Sanwat Singh & Ors Vs. State of
Rajasthan  INSC 283 (9 December 1960)
IMAM, SYED JAFFER DAYAL, RAGHUBAR
CITATION: 1961 AIR 715 1961 SCR (3) 120
CITATOR INFO :
RF 1963 SC 200 (17) E 1965 SC 26 (4,6,14) R
1965 SC 257 (8) R 1966 SC1775 (4) RF 1967 SC1412 (5) R 1971 SC 460 (13) RF 1971
SC1977 (11) F 1972 SC 116 (22) RF 1972 SC 622 (28,32) R 1972 SC2020 (7) F 1972
SC2679 (8,9) R 1973 SC 55 (8) RF 1973 SC 399 (3) RF 1973 SC1204 (7) RF 1973
SC2241 (5,6) F 1973 SC2443 (19) RF 1973 SC2622 (7) R 1974 SC 286 (5) F 1974 SC
606 (7,9) R 1974 SC 902 (26) R 1979 SC 387 (9) R 1979 SC 391 (12) R 1986 SC 606
(15) R 1988 SC2154 (10)
Appeal-Against acquittal-Principles to be
followed-"Substantial and compelling reason"--Meaning and scope
of-Power of Court-Constitution of India, Art. 136.
There were two rival factions in a certain
village one consisting of Rajputs and the other of cultivators. On a particular
festival day both the groups went to a temple for worship and cultivators who
reached the temple first occupied a place therein which was usually occupied by
Rajputs. Subsequently Rajputs arrived and resented the occupation of the
sitting place by the cultivators. They shifted to a short distance and after holding
a brief conference came back to the temple and attacked the cultivators with
guns, swords and la this as a result of which several persons were injured and
two were killed. 43 persons alleged to have taken part in the rioting were put
up for trial before the Sessions judge for having committed offences under s.
302 read with s. 149 and s. 148 of the Indian Penal Code. The Sessions judge
held that a common object on the part of the accused to kill the cultivators
had not been established and that it had also not been proved beyond reasonable
doubt that the accused were guilty of a particular offence. On these findings
the Sessions judge acquitted all the accused. On appeal the High Court after
examining the entire evidence found some of the accused guilty of culpable
homicide not amounting to murder under S. 304 read with s. 149 and s. 148 of
the Indian Penal Code and sentenced them to various terms of imprisonment.
The appeal in respect of some other accused
was dismissed as no case had been made out against them beyond any reasonable
doubt On appeal by special leave against the conviction and sentence by the
High Court, Held, that the words "substantial and compelling reasons"
for setting aside an order of acquittal used by this Court in its decisions
were intended to convey the idea that an appellate court shall not only bear in
mind the principles laid down by the Privy Council in Sheo Swarup's case but
must also give its clear reasons for coming to the conclusion that the order of
acquittal was wrong.
The following results emanate from a
discussion of the case law on appeals against acquittal:(1)an appellate court
has full power to review the evidence upon which the order of acquittal is
founded; (2) the principles 121 laid down in Sheo Swarup's case afford a
correct guide for the appellate court's approach to a case disposing of such an
appeal; (3) the different phraseology used in the judgments of this Court, such
as (1) "substantial and compelling reasons", (II) "good and
sufficiently cogent reasons", and (III) "strong reasons", are
not intended to curtail the undoubted power of an appellate Court in an appeal
against acquittal to review the entire evidence and to come to its own
conclusion, but in doing so it should not only consider every matter on record
having a bearing on the questions of fact and the reasons given by the Court
below in support of its order of acquittal in arriving at a conclusion on those
facts, but should express the reasons in its judgment, which led it to hold
that the acquittal was not justified.
Sheo Swarup v. King Emperor, (1934) L. R. 61
I. A. 398, considered and followed.
Nur Mohammad v. Emperoy, A.I.R. 1945 P.C.
