SC’s Recent Verdict on Offence of Causing Disappearance of Evidence under IPC

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February 15, 2018

Case name: Dinesh Kumar Kalidas v. State of Gujrat

Date of Judgment: February 12, 2018

In this recent case, the Supreme Court has elaborated on the offence under Section 201 of IPC and held that the mere fact that the deceased allegedly died an unnatural death could not be sufficient to bring home a charge under Section 201 of IPC. Unless the prosecution was able to establish that the accused person knew or had reason to believe that an offence has been committed and had done something causing the offence of commission of evidence to disappear, he cannot be convicted.

Brief Facts of the case

In the case, the appellant was convicted by the Sessions Judge for offences under Sections 498A and 201 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. This is a case where the appellant’s wife committed suicide by hanging. After more than three months, the father of the deceased filed a complaint before the Judicial Magistrate. Post investigation, the Sessions Judge convicted the appellant under Sections 498A and Section 201 of IPC. The appellant was acquitted of the offence under Section 498A of the IPC but conviction under Section 201 of IPC (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) was maintained.

The High Court in appeal maintained the appellant’s conviction under Section 201 of IPC.

The core issue confronted by the Bench in the case was whether the conviction under Section 201 of IPC could have been maintained while acquitting appellant of the main offence under Section 498A of the IPC?

Bench’s Verdict

  • Conviction under Section 201 of IPC can be maintained independently- The Bench observed that Section 201 of IPC can be independently laid and conviction maintained also, in case the prosecution is able to establish that an offence had been committed, the person charged with the offence had the knowledge or the reason to believe that the offence had been committed, the said person has caused disappearance of evidence and such act of disappearance has been done with the intention of screening the offender from legal punishment. Mere suspicion is not sufficient, it must be proved that the accused knew or had a reason to believe that the offence has been committed and yet he caused the evidence to disappear so as to screen the offender. The offender may be either himself or any other person.
  • With reference to the facts of the instant case, the Bench opined that the only ground for maintaining the conviction under Section 201 of IPC was that the appellant did not give intimation to the police of the unnatural death of his wife and that no post-mortem was conducted.
  • That the High Court was not justified in maintaining the conviction under Section 201 of IPC only on the ground that no communication was given to the police and that the post-mortem had not been performed. The Sessions Court had taken note of the suicide note left by the deceased wherein she had taken the entire blame on herself. Yet the court has taken the view, from the consideration we have extracted from that the deceased might have been in a state of depression having remained alone for most of the time and it amounted to torture.
  • Essential ingredients to establish offence under Section 201 of IPC- The Court while elaborating on this point made reference to plethora of judgments[1] and stated that in the instant case, the prosecution failed to satisfy the ingredients under Section 201 of the IPC.
  • In this context it would be relevant to reproduce the essential ingredients of Section 201 of IPC:
  • To bring home an offence under Section 201 IPC, the ingredients to be established are:
  • committal of an offence;
  • person charged with the offence under Section 201 must have the knowledge or reason to believe that an offence has been committed;
  • person charged with the said offence should have caused disappearance of evidence; and
  • the act should have been done with the intention of screening the offender from legal punishment or with that intention he should have given information respecting the offence, which he knew or believed to be false.
  • Reference was also made to Apex Court’s decision in the case of Hanuman and others v. State of Rajasthan[2] to hold that the mere fact that the deceased allegedly died an unnatural death could not be sufficient to bring home a charge under Section 201 of the IPC. Unless the prosecution was able to establish that the accused person knew or had reason to believe that an offence has been committed and had done something causing the offence of commission of evidence to disappear, he cannot be convicted.

In view of the aforesaid, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal and set aside the offence under Section 201 of IPC.

The entire case can be accessed here.

[1] Sukhram v. State of Maharashtra, Smt. Kalawati and Ranjit Singh v. State of Himachal Pradesh, Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab, Suleman Rehiman Mulani and another v. State of Maharashtra, V.L. Tresa v. State of Kerala

[2] 1994 Supp (2) SCC 39