State Through C.B.I vs Amaramani Tripathi, (2005) 8 SCC 21
Before the Supreme Court of India
Decided on: 26 September 2005
Author of the judgement: Ashok Bhan
Bench: Ashok Bhan, R.V. Raveendran
Counsel for the petitioner: Shri Gopal Subramanium, learned Additional Solicitor General
Counsel for the respondent: Shri KTS Tulsi, learned Senior Counsel appearing for Madhumani
- State of Rajasthan vs. Balchand – 1977 (4) SCC 308 and Gudikanti Narasimhulu vs. Public Prosecutor 1978 (1) SCC 240)
- Bihar Legal Support Society vs. Chief Justice of India [1986 (4) SCC 767
- Dolat Ram and others vs. State of Haryana 1995 (1) SCC 349
- S.N. Bhattacharjee vs. State of West Bengal 2004 (11) SCC 165
- Prahlad Singh Bhati vs. NCT, Delhi 2001 (4) SCC 280
- Gurcharan Singh vs. State (Delhi Administration) AIR 1978 SC 179
- Kalyan Chandra Sarkar vs. Rajesh Ranjan, 2004 (7) SCC 528
- Ram Govind Upadhyay vs. Sudarshan Singh, 2002 (3) SCC 598
- Puran vs. Ram Bilas 2001 (6) SCC 338
- Panchanan Mishra vs. Digambar Mishra, 2005 (3) SCC 143
- Pawan vs. Ram Prakash Pandey 2002 (9) SCC 166
- Ram Pratap Yadav vs. Mitra Sen Yadav 2003 (1) SCC 15
- Kalyan Chandra Sarkar vs. Rajesh Ranjan 2004 (7) SCC 528.
- Prahlad Singh Bhati Vs. NCT, Delhi, 2001 (4) SCC 280
Brief facts and procedural history:
Amarmani Tripathi, a Minister in the U.P. Government, at the relevant time, was having an affair with deceased Madhumita Shukla, a young Poetess. This led to Madhumita’s pregnancy thrice. On the first two occasions, the pregnancy was aborted at the instance of Amarmani. On the third occasion, in spite of pressure and persuasion by Amarmani, Madhumita refused to abort the pregnancy.
Madhumani Tripathi, the wife of Amarmani, was upset when she learned about the illicit intimacy between Amarmani and the deceased. She made several calls to the deceased and her family members to threaten and abuse them. During the end of March 2003, Madhumani Tripathi informed one Rohit Chaturvedi (cousin of Amarmani) that she was troubled by her husband’s relationship with Madhumita and requested him to help her to teach a ‘lesson’ to Madhumita. Rohit Chaturvedi, therefore, introduced one Santosh Rai as a person who can help her. Madhumani told Santosh Rai that Madhumita should be finished, whatever be the expense.
On 14.4.2003 when Rohit Chaturvedi came to Lucknow, Madhumani asked him to instruct Santosh Rai to do the work assigned to him without delay. On the same evening, Rohit Chaturvedi informed Amarmani that Bhabhi Madhumani wanted Madhumita to be eliminated. Amarmani told Rohit that it may be done taking care to see that his name was not linked to the incident. He also stated that being a Minister in the U.P. Govt., shall protect them. Amarmani was no longer interested in Madhumita as she was becoming a nuisance and he had found other interests. Amarmani felt that if Madhumita gave birth to the love-child, it could adversely affect his image as a politician and Minister and also cause a problem in his family.
Madhumani kept on pressing Rohit to get the work done. On 1.5.2003 Madhumani told him that all limits have been crossed and action should be taken immediately. Madhumani rang up Rohit several times to tell Santosh Rai to do her work and Rohit passed on the message to Santosh Rai. Santosh Rai met Madhumani in this connection on 5.5.2003. Santosh Rai assured Rohit that the work will be done within 2 to 4 days. In pursuance of it, on 9.5.2003 Santosh Rai along with Prakash Pandey went to the house of Madhumita and shot her with a country-made pistol (katta) from close range, resulting in her death.
