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Friday, October 25, 2013

Sections 302 and 307 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under Sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act - Apex court set aside the orders of conviction and confirmed the lower court acquittal orders - Joginder Singh … Appellant Versus State of Haryana …Respondent - http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/imgst.aspx?filename=40895

Sections 302 and 307 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under Sections 25 and 27 of  the  Arms Act - Duty of High court while reversing  the acquittal judgement based on sound principles - not to be disturbed  with out settling the issues on material aspects  - Non- examination of material witnesses can not be over looked - discrepancy in ballistic report and ocular evidence should not be brushed aside - origin of offence when differs should not be kept aside - Apex court set aside the orders of conviction  and confirmed the lower court acquittal orders  =

whether the High Court while  dislodging  the  reasons  and
                 substituting the findings has appositely re appreciated  the
                 oral and documentary evidence brought on record to come  to
                 the conclusion that the view taken  by  the  learned  trial
                 Judge is neither a plausible nor  a  reasonable  one.  =

in  exercising  the  power
                   conferred  by  the  Code   and   before   reaching   its
                   conclusions upon fact, the High Court  should  and  will
                   always give proper  weight  and  consideration  to  such
                   matters as 
(1) the views of the trial judge  as  to  the
                   credibility of the witnesses;  
(2)  the  presumption  of
                   innocence  in  favour  of  the  accused,  a  presumption
                   certainly not weakened by the  fact  that  he  has  been
                   acquitted at his trial; 
(3) the right of the accused  to
                   the benefit of any doubt; and 
(4)  the  slowness  of  an
                   appellate court in disturbing a finding of fact  arrived
                   at by a judge  who  had  the  advantage  of  seeing  the
                   witnesses.  
To state this, however, is only to say  that
                   the High Court in its conduct of the appeal  should  and
                   will act in accordance with rules  and  principles  well
                   known and recognized in the administration of justice.”
It is urged by  him  that  though  the  High
                 Court has enumerated the reasons given by the  trial  court
                 and thereafter unsettled them, yet the reasons ascribed  by
                 the High Court for taking a different  view  is  not  sound
                 inasmuch as there has been really no  proper  consideration
                 of the evidence which is obligatory  on  the  part  of  the
                 appellate  court  to  do  while  dislodging  the   findings
                 recorded by the trial court.

Non- Examination of material witness - fatal to prosecution = 
whether  such  non-
                     examination  of  a  witness  would  carry  the  matter
                     further  so  as  to  affect  the  evidence  of   other
                     witnesses and if the evidence of a witness  is  really
                     not essential to  the  unfolding  of  the  prosecution
                     case, it cannot be considered a material witness

non-examination  of  the  material

                 witnesses is of significance.  
It is so  because  PW-11  is
                 really an interested witness though the High Court has  not
                 agreed with the same.  
It appears from the material brought
                 on  record  that  he  had  an  axe  to  grind  against  the
                 appellant.  
That apart, Chander, who was present  from  the
                 beginning, would have been in a position to  disclose  more
                 clearly about the genesis of the  occurrence.  
 He  is  the
                 husband of the deceased and  we  find  no  reason  why  the
                 prosecution had withheld the said witness.  
Similarly,  the
                 other three witnesses who are said to be injured  witnesses
                 when available should have come and deposed.  
Therefore, in
                 the obtaining factual  matrix  that  their  non-examination
                 gains significance.


The case of the prosecution was  that  Mohinder  Singh
                 had snatched away the gun and fired  at  Mithan  Singh  and
                 Bimla.   
The   learned   trial   Judge   disbelieving   the
                 prosecution version had acquitted him.  
The High Court  has
                 given him benefit of  doubt.   

   there was no  reason  to  extend
                 the said benefit of doubt to the appellant.  
The High Court
                 has fallen into error on that score.

             27. In view of the aforesaid analysis, the appeal  is  allowed,
                 the judgment passed by the High Court is set aside and that
                 of the learned trial Judge is restored.  
As  the  appellant
                 is on bail, he be discharged of the bail bonds.


                     IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA


                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                      CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1148 OF 2007




      Joginder Singh                                    … Appellant


                                   Versus


      State of Haryana                             …Respondent














                               J U D G M E N T




      Dipak Misra, J.




            The present appeal under Section 379 of  the  Code  of  Criminal
      Procedure, 1973 (for short “CrPC”) is directed against the judgment of
      conviction and order of sentence dated 9.5.2007  passed  by  the  High
      Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh in Criminal Appeal No.  702-
      DBA of 1997 whereby the High Court has partly reversed the judgment of
      acquittal dated 9.6.1997 recorded by the learned  Additional  Sessions
      Judge, Kaithal in  Sessions  Trial  No.  15  of  1993  instituted  for
      offences punishable under Sections 302 and 307 read with Section 34 of
      the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under Sections 25 and 27 of  the  Arms
      Act against the appellant and two others and convicted  the  appellant
      alone under Section 302 IPC and  sentenced  him  to  undergo  rigorous
      imprisonment for life.

