Bhagwan Dass v. State (NCT of Delhi) [2011 SC]

Markandey Katju J.:   This is yet another case of gruesome honour killing, this time by the accused-appellant of his own daughter.

The prosecution case is that the appellant was very annoyed with his daughter, who had left her husband Raju and was living in an incestuous relationship with her uncle Sriniwas. This infuriated the appellant as he thought this conduct of his daughter Seema had dishonoured his family, and hence he strangulated her with an electric wire. The trial court convicted the appellant and this judgment was upheld by the High Court.

This is a case of circumstantial evidence, but it is settled law that a person can be convicted on circumstantial evidence provided the links in the chain of circumstances connects the accused with the crime beyond reasonable doubt. In this case, we are satisfied that the prosecution has been able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt by establishing all the links in the chain of circumstances.

In cases of circumstantial evidence motive is very important, unlike cases of direct evidence where it is not so important.

In the present case, prosecution case was that the motive of the appellant in murdering his daughter was that she was living in adultery with one Sriniwas, who was the son of the maternal aunt of the appellant. The appellant felt humiliated by this, and to avenge the family honour he murdered his own daughter.

The circumstances which connect the accused to the crime are:

  1. The motive of the crime which has already been mentioned above.
  2. The omission by the appellant in not informing the police about the death of his daughter for about 10 hours was a totally unnatural conduct on his part.

The appellant had admitted that deceased Seema had stayed in his house on the night of 14.5.2006/15.5.2006. The appellant’s mother was too old to commit the crime, and there is not even a suggestion by the defence that his brother may have committed it. Hence we can safely rule out the possibility that someone else, other than the appellant, committed the crime.

The accused admitted that although Seema had been married about three years ago, she had left her husband and was living in her father’s house for about one month. Thus there was both motive and opportunity for the appellant to commit the murder.

It has come in evidence that the accused appellant with his family members were making preparation for her last rites when the police arrived. Had the police not arrived they would probably have gone ahead and cremated Seema even without a post mortem so as to destroy the evidence of strangulation.

The mother of the accused Smt. Dhillo Devi stated before the police that her son (the accused) had told her that he had killed Seema. No doubt a statement to the police is ordinarily not admissible in evidence in view of Section 162(1) Cr.PC, but as mentioned in the proviso it can be used to contradict the testimony of a witness.

Smt. Dhillo Devi also appeared as a witness before the trial court, and in her cross examination she was confronted with her statement to the police to whom she had stated that her son (the accused) had told her that he had killed Seema. On being so confronted with her statement to the police she denied that she had made such statement.

We are of the opinion that the statement of Smt. Dhillo Devi to the police can be taken into consideration in view of the proviso to Section 162(1), and her subsequent denial in court is not believable because she obviously had afterthoughts and wanted to save her son (the accused) from punishment.

In fact in her statement to the police she had stated that the dead body of Seema was removed from the bed and placed on the floor. When she was confronted with this statement in the court she denied that she had made such statement before the police. We are of the opinion that her statement to the police can be taken into consideration in view of the proviso of Section 162(1) Cr.PC.

In our opinion the statement of the accused to his mother Smt. Dhillo Devi is an extra judicial confession. In State of Rajasthan vs. Raja Ram (2003 SC] it was held:

An extra-judicial confession, if voluntary and true and made in a fit state of mind, can be relied upon by the courtThe confession will have to be proved like any other fact. The value of the evidence as to confession, like any other evidence, depends upon the veracity of the witness to whom it has been made. The value of the evidence as to the confession depends on the reliability of the witness who gives the evidence.

It is not open to any court to start with a presumption that extra-judicial confession is a weak type of evidence. It would depend on the nature of the circumstances, the time when the confession was made and the credibility of the witnesses who speak to such a confession. Such a confession can be relied upon and conviction can be founded thereon if the evidence about the confession comes from the mouth of witnesses who appear to be unbiased, not even remotely inimical to the accused, and in respect of whom nothing is brought out which may tend to indicate that he may have a motive of attributing an untruthful statement to the accused, the words spoken to by the witness are clear, unambiguous and unmistakably convey that the accused is the perpetrator of the crime and nothing is omitted by the witness which may militate against it. After subjecting the evidence of the witness to a rigorous test on the touch- stone of credibility, the extra-judicial confession can be accepted and can be the basis of a conviction if it passes the test of credibility.”

No doubt Smt. Dhillo Devi was declared hostile by the prosecution as she resiled from her earlier statement to the police. However, as observed in State vs. Ram Prasad Mishra:

“Evidence of a hostile witness would not be totally rejected if spoken in favour of the prosecution or the accused, but can be subjected to close scrutiny and the portion of evidence which is consistent with the case of prosecution or defence may be accepted.”

It is the duty of the Court to separate the grain from the chaff, and the maxim falsus in uno falsus in omnibus has no application in India [Nisar Alli v. State of Uttar Pradesh 1957 SC].

In the present case we are of the opinion that Smt. Dhillo Devi denied her earlier statement from the police because she wanted to save her son. Hence we accept her statement to the police and reject her statement in court. The defence has not shown that the police had any enmity with the accused, or had some other reason to falsely implicate him. We are of the opinion that this was a clear case of murder and the entire circumstances point to the guilt of the accused.

The cause of death was opined by Dr. Pravindra Singh as death “due to asphyxia as a result of ante-mortem strangulation by ligature.” It is evident that this is a case of murder, and not suicide. The body was not found hanging but lying on the ground.

The accused made a statement to the SDM immediately after the incident and has signed the same. No doubt he claimed in his statement under Section 313 Cr.PC that nothing was asked by the SDM but he did not clarify how his signature appeared on the statement, nor did he say that he was forced to sign his statement nor was the statement challenged in the cross examination of the SDM. The SDM appeared as a witness before the trial court and he has proved the statement in his evidence.

We see no reason to disbelieve the SDM as there is nothing to show that he had any enmity against the accused or had any other reason for making a false statement in Court.

The accused had given a statement to the SDM in the presence of Inspector Nand Kumar which led to discovery of the electric wire by which the crime was committed. We are of the opinion that this disclosure was admissible as evidence under Section 27 of the Evidence Act. In his evidence the police Inspector stated that at the pointing out of the accused the electric wire with which the accused is alleged to have strangulated his daughter was recovered from under a bed in a room.

There is overwhelming circumstantial evidence to show that the accused committed the crime as he felt that he was dishonoured by his daughter.

In our opinion honour killing come within the category of rarest of rare cases deserving death punishment. This is necessary as a deterrent for such outrageous, uncivilized behaviour. All persons who are planning to perpetrate `honour’ killings should know that the gallows await them.

Let a copy of this judgment be sent to Registrars of all High Courts who shall circulate the same to all Judges of the Courts.