Dharam Deo Yadav v. State of U.P., (2014) 5 SCC 509
Criminal Appeal No.369 of 2006
Bench: Hon'ble Mr K.S. Radhakrishnan, Hon'ble Mr A.K. Sikri
Date of Judgement: 11th April 2014
Backstory of the Case
- Section 302 IPC (Punishment for murder)
- Section 366 IPC (Punishment for kidnapping or abducting including woman)
- Section 394 IPC (voluntarily hurt in committing robbery)
- Section 411 IPC (dishonestly receiving stolen property)
- Section 201 IPC ( Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or
giving false information) to screen offender)
Case in the Supreme Court
- A 22-year-old girl named Diana Clare Routley, a New Zealander was
gruesomely murdered on 10th Aug 1997 in Varanasi. She had come to India in
1997 as a tourist and was staying in Old Vishnu Guesthouse in Varanasi. She
was about to board a train for Darjeeling from Catt station Varanasi on 10th
Aug 1997 when she went missing. Her father, Allan Jack Routley, contacted
the authorities and launched a missing complaint, suspecting her local guide
named Dharma Deo Yadav under section 366 IPC.
- The accused was arrested in 1998 and he confessed the murder along with
the involvement of Kali Charan Yadav, Sindhu Harijan and Ram Karan Chauhan.
He accompanied the investigator to Ghazipur and showed the place where
Diana's body was buried. She was killed by strangulation. The skeletal
remains were sent for a postmortem on 20th Aug 1998. The oral evidence of
all witness confirmed that the accused was the last person to be seen with
Diana. The accused took Diana to his native place stayed for a few days than
committed murder and buried her body. The postmortem was done by a team of
doctors and The skeletal remains were examined to determine the age, sex and
race of the body. It showed that the person was a young female with golden
brown hair while the DNA samples collected from femur and humerus bone
confirmed that the skeletal remains were that of Diana.
- Following the case's committal, the Court of Sessions (Crime No. 254/98)
filed charges against Kali Charan, Kesar Yadav, and Mahesh Chandra Mishra
under Section 411 IPC. The appellant, Kali Charan Yadav, Sindhu Harijan, and
Ram Karan Chauhan were all accused with violating Sections 302/34, 201, and
394 of the IPC. The appellant was also charged with violating Section 364 of
the IPC. The appellant was found guilty of the offences punishable under
Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC and Section 201 IPC, but was cleared of
the accusations for the offences under Sections 364 and 394 IPC. The trial
court cleared Kali Charan Yadav, Sindhu Harijan, and Ram Karan Chauhan.
Since the accused strangled a young foreign girl who was visiting India, the
trial court also determined that the case comes within the category of
rarest of rare cases and gave the culprit the death penalty.
- The State filed Government Appeal No. 2726 of 2003 against the order of
acquittal given against the remaining accused parties, while Criminal Appeal
No. 1000 of 2003 by accused was filed before the High Court of Judicature in
Allahabad. Together with Criminal Reference No. 21 of 2003, both appeals
were heard. The death sentence imposed by the trial court was upheld by the
High Court, which dismissed both appeals. A Supreme Court appeal was
- Arguments of the appellant
The Counsel for Appellant argued that:
- The case of the prosecution rests solely on the circumstantial evidences
and there is no hard proof that no other but accused committed the crime.
- As Witnesses have identified Diana (Victim), only on the basis of a
photograph, their oral testimony is unreliable, inconclusive and
- Confession made by the accused cannot be taken into consideration
because it was made when accused was under police custody and this kind of
confession is inadmissible under section 27 of Indian Evidence Act.
- When Skeleton was found by the police, there was no neutral party
present to verify the claim of the police. There is high probability that
evidence was placed by the police itself.
- DNA report should not be relied on much, due to numerous controversies
and concerns around forensic evidences.
- As the cases rested purely on circumstantial evidences, it should not be
categorized as "Rarest of Rare" and should not warrant Death Sentence.
- Arguments of the Prosecution
The learned counsel appearing for the state submitted that:
- Even though case rested primarily on the circumstantial evidences, all the
incriminating circumstances ruled out the innocence of the accused.
- More than one eye witnesses confirmed that victim was last seen with the
accused before her disappearance.
- Even though statement of accused cannot be admitted as confession u/s
27, it lead to skeleton of the victim and became a relevant statement.
- DNA test was performed as per established procedure and with all
- The chain of events leading to the guilt of accused has been established
by the prosecution, and the circumstances as a whole cannot be explained by
any other reasonable theory than the guilt that is being attempted to be
- Decision of the Court
The Apex Court disposed the appeal by the appellant but altered the punishment
from Death Sentence to Rigorous Life Imprisonment for 20yrs considering the
circumstantial evidences. The Supreme Court held accused guilty of the crime but
didn't consider the case "Rarest of Rare" and thus didn't allow Capital
Punishment for the same. Further, the court admitted the DNA Evidence and oral
testimony of the eye witnesses. The court discussed all the issues in detail and
then pronounced its judgement.
