Bhagat Singh Vs. The Stategurdev Singh
 INSC 60 (19 December 1951)
FAZAL ALI, SAIYID MAHAJAN, MEHR CHAND AIYAR,
CITATION: 1952 AIR 45 1952 SCR 371
CITATOR INFO :
R 1963 SC1620 (15)
Criminal Procedure Code (V of 1898), s. 234
(1)--Misjoinder of charges--Firing single shot at two persons to kill
them--Whether one offence or two offences.
The appellant was tried in respect of the
following charges: (i) causing the death of A and thereby committing an offence
punishable under s. 302, Penal Code, (ii) firing a shot at B and 372 C with the
intention of causing their death and thereby committing an offence punishable
under s. 307, Penal Code, and (iii) firing a shot at D with the intention of
killing him and thereby committing an offence punishable under s. 307, Penal
Code. It was contended on his behalf that there was a misjoinder of charges as
the second charge was really a charge in respect of two offences viz., attempt
to murder B and attempt to murder C and the accused had therefore been charged
with, and tried for, more than three offences in contravention of s. 234 (1) of
the Criminal Procedure Code :.Held, that there was nothing wrong in the trial
as the single act of firing a shot at B and C is one offence and not two
offences and the trial was not bad for misjoinder of charges. [Their Lordships
however observed that they should not be understood as laying down the wide
proposition that in no case can a single act constitute more than one offence.]
Promotha Natha Roy v. King Emperor (17 C.W.N. 479), Johan Subarna v. King
Emperor (10 C.W.N. 520), Poonit Singh v. Madho Bhot (I.L.R. 13 Cal. 270) and
Sudheendra Kumar Roy v. Emperor (I.L.R. 60 Cal. 643) approved.
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal No. 38 of 1950. Appeal from the judgment and order of the High Court of
Patiala (Teja Singh C.J., and Gurnam Singh J.) dated 5th October, 1950, in
Criminal Appeal No. 28 of 1950, affirming the conviction and sentence of the
appellant by the Sessions Judge of Sangrur.
Gopal Singh and Kartar Singh, for the
Narinder Singh, Advocate General for the
Patiala and East Punjab States Union (Jindra Lal, with him) for the respondent.
Jai Gopal Sethi (R. L. Kohli, with him) for
1951. December 19. The Judgment of the Court
was delivered by FAZL ALl J.--This is an appeal against the judgment of the
High Court at Patiala upholding the conviction and sentence of the appellant,
who was tried by the Sessions Judge of Sangrut for the offence of murder and
sentenced to death.
373 The prosecution story is a somewhat long
and complicated one, but ignoring unnecessary details, the material facts may
be shortly stated as follows :-On the 5th October, 1949, there was a quarrel
between the appellant and one Darbara Singh, in the course of which the
appellant attacked the latter with a phawra (a cutting instrument). About that
time, Gurmail Singh, the deceased person, returned to his house, which was
close to the house of Darbara Singh, from his cotton field, where he had been
working, in order to take tea for his companions who were still working in his
field. The appellant asked Gutmail Singh to lend him a spear to enable him to
kill Darbara Singh, but since the latter refused to do so, there ensued a
quarrel between him and the appellant, in the course of which they exchanged
abuses and grappled with each other, and the fight was stopped only by the
intervention of certain persons present at the place. It appears that the
appellant was greatly affected by this quarrel, and thereafter he is said to
have armed himself with a rifle and attacked 3 persons in the vicinity of
Gurmail Singh's cotton field. He fired firstly at Kartar Singh, son of Satwan
Singh, while the latter was returning to his house from the field of Gutmail
Singh, but he was not hurt. Soon after that, while Gurmail Singh was returning
to his field after attending to his buffaloes in a garden which was nearby, the
appellant chased him and fired at him thereby causing his instantaneous death.
Lastly, he is said to have fired at Kartar Singh, son of Bishan Singh and one
Jangir Singh, while they were raising an alarm, but the bullet missed them.
Upon these allegations, the following three charges were framed against him :-"(1)
That you...... fired a shot at Gurmail Singh deceased with rifle P.I. with the
intention of killing him and caused his death and thereby committed an offence
punishable under section 302......
(2) That you...... fired a shot at Kartar
Singh and Jangir Singh with rifle P.I. with the intention of causing death and
made an attempt to cause their death 374 section 307.....
(3) That you....... fired a gun-shot at
Kartar Singh s/o Satwan Singh...... with the intention of killing him and made
an attempt to cause his death and thereby committed an offence punishable under
section 307..." It appears that the appellant was an Instructor in the
Home Guards. and the rifle which he is said to have used had been given to him
by his superior officer with 20 rounds of ammunition.