151, Surajpal Singh v. The State,  S.c.R. 193, Ajmer Singh v. The State
of Punjab,  S.C.R` 418, Puran v. State of Punjab, A.I.R. 1953 S.C. 459,
C. M. narayan v. State of Travancore-Cochin, A.I.R. 1953 S.C. 478, Tulsiram
The State, A.I.R. 1954 S.C. 1, Madan Mohan
Singh's case, A.I.R. 1954 S.C. 637, Zwinglee Ariel v. State of U. P., A.I.R.
1954 S.C. 15, Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh v. State of Vixdhya Pradesh, A.I.R. 1954
S.C. 322, S. A. A. Biyabani v. The State of Madras, A.I. R. 1954 S.C. 645,
Aher Raja Khima v. The State of Saurashtra,  2 S.C.R. 1285, Bhagwan Das
v. The State of Rajasthan, A.I.R. 1957 S.C. 589 and Balbir Singh v. State of
Punjab, A.I.R. 1957 S.C. 216, discussed.
The High Court approached the instant case
from a correct perspective and gave definite findings on a consideration of the
entire evidence, and in so doing it did not depart from any of the principles
laid down by the Privy Council in Sheo Swarup's case and also gave reasons for
holding that the acquittal was not justified.
Abdul Gani v. State of M. P., A.I.R. 1954
S.C. 31, referred to.
Although the powers of this Court under Art.
136 of the Constitution are very wide, interference is not permitted unless
"by disregard to the forms of legal process or some violation of the
principles of natural justice or otherwise, substantial and grave injustice has
been done," on questions of fact the practice of this Court is not to
interfere except in exceptional cases when the finding is such that it shocks
the conscience of this Court,
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal No. 119 of 1958.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated July 29, 1957, of the Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur, in Criminal
Appeal No. 42 of 1954.
16 122 B. L. Kohli and C. L. Sareen, for the
S. K. Kapur and D. Gupta, for the respondent.
1960. December 9. The Judgment of the Court
was delivered by SUBBA RAO, J.-This is an appeal by special leave against the
conviction and sentence by the High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan at
Jodhpur of the 9 appellants under s. 304, read with s. 149, and s. 148 of the
Indian Penal Code.
The 9 appellants, along with 34 other
persons, were accused before the Sessions Judge, Merta. Briefly stated the case
of the prosecution was as follows: There were two factions in village
Harnawa-one consisting of Rajputs and other of the cultivators of the village.
Admittedly there were disputes between these two factions in respect of certain
fields. At about 3-30 p.m. on October 31, 1951, the day after Diwali, popularly
known as Ram Ram day, both the groups went to a temple called Baiji-kathan. The
cultivators went first to the temple and sat in the place which was usually
occupied by the Rajputs. Subsequently when the Rajputs went there, they found
their usual sitting place occupied by the cultivators and took that as an
insult to them. Though they were invited by the pujari to sit in some other
place, they refused to do so and went to a banyan tree which was at a short
distance from the temple. There they held a brief conference and then returned
to the temple armed with guns, swords and lathies. The Rajputs fired a few
shots at the cultivators and also beat them with swords and lathies. As a
result, 16 of the cultivators received injuries and of these 6 received
gun-shot injuries, of which two persons, namely, Deena and Deva, succumbed to the
injuries. Out of the remaining 14 injured persons, 3 received grievous injuries
and the rest simple ones. Forty three persons, alleged to have taken part in
the rioting, were put up for trial before the Sessions Judge,, Merta, for
having committed offences under s. 302, read with s. 149, and s. 148 of the
Indian Penal Code. Five of the accused admitted their presence at the scene of
123 occurrence but pleaded that after they had made their customary offerings
at the temple and when they were returning they were attacked by the
cultivators. Others pleaded alibi.
The learned Sessions Judge held that it had
not been established that the accused had a common object to kill the
cultivators and that it had also not been proved beyond any reasonable doubt
that any of the accused was guilty of a particular offence. On these findings,
he acquitted all the accused.
On appeal the learned Judges of the High
Court found that the accused were members of an unlawful assembly, that they
were animated by a common object of beating the cultivators and that further
out of the 43 accused it had been clearly established that the appellants, who
are 9 in number, took part in the activities of the unlawful assembly. On that
finding they held that the accused were guilty of culpable homicide not
amounting to murder under s. 304, read with s.
