Anant Chintaman Lagu V. The State Of Bombay (7)
The condition of Laxmibai clearly indicated an impairment of the central nervous system. It is no doubt true that in some cases of coronary thrombosis, coma supervenes; but it is idle to suggest in the present case that Laxmibai was afflicted by this type of coma, because Dr. Jhala who performed the postmortem examination and opened the coronary arteries found no evidence of thrombosis. According to Otto Saphir, a myocardial infarct is easily detected. (Autopsy, pp. 301-302). Coma in Laxmibai’s case, as we have shown above, was not the result either of acidosis, hypoglycemia, renal failure or meningial irritation. Her liver, pancreas and kidney were found to have no pathological lesions, and it is significant that no question was even attempted to establish that the opinion of Dr. Jhala on this part of the case was incorrect. Learned counsel for the appellant suggested that the examination by Dr. Jhala might have been superficial, and might not have included a microscopical examination of sections of some of the vital organs normally affected by diabetes. This suggestion, in our opinion, ought to have been put forward during the cross-examination of the witness, and it is unfair now to suggest that the opinion that no lesions were found was based on either improper or inadequate examination. We hold that Dr. Jhala performed the examination adequately, and he was also helped by his assistants.
Here, we pause to ask a question why the appellant brought up the question of hysterical fits at all. He could have said that Laxmibai was a diabetic, and that it was likely she had coma by reason of that 515 disease. The suggested diagnosis given by the appellant was so unlikely that Dr. Ugale questioned it then and there.
There is nothing in the Wanlesswadi T.B. Sanatorium papers or in Dr. Sathe’s evidence to show that Laxmibai had hysterical fits after her hysterectomy operation. No suggestion was made to the doctors in Court that Laxmibai might have had hysterical fits. The condition of the muscles and the absence of deep reflexes clearly show that this was just another piece of deception. It is not possible to hold that the appellant gave the full particulars to Dr. Miss Aneeja. No suggestion was made to her or to Dr. Ugale that any information other than what was noted in the case papers was furnished. There is no case for holding ‘that Laxmibai had a relapse of hysterical fits.
It would, therefore, appear that Laxmibai’s condition was not due to any disease, because diseases inducing coma generally leave some trace behind, and also respond to medication. No doubt, in some cases the pathological findings after death from diabetic coma have been negative, but the question is if this was such a case. We have, on the one hand, the fact that numerous poisons causing coma leave no identifiable trace in the victim after death, and, on the other, that sometimes the autopsy does not disclose any discoverable signs in a patient who dies after an attack of diabetic coma or disease. The appellant can be presumed to have had knowledge of these poisons. The appellant challenged the Advocate-General to show from any standard book that the symptoms found by the doctors accorded with any known poison. Here, it must also be remembered that a man with knowledge may manipulate not one but more drugs to achieve his purpose, and the cardinal signs of poisoning on the victim may, as a result, be either obliterated or, at least significantly modified. We give one example on ,which a certain amount of knowledge is possessed even by laymen.
A poison of which one of the symptoms would be the contracting of the pupils of the eyes may be side-tracked by putting into the eyes of the victim a drug like atropine, which by its local 516 action dilates the pupils. We give this example, because most of us know the action of atropine on the eyes, and because the example also shows how easily a person with knowledge may confuse the symptoms by a simple trick. We are not suggesting that this is what has happened in this case; but when we have to deal with a case of crime versus natural death, we cannot overlook the possibility of some ingenious artifice having been used to screen the action.
