Cases involving murder through poisoning need a thorough unravelling of complexity often similar to deciphering a secret potion in the annals of criminal justice. The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Hariprasad @Kishan Sahu v. State of Chattisgarh has shed light on the dense web of legal factors that surround such instances. This article goes into the important factors articulated by the Supreme Court in offering insight into the difficulties and intricacies experienced in proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt when poison is used as the weapon of murder.
This case illustrates not just the judicial scrutiny used in the specific case but also the broader consequences of poison-induced homicide jurisprudence. It negotiates the complex landscape of poisoning murders and gathers insights into the legal concepts that underlie the establishing of guilt in these unique situations through a careful review of the case particulars & observations made by the Supreme Court, and the final verdict.
Hariprasad @Kishan Sahu v. State of Chattisgarh
Petitioner: Hariprasad @Kishan Sahu
Respondents: State of Chattisgarh
Court: Supreme Court
Coram: Bela M. Trivedi, J.; Dipankar Datta, J.
Case no.: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1182 OF 2012
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 968
Date of Judgement:7th November 2023
- Bisahu Singh (dead) who went to the forest one evening in July 2003 to collect wood was discovered the next morning in a semi-conscious state.
- The deceased alleged in his slurred speech that Hariprasad, the appellant-accused forced him to drink whiskey and mixed herbs into it.
- His wife took him to CIMS Bilaspur Hospital where he died during treatment in 2003 alarmed by his deteriorating health.
- After a year in November 2004, an FIR was filed after the chemical examiner’s report.
- By order dated 09.03.2006, the trial court convicted the accused of the offence under Section 302 of the IPC and sentenced him to life imprisonment and a fine of Rs.1,000/ failing which he will be sentenced to Rigorous Imprisonment for one year.
- The trial court’s judgment of conviction and order was confirmed by the High Court of Chhattisgarh in Criminal Appeal No.324 of 2006.
- The Appellant-accused by way of the present appeal has assailed the Judgment and Order passed by the Hon’ble High Court.
Observations Made By The Supreme Court
The Court threw light on evidentiary gaps in the prosecution’s case including the failure to acquire a definitive medical opinion on the cause of death. This raised questions about the cause of death especially given the delay in receiving the chemical analyzer’s report. The court also observed that,
“Though it may be common knowledge that organophosphorus, insecticides and Quinolphos are poisonous substances. The Court would loathe to impute personal knowledge and conclude that such poisonous substances found in the deceased’s viscera were the cause of death of the deceased especially when the said opinion of Chemical analyser was received after more than one year of sending the deceased’s viscera. The lack of a conclusion was acquired from any medical expert on the report of the Chemical analyzer as to the cause of death. It could not be argued that the prosecution had proven beyond reasonable doubt that the deceased died as a result of poison administration.”
The Supreme Court reiterates the circumstances that must be proven in cases of poisoning murder:
Citing the landmark case of Sharad BirdhiChand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra (1984) 4 SCC 116, the Court reaffirmed the four critical circumstances that must be proven in such cases:
- There is a clear motivation for the accused to provide poison.
- Poisoning leads to death.
- The accused should carry the poison.
- Possibility of Using Poison.
The Court found that the evidence presented was deficient in numerous critical areas. There was little evidence to support the motive and none of the witnesses had firsthand knowledge of the incident. The Court emphasized that even if the deceased’s statement is considered a dying declaration, one can only infer that he drank liquor with the appellant. It does not establish which herb was allegedly blended by the appellant or whether it was harmful or not.
According to the report, “Even if the said version of the deceased before his wife, his daughter, his brother, the Kotwar, and others is treated as his dying declaration, it would be very risky to convict the accused on such a weak piece of evidence.”
Supreme Court Judgement:
The prosecution failed to identify the precise herb or jadi-buti used in the liquor, let alone demonstrate its toxicity. They also failed to deliver the incriminating chemical examination report to the appellant at his Section 313 CrPC examination.
While it is not the court’s responsibility to reappreciate evidence while exercising jurisdiction under Art. 136, the court felt it was appropriate to reverse the conviction when confronted with glaring deficiencies in the case. The court deemed it fit to overturn the conviction in the instant case due to glaring deficiencies in the case.
The Supreme Court’s recent explication in the case of Hariprasad @Kishan Sahu v. State of Chattisgarh acts as a lighthouse in the labyrinthine domain of murder by poison shining light on the nuances of establishing guilt in such circumstances. The course of the case revealed the frailty of the prosecution’s story emphasizing crucial evidentiary gaps that obscured the truth.
The Court’s thorough examination highlighted the need for meeting the four pivotal circumstances outlined in the landmark decision of Sharad BirdhiChand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra. These include demonstrating the accused’s possession of the toxic substance and the potential for its use as well as establishing the relationship between poisoning and death.
The decision not only stressed the significance of obtaining a definite medical opinion on the cause of death but it also called the prosecution’s ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the precise herb or jadi-buti used in the lethal combination into question. In situations of this sort, the Court’s attitude indicates a dedication to a strong and impregnable level of proof.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the conviction noting flaws in the prosecution’s evidence sends a clear message about the importance of meeting the high burden of proof in life and death cases. As the curtain falls on this legal play, the ruling establishes a compelling precedent prompting legal scholars and practitioners to negotiate the complicated landscape of poison-induced killings with precision, care, and an unflinching dedication to justice.
This article is written and submitted by Sanskar Singhal during his course of internship at B&B Associates LLP. Sanskar is a 5th Year BBA LLB student at Geeta Institute of Law, Panipat.