Anant Chintaman Lagu V. The State Of Bombay (10)


Next, it is said that the appellant falsely denied that he travelled in the same compartment with Laxmibai on their journey to Bombay. The denial was no doubt false. But it had been made at the hearing. He had admitted to the doctors at the hospital and to the Poona police on November 16, 1956, that he and the deceased had travelled in the same compartment. This falsehood therefore does not establish that the death of Laxmibai was an unnatural death, a question which I am now investigating. The fact that they travelled in the same compartment may no doubt have given him an opportunity to administer poison to her and to that extent it is of course relevant, 542 It is also said that there was a hospital called St.

George's Hospital within a few yards of the Victoria Terminus Station but the appellant took the unconscious Laxmibai to the more distant G. T. ofHospital with an ulterior purpose. That purpose it is said was that in the G. T. Hospital his friend Dr. Mouskar, was the Resident Medical Officer and the appellant wanted to secure his help, if necessary, in preventing the discovery of the crime that he had committed. The appellant said that he chose the G.

T. Hospital as he was familiar with it but not with the St.

George's Hospital. This seems to me to be too insignificant a thing. The St. George's Hospital was no doubt very near, but the G. T. Hospital was not very far away either. There is nothing to show that the appellant knew that Dr. Mouskar was on duty on the day in question. There is neither any evidence to show how much the two were friendly or how far Dr. Mouskar would have gone to help the appellant. Furthermore, as the appellant had administered a poison which was undetectable, it is not clear what help he anticipated he would require from Dr. Mouskar. Again, he must have known that as the Resident Medical Officer, Dr.

Mouskar was not in charge of the treatment of patients in the hospital but only performed administrative functions and that the unconscious Laxmibai would have to be treated by other doctors. It cannot be said that if these other doctors found anything wrong, Dr. Mouskar could have done much to help the appellant. So it seems to me impossible to draw any inference against the appellant from the fact that he had taken the unconscious Laxmibai to the comparatively distant G. T. Hospital. It is then pointed out that when Laxmibai was admitted to the G. T. Hospital, she had no ornaments on her person and no moneys with her and even her bag and bedding had disappeared. It is suggested that the appellant had removed them and that this again proves that he had conceived the idea of misappropriating her properties even during her life time which supports the theory that he caused her death. Now the bedding and bag can be dismissed at once, 543 There is no evidence as to what they contained. They were of small sizes. It is reasonable to think that in the bag Laxmibai had taken a few wearing apparels which she might need for her stay in Bombay which the evidence shows she thought would not be of more than four days. The box and the bedding, must, therefore, have been of very insignificant value. As regards ornaments, the evidence is that usually she wore certain ornaments which might be of some value. None of the witnesses, however, who saw her the day she left Poona, has said that they found ornaments on her person. It is not at all unlikely that as she was going to Bombay and was not sure where she would have to put up there, she had as a measure of safety, taken off the ornaments she usually wore, before she left Poona. Then again, if the appellant had taken off the ornaments from the person of Laxmibai he must have done it in the train or while taking her to the hospital. Now it is too much to assume that in the compartment in which they were travelling there were no other passengers. The removal of the ornaments would have been noticed by the other passengers or if done later, by the stretcher bearers or the taxi driver.

None of these persons was called. Neither is there any evidence that any search for them had been made. Therefore, it seems to me that on the evidence on record it cannot be said definitely that the appellant removed any ornaments from the person of the unconscious Laxmibai. With regard to the money, she must have brought some with her to meet her expenses in Bombay. It is more than likely that she had entrusted the moneys to the appellant for safety which the appellant never returned. There is no evidence that she had more than Rs. 50 with her and there is no reason to think that she was carrying a large sum. The disappearance of the money does not prove that the appellant had conceived the design of getting rid of her.

Then we find the appellant describing Laxmibai in the Hospital by the name 'Indumati Paunshe'. It is said he did this to prevent her identity being discovered after her death and that this shows that he had 544 already poisoned her and knew that she was going to die.