              2. Filtering  the  unnecessary  details  the  broad  essential
                 facts, as put forth by the prosecution, are that there  was
                 a dispute about the vacant plot of shamlat land  where  the
                 complainant and his family  members  used  to  store  their
                 respective kurris (heap of  rubbish).  The  said  land  was
                 given to Guru Ravidass Mandir by the  Gram  Panchayat  vide
                 resolution dated 22.03.1989.  Accused  Joginder  Singh  and
                 Mohinder Singh, both real brothers kept on asserting  their
                 ownership over the said  land  and  were  not  prepared  to
                 surrender it. Both the  accused  were  booked  twice  under
                 sections 107 and 151 of CrPC relating to the said land.  On
                 15.11.1991  about  4:00  pm.,  Joginder  Singh  parked  his
                 combine harvester on the disputed land which  was  objected
                 to by deceased  Kamla  wife  of  Chander,  Murti,  wife  of
                 Dharambir, Bala, daughter of  Sita  Ram  and  other  ladies
                 present at that time. But Joginder Singh did  not  pay  any
                 heed to the objection raised by the women, and abused them.
                 In the meantime Chander, Dharambir, PW-3, and Mithan Singh,
                 PW-2, came outside and asked accused Joginder Singh not  to
                 park his combine harvester on the disputed  land.  At  that
                 juncture, Mohinder Singh and Anokh  Singh,  nephew  of  the
                 accused, arrived at the  scene  and  all  of  them  started
                 abusing the  complainant  and  other  women.  
The  initial
                 altercation took  a  violent  turn  and  both  the  parties
                 grappled with each other.  During the fight accused persons
                 ran  away  to  their  houses  and  returned  with  weapons.
                 Joginder Singh came armed with a DBBL .12  bore  gun  while
                 the other two accused did not bring  any  weapon.   As  the
                 prosecution story proceeds, both of them raised a ‘lalkara’
                 in filthy language to  kill  the  members  of  other  side.
               
Accused Joginder Singh fired two shots from his gun pellets
                 of which hit in the chest of Kamla and Bala and also in the
                 chest and mouth of Mithan Singh,  PW-2.   
Accused  Mohinder
                 Singh snatched the gun from Joginder Singh  and  fired  two
                 shots that hit the back of Bimla and the stomach region and
                 thigh of Murti.
The injured persons fell down on the ground
                 on receipt of gunshot injuries. After hearing  the  gunshot
                 number  of  villagers  came  to  the  place  of  occurrence
                 whereafter the accused persons took to their heels.   Kamla
                 succumbed to her injuries on the spot and her  husband  was
                 asked to stay back to guard the  dead  body  of  his  wife.
                 Pritam Singh, PW-1, Karambir, Mamu Ram and others took  the
                 other injured persons  in  a  vehicle  to  Civil  Hospital,
                 Kaithal.  Pritam Singh went to Police Station to lodge  the
                 FIR and his statement was  recorded  by  the  Inspector  of
                 Police, Prem Chand, PW-16, and an  FIR  was  registered  at
                 8:30 pm.

              3. After the criminal law was set in motion, the investigating
                 agency  commenced  the  investigation  and  in  course   of
                 investigation, Prem  Chand,  PW-16,  prepared  the  inquest
                 report, got the site plan done, collected the blood-stained
                 earth and the pellets lying at the spot, sent the dead body
                 for the post mortem  and  forwarded  the  articles  to  the
               
Forensic Science Laboratory for examination,  arrested  the
                 accused persons, recovered  DBBL  .12  bore  gun  and  live
                 cartridges, recorded the statements of other witnesses  and
                 after completing all  other  formalities
laid  the  charge
                 sheet for the offences punishable under  Sections  302  and
                 307 read with Section 34 IPC and Sections 25 and 27 of  the
                 Arms  Act  before  the  competent  court  which,  in  turn,
                 committed the same to the Court of  Session.
The  accused
                 persons pleaded not guilty to the charges and claimed to be
                 tried.

              4. To substantiate the charges  the  prosecution  examined  as
                 many as 16 witnesses. The main witnesses are Pritam  Singh,
                 PW-1, the complainant, Mithan Singh, PW-2, Dharambir, PW-3,
                 the eye witnesses to the occurrence, Dr. B.B. Kakkar, PW-4,
                 who examined the injured,   Dr. A.K. Leel,  PW-8,  who  had
                 conducted the post-mortem and also had examined  the  other
                 injured witnesses; Zile Singh, PW-11, Sarpanch of the  Gram
                 Panchayat   and   Inspector   Prem   Chand,   PW-16,    the
                 investigating officer of the  case.   The  prosecution  had
                 exhibited number of documents which included the report  of
                 the Chemical Examiner, Ex. P.TT and report of Serology, Ex.
                 P.TT/1 and report of Ballistic Expert, Ex. P.UU.

              5. The accused in their statements recorded under Section  313
                 CrPC denied the incriminating  evidence  appearing  against
                 them. They admitted that Joginder Singh and Mohinder  Singh
                 are real brothers and Anokh Singh is  their  sister’s  son.
               
Accused Joginder Singh took the plea that he had been using
                 the land where the combine harvester  was  installed  since
                 long and the Harijan community wanted  to  forcibly  occupy
                 the said land.  
On the date of occurrence, people belonging
                 to Harijan Community, both men and women, armed with  fire-
                 arms and other weapons came to his house and fired  and  he
                 was compelled to hide himself in  his  house  to  save  his
                 life.   Persons  of  Harijan   community   started   firing
                 indiscriminately at his house where he was hiding.  
In that
                 process the injured and deceased received injuries.  He did
                 not use his gun at all nor was his gun  taken  by  Mohinder
                 Singh at any time.  
Accused Mohinder Singh and Anokh  Singh
                 took the plea that they had no concern  with  the  land  or
                 with the combine harvester and they were not present at the
                 spot.

