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Saturday, December 17, 2016

accused-appellants did cause the death of eight persons in a barbaric and brutal manner wherein merciless killing of a child of only 1½ years is also involved. Therefore, the accused in the present case do not deserve any sympathy. 21. Hence, all the criminal appeals filed by the appellants are sans merit and are liable to be dismissed. We uphold the judgment passed by the High Court as far as awarding of sentences is concerned. However, the sentences shall run in conformity with the observations made by the Constitution Bench of this Court in its judgment dated 19.07.2016 passed in these appeals. The impugned judgment passed by the High Court is modified to the above extent and all the appeals are disposed of accordingly.

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                     CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS.231-233 OF 2009
MUTHURAMALINGAM & ORS.                    .....    Appellant(s)
                       Criminal Appeal No.225 of 2009
                     Criminal Appeal Nos.226-227 of 2009
                       Criminal Appeal No.895 of 2009
                       Criminal Appeal No.429 of 2015

      Pinaki Chandra Ghose, J.
   1. Brief facts giving rise to the initiation of criminal  proceedings  in
      these cases are as follows: A  gruesome  incident  occurred  in  Taluk
      Ramanathapuram, District Tamil  Nadu  in  which  the  appellants,  the
      deceased and  few  witnesses  were  related  to  each  other.  As  per
      prosecution case, on 10.02.1994, accused persons assembled  unlawfully
      with deadly weapons and with the common intention  to  commit  murder,
      they chased the family members of deceased  Rajendran  when  they  got
      down from the bus in the village near Karisalkulam Branch  Road.  They
      were coming back to their village after  attending  the  cremation  of
      Rajendran, who died in another case on 09.02.1994, and the  appellants
      herein and few others were accused in that case. The accused  persons,
      in a gruesome attack  on  the  family  members,  murdered  8  persons,
      including one who succumbed to the injuries later in the Hospital. PW-
      1 immediately after the occurrence proceeded  to  Kovilankulam  Police
      Station and lodged the  complaint,  Ex.P1.  PW-22  who  was  the  Sub-
      Inspector of Police at Kovilankulam Police Station registered the case
      as Crime No.6 of 1994 under Sections 147, 148, 324, 307,  302  of  the
      Indian Penal Code (“IPC”) and under Section 25(1) of Indian Arms  Act.
      After completing  the  investigation,  PW-23  filed  the  charge-sheet
      against the  accused  persons  under  Sections  147,  148,  324,  307,
      506(ii), 307 & 302 read with Section 34 IPC.

   2. Originally there were 21 accused persons. Accused Chandran died during
      the investigation. Hence, 20 accused persons (A1 to A20) were tried by
      the  Court  of  Additional   Sessions   Judge,   Fast   Track   Court,
      Ramanathapuram. However, accused No.7 – Murugan @ Kodarai died  during
      the trial. The learned Additional Sessions Judge,  Fast  Track  Court,
      Ramanathapuram, convicted A1 to A6 and A8 to A20  each  and  sentenced
      them to undergo rigorous imprisonment  for  various  offences.  A18  –
      Malaiyandi died during the pendency of  the  appeal  before  the  High
      Court.  The learned Additional Sessions Judge found the occurrence  to
      be a brutal  and  gruesome  attack  by  the  accused  persons  forming
      unlawful assembly and causing death of eight persons, including  a  1½
      years child, with a common objective of eliminating  everyone  in  the
      deceased’s family.