To support their version of the occurrence,
the prosecution examined 3 eye-witnesses whose evidence has been accepted by
both the courts below after careful scrutiny. The learned Sessions Judge
acquitted the appellant of the second and third charges under section 307 of
the Indian Penal Code, holding that there was no convincing evidence that the
appellant intended to murder Jangit Singh and the other 2 persons. He however
convicted him of the first charge under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code
and sentenced him to death, which sentence was later confirmed by the High
The learned counsel for the appellant had
very little to argue on the merits of the case, but he seriously contended that
there had been a misjoinder of charges which could not be tried together under
the law, and the illegality so committed had vitiated the whole trial of the
appellant. It appears that in the High Court, the line of argument on this
point was somewhat different from the line adopted in this court. What was
stressed in that court seems to have been that the three incidents in respect
of which the appellant was charged not having happened in the course of the
same transaction, they could not have been properly made the subject of one
trial, and for this contention reliance was placed mainly on section 235 (1)of
the Criminal Procedure Code, which provides that "if, in one series of
acts so connected together as to form the same transaction, more offences than
one are committed by the same person, he may be at one trial for, every such
offence." It should be noted 375 that that section is only one of the
exceptions to the general rule laid down in section 233 of the Code that for
every distinct offence, there shall be a separate charge and every such charge
shall be tried separately. In this court, no reference was made to section 235,
but the argument was confined to the question as to whether the present case
falls within another exception of section 23'3 which is contained in section
234 (1) which runs as 'follows :"When a person is accused of more offences
than one of the same kind committed within the space of twelve months from the
first to the last of such offences, whether in respect of the same person or
not, he may be charged with, and tried at one trial for any number of them not
exceeding three." It was argued before us that even though only 3 charges
have been framed against the appellant, he has in fact been tried for 4
offences and not 3. The 4 offences are said to be these :-(1) Committing the
murder of Gurmail Singh;
(2) Attempting to murder Kartar Singh, son of
(3) Attempting to murder Jangit Singh; and
(4) Attempting to murder Kartar Singh, son of Bishan Singh.
The learned counsel contended that the fact
that the appellant has been acquitted of the last 3 offences and convicted only
of the first offence was immaterial to the point raised by him, and we have
only to see whether all the offences mentioned above could be properly tried
In our opinion, the short reply to this
contention is that the second charge which relates to the appellant firing at
Kartar Singh and Jangir Singh is not a charge with respect to 2 offences but is
a charge with respect to one offence only. The evidence adduced by the
prosecution shows that the appellant fired only one bullet. The word
"offence" has been defined in the Criminal Procedure Code as meaning
"any act or omission made punishable by any law for the time being in
force". There seems to be 49 376 nothing wrong in law to regard the single
act of firing by the appellant as one offence only. On the other hand, we think
that it would be taking an extremely narrow and artificial view to split it
into 2 offences. There are several reported cases in which a similar view has
been taken, and in our opinion they have not been incorrectly decided. In Queen
Empress v. Raghu Rai(1), where a person stole several bullocks from the same
herdsman at the same time, it was held that only one offence had been
committed. In Promotha Nath Ray v. King Emperor(2), it was held that
misappropriation in regard to several account books constituted only one
offence. In Johan Subarna v. King EmPeror(3), it was held that when an attempt
to cheat a number of men by speaking to them in a body had been committed, one
joint charge was valid. In Poonit Singh v. Madho Bhot (4), it was held that
only one offence had been committed by a person who gave false information in
one statement to the police against 2 persons. In Sudheendrakumar Ray v.
Emperor(5), a person who was chased by 2 constables had fired at them several
times, but it seems to have been rightly assumed that the firing did not
constitute more than one offence, though the point was not specifically raised
or decided. In our opinion, there is no substance in the point raised, though
we should not be understood as laying down the wide proposition that in no case
can a single act constitute more than one offence.
The other points urged on behalf of the
appellant before us were somewhat unsubstantial points relating to the merits
of the case, which it is not usual for this court to allow to be raised in
appeals by special leave.
In our opinion, this appeal is without merit,
and it is accordingly dismissed.
Agent for the appellant: R.S. Narula.
Agent for the respondent: P.A. Mehta.
Agent for the caveator: Vidya Sagar.
(1) 1881 A.W.N. 154. (3) 10 C.W.N. 520.
(5)I.L.R, 60 Cal 643, (2) 17 C.W.N. 479. (4) I.L.R. 13 Cal. 270.