If Laxmibai died in circumstances which prima facie admit of either disease or homicide by poisoning, we must look at the conduct of the appellant who brought her to the hospital, and consider to what conclusion that conduct unerringly points. If the appellant as an honest medical man had taken Laxmibai to the hospital and she had died by reason of disease, his conduct would have been entirely different. He would not have taken her to the hospital bereft of property with which she started from home; he would not have given a wrong or misleading name to cover her identity; he would not have given a wrong age and wrong history of her ailments; he would not have written a letter suggesting that she had a brother in Calcutta, which brother did not exist; he would not have abandoned the corpse to be dealt with by the hospital as an unclaimed body; he would not have attempted to convince the world that she was alive and happily married; he would not have obtained her property by forgeries, impersonation and other tricks indulged in both before and after her death; but he would have informed her relatives and done everything in his power to see that she was properly treated and stayed on to face whatever inquiry the hospital wished to make into the cause of death and not tried to avoid the postmortem examination and would not have disappeared, never to reappear. His prevarications about where’ Laxmibai was, make a big and much varied list, and his forgeries cover scores of documents. In the words of Baron Parke in Towell’s case (1):
Circumstantial evidence is the only evidence which can in cases of this kind lead to discovery.
(1)(1854) 2 C. & K. 309. 517 There is no way of investigating them except by the use of circumstantial evidence; but it most frequently happens that great crimes committed in secret leave behind them some traces, or are accompanied by some circumstances which lead to the discovery and punishment of the offender. Direct evidence of persons who saw the fact, if that proof is offered upon the testimony of men whose veracity you have no reason to doubt is the best proof; but, on the other hand, it is equally true with regard to circumstantial.evidence, that the circumstances may often be so clearly proved, so closely connected with it, or leading to one result in conclusion, that the mind may be as well convinced as if it were proved by eye-witnesses.” The appellant in this case took some risk in taking Laxmibai to the hospital arid in giving his name there; and these aspects were, in fact, stressed as arguments in the case.
As regards the first part, the argument overlooks that what appears to us to be a risk might not have so appeared to the appellant, who might have been sure of his own ability to screen himself. To him, the death of Laxmibai at the hospital without discovery of poison would be the greatest argument in his favour that he had acted honestly. The second argument is equally unacceptable to us. The appellant could not take the risk of a false name and address, if he was intending that the body should be disposed of as unclaimed. By giving his own address he could keep the strings in his own hands. If he gave an address and no reply came from that address, the hospital would suspect foul play. If he gave the address of Laxmibai, people in Poona would know of this mysterious death, and they would remember the death of Purshottam alias Arvind in 1954. At that time also a postmortem examination on the body of Arvind was held (see, evidence of Ramachandra (P. W. 1)), and the explanation of the appellant given in writing on January 22, 1954, is set out below in his own words:
” My name is Anant Chihtaman Lagu, age. years, residing at No. 431/5, Madiwale Colony, Poona, on 66 518 being questioned state that I am the family doctor of Karve family in H. No. 94-95, Shukrawar. The deceased Purshottam Anant Karve belongs to that family. He came from Bombay to Poona on Saturday, the 16th January, 1954. He had come to me on Sunday, the 17th February, 1954, for medicine for weakness. I treated him for 2 clays, on 17th and 18th.
He had neither told me that there was poisoning in his stomach, nor did I detect any even when I examined and treated him. He became unconscious 5 hours before his death. He was taken to the Sassoon Hospital at 9 p.m. on 18th January, 1954. He was taken to the Sassoon Hospital because his disease was increased in unconsciousness and also because his mother as also myself and Dr. Joshi were of the same opinion. He died there in about 30 to 45 minutes.
The fact that there was deliberate poisoning by somebody, was neither revealed in my examination nor did Purshottam Karve speak to me anything about it during the time I treated him 2 days before. What exactly was the cause of death could not be revealed during my treatment. I do not know if somebody is on bad terms with him. There are rumours about suicide but there is no reason or any circumstance whatsoever for doing so. ” A false address would have started enquiries at the hospital end. Laxmibai’s own address would have started speculation in Poona. It was for this reason that the appellant had to choose another place and to trim between fact and fiction so that he might be able to deal with the matter himself Of course, Laxmibai did have an address of her own which could have been given, and which did not cease to be her address because she had got an attack of coma, from which people are known to recover.
