Prosecution agencies expected to conduct investigation prudently and avoid routine appeals: Delhi HC

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“Culprit may not be permitted to escape and innocent may not be roped and punished”, Court reiterated the settled principles of criminal jurisprudence

The Delhi High Court recently cautioned the prosecution agencies against filing of appeals in a routine manner.
The observations were made in an appeal against judgment dated August 20, 2019 passed by Court of Sessions, whereby the accused persons were acquitted for offences under Section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 but held guilty for offence under Section 23, Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, on the basis of the deposition by doctor who conducted post mortem of the deceased child.

A Division Bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Neena Bansal Krishna, while calling it a classic example of terrible investigation, observed, “...the prosecution has failed to prove that accused are guilty of the offence under Section 23 of the Justice Juvenile Act, 2000 and the learned trial court has thereby erred in convicting them. Hence, in the interest of justice, the respondents /accused are acquitted of the offences under Section 23 of the Justice Juvenile Act, 2000 also.”

It was further added that the recovery of iron rod used for hot water and danda from the house of accused person, does not in any manner establish link to prove that the injury was caused to the victim child.

“The unfair investigation has made the accused suffer the ordeal of long trial and undergo the sentence for the crime which was never committed by them. This Court wishes to give a word of caution to the prosecution agencies to carry out investigation in a prudent manner and expects that the trial courts shall judiciously assess the material placed on record so that no innocent has to bear the torment of incarceration”, Court also noted.

Brief Background

On February 19, 2014, a report regarding death of two year old baby girl was lodged at Police Station, Mansarovar Park, by her grandfather.

Upon investigation, several injury marks were found over her body, however, no fresh visible injury was present. It was also revealed through investigation that the mother of the victim child had registered an FIR No. 323 of 2013 under Sections 498A/406/34 IPC and Section 4 Dowry Prohibition Act, against her husband and his family members.

The post mortem of child was conducted and the doctor observed 24 ante mortem external injuries concluding cause of death to be empty stomach and shock, as a result of ante-mortem injury to head. On this basis, FIR under the provision of Section 302 IPC and 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 got registered.

The maternal grandfather of the child raised a suspicion that the victim was killed by her paternal grandparents as the custody of the deceased child was vested with the father.

The trial court vide impugned judgment dated 20.08.2019 acquitted the respondents under Section 302 IPC by inter-alia, observing, “… prosecution has failed to establish that death of the child was caused with the danda and not possible by fall. Further the recovery of articles cannot lead to inference that they were within exclusive knowledge of the accused and hence recovered articles cannot be used against accused.”

Case Title: State v. Usha Devi | Crl. A. 229 of 2023