MEENAKSHI MADAN RAI,J. -
(1.) This Appeal questions the Judgment and Order on Sentence, both dated 26.12.2019, of the Learned Sessions Judge, West Sikkim at Gyalshing, in Sessions Trial Case No.03 of 2017 (State of Sikkim v. Lalit Rai), by which the Appellant was convicted for the charge under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (for short, 'IPC') and sentenced to undergo Rigorous Imprisonment for life and to pay a fine of Rs.10,000/- (Rupees ten thousand) with a default clause of imprisonment.
(2.) Before dealing with the merits of the Appeal, we may briefly advert to the Prosecution case for clarity. Exhibit 1, the First Information Report (for short, 'FIR') dated 23.01.2017, was lodged by P.W.1, Panchayat of Megyong, West Sikkim, informing that at around 4 p.m., he received telephonic information from P.W.5 stating that one Lalit Rai (Appellant) had murdered his wife. That, P.W.1, accompanied by his friends, visited the Place of Occurrence (for short, 'P.O.') at Gaucharan, Amaley, Saagbari, Megyong, West Sikkim and found the body of the Appellant's wife with multiple cut injuries on her person, caused by a sharp edged weapon. The Appellant had absconded from the P.O. On the basis of Exhibit 1, FIR bearing No.04/2017, dated 23.01.2017, was registered against the Appellant under Section 302 IPC by Kaluk Police Station. The investigation revealed that the deceased was earlier married to one Krishna Bahadur Gurung and had three children from the said wedlock. She later developed relations with the Appellant who was also from the same neighbourhood and living with his aged parents. In the month of June, 2016, Krishna Bahadur Gurung caught the Appellant and the deceased in a compromising position upon which he asked his wife to leave his home. The Appellant took the deceased as his wife and constructed a separate house where he lived with her but the deceased often used to taunt the Appellant due to their financial problems and wished to return to her former husband. The Appellant thus became insecure and suspected her of having an extra marital affair. On the relevant day, both the Appellant and the victim had gone to the 'dhara' (water source) to fetch water. The Appellant had carried a backpack with documents and a torch light as well as a 'khukuri' (sharp edged weapon) in its scabbard. On reaching the P.O., they met P.Ws.2, 3 and 4. The Appellant spoke to P.W.3 who, upon questioning, remarked that she liked the deceased who often gave her sweets. An altercation broke out between the Appellant and the deceased as to how the deceased had obtained the sweets to give P.W.3 as the Appellant had not given such articles to the deceased. In a fit of rage, the Appellant assaulted the deceased with the 'khukuri' he was carrying, which proved to be fatal. On completion of investigation, Charge-Sheet came to be filed against the Appellant under Section 302 of the IPC before the Court of the Learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, West Sikkim at Gyalshing which was committed to the Court of Sessions. The Learned Sessions Court framed Charge against the Appellant under Section 302 of the IPC. On his plea of 'not guilty,' twenty Prosecution Witnesses were examined, on closure thereof, the Statement of the Appellant under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, was recorded in which he denied any involvement in the offence. On due consideration of the evidence and materials furnished, the Learned Trial Court convicted and sentenced the Appellant as aforestated.
(3.) Before this Court, the arguments advanced by Learned Counsel for the Appellant was that the case was one of circumstantial evidence as P.Ws.2, 3 and 4, who were alleged to be eye witnesses by the Prosecution had, in fact, not witnessed the alleged incident. P.W.2, as per her evidence, only heard the sound of the Appellant assaulting his wife but did not witness it. P.W.3 was a six year old minor whose evidence merits no consideration apart from which, she failed to support the Prosecution case. P.W.4 had hearing and speech impediment making her evidence suspicious and unreliable. P.Ws.13 and 14 both failed to fortify the Prosecution case regarding the disclosure made by the Appellant. The Report of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (for short, 'CFSL'), Kolkata, Exhibit 17, is of no assistance to the Prosecution case as the weapon of offence did not contain the blood stains of the deceased. There were only four injuries on the body of the deceased which were insufficient in the ordinary course of nature, to cause her death. The Prosecution also failed to establish any motive for the offence or to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Hence, the impugned Judgment and Order on Sentence be set aside and the Appellant be acquitted of the Charge. To buttress his submissions, Learned Counsel placed reliance on the decisions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Shivaji Chintappa Patil v. State of Maharashtra 2021 SCC OnLine SC 158 and Stalin v. State, Represented by the Inspector of Police (2020) 9 SCC 524.;