   3.  Learned  Additional  Sessions  Judge  delivered   his   judgment   on
      30.05.2006, holding all the accused persons guilty and sentenced  them
      as follows:
|ACCUSED                     |CONVICTION                |SENTENCE                |
|A-1 to A-6 & A8 to A20      |U/s 148 IPC               |RI for one year         |
|A-1 to A-6, A-9 to A13, &   |U/s 302 r/w S.34 IPC      |Imprisonment for life   |
|A-15                        |                          |                        |
|                            |                          |                        |
|A-8 and A-17                |U/s 302 r/w S.34 IPC      |Imprisonment for life   |
|                            |(2 counts)                |for each count          |
|A-1 to A-6, A-9 to A-13     |    U/s 302 r/w S.149     |Imprisonment for life   |
|A-15, A-16, A-18 to         |(7 counts)                |for each count          |
|A-20                        |                          |                        |
|                            |                          |                        |
|A-14                        |U/s 302 r/w S.149 IPC     |Imprisonment for life   |
|                            |(8 counts)                |for each count          |
|A-8 and A-17                |   U/s 302 r/w S.149 IPC  |Imprisonment for life   |
|                            |(6 counts)                |for each count          |
|                            |                          |                        |
|A-14 and A15                |U/s 307 IPC               |RI for 10 years         |
|A1 to A6, A8 to A13 and A16 |  U/s 307 r/w S.149 IPC   |RI for 10 years         |
|to A20                      |                          |                        |

   4. Against the judgment and order dated 30.05.2006 passed by the  learned
      Additional Sessions Judge,  criminal  appeals  were  preferred  before
      Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. The High Court while disposing
      of Criminal Appeal Nos.313, 323, 328, 406, 451 and 539 of 2006,  found
      that there was no evidence to warrant conviction of A5, A13,  A19  and
      A20 in the instant case. However,  the  High  Court  found  all  other
      accused guilty of eight barbaric murders and attempt to  murder  while
      forming unlawful assembly. The High Court,  in  paragraph  66  of  its
      judgment, modified the conviction and sentence imposed  by  the  lower
      Court as follows:
        i. “A1 to A4, A6, A8 to A12 and A14  to  A17  are  convicted  under
           section 148 IPC and sentenced to undergo  rigorous  imprisonment
           for one year;

       ii. A1 to A4, A6, A8 to A12, A14 to A17 are convicted under  section
           302 read with Section 149 IPC(8Counts) instead of 302 read  with
           34 IPC and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life  for  each

      iii. We confirm the conviction of A1 to A4, A6, A8 to A12 and A14  to
           A17 under Section 307 read with Section 34 IPC and sentence them
           to undergo rigorous imprisonment for ten years;

       iv. We set aside the conviction and sentence imposed on A5, A13, A19
           and A20.”

      The High Court in paragraph 73 of the impugned judgment, confirmed the
      direction given  by  the  Trial  Court  that  the  sentences  of  life
      imprisonment imposed for each count and sentence of  imprisonment  for
      10 years, shall run consecutively. Aggrieved by the judgment and order
      dated 14.12.2007, passed  by  the  High  Court,  the  appellants  have
      approached this Court invoking the jurisdiction under Article  136  of
      the Constitution of India. All  the  connected  appeals  were  clubbed
      together for common adjudication since they are arising  out  of  same
      impugned judgment.

   5. Since legitimacy of the consecutive life sentences  in  the  light  of
      Section 31 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (in short ‘Cr.P.C.)   was
      challenged  in  these  appeals,  before  arriving  at  the  conclusive
      findings, a three-Judge Bench of this Court  referred  the  matter  to
      larger Bench and the said larger Bench – Constitution Bench, vide  its
      judgment  dated  19.07.2016,  upheld  the  legitimacy  of  consecutive
      sentences of life imprisonment and held that “while multiple sentences
      of  imprisonment for life can be awarded for multiple murders or other
      offences punishable with imprisonment for life, the life sentences  so
      awarded cannot be directed to  run  consecutively.”  The  Constitution
      Bench further held as follows:

           “The power of the Court to direct the order in  which  sentences
           will run is unquestionable in view of the language  employed  in
           Section 31 of the Cr.P.C. The Court can, therefore, legitimately
           direct that the prisoners shall first undergo the term  sentence
           before the commencement of his life sentence. Such  a  direction
           shall be perfectly legitimate and in tune with Section  31.  The
           converse however may not be true for if the  Court  directs  the
           life sentence to start first it would necessarily imply that the
           term sentence would run concurrently. That is because  once  the
           prisoner spends his life in jail, there is no  question  of  his
           undergoing any further sentence.”

