Piara Singh Vs. State of Punjab 
INSC 3 (8 January 1969)
08/01/1969 RAMASWAMI, V.
CITATION: 1969 AIR 961 1969 SCR (3) 236 1969
SCC (1) 379
CITATOR INFO :
R 1974 SC 28 (4) RF 1977 SC 472 (6) R 1979
SC1761 (5) RF 1988 SC 672 (7)
issue-estoppel-Approver's evidence, value of.
The appellant and S were, charged for an
offence under s. 302 I.P.C: and under the Explosive Substances Act. The
prosecution relied upon the evidence of the approver. The approver's statement
was corroborated, (a) by the recovery of a piece of cloth which was part of the
same cloth used in the clime, (b) by the evidence of that the box was made for
the appellant, and (c) by the evidence regarding despatch of the parcel by the
appellant. The Sessions Judge convicted the appellant and S, against which both
The conviction of the appellant was upheld by
the High Court, as it considered that the statement of the approver was
corroborated by the evidence of other witnesses so far the,appellant was
concerned. But the High Court acquitted S being of the view that there was no
independent corroboration of the approver's evidence which lead to the
inference that S was instrumental in the commission of the crime. In appeal to
this Court, the appellant contended that (i) the affect of acquittal of S was
to, weaken, if not to destroy, the approver's evidence so far as it concerned
the appellant, relying on the principles of issue-estoppel;
and (ii) there was no corroboration of the
approver's evidence so far as the appellant was concerned. Dismissing the
HELD : (i) For the principle of
issue-estoppel to arise, there must have been distinctly raised and inevitably
decided the same issue in the earlier proceedings between the same parties. But
the principle cannot be invoked in the present case because the parties are
different and the decision upon any issue as between State and S, in the same
litigation cannot operate as binding upon the 'State with regard to the present
appellant. [242 D-E] Pritam Singh v. State of Punjab, A.I.R. 1956 S.C. 415. and
Manipur Administration v. Thokchom Bira Singh,  7 S.C.R. 123, followed.
Sambasivam v. Public Prosecutor, Federation
of Malaya,  A.C. 458, King v. Wilkes, 77 C.L.R. 511 at pp. 518519, Marz
v. The Queen, (1956) 96 C.L.R. 62, Again in Brown v, Robinson, (1960) SR.
(N.S.W.) 297, 301, applied.
(ii)The application of approver's evidence
has to satisfy a double test. His evidence must show that he is a reliable
witness and that is a test which is common to all the witnesses. If this test
is satisfied the second test which still remains to be applied is that the
approver's evidence must receive sufficient corroboration. It would not
however, be right to expect that such independent corroboration should cover
the whole of the prosecution case. In the present case, the High Court had
rightly applied this Principle and reached the conclusion that the approver's
evidence was materially corroborated so far as the appellant was concerned.
[243 A-C] 237 Sarwan Singh v. State of Punjab, A.I.R. 1957 S.C. 637, followed.
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeals NO. 158 and 197 of 1968.
Appeals by certificate/special leave from the
judgment and order dated November 3, 1967 of the Punjab and Haryana High Court
in Criminal Appeal No. 602 of 1967 and Murder Reference No. 45 of 1967.
J.P. Mitter, J. C. Talwar and R. L. Kohli for
the, appellant (in both the appeals).
Kartar Singh Chawla and R. N. Sachthey, for
the, respondent (in both the appeals).
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Ramaswaini, J. The appellant Piara Singh and one Nand Lal Sehgal were tried
together by the Sessions Judge of Kapurthala, who by his judgment dated 1st
July, 1967 convicted the appellant under section 302 I.P.C. and sentenced him
to death. The appellant was also Convicted and sentenced to 5 years' rigorous
imprisonment under section 3 of the Explosive Substances Act and to 5 years'
rigorous imprisonment under section 326 of the Indian Penal Code. Nand Lal
Sehgal was sentenced to life imprisonment under section 302 read with sections
109 and 113, I.P.C. and to 5 years' rigorous imprisonment under section 4 of
the Explosive Substances Act. Both the convicted persons filed appeals in
the.Punjab and Haryana High Court, viz. Criminal Appeal No. 602 of 1967 and 601
of 1967. The State of Punjab also filed a criminal revision No. 1006 1967 for
enhancement. of sentence of Nand Lal Sehgal. By a of common judgment dated 3rd
November, 1967, the High Court dismissed the appeal of the appellant and
confirmed the sentence of death imposed upon him. The High Court, however,
acquitted Nand Lal Sehgal by allowing his appeal and dismissed the revision
petition filed by the State of Punjab. These are two appeals one by certificate
and the other by special leave on behalf of the appellant Piara Singh against
the judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court dated 3rd November, 1967.
The case, of the prosecution was that one Ram
Sahai P.W, 19, who was the organising Secretary of Jagatjit Kapra Mills.
