The State of Maharashtra

Manoj Mahadev Gawade Vs.The State Of Maharashtra Brief Summary of Facts: Suhas Nadgouda was the Assistant Police Inspector at Miraj Rural Police Station from November 2004 to May 2007. In the morning of 15th June 2006 at 7:30 am Head Constable Kamble informed Suhas that nobody is residing to the call given at the house of Balu Gavade. ASI Koli climbed the roof of the house and saw six person inside the house lying in blood. All were members of the Gaavde family. The following item were sent for forensic examinations from the crime scene:

  • The two wooden logs
  • The five pillows
  • The two gunny bags
  • The quilt having green colour
  • Another quilt having mixed colour
  • Third quilt having red and mixed colour
  • The mat
  • One slipper of right foot
  • Two soil samples
  • Another soil sample
  • Seven other samples of soils
  • The bangle pieces in green and red colour
  • One small wooden piece

On 21st June 2006 API Nadgouda searched the house of accused Mahadev Gavade and found the following items in one plastic bag containing:

  • A plastic bag containing a half filled white colour pesticide powder in a pack
  • A towel having blue lining, stained with blood
  • One slipper of Paragon company of the left leg having some bloodstains
  • Thorny seeds of Dhattura (Argemone Mexicana)

Sessions Court convicted the accused and the appellant has appeled the said order of conviction and sentence. Contention by the Prosecution: Motive is the dispute between accused and deceased. Accused called family members of deceased for the tea party and were last seen with them. They were given Dhattura powder to seatmate them. These seeds were seized under Section 27 of the Evidence Act. Blood stains were found on the cloths of the accused. Right Slipper was found in the house of the accused, while left was in the house of the deceased. Accused mad an extra-judicial confession to Ashok while in jail. Analysis of the Judgement: According to the spot panchanama and seizure panchanama are absolutely silent about the sealing of the articles on the spot thereby giving rise to a strong suspicion that the articles might have been tampered. On the issue of blood stained cloth being seized from the house of the accused, the articled were not properly sealed when they were seized and therefore they could have been tampered with. In the case of Amarjit Singh Vs. State of Punjab[1], the SC held that the “…..non-sealing of the articles at the spot is a serious infirmity because the possibility of tampering over the said articles cannot be ruled out…..” The court ruled that since there was infirmity in handling of the evidence, reliance on the results of blood stained cloths cannot be taken. This view of the court seems arbitrary, merely because there was no mention of sealing of articles the panchnama, it is unfair to behalf of the court to deny justice, only on grounds of procedural lapses, substantive injustice is being done in this regard. These are very minor infatuations when taken a holistic view of the facts. All the four accused were found sitting in the courtyard of Malubai (accused No. 1) two days before the incident, they called Balu Gavade’s wife to offer tea to the persons who came visting them. Those guests left the house of Malubai at about 9.15 to 9.30 p.m and on the next day the incident was discovered. According to the Last Seen Theroy, the accused was the last one to see the deceased and therefore is admissible under Section 6 of Indian Evidence act, 1872. Ashok Gavade is the son of deceased Shantabai Gavade stated that there was a property dispute between his family and the accused’s family. One week before the incident his mother Shantabai met with an accident. Manoj who was Laos with them purchased slippers of Paragon Company of blue colour. The statement of Ashok points towards motive of accused admissible under Section 8 of Indian Evidence act, 1872. Mahadev Gavade had sent a letter Ashok and admitted to the conspiracy and told that he will narrated to him when he would come to meet him in jail. It was written his handwriting but no signature. When Ashok went to meet him in the jail, he said he “committed a mistake”. Ashok testified that the handwriting in the letter was of Mahadev. This amounts to extra-judicial confession given by accused and admissible under Section 18 of Indian Evidence act, 1872. Also Ashok views on handwriting is admissible under Section 47 of Indian Evidence act, 1872 as expert opinion. In a case of circumstantial evidence the circumstances on which the prosecution relies must be consistent with the sole hypothesis of the guilt of the accused. They have to form a complete chain and exclude every other suggestion of the innocence. On the issue of motive there are conflicting opinions of both sides. Prosecution claims a property dispute, while the defence claims there was harmony. On the basis of the testimony by Ashok, it is clear that there was no dispute between the said parties as claimed by the prosecution. So motive for the crime is not proved by the prosecution. The very nature of circumstantial evidence is that is gives rise to more than one possibility, it is only a combination of circumstantial evidence must point in one direction, indicial circumstance evident by very nature are suppose give more than one possibility. The court said that since the slipper were found after 4 days of the commission of the crime, reliance on them couldn’t be placed. In the Arushi case, the golf club which had