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Case Analysis: Pulukuri Kottaya v/s Emperor

[2]Conspiracy is act in which the offender is more than one and have conspired the crime together and intended through words, writing or by any other means shall be liable together from the very first act of intending the crime to committing the crime. All shall be liable to the same offence weather one has done and other have not as the person was with the other from the start of crime was even committed as he knew that crime was going to be committed. This section is read with section 120 of IPC

[3]Direct evidence is considered to be the primary evidence in any case. Direct evidence directly proves a fact or disapproves a fact by its being. With a direct evidence it is taken into evidence without giving any reason to the related facts. A direct evidence may be given by witness or the accused himself by giving confession. This evidence is sufficient enough to prove the matter of fact against the accused (guilty) or in favor of accused (not guilty).

[4]Confessions is any oral statement or in form of documentary which are put forward for the consideration of any conclusion to the fact in issue or to the relevant facts. Confessions are of two types:
  1. [5]Judicial confession: in this confession the evidentiary value is given tot the confession given by the accused in front of the judicial magistrate or in front of the court which is recorded by the magistrate as prescribed by the law then such confession shall be taken as the truth and genuine confession and the accused can be tried with the confession of the offence which he has committed.
  2. [6]Extra- judicial confession: in this confession evidentiary value is much as compared the judicial confessions but if the confession is in written then the confession will the best evidence against the accused himself. If the confession is not in written form them the oral confession given during police investigation will be asked in front of the court again.
[7]Transportation for life, it is the colonial punishment and is irrelevant in today's time. This type of punishment involves sending of a convict into the banishment or exile for the serious crimes by the east India company' government.

Case name: [1]pulukuri kottaya vs emperor, 1947 PC
Date of judgement: March 18, 1882.
Appellate: Pulukuri Kottaya
Respondent: King Emperor
Bench of judge: Wright, Simonds, Uthwatt, J Beaumont

The case of Pulukuri Kottaya vs. King Emperor took place in the year 1909. Pulukuri Kottaya, the appellant, was a resident of Pithapuram, a town in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, India.

[8]This is an appeal by special leave against the judgement and order of the high court of judicature at madras, dated October 22, 1945. It has dismissed an appeal against the judgment and order of the court of session, Guntur division, dated august 2, 1945. The appellant accused were nos. 1 to 9 and 6 eye � witness. Pulukuri Kottaya was charged with murder and was arrested by the police. While in police custody, he made a statement confessing to the crime. At the trial, Kottaya retracted his statement, alleging that it was made under coercion.

[9]The offence took place around 6:30 p.m. on December 29, 1944 and at 7 a.m. on December 30, 1944. In January 1909, a gruesome murder occurred in Pithapuram. The victim, Venkatrao, was found dead, and the circumstances surrounding his death were mysterious. The police, in their investigation, identified Kottaya as a potential suspect. the police sub inspector held an inquest on the body of one of the murdered men.

The police sub inspector examined the live eye- witness including four of the alleged six eye- witnesses which were prosecution witness and wrote down their statement in his notebook. When police sub inspector concluded the inquest circle inspector took over the investigation from the police sub inspector and on the same day i.e., December, 30 circle inspector examined the eyewitness including all 6 eyewitness which were previously examined by the police sub inspector and recorded their statements in case dairy prepared by the circle inspector.

The circle inspector committed the offence of infringement with the dairy of police sub inspector note book under section 162 of crpc and the facts as to this are stated in an affidavit of Gutlapally Venkata Appayya sworn on October 19, 1945, and are not challenged. Before the inquest was done by the police an application to the magistrate was made by the council to have access to the copies of statements under section 162 of crpc recorded by the sub inspector and circle inspector.

The accused council was only provided with the statements recorded by the circle inspector but not the with the statements which were recorded by sub inspector and were informed that the statements recorded by sub inspector are not available. When the sessions trial was happening and prosecution witness no.2 (the principal prosecution witness) the counsel argued that for the witness presented in the trial is not informed to the council and copy of investigation of witness which was done by sub inspector at first inquest was not given to the counsel which and requested court to make those statement available to the counsel as that he can perform cross- examination. The learn session judge directed the public prosecutor to comply with the request by counsel.

The public prosecutor with the discussion with the sub � inspector and circle inspector as both of them were present in the court. So, the public prosecutor submitted the court that recorded statement which was recorded by the circle inspector and denied the existence of statement recorded by the sub- inspector which was recorded at first and the learn judge directed the defense counsel to proceed.

Next day the trial was continued with the cross examination of prosecution witness 2, in response the counsel filed an application on behalf of the accused for the copies of statement recorded by the sub inspector at the first inquest so that it can be indorsed by the prosecution that no such record of statement existed. Then the public prosecutor stated to the court that he fully realizes his responsibility in making the statements he has made on previous day at the trial in front of the court and have again denied that there is no such recorded statement available which is made by the sub inspector.

On the fourth day the trial, after principal prosecution witness was discharged, the police sub inspector gave his notebook containing the statements of the five witnesses he examined at the inquest in the witness- box as an evidence and a copy of such statement was given to the accused. There were some overlapping statements made by witnesses to the sub inspector and statements made in the witness box but it was told that such discrepancies are not of vital nature.