              6. Learned Addl.  Sessions  Judge,  Kaithal,  considering  the
                 evidence brought on record, acquitted all  the  accused  of
                 the charges under sections 302 and 307 read with Section 34
                 IPC and Sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act  on  the  ground
                 that the prosecution had failed to prove its  case  against
                 the accused beyond all reasonable doubt.  To come to such a
                 conclusion the learned trial Judge, after  due  perusal  of
                 the evidence and material brought on record, took  note  of
                 various  aspects,  namely,
a  litigation  was  pending  as
                 regards the possession between  the  Guru  Ravidass  Mandir
                 Sabha and 
the  accused  persons  and  the  complainant  had
                 nothing to do with the land; 
that there  had  been  dispute
                 between Joginder Singh on one hand and Harijan community on
                 the other with regard to the plot which is situate in front
                 of the house of Joginder where the alleged  occurrence  had
                 taken place; 
that after coming from Pakistan the father  of
                 the accused Joginder Singh had settled in  the  village  at
                 the very site; 
that a Civil Suit No. 191 of 1990  titled as
                 “Guru Ravidass Sabha Sangan vs. Joginder Singh and Mohinder
                 Singh” was filed  in  the  Court  of  Civil  Judge,  Senior
                 Division, Kaithal and an interim order of stay  was  passed
                 in favour of the Sabha which was  vacated  by  order  dated
                 15.3.1991 directing the parties to maintain status quo till
                 the decision of the suit  and,  eventually,  the  suit  was
                 dismissed on  24.10.1994  for  want  of  prosecution; 
 that
                 though some resolutions were passed by the  Gram  Panchayat
                 in favour of the Guru Ravidass Sabha, yet the land  was  in
                 possession of Joginder Singh and there was no  record  that
                 Panchayat had delivered  possession  to  anyone; 
 that  the
                 complainant, Pritam Singh, PW-1, was concealing  the  truth
                 from the court inasmuch  as  he  denied  the  obvious  fact
                 reflectible at a mere glance of the photographs,  Exts.  DA
                 to DC, to the effect that there were pellets marks  on  the
                 wall of the house of the accused; 
that  Mithan  Lal,  PW-2,
                 who had stated that he had received injury on his left  eye
                 and had lost his eye sight  though  was  able  to  identify
                 other things yet expressed his inability  to  identify  the
                 photographs Exts. DA to DC  that  show  the  house  of  the
                 accused; 
that Zile Singh, PW-11, was an interested  witness
                 as Joginder Singh had got an enquiry conducted against  him
                 while Zile Singh was the Sarpanch of the village and he had
                 deliberately not identified the house of the accused in the
                 photographs, Exts. DA to DC, on the  ground  that  his  eye
                 sight was weak.  
These findings were recorded to  highlight
                 that the accused-appellant was in possession of the land in
                 dispute and the members of the Harijan community came armed
                 with weapons to forcibly take possession.

              7.  The  learned  trial  Judge  thereafter  addressed  to  the
                 injuries sustained by various  injured  persons  and  found
                 that  
the  case  that  was  put  forth  initially  by   the
                 prosecution and the medical report were  different  and  he
                 did not think it prudent to believe such evidence.
He also
                 noticed  that  there  were   irreconcilable   discrepancies
                 between the weapon used and  the  injuries  sustained.   
He
                 also noticed that Dr. Leel, PW-8, had sent a  report,  Ext.
                 P2 by which he had sent two pellets recovered from the body
                 of Murti in a sealed parcel to  the  SHO,  Police  Station,
                 Sadar, but the serology  report  Ext.  P.TT/1  showed  that
                 there was no blood on the  pellets  and  further  the  said
                 witness had deposed that he had not put any  identification
                 mark on the pellets.

              8.  Thereafter,  the  learned  trial  Judge,  relying  on  the
               
ballistic report, Ext. P.UU, opined that the .12 bore fired
                 cartridges cases C1 to C4 were fired from  a  fire-arm  but
                 not from DBBB gun W/1, Ext 15, the weapon that  was  seized
                 from the custody of the accused Joginder  Singh.   
He  also
                 took note of the fact  that  the  ballistic  report  though
                 referred  to  the  mutilated  pellets  that  had  hit   the
                 deceased, yet did not give  any  opinion.
These  findings
                 were recorded to  form  an  opinion  that  the  members  of
                 Harijan community armed with weapons were  present  at  the
                 spot and the injuries inflicted upon the deceased  occurred
                 in  a  different  way  than  the  one  projected   by   the
                 prosecution.
Being  of  this  view  he  found  that   the
                 prosecution  had  failed  to  establish  its  case   beyond
                 reasonable doubt against the main  accused  Joginder  Singh
                 and resultantly against the other accused persons also and,
                 accordingly, acquitted all of them.

