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Opinion of the hand writing experts – cannot be relied upon to base the conviction: SC

PADUM KUMAR V.STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH., CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 87 OF 2020 (Arising out of SLP(Crl.) No.6990 of 2018) – January 14, 2020.

The bench consisting of Justice R.Banumathi and Justice A.S.Bopanna while partly allowing an criminal appeal held that  opinion of the hand writing experts cannot be relied upon to base the conviction.

“It is fairly well settled that before acting upon the opinion of the hand-writing expert, prudence requires that the court must see that such evidence is corroborated by other evidence either direct or circumstantial evidence.”

The appellant-Padum Kumar was then working as Postman in Indira Nagar Post Office, Lucknow.  On 09.04.1992, PW-3-Dr. M.L. Varshney, Professor, Agriculture Institute, Naini, Allahabad had sent a registered envelope No.0095 to the Complainant-Dr. K.B. Varshney (PW-1) from the Sub-Post Office of the said Institute. The said envelope contained four Indira Vikas Patra of value of each Rs.5,000/- totalling Rs.20,000/-.  The envelope did not reach PW-1 Dr. K.B. Varshney; therefore, on 27.04.1992, PW-3-Dr. M.L.Varshney made a complaint before the Post Master, Post Office, Agriculture Institute, Naini, Allahabad.  PW-1-Complainant-Dr. K.B.Varshney also enquired from Indira Nagar Post Office.  On 29.04.1992, PW-1 had also filed a complaint to the Senior Superintendent, Department of Posts that the envelope Registry No.0095 has not been received.  On 14.05.1992, information was received from Senior Superintendent, Post and Telegraph, Lucknow that a person named “Mohan” has received the aforesaid registry on 13.04.1992.  Then, PW-1 and his son Devesh Mohan-PW-2 went to Indira Nagar Post Office and saw the signature where it has been written as “D. Mohan”.  Complainant’s son is also named Devesh Mohan (PW-2). On being shown the signature, PW-2 denied that the signature in question belongs to him.  A case was registered inCrime No.394/1992 under Sections 420, 467 and 468 IPC at P.S. Ghazipur, Lucknow. The case was investigated. Later on, the investigation of the case was entrusted to C.B. C.I.D.

“Upon appreciation of evidence adduced by the prosecution, the courts below rightly recorded the concurrent findings that the appellant has forged the signature of PW-2-Devesh Mohan and the conviction of the appellant under Sections 467 and 468 IPC is based upon the evidence and the conviction does not suffer from any infirmity warranting interference.”

The trial court held that the appellant frequently used to visit the house of the complainant-PW-1 by taking registries and letters and thus, he was well-acquainted with the signature of PW-2-Devesh Mohan.  Based upon the evidence of PWs 1 to 3 and the reports of hand-writing experts, the trial court held that the appellant had committed the offence of forgery and convicted him under Sections 467 and 468 IPC and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment of four years and three years respectively. Both the sentences were directed to run concurrently.

Challenging the conviction, the appellant has filed an appeal before the appellate court – Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Lucknow. The appellate court dismissed the appeal by holding that upon proper analysis of evidence adduced by the prosecution, the trial court has rightly convicted the appellant under Sections 467 and 468 IPC.

Being aggrieved, the appellant filed Criminal Revision No.511 of 2006 before the High Court of Allahabad which came to be dismissed by the impugned judgment. The High Court held that the prosecution has adduced evidence proving that the signature of “D. Mohan” in the delivery slip and the specimen signatures of PW-2-Devesh Mohan differs. The High Court further held that the appellant was the person who delivered the envelope and in such circumstances, it is for the appellant to explain as to who signed the disputed signature and in the absence of any such explanation from the appellant, the presumption is to be raised against the appellant that he is the only person having knowledge of the same. The revision was accordingly dismissed and the conviction of the appellant was affirmed.

In the result, the conviction of the appellant-accused under Sections 467 and 468 IPC is confirmed and the sentence of imprisonment imposed on him is reduced to the period already undergone. The impugned judgment dated 19.02.2018 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad in Criminal Revision No.511 of 2006 is accordingly modified and the appeal is partly allowed. The appellant-accused is ordered to be released forthwith unless his presence is required in any other case.

Download / Read the Judgment: PADUM KUMAR V. STATE OF UTTARPRADESH

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