Ram Narain v. State of U.P. [1973 SC]

On August 15, 1964, Mannu, a boy about 6 years old, was found missing from the house of the appellant’s relation Shri Gajendra Nath, an Excise Inspector, residing in  Kanpur. A report was lodged at the police station about this fact and a notice was also published in the newspapers and hand-bills were distributed announcing a reward of Rs 501 for anyone who furnished the clue of the missing child’s whereabouts. A post-card (Ext. Ka-1) bearing post office seals dated August 21, 1964 and later an inland letter (Ext. Ka-2) bearing the date October 21, 1964, were received by Gajendra Nath demanding, in the first letter a ransom of Rs 1,000 and in the second a ransom of Rs 5,000 for the return of the boy.

Investigation of the case revealed that the appellant Ram Narain was also responsible for kidnapping and wrongfully confining the said child and that it was he who had sent the two anonymous letters demanding ransom.

Ram Narain was convicted for an offence under Sections 384 and 511 I.P.C. This conviction was solely based on the conclusion that the two anonymous letters had been written by him. The appellant having categorically denied his authorship of those letters, a hand-writing expert was produced in support of the prosecution case. Believing his testimony that the appellant was the writer of those two letters, all the three courts below have agreed in convicting the appellant.

The short question raised before us relates to the legality and propriety of the appellant’s conviction on the uncorroborated testimony of the hand-writing expert.

It was emphasised by the appellant’s learned counsel that it is not safe to record a finding about a person’s writing merely on the basis of comparison because the opinion of a hand-writing expert is not conclusive and his evidence is normally insufficient for recording a definite finding about the writing being of a certain person or not.

Now, it is no doubt true that the opinion of a hand-writing expert given in evidence is no less fallible than any other expert opinion adduced in evidence with the result that such evidence has to be received with great cautionBut this opinion evidence, which is relevant, may be worthy of acceptance if there is internal or external evidence relating to the document in question supporting the view expressed by the expert.

If after comparison of the disputed and the admitted writings by the court itself, when the Presiding Officer is familiar with that language, it is considered safe to accept the opinion of the expert then the conclusion so arrived at cannot be assailed on special leave on the mere ground that comparison of handwriting is generally considered as hazardous and inconclusive. The question in each case falls for determination on appreciation of evidence.

The trial court in this case compared the relevant documents and arrived at the conclusion that they have all been written in one hand. The Sessions Judge on appeal himself compared those writings with the help of the expert’s opinion and his report and came to a definite conclusion “that the disputed hand-writings tally with the specimen hand-writing”. In the High Court also the learned Single Judge, observed as follows:

“I have myself made a comparison of the specimen writing of the applicant with the writing contained in the two letters. I have not the least doubt that the writing in the postcard and the writing in the admitted writing of the applicant are the same.”

No serious attempt was made on behalf of the appellant to find fault with the approach of the three courts below. There is, therefore, no ground made out for interference by this Court with the appellant’s conviction. Unfortunately, the record is not before us otherwise we would have also tried to examine for ourselves the disputed and the specimen handwritings.

The next question is one of sentence. It generally poses a complex problem which requires a working compromise between the competing views based on reformative, deterrent and retributive theories of punishments. Though a large number of factors fall for consideration in determining appropriate sentence, the broad object of punishment of an accused found guilty in progressive civilized societies is to impress on the guilty party that commission of crime does not pay and that it is both against his individual interest and also against the larger interest of the society to which he belongs. The sentence to be appropriate should, therefore, be neither too harsh nor too lenient.

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