              9. The High  Court,  in  appeal,  enumerated  the  reasons  of
                 acquittal given by the learned trial Judge  and  
thereafter
                 came to hold that rejection  of  the  version  of  the  eye
                 witnesses was not valid; 
that factum of motive  was  of  no
                 significance as there was direct evidence on  record;  
that
                 the discrepancies which were taken note of by  the  learned
                 trial Judge were incorrect; 
that the  learned  trial  Judge
                 had misdirected himself by relying on the  medical  opinion
                 when the account of the  eye  witnesses  was  credible  and
                 trustworthy; 
that the learned  trial  Judge  had  not  kept
                 himself alive to the principle that while appreciating  the
                 evidence that injuries when caused by fire-arms  there  can
                 be variety of wounds depending upon the nature of  fire-arm
                 used, distance, direction, manner and other  factors; 
 that
                 the trial Judge had also erroneously appreciated the nature
                 of gunshot injuries, for such appreciation is  contrary  to
                 the medical jurisprudence;
 that there was a serious dispute
                 with regard to possession and the trial court  had  wrongly
                 presumed the factum of possession; 
that  the  reason  given
                 that when  the  accused  persons  had  left  the  place  of
                 occurrence it is a normal conduct of a person to go back to
                 his  house  is  contrary  to  the   acceptable   norms   of
                 appreciation of evidence; 
that the pellet marks on the wall
                 shown in the photographs do not improbablise the version of
                 the prosecution, more so, when none of the accused  persons
                 were injured; 
that the discrepancy noted  in  the  injuries
                 sustained by Pritam Singh, PW-1, was inconsequential; 
 that
                 there was no justification to reject the testimony of  Zile
                 Singh, PW-11, on the ground that he was inimically disposed
                 towards the accused; 
that the nature of injuries  sustained
                 by Dharambir, PW-3, should not have been disbelieved on the
                 ground that the nature of weapon described  was  different;
                 
that  the  report  of  ballistic  expert  showed  that  the
                 cartridges were fired from the same weapon but not from  W-
                 1, would not belie the prosecution version;  and  
that  the
                 discrepancy of range of gun and distance of the injured  as
                 found  by  the  learned  Judge  was  not  material.   
After
                 unsettling the said reasons the High Court opined that  the
                 view expressed  by  the  learned  trial  Judge  was  not  a
                 plausible one and the case of the prosecution  stood  fully
                 established against the appellant, as far  as  causing  the
                 death of Kamla is concerned and, 
accordingly, convicted him
                 under Section 302 IPC and  sentenced  him  to  suffer  life
                 imprisonment and also  to  pay  a  fine  of  Rs.5000/-,  in
                 default of payment of fine,  to  further  undergo  rigorous
                 imprisonment for one year.  
However, the  High  Court  gave
                 benefit of doubt to Mohinder Singh and Anokh Singh.

             10. We have Heard  Mr.  Neeraj  Jain,  learned  senior  counsel
                 appearing for the appellant and Mr. Rajeev  Gaur  ‘Naseem’,
                 learned counsel appearing for the State of Haryana.

             11. Mr. Neeraj Jain, learned counsel  for  the  appellant,  has
                 submitted that the High Court has fallen into  grave  error
                 by opining that the view expressed  by  the  learned  trial
                 Judge was perverse and  not  a  plausible  one  though  the
                 learned trial Judge  has  scrutinized  the  evidence  in  a
                 detailed  manner  and  the  opinion  expressed  is  a  well
                 reasoned one.
It is urged by  him  that  though  the  High
                 Court has enumerated the reasons given by the  trial  court
                 and thereafter unsettled them, yet the reasons ascribed  by
                 the High Court for taking a different  view  is  not  sound
                 inasmuch as there has been really no  proper  consideration
                 of the evidence which is obligatory  on  the  part  of  the
                 appellate  court  to  do  while  dislodging  the   findings
                 recorded by the trial court.
It is urged  that  the  major
                 discrepancies in the statement of three star  witnesses  of
                 the prosecution, namely, Pritam Singh, PW-1, Mithan  Singh,
                 PW-2, and Dharambir, PW-3, with regard to  the  genesis  of
                 occurrence has been overlooked by the High Court.   He  has
                 further put forth that the photographs  of  the  site  plan
                 were taken by the investigating agency and nothing had come
                 on record that the accused persons had  caused  the  pellet
                 marks and, therefore, when the witnesses  deliberately  did
                 not identify  the  photographs  despite  being  proven  and
                 brought on record makes the version of the defence that the
                 complainant party was also armed with weapons and  attacked
                 on the house of the accused-person cannot be ignored.   The
                 learned counsel would  emphatically  argue  that  the  High
                 Court has cryptically ignored the  ballistic  report  which
                 clearly showed that the empty cartridges recovered from the
                 spot were found not to have been fired from the gun of  the
                 accused-appellant which fortifies the defence version  that
                 the accused never fired.  That apart, submitted  Mr.  Jain,
                 that the ballistic report has not  been  discussed  by  the
                 High Court, for  the  said  report  does  not  connect  the
                 mutilated pellets found from the body of the deceased  with
                 the weapon seized from the appellant.   He  also  canvassed
                 that an important aspect has not been taken note of by  the
                 High Court, as is evincible from the evidence of  Inspector
                 Prem Chand, PW-16, the Investigating Officer, that  he  was
                 pressurized  to  proceed  against  the  appellant  and  his
                 relations and it is further obvious as the prosecution  has
                 not examined Chander, husband of the  deceased,  and  three
                 other women, namely, Bala, Murti and Bimla who were alleged
                 to have sustained injuries in the occurrence.   To  bolster
                 his contentions, he  has  commended  us  to  the  decisions
                 rendered in Sheo Swarup & others v. King  Emperor[1],Chandu
                 v. State of Maharashtra[2], Murugesan S/o Muthu and  others
                 v. State through Inspector of Police[3], Rathinam @Rathinam
                 v. State of Tamilnadu and another[4], Ram Narain  Singh  v.
                 State of  Punjab[5],  Brijpal  Singh  v.  State  of  Madhya
                 Pradesh[6] and Mahendra Pratap  Singh  v.  State  of  Uttar
                 Pradesh[7].