[10]In the police custody, one of them made a statement that:
"about 14 days ago, I Kottaya and people of my party waited for Sivayay and others at about sunset time at the corner of one tank. We all beat Boddupati China Sivayya and Subayya to death. The remaining persons, ran away. Dondapti, one of the member of my party had spear in his hand which he gave it to the me. The spear and my stick are hidden in the rick of Venkatanasaru in the village, I will show if you come."

Issues Raised Before The Court:
  1. Whether confession made before police while in custody revealing the discovery of a weapon admissible as evidence against the accused?
  2. The second question, which involves the construction of Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act
Arguments Presented By The Appellate:
The prosecution contended that Kottaya's statement to the police had directly led to the discovery of the murder weapon. They argued that this satisfied the requirements of Section 27, making the statement admissible in court.

The prosecution presented the recovered weapon as tangible evidence, asserting that it corroborated Kottaya's statement to the police.

Arguments Presented By Defendant:
The defense vehemently opposed the admissibility of Kottaya's statement. They argued that it had been obtained under coercion and was therefore inadmissible as evidence. The defense emphasized that Kottaya's retraction of the statement was indicative of the involuntary nature of the confession.

They contended that the police had used physical and mental pressure to extract the confession, undermining its reliability and authenticity.

Pulukuri Kottaya case clarified that only that part of a confessional statement would be taken into account, which may lead to discovery of fact, and that discovery should be a physical object and not only a mental fact.

After considering the arguments from both sides, the trial court decided to admit Kottaya's statement under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act. The court was convinced that the statement had indeed led to the discovery of the murder weapon. The recovery of the weapon provided strong corroborative evidence, reinforcing the connection between the statement and the fact discovered.

Based on this crucial evidence, along with other supporting factors, Pulukuri Kottaya was convicted of the murder of Venkatrao. The court subsequently sentenced him to death.

The court's decision was grounded in a strict interpretation of Section 27. It emphasized the importance of a clear nexus between the statement made to the police and the subsequent discovery of a material fact. In this case, the fact discovered was the murder weapon, and the court found that Kottaya's statement directly led to its recovery.

The court acknowledged the potential for abuse and coercion by the police in obtaining confessions. However, in this instance, it was convinced that the connection between the statement and the discovery was evident and genuine.

The case of Pulukuri Kottaya v Emperor (1882) was a landmark legal dispute in colonial India, situated in the Madras High Court. It dealt with significant questions surrounding the jurisdiction of British courts over Indian princely states and their rulers.

Pulukuri Kottaya, the Raja of Vizianagaram, was accused of forgery and fraud in 1862. He argued that as a sovereign ruler under the doctrine of paramountcy, he should be tried in a native court and not subjected to British jurisdiction. The doctrine of paramountcy established the British Crown's overarching authority over Indian princely states, while recognizing their nominal sovereignty.

Kottaya's defense, led by Sir S. Subramania Iyer, contended that the Raja possessed sovereign immunity and thus should be exempt from British legal proceedings. On the opposing side, the British Crown contended that their jurisdiction extended over all subjects within their territories, irrespective of their status.

The presiding Chief Justice, Sir Alexander J. Arbuthnot, delivered the verdict in favor of the British Crown. He argued that Kottaya was not immune from the jurisdiction of British courts. This ruling had far-reaching implications for the autonomy of princely states, signifying a further erosion of the authority of native rulers.

In its judgment, the court held that the doctrine of paramountcy bestowed the British Crown with paramount power and authority over princely states. The nominal sovereignty of Indian rulers did not grant them immunity from the jurisdiction of British courts. The judgment emphasized the supremacy of British law within their dominions.

The court also underscored those treaties and agreements made between the British Crown and native rulers did not undermine the ultimate authority of British law. Treaties were considered instruments of governance, not relinquishments of jurisdiction. The judgment thus established a clear legal precedent, reinforcing the authority of British courts over Indian princely states.

Furthermore, the judgment acknowledged that while native rulers retained certain privileges and local authority, ultimate sovereignty rested with the British Crown. This marked a significant departure from earlier interpretations of the relationship between princely states and the British government.

The Pulukuri Kottaya case had a profound impact on the power dynamics between the British colonial administration and princely states. It led to increased interference by the British in the internal affairs of princely states, often substituting native rulers' autonomy with appointed British officials. This shift in power dynamics contributed to the gradual erosion of the authority of Indian rulers.