149, Indian Penal Code; they also held that
appellants 1, 2, 3 and 4 were also guilty under s. 148 of the Indian Penal
Code, as they were armed with deadly weapons, and the rest under s. 147, Indian
Penal Code. For the offence under s. 304, read with s. 149, the appellants were
sentenced to ten years' rigorous imprisonment, and for the offence under s. 148,
appellants 1 to 4 were further sentenced to one year's rigorous imprisonment
and the rest under s. 147, to six months' rigorous imprisonment. Having
examined the entire evidence, they agreed with the learned Sessions Judge that
no case had been made out against the other accused beyond any reasonable
doubt. The appeal was, therefore, allowed in respect of the nine appellants and
dismissed in respect of the others Learned counsel for the appellants contended
that the Sessions Judge came to a reasonable conclusion on the evidence and
that the. High Court had no substantial and compelling reasons to take a
In recent years the words "compelling
reasons" have become words of magic incantation in every 124 appeal
against acquittal. The words are so elastic that they are not capable of easy
definition; with the result, their interpretation varied between two extreme
views-one holding that if a trial court acquitted an accused, an appellate
court shall not take a different view unless the finding is such that no
reasonable person will come to that conclusion, and the other accepting only
the conscience of the appellate court as the yardstick to ascertain whether
there are reasons to compel its interference. In the circumstances we think it
necessary to clarify the point.
The scope of the powers of an appellate court
in an appeal against acquittal has been elucidated by the Privy Council in Sheo
Swarup v. King-Emperor There Lord Russell observed at p. 404 thus:
"........ 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 Adverting to the facts of the case, the Privy Council
proceeded to state, "........ They have no reason to think that the High
Court failed to take all proper matters into consideration in arriving at their
conclusions of fact." These two passages indicate the principles to be
followed by an appellate court in disposing of an appeal against acquittal and
also the proper care it should take in reevaluating the evidence. The Privy
Council explained its earlier observations in Nur Mohammad v. Emperor (2) thus
at p. 152:
"Their Lordships do not think it
necessary to read it all again, but would like to observe that there really is
only one principle, in the strict use of the word, laid down there;
that is that the High (1) (1934) L.R. 61 I.A.
(2) A.I.R. 1945 P.C. 151.
125 Court has full power to review at large
all 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." These two decisions establish that the power of an appellate
court in an appeal against acquittal is not different from that it has in an appeal
against conviction; the difference lies more in the manner of approach and
perspective rather than in the content of the power. These decisions defining
the scope of the power of an appellate court had been followed by all the
courts in India till the year 1951 when, it is said, this Court in Surajpal
Singh v. The State (1) laid down a different principle. But a perusal of that
judgment does not bear out the construction which is very often placed thereon.
The passage relied upon is found at p. 201 and it reads thus:
"It is well-established that in an
appeal under section 417 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the High Court has
full power to review the evidence upon which the order of acquittal was
founded, but it is equally well settled that the presumption of innocence of
the accused is further reinforced by his acquittal by the trial court, and the
findings of the trial court which had the advantage of seeing the witnesses and
hearing their evidence can be reversed only for very substantial and compelling
reasons." On the facts of that case this Court held, "we are inclined
to hold that the Sessions Judge had taken a reasonable view of the facts of the
case, and in our opinion there were no good reasons for reversing that
view". We think that these observations are nothing more than a
restatement of the law laid down by the Privy Council and the application of
the same to the facts of the case before the Court. Though in one paragraph the
learned Judges used the words "substantial and compelling reasons"
and in the next paragraph the words "good reasons", these
observations were not intended to record any disagreement (1) S.C.R. 193.
126 with the observations of Lord Russell in
Sheo Swarup's case (1) as to matters a High Court would keep in view when
exercising its power under s. 417 of the Criminal Procedure Code. If it had
been so intended, this Court would have at least referred to Sheo Swarup's case
(1), which it did not.