These arguments, however, are of no avail, in view of the appellsnt’s entire conduct now laid bare, which conduct has been proved to our satisfaction to have begun not after the death of Laxmibai but much ,earlier. This conduct is so knit together as to make a net-work of circumstances pointing only to his guilt, 519 The case is one of extreme cunning and premeditation. The appellant, whose duty it was to care for this unfortunate lady as a friend and as her medical adviser, deliberately set about first to ingratiate himself in her good opinion, and becoming her confidant, found out all about her affairs.
All this time he was planning to get at her property after taking her life. He did not perpetrate his scheme at Poona, where the death might have brought a host of persons to the hospital. He devised a diabolical scheme of unparalleled cunning and committed an almost perfect murder. But murder, though it hath no tongue, speaks out sometimes. His method was his own undoing; because even the long arm of coincidence cannot explain the multitude of circumstances against him, and they destroy the presumption of innocence with which law clothed him. In our judgment, the two Courts below were perfectly correct in their conclusion that the death of Laxmibai was the result of the administration of some unrecognised poison or drug which would act as a poison, and that the appellant was the person who administered it. We, accordingly, confirm the conviction.
As regards the sentence of death passed on the appellant by the Sessions Judge and confirmed by the High Court, it is the only sentence that could be imposed for this planned and cold-blooded murder for gain, and we do not interfere with it.
The appeal fails, and it will be dismissed.
SARKARJ.-In my opinion this appeal should be allowed.
The appellant was tried by the Sessions Judge, Poona, on a charge under s. 302 of the Indian Penal Code for the murder of Laxmibai Karve on November 13, 1956, by administering poison, to her and was convicted and sentenced to death.
His appeal to the High Court at Bombay against the conviction and sentence failed. He has now appealed to this Court with special leave.
The evidence against the appellant is all circumstantial.
The question to be decided in this appeal is 520 whether that evidence is such that the only reasonable conclusion from it is that the appellant was guilty of the charge brought against him.
Laxmibai Karve, the deceased, was the widow of one Anant Karve who was a businessman of Poona. Laxmibai was married in 1922 at the age of eleven to Anant Karve, then a widower.
Her maiden name was Indumati Ponkshe. After her marriage she was given the name Laxmibai but was also called Indumati or Indutai or Mai Karve or simply Mai. It does not appear that after her marriage she had been known by her father’s surname of Ponkshe, a fact the significance of which will appear later.
Anant Karve had a son named Vishnu by his first wife. By Laxmibai he bad two sons, Ramchandra and Purshottam also called Arvind.
Anant Karve died in 1945 leaving a will. By his will he gave Laxmibai a right of residence in tree rooms in his dwelling house at No. 93-95, Shukrawar Peth, Poona and a right to receive Rs. 50 per month from the rent of that house which was in part let out, and made certain other bequests to her. He devised the rest of his properties to his sons. Besides what she had received from her husband, Laxmibai in 1954 inherited the properties of Purshottam who had died interstate and unmarried in that year. She further inherited a large sum of money and gold ornaments of considerable value from her mother, Girjabai, who had died in 1946 or 1947. She bad also considerable valuable ornaments of her own. Her total assets amounted in 1956 to about Rs. 80,000. Part of her liquid assets were held in shares and debentures in limited companies. She had also certain moneys in an account in her name in the Bank of Maharashtra. A considerable sum was due to her from one Joshi to whom she had given a loan.
After the death of her husband, differences cropped up between Laxmibai and her elder SOD, Ramchandra. In 1946 Ramchandra started living separately from his mother in the same house and used to take his food in a hotel In October 1952, Ramchandra joined military 521 service as a craftsman and left Poona. Since joining service till the death of Laxmibai he was not residing at Poona but came there now and then. In May 1956, Laxmibai got Ramchandra married.
After her husband’s death Laxmibai lived in the three rooms in premises No. 93-95, Shukrawar Peth, Poona, in which she had been given a right of residence by her husband’s will.