According to the prosecution, the murder of Madhumita was a result of the conspiracy among Madhumani, Amarmani, Rohit Chaturvedi, Santosh Rai and Prakash Pandey.
Being aggrieved by the two orders of the Allahabad High Court granting bail to Amarmani and Madhumani, the State has approached this Court.
Arguments of the petitioner:
- The murder of pregnant Madhumita, a heinous crime, was committed in pursuance of a conspiracy hatched by accused 1 to 5. The murder was committed by the killers (accused 1 & 2), hired by accused no.4 with the concurrence, support, and protection of accused no.5, through accused no.3.
- There was material to show (i) the illicit relationship of Amarmani with the deceased resulting in three pregnancies; (ii) Amarmani’s intention to get out of the relationship; (iii) Amarmani’s attempt to put an end to the last pregnancy also, by requiring his servant Pappu Chaudhary to pose as the father of the foetus and give consent for abortion; (iv) Madhumani’s ire and jealously against the deceased and expression of an intention to get rid of her; (v) Madhumani’s subsequent action in engaging killers (accused 1 and 2) through accused No.3 to kill Madhumita; and (vi) the consent of Amarmani for Killing Madhumita, as instructed by his wife without involving his name and assuring protection to the persons committing the murder.
- Amarmani was interfering with the investigation, by trying to side-track it and mislead the Police into a false trail, planting false stories in the media, creating false evidence and threatening witnesses either directly or by using the police. He even managed to get the Police Officers (including an officer of the Rank of SSP) who were not toeing his line, transferred.
- After releasing on bail in pursuance to the order of the High Court, Amarmani was attempting to threaten/coerce/buy over witnesses (Nidhi Shukla, sister, Shanti Kumari Shukla and Najib Khan).
- Madhumani had already absconded earlier. Only the rejection of bail application of her husband on that ground made her surrender. There is every likelihood of her again fleeing if she continuous to be on bail.
Arguments of the respondent- Amarmani:
- It was submitted that this is a case of blind murder. There is no material showing any involvement of Amarmani in the murder or in any conspiracy. There was never any contact between Amarmani and the hired killers.
- It was submitted that the retracted confessional statement of Rohit Chaturvedi which alone linked Amarmani’s name to the conspiracy is to be ignored, in view of the law laid down by this Court; and if it is so ignored, there is absolutely no material at all to show that Amarmani was involved in the conspiracy.
- The, material, including the statements of Nidhi, Shanti Kumari, Pappu Chaudhary relied upon by the prosecution and the post-mortem report showing the six month foetus and the DNA report showing Amarmani as the father, even if accepted could at best establish an illicit relationship between Amarmani and Madhumita and an attempt to abort the pregnancy and nothing more.
- It was submitted that the conduct of Amarmani, even if it was morally incorrect, can in no way be considered as proof of an intention to kill Madhumita or proof of his being a party to any conspiracy to kill Madhumita.
- It was also stated that any action taken by Amarmani to safeguard himself and his wife, cannot be branded as a conspiracy.
Arguments on behalf of the respondent- Madhumani:
- It was contended that if the confessional statement of Rohit is excluded, there is nothing to link Madhumani to the death of Madhumita.
- It was pointed out that the entire material, even assuming to be true, only showed an illicit relationship between Amarmani and the deceased and expression of anger by Madhumani against such illicit relationship and nothing more.
- It was submitted that the expression of righteous indignation by a wife and verbal abuse of the girl trying to wreck her marital life, is not evidence of participation in any conspiracy to kill the deceased.
- It was contended that no interference was called for in regard to the orders of the High Court granting bail to Amarmani and Madhumani.
- It was submitted that the basic rule is bail and not jail unless there are circumstances suggesting fleeing from justice or thwarting justice either by repeating the offense or intimidating witnesses
It is true that while considering and deciding appeals against the grant of bail, where the accused has been at large for a considerable time, the post bail conduct and supervening circumstances will also have to be taken note of. But they are not the only factors to be considered as in the case of applications for cancellation of bail.