Now, so far as the name Indumati is concerned, that was one of her names. The -papers that the appellant maintained in connection with Laxmibai's treatment show that he mostly called her by that name and never called her Laxmibai. He said that he was used to calling her by her maiden name of Indumati Ponkshe and gave that name to Dr. Ugale by sheer force of habit. Dr. Ugale however said that as he did not follow the surname he asked the appellant to spell it and took it down as spelt, namely, as ” Paunshe “,. The Appellant denies that he gave the name Paunshe but says he said ” Ponkshe “. The appellant's version receives support from the fact that the hospital clerk who also took down the name for another record of the hospital as the appellant was giving it to Dr. Ugale, took it down as ” Indumati Pankshe “. Therefore, there is some doubt whether Dr. Ugale heard the name correctly. However that may be, I doubt if the name Paunshe indicates that the appellant gave it with a view to prevent disclosure of identity. It is said that his plan was to disappear after Laxmibai's death so that her body would become unclaimed and be disposed of as such. If that were Bo, then nothing would turn on the name. It is only when people came to know that a woman of the name of Indumati Paunshe had died that the question as to who she was would have &risen. In view of the fact that the appellant had given Indumati's address as care of himself at Poona, it would be known that she belonged to Poona. I am very doubtful if an enquiry made at Poona for Indumati Paunshe would have kept back the real identity. Indumati or Laxmibai had disappeared mysteriously; her maiden name was Ponkshe. People interested in her would surely have been led by the name Indumati Paunshe to enquire if it was Laxmibai Karve. So it seems to me that if the appellant had really wanted that the woman he took to the hospital should never be discovered to have been Laxmibai, he would have used a totally different name. I am unable to hold that the use of the name ” Indumati Paunshe ” is any clear evidence of the guilty intention of the appellant. In this connection I have to refer to the 545 appellants letter of November 14, 1956, to the G. T.

Hospital in which he pointed out that in the hospital record the name had been taken down as ” Pannshe ” that is s, with an extra ” n ” and this should be corrected. By this time the appellant had clearly conceived the idea that the news of the death of Laxmibai should be prevented from becoming public. He had also misled the hospital authorities by informing them that Indumati's brother would arrive to take over her body; as already stated, she had no brother.

Therefore this attempted correction in the name by deleting the extra ” n ” is really irrelevant; the extra ” n ” would not in any event have made the discovery of the identity of the dead person easier. What led the appellant to make this attempt cannot however be ascertained.

Then I have to consider the fact that the appellant told Dr.

Ugale that Laxmibai had become unconscious of a hysterical fit and she had a history of similar attacks before. It is said that this story about hysterical fit is false and had been conceived to hide the fact that she had been poisoned.

The appellant had denied that he had mentioned hysterical fit to Dr. Ugale and said that he had only stated that she had suddenly become unconscious. That he had mentioned sudden onset of unconsciousness in the train is admitted by Dr. Ugale. It is somewhat curious that the appellant would have mentioned both ” hysterical fit ” and ” patient suddenly became unconscious in the train “. It is significant that “hysterical fit” was entered in the case paper by Dr. Ugale under the head ” Provisional Diagnosis ” a thing, for which I think, the doctor in charge has some responsibility. It may also be stated that Dr. Anija did not, say that the appellant mentioned hysterical fit to her.

In these circumstances I have some doubt if the appellant had in fact mentioned hysterical fit ” to Dr. Ugale.

I will however proceed-on the basis that the appellant did mention hysterical fit to Dr. Ugale. Now, there is evidence that for nine years upto 1948 Laxmibai had suffered from hysterical fits. There is no 546 evidence one way or the other whether she had such fits thereafter. If she had not, the prosecution could have easily produced evidence of it. The only evidence on which the prosecution relied was that of Laxmibai's son, Ramachandra. All that he said was that between 1943 and 1948 his mother suffered from fits and that in 1956 when he had come to Poona for his marriage his mother was not suffering -from fits. 'Now, Ramachandra does not appear to have much knowledge of his mother's health. He did not even know what kind of fits these were nor that his mother suffered from diabetes. Apart from the nature of his evidence, it has to be remembered that he was living separtely from his mother since 1946 and was away from Poona since 1952. It cannot therefore be said that it would have been improbable for the appellant to have thought that Laxmibai had a relapse of a hysterical fit.