The same words were again repeated by this
Court in Ajmer Singh v. The State of Punjab (2). In that case the appellate
court set aside an order of acquittal on the ground that the accused had failed
to explain the circumstances appearing against him. This court held that as the
presumption of innocence of an accused is reinforced by the order of acquittal,
the appellate court could have interfered only for substantial and compelling
reasons. The observations made in respect of the earlier decisions applied to
this case also. Mahajan, J., as he then was, delivering the judgment of the
court in Puran v. State of Punjab (3) again used the words "very
substantial and compelling reasons", but immediately thereafter the
learned Judge referred to the decision of Sheo Swarup's case(1) and narrated
the circumstances which an appellate court should bear in mind in interfering
with an order of acquittal.
This juxtaposition of the so-called formula
and the circumstances narrated in Sheo Swarup's case (1) indicate that the
learned Judge used those words only to comprehend the statement of law made by
the Privy Council. Mukherjea, J., as he then was, in C. M. Narayan v.State of
Travancore Cochin (4) again referred to the Privy Council decision and affirmed
the wide powerof an appellate court and also the proper approach in an appeal
against acquittal. The learned Judge did not introduce any further limitation
on the power of the appellate court. But it was observed that the High Court
had not clearly kept before it the well settled principles and reversed the
decision of the trial court 'without noticing or giving due weight and
consideration to important matters relied upon by that court'. In Tulsiram Kanu
v. The State (5) this (1) (1934) L.R. 61 I.A. 398.
(2)  S.C.R. 418.
(3) A I.R. 1933 S.C. 459.
(4) A.I.R. 1953 S.C. 478.
(5) A.I.R. 1954 8.C. I.
127 Court used a different phraseology to
describe the approach of an appellate court against an order of acquittal.
There the Sessions Court expressed that there was clearly reasonable doubt in
respect of the guilt of the accused on the evidence put before it. Kania, C.
J., observed that it required good and sufficiently cogent reasons to overcome
such reasonable doubt before the appellate court came to a different
conclusion. This observation was made in connection with a High Court's judgment
which had not taken into consideration the different detailed reasons given by
the Sessions Judge. In Madan Mohan Singh's case (1), on appeal by special
leave, this Court said that the High Court 'had not kept the rules and
principles of administration of criminal justice clearly before it and that
therefore the judgment was vitiated by non-advertence to and misapprehension of
various material facts transpiring in evidence and the consequent failure to
give true weight and consideration to the findings upon which the trial court
based its decision'. In Zwinglee Ariel v. State of M. P.
(2) this Court again cited the passage from
the decision of the Privy Council extracted above and applied it to the facts
of that case. In Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh v. State of Vindhya Pradesh(1),
Bhagwati, J., speaking for the Court, after referring to an earlier decision of
this Court, accepted the principle laid down by the Privy Council and, indeed,
restated the observations of the Privy Council in four propositions. It may be
noticed that the learned Judge did not use the words cc substantial and
compelling reasons". In S. A. A. Biyabani v. The State of Madras (4),
Jagannadhadas, J., after referring to the earlier decisions, observed at p. 647
"While no doubt on such an appeal the
High Court was entitled to go into the facts and arrive at its own estimate of
the evidence, it is also settled law that, where the case turns on oral
evidence of witnesses, the estimate of such evidence by the trial court is not
to be lightly set aside." (1) A.I.R. 1954 S.C. 637. (2) A.I.R. 1954 S.C.
(3) A I.R. 1954 S.C. 322. (4) A.I.R. 1954
128 The learned Judge did not repeat the
so-called formula but in effect accepted the approach of the Privy Council. The
question was again raised prominently in the Supreme Court in Aher Raja Khima
,"v. The State of Saurashtra(1). Bose, J., expressing the majority view,
stated at p. 1287 thus:
"It is, in our opinion, well settled
that it is not enough for the High Court to take a different view of the
evidence; there must also be substantial and compelling reasons for holding
that the trial court was wrong: Ajmer Singh v. State of Punjab (2); and if the
trial Court takes a reasonable view of the facts of the case, interference
under section 417 is not justifiable unless there are really strong reasons for
reversing that view." It may be noticed that the learned Judge equated
"substantial and compelling reasons" with "strong reasons".