It is well settled that the matters to be considered in an application for bail are (i) whether there is any prima facie or reasonable ground to believe that the accused had committed the offence; (ii) nature and gravity of the charge; (iii) severity of the punishment in the event of conviction; (iv) danger of accused absconding or fleeing if released on bail; (v) character, behaviour, means, position and standing of the accused; (vi) likelihood of the offence being repeated; (vii) reasonable apprehension of the witnesses being tampered with; and (viii) danger, of course, of justice, being thwarted by grant of bail.
While a vague allegation that accused may tamper with the evidence or witnesses may not be a ground to refuse bail, if the accused is of such character that his mere presence at large would intimidate the witnesses or if there is material to show that he will use his liberty to subvert justice or tamper with the evidence, then bail will be refused.
Therefore, the general rule that this Court will not ordinarily interfere in matters relating to bail, is subject to exceptions where there are special circumstances and when the basic requirements for the grant of bail are completely ignored by the High Court.
While a detailed examination of the evidence is to be avoided while considering the question of bail, to ensure that there is no pre-judging and no prejudice, a brief examination to be satisfied with the existence or otherwise of a prima facie case is necessary. An examination of the material, in this case, set out above, keeping in view the aforesaid principles, disclose prima facie, the existence of a conspiracy to which Amarmani and Madhumani were parties. The contentions of Respondents that the confessional statement of Rohit Chaturvedi is inadmissible in evidence and that should be excluded from consideration, for purpose of bail is untenable.
But what is more relevant, in this case, is the conduct of Amarmani from the day of the murder in trying to interfere, detract and mislead the investigation and to threaten and coerce witnesses. The learned Single Judge has, however, completely ignored these materials relating to tampering with evidence/witnesses. This necessitates interference with the order of the High Court.
The High Court has failed to deal with the vast material placed by the CBI which clearly indicated that the accused has, at all material times, tried to interfere with the course of the investigation, tamper with witnesses, fabricate evidence, intimidate or create obstacles in the path of investigation officers and derail the case.
In the present case, we find that the High Court has granted bail being of the opinion that the extra-judicial confession given by Rohit Chaturvedi one of the co-accused may not stand the test of scrutiny by a judicial mind but that by itself was not sufficient to grant the bail. There is voluminous evidence collected by the CBI to show the involvement of Amarmani Tripathi, and his effort to interfere with the investigation of the case before the grant of bail and also after the grant of bail.
There are written complaints with the investigating agency showing that after his release on bail Amarmani Tripathi tried to threaten as well as win over Nidhi Shukla, sister of the deceased, and her mother by offering a bribe. In our opinion, the High Court gravely erred in granting bail to Amarmani Tripathi in such circumstances. The High Court practically failed to consider/take into consideration the voluminous evidence which had been collected by the investigation agency and have been referred to by them in their statement of objections to the application for grant of bail.
It is true that the position of Madhumani is somewhat different from the case of her husband. While her husband is a politician and ex-Minister, she is no doubt a housewife. While her husband has several criminal cases against him, she has no such record. While there is material to show attempts by her husband to tamper with the evidence and threaten witnesses, there is nothing to show that she made any attempt to tamper with the evidence. But there is material to show that she had absconded for several months and surrendered only when bail was refused to her husband on the ground that she was absconding. Further when the matter is considered in entirety, with reference to the murder of Madhumita and the propensity of the husband and wife to pressurize and persuade others to act according to their wishes there is reasonable ground for apprehension that if her husband alone is taken into custody, leaving her to remain outside, she may take over the task of tampering the evidence and manipulating/threatening witnesses. Therefore, interference is called for even in regard to the bail granted to Madhumani.
The order passed by the High Court was set aside. The bail bonds in each of these cases are canceled. The appeal is thus dismissed.