Devilal Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh

CASE NAMEDevilal Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh
Date of Judgement25 February 2021
BenchJ. UU Lalit. J. Indira Banerjee, J. KM Joseph
CourtSupreme Court of India
CitationCriminal Appeal No. 989 of 2007  
Case noCriminal Appeal No. 989 of 2007

Facts

  • Ganeshram, resident of village Khera Kushalpura on his way back to home was attacked by Devilal who was armed with Kulhari, his son Gokul armed with Talwar and Amritlal armed with lathi with the intention of killing him.
  • After shouting for help, he was taken to the police station to file an FIR and then to the district hospital by his family members. He was in a very critical condition not being in the condition to speak only. The victim died during midnight the same day and the cause of death was stated in the postmortem report as excessive bleeding
  • After initial investigation, accused Devilal, Gokul and Amratlal were arrested. After the trial based on FIR as dying declaration and testimony of eyewitnesses, the trial court convicted the accused, Devilal, Gokul and Amratlal, under Sec 302 of IPC[1], read with Sec 34 of IPC[2] with life imprisonment along with the fine of Rs 5000 each. However, the Court did not hold them guilty under the SC/ST Act.
  • Then an appeal was filed in High Court[3] with the contention that considering the medical reports of the victim it was not possible for him to complain as he was not able to speak only. However, the submissions were not accepted by the High Court and reiterated the decision of the trial court which was again challenged in the Supreme Court.
  • “A petition was filed in 2017 submitting inter alia that accused Amratlal was a juvenile at the time when offense was committed and raised the plea of juvenility. Therefore, the Supreme Court ordered the sessions court to conduct an enquiry into the matter of juvenility and submit the report of the same. According to the report Amratlal was 16 years 11 months 24 days old when he committed the crime, so he should be treated as major under the Juvenile Justice Act 1986 but under Juvenile Justice Act 2000 he was a minor, The matter was remitted to Jurisdictional Juvenile Justice Board for determining appropriate fine that should be fined on Amratlal.”[4]

Issues Raised

  1. Whether the judgments passed by the High court of Madhya Pradesh holding the Appellant guilty was correct?
  2. The Appellant Amrat lal who was 16 years 11 months 24 days old when he committed the crime, should be treated as major under the Juvenile Justice Act 1986 or as a minor under Juvenile Justice Act 2000?

Contentions

  • Arguments from Appellant

The appellant Devilal and his sons Gokul and Amrat lal challenged the judgment of the High court of Madhya Pradesh.

Mr. Sushil Kumar Jain, learned Senior Advocate for the appellants has submitted 4 arguments

  1. As per the doctors report, it is impossible to believe that Ganeshram was in a sound condition to make any sort of complaint to the police.
  2. The FIR was recorded with a delay of 3 hours making us question the credibility of the FIR.
  3. As clear by the statement of PW1- Sajan Bai, witnesses were clearly tortured which again diminishes the testimony of the PW1 and PW2 to a great extent.
  4. According to the testimony of PW7- Laxminarayan it is clear that the house of Devilal where the incident took place was not clearly visible to him.
  5. Since the age limit for the juvenile has been increased from 16 years as mentioned in the Juvenile Justice Act 1986 to 18 years via amendment in the Juvenile Justice Act 2000. Hence, Amrat Lal should be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act 2000[5]
  • Arguments from Respondent

Ld Advocate Mr Harmeet Singh Ruprah representing the state has submitted 4 arguments

  1. “As per the doctors report it is evident that Ganeshram was alive when the initial examination was undertaken and his blood pressure could not be detected at that time which does not mean that Ganeshram was not in a condition to make any complaint to the police 2 hours earlier. In para 24 of the deposition of PW9- Dr Kothari, he said that Ganeshram could possibly not be in a position to speak. Since it is just an expert assertion of the present scenario which surely does not guarantee that Ganeshram was in this state soon after the incident or when his statement was recorded by PW8- Shankar Rao.
  2. It is submitted that the testimonies of PWs 1 and 2 are quite consistent and their presence was recorded right from the initial stage of reporting the crime although the distance was just 100 feet from their house to DeviLal’s, and there was no effective cross-examination conducted on this.
  3. The presence of PW1- Sajan Bai and PW2- Saman Bai is clear from the FIR.  It is clear from the testimony of both the witnesses that the Appellants had started an assault which led to the death of Ganeshram. The submission on part of PW1 Sajan Bai that her earlier statement recorded during investigation was read over to her does not mean that she was tutored to follow the line of prosecution. It is relevant to note that no such questions were put to PW2-Saman Bai. Even if the testimony of PW1 is excluded, the testimony of PW2 and the dying declaration of Ganeshram is sufficient to prevail in the matter against the appellants.
  4. Additionally, the weapons used to commit the offense i.e., lathi, sword and axe were confiscated from the house of Devilal, which further corroborates the case of prosecution.”[6]