- Crime Scene Investigation
The Apex court criticized the approach of the police in handling the crime scene
and laid down that Crime scenes "ought to be carefully maintained without any
mistake, especially when case involves the forensic evidence. The court also
explained the reasoning that cautious crime scene analysis might be useful in
establishing the evidence of the crime, locating the defendant, and figuring out
if the accused is guilty or innocent.
Doing a thorough search for any
evidence that may be used to establish the crime is one of the important duties
of the police officer investigating the case at the scene of the incident. When
gathering, packing, and sending physical evidence to the crime scene, the
investigating officer may be protected from contamination. The right measures
must be taken in order to protect the evidence from being tampered with,
defiled, or damaged.
Crime scene investigations hold significant value if case goes into trial. In
court procedures when a justification of the forensic analysis of DNA or blood
spatter evidence is needed, crime scene investigators are occasionally called
upon to present expert witness.
They define the evidence that was uncovered and explain what it means in terms
of how a crime was committed, how a victim died, or who was at fault. They
explain the relevance of these particulars in a way that the jury members, who
most likely have little to no legal or law enforcement training, can grasp it.
In order to bolster their case against the defendant, prosecutors ask crime
scene investigators to offer testimony.
- Expert-Scientific Evidence
The Apex court observed that the criminal justice system in our nation is at a
crossroads; frequently, trustworthy, credible witnesses to the crime hardly ever
come forward to testify in court, and even the most seasoned offenders manage to
escape prison. Even the prosecution's trustworthy witnesses become hostile as a
result of intimidation, fear, and a variety of other factors.
scientific evidence is the only method to improve the quality of an
investigation, the investigating agency must explore for additional strategies.
We need to establish legal foundations that are solid both legally and
scientifically in this age of knowledge. Techniques that have worked in the past
must make way for new, inventive approaches.
Oral testimony is subject to a
number of factors, such as power of observation, embarrassment, outside
pressure, amnesia, etc., but forensic evidence is unaffected by these flaws. The
judge ought to be equipped with the skills and knowledge required to understand
and apply such scientific information. Constant interaction with scientists and
engineers would promote and expand judges' capacity to handle such scientific
material and to successfully handle criminal cases based on scientific evidence.
The court took into consideration Sir Francis Bacon's theory of scientific
method and Sir Karl's theory of biased science. Sir Francis believed that there
is a very little chance of error since science is the objective observation of
nature, which entails gathering data with a mind free of damaging prejudices.
On the other Hand, Sir Karl believed that every scientific theory, hypothesis,
or presumption has its biased origins.
Instead of basing its opinion on
either of the theories, court retarieted the US Supreme Court's decision in
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals and held that Science does not have an
exhaustive database of information about the world. Instead, it is a method for
putting out and improving theoretical explanations for how the reality works
that are then tested and improved upon.
Therefore, even when taking forensic
evidences into consideration, certain criteria needs to be fulfilled such as the
competence of the expert witness testifying upon the technique, the non-judicial
applications of the approach, the hypothesis' internal logic or consistency, its
compatibility with recognised authority, and its presumption.
- Admissibility of DNA test
In para 34 of the judgement, SC exclusively dealt with the question of
admissibility of DNA evidence. Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is the biological
code that underlies all life. Deoxyribose sugar and phosphate backbone make form
the double standard structure of DNA, which is cross-linked with the nucleic
acids adenine and guanine, purines, thymine, and cytosine pyrimidines.
identification of a person and his blood relatives, including his mother,
father, brother, and other family members, is the most crucial function of a DNA
profile. DNA profiling can also be used to successfully identify skeletal
remnants. Any biological substance, including blood, semen, saliva, hair, skin,
bones, etc., may often be used to acquire DNA.
The blood sample from the
deceased's father was matched with the DNA sample taken from the skeleton in
this instance, and all sampling and testing were carried out by professionals
whose scientific competence and experience were uncontested throughout the
proceedings. Defense counsel emphasized that DNA is known to be vulnerable to
harm from moisture, heat, infrared radiation, and other factors, and that this
may cause the DNA sample to decay. Furthermore, it was noted that DNA findings
can never be used to determine the degree of absoluteness since DNA is
susceptible to contamination while being transported and while being stored at
police stations or laboratories.
The court didn't accept the argument and
observed that once thhe prosecution has successfully demonstrated that the
skeleton found in the accused's home belonged to Diana, Allen Jack Routley's
daughter, the onus is on defense to prove any irregularity or shortcoming of
the said test. Otherwise, it is to be deemed that DNA evidence is acceptable
and it was the accused that strangled Diana to death and concealed her body
in his home.
- Effect of statement of accused under section 313
In his examination according to Section 313 Cr.P.C., the accused entirely
refuted the prosecution's case, and according to the counsel of the appellant,
neither the trial court nor the high court took the accused's statement into
account while convicting the accused. Both courts ignored the accused's
testimony, and he was not given an equal chance to defend himself, which is
against the right to a fair trial.
To decide the argument, the Apex Court cited
the judgement of Anthony D'souza v. State of Karnataka and reiterated the
position of law decided in this case. The court said that According to Section
313 of the Criminal Procedure Code, an accused person's statement is not
considered to be a substantial piece of evidence and can only be used to give
the prosecution's evidence more weight.