I now come to the fact that the address of Laxmibai given by the appellant to the hospital authorities was his own address. It is said that he did so deliberately to ensure all communications concerning her from the hospital coming to him; that he knew that Laxmibai was going to die and wanted that nobody else would know of her death. I find some difficulty in appreciating this. I do not see what communication could be addressed by the hospital authorities to Laxmibai after her death or when she was lying ill in the hospital. Further there was no other address which the appellant could have given. Laxmibai lived alone in her flat and when she was away, there would be no one there to receive any communication addressed to her at that address.

Her only son Ramachandra was away from Poona. She was clearly more friendly with the appellant than with her other relatives, none of whom was a very near relative. In these circumstances and particularly as he had taken Laxmibai to Bombay it seems only natural that he would give his own address. Again if he had given Laxmibai's own address, that would have served his purpose as well for he had a room in her house and because of his friendly relation with 547 Laxmibai, would have been in charge of her flat in her absence as he in fact was. It would not have been difficult for him to ensure that any letters that came 'for Laxmibai would reach him. He could also have given an entirely false name and address and disappeared from the scene altogether;

the body of Laxmibai would then, whether there was postmortem examination or not, have been disposed of in due time as an unclaimed body and nobody would have ever known what had happened to Laxmibai. Indeed, it is the prosecution case that this was the appellant's plan and things happened just as he had planned and that is why he deliberately brought Laxmibai to the hospital and gave his own address. What strikes me is that this plan would have worked with any false address given. I am therefore unable to think that the fact that the appellant gave his own address is a circumstance which can be reasonably explained only on the hypothesis of his guilt.

I come now to the most important circumstance on which the Courts below have strongly rested their conclusion. It is said that the endorsement made on the hospital case paper reading ” Asked for postmortem ” under the direction of Dr.

Variava had been crossed out and under the heading ” Cause of death ” in that paper the entry ” diabetic coma ” had been interpolated. The Courts below have found that it is the appellant who had procured these alterations to be made with the help of his friend Dr. Mouskar. If this is so, then no doubt it would be a very strong circumstance pointing to the guilt of the appellant for the only reasonable explanation of this act would be that he wanted to prevent a postmortem examination which might reveal that Laxmibai had been poisoned. As I have already said, the alterations had no doubt been made. But in my view, there is no evidence whatever to show that the appellant had anything to do with them.

Before state my reasons for this view, it is necessary to set out the relevant evidence on this point. Dr. Anija admits that she made the alterations but she says that she did it in these circumstances: After 548 she had made the endorsement “Asked for postmortem ” on the case paper, she asked the sister in charge of the ward to send 'the case -paper to Dr. Mouskar whose duty it was to do the needful as regards the postmortem examination, and herself followed Dr. Variava on a round of the wards, which took her about an hour. About 12-30 p.m. she proceeded to Dr. Mouskar's office to make enquiries as to when the postmortem examination was to be held. She met Dr. Saify, the Registrar of Unit No. 1 of the hospital in which Ward No. 12 was included, outside Dr. Mouskar's office. Dr.

Saify had the case paper in his hand and he told her that Dr. Mouskar thought that there was no need for holding a postmortem examination as the case had been treated as one of diabetic coma and also asked her to cancel the direction about the postmortem examination and to show in the column meant for cause of death, ” Diabetic coma “. As Dr. Saify was her official superior, she accordingly carried out his directions and made the alterations in the case paper as required.