Rationale

The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower courts and convicted the appellants Devilal and his son Gokul guilty of committing the murder of Ganeshram and was charged under Sec 302 of IPC, read with Sec 34 of IPC and were given life imprisonment along with fine. However, his younger son Amrat’s life imprisonment was set aside and the matter was transferred to jurisdiction of Juvenile Justice Board as mentioned in Sec 20 of the Juvenile Justice Act 2000[7] that if a major according to the Juvenile Justice Act 1986 is proved to be a minor under the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 for determining appropriate amount of fine that should be levied upon him as the age of juvenile was raised from 16 to 18 in Juvenile Justice Act 2000.[8]

In the light of the decision of the Court in “Hari Ram vs. State of Rajasthan and another”[9], “the submission of his juvenility could be raised for the first time before this Court and the court directed the Sessions Judge, to conduct an inquiry into the issue of juvenility of Amratlal and submit a report to this Court.”[10]

Referring to the case of “Kalu v. State of Haryana”[11] and “Dharambir v. State (NCT of Delhi)”[12] “It is thus well settled that in terms of Section 20 of the 2000 Act, in all cases where the accused was above 16 years but below 18 years of age on the date of occurrence, the proceedings pending in the court would continue and be taken to the logical end subject to an exception that upon finding the juvenile to be guilty, the court would not pass an order of sentence against him but the juvenile would be referred to the Board for appropriate orders under the 2000 Act.”[13]

Defects of Law

There can be 3 points on which the apex court left the room vacant

  1. The trial took so long that the accused was in prison for 9 years under a trial period after which he was finally convicted which shows a very disturbing side of the Indian judiciary.
  2. The judgment did not emphasize on the concept of untouchability in the light of the SC/ST Act and its practice in India which was the prime reason for Ganeshram’s death.
  3. The language used in Sec 20 of the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 does not give much clarity to the case, leaving room for interpretation regarding the laws and remedies available to them. The objective of the section does not clearly indicate how such problems can be fixed.
  4. Even the judgment did not mention the conditions as to when the dying declaration is accepted or not and its importance in leading a case to its conclusion.

Inference

The Supreme Court issued its final ruling on 25 February 2021, upholding the decision of the lower courts.

The case though directly does not emphasize on caste but it does have a great impact on the lives of untouchables by deciding the case in favor of Ganeshram whose cause of death was the hatred feeling which few upper castes have for that of the lower caste people. This judgment is also considered to be as landmark judgment for the juvenile offender under 18 years and above 16 years to be remitted to jurisdictional Juvenile Justice Board

Name- Suphia Haque

College- Jamia Hamdard University New Delhi


[1] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1560742/

[2] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/37788/

[3] High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Bench Indore

[4] https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2006/32731/32731_2006_34_1501_26599_Judgement_25-Feb-2021.pdf

[5] The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, s 20.

[6] https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2006/32731/32731_2006_34_1501_26599_Judgement_25-Feb-2021.pdf

[7] Indian kanoon, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/37788/

[8]https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2006/32731/32731_2006_34_1501_26599_Judgement_25-Feb-2021.pdf

[9] (2009) 13 SCC 211

[10] Hari Ram vs. State of Rajasthan and another (2009) 13 SCC 211

[11] (2012) 8 SCC 34

[12] (2010) 5 SCC 344

[13] Kalu v. State of Haryana (2012) 8 SCC 34  and Dharambir v. State (NCT of Delhi) (2010) 5 SCC 344

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