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Friday, May 26, 2017

“if a finding reached by the trial Judge cannot be said to be an unreasonable finding, then the appellate court should not disturb that finding even if it is possible to reach a different conclusion on the basis of the material on record.”

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA


                    CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.          OF 2017
                (Arising out of S.L.P.(Crl.)No.8717 of 2014)

      Arun Kumar                             ….Appellant(s)


      The State of Bihar & Ors.                 ….Respondent(s)

                               J U D G M E N T

     Abhay Manohar Sapre, J.
      1)    Leave granted.
      2)    This appeal is filed by the son of the deceased-Sheo Kumar  Pati
      Tiwari against the final Order dated 21.04.2014  passed  by  the  High
      Court of Judicature at Patna in Criminal Appeal(D.B.) No.1030 of  2013
      whereby the Division Bench of the  High  Court  dismissed  the  appeal
      filed by the appellant  herein  under  Section  372  of  the  Code  of
      Criminal Procedure, 1973  (hereinafter  referred  to  as  “the  Code”)
      against the acquittal of  respondent  Nos.2-5  of  the  charges  under
      Sections  302/34,  201  and  307  of  the  Indian  Penal  Code,   1860
      (hereinafter referred to as  “IPC”)  vide  judgment  dated  17.09.2013
      passed by the Ad-hoc Additional District & Sessions  Judge-III,  Siwan
      in Sessions Trial No.32 of 1993.

      3)    The prosecution case, in short, is  that  on  24.07.1991,  after
      having dinner at 9.00 p.m., the informant-Uma Pati Tiwari  along  with
      his elder brother Ram Tapasya Pati Tiwari and nephew Sheo  Kumar  Pati
      Tiwari were talking with each other at the Bathan situated at  Village
      Kashidat Diara District  Siwan,  Bihar.   At  that  time,  Ram  Naresh
      Chaudhary with Gun, Sukhraj Mallah with Gun, Janardan Ahir with Lathi,
      Chandeshwar Kurmi with Gun, Anil Singh with Gun,  Balinder  Ahir  with
      Lathi, Naga Bhar with Lathi and  Dwarika  Chaudhary  with  Lathi  came
      there in group and attacked them.  Janardan Ahir and Balinder Ahir hit
      on the right hand of the informant with lathi five times  and  Sukhraj
      Mallah fired gun shot on Ram Tapsya Pati Tiwari, the  brother  of  the
      informant.  Ram Naresh Chaudhary, Anil Singh and Sukhraj Mallah  fired
      bullets from gun at Shiv Kumar Pati Tiwari.   The  informant  and  the
      people with him fell down being injured.  Shiv Kumar Pati Tiwari  died
      and the accused persons fled away with his dead  body  towards  South.
      The informant had injuries on his right hand and back and  Ram  Tapsya
      Pati Tiwari had gun shot injury on his left eye, left ear and also  at
      nose.  The other villagers saw the incident.
      4)    The cause of the incident was that some days  ago,  the  accused
      persons had cut and stolen away the barbed wire of the  field  of  the
      informant upon which, they scolded the accused persons.
      5)    The informant stated that he had recognized the accused  persons
      in moon light and torch light. The injured persons  were  admitted  in
      Sadar Hospital, Siwan.
      6)    On 25.07.1991, at about 10.00 a.m., Mr. Mahender  Pandey,  Thana
      In-charge, after hearing about the incident, came in the Hospital  and
      recorded the statement of the deceased’s father in his  station  diary
      at entry No. 393.  Thereafter, sub-Inspector Mr. J.N. Prasad proceeded
      to inspect the scene of the crime, collected sample of  blood  stained
      earth etc. and recorded the statements of the witnesses.  At 1.00 p.m.
       Mr. A.A. Khan-Sub-Inspector recorded the statement of the  deceased’s
      uncle in the Hospital.
      7)    On the basis of the station diary  entry  No.393,  Sub-Inspector
      Mr. J.N. Prasad registered FIR No.42/1991 dated 25.07.1991 was  lodged
      against eight accused persons in Assaon Police Station.   The  accused
      persons were apprehended.
      8)     After  investigation,  charge-sheet  No.32/91  was   filed   on
      21.10.1991 against Ram Naresh Chaudhary, Balvinder Ahir,  Anil  Singh,
      Sukhraj Mallah, Chandreshwar  Kurmi,  Janardan  Ahir,  Naga  Bhar  and
      Dwarika Chaudhary.
      9)    Subsequently, a supplementary  charge-sheet  No.3  of  1992  was
      filed on 09.06.1992 against Anil Singh, Naga Bhar and Sukhraj  Mallah,
      Chandreshwar Kurmi, Janardan Ahir and Dwarika Chaudhary.
      10)   After cognizance on  17.09.1992,  the  trial  of  three  accused
      Sukhraj Mallah, Chandreshwar Ahir and Dwarika Chaudhary was separated.
       Thereafter the trial of Naga Bhar was also separated.
      11)   Thereafter, on the basis  of  original  charge  sheet,  Sessions
      Trial No.32/93 and on the basis  of  the  supplementary  charge  sheet
      Sessions Trial No.76/93  was  lodged.   Both  the  trials  were  tried
      12)   Charges were framed against  the  accused  persons.   Respondent
      Nos. 3 & 4  were  charged  with  offences  punishable  under  Sections
      201/302/34 IPC.  Respondent Nos. 2 & 5 were charged with the  offences
      punishable under Sections 323/324/325/307 IPC.  All the  four  accused
      were charged with the offences of rioting and committing  murder  with
      common object.   The prosecution examined 13 witnesses.
      13)   By judgment dated 17.09.2013, the Trial Court acquitted all  the
      accused persons of the offences charged against them.
      14)   Challenging the said judgment, the son  of  the  deceased  filed
      appeal before the High Court.
      15)   By impugned order, the High Court dismissed the appeal filed  by
      the appellant.
      16)   Hence, the appellant has filed this appeal  by  way  of  special
      leave petition before this Court.
      17)   Having heard the learned Counsel for the parties and on  perusal
      of the record of the case including perusing the  written  submissions
      filed by the respondents, we are inclined to allow the appeal in  part
      and remand the case to the High Court for hearing the appeal on merits
      afresh in accordance with law.
      18)   We are of the considered opinion that the  appeal  needs  to  be
      remanded to the High  Court  for  its  hearing  on  merits  afresh  in
      accordance with law. The need to remand the case has occasioned due to
      the reason that we find that  the  High  Court  dismissed  the  appeal
      cursorily and by a cryptic order.
      19)   The High Court though in the  impugned  order  referred  to  the
      evidence of some witnesses but neither referred  and  nor  appreciated
      much less discussed the entire evidence adduced by the prosecution  of
      as many as 13 witnesses in proper perspective. In other words, we find
      that the High Court  did  not  exercise  its  appellate  powers  while
      hearing the appeal in the manner it ought to have  and  dismissed  the
      appeal finding no fault in the order impugned before it  by  observing
      in its conclusion that since the view taken by the Sessions Court is a
      plausible view, the same does not call for  any  interference  by  the
      High Court.
      20)   It is true that the appeal before the High Court was against the
      acquittal order of the Sessions Judge whereby all the accused  charged
      for the offences punishable under Sections 302/34, 201 and 307 of  IPC
      stood acquitted yet, in our considered view, the law laid down by this
      Court  on the question of the powers  of  the  Appellate  Court  while
      hearing the appeal arising out of  acquittal  order  of  the  Sessions
      Judge in  Lalit Kumar Sharma & Ors. Vs. Superintendent &  Remembrancer
      of Legal Affairs, Govt. of West Bengal, 1989 Supp(2)  SCC  140  should
      have been kept in consideration by the High Court  while  hearing  the
      appeal and further the High Court should have called for the record of
      the case from the Trial Court as provided under Section 385 (2) of the
      Code which it seems was not called for.
      21)   It is apposite to quote the law laid down by this Court  in  the
      case of  Lalit Kumar  (supra).