Mazdoor Union, Phagwara, had proceeded on
hunger strike from 1st October; 1966 in front of the gate of the Jagatjit
Textile-Mills, Phagwara (hereinafter called the Mills) in order to compel the management
to accept certain demands of that Union regarding dearness allowance, gratuity.
for reemployment of the labourers who had been turns out of service and the
like. The hunger strike of, Ram Sahai was supposed to last till death or the
acceptance of the 238 demands by the Mills whichever was earlier. A tent had
been fixed outside the gate of the Mills and Ram Sahai used to sit on a cot
under the tent. On 4th October, 1966, at 1.45 p.m. Ram Labhaya, Postman, P.W.
31 came there with a registered parcel addressed to Ram Sahai. On the parcel
being opened, a bomb inside it exploded, as a result of which Radhey Sham,
Shadi Lal and Charanjit Lal died and P.W.
1 1 Chanan Singh, P. W. 14 Moti Lal, P.W. 16
Madhu Parshad, P.W. 17 Tara Singh, P.W. 18 Ram Dass, P.W. 20 Muni Lal and P.W.
21 Naunihal Singh received injuries. It is alleged for the prosecution that
tile parcel had been despatched by the appellant from Amritsar at the instance
of Nand Lal Sehgal and that the approver Mohinder Singh had helped the appellant
in preparing the parcel containing the bomb.
The first clue in connection with the crime
was obtained by the police on 8th October, 1966 when at about 4.00 p.m., P.W.
25 Amrik Singh, a resident of Amritsar appeared before Sub-Inspector
Mohinderpal Singh. P.W. 59 and made a statement that he had known Piara Singh
before and was friendly with him, that on 3rd October, 1966, Piara Singh who
was carrying a Jhola, which appeared to contain something bulky, met him and.
in response to an invitation for tea, told Amrik Singh that he was in a hurry
to go for some work. Three or four days later, Amrik Singh read in a newspaper
regarding explosion of a bomb near the Textile Mills Phagwara On the 7th
October, 1966, Sri Niwas, P.W. 27 who', is a deed writer, met him and told him
that Piara Singh had despatched a parcel from Amritsar.
The most important witness in the case, is
Mohinder Singh, P.W. 8 who was tendered pardon under section 337 of the Code of
Criminal Procedure by the District Magistrate, Kapurthala. The evidence of
approver is to the effect that he was working in the Mills since 1951 and three
or four years later Piara Singh also joined service in that Mills and was
working as his subordinate. Piara Singh developed cordial relations with Nand
Lal Sehgal and used to assist him in breaking up labour strikes. One and a half
months before the occurrence, Piara Singh came to the approver's residence and
told him that Sehgal wanted one Ram Singh who Was employed in the Textile
Mills. Ganga Nagar, to be killed, Piara, Singh suggested the device of sending
a bomb in a parcel to the victim and when the parcel would be opened, the bomb
would explode. About 15 days before the incident, Piara Singh again came to the
approver and told him that he had secured a bomb and he wanted to get prepared
two wooden boxes, one smaller in size. than the other. The approver and Piara
Singh thereafter went to the shop of Nazar Singh P.W.22 a carpenter of
Phagwara, who made the box. Later in the evening they went to of Gian Singh,
23 a carpenter of village Chachoki,which is
said to be half a mile from Phagwara. Piara Singh got prepared 239 from him six
pieces of phaties of raw wood. After it had become dark, Piara Singh brought to
the approvers house these articles as also a bomb saying that he had removed
the fuse of the bomb so that if it should fall, it may not explode. On 2nd
October, 1966 Piara Singh came to the approver's house at 10 pm. and informed
him of Sehgal's intention that the bomb should now be sent so as to explode at
Ram Sahai who was the leader of the strikers at Phagwara.
Piara Singh thereafter prepared a wooden box
from the six pieces' of phaties. The, approver described the arrangement, for
packing the bomb as follows:"Placing the fuse in the bomb after removing
the pin and placing a wire in its place, we placed it in that ,box. Then the
box was closed and the lid was placed on it with Kabza and Kundi. In that Kundi
a nut was placed and a bolt was fitted in it so that the box may not open. Then
the box was also tied with strings so that the Phaties may not give way on
account of the pressure of the lever. Then from the hole, which was on one side
of the box corresponding to, the wire fitted in the bomb, the wire was pulled
out. Then that wooden box was placed in the bigger box.
Piara Singh accused had brought with him a
piece of Khaddar cloth and a parcel was made of the bigger box in that cloth.
The pieces of Khaddar which were spare placed in between the two boxes so that
the smaller box may not move inside the bigger box. Because of the spare pieces
of cloth were not sufficient so I gave two shirts of my children to Piara
Those shirts were of Poplin of blue colour.
Piara Singh tore one shirt into pieces and
placed those pieces also in between those boxes. Before the parcel was prepared
in the Khaddar cloth the bigger box was secured with nails." At, about 1
a.m. the approver and Piara Singh went to the house of Sehgal and explained to
him how they had prepared the parcel. Piara Singh told Sehgal that when Ram
Sahai would open the parcel the bomb would explode and he would die. made over
a sheet of paper to Piara Singh on which was written the address of Ram Sahai.
