Chhi Ram Vs. State of Punjab  INSC
151 (2 September 1966)
02/09/1966 DAYAL, RAGHUBAR DAYAL, RAGHUBAR
CITATION: 1967 AIR 792 1967 SCR (1) 243
RF 1970 SC1330 (13)
Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (1 of 1872), ss.
133 and 114 ill.
(b)--Evidence of approver-Tests for.
The appellant was convicted of murder by the
Sessions Judge mainly on the evidence of the approver. The High Court, in
appeal did not consider it safe to rely on a part of the approver's evidence
which related to an earlier incident but found that his main story was reliable
as well as corroborated by other evidence. The conviction of the appellant was
upheld. In appeal before this Court by special leave, the appellant contended
that the double test for the approver's evidence laid down in Sarwan Singh's
case had not been correctly applied by the courts below.
HELD : The first test laid down in Sarwan
Singh's case is that the approver's evidence must show that he is a reliable
witness, and that is a test which is common to all witnesses. The test
obviously means that the court should find that there is nothing inherently
improbable in the evidence given by the approver and that there is no finding
that the approver had given false evidence. The second test which thereafter
still remains to be applied in the case of an approver, and which is not always
necessary when judging the evidence of other witnesses, is that his evidence
must receive sufficient corroboration. [247 H] In the present case the High
Court had held that the evidence of The approver was reliable and was
corroborated on material particulars by good prosecution witnesses who had been
believed by the Court. There was therefore no error in the judgment of the High
Court in upholding the conviction of the appellant. The fact that the High
Court did not accept the evidence of the approver relating to the earlier
incident did not mean that the Court hold the approver to be an unreliable or
untruthful witness. What it did was to act on the principle of valuing the
evidence of the approver with caution and not accepting it unless it was
corroborated at least in some material particulars. [246 D] Sarwan Singh v.
State of Rajasthan (19571 S.C.R. 923 explained and applied.
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal No. 177 of 1964.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated March 30, 1964 of the Punjab High Court in Criminal Appeal No. 85
B. K. Bannerjee AND N. N. Keswani, for the
B. K. Khanna AND R. N. Sachthey, for the
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Bhargava, J. The appellant, Lachhi Ram, has come up to this Court in this
appeal by special leave against the judgment of the High Court, of Punjab
upholding the conviction and sentence of 244 imprisonment for life awarded to
him under section 302 read with sections 109 and II 5 of the Indian Penal Code
by the Additional Sessions Judge of Gurgaon. Both the courts below have, on the
consideration of evidence, held that the appellant had enmity with the
complainant, Devi Ram, even though they were collaterals in the third or fourth
degree and their wives were sisters. There was a dispute between them about
payment of compensation of some land, and on July 28, 1958, the appellant had
sent a post-card to Devi Ram inquiring why he was delaying the payment of
compensation, asking him to act intelligently and sensibly, and telling him
that it was not good to forcibly usurp the share of ,others. Then, about six
months before the occurrence, which was the subject-matter of the charge, the
appellant and his brother Chet Ram visited Devi Ram in his village Tigaon and
made a demand in respect of the property, adding a threat that otherwise he
would have to pay heavily for the same. On January 27, 1962, when Devi Ram came
back to his house in the evening, his wife told him that a friend of his from
Rewari had sent some laddoos, peras and bananas through a person who had given
his name as Partap Singh. She further told him that Partap Singh had informed
her that the letter which he was asked to give with the sweets had been lost on
the way. Devi Ram's wife described that youngster, Partap Singh. Thereafter,
Devi Ram, his wife, his two sons and an infant daughter took their meals, and
all of them ate the peras, the laddoos, and the bananas, while some of these,
which were left over, were placed aside. At night, the infant daughter started
vomiting and passing loose motions, and this was followed by vomiting and
passing of loose motions by all the other members of the family. Devi Ram sent
for the village Vaid, Mohinder Singh, who came at about 4 a.m. and gave some
medicine with tea; but the condition of all the members of the family did not
The local doctor, Rajinder Singh, was then
sent for, but by the time he arrived, the infant daughter, Padam Wati, died.
