Manjit Singh @ Mange v CBI, through its S.P.
Appeals were preferred against the common judgment and order passed TADA Court, Kanpur By the impugned judgment, K.K. Saini, Manjit Singh@ Mange and Om Prakash Shrivastava @ Babloo were convicted for offence punishable under Section 302 IPC, Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC and Section 302 read with Section 120B IPC respectively.
They were sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life and to pay fine of Rs.10,000/- each in respect of these offences and in default, undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of six months each. K.K. Saini and Mange were both acquitted of charges under Sections 3(2) and 3(3) read with Section 3(1) of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 [“TADA Act”]. All the sentences were directed to run concurrently.
The accused filed appeals under Section 19 of the TADA Act against the impugned judgment and order. State of Uttar Pradesh through CBI had also filed appeals against the judgment and order passed by the Designated Court (TADA) acquitting the accused persons for the offences under Sections 3(2) and 3(3) read with Section 3(1) of the TADA Act and further for the enhancement of sentence imposed under the provisions of IPC to death sentence in view of the seriousness of the offence and the purpose for which it was carried out.
The prosecution case alleged that an Additional Collector of Customs, Allahabad was assassinated on 24.03.1993 The investigation was initially taken up by the Cantonment Police Station, Allahabad. The investigation of the case was then transferred to CBI. During the course of investigation, offences under Section 120-B of IPC and Sections 3(2) and 3(3) read with Section 3(1) of the TADA Act were added with the permission of Superintendent of Police, CBI, New Delhi. The prosecution also alleged that one Mohd. Dosa, Tahir Shah @ Tappu and Babloo entered into criminal conspiracy to eliminate Additional Collector of Customs to strike terror among the customs officials with a view from preventing anyone from passing on information about their smuggling activities or their involvement in the Bombay Blasts on March 12, 1993.
Babloo was arrested in Singapore on 21.04.1995 in response to look out notice issued by Interpol, India. On the request of Govt. of India, he was extradited by the Govt. of Singapore. The Extradition Treaty signed between the two countries provided that the person being extradited could only be tried for criminal acts recognized as offences in both the countries. Since, there was no law in Singapore which corresponded to the TADA Act, though Babloo was extradited, he could only be tried under Section 120-B and 302 of the IPC and, therefore, no charge under Section 3 of the TADA Act was framed against Babloo.
The Designated Court (TADA) relying on Section 12 of TADA Act, held that Babloo was rightly charged for an offence under Section 302 read with Section 120B of the IPC and tried him jointly with the accused K.K. Saini and Mange and for technical reason, he could not be charged under the TADA Act. The Court further held that since the investigation was handed over to Superintendent of Police, CBI, by the State of Uttar Pradesh by issuing notification, prior approval from S.P., CBI, was sufficient compliance of Section 20A of the TADA Act. On the issue of the admissibility of the confessional statement of the accused K.K. Saini and Mange against the co-accused Babloo, the Judge, after noticing the language employed in Section 12 and Section 15 of the TADA Act, concluded that merely due to technicality in the Extradition Treaty, Babloo was not charged under TADA Act. However, in the light of the provisions and the decisions of the Supreme Court, the confessional statements were held to be admissible against the co-accused even when he was not charged under the TADA Act, but was tried jointly for offences under other law by the Designated Court (TADA). The Designated Court (TADA) did not find any merit in the contention that the confession statements of K.K.Saini and Mange were not recorded voluntarily. It was held that from the facts and circumstances and prosecution evidence, it was clear that the three accused namely, K.K. Saini, Babloo and Mange hatched conspiracy to kill Additional Collector of Customs and all the three accused were involved in the conspiracy. Hence, all the three accused were held liable for conviction for the charge under Section 120B read with Section 302 of the IPC. As regards the last issue of proving the guilt of all the three accused and the sufficiency of the evidence other than confessional statement, it was observed that the prosecution has proved the same by producing both oral and documentary evidence. The Designated Court (TADA), after considering the material evidence on record, including the Post Mortem Report and the statements made by the accused persons under Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code, concluded that the prosecution had adduced sufficient, reliable oral and documentary evidence, which corroborates the confessional statement of both the accused namely, K.K. Saini and Mange and further concluded that there was enough evidence, other than the confessional statement against Babloo, which prove the prosecution case in so far as charges framed under the provisions of the IPC.
It was contended on behalf of Babloo that as he was not charged under the provisions of the TADA Act or the rules framed there under, therefore, the confession statement made by co-accused i.e. K.K. Saini and Mange could not be used against Babloo and if the confessional statement of the co-accused was eschewed, then there was no other evidence to implicate Babloo for the offence alleged to have been committed under the Indian Penal Code and, therefore, the conviction and sentence imposed by the Designated Court could not be sustained.
The main question before the Supreme Court was whether the confessional statement made by K.K. Saini and Mange could be used against co-accused Babloo in the light of the fact that Babloo was not charged and tried for any offence under the TADA Act or the rules framed there under.
In the present case, Babloo was not charged under the TADA Act, but tried in the same trial along with K.K. Saini and Mange, who were tried under the TADA Act. The question raised was whether it was permissible to use the confession statement of K.K. Saini and Mange against Babloo, when he was not charged for the offence under the TADA Act to convict him, especially, when there was no other evidence available against him.
After discussing various decisions, the Supreme Court held that the confessional statement made by a person under Section 15 was admissible in the trial of a co-accused for offence committed and tried in the same case together with the accused who made the confession.
From the evidence on record, the Supreme Court inferred that Babloo was the mastermind of the whole incident and Mange and K.K. Saini committed the offence at the behest of Babloo. In its view there was independent incriminating evidence against Babloo, even if one had to eschew the confessional statement of co-accused. Thus it rejected the appeal of Babloo. As the confessional statements of K.K. Saini and Mange were corroborated by the documentary evidence, the Court was of the opinion that the Designated Judge (TADA) was justified in convicting and sentencing K.K. Saini and Mange for the offences under Section 302/34 IPC.
The Supreme Court further held that the intention of the accused in the present case was not to cause terror but to prevent information regarding another crime from being divulged and thus was of the opinion that the TADA Court was justified in dismissing the charges framed under the TADA Act. Therefore, appeals filed by the State for enhancement of sentence were dismissed.