Sehgal also gave Rs. 40/to Piara Singh for expenses and instructed him that the
parcel had to. be sent through the Post Office at Amritsar.
Next day on 3rd October, 1966 Piara Singh
came to the approver in the morning carrying a Jhola in which he placed the
parcel containing the wooden box. The approver took Nara Singh to the Railway
Station Phagwara. In the evening Piara Singh returned at about 6 p.m. and told
the approver that he had got the parcel despatched as directed by Sehgal from
Am where he a so met Amrik Singh. Both of them then went to the house of Sehgal
and 240 Piara Singh banded over the registration receipt to him saying that it
should be destroyed. At about 2 p.m. on the next day, i.e, 4th October, 1966,
the approver learnt about the explosion of the bomb, The High Court considered
that the statement of the approver Was sufficiently corroborated by the
evidence of Nazar Singh P.W. 22, Gian Singh P.W. 23, Sardara Singh P.W. 24,
Amrik Singh P.W. 25 and Sri Niwas P.S. 27 so far as the appellant was
'Concerned. The High Court accordingly held that charges under Ss. 302 and 326,
I.P.C. and section 3 of the Explosive Substances Act were established against
the appellant. As regards Nand Lal Sehgal the High Court took the view that
there was no independent corroboration of the approver's evidence which could
reasonably lead to the inference that Sehgal was instrumental in the commission
of the crime. The High Court, therefore, acquitted Nand Lal Sehgal.
In support of his appeal Mr. Mitter
contended, in the first place, that by reason of the acquittal of Nand Lal
Sehgal the evidence given in the case concerning Nand Lal Sehgal must be
totally rejected. It was contended that the evidence of the approver so far as
it concerns Nand Lal Sehgal must be eliminated. In other words, the argument
was that the effect of acquittal of Nand Lal Sehgal was to weaken if not to
destroy the approver's evidence so far as it concerns the appellant also In
this connection Mr. Mitter relied upon the principle of issue-estoppel and
referred to the decision of the Judicial Committee in Sambasivam v. Public
Prosecutor, Federation of Malaya,(1), and the decision of this Court in Pritam
Singh v. State of Punjab,(2) and Manipur Administration v. Thokchom Bira
Singh("). In our opinion, there is no justification for this argument. It
is true that Nand Lal Sehgal was acquitted by the High Court which took the
view that the evidence of the approver was not corroborated so far as Nand Lal
Sehgal was concerned. But there is no finding of the High Court that the
approver had implicated Nand Lal. Sehgal falsely. The High Court considered
that there was no legal corroboration of the approver's evidence as regards
Nand Lal Sehgal and in the absence of such corroboration it was not safe to
upheld the conviction of Sehgal. That is a different thing from saying that the
Court found that the approver's evidence regarding the participation of Nand
Lal Sehgal is false. In any event, the principle of issueestoppel has no
application to the present case. It should be stated that the principle' of
issue-estoppel is different from the principle of double jeopardy or autre fois
acquit as embodied in S. 403 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The principle (1),
 A.C.458. (2) A 1956 S.C. 415.
(3)  7 S.C.R. 123.
241 of issue-estoppel is a different
principle, viz. where an issue of fact has been tried by a competent court on a
former occasion and a finding has been reached in favour of an accused, such a
finding would constitute an estoppel or res judicata against the prosecution
not as a bar to the trial and conviction of the accused for a different or
distinct offence but as precluding the reception of evidence to disturb that
finding of fact when the accuses is tried subsequently even for a different
offence which might be permitted by the terms of s. 403(2), Cr.P.C. Speaking on
the principle of estoppel Dixon, J. said in King v. Wilkes(1) "Whilst
there is not a great deal of authority upon the subject, it appears to me that
there is nothing wrong in the view that there is an issue-estoppel, it it
appears by record of itself of as explained by proper evidence, that the same
point was determined in favour of a prisoner in a previous criminal trial which
is brought in view on a second criminal trial of the same. prisoner. that seems
to be implied in the language used by Wright, J. in R. v. Ollis which in effect
I have adopted in the foregoing statement...... There must be a prior
proceeding determined against the Crown necessarily involving an issue which
again arises in a subsequent proceeding by the Crown against the same prisoner.
The allegation of the Crown in the subsequent proceeding must itself be
inconsistent with the acquittal of the prisoner in the previous proceeding. But
if such a condition of affairs arises I see no reason why the ordinary rules of
issue estoppel should not apply. Such rules are not to be confused with those
of res judicata, which in criminal proceedings are expressed in the pleas of
autre fois acquit and autre fois convict. They are pleas which are concerned
with. the judicial determination of an alleged criminal liability and in the
case of conviction with the substitution of a new liability. Issue-estoppel is
concerned. With the judicial establishment of a proposition of law or fact
between parties. It