Saturday 10 June 2023

How to appreciate evidence if suicide letter written by accused was recovered from body of deceased?

  The underlying principle deducible from the observations extracted above is that though it is not impermissible to base a finding with regard to authorship of a document solely on the opinion of a handwriting expert but, as a Rule of prudence, because of imperfect nature of the science of identification of handwriting and its accepted fallibility, such opinion has to be relied with caution and may be accepted if, on its own assessment, the Court is satisfied that the internal and external evidence relating to the document in question supports the opinion of the expert and it is safe to accept his opinion.{Para 65}

66. In the instant case, with regard to authorship of the suicide letter, the Trial Court though returned a finding in favour of the prosecution by relying solely on the expert report but did not record its satisfaction having regard to its own observations with respect to the admitted and disputed writings. It also did not examine whether in the proven facts and circumstances of the case it would be safe to rely on the expert report. It be noted that Section 73 of the IEA, 1872 enables a Court to compare the words or figures written by a person present in Court with any words or figures alleged to have been written by such person. The Trial Court therefore could have undertaken such an exercise. But, in the instant case, there appears no such exercise undertaken by the Trial Court. What is important is that in the instant case there is no witness statement identifying the handwriting of Neeraj or disclosing that Neeraj wrote the suicide letter in his presence. There is also no evidence to explain the relevance of the contents of the suicide letter. Interestingly, the suicide letter indicts one Chhote Porwal. As to why such indictment was made; whether it was with reference to some other event contemplated, the prosecution evidence is silent. Besides that, there is no evidence to show that the investigating officer queried person(s) conversant with the handwriting of the deceased to Rule out possibility of the suicide letter being in the writing of the deceased himself. In our view, such an exercise was necessary to lend assurance to the prosecution story of the suicide letter being written by Neeraj to mask the murder, because, firstly, the death on its face was not suicidal, and, secondly, it could have ruled out possibility of it being written in contemplation of some other event. Seen in that light, barring the expert report, there exists no internal or external evidence to lend assurance to the prosecution story that the suicide letter was written by Neeraj.

67. In addition to the above, we find it quite difficult to accept as to why Neeraj would leave a suicide letter written by him in a pocket of the trouser worn by the deceased, particularly, when the injuries even to a layman were homicidal. Notably, there were eight ante-mortem injuries found on the body of the deceased. 

68. A glance at those injuries would reflect that five of them were perforating or penetrating wounds cavity deep. Out of those, two were on chest and three on abdomen.  Such injuries are clearly homicidal therefore, masking this homicidal event as a suicide does not appeal to logic. Further, the injuries are not of same dimension. In these circumstances, a question would arise as to why would Neeraj who has no proven connection with the deceased or the co-Accused Santosh, or for that matter the apartment where the dead body was found, make a futile effort to mask the event of murder and thereby leave a trace of his own culpability. To answer that, the prosecution has led no admissible evidence. Thus, even if we assume that a suicide letter was found, at what stage it was written - prior to, or post the murder, or in connection with some other event which the deceased contemplated - is anybody's guess.

69. In light of the discussion above, taking into account that Neeraj has denied the incriminating circumstance of writing the suicide letter and no internal or external evidence, save the expert report, supports the writing of suicide letter by Neeraj, we are of the considered view that though the expert evidence was admissible as an opinion on the writing in the suicide letter but, on overall assessment of the evidence led by the prosecution, solely on its basis, it would be extremely unsafe to hold that the suicide letter retrieved from the trouser of the deceased was written by Neeraj.


Criminal Appeal Nos. 575 and 576 of 2011

Decided On: 28.04.2023

 Santosh  Vs.   State (G.N.C.T.) of Delhi

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:

Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Manoj Misra and Aravind Kumar, JJ.

Author: Manoj Misra, J.

Citation: MANU/SC/0499/2023.

Read full Judgment here: Click here

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