Case Summary: Pakala Narayan Swami vs. Emperor (1939)

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This post has been written by Kabeer Kalwani, a first year law student from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur.

Facts of the case

On Tuesday, March 23, 1937, at noon the body of the deceased man was found in a steel trunk in a third class compartment at Puri, the terminus of a branch line on the Bengal Nagpur Railway, where the trunk had been left unclaimed. The body had been cut into seven portions and the medical evidence left no doubt that the man had been murdered. The body of the deceased was later identified by his widow. He was a man around the age of 40 years and had been peon in the service of Dewan of Pithapur.

One of the daughters of the deceased was the wife of the accused. About 1919 the accused and his wife were married. They went to live at Berhampur about 250 miles from Pithapur. They returned to Pithapur during 1933 and on account of their needs of money the accused’s wife borrowed Rs. 3000 at interest at the rate of 18% per annum. About 50 letters and notes proving these transactions signed by the accused’s wife were found in the deceased man’s house at Pithapur after his death.

On 20th March 1937 the deceased man received a letter the contents of which were not signed but it was reasonably clear that it invited him to come to Berhampur that day or next day. Kuree Nukaraju’s (the deceased) widow told the court that on that day her husband showed her a letter and said that he was going to Berhampur as Swami’s wife had written to him inviting him to come to receive payment of his dues. The deceased left his place on 21st march to catch the train for Berhampur. And on Tuesday 23rd March his body was found in a steel trunk in a third class compartment of a train at Puri.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND OF THE CASE:

The landmark judgment of the Privy Council has travelled its way up in the judiciary by the decision of both lower court i.e. trial court to High Court by convicting the accused for committing the crime of Murder and sentenced him for death. Hence an appeal to the Privy Council.

ISSUE RAISED

  • Whether the statement of the accused can be considered as confession?
  • Whether the statement of the deceased to his wife that he is going to Berhampur to take back his loan was considered as a dying declaration?

Judgment

The Privy Council expressed the opinion that the statement of the accused was partly confession and partly explanation for his innocence. By giving the benefit of doubt, the Privy Council set aside the conviction of the accused with the following observation.

  • The word confession can be construed from a statement by an accused suggesting the inference that he had committed the crime.
  • A confession either admits in terms of the offence or at any rate substantially admits all the facts which constitute the offence.
  • An admission of a gravely incriminating facts even if a conclusively incriminating facts cannot be considered as a confession
  • A statement which contain self-explanatory matter cannot amount to confession. It must be either be taken as whole or rejected.
  • The statement of the deceased to his wife was considered as a dying declaration and hence admissible under section 32(1).

REASON FOR JUDGEMENT

  • Kuree Nakarju giving loan to the accused
  • The statement of the accused was partly confession and partly an explanation to his innocence
  • The statement of the deceased to his wife

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