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At the time of Framing of charge, court cannot rove enquiry into the pros and cons of the matter: SC


The bench encompassing Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice R. Subhash Reddy collectively pronounced judgment on the retention of the accused. The present Criminal Appeals were filed by the State and the complainant – Kanta Devi (Criminal Appeal No. 2247 of 2010) to challenge the Order of Discharge granted to Shiv Charan Bansal, Lalit Mann @ Nanhe, Shailendra Singh and Rajbir Singh by the Delhi High Court. It all started when the complainant – Kanta Devi, widow of late S.N. Gupta filed a complaint under Sections 120B, 302, 201 r/w S.34 IPC and Sections 25, 27, 54, 59 of the Arms Act and attributed the murder to Shiv Charan Bansal and his son Sachin Bansal.

The police recorded the statements under section 161 and 164 Cr.P.C. They stated that the deceased S.N. Gupta had invested a large sum of money in almost all the committees run by accused and the monies invested in this firm were not returned by Shiv Charan Bansal and Sachin Bansal. Thereby, a criminal conspiracy was hatched by Sachin Bansal and Narendra Mann to eliminate S.N. Gupta, so that the monies invested by S.N. Gupta in the committees run by his father Shiv Charan Bansal and himself, could be retained by them, and he would then be able to pay Narendra Mann the money owed to him by Naveen Gupta. Shiv Charan Bansal offered to pay for the expenses involved in carrying out the murder of S.N. Gupta.The Police recovered the three used cartridges from the spot of occurrence and an unlicensed pistol along with two live cartridges was recovered from the office of accused. All the accused were arrested and disclosure statements were made by them. During investigation of the case, the complainant identified Joginder Singh as the assailant.

The Forensic Report, Handwriting expert Report and the Ballistic Report were placed on record along with a Supplementary Charge on 26.11.2006. The Sessions Court vide Order dated 17.03.2008 held that motive alone was not sufficient to frame charges u/S. 302 IPC and that Section 10 of the Evidence Act did not permit the use of disclosure statements to connect the accused persons with the crime.

It further held that the prosecution failed to make out a prima facie case against accused – Rajbir Singh, Lalit Mann and Shiv Charan Bansal who were discharged. The State filed Crl. Revision Petition No. 335 of 2008 before the Delhi High Court, against the Judgment dated 17.03.2008 passed by the Sessions Court. The complainant – Kanta Devi also filed Crl. Revision Petition No. 191 of 2008 praying for the same reliefs as the State. The High Court vide the Common Judgment dated 29.05.2009 affirmed the Judgment of the Sessions Court ordering discharge of Shiv Charan Bansal, Shailendra Singh, Lalit Mann and Rajbir Singh. The Hon’ble Supreme Court made observations regarding the scope of sections 227, 228 of Cr.P.C, and the criminal conspiracy involved. It took into consideration each accused individually.

Scope of sections 227, 228 of Cr.P.C:

  1. The Court while considering the question of framing charges under Section 227 of the Cr.P.C had the power to sift and weigh the evidence for the limited purpose of finding out whether or not a prima facie case had been made out against the accused.

  2. If the material placed before the court disclosed grave suspicion against the accused then the scope would be justified.

  3. The probative value of the evidence brought on record cannot be gone into at the stage of framing charges.

  4. It relied on the decisions in State of Bihar v. Ramesh Singh; and Dipakbhai Jagdishchandra Patel v. State of Gujarat and Another.

The Court while considering the question of framing charges under Section 227 of the Cr.P.C has the power to sift and weigh the evidence for the limited purpose of finding out whether or not a prima facie case has been made out against the accused. The test to determine prima facie case would depend upon the facts of each case.

Criminal Conspiracy:

  1. The crime was not committed at the spur of the moment, but was preceded by meticulous planning where each of the accused have played a separate role to achieve the common illegal object of carrying out the murder of S.N. Gupta.

  2. It relied on the decisions in Ghulam Sarbar v. State of Bihar; R. Venkatakrishnan v. CBI; R. Venkatakrishnan v. CBI; State (NCT) of Delhi v. Navjot Sandhu @ Afsan Guru; and Kehar Singh & Ors. v. State (Delhi Administration).

  3. There was ample material brought on record which created a grave suspicion about the involvement of the accused viz. Shiv Charan Bansal, Lalit Mann and Shailendra Singh in the murder of the deceased S.N. Gupta.

The accused:

1. Shiv Charan Bansal.

  1. Rajesh Gupta s/o the deceased attributed the murder of his father to him.

  2. Shiv Charan Bansal had usurped the share of the deceased, and was now trying to take over their factory at Bahadurgarh.

  3. This was corroborated by the statement of the brother of the deceased viz. Satish Gupta, the third brother of the deceased viz. Ajit Prasad Gupta’s and an independent witness viz. Ashok Kumar Agarwal.

