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Case Comment: Dharam Deo Yadav v/s State of U.P

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

Relevant Sections
  • 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)
Backstory of the Case
  • 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[1].
  • 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 therefore filed.

Case in the Supreme Court
  • Arguments of the appellant
    The Counsel for Appellant argued that:
    1. 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.
    2. As Witnesses have identified Diana (Victim), only on the basis of a photograph, their oral testimony is unreliable, inconclusive and inconsistent.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. DNA report should not be relied on much, due to numerous controversies and concerns around forensic evidences.
    6. 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:
    1. Even though case rested primarily on the circumstantial evidences, all the incriminating circumstances ruled out the innocence of the accused.
    2. More than one eye witnesses confirmed that victim was last seen with the accused before her disappearance.
    3. 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.
    4. DNA test was performed as per established procedure and with all caution.
    5. 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 proven.
  • 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.

  1. 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.[2]

    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.
  2. 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.

    As gathering 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.[3] On the other Hand, Sir Karl believed that every scientific theory, hypothesis, or presumption has its biased origins.[4]

    Instead of basing its opinion on either of the theories, court retarieted the US Supreme Court's decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals[5] 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.
  3. 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.[6]

    The 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.[7]

    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.
  4. 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[8] 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.[9] 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.
  5. 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[10] 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.
  6. 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.[11] 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.[12]

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.

The case 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 completely clean.

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 come ahead.

  • 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),
  • 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,
  • 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),
  • 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),
  • 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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