             12. Mr. Rajeev Gaur ‘Naseem’, learned counsel appearing for the
                 State, supporting the judgment of the High Court, submitted
                 that though there is a discrepancy in the ballistic report,
                 yet the substantive evidence of the  three  eye  witnesses,
                 including one injured eye witness, cannot be rejected.   He
                 has relied on the authority in Ram Bali v. State  of  Uttar
                 Pradesh[8].  It is his further  submission  that  the  High
                 Court has correctly opined that the judgment  of  acquittal
                 rendered by  the  learned  trial  Judge  was  perverse  and
                 deserved to be interfered with.

             13. Before we proceed to  consider  the  rivalised  contentions
                 raised at the bar and independently scrutinize the relevant
                 evidence brought on record, it is fruitful to  recapitulate
                 the law enunciated by this Court pertaining  to  an  appeal
                 against acquittal.
In Sheo Swarup  (supra),  it  has  been
                 stated that the  High  Court  can  exercise  the  power  or
                 jurisdiction to reverse an  order  of  acquittal  in  cases
               
where it  finds  that  the  lower  court  has  “obstinately
                 blundered”  or  has  “through  incompetence,  stupidity  or
                 perversity”  reached  such  “distorted  conclusions  as  to
                 produce a positive miscarriage of justice” or has  in  some
                 other way  so  conducted  or  misconducted  himself  as  to
                 produce a  glaring  miscarriage  of  justice  or  has  been
                 tricked by the defence so as to produce a  similar  result.
                 Lord Russel, authoring the judgment for the Prevy  Council,
                 opined thus: -

                   “Sections 417, 418 and 423 of the Code give to the  High
                   Court full power to review at large  the  evidence  upon
                   which the order of acquittal was founded, and  to  reach
                   the conclusion that upon  that  evidence  the  order  of
                   acquittal should be reversed.  No limitation  should  be
                   placed upon that power, unless  it  be  found  expressly
                   stated  in  the  Code.  
But  in  exercising  the  power
                   conferred  by  the  Code   and   before   reaching   its
                   conclusions upon fact, the High Court  should  and  will
                   always give proper  weight  and  consideration  to  such
                   matters as 
(1) the views of the trial judge  as  to  the
                   credibility of the witnesses;  
(2)  the  presumption  of
                   innocence  in  favour  of  the  accused,  a  presumption
                   certainly not weakened by the  fact  that  he  has  been
                   acquitted at his trial; 
(3) the right of the accused  to
                   the benefit of any doubt; and 
(4)  the  slowness  of  an
                   appellate court in disturbing a finding of fact  arrived
                   at by a judge  who  had  the  advantage  of  seeing  the
                   witnesses.  
To state this, however, is only to say  that
                   the High Court in its conduct of the appeal  should  and
                   will act in accordance with rules  and  principles  well
                   known and recognized in the administration of justice.”

             14.  The  said  principle  has  been  followed  in   subsequent
                 pronouncements in Balbir Singh v. State of Punjab[9], Khedu
                 Mohton and others v. State of Bihar[10], Ram  Narain  Singh
                 (supra), Ganesh  Bhavan  Patel  and  another  v.  State  of
                 Maharashtra[11], Awadhesh and another v.  State  of  Madhya
                 Pradesh[12], Ram Kumar v.  State  of  Haryana[13],  Bhagwan
                 Singh and others v. State of  M.P.[14],  State  of  Goa  v.
                 Sanjay Thakran and another[15], Puran  Singh  v.  State  of
                 Uttaranchal[16], Mahendra Pratap Singh  (supra),  Murugesan
                 C/o Muthu (supra) and Shivasharanappa and others  v.  State
                 of Karnataka[17].

             15. It is also worth noticing  that  in  Murugesan’s  case  the
                 Court referred  to  the  decision  in  State  of  Rajasthan
                 through Secretary,  Home  Department  v.  Abdul  Mannan[18]
                 wherein distinction between the statutory  appeal  and  the
                 legislative intent was dealt with.  The subsequent Division
                 Bench reproduced a passage from Abdul Mannan’s  case  which
                 is extracted below: -

                      “12.  As is evident from the above recorded findings,
                      the  judgment  of  conviction  was  converted  to   a
                      judgment of acquittal by the High Court.   Thus,  the
                      first and foremost question that we need to  consider
                      is,
in what circumstances this Court should interfere
                      with the judgment of acquittal.
Against an order  of
                      acquittal, an appeal by the State is maintainable  to
                      this Court only with the leave of the Court.  On  the
                      contrary, if the judgment of acquittal passed by  the
                      trial court is set aside by the High Court,  and  the
                      accused is sentenced to death, or  life  imprisonment
                      or imprisonment for more  than  10  years,  then  the
                      right of appeal of  the  accused  is  treated  as  an
                      absolute right subject to the provisions of  Articles
                      134(1)(a) and 134(1)(b) of the Constitution of  India
                      and Section 379 of the Code  of  Criminal  Procedure,
                      1973.  In light of this, it is obvious that an appeal
                      against acquittal is considered on slightly different
                      parameters compared to an ordinary  appeal  preferred
                      to this Court.”

             16. In the case at hand,
 it is noticeable that the  High  Court
                 has compartmentalized the reasons ascribed by  the  learned
                 trial Judge and thereafter dislodged the same one  by  one.
               