Her younger son Purshottam also appears to have gone out of Poona on service in 1953, and he died in January 1954. Since then Laxmibai had been living all by herself. She had however certain relatives in Poona.
The appellant is a medical doctor. He and his brother B. C.
Lagu, also a doctor, had been the family physicians of Anant Karve during his life time and attended him in his last illness. After his death the appellant continued to be Laxmibai’s family doctor. It is clear from the evidence that Laxmibai had great trust and confidence in the appellant and depended on him in all matters concerning her moneys and investments. It was he who went to the Bank for withdrawing and depositing moneys for her. In 1955 he actually took on rent a big hall in premises No. 93-95, Shukrawar Peth for his personal use and had been in occupation of it since then.
Laxmibai did not possess very good health. She had developed a tuberculous lesion some twenty years before her death but it had healed. She was a chronic diabetes patient since 1946 and started having hysterical fits since 1939. She suffered from menorrhagia and metrorrhagia since 1942. On April 11, 1948, Dr. Ghorpure, a surgeon performed an operation on her which is described in these terms:
Abdomen opened by mid-line sub-umbilical incision-Subtotal hysterectomy done. Rt. ovary cysticpuncturedAppendicectomy. Abdomen closed after exploring other viscera which were normal.
In 1949 she suffered from pyorrhoea and had her teeth taken out. In 1950 the tuberculous affection became active and on June 15, 1950, she consulted Dr. Sathe, a lung specialist, who found that there was tuberculous 522 affection of the left lung and he recommended a line of treatment. This treatment was carried out by the appellant but apparently did not achieve much result. On July 13, 1950, she got herself admitted into the Wanlesswadi Tuberculosis Sanatorium at Miraj in Bombay for treatment of the tuberculosis. Two thoracoplasty operations were performed on the left lung and she was recommended a third such operation which she was unwilling to undergo and left the hospital at her own desire. In the course of these operations nine of her ribs on the left side were removed.
The report given by this hospital on November 17, 1950, reads thus:
Patient was admitted on 13th July, 1950. X-Ray on admission showed extensive filtration on the left side with a large cavity in the upper zone; the right side was within normal limits. She had diabetes with high blood sugar which was controlled by insulin. Two stages of thoracoplasty operation on the left side were done and there was good clearing of disease but there was a small residual cavity seen and the third stage operation was advised. The patient is leaving at her own request against medical advice. Her sputum is positive.
There is no evidence that after she left Wanlesswadi Sanatorium she had any relapse of any of her previous illnesses earlier recounted. It appears from the evidence of her relation one Datar, a medical man, that Laxmibai had been completely invalid being a frank case of tuberculosis of both the lungs but in November 1956, her health was good and she was cooking her food and moving about in the house.
The other evidence also shows that she was carrying on her daily avocations of’ life in a normal way at that time.
After her death her body was found to be well nourished.
She had however to have ordinary medical attention constantly and the diabetes had continued though controlled.
The appellant treated her all along and the fees paid to him appear debited to Laxmibai’s account.
I have so far been stating the earlier history of the case and now come to the more immediate events. On November 8, 1956, Laxmibai had Rs. 5,275-09 in her 523 account in the Bank of Maharashtra. On a date between November 8 and 10, she signed two papers the first of which was a notice to the Bank reading I desire to withdraw an amount exceeding Rs. 1,000 up to about Rs. 5,000 in the next week from My savings Bank Account” and the other was a withdrawal slip or cheque and it read, ” Pay Bearer the sum of Rupees Five thousand only which please debit to the 2account of Laxmibai Anant Karve”. None of these papers bore any date and the, bodies of them, were in the appellant’s handwriting. These papers were made over by Laxmibai to the appellant and he did not present them to the Bank till after her death. On November 12, 1956, the appellant paid to the credit of Laxmibai’s account in the Bank a dividend warrant dated November 10, 1956, for Rs.
2,607-6-0 drawn in her favour by a company on the Bank of Maharashtra, after signing her name on the back of it himself.
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