   6. Therefore,  the  only  substantial  question  which  remains  for  our
      consideration in the present case is whether the  High  Court  in  the
      facts and circumstances of the case, was justified  in  modifying  the
      conviction from that under Section 302 read with  Section  34  IPC  to
      that of Section 302 read with Section 149 IPC.

   7. Mr. ATM Ranga Ramanujam, learned  senior  counsel  appearing  for  the
      appellants submitted that in view of the deposition of PW12,  all  the
      eye-witnesses (PW1-PW4) cannot be believed as it  casts  suspicion  on
      the prosecution version as it  is  admitted  by  PW12  in  his  cross-
      examination that he saw only  three  bodies  strewed  and  no  injured
      person at the place of  occurrence.  He  further  submitted  that  the
      investigation has not been done properly  in  the  present  case,  and
      therefore, the accused persons deserve to be acquitted. It was further
      submitted that there is substantive difference between Section 34  and
      Section 149 of IPC and substitution of  Section  34  for  Section  149
      would result in prejudice to the accused and therefore  the  same  may
      not  be  permitted.  Further,  no  satisfactory  explanation  to  such
      substitution was given. He further submitted that there was  delay  in
      the lodging of FIR which creates doubts.

   8. Per contra, Mr.  M.  Yogesh  Kanna,  learned  counsel  for  respondent
      submitted that the  volunteered  statement  of  A5  was  reduced  into
      writing, being Exh.29, whereby 7 aruvals, 10 velsticks, a toy gun  and
      3  knives  were  recovered  and  it  was  clearly  spoken  to  by  the
      prosecution witnesses that A1 stabbed deceased (in short ‘D’) D1  with
      velkambu on his stomach; A2, A3, A4, A6, A10, A14,  A18  attacked  D4,
      D5, D6 with velstick and aruval;  A7  attempted  to  attack  PW3  with
      velstick; A8 stabbed D7 with velstick on his left arm; A9 attacked  D1
      repeatedly with aruval;  A11 stabbed D2 on his stomach with  velstick;
      A12 stabbed D3 with velstick on his stomach and chest, left thigh  and
      other parts of body; A15 attacked D2 with aruval on his left hand; A16
      attacked D3 with aruval on his right hand; A17 attacked D7 with aruval
      on his left hand. It was further submitted that all the  accused  were
      armed with sharp and deadly weapons and were  hiding  in  the  bushes.
      When the deceased  came  near  the  place  of  occurrence,  appellants
      attacked them shouting slogans that “kill them”, “hack them” and  thus
      their act itself substantiates the  commission  of  crime  within  the
      meaning of Section 302 read with 149 of IPC.

   9.  Learned  counsel  for  the  respondent  further  submitted  that  the
      averments  made  by  the  appellants  in  the  present  case  are  not
      sustainable as eye-witnesses have vividly spoken  about  the  presence
      and modus-operandi of the  offence  committed  showing  their  motive,
      which are also  essential  ingredients  to  confirm  conviction  under
      Section 149 of IPC. The plea of the appellants  that  a  weapon,  like
      velstick, cannot cause death was rightly rejected by the High Court as
      it was observed by the High Court that  cut  injury  could  have  been
      caused by velstick, depending upon the manner in which the weapon  was
      used. Since PW-12 is not the eye-witness of the occurrence, he  cannot
      state any substantive part of the offence and the manner in which  the
      offence would have been committed. It  was  lastly  submitted  by  the
      learned counsel for the respondent  that  albeit  there  was  agitated
      atmosphere at the village, complaint was given the same day  at  05:30
      pm and thus there was no delay in lodging the FIR.

  10. Having heard the learned counsel on both sides, the  legality  of  the
      conviction under Section 302 read with Section  149,  has  been  found
      disputed. As regards the case in the light of common intention as  per
      Section 34 IPC, this Court in Devi Lal Vs. State of Rajasthan,  (1971)
      3 SCC 471, in para 13 held that “the  words  ‘in  furtherance  of  the
      common intention of all’ are a most essential part of  Section  34  of
      the Indian Penal Code. It is common  intention  to  commit  the  crime
      actually committed. The common intention is anterior in  time  to  the
      commission of the crime. Common intention means a pre-arranged plan.”