The approach of the High Court in  this  regard  cannot  be
                 flawed, but a pregnant one, it is required to  be  examined
               
whether the High Court while  dislodging  the  reasons  and
                 substituting the findings has appositely re appreciated  the
                 oral and documentary evidence brought on record to come  to
                 the conclusion that the view taken  by  the  learned  trial
                 Judge is neither a plausible nor  a  reasonable  one.   
The
                 learned trial Judge, analyzing the evidence on record,  had
                 recorded a finding that
 neither  the  complainant  nor  his
                 family members nor the members of the Harijan community had
                 any right on the land inasmuch as the  controversy  in  the
                 civil suit was between Guru Ravidass Mandir Sabha  and  the
                 accused persons.
The trial  court  had  observed  that  no
                 document was brought on record to show that  possession  of
                 the disputed land was handed over to the complainant or his
                 family members in pursuance of the  alleged  resolution  of
                 the Gram Panchayat.   
The  learned  trial  Judge  had  also
                 observed that the plea of the accused persons that they had
                 settled there since  the  time  of  their  predecessors-in-
                 interest who had migrated  from  Pakistan  was  acceptable.
                 
Thus, the learned trial Judge returned a finding in  favour
                 of the accused persons.  
This finding, needless to say, has
                 been  arrived  only  to  nullify  the  allegation  of   the
                 prosecution that the accused  persons  forcibly  put  their
                 combine harvester on the disputed land. 
 The High Court, as
                 is perceptible,  has  observed  that  there  is  a  serious
                 dispute with regard to  possession.   
The  High  Court  has
                 failed to appreciate that on earlier occasion there was  an
                 order of injunction which was vacated and  the  suit  stood
                 dismissed. 
It may be noted that even if there was a serious
                 dispute relating to possession, the learned trial Judge  on
                 the analysis of the material on record had not accepted the
                 prosecution  version  that  the  accused  persons  forcibly
                 entered upon the land and installed the combine  harvester.
               
In  fact,  as  the  evidence  would  reveal,  the   combine
                 harvester  was  installed  much  prior  to  the   date   of
                 occurrence.  
The view taken by the learned trial  Judge  in
                 this  regard  for  the  aforesaid  limited  purpose  is   a
                 plausible one.   
The  said  finding  by  itself  is  of  no
                 consequence but it has been recorded to support and sustain
                 the finding that the accused-appellant  and  his  relations
                 did not by force enter upon the disputed land and  put  the
                 combine  harvester.   
The  learned  trial  Judge,  on   the
                 aforesaid base, had held that there was no intention on the
                 part of the accused persons and the High Court  has  opined
                 that the question of motive or intention is inconsequential
                 when there is direct evidence on record. 
 It is settled  in
                 law that when  there  is  direct  evidence,  the  proof  of
                 intention is not necessary.  
However, the analysis  of  the
                 learned trial Judge would go a long way to show that he had
                 meticulously scrutinized the evidence relating to factum of
                 possession to highlight that the  accused  persons  had  no
                 intention to forcibly enter upon the land and assert  their
                 right.  
True it is, it has come on  record  that  both  the
                 parties were fighting over possession, the complainant  and
                 others, on the ground that it was given  to  them  by  Guru
                 Ravidass Mandir Sabha to construct a temple thereon and the
                 accused persons were resisting the construction of  temple.
                 
The said controversy was the subject-matter  of  the  civil
                 lis.  As is evincible from the deposition of the  witnesses
                 that the combine harvester was there on the  disputed  land
                 and the accused persons had not encroached upon the land to
                 assert their possession.  To that extent the finding of the
                 learned trial Judge cannot be found fault with.

             17. At this juncture, we are obliged to state that
though there
                 has been compartmentalization of the  reasoning,  basically
                 there  are  three  aspects  which  require  scrutiny.   
The
                 learned trial Judge had not accepted the credibility of the
                 prosecution witnesses about the involvement of the  accused
                 in firing as a result of which the deceased and the injured
                 persons sustained injuries.  
For supporting the same he had
                 given emphasis on certain discrepancies, which the  learned
                 counsel for the State would submit, are absolutely minor in
                 nature.  
It is worthy to note that the learned trial  Judge
                 had  recorded  the  discrepancies  and  referred   to   the
                 ballistic  report  to  support  his  conclusion  that   the
                 prosecution  had  not  established  the  case  and  in  all
                 possibility had tried to protect the real  assailants.   
To
                 test  the  justifiability  of  the  said  finding  and  the
                 ultimate  conclusion  it  is  necessary  to  evaluate   the
                 evidence  brought  on  record.   
PW-16,  the  investigating
                 officer, had clearly deposed that he had seized four  empty
                 cartridges – C-1 to C-4 from the spot where he  arrived  in
                 quite promptitude.  
On a perusal of the  ballistic  report,
                 it is manifest that ]they were not fired from  the  weapon,
                 Ext.-15, seized from the house  of  the  accused-appellant.
                 
The learned trial Judge had taken note of the fact that the
                 pellets marks were there on the walls of the house  of  the
                 appellant, which were visible from the photographs, Ext.-DA
                 to DC.  
These aspects  show  that  there  were  also  other
                 persons present at the spot who had come with arms.  It  is
                 demonstrable from the material brought on record that there
                 were people from the Harijan community who had come to  the
                 disputed land  and  fired  at  the  house  of  the  accused
                 persons.  
The said conclusion is buttressed from  the  fact
                 that the empties found from the spot were  not  fired  from
                 the gun of the accused.

