecutrix claimed that her father and Bhan Singh
unsuccessfully attempted to catch the tenant while he was escaping
from the room, PW2
himself states that he was too perplexed to either
run or raise any alarm. Fifth and most notably, on the point of
recording of the FIR, the testimonies of PW1,
PW2
and PW5
all differ
noticeably. Whereas PW1
claims that the complaint was recorded by
PW5
while sitting on a “patthar” (stone), PW2
claims that the same
was recorded by PW5
while sitting on a “concrete bench” in the
waiting shed of a bus stand in the presence of two other policemen.
Most intriguingly, PW5
gives an entirely third version, claiming that
he was present at the bus stand with five other police officials and
that the statement was written not by him but by another ASI, who
placed the papers on the bonnet of the jeep while standing.
19. In addition to these inconsistencies which cast a serious shadow
of doubt over the version of events put forth by the prosecution, the
accounts of PW1
and PW2
are superficial and lack detail. Important
links of the story, including what happened in the crucial five minutes when the girl was locked inside the room or how the male tenant reacted, are missing.
20. Similarly, other links of the story are grossly inconsistent and
don’t fit with each other. PW2
admits to being not at home and
instead outside Bhan Singh’s house during the initial part of the
incident, which as per the prosecutrix’s statement was a 10minute
walk from the spot of the crime. It is thus unlikely that PW2
could
have heard the prosecutrix’s screams from such afar or could have
covered such a significant distance in less than five minutes as
claimed by PW1.
There are, thus, mutual contradictions in the
prosecution story.
IV. Failure to refute Section 313 CrPC statement
21. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 after the
prosecution closes its evidence and examines all its witnesses, the
accused is given an opportunity of explanation through Section 313(1) (b). Any alternate version of events or interpretation proffered by the accused must be carefully analysed and considered by the trial Court in compliance with the mandate of Section 313(4). Such opportunity is a valuable right of the accused to seek  justice and defend oneself.
Failure of the trial Court to fairly apply its mind and consider the
defence, could endanger the conviction itself. Reena Hazarika v. State of Assam, (2019) 13 SCC 289, ¶ 19. Unlike the prosecution
which needs to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, the accused
merely needs to create reasonable doubt or prove their alternate
version by mere preponderance of probabilities.{M Abbas v. State of Kerala, (2001) 10 SCC 103, ¶ 10.}

Thus, once a
plausible version has been put forth in defence at the Section 313
CrPC examination stage, then it is for the prosecution to negate such defense plea.
22. In the case at hand, the alternate version given by the appellant
could not be lightly brushed aside. Her two part defence, put
succinctly, was that first there was no male tenant at all and no one
except for her child and mother lived with her, and second, that she
was being falsely implicated as vengeance for filing a rape complaint against one Bhola Singh with whom the prosecutrix’s father used to work.
23. It is revealed that a rape complaint had indeed been made by the
appellant against Bhola Singh approximately seven months previous
to the present incident. Not only did she face difficulties in registering
an FIR of rape with the police, but she also had to take pains in filing
a private complaint and prosecuting the case against such third party.
In fact, the effect of these proceedings was in line with the appellant’s
defence, for in that rape trial the trial Court drew a damning
observation against her character (calling her a child trafficker) owing
to these proceedings.

24. Lastly, DW1,
who lived in the neighbourhood of the parties,
both supported the appellant’s claim that there was no male tenant in her home and created sufficiently reasonable connection between
Bhola Singh and the prosecutrix’s father by volunteering that PW2
was residing in Bhola Singh’s premises. Reliance on mere admission
by DW1
during crossexamination
that PW2
was a government
employee, neither negates the defense of false implication nor does it imply that PW2 couldn’t be working with Bhola Singh in a part time/casual capacity or staying in Bhola Singh’s house. Thus, the trial Court’s analysis of the appellant’s Section 313 defence ought to have been deeper, before concluding it as being false or untrustworthy.
V. Charge of Criminal Intimidation
25. Proving the intention of the appellant to cause alarm or compel
doing/abstaining from some act, and not mere utterances of words, is a prerequisite  of successful conviction under Section 506 of IPC. Manik Taneja & Anr. v. State of Karnataka & Anr., (2015) 7 SCC 423, ¶ 12.The trial Court has undertaken no such separate analysis or recorded any finding on this count, thus calling into question the conviction for criminal intimidation. Further, the nature of this charge is such that it is a derivative of the main charge of ‘procuration of minor girls’. Given
the facts of this case where the common testimony of PW1
on both charges has been doubted, it would be unwise to rely upon it as the sole piece of evidence to convict the appellant for criminal intimidation without any other corroboration. Kamij Shaikh v. Emperor, AIR 1948 Pat 73, ¶ 5.
CONCLUSION
26. We are thus of the considered view that the prosecution has
failed to discharge its burden of proving the guilt of the appellant
under Section 366A and 506 of the IPC beyond reasonable doubt.
Thus, for the reasons aforesaid, the appeal is allowed and the
conviction and sentence awarded by the Courts below are set aside.
The appellant is acquitted and consequently set free.
…………………………….. J.
(N.V. RAMANA)
…………………………… J.
(SURYA KANT)
…………………………...J.
(KRISHNA MURARI)
NEW DELHI
DATED : 28.07.2020


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