The doctor removed all the persons to his
dispensary and from there sent them to a hospital in Faridabad in an ambulance.
Devi Ram's wife was removed from Faridabad to Irwin Hospital, Delhi, but she
also died on the 29th January, 1962. Devi Ram himself, however, recovered. The
matter was brought to the notice of the Police and on investigation, one Himmat
Singh, who turned the approver, was arrested. Himmat Singh then related the
story on the basis of which the appellant has been convicted.
According to Himmat Singh, after he passed
his Matriculation Examination in 1955, he remained in the employment of some
wine ,contractors in Ludhiana and later he took to motor driving for which he
obtained a licence in 1958. Then, he was looking for a job when he came to
Gurgaon, where he used to take his meals in the hotel of One Arjan Singh. He
got acquainted with the appe245 llant in that hotel as the appellant had his
shop opposite to it. The appellant was nice to him and arranged to get a house
for him at a monthly rental of Rs. 9/-. The appellant also started paying his
rent and expenses for the meals.
Thereafter, the appellant took him in his
confidence, told him that he wanted to get Devi Ram murdered, and offered money
if the approver helped him in accomplishing his purpose.The approver agreed. In
pursuance of this agreement, the approver once tried to kill Devi Ram by
shooting him with a pistol which he had obtained in an illicit manner, but
failed, After this failure, the appellant worked out this plan of buying
sweetmeats in which arsenic was to be mixed. On the 25th January, 1962, the
appellant told the approver that he had made all arrangements and promised to
pay him Rs. 800/if the approver did the job assigned to him. On the morning of
the 27th January, 1962, the appellant, accompanied by the approver, went and
purchased one seer of Laddoos and half a seer of Khoa from the shop of Dal
Chand, and sugar was purchased from the shop of one Jodha Ram. One dozen of
bananas were also purchased from a rehriwala. The appellant had already
procured white arsenic and he mixed it in the khoa and the sugar which he had
purchased, and prepared peras with it. Thereafter, the appellant gave to the
approver two bags containing the peras and the luddoos, and separately gave the
bananas. He paid Rs. 150/in cash and promised to pay the balance on conclusion
of the errand. The approver then took a bus for Tigaon and delivered the sweets
and the bananas to Devi Ram wife. Subsequently, when the approver asked for the
balance of the money, it was not paid to him, because Devi Ram survived and the
appellant went back on the contract on the ground that success had not been
achieved in his objective which was to commit the murder of Devi Ram. On these
facts disclosed by the approver and the prosecution evidence available, the
appellant was prosecuted and has now been convicted and sentenced as mentioned
The only point urged in this appeal before us
by learned counsel for the appellant was that the Sessions Judge as well as the
High Court did not apply the correct principles of law applicable to
appreciation of evidence of an approver. We find no force in this submission,
as the judgment of the High Court makes it quite clear that there was full
justification in this case for upholding the conviction of the appellant on the
basis of the approver's evidence as corroborated by other prosecution evidence.
The High Court has held that the approver's
statement with regard to the poisoning of Devi Ram and his family is reliable
and does not suffer from any improbabilities at all. It is true that Court did
not accept the version of the approver in respect of earlier attempt by him to
commit the murder of Devi Ram by shooting him with a pistol.
Dealing with this part of the case, the High
Court 246 held that it was not very much impressed with this story, and it was
apparent that the only witness, Sri Ramdutt, Advocate, who appeared in respect
of this incident, could not be expected to support the version of the approver
that the appellant had caught hold of four cartridges from him and given them
to the approver. It was also noticed that Advocate was acting as counsel for
the appellant in some criminal case which was pending agonist him for having
caused miscarriage. In these circumstances, the Court came to the finding that
the manner in which the pistol story had been related by the approver did not
carry much conviction and, therefore, it would not be safe to rely on the
evidence relating to this episode which should be left out of consideration.
The High Court thus did not choose to act on this evidence given by the
approver mainly on the ground that there was no corroboration and partly for the
reason that it appeared to the Court that the story was not very convincing.