             18. Quite apart from the above, 
cross-examination of  the  eye-
                 witnesses it is also clear that the members of the  Harijan
                 community had licensed guns and they hearing the shout  had
                 gathered at the spot.   
The High  Court  while  lancinating
                 the finding of the learned trial Judge on  this  score  has
                 only given a cryptic opinion without  any  reason  that  it
                 does not create a dent on the  prosecution  case.   
In  our
                 considered opinion, such unsettling of a reasonable finding
                 in a cryptic manner is  not  acceptable.   
We  are  of  the
                 considered view that it creates a grave dent on the version
                 advanced by the prosecution.

             19. Another aspect needs to be addressed.  
The  learned  trial
                 Judge  has  disbelieved  the  version  of  the  prosecution
                 relating to firing by the appellant on deceased  Kamla  and
                 other injured persons on two counts, namely,
 the range from
                 which it was fired on  deceased  Kamla,  and  there  is  no
                 material on record to connect the injuries with the  seized
                 fired arms.  
The High Court  has  overturned  the  distance
                 part but has not really dwelled upon the other aspect.   
As
                 far as the facet of the distance is concerned, the  opinion
                 of the High Court seems to be sound.  
But the fact  remains
                 that there is no material on record  to  connect  that  the
                 gunshot injuries suffered by the deceased are  due  to  the
                 shots fired from the gun of  the  appellant.   
It  is  also
                 discernible that though the pellets were recovered but  the
                 same have not been connected with  the  weapon.   
Thus,  we
                 find there is a material contradiction in the oral evidence
                 adduced by the prosecution on one hand  and  the  ballistic
                 report on the other.

             20. In Brijpal Singh’s case, the High Court  had  affirmed  the
                 conviction of the appellant therein.
It was  the  case  of
                 the prosecution that A-1 at the exhortation of A-3 shot the
                 deceased from point plank range on the head of the deceased
                 from a mouser gun which shattered the  right  side  of  the
                 head  causing  death  on  the  spot.   
This  Court,   after
                 examining the ballistic report, opined that on a perusal of
                 the said report it was clear that  the  weapon  alleged  to
                 have been used in causing the fatal injury would  not  have
                 been the mouser gun carried by  A-1  because  the  definite
                 report of the ballistic expert that the discharged  empties
                 of cartridge found near the dead body were not  that  fired
                 from the mouser gun.  
The Court also took note of the  fact
                 that A-2 therein who had fired which  missed  him  but  got
                 embedded in  the  wall  of  the  house,  according  to  the
                 ballistic report the embedded cartridges  could  have  been
                 fired from the mouser gun and not from a .12 bore gun which
                 was used  for  firing.   
This  was  treated  as  a  serious
                 contradiction between the oral evidence and  the  ballistic
                 report. 
 Be it noted, a  contention  was  advanced  by  the
                 learned counsel for the State that if the oral evidence  is
                 found to be acceptable by the court  any  contradiction  to
                 the ballistic reports, the acceptable oral evidence  should
                 always be preferred.  
Dealing with the contention the court
                 agreed with the argument by stating that normally,  if  the
                 eye witness’s evidence is acceptable, the argument  of  the
                 State  would  be  accepted  but  as  the  factual  position
                 revealed  the  witnesses  were   interested   persons   and
                 independent witnesses had not  been  examined  and  further
                 there was inter se contradiction in the evidence of certain
                 eye witnesses.  
Eventually, the Court while acquitting  the
                 appellant therein observed thus: -

                       “Then, we notice the prosecution has not bothered  to
                       clarify the  report  of  the  ballistic  expert  even
                       though  the  same  was  contradictory  to  the   oral
                       evidence which creates a very serious  doubt  in  our
                       mind as to the presence of eye-witnesses at the place
                       of incident.  Keeping in mind the partisan nature  of
                       eye-witnesses and contradictions in  their  evidence,
                       we think this appellant is also entitled  to  benefit
                       of doubt.”

             21. In the instant  case,  the  ballistic  report,  Ext.  P.UU,
                 though refers to the mutilated pellets stated to have  been
                 recovered from the body of the deceased Kamla and also  the
                 two different leads pellets from the body of Murti, but  is
                 not definite that .12 bore DBBL gun,  Ext.  W/1,  that  was
                 seized  from  the  appellant,  was  used  for  firing  such
                 gunshots.  This fact has been totally ignored by  the  High
                 Court in an extremely cryptic manner.

             22. At this juncture, we may note with  profit  another  aspect
                 that has been highlighted by the learned  counsel  for  the
                 respondent.
The  prosecution  has  not  examined  Chander,
                 husband of the deceased,  a  relevant  eye  witness,  Bala,
                 Murti  and  Bimla,  three  other  injured  witnesses.  
 No
                 explanation has been  given  by  the  prosecution.  
Though
                 there have been certain suggestions to PW-16 in the  cross-
                 examination, but his answer is evasive.
It is well settled
                 in law that non-examination of the material witness is  not
                 a mathematical formula for discarding  the  weight  of  the
                 testimony   available   on   record   howsoever    natural,
                 trustworthy and  convincing  it  may  be.  
The  charge  of
                 withholding a material  witness  from  the  court  levelled
                 against  the  prosecution  should  be   examined   in   the
                 background of the facts and circumstances of each  case  so
                 as to find whether the witnesses are  available  for  being
                 examined  in  the  court  and  were  yet  withheld  by  the
                 prosecution.  (See: State of H.P. v. Gian Chand[19])

             23. In this context, we may also note  with  profit  a  passage
                 from Takhaji Hiraji v. Thakore Kubersing Chamansing[20]: -

