Sampath Kumar Vs. Inspector of Police, Krishnagiri

FACTS

These appeals by special leave call in question the correctness of an order dated 30th April 2009 passed by the High Court of Madras, whereby Criminal Appeal No. 1008 of 2007 filed by the appellants against their conviction under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC has been dismissed and the sentence of imprisonment for life awarded to them by the trial Court upheld.

Briefly stated, the prosecution case is as under: The appellants, namely, Shanmugam, Velu and Sampath Kumar were close friends of the deceased-Senthil Kumar and Palani (PW7). Appellant-Velu has a younger sister, named, Usha who, according to the prosecution story, had fallen in love with the deceased-Senthil Kumar and wanted to marry him.

Appellant-Velu did not approve of the said relationship and had asked appellant-Shanmugan to convey to the deceased-Senthil Kumar to keep off Usha or else he would break his hands and legs. In July 2002, appellant-Velu appears to have come on leave from his army services and during this period he and his mother-Balammal are said to have informed Murugambal (PW2)- mother of the deceased, sister-Lakshmi (PW3) and her husband-Selvam (PW1) that they had decided to give Usha in marriage to the deceased-Senthil Kumar.

ISSUES

Further discussion regarding the marriage was, however, deferred till the passing of the Tamil month Adi, considered inauspicious for finalisation of matrimonial alliance. On 27th July, 2002 i.e. two days after the marriage proposal was made, Ramesh (PW9) was employed to paint the house of Lakshmi (PW3) when he saw the deceased-Senthil Kumar and Usha embracing one another in one of the rooms of the house. According to Ramesh (PW9), even the appellant-Shanmugam saw Usha and Senthil Kumar in a romantic embrace.

The appellant-Shanmugam was also, according to the prosecution, one of the suitors of Usha and had a one-sided affection for her. On the following day, i.e. 28th July, 2002 PWs. 1 to 3, their neighbour and the appellant-Shanmugam went to a theatre to see a movie and retuned home around 9.30 p.m. While Selvam (PW1), Murugambal (PW2) and Lakshmi (PW3) retired to bed inside the house after dinner, the deceased-Senthil Kumar and Palani (PW7) slept as usual in the verandah of the house. The appellant-Shanmugam also used to sleep with them but for some reason he did not turn up to do so on that day.

At about 2.45 a.m. on the night intervening 28th and 29th July, 2002, Palani (PW7) heard the sound of a stone being thrown. He woke up to see the appellant-Shanmugam standing near the head of the deceased and the remaining two appellants also standing close by. The prosecution case is that Palani (PW7) was threatened by the appellants not to disclose to anyone regarding anything for otherwise they would kill him also. At this, Palani (PW7) shouted and ran to hide himself on the rear side of the house. In the meantime, PWs 1 to 3 who were sleeping inside the house also awoke upon hearing the noise and started shouting for help.

This woke up their neighbour (PW8) in the opposite house who went over to the house and opened the door to help them come out. PWs 1 and 8 then went to the rear side of the house to find the appellant-Shanmugam lying beside a plantain tree with his hands tied with a cloth. It was also noticed on removing the blanket covering the deceased that someone had smashed his head with a stone which was lying at his side. When the appellant-Shanmugam was asked as to who had beaten him and thrown him behind the house, he stated that it was some stranger who had done so. Senthil was rushed to the hospital but died en-route. Selvam (PW1) went to the police station and lodged an oral complaint. The police registered a case under Sections 302 and 324 IPC.

JUDGEMENT

In the totality of the circumstances, we are of the view that the prosecution has not proved its case against the appellants who are, in our opinion, entitled to acquittal giving them the benefit of doubt. In the result, these appeals succeed and are hereby allowed. The appellants shall stand acquitted of the charges framed against them giving them the benefit of doubt.

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