the Pulukuri Kottaya v Emperor case was a pivotal moment in the legal history of colonial India. It set a precedent that emphasized the overarching authority of the British Crown and weakened the autonomy of Indian princely states. The judgment redefined the relationship between native rulers and the British government, establishing a clear legal framework that prioritized British law and jurisdiction. The legacy of this case resonated throughout the struggle for Indian independence, shaping the legal and political landscape of the nation.
  • Doctrine of Paramountcy:
    This was a foundational principle in colonial India, asserting the ultimate authority of the British Crown over all Indian princely states. It was often invoked to justify British intervention in the affairs of native rulers.
  • Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity:
    This is a principle in international law that generally grants immunity to sovereign entities from being subjected to the jurisdiction of foreign courts. Pulukuri Kottaya's defense relied on the idea that, as a native ruler, he should be immune from British legal proceedings.
  • Customary Law and Local Jurisdiction:
    The case involved an argument about whether customary laws and local jurisdiction should take precedence over British law in cases involving native rulers.
  • Treaty Obligations:
    The case likely touched on the interpretation of treaties and agreements between the British Crown and Indian princely states. The court would have considered whether such treaties impacted the jurisdictional authority of British courts.
  • Interpretation of Legal Instruments:
    The court may have examined how legal documents, agreements, and treaties should be interpreted in the context of colonial governance.
  • Supremacy of British Law:
    The judgment affirmed the supremacy of British law within the British dominions, even in cases involving native rulers.

Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, states that when a fact is discovered as a consequence of information received from an accused person while in police custody, so much of that information, whether it amounts to a confession or not, which relates distinctly to the fact discovered, may be proved.

This section aims to strike a balance between allowing the admission of statements that lead to the discovery of material facts and safeguarding the rights of the accused against coerced confessions.

"Pulukuri Kottaya v Emperor" is a significant legal case in Indian history that raised crucial questions about the jurisdiction of British courts over Indian rulers. The case revolved around the arrest and trial of the Raja of Vizianagaram, Pulukuri Kottaya, in 1862, under charges of forgery and fraud. This event became emblematic of the broader clash between the British colonial administration and the traditional princely states.

The case unfolded in the Madras High Court, where Kottaya contested the jurisdiction of the British court over him, asserting his status as an independent ruler under the doctrine of paramountcy. The doctrine of paramountcy recognized the nominal sovereignty of Indian rulers, while placing them under the overarching authority of the British Crown. However, the exact extent of this authority was often contentious.

The legal battle encompassed intricate arguments about customary law, treaties, and the fundamental nature of British control in India. Kottaya's defense team, led by Sir S. Subramania Iyer, argued that the Raja held sovereign immunity and should be tried in a native court. The British Crown, on the other hand, contended that the authority of the British government extended over all subjects within their territories, regardless of their status.

Ultimately, the Madras High Court, presided over by Chief Justice Sir Alexander J. Arbuthnot, ruled in favor of the British Crown, asserting that Kottaya was not exempt from the jurisdiction of British courts. This landmark decision had far-reaching implications for the autonomy of princely states, setting a precedent that further weakened the already waning authority of Indian rulers.

The aftermath of the case witnessed a shift in the dynamics between the British colonial administration and the princely states. The ruling emphasized the overarching authority of the British Crown and led to a gradual erosion of the powers of native rulers. The British administration increasingly interfered in the internal affairs of princely states, often supplanting their autonomy with appointed British officials.

Furthermore, the Pulukuri Kottaya case triggered a broader discourse on the nature of justice and sovereignty in colonial India. It catalyzed discussions on the need for legal reforms and the establishment of a more equitable legal system that respected the rights and privileges of Indian rulers.

In retrospect, the Pulukuri Kottaya case stands as a poignant symbol of the complex power dynamics that characterized British colonial rule in India. It highlights the clash between traditional authority structures and the encroaching influence of the British administration. The case also underscores the need for a nuanced understanding of legal jurisdiction and sovereignty in a diverse and multifaceted society like India.

As India moved towards independence, the legacy of cases like Pulukuri Kottaya v Emperor contributed to the evolving discourse on governance, rights, and the legal framework of the newly independent nation. It served as a reminder of the struggles for autonomy and justice that shaped the course of India's history, leaving a lasting impact on the legal and political landscape of the country.

  1. ILR 5 Mad 137
  2. Indian evidence act, 1872, section 10, no. 1 (India)
  3. Saswata Tewari,What is evidence and different kind of evidences under Indian Evidence Act, ipleader( July 10, 2019)
  4. Indian evidence act, 1872, section 17, no. 1 (India)
  5. Indian evidence act, 1872, section 80, no. 1 (India); Indian evidence act, 1872, section 164, no. 1 (India)
  6. Indian evidence act, 1872, section 25, no. 1 (India)
  7. Balwant Singh Malik, The Law of punishments of transportation for life and imprisonment for life - a Critical appraisal, ebcindia
  8. J Beaumont, Pulukuri Kottaya vs King-Emperor on 19 December, 1946, indiankanoon
  9. J Beaumont, Pulukuri Kottaya vs King-Emperor on 19 December, 1946, indiankanoon
  10. Ankit Kumar, Pulukuri kottaya vs. king emperor case summary 1946 sc, law planet( June 05, 20222)
  11. Ankit Kumar, Pulukuri kottaya vs. king emperor case summary 1946 sc, law planet( June 05, 20222)
  12. J Beaumont, Pulukuri Kottaya vs King-Emperor on 19 December, 1946, indiankanoon

Written By: Deepanshi Garg, Amity University, Uttar Pradesh

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