17 June 2024


Judgments

Supreme Court

Dinesh Kumar Kalidas Patel Vs. The State of Gujarat

MANU/SC/0110/2018

12.02.2018

Criminal

Mere fact that deceased allegedly died an unnatural death could not be sufficient to bring home a charge under Section 201 of IPC

Present is a case where the Appellant's wife committed suicide by hanging. The incident took place on 26th December, 1990. The information was conveyed to the family of the deceased. The father and brother of the deceased, who is a doctor by profession, attended the last rites. After more than three months, the father of the deceased filed a complaint before the Judicial Magistrate. The same was investigated, and the Appellant was charged under Sections 304B, 306, 498A and 201 read with Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Along with the Appellant, seven other persons also faced the trial. By judgment, the Sessions Judge convicted the Appellant under Sections 498A and 201 of IPC but acquitted the seven others. The appeals fled in 1995 were heard in the year 2015 and, as per the impugned judgment, the Appellant was acquitted of the offence under Section 498A of the IPC but conviction under Section 201 of IPC was maintained. Thus aggrieved, the Appellant is before present Court.

The law is well-settled that, a charge under Section 201 of the IPC can be independently laid and conviction maintained also, in case the prosecution is able to establish that, an offence had been committed, the person charged with the offence had the knowledge or the reason to believe that, the offence had been committed, the said person has caused disappearance of evidence and such act of disappearance has been done with the intention of screening the offender from legal punishment. Mere suspicion is not sufficient, it must be proved that the Accused knew or had a reason to believe that, the offence has been committed and yet he caused the evidence to disappear so as to screen the offender. The offender may be either himself or any other person.

The only ground for maintaining the conviction under Section 201 of the IPC is that, the Appellant did not give intimation to the police of the unnatural death and that no post-mortem was conducted. The Appellant has been acquitted of the offence under Section 498A by the High Court. The prosecution has also not been able to satisfy the ingredients under Section 201 of the IPC. Neither the Sessions Court nor the High Court has any case that there is any intentional omission to give information by the Appellant to the police. It is also to be noted that, prosecution has no case under Section 202 of the IPC against the Appellant.

As held by this Court in Hanuman and Ors. vs. State of Rajasthan, the mere fact that, the deceased allegedly died an unnatural death could not be sufficient to bring home a charge under Section 201 of the IPC. Unless the prosecution was able to establish that the Accused person knew or had reason to believe that an offence has been committed and had done something causing the offence of commission of evidence to disappear, he cannot be convicted.

There is no such allegation against the Appellant. The last rites of the deceased were performed in the presence of the members of her family. They had no suspicion at that time of the commission of any offence. The private complaint was lodged after more than three months. There is no charge under Section 202 of the Indian Penal Code of intentionally omitting to give information of the unnatural death to the police. It is also not the case of the complainant that, he had requested for post-mortem of the body and that intimation should have been given to the police before the last rites were performed. The Sessions Court is not justified in convicting the Appellant under Section 201 of the IPC and the High Court maintaining the same. Accordingly, the appeals are allowed. The conviction of the Appellant under Section 201 of the IPC is set aside.

Relevant

Hanuman and Ors. v. State of Rajasthan MANU/SC/0305/1994
: 1994 Supp (2) SCC 39

Tags : Suspicion Conviction Legality

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