Govindaswamy v. State of Kerala.

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

JUDGES: RANJAN GOGOI, PRAFULLA C. PANT & UDAY   UMESH LALIT

Facts:-

The case of the prosecution in short is that the deceased/victim girl, aged about 23 years, was working in Ernakulam and was engaged to one Anoop (P.W.76), who also happened to be employed in Ernakulam. Their betrothal ceremony was to be in the house of the deceased at Shornur on 2nd February, 2011. P.W.76 along with his family members were scheduled to visit the house of the deceased on that day. Accordingly, on 1st February, 2011 the deceased boarded the Ernakulam-Shornur Passenger Train at about 5.30 p.m. from Ernakulam Town North Railway Station to go to her home at Shornur. The deceased had boarded the ladies division of the last compartment. There were other passengers in the ladies division of the compartment along with the deceased. When the train reached Mulloorkara, all other lady passengers in the ladies division of the compartment had alighted and, therefore, the deceased also got down along with them and hurriedly entered the ladies coach attached just in front of the last compartment. The train reached Vallathol Nagar Railway Station, where it halted for some time.. According to the prosecution, the accused appellant, who is a habitual offender, noticed that the deceased was alone in the ladies compartment. As soon as the train had left Vallathol Nagar Railway Station and moved towards Shornur the accused entered the ladies compartment. The prosecution alleges that inside the compartment the accused had assaulted the deceased and, in fact, repeatedly hit her head on the walls of the compartment.

The prosecution has further alleged that the deceased was crying and screaming. It is the case of the prosecution that the victim was dropped/pushed by the accused from the running train to the track and that the side of her face hit on the crossover of the railway line. The accused appellant also jumped down from the other side of the running train and after lifting the victim to another place by the side of the track he sexually assaulted her. Thereafter he ransacked her belongings and went away from the place with her mobile phone.. It is the further case of the prosecution that P.W. 4 – Tomy Devassia and P.W. 40 – Abdul Shukkur were also traveling in the general compartment attached in front of the ladies compartment. According to the prosecution, the said witnesses heard the cries of the deceased. P.W. 4 wanted to pull the alarm chain to stop the train but he was dissuaded by a middle-aged man who was standing at the door of the compartment by saying that the girl had jumped out from the train and escaped and that in these circumstances he should not take the matter any further as the same may drag all of them to Court.

However, when the train reached Shornur Railway Station within a span of 10 minutes, P.W.4 and P.W.40 rushed to P.W.34 – Joby Skariya, the guard of the train and complained about the incident which triggered a search, both, for the deceased and the accused. Eventually, the deceased was found in a badly injured condition lying by the side of the railway track and the accused was also apprehended soon thereafter in circumstances which need not detain the Court. According to the prosecution, the deceased was removed to the local Hospital whereafter she was taken to the Medical College Hospital, Thrissur where she succumbed to her injuries on 6th February, 2011. It is in these circumstances that the accused was charged with the commission of crimes in question for which he has been found guilty and sentenced, as already noticed.

ISSUE

The Supreme Court culls out three sets of injuries suffered by the victim. The first was injuries inflicted inside the train, the second those suffered from the fall on the railway tracks, and the third was the injuries associated with the sexual assault. The medical evidence was clear that a combination of the injuries suffered from the fall on the tracks with the subsequent sexual assault is what caused death. So the question, then, was whether the chain of circumstances only allowed for one conclusion here: that the accused intentionally inflicted injuries which were sufficient in the ordinary course to cause death. The three judges unanimously held it was not so. There was doubt whether the accused pushed the victim off the train or she fell herself. Therefore, it was also doubtful whether he intended the injuries resulting from the fall at all. Notice how the Supreme Court framed the issue.

JUDGEMENTS

The judges partially allow the appeals filed by the accused appellant. While the conviction under Section 376 IPC, Section 394 read with Section 397 IPC and Section 447 IPC and the sentences imposed for commission of the said offences are maintained, the conviction under Section 302 IPC is set aside and altered to one under Section 325 IPC. The sentence of death for commission of offence under Section 302 IPC is set aside and instead the accused is sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years. All the sentences imposed shall run concurrently. The order of the learned Trial Court and the High Court is accordingly modified.

ANALYSIS

On a plain reading of section 300 (a) (“If itis done with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knowsto be likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused”), we get an idea that the offender must cause the bodily injury either with the specific intent of causing death or with the specific intent of causing bodily injury which will in most of the probability cause death. However, Justice Gogoi holds that, in this case, the accused, Govindachamy, did not have the specific intent to cause the death of the victim and this was apparent right from the initial assaults on the victim’s body. He remarked that “the intention of the accused (Govindaswamy) was to make victim sub-conscious or in a supine position, so that she does not protest and resist when he commits the sexual intercourse with her”. Justice Gogoi also remarked that since the intention of committing sexually indecent behavior towards the victim was clear since the beginning, in normal circumstances, the murder, if at all has to be carried,
would have been done after the intercourse. Therefore, when the intention of the accused is to make victim weak so as to not protest while raping her, this section does not apply and hence, the accused was acquitted of the charge for murder. Justice Gogoi, upholding the principal laid down in William Staney v State of Madhya Pradesh (SC 1956, AIR 116), also took into consideration that the victim did not die on the spot or very shortly after the infliction of injuries but survived for some days in the hospital before death.

On a literal interpretation, the judgment seems in consonance with S 300(a) and (b)of the Indian Penal Code. However, if we go by with S 300(c) (“If it is done with the intention ofcausing bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death”), it is to be emphasized that the injury inflicted should be sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. In this case, according to the forensic reports, there were two main injuries listed. The first injury was in the head of the victim, caused due to pushing forward and banging her head, against a flat surface. The second injury is to be emphasized here, since this is the point of contention between the versions of the facts laid out by the prosecution and the defence. The prosecution argues that the victim got unconscious after the first injury and hereafter, the accused pushed her out of the moving train. However, the defence argues that the victim herself jumped out of the train and fell, thereafter injuring herself.

Now coming to the medical reports, they clearly mention the injury was on the cheek and towards the eye of the victim, showing an upward glide and no resistance by the hands of the victim. The inference that the medical reports suggest is that the train was moving at a negligible speed when the victim was pushed out (or jumped) from the train and her left side of the face hit the rail track, causing this injury. No injury marks on the hands show that the victim was not in a position of defending her body, as a natural reflex, from getting hurt by the train. The point that is to be noted out of these medical reports is that, even if the accused pushed the victim out of the train, since it was moving at a negligible speed, and he himself jumped out of the train, after the victim, as was seen by the security guard, the entire transaction did not include any major risk to the life of the victim at the time of commission. The death of the victim was caused by the cumulative effect of both the injuries. The speed of the train is very important here. The negligible speed of the train, and just the deep abrasions on the cheek and eye of the girl without any specific cuts or permanent privations, combined with the medical reports show that the victim died of the cumulative effect of the injuries, rape and abandonment leading to a delay in the medical care.

Authored by Deepali Singh | Edited by Rini Mathew.

 

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