The Court did not, however, come to any finding that the story put forward by
the approver was incorrect or false. What the Court did was to act on the
principle of valuing the evidence of an approver with caution and of not
accepting it unless it is corroborated at least in some material particulars.
The fact that the Court thus did not accept the evidence of the approver for
this part of the story does not mean that the Court held that the approver was
an unreliable or untruthful witness.
On the other hand, the view of that Court on
appreciation of the approver's own evidence is that he has given his statement
with regard to the entire manner in which the plot for poisoning was carried
out in such a manner that it is reliable and convincing. Further, the Court
found that his evidence was corroborated on very material particulars.
First, there was corroboration provided by
the entries in the register of the dealer from whom the appellant purchased
arsenic. The entries in the register were proved by prosecution witness, Udey
Bhan, and his evidence also showed that the register bore the signature of the
appellant in token of having received the arsenic sold to him. The appellant initially
denied that the signatures on the register were his, but, when later examined
under s. 342, Criminal Procedure Code, he admitted that his signatures had been
obtained on a register and that register was this very register produced by the
prosecution. He, of course, added that when his signature was taken, the
register was blank and no entries about sale of poison had been made. When he
originally denied his signature, the question arose of providing corroboration
of the evidence of Udey Bhan to strengthen the value of the entries in the
register by obtaining evidence to prove that the signature on the register
against the entry was really made by the appellant.
But, after the admission of the appellant
that the signature on that register had been obtained 247 from him, it became
unnecessary to bring further proof of the signature on the register. In these
circumstances, it cannot be held that the High Court committed any error in
holding that this register provided good evidence to prove that arsenic poison
was purchased by the appellant from the dealer Uday Bhan.
The High Court found that two witnesses, Dal
Chand and Jodha Ram corroborated the sale of laddoos and khoa to the appellant.
Thereafter, Sher Singh witness corroborated the statement of the approver that
he boarded the bus and that Devi Ram's house at the end of the bus journey was
pointed out to him by Sher Singh himself. Karnail Singh and Giasi Ram,
prosecution witnesses, also corroborated the approver's version of his journey
by bus. All of them identified the approver. They happened to remember the
approver's traveling by bus because the approver was a Sikh and yet he started
smoking and had to be told by the driver Kamail Singh to throw away the
cigarette. Thus, on very material points of the version given by the approver
there was corroboration by prosecution witnesses who were all found by the High
Court to be reliable.
It is true that there were some portions of
the story of the approver for which no corroborative evidence was available.
Learned counsel for the appellant pointed out
that there was no corroboration of the fact that it was the appellant who mixed
arsenic poison in the khoa, nor was there any corroboration of the approver's
statement that he himself handed over the sweets to Devi Ram's wife. This
submission ignores the natural sequence of events. When the poison was mixed
with the khoa, it could not be expected that the appellant would ensure
presence of other persons to see him mixing the poison. Naturally, the poison was
mixed at a time when there was no one else present, except the appellant
himself and the approver who was his accomplice and whom the appellant had
hired for the purpose of carrying out his scheme. At the later stage, when the
approver gave the sweets to Devi Ram's wife, no corroborative evidence could be
available, because Devi Ram's wife died of the poisoning; and again, there is
nothing to show that any other person was present when the sweets were
delivered by the approver.
It was held by this Court in Sarwan Singh v.
The State of Punjab (1) that an approver's evidence to be accepted must satisfy
two tests. The first test to be applied is that his evidence must show that he
is a reliable witness, and that is a test which is common, to all witnesses. The
test obviously means that the Court should find that there is nothing inherent
or improbable in the evidence given by the approver, and that there is no
finding that the approver has given false evidence. The second test which
thereafter still (1)  S.C.R. 953.
248 remains to be applied in the case of an
approver, and which is not always necessary when judging the evidence of other
witnesses, is that his evidence must receive sufficient corroboration. In the
present case, as we have pointed out above, the High Court has held that the
evidence of the approver was reliable and was corroborated on material
particulars by good prosecution witnesses who have been believed by the Court.
We are, therefore, unable to find any error in the judgment of the High Court
in upholding the conviction of the appellant.
In the result, the appeal falls and is