  11. But this case doesn’t appear  to  fulfill  the  essentials  of  common
      intention. The emphasis of such sort of constructive liability and the
      legality of conviction by applying Section 34 or Section 149 IPC, have
      been examined by Courts in several cases. In Willie (William)  Stanley
      Vs. State of M.P., AIR 1956 SC 116, it was held as follows:
           “Section 34, 114 and 149 of the Indian Penal  Code  provide  for
           criminal liability viewed from  different  angles  as  regarding
           actual participants, accessories and men actuated  by  a  common
           object or a common intention and ‘the charge  is  rolled-up  one
           involving the direct liability and the  constructive  liability’
           without specifying who are directly liable and who are sought to
           be made constructively liable. In such a situation, the  absence
           of a charge under one or other of the various heads of  criminal
           liability for the offence cannot be said to be fatal by  itself,
           and before a conviction for  a  substantive  offence  without  a
           charge can be set aside, prejudice will have to be made out.”

  12. Moreover,  a  distinction  between  ‘’common  intention’  and  ‘common
      object’ was made out by this Court in the case of Chhitarmal Vs. State
      of Rajasthan, (2003) 2 SCC 266 as under:
           “A clear distinction is made out between  common  intention  and
           common object in that common intention denotes action in concert
           and necessarily postulates the existence of a pre-arranged  plan
           implying a prior meeting of the minds, while common object  does
           not necessarily require proof of prior meeting of minds or  pre-
           concert. Though there is substantial difference between the  two
           sections, they also to some extent overlap and it is a  question
           to be determined on the facts of each case  whether  the  charge
           under section 149 overlaps the ground covered by section 34.”

  13. In the present case, motive is seen in the collective testimony of eye-
      witnesses PW1-PW3 when accused came out from the bushes shouting “kill
      them”, “hack them”, “fire them”, as also mentioned  in  the  complaint
      Exhibit P-1. A child was also mercilessly  attacked  in  the  incident
      with a spear on his chest. Accused No.7-Muthuramalingam snatched  away
      the child from her mother  Indira  Gandhi  and  killed  her  too  with

  14. Even PW4 (though not an eye–witness of whole occurrence) also  hid  in
      the nearby  bushes  to  save  his  life.  In  his  statement  he  also
      corroborated the factum of hearing shooting and also after identifying
      accused Muthuramlingam stated  that  “his  wife  was  also  killed  by
      accused Muthuramlingam with knife and accused Dhakshinamoorthi cut his
      wife with aruval”. In a similar case of Umesh Singh & Anr.  Vs.  State
      of Bihar, (2000) 6 SCC 89, this Court observed:
           “A report was made by Jugeshwar Singh (PW 7) alleging  that  the
           appellants herein along with  several  other  persons  numbering
           about 20 came to the “khalihan” (threshing floor) of Bhola Singh
           where he and other members of his family were  threshing  paddy.
           They tried to take away the paddy. Upendra Singh threatened that
           any resistance would be met with such action  which  might  even
           result in death. Thereafter Rajendra Singh hit Bhola Singh  with
           a lathi and Upendra Singh moved backwards  and  fired  at  Bhola
           Singh with a gun as a result of which Bhola Singh  was  hit  and
           fell down writhing in pain. Saryu Singh was shot at by  Rajendra
           Singh and Bhagwat Dayal Singh, who was also inflicted  a  bhala-
           blow by Arvind Singh, appellant in the connected  matter,  Umesh
           Singh and Sheonandan Singh fired at Rajdeo Singh as a result  of
           which he fell down. When Dharmshila, wife of Bhola Singh reached
           the threshing floor with her child  aged  about  one-and-a-half-
           years old in her arms, named Rinku,  Sheonandan  Singh  snatched
           the child and threw the child on the ground as a result of which
           the child died. After  investigation,  the  police  submitted  a
           charge-sheet against seven persons named in the FIR as three  of
           them had died during the  pendency  of  the  investigation.  The
           trial court convicted Sheonandan Singh and Upendra  Singh  under
           Section 302 IPC and sentenced them to death, one of the  accused
           — Satyendra Singh, was acquitted and the  rest  of  the  accused
           persons were convicted under Section 302 IPC read  with  Section
           149 and  sentenced  to  life  imprisonment.  They  were  further
           convicted under Section 324 read with Section 148 IPC and  under
           Section 27 of the  Arms  Act.  On  appeal  to  the  High  Court,
           conviction  was  maintained  while  the  sentence  of  death  on
           Sheonandan Singh and Upendra Singh was reduced from one of death
           to life imprisonment thereafter.  Appeals  have  been  preferred
           before this Court”.