Even though the false statement of the
accused brings the chain of events full circle, it has no significance for the
trial if the prosecution has established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Therefore, Supreme Court upheld the view of trial court and High court as the
courts have carefully examined the evidence presented by the prosecution before
the pronouncement of sentence.
- Meaning of the Term "Custody"
Supreme Court observed that when skeleton of victim was recovered from the house
of accused, even though he was not in jail, it can be said that he was still in
custody of the police as there was surveillance on him and police officer was
keeping him company from station to his house forth and back. The court stated
that the phrase "custody" found in Section 27 does not signify formal custody,
which includes any kind of surveillance, limitation or restraint by the police.
The court referred to several precedents in the matter and held that even if
the accused was not legally detained at the time the information was provided,
the police technically had the accused at that time and it does qualify as
Custody for the purpose of section 27.
- Rarest of Rare Category
The court considered whether the case falls under the category of rarest of the
rare case so as to award death sentence. Instead of going with "balancing test"
The cited the judgement in the case of and analyzed the facts of the case to
determine whether present facts fulfill the Crime Test, Criminal Test and RR
Test laid down in the case of
The "crime" test primarily focuses on the characteristics of the crime, such as
the method of operation, the victim's susceptibility, the level of planning, or
the odious nature of the crime.
Using characteristics connected to the accused,
such as their socioeconomic situation, age, and gender, repentance, potential
motivation, state of mind, fairness in the trial method, etc., the "criminal"
test is used to contextualise the crime with the past of the accused. So, the
crime test often represents the mitigating factors whereas the crime test
represents the aggravating ones.
The Rarest of Rare Case Test was a criterion
that was "society centric" as opposed to "judge centric" because it exclusively
hinged on how society perceived the crime, including its abhorrence, great
outrage, and hostility to it. Since the accused had no previous criminal
records, lack of evidence and as the manner of killing was barbaric, so this is
not considered as rare of rarest and the culprit was awarded rigorous
imprisonment for 20 years under section 302, 366, 394 and 411 of IPC.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE JUDGEMENT
This case became a landmark judgment due to the involvement of several legal
provisions and disputed questions of law at once. The Court dealt with several
unambiguous concepts such as admissibility of DNA Evidence, Meaning of Term
"Custody", and Need of Crime Scene Analysis, Importance of forensic evidence and
criteria for "Rarest of Rare Case" and tried to maintain a balance.
might get criticized for its two sided tilting judgment. On one side, court
pronounced accused guilty of each and every allegation against him and held that
accused brutally murdered the girl. On the other side, court denied to give
capital punishment only on the basis of accused's previous records, which were
Instead of going with the sentimental public view of dealing
the case as special due to the victim being a foreigner girl, court remained
objective towards the persons involved and dealt the case with pure legal point
of view. The judgment created a divide in the opinion and Supreme Court faced
hard criticism from the government of New Zealand.
Author, in her personal opinion, finds the judgment progressive and
stone-turning. Not only the honourable Supreme Court dealt with the specific
facts of the case but analyzed involved legal provisions to such core that
settled the ambiguity. The court thoroughly and deeply dealt with the legal
questions and set out the principles, which would help in many more cases to
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860, � 366, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India),
- 2014(5)S.C.C. 509.
- The First Criminal Conviction Based on Fingerprint Evidence, DISCOVER (March 27, 2023), https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/the-first-criminal-conviction-based-on-fingerprint-evidence.
- Swan, Liz. (2014). Karl Popper, Forensic Science, and Nested Codes. Biosemiotics. 7. 309-319. 10.1007/s12304-014-9215-y.
- Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579
- DNA Evidence in the Legal System, National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK232607/.
- State v Bogan, 905 P.2d 515, 522-23 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1995), (dissenting opinion challenging the majority's conclusion that the "'tenuous distinction between molecular genetics and other scientific disciplines' should [not] cause DNA opinion evidence to be treated differently from other opinion testimony that is customarily allowed to support other kinds of scientific evidence")
- Anthony D'souza v. State of Karnataka (2003) 1 SCC 259
- Varun Sharma, Section 313 Of The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973: An Unsung Hero Of Criminal Jurisprudence, Mondaq (July 07, 2021), https://www.mondaq.com/india/crime/1088048/section-313-of-the-code-of-criminal-procedure-1973-an-unsung-hero-of-criminal-jurisprudence.
- State of Andhra Pradesh v. Gangula Satya Murthy (1997) 1 SCC 272, A.N. Venkatesh v. State of Karnataka (2005) 7 SCC 714, Sandeep v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2012) 6 SCC 107.
- Sudipta Purkayastha, Analysing Death Penalty like never before: Shankar Kisanrao Khade v. State Of Maharashtra, LexQuest (Aug 27, 2015), https://www.lexquest.in/analysing-death-penalty-like-never-before-shankar-kisanrao-khade-v-state-of-maharashtra/.
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860, � 302, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India), The Indian Penal Code, 1860, � 366, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India), The Indian Penal Code, 1860, � 394, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India),The Indian Penal Code, 1860, � 411, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India).
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