The Apex Court on Monday set aside the conviction of the accused made by the Additional Judicial Commissioner, Ranchi, the appeal of which was dismissed at the High Court. The bench consisted of Justice R.F. Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee.

The appellant assailed his conviction under Sections 376,323 and 341 of the Indian Penal Code sentencing him to seven years, one year and one moth respectively with fine and a default stipulation.

The prosecutrix, PW9 lodged FIR No. 25 of 1999 on 13.04.1999 alleging that four years ago the appellant had outraged her modesty at the point of a knife. He had since been promising to marry her and on that pretext continued to establish physical relations with her as husband and wife. She had also stayed at his house for fifteen days during which also he established physical relations with her. Five days prior to the lodging of FIR the appellant had established physical relations with her on 09.04.1999. The appellant had cheated her as now he was going to solemnize his marriage with another girl on 20.04.1999. All efforts at a compromise had failed.

After being aggrieved by the decision given by the Trial Court the appeal reached the High Court, where the same was dismissed opining that the letters written by the appellant to the prosecutrix, their photographs together, and the statement of the appellant recorded under Section 313 Cr.P.C. were sufficient to sustain the conviction.

Hence, the case reached the Supreme Court.

Court’s Decision

The Court after hearing both the sides, opined while acquitting the accused:

  • The Court reemphasized the importance of putting all relevant questions to an accused under Section 313 Cr.P.C. the bench contended that the questions put to him under Section 313 Cr.P.C. were very casual and perfunctory, leading to denial of proper opportunity of defence causing serious prejudice to him by denial of the right to a fair trial. The Court referred to Naval Kishore Singh v. State of Bihar, (2004) 7 SCC 502 said that it stands well settled that circumstances not put an accused under Section 313 Cr.P.C. cannot be used against him, and must be excluded from consideration. In a criminal trial, importance of the questions put to an accused are basic to the 6 principles of natural justice as it provides him the opportunity not only to furnish his defence, but also to explain the incriminating circumstances against him. A probable defence raised by an accused is sufficient to rebut the accusations without the requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt. This Court has time and again, has emphasized the importance of putting all relevant questions to an accused under Section 313 Cr.P.C.
  • The Court considered the opinion that the appellant did not make any false promise or intentional misrepresentation of marriage leading to establishment of physical relationship between the parties. The prosecutrix was herself aware of the obstacles in their relationship because of different religious beliefs. The attempt to overcome this obstacle engagement ceremony was also held but differences arose whether marriage was solemnized in Church or Temple and ultimately failed. It is not possible to hold on the evidence available that the appellant right from the inception did not intend to marry the prosecutrix ever and had fraudulently misrepresented only in order to establish physical relation with her. The prosecutrix in her letters acknowledged that the appellant’s family was always very nice to her.
  • The Court concluded that the consent of the prosecutrix was but a conscious and deliberated choice, as distinct from an involuntary action or denial and which opportunity was available to her, because of her deep-seated love for the appellant leading her to willingly permit him liberties with her body, which according to normal human behavior are permitted only to a person with whom one is deeply in love.
  • The Court acquitted the appellant of the charge under Section 420 and 504 IPC and said there is no medical evidence on record to sustain the conviction under Section 323 IPC. No offence is made out against the appellant under Section 341 IPC considering the statement of prosecutrix that she had gone to live with the appellant for 15 days of her own volition.

Key Highlights

  • Case name: Maheshwar Tigga v. The State of Jharkhand
  • This was Criminal Appeal No. 635 of 2020

Counsel: Sr. Advocate V. Mohana, Advocate Pragya Baghel

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