      And later at Para No.3 of the judgment it was held:

           “Therefore, there is ample evidence on record in  the  shape  of
           the evidence of the  eyewitnesses  and  the  witnesses  who  had
           sustained injuries, sounding a ring of truth to the  prosecution
           case put forward, with the trial court and the High Court having
           taken identical views, we do not think there is any good  reason
           to upset those findings.”.

      Thus, we are of the considered opinion that prosecution case has  been
      well established by  the  testimonies  of  eye-witnesses  PW1-PW3  and
      corroborated by PW4, wherein factum of unlawful assembly was proved.

  15. Before arriving at the conclusion, we wish to supply emphasis  in  the
      case of Mohan Singh Vs. State of Punjab, AIR 1963 SC 174  =  192  Supp
      (3) SCR 848, where the law on common object in  an  unlawful  assembly
      was explained as under:
           “8.  The  true  legal  position  in  regard  to  the   essential
           ingredients  of  an  offence  specified  by s.149 are   not   in
           doubt. Section  149 prescribes  for  vicarious  or  constructive
           criminal liability for all members of an unlawful assembly where
           an offence is committed  by  any  member  of  such  an  unlawful
           assembly in prosecution of the common object of that assembly or
           such as the members of that assembly knew to  be  likely  to  be
           committed in prosecution  of  that  object.  It  would  thus  be
           noticed that one of the essential ingredients of section  149 is
           that the offence must have been committed by any  member  of  an
           unlawful assembly, and s. 141 makes it clear  that  it  is  only
           where five or more  persons  constituted  an  assembly  that  an
           unlawful assembly  is  born,  provided,  of  course;  the  other
           requirements of the said section as to the common object of  the
           persons composing that assembly are satisfied. In  other  words,
           it is an essential condition of an unlawful  assembly  that  its
           membership must be five or more.”

  16. Moreover, in the case of Mahadeo Singh Vs. State of  Bihar,  (1970)  3
      SCC 46, it was observed by this Court:
           “10. In the present case the facts and  the  circumstances  show
           that the assault and the demolition of the stairs  of  the  well
           took place in the same transaction because the  members  of  the
           unlawful assembly attacked Ram Prasad and his people and injured
           some of them simultaneously  or  in  'quick  succession.  Sarjug
           Mahto and Suraj Mahto both  said  that  at  the  instigation  of
           accused Ram Charan accused Manogi gave a  bhala  blow  near  the
           left elbow of Sarjug Mahto. Sarjug also said that  accused  Sheo
           Pujan gave him a bhala blow below the elbow of the left hand and
           the appellant gave him a bhala blow on the finger of right hand.
           According to Suraj Mahto the appellant struck  Sarjug  Mahto  on
           the finger of his right hand. Suraj and Sarjug  then  raised  an
           alarm. On hearing the alarm Ram Prasad, Bharat and Lakhan  came.
           Ram Prasad protested to the accused against the attack on Sarjug
           Mahto.  At  the  instigation  of  accused  Ram  Charan   accused
           Rajballam struck Ram Prasad With a bhala. Ram Prasad  fell  down
           and died there. Ram Lakhan then struck Bharat with a garasa. Ram
           Charan struck him on the head with a bhala. The assailants  then
           fled away. The evidence proves that the common object of all the
           members of the  assembly  was  that  murder  was  likely  to  be
           committed in prosecution of a common object, namely,  to  commit
           murder, assault, mischief and criminal trespass. All the members
           of the assembly were armed with weapons; they knew  that  murder
           was to be committed in prosecution of that  object.  It  cannot,
           therefore, be said that the  appellant  is  not  guilty  of  the
           charge under Sections 302/149 of the Indian Penal Code.”