I will now refer to Dr. Mouskar's evidence on this aspect of the case which was as follows: The case paper relating to Laxmibai came to his office at 1 p.m. on November 13. At that time the endorsement ” Asked for postmortem ” was still there and diabetic coma had not been shown as the cause of death. There was arrangement in the hospital for postmortem examination but he did not proceed to arrange for it immediately as on the face of it it was not a medico-legal case nor a road-side case. It was the invariable practice to ask for the permission of the Coroner for holding the postmortem examination in all cases but before doing so it was necessary in nonmedico-legal cases to get the permission of the relatives of the deceased for holding the postmortem examination. In that view of the matter at 2 p.m. he sent the telegram to the appellant at his address as appearing in the case paper. He never met the appellant in the hospital.

On the next day, that is, November 14, about 4 p.m. he wrote to the police to remove the dead body to their airconditioned morgue in the J. J. Hospital 549 for better preservation as no reply to the telegram had been received. till then. He sent a copy of this letter to the Coroner. On the morning of November 15, somebody from the Coroner's office rang him up and asked him about the final diagnosis. He thereupon sent the case paper through a ward boy to Unit No. 1 with an oral message either to the Honorary physician,, the Registrar or the Assistant Houseman as to whether they were able to tell him about the final diagnosis and whether they still insisted on postmortem examination. He did this as there was no final diagnosis uptil then and as the physicians often changed their minds in a non-medico-legal case. After about half an hour the case paper came back to him and he found that the final diagnosis had been stated as ” Diabetic coma ” and the endorsement “Asked for postmortem” had been crossed out. He then wrote out the death certificate and sent it to the Coroner.

The Courts below have disbelieved both Dr. Anija and Dr.

Mouskar as to their respective versions regarding the manner in which the, case paper had been altered. It has to be noticed that a art from the evidence of these two doctors, there is no other evidence on this question. The Courts below have held that the alteration was made by Dr. Anija at the direction of Dr. Mouskar and that Dr. Mouskar had been persuaded to give that direction by the appellant whose friend he was, on a representation that he, the' appellant, was the patient's old family doctor and knew the case to be one of diabetic coma and that it would save the family humiliation if the dead body was not cut up for a postmortem examination. They also held that the alteration was made on November 13, soon after the death of Laxmibai and before the appellant had left Bombay for Poona. They have further held that Dr. Mouskar- got the alteration made as a friendly act for the appellant and that he was in no way a conspirator in the crime. There is no direct evidence to support this finding but it has been inferentially arrived at from the evidence of these two doctors.

The reasons on which this finding is based may be thus stated: (a) Dr. Mouskar was an old friend of the 70 550 appellant; (b) both Drs. Anija and Mouskar had lied with regard to this part of their evidence; (c) Dr. mouskar's conduct after the death of Laxmibai and his evidence in court showed that he wanted to assist the appellant; (d) Dr.

Anija being very much junior to Dr. Mouskar had been prevailed upon by the latter to give false evidence; and (e) lastly, that no 'one excepting the appellant could have been interested in avoiding the postmortem examination.

As to the first reason, the only evidence on this question is that of Dr. Mouskar. All that he said was that in 1934 he and the appellant had studied Inter Science in a college in Poona together and that he had stayed in Poona for three different periods, namely 1922-26, 1931-36 and 1948-51. He also said that while studying together he had come to know the appellant by name but had never talked to him and had never come in contact with him since 1934. The Courts below have disbelieved the later part of the evidence of Dr.

Mouskar and have held that he and the appellant were friendly. This finding does not seem to me to be based on strong grounds. No reason has been given as to why Dr.

Mouskar should be disbelieved. The prosecution led no evidence to show that the two were friendly. No witness has been found to say that the two were seen talking to each other in the hospital. It has not been noticed, that the difference in age between the two was twelve years.

I will take the, next three reasons together. They are that Drs. Anija and Mouskar had both lied and that the conduct and the evidence of Dr. Mouskar showed that he wanted to help the. appellant and lastly, that Dr. Anija gave false evidence only as she dared not estrange Dr. Mouskar who held a much higher position. There is no doubt that Dr. Anija told lies. The first lie was that she had tested the urine at 6-30 a.m. for acetone. She also interpolated into the case paper an entry showing that she had found acetone in the urine which she said she examined at 6-30 a.m. Dr.

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