|Equivalent Citation||1963 AIR 1094, 1963 SCR Supl. (1) 689|
|Date of Judgment||22nd October, 1962|
|Court||Supreme Court of India|
|Case Type||Criminal appeal|
|Petitioner/ Appellant||Pyare Lal Bhargav|
|Respondent||State of Rajasthan|
|Bench||Hon’ble Justice Koka Subba Rao|
|Statutes Referred||The Indian Penal Code, 1860The Indian Evidence Act, 1872|
On November 24, 1945, Ram Kumar Ram, the co-accused in the original case obtained permission to supply electricity to Rajgarh, Khertal, and Kherli from the Government of the former Alwar state, Rajasthan. He then entered into a partnership with four other members and made the understanding that the license would be transferred in the name of the company for supplying electricity. On December 8, 1948, he filed a declaration attested by the magistrate for the said purpose.
The appellant Pyare Lal Bhargav, a Superintendent in the Chief Engineer’s Office was a good friend of Ram Kumar Ram. Somewhere between 15 and 16 December 1948, Pyare Lal Bhargav, as asked by Ram Kumar Ram, got a file removed from the Secretariat through a clerk named Bishan Swarup. This file was made accessible to Ram Kumar Ram, he replaced the affidavit and application filed by him on 8 December 1948 with another affidavit and documents. Further, Ram Kumar Ram gave an application to the Chief Engineer requesting him not to issue the license in the name of the company. Soon, the Chief Engineer discovered the tampering of the documents, Pyare Lal and Ram Kumar were prosecuted and convicted, under section 379 and section 465, read with section 109, of the Indian Penal Code. The conviction given by the sub-divisional magistrate was challenged by them and an appeal was filed in the Sessions court. The Sessions judge maintained the conviction and sentence under section 379 read with section 109, Indian Penal Code, but set aside the sentence and conviction under section 465, Indian Penal Code. A fine of Rs. 500 and Rs. 200 were to be paid by Pyare Lal Bhargav and Ram Kumar Ram respectively.
The conviction order was then challenged by both of them and a revision of the order was filed in the High Court. The High Court overruled the conviction of Ram Kumar Ram and released him from all the charges but maintained the conviction of Pyare Lal Bhargav under section 379, of the Indian Penal Code. As a result, Pyare Lal Bhargav filed an appeal in the Supreme Court.
- Whether the High Court has incorrectly relied upon the confession made by the accused as the confession was made involuntarily and thus irrelevant under section 24 of the Evidence Act.
- Whether the confession which has been retracted, can be relied upon even without corroboration.
- Whether temporary dispossession falls under the ambit of Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code.
The counsel for the appellant argued that the Hon’ble High Court of Rajasthan had wrongfully based its judgment on the confession made by the accused as this confession was made under threat or inducement posed by the Chief Engineer upon him. Further, the appellant argued that no theft was committed by the accused because the file was in the Superintendent’s possession, so he could not have taken it from him and he had no intention of taking it dishonestly because he had taken it only to show Ram Kumar Ram the documents and returned it to the office the following day, keeping the file out of anyone else’s possession. He did not intend to take it dishonestly because he did not gain any wrongful gain or cause any wrongful loss to any other person.
The defense counsel contended that there was no inducement or threat posed upon the accused by the Chief Engineer. Further, there was a commission of theft because the files were taken out of the possession of the Secretariat without the consent of its lawful owner and with the wrongful intention of tampering with the documents.
The Hon’ble Bench of the Supreme Court, through its judgment pronounced that in the instance of the first question, the three lower courts concurrently held that, under the particulars of the case, the statement did not seem to constitute a threat as defined by Section 24 of The Evidence Act; rather, it was merely a general statement that any person who lost their property and was unable to identify the perpetrator would make. The said statement did not appear to the Court to be a threat.
The court then answered the next question that a retracted confession can create a legal ground for conviction if it believes that the confession made is completely true and voluntary. The corroboration or confirmation of such confession is not always necessary as it is not the rule of law. But to avoid any kind of injustice, a general rule is established that such confessions should be verified. In the present case, the high court has looked forward to the verification of the facts and shreds of evidence on par with the confession and found the same in the evidence given by Bishan Swaroop. Thus, the confession was considered valid and was relied upon.
Lastly, the court contended that it does not matter if the property is taken out of the possession of its lawful owner temporarily or for some time and then returned. It would still fall under the ambit of Section 378 of the Indian Penal Code. Also, the files were in no sense in the possession of Pyare Lal Bhargav and there existed a malicious intent of tampering with the documents.
Thus, the Hon’ble Supreme Court concluded that the facts of this case unmistakably fall under Section 378 of the Indian Penal Code and that the appellant was appropriately found to have committed theft by the courts. As a result, the appeal is rejected and fails.
- Indian Kanoon, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1689792/ (Nov. 7, 2023)
This article is written by Richa Mehta of Thakur Ramnarayan College of Law, Intern at Legal Vidhiya.
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