           “8. Before dealing with the contentions raised by the respective
           learned counsel, we shall examine whether the  judgment  of  the
           trial court was manifestly  perverse  and  wholly  unreasonable,
           compelling the appellate court to step  in  with  the  order  of
           acquittal. It is now well settled that the power of an appellate
           court to review evidence in  appeals  against  acquittal  is  as
           extensive as its powers in appeals against convictions, but that
           power is with a note of caution that the appellate court  should
           be slow in interfering with the orders of acquittal unless there
           are compelling reasons to do so. This Court in Mathai Methews v.
           State of Maharashtra1 has pointed out that (SCC pp. 773-74, para
                 “if a finding reached by the trial Judge cannot be said  to
                 be an unreasonable finding, then the appellate court should
                 not disturb that finding even if it is possible to reach  a
                 different conclusion  on  the  basis  of  the  material  on
           Regarding the power of  the  appellate  court  in  dislodging  a
           finding of acquittal of a trial court,  there  are  plethora  of
           decisions, but we feel that it is not necessary for us to  refer
           to all those decisions because we are of the firm view that  the
           impugned judgment is liable to be set aside even on  the  ground
           that the appellate court has gone wrong  in  setting  aside  the
           order  of  acquittal  on  the  re-appraisal  of  the   available

      22)   As mentioned above, since the  High  Court  decided  the  appeal
      without keeping in view the law laid down by this Court quoted  supra,
      it has committed an error and hence it is not possible for this  Court
      to sustain the impugned order which deserves to be set aside.
      23)   This Court cannot  undertake  the  exercise  of  discussing  and
      appreciating the evidence as a first  Appellate  Court  and  secondly,
      having regard to the nature of charges  leveled  against  the  accused
      persons and the evidence adduced by the prosecution,  we  consider  it
      just and proper to request the High Court to decide the appeal  afresh
      on merits keeping in view the law laid down by this Court in the  case
      of Lalit Kumar Sharma (supra).
      24)   We have also  perused  the  written  submissions  filed  by  the
      respondents as permitted by the Court. However, we are  not  persuaded
      to accept the submissions of the respondents urged  in  their  written
      submissions for the reasons  mentioned  above.  In  our  opinion,  the
      cursory manner in which the High Court disposed of the appeal does not
      command us to uphold the impugned order.
      25)    In  any  event,  the  respondents  (accused)  would  have  full
      opportunity to place their case before the High Court  on  remand  and
      urge all their submissions in support of the  order  of  the  Sessions
      Judge on the merits.
      26)   Before parting with the case, we consider it proper to  make  it
      clear that we have not recorded any finding on the merits of the  case
      having formed an opinion to remand the case  to  the  High  Court  for
      hearing the appeal afresh on merits on the grounds mentioned above.
      27)   The High Court will, therefore, decide the  appeal  strictly  in
      accordance with law uninfluenced by any of our  observations  made  in
      this order.
      28)   In view of foregoing discussion,  the  appeal  succeeds  and  is
      accordingly allowed in part. Impugned order is set aside. The criminal
      appeal out of which this appeal arises is accordingly restored to  its
      original file to enable the  High  Court  to  decide  the  appeal,  as
      directed, expeditiously.

                                  [R.K. AGRAWAL]

                                [ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE]
      New Delhi;
      May 01, 2017

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