  4. Both the Sessions Court and the High Court have noted that all the witnesses have clearly attributed the murder to Shiv Charan Bansal and his son Sachin Bansal.

  5. The motive of the crime was to misappropriate the investments made by the deceased in the committees of Shiv Charan Bansal.

  6. The contemporaneous Call Detail Records (CDRs) between Sachin Bansal and Narendra Mann, who accompanied Joginder Singh Sodhi – the contract killer, would constitute strong material for framing the charge against all the accused and the missing of the same created a strong suspicion.

  7. Shiv Charan Bansal remained absconding after the murder was committed on 21.03.2006, and did not join the investigation despite efforts by the Police. He was apprehended after more than one month on 25.04.2006.

  8. The materials gathered by the prosecution raise a strong suspicion against both Shiv Charan Bansal and his son Sachin Bansal in hatching the conspiracy for the murder of late S.N. Gupta.

  9. And held that the Sessions Court and the High Court were not justified in discharging the accused – Shiv Charan Bansal for the offences u/S.302 r/w S.34, S.120B, S.201 IPC for destruction of evidence.

2. Lalit Mann.

  1. Narendra Mann, Lalit Mann, Sachin Bansal and his friends used to threaten the deceased and his relatives involved in the business over the phone.

  2. The disclosure statement made by Narendra Mann reveals that initially he had asked Lalit Mann to carry out the murder of S.N. Gupta.

  3. The accused – Lalit Mann had full knowledge of the criminal conspiracy hatched to murder the deceased S.N. Gupta.

  4. Soon after the murder took place, Narendra Mann and Lalit Mann were absconding and were admissible as relevant ‘conduct’ u/S. 8 of the Indian Evidence Act.

  5. Narendra Mann, Lalit Mann and Rajbir Singh were apprehended by the police while travelling in an Esteem car. The police recovered incriminating objects i.e. photo of the deceased which was given to the contract killer for identification, goggles and black cap worn by the contract killer – Joginder from the car.

  6. The Call Detail Records of Lalit Mann revealed that he was in communication with the contract killer.

  7. And held that the Sessions Court and the High Court were not justified in not framing the charges u/S., 302 r/w S.34, S120B IPC against accused Lalit Mann.

3. Shailendra Singh.

  1. As per the case of the prosecution, Shailendra Singh provided the weapon of offence and remained absconding for a period of 75 days.

  2. The recovery of the weapon of offence created strong suspicion.

  3. The office from where the recovery was made admittedly belonged to the wife of Shailendra Singh and the same was used as his office to carry out his financing business.

  4. After the commission of the crime, the accused Shailendra Singh was in possession of the weapon of offence, which was lying concealed in his office.

  5. The call detail records produced before the Sessions Court, revealed the communication between Narendra Mann and Shailendra Singh on the date of the murder, which was relevant material as per Section 8 of the Evidence Act.

  6. And held that the Sessions Court and the High Court were not justified in framing charges only u/S. 25 of the Arms Act and not framing the charges u/S., 302 againt Shailendra Singh.

 4. Rajbir Singh.

  1. The Order of the Sessions Court and High Court was not disturbed, as there was not sufficient material to prosecute him.

5. Narendra Mann.

  1. Narendra Mann was charged by the Sessions Court u/S. 302 r/w S.34, S. 201 IPC and S. 25 and 29(b) of the Arms Act by the Sessions Court.

  2. The Sessions Court acquitted him but it is pending before the High Court due to the revision petitions filed by the state and the complainant.

  3. Section 223 of the Cr.P.C. provided that persons accused of the same offence, committed in the course of the same transaction, must be jointly charged and tried.

  4. Since the trial in the present case has got truncated, it was necessary that the trial of the remaining three accused proceeded forthwith in accordance with law.

  5. The High Court may reverse the Order of acquittal and direct that further enquiry be made, or the accused may be re-tried, or may find him guilty and pass sentence thereon.

  6. It relied on the decision in Isaac alias Kishore v. Ronald Cheriyan & Ors; Alister Anthony Pareira v. State of Maharashtra; and in Asraf Ali v. State of Assam.

  7. The High Court may take up the pending appeals in the case of Sachin Bansal, Narendra Mann and Joginder Singh Sodhi, after the conclusion of the trial of Shiv Charan Bansal, Lalit Mann and Shailendra Singh, the remaining accused by the Sessions Court in the present case.

The Court then pronounced the following:

“The Criminal Appeal filed by the State of NCT of Delhi being Crl. Appeal No. 2248 of 2010, and the private Complainant – Kanta Devi being Cr. Appeal No. 224 of 2010 are allowed in Part. We direct the Additional Sessions Judge, Rohini Courts to proceed with the trial in accordance with law in Sessions Case No. 6/2007 arising out of FIR No. 200/2006 dated 21.03 and is further directed to report the progress of the case to this Court after three months.”

Jumanah Kader