blood stains on it was discovered after almost six month of the commission of the crime, but the court still relied on the evidence and higher courts have uptake that evidence. The court held that since no efforts were made as to ascertain whether the slipper found on the crime scene was actually fitting the accused or not. This was again an oversight by the trial court and the high court failed to correct this error. The court also disagreed the slipper evidence that was available, it ruled that since there is a possibility that this kind of slipper can be with anyone, and it is not an exclusive product with the accused. This evidence was further weakened by Ashok turning hostile and denying that any purchase of the said slipper was done by the accused. At this point the court opined that since there are more than one possibility, reliance on slipper evidence cannot be placed. The court here again confused the total effect of circumstantial evidence, and individual effect of circumstance evanescence. Ashok under cross-examination said that he did not slipper as claimed by the prosecution, he did not say anything on the spot as claimed by the prosecution, he did not state any suspected person as claimed by the prosecution, he doesn’t remember Mahadev buying a slipper as claimed by the prosecution, he also said there was no property dispute between the two families. This is a case of witness turning hostile. On the issue of the extra-judicial confession by the accused when he met Ashok in the jail cell, the court ruled that, the statement given to Ashok was an exculpatory statement, it not only exculpates the accused but shifts the burden of crime on Malubai (accused No. 1). The court relied on Pakala Narayanswami Vs. Emperor[2] “…..confession as used in the Evidence Act cannot be construed as meaning a statement by an accused suggesting the inference that he committed the crime. A confession must either admit in terms the offence, or at any rate substantially all the facts which constitute the offence. A statement that contains self-exculpatory matter cannot amount to a confession, if the exculpatory statement is of some fact, which if true, would negative the offence alleged to be confessed………” The High Court here failed to give reason for why the stamen made to Ashok was an exculpatory statement, there was nothing on the record in the judgement to point towards the exact nature of statement made by the accused. The accused confessed to a conspiracy in a postcard to Ashok, when he invited him to visit him in jail. He implicated himself and the accused no. 1 in the case, but there is nothing on the record to show what exact stamen was made by the accused to Ashok in the jail cell. However, the court could have admitted the postcard as an admission, if not as confession, but the court threw out both the statement to Ashok and the postcard as exculpatory statement. The court was erroneous in its decision. Dr. Bapusaheb Satpute is the Medical officer in Government Medical College, Miraj The doctor stated that death occurred within four hours after the last meals and the cause of death was cardio respiratory arrest subdural severe haemorrhage due to severe head injury. In the cross-examination he stated that he has further admitted that in case of poisoning he can gather the smell of the said he has no idea about Argemone Mexicana is called as Dhattura and its symptoms in the case of consumption and he did not refer any material with regards to Argemone Mexicana, but the prosecution claimed that the members of the deceased family were sedated by Dhattura. Dr. Archana Sawant who conducted autopsy on other deadened said that Argemone Mexicana is a toxic substance, has bitter taste which leads to dryness in throat, dim vision, vomiting and headache, dilation of pupils, restlessness. She did not notice any vomitus on the sari or blouse of the dead body of Shantabai. She admitted that heart, lungs, and internal organs would be more congested if Dhattura was given. All the other doctors who conducted autopsy on the deceased, all opined on the same lines as Dr. Archanca. All the medical evidence is admissible as expert opinion under Section 45 of Indian Evidence act, 1872. Now Prosecution has argued that the accused invited the family member for a tea party and thus gave them Dhattura to sedate them and kill them easily. No traces of Dhattura or its effect was found on the bodies of the deceased. All the medical officers testified that there no effects like dryness in throat, dim vision, vomiting and headache, dilation of pupils, restlessness in any of the deceased. The prosecution failed to establish the link between the Dhattura and the crime committed. The Bombay High Court allowed the Criminal Appeals and set aside the conviction and sentence of the appellants. The decision was erroneous in law. The court ignored evidence which was pointing towards the guilt of the accused but the court choose to look the other way. The court did not placed reliance on the motive issue on account of witness turning hostile, the slipper evidence because the slipper evidence was circumstantial, the blood stained cloth because of a procedural lapse by the police which was very minor, and the biggest blunder, the throwing ways of a confession based on no hard evidence or justification by the court.

cASE COMMENT ON Manoj Mahadev Gawade Vs.The State of Maharashtra

[1] (1993) CCR 486 (SC) [2] MANU/PR/0001/1939 : AIR 1939 P.C. 47

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