  17. However, an overt act is not always an inflexible requirement of  rule
      of law to establish culpability of a member of an  unlawful  assembly.
      The crucial question is whether  the  assembly  entertained  a  common
      unlawful object and whether the accused was one of the members of such
      an assembly by intentionally joining it or by continuing in  it  being
      aware of the facts  which  rendered  the  assembly  unlawful.  Without
      unlawful object no assembly becomes an unlawful assembly.

  18. Further, in paragraph 6 of Shambhunath Singh Vs. State of  Bihar,  AIR
      1960 SC 725, it was held by this Court:
           “Section 149 of the Indian  Penal  Code  is  declaratory  of  the
           vicarious liability of the members of an  unlawful  assembly  for
           acts done in prosecution of the common object of that assembly or
           for such offences as the members of the unlawful assembly knew to
           be likely to be committed in prosecution of that  object.  If  an
           unlawful assembly is formed with the common object of  committing
           an offence, and if that offence is committed  in  prosecution  of
           the object by any  member  of  the  unlawful  assembly,  all  the
           members of the assembly  will  be  vicariously  liable  for  that
           offence even if one or more, but not all committed  the  offence.
           Again, if an offence is committed by  a  member  of  an  unlawful
           assembly and that  offence  is  one  which  the  members  of  the
           unlawful  assembly  knew  to  be  likely  to  be   committed   in
           prosecution of the common  object,  every  member  who  had  that
           knowledge will  be  guilty  of  the  offence  so  committed.  But
           "members of an unlawful assembly may have a community  of  object
           upto a certain point, beyond  which  they  may  differ  in  their
           objects, and the knowledge possessed by each member  of  what  is
           likely to be committed in prosecution of their common object  may
           vary not only according to the information at  his  command,  but
           also according to the extent to which he shares the community  of
           object and as a consequence of this the effect of Section  149 of
           the Indian Penal Code may be different on  different  members  of
           the same unlawful assembly." Jahiruddin v. Queen Empress,  ILR 22
           Cal 306.”

  19. Furthermore, in the case of Mizaji Vs. State of UP, AIR 1959  SC  572,
      this Court observed:
           “From this conduct it  appears  that  members  of  the  unlawful
           assembly were prepared to take forcible possession at  any  cost
           and the murder must be held to be immediately connected with the
           common object and therefore the case  falls  under s.149, Indian
           Penal Code and they are all guilty of murder. This  evidence  of
           Hansram and Matadin which relates to a point of time immediately
           before the firing of the pistol shows that the  members  of  the
           assembly at least knew that the offence of murder was likely  to
           be  committed  to  accomplish  the  common  object  of  forcible

  20. After careful consideration of the submissions  made  by  the  learned
      counsel on both sides, we are  of  the  considered  opinion  that  the
      accused-appellants did cause the death of eight persons in a  barbaric
      and brutal manner wherein merciless killing of  a  child  of  only  1½
      years is also involved. Therefore, the accused in the present case  do
      not deserve any sympathy.

  21. Hence, all the criminal appeals filed by the appellants are sans merit
      and are liable to be dismissed. We uphold the judgment passed  by  the
      High Court as far as awarding of sentences is concerned. However,  the
      sentences shall run in conformity with the observations  made  by  the
      Constitution Bench of this Court  in  its  judgment  dated  19.07.2016
      passed in these appeals. The impugned  judgment  passed  by  the  High
      Court is modified to the above extent and all the appeals are disposed
      of accordingly.

                     . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
                                               (Pinaki Chandra Ghose)

                     . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
                                               (Amitava Roy)
      New Delhi;
      December 9, 2016.

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