                     “19…
 It is true that if a material witness,  who  would
                     unfold the genesis of the incident or an essential part
                     of the prosecution case, not  convincingly  brought  to
                     fore otherwise, or 
where there is a gap of infirmity in
                     the prosecution case which could have been supplied  or
                     made good by examining a witness who  though  available
                     is not examined, 
the prosecution case can be termed  as
                     suffering from a deficiency and withholding of  such  a
                     material witness would oblige  the  court  to  draw  an
                     adverse inference against the  prosecution  by  holding
                     that if the witness would have been examined  it  would
                     not have supported the prosecution case.  
On the  other
                     hand if already overwhelming evidence is available  and
                     examination  of  other  witnesses  would  only   be   a
                     repetition  or  duplication  of  the  evidence  already
                     adduced, 
non-examination of such  other  witnesses  may
                     not be material.  
In such a case  the  court  ought  to
                     scrutinize the worth  of  the  evidence  adduced.   
The
                     court of facts must ask itself – 
whether in  the  facts
                     and circumstances of the  case,  it  was  necessary  to
                     examine such other witness, and  if  so,  
whether  such
                     witness was available to be examined and yet was  being
                     withheld from the court?  
If  the  answer  be  positive
                     then only a question of drawing  an  adverse  inference
                     may arise.   
If  the  witnesses  already  examined  are
                     reliable and the testimony coming from their  mouth  is
                     unimpeachable  the  court  can  safely  act  upon   it,
                     uninfluenced by the factum of non-examination of  other
                     witnesses.”

             24. Recently in Manjit Singh and Anr. v. State  of  Punjab  and
                 Anr.[21], this Court, after referring to earlier decisions,
                 has opined thus: -

                   
“…it is quite clear that it  is  not  the  number  and
                     quantity but the quality that is material.  It is  the
                     duty of the Court to consider the  trustworthiness  of
                     evidence on record which inspires confidence  and  the
                     same has to be accepted and acted upon and in  such  a
                     situation no adverse inference should  be  drawn  from
                     the fact of non-examination of other witnesses.   That
                     apart, it  is  also  to  be  seen
whether  such  non-
                     examination  of  a  witness  would  carry  the  matter
                     further  so  as  to  affect  the  evidence  of   other
                     witnesses and if the evidence of a witness  is  really
                     not essential to  the  unfolding  of  the  prosecution
                     case, it cannot be considered a material witness (see:
                     State of U.P. v. Iftikhar Khan and others[22]).”

             25. In the  case  at  hand,
non-examination  of  the  material
                 witnesses is of significance.  
It is so  because  PW-11  is
                 really an interested witness though the High Court has  not
                 agreed with the same.  
It appears from the material brought
                 on  record  that  he  had  an  axe  to  grind  against  the
                 appellant.  
That apart, Chander, who was present  from  the
                 beginning, would have been in a position to  disclose  more
                 clearly about the genesis of the  occurrence.  
 He  is  the
                 husband of the deceased and  we  find  no  reason  why  the
                 prosecution had withheld the said witness.  
Similarly,  the
                 other three witnesses who are said to be injured  witnesses
                 when available should have come and deposed.  
Therefore, in
                 the obtaining factual  matrix  that  their  non-examination
                 gains significance.

             26. In this regard, another aspect requires to  be  taken  note
                 of.
The case of the prosecution was  that  Mohinder  Singh
                 had snatched away the gun and fired  at  Mithan  Singh  and
                 Bimla.   
The   learned   trial   Judge   disbelieving   the
                 prosecution version had acquitted him.  
The High Court  has
                 given him benefit of  doubt.   
We  are  of  the  considered
                 opinion that regard being had to the totality of  evidence,
                 both oral and documentary,
there was no  reason  to  extend
                 the said benefit of doubt to the appellant.  
The High Court
                 has fallen into error on that score.

             27. In view of the aforesaid analysis, the appeal  is  allowed,
                 the judgment passed by the High Court is set aside and that
                 of the learned trial Judge is restored.  
As  the  appellant
                 is on bail, he be discharged of the bail bonds.




                                                             ……………………………….J.
                                                        [K.S. Radhakrishnan]






                                                             ……………………………….J.
                                                               [Dipak Misra]


      New Delhi;
      October 24, 2013.





-----------------------
[1]

      [2] AIR 1934 PC 227


  [3]

      [4] (2002) 9 SCC 408


  [5]

      [6] 2012 (10) SCALE 378


  [7]

      [8] (2011) 11 SCC 140


  [9]

      [10] (1975) 4 SCC 497


  [11]

      [12] (2003) 11 SCC 219


  [13]

      [14] (2009) 11 SCC 334


  [15]

      [16] AIR 2004 SC 2329


  [17]

      [18] AIR 1957 SC 216


  [19]

      [20] (1970) 2 SCC 450


  [21]

      [22] (1978) 4 SCC 371


  [23]

      [24] (1988) 2 SCC 557


  [25]

      [26] 1995 Supp (1) SCC 248


  [27]

      [28] (2002) 4 SCC 85


  [29]

      [30] (2007) 3 SCC 755


  [31]

      [32] (2008) 3 SCC 795


  [33]

      [34] (2013) 5 SCC 705


  [35]

      [36] (2011) 8 SCC 65


  [37]

      [38] (2001) 6 SCC 71


  [39]

      [40] (2001) 6 SCC 145


  [41]

      [42] JT 2013 (11) SCALE 394


  [43]

      [44] (1973) 1 SCC 512




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