Kapur, J., in bhagwan Das V. State of
Rajasthan(1) referred to the earlier decisions and observed that the High Court
should not set aside an acquittal unless there are " substantial and
compelling reasons" for doing so. In Balbir Singh v. State of Punjab (4),
this Court observed much to the same effect thus at p. 222:
"It is now well settled that though the
High Court has full power to review the evidence upon which an order of
acquittal is founded, it is equally well settled that the presumption of
innocence of the accused person is further reinforced by his acquittal by the
trial Court and the views of the trial Judge as to the credibility of the
witnesses must be given proper weight and consideration; and 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 must also be kept in mind and there must
be substantial and compelling reasons for the appellate Court to come to a
conclusion different from that of the trial Judge." These observations
only restate the principles laid down by this Court in earlier decisions. There
are (1)  2 S.C.R. 1285.
(2)  S.C.P. 418, 423.
(3) A.I. R. 1957 S.C. 689.
(4) A.I.R. 1957 S.C. 216.
129 other decisions of this Court where,
without discussion, this Court affirmed the judgments of the High Courts where
they interfered with an order of acquittal without violating the principles
laid down by the Privy Council.
There is no difficulty in applying the
principles laid down by the Privy Council, and accepted by this Court, to the
facts of each case. But appellate courts are finding considerable difficulty in
understanding the scope of the words "substantial and compelling
reasons" used by this Court in the decisions cited above. This Court
obviously did not and could not add a condition to s. 417 of the Criminal
Procedure Code. The words were intended to convey the idea that an appellate
court not only shall bear in mind the principles laid down by the Privy Council
but also must give its clear reasons for coming to the conclusion that the
order of acquittal was wrong.
The foregoing discussion yields the following
results: (1) an appellate court has full power to review the evidence upon
which the order of acquittal is founded; (2) the principles laid down in Sheo
Swarup's case(1) afford a correct guide for the appellate court's approach to a
case in disposing of such an appeal; and (3) the different phraseology used in
the judgments of this Court, such as, (i) "substantial and compelling
reasons", (ii) "good and sufficiently cogent reasons", and (iii)
"strong reasons" are not intended to curtail the undoubted power of
an appellate court in an appeal against acquittal to review the entire evidence
and to come to its own conclusion; but in doing so it should not only consider
every matter on record having a bearing on the questions of fact and the
reasons given by the court below in support of its order of acquittal in its
arriving at a conclusion on those facts, but should also express those reasons
in its judgment, which lead it to hold that the acquittal was not justified.
With this background we shall now look at the
judgment of the Sessions Judge and that of the High (1) (1934) L.R. 61 I.A.
17 130 Court to ascertain whether the High
Court anywhere departed from the principles laid down by the Privy Council.
The framework of the judgment of the learned
Sessions Judge may be shortly stated thus: The first question was whether the
case of the prosecution that the Rajputs met. under a banyan tree, conspired to
beat the Jats and came back to the temple armed with weapons was true. This
fact was spoken to by several eve-witnesses, including Goga (P.W. 1), Chandra
(P.W. 2) and Doongar Singh (P.W. 21). This fact was also mentioned in the First
Information Report lodged by Doongar Singh (P.W. 21). There were 20
eyewitnesses who spoke about the conspiracy; and, out of them, P.Ws. 5, 8, 9,
11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18. 19. 24 and 25 received injuries during the riot.
The learned Sessions Judge considered the
evidence of P.Ws.
