(1.) This is a textbook case as to how a fatal procedural lapse both in the manner in which the case was investigated and the manner in which the trial Court had dealt with the cases, has derailed the criminal case which involves a double murder committed for gain. The facts as they unfold infra will reveal the disappointment expressed by this Court in this prelude.
(2.) One set of appeals are filed by the accused persons, who were convicted by the trial Court and the other appeal is filed by the victim against the acquittal of the accused persons. Under normal circumstances, both these appeals should be dealt with separately, since separate charges have been framed and separate trial has been conducted and independent judgments have been rendered by the trial Court. However, there is a reason for rendering a common judgment in the above appeals and the said reason will get unfolded in the forthcoming discussion.
(3.) Brief Facts of the Case:
Thoosimuthu (A-1) in both the cases, faced financial problems due to loss in business. He was running a Carrom Board Manufacturing Company. He had heavily borrowed loan from various sources and had accumulated debts to the tune of a sum of Rs.6 lakhs. He received five sovereigns of gold from one Panchavarnam [PW-8 in Crl.A.(MD).Nos.348,349 of 2017 & Crl.A.(MD).No.178 of 2019 and PW-12 in Crl.A.(MD).No.15 of 2019]. He pledged the same with Muthoot Finance. A-1 came to know that Ponmurugan (deceased in Crl.A.(MD).No.15 of 2019) was running a business wherein, he has offered to lend him more money by taking the receipt given by Muthoot Finance, where the jewels were originally pledged. Therefore, A-1 had sought for more amount by offering to surrender the receipt issued by Muthoot Finance.
(3.1) Manickavasagam [deceased in Crl.A.(MD).Nos.348 & 349 of 2017 & Crl.A.(MD).No.178 of 2019], was an employee in the business run by the above said Ponmurugan in the name and style of Sri Balaji Gold Finance Company. A-1 thereby got acquaintance with the deceased Manickavasagam.
(3.2) The case of the prosecution in Crl.A.(MD).Nos.348 & 349 of 2017 & Crl.A.(MD).No.178 of 2019, is that A-1 to A-3 hatched a conspiracy whereby, the above said Ponmurugan will be convinced to lend a sum of Rs.3 lakhs and he will send this amount through Manickavasagam, in order to collect the receipt issued by Muthoot Finance. On the way, A-1 will convince Manickavasagam to retain some amount and give the balance to the accused persons. If he does not agree for this arrangement, Manickavasagam will be brought to the Carrom Board Company by A-1 and all the accused persons will do away with him and take the entire amount brought by him. In continuation of this conspiracy, on 09.09.2010 at about 11.00 a.m., A-1 went to Sri Balaji Finance and informed Ponmurugan that 24 sovereigns gold worth a sum of Rs.2,40,000/- is under pledge with Muthoot Finance. Ponmurugan asked A-1 to give the receipt for the jewels already pledged. A-1 informed Ponmurugan that the receipt was lost and he will execute a bond to that effect. Believing the words of A-1, Ponmurugan asked A-1 to come on 13.09.2010.
(3.3) On 13.09.2010 at about 10.15 a.m., A-1 went to the shop of Ponmurugan and waited. At that point of time, Manickavasagam was given cash of a sum of Rs.2,50,000/- by Ponmurugan and had sent Manickavasagam along with A-1 in a two-wheeler to Muthoot Finance at Villapuram. While both were travelling in the two-wheeler, A-1 offered Manickavasagam a sum of Rs.1 lakh and told him that the balance amount Rs.1,50,000/- must be given to him. Manickavasagam did not accept this offer. Therefore, A-1 informed Manickavasagam that the receipt must be available in the Carrom Board Company and therefore, he asked Manickavasagam to go along with him to the Company to get the receipt. The deceased Manickavasagam was brought to the Carrom Board Company at Avaniyapuram. Immediately, after the deceased Manickavasagam entered the Company, A-1 to A-3, as per the earlier plan, attacked Manickavasagam with hands and legs and he was held by A-2 and A-3 and A-1 is said to have strangulated Manickavasagam with a cable wire and killed him and taken away a sum of Rs.2,50,000/- from him. A-4 was made as an accused on the ground that he had harboured A-1 and A-2 and concealed them, in spite of knowing that they had committed the offence of murder.
(3.4) Based on the above facts, the trial Court framed the following charges against the accused persons.
(3.5) The case of the prosecution in Crl.A.(MD).No.15 of 2019, is that after the commission of the offence and the murder of Manickavasagam, A- 1 & A-2 realised that Ponmurugan will spill the beans, since he knows about the fact that the deceased Manickavasagam was sent along with A-1. Therefore, they decided to murder Ponmurugan. They thought that by murdering Ponmurugan, their involvement in the murder of Manickavasagam will not come out. Pursuant to the said conspiracy, A-1 and A-2 went to the shop of Ponmurugan on 13.09.2010 at about 12.20 p.m., armed with a knife and scissor and Ponmurugan was stabbed indiscriminately on his neck and back, resulting in his instantaneous death. A-3 was added as an accused, on the ground that he was also present in the scene of occurrence and in furtherance of the common intention, he informed A-1 and A-2 about the presence of Ponmurugan and while the incident was happening, he was watching the movements of the general public. A-4 was made as an accused, on the ground that he harboured A-1 and A-2 knowing fully well that they had committed the crime.
(3.6) Based on the above facts, the trial Court framed the following charges against the accused persons.