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To base conviction solely on the circumstantial evidence, unless chain of circumstances is establish

MANJU V. STATE OF DELHI, CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1268 OF 2013

This appeal was brought to the Supreme Court of India before the bench consisting of Honourable Justice Mohan M.Shantanagoudar and Honourable Justice R.Subhash Reddy.

This criminal appeal is filed by the sole accused, aggrieved by the judgment dated 12th March 2010 passed in Criminal Appeal No.168 of 2010 by the High Court of Delhi at New Delhi, by which the appellant herein was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the offence punishable under Section 302, IPC.

APPELLANTS CONTENTION

It was contended by the learned senior counsel appearing for the appellant that there are no eyewitnesses to the incident, and the incident was said to have happened in the ward of the hospital, where the delivery took place. The conviction was based solely on circumstantial evidence and the chain of circumstances is not complete. It was submitted that the appellant had no reason to commit the murder of her newborn baby girl as she already had a male child and her parents-in-law had died even before she was married. By referring to the oral evidence of PW-8 and PW-9, it was submitted that even according to the deposition of said witnesses it was clearly established that the newborn was kept in the incubator with an oxygen mask.

Further, the appellant-mother was sleepy in view of the drugs administered on her and by the time she has seen the child, the newborn was dead. It was submitted that the trial court, as well as the High Court, has committed an error in convicting the appellant in absence of proving chain of circumstances, leading to her conviction. It was also brought to the notice of this Court that though the incident occurred on 24th August 2007 post-mortem was conducted on the body only on 26th August and further, crime was registered on 27th August 2007. It was submitted, if the totality of evidence is taken into consideration, the guilt of the accused-appellant was not proved beyond reasonable doubt and the judgments of the High Court, as well as the trial court, are based on surmises and conjectures.

RESPONDENTS CONTENTION

On the other hand, it was contended by the learned counsel appearing for the State, after the birth of the child the newborn was kept in the incubator up to 04:30 p.m. and after 04:30 p.m. baby girl was handed over to the appellant herein. Thereafter she was found dead by the nursing staff of the hospital. Further, it was submitted that though the conviction rests on circumstantial evidence, chain was established to prove the guilt of the accused-appellant, and there are no grounds to interfere with the well-considered judgment of the trial court, as confirmed by the High Court.

OBSERVATION MADE BY THE COURT

Having heard learned counsel on both sides, this court perused the impugned judgments and other material placed on record. In this case, it was clear from the record that the conviction of the appellant herein is based on circumstantial evidence. The trial court mainly relied on the evidence of two staff nurses – PW-8 and 9, who deposed that baby girl was placed with the mother at about 04:30 p.m. and the child was found dead by 06:30 p.m. The husband of the appellant was examined by the prosecution as PW-7. In his deposition he has stated that on 24th August 2007 he had taken his wife, i.e., the appellant herein to Lady Hardinge Medical College Hospital, for delivery and on the same day at around 12:00 noon appellant gave birth to a female baby. He was called to the labour room and the nurse had shown him the newborn baby and at that time eyes of the baby were closed. She was not moving and she was not weeping. He has also stated that there was also a red mark on the nose of the child. At around 05:00 p.m. again when he was called by the nurse and he was informed that the child had expired and on questioning, the staff has not given any reason for death.

Further, it was also stated that he was not allowed to meet his wife and he was allowed only after the post-mortem was conducted on the body of the child on 26th August 2007. None of the doctors on duty on the date of delivery was examined. PW-8, staff nurse was examined. In her deposition, she stated that the newborn was under observation in the incubator. She deposed that the newborn was handed over to the mother at around 04:30 p.m. by taking her out of the incubator. Thereafter at around 06:30 p.m. during rounds, Ward Doctor found the baby was sick. PW-8 in her cross-examination has stated that the baby was on oxygen mask in the incubator. Another staff nurse, by name, Sangeeta Rani was examined as PW-9 who has deposed that on the date of the incident she joined duty at 03:00 p.m. and newborn baby had been kept in the incubator and had been on the oxygen mask.

JUDGMENT DELIVERED

Thereby, after inferring the facts and circumstances of the case, this Honourable Court gave its judgment as under,

From the totality of evidence on record, it is clear that the baby girl was put in an incubator with an oxygen mask and she has also not opened her eyes and she did not cry after birth. There was a possibility of natural death. Though the doctor has opined in the post-mortem report, the cause of death is asphyxia but in absence of any clear evidence on record, it is not safe to convict the appellant for the offence under Section 302 IPC. As the evidence on record is not sufficient to bring home the guilt of the accused, beyond a reasonable doubt. We are of the considered view that the appellant is entitled to benefit of the doubt, for acquittal from the charge framed against her.

“For the aforesaid reasons, this criminal appeal is allowed. The judgment of the trial court dated 19.12.2009, as well as the impugned judgment of the High Court, dated 12.03.2010, in Criminal Appeal No. 168 of 2010 by the High Court of Delhi, are set aside, consequently, the appellant is acquitted of the charge framed against her. As the appellant is on bail, her bail bonds stand canceled.”

View/Download Judgment:Manju v. State of Delhi

– Tanvi Srivatsan

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