1 and 2 and rejected it on unsubstantial
grounds and on the basis of insignificant discrepancies. Therefter, he noticed
that all the other eye-witnesses, with slight and inconsequential variations,
spoke to the fact of their returning from the banyan tree with lathies, swords and
guns' but he did not give a definite finding whether he accepted that evidence
or not, though at the fag end of the judgment he found that he could not hold
that the assembly of Rajputs had any common object of killing anybody. Then the
learned Sessions Judge proceeded to consider whether any of the Rajputs were
recognized by any of the witnesses. He divided the accused into three groups,
namely, (i) those accused who were amongst the Rajputs when they had come for
darshan of Baiji, (ii) those accused who were amongst the Rajputs when they
returned from the banyan tree but for whom the evidence of taking part in the
actual rioting is divided, and (iii) those accused for whom most of the eyewitnesses
have stated that they had committed rioting and inflicted injuries on the
assembly of cultivators. Taking the first group, the learned Sessions Judge,
for the reasons given by him earlier, rejected the evidence of Goga and
Chandra, pointed out that 28 accused had not been named unanimously by all the
eye-witnesses, 131 noticed that there was long standing enmity between the
Rajputs and the cultivators, and laid down a criterion that, for determining
the presence of any particular accused, there should be an allegation against
him about doing any overt act in the unlawful, assembly. By applying the said
yardstick he held that none of the accused falling in the first group, which
included appellants 7, 8 and 9, was guilty of the offences with which they were
charged. Coming to the second category, with which we are not concerned in this
appeal, the learned Sessions Judge again applied the test that an overt act
should be proved against each of the accused and held that no case had been
made out against them. Adverting to the third group, after noticing that 12 of
the eye-witnesses were those who received injuries, the learned Sessions Judge
applied another test for accepting their evidence. In effect and substance the
test adopted by him was that an accused identified only by one witness and not
proved to have done any overt act should be acquitted by giving him the benefit
of doubt. Applying this test to the said witnesses he held that the said
accused were not guilty. After considering the evidence in the aforesaid
manner, he came to the following final conclusion:
"I cannot hold that the assembly of
Rajputs had any common object of killing anybody. All happened at the spur of
the moment. Those Rajputs who took part in the rioting have not been truthfully
named. Innocent persons have been implicated and the cases of those persons who
are alleged to have committed any overt acts are also full of doubts." On
appeal the learned Judges of the High Court, as already stated, allowed the
appeal in respect of the 9 appellants and dismissed it in regard to the others.
The learned Judges of the High Court observed that it had not the slightest
hesitation in holding that the case put forward by the prosecution, by and
large, represented the substantial truth and that the incidents at the banyan
tree were true.
They pointed out that the reasons given by
the Sessions Judge for not believing the evidence of the main witnesses, Goga
132 and Chandra, who spoke as to what happened at the banyan tree, could not be
sustained and that the alleged discrepancies and contradictions in their
evidence were not such as to detract from truthfulness. We have also gone
through the evidence of Goga and Chandra and we entirely agree with the
observations of the learned Judges of the High Court that their evidence was
natural and consistent and that the alleged discrepancies pointed out by the
Sessions Judge were not either contradictions at all or, even if they were so,
they were so trivial as to affect in any way their veracity. The learned Judges
further pointed out that the evidence of Goga and Chandra was supported by the
evidence of Doongar Singh (P. W. 21), a police constable, who gave the First
Information Report at the earliest point of time. The recitals in the First
Information Report corroborate his evidence. The learned Judges then indicated
that this version was practically supported by other eve witnesses and that
they did not see any reason why it should have been invented, if it was not
true. Having regard to the said evidence, they found themselves entirely unable
to accept the conclusion of the learned trial Judge that this was a case where
a stray beating was given by some individuals on the side of the Rajputs to
some individuals on the Bide of the Jats. They found that the Rajputs were
members of an unlawful assembly and that they were all animated by a common
object of beating the cultivators.
Having held that the learned Sessions Judge
was clearly wrong on the question of unlawful assembly, the learned Judges
proceeded to consider the case of each accused.
They adopted the following principle, based
upon the decision of this Court in Abdul Gani v. State of M. P. (1):
"We quite recognise that in a case of
rioting where two inimical factions are involved, exaggerations are bound to be
made, and some innocent persons are likely to be falsely implicated; but all
the same, it is the duty of the courts not to throw out the whole case by
following the easy method of (1) A.I.R. 1954 S.C. 31.
133 relying on discrepancies, and, where the
case for the prosecution is substantially true, to find out if any of the
accused participated, in the offence, and if their presence is established
beyond all reasonable doubt, punish them for the offences committed by
them." They found, on the evidence, that appellant 1, Sanwat Singh, who
was present on the spot was a member of the unlawful assembly and had actually
struck Sheonath with his sword as a result of which his three fingers were cut;
that appellant 2, Dhan Singh, was one of the persons who took a leading part in
the beating; that appellant 3, Mangej Singh, was undoubtedly one of the
participants in the unlawful assembly; that appellant 4, Kalu Singh, was armed
with a sword and attacked the Jats and that his version that he had been first
attacked by the Jats was not true; that appellant 5, Narain Singh, was one of
the members of the unlawful assembly and that he had given beatings to P.W. 25;
that appellant 6, Gulab Singh, struck Sheokaran Jat with lathies;
and that appellant 7, Sabal Singh, appellant
8, Baney Singh, and appellant 9, Inder Singh, who admitted their presence at
the spot but stated that they were attacked by the Jats, were clearly
participators in the beating. As regards the other accused, the learned Judges,
having examined the entire evidence, agreed with the Sessions Judge in holding
that no case had been made out against those accused beyond all reasonable
doubt. So far as these accused are concerned there is no evidence to show that
any of them had a weapon or that they had taken any active part in assaulting
one or other of the Jats. In the result, the learned Judges of the High Court
found that the appellants formed an unlawful assembly to beat the Jats and that
they must have known that murders were likely to be committed in prosecution of
that common object. On that finding, they convicted and sentenced the
appellants as stated earlier in the judgment.
Now, can it be said that, as learned counsel
for the appellants argues, the Judges of the High Court had ignored any of the
principles laid down by the Privy 134 Council and subsequently accepted by this
Court? We think not.
The foregoing analysis of the findings of the
two courts discloses the following facts: The Sessions judge, on the general
case of the prosecution that the Rajputs, chagrined by the attitude of the Jats
in occupying their usual place in the temple, went to the banyan tree,
conferred for a short time and came back to the temple to attack the Jats,
rejected the evidence of the main witnesses for the prosecution, namely, Goga,
Chandra and Doongar Singh, on grounds which do not stand a moment's scrutiny
and ignored the voluminous evidence, which corroborated the evidence of the
said three witnesses, without giving valid or acceptable reasons for the same.
The learned Sessions Judge did not even give a definite finding on this version
of the prosecution case, though impliedly he must be deemed to have rejected
it. In regard to the individual cases he divided the witnesses into three
categories, and, applying mechanical tests, refused to act upon their evidence.
The High Court rightly pointed out that there was no reason why the voluminous
evidence in support of the general case and why the evidence of the three
witnesses, Goga, Chandra and Doongar Singh, should be rejected. The learned
Judges of the High Court accepted their evidence, which conclusively
established that the general case was true and that the appellants actually
took active part in attacking the Jats with swords and lathies. In doing so,
the learned Judges did not depart from any of the principles laid down by the
Privy Council. Indeed, they interfered with the judgment of the Sessions Judge,
as they came to the conclusion that, the said judgment, in so far as the
appellants were concerned, was clearly wrong and contrary to the overwhelming
and reliable evidence adduced in the case. The learned Judges of the High
Court, in our opinion, approached the case from a correct perspective and gave
definite findings on a consideration of the entire evidence.
The question now is, whether the appellants
have made out any case for interference with the judgment of the High Court
under Art. 136 of the Constitution.
135 Article 136 of the Constitution confers a
wide discretionary power on this Court to entertain appeals in suitable cases
not otherwise provided for by the Constitution. It is implicit in the reserve
power that it cannot be exhaustively defined, but decided cases-, do not permit
interference unless "by disregard to the forms of legal process or some
violation of the principles of natural justice or otherwise, substantial and
grave injustice has been done". Though Art.
136 is couched in widest terms, the practice
of this Court is not to interfere on questions of fact except in exceptional
cases when the finding is such that it shocks the conscience of the court. In
the present case, the High Court has not contravened any of the principles laid
down in Sheo Swarup's case (1) and has also given reasons which led it to hold
that the acquittal was not justified. In the circumstances, no case has been
made out for our not accepting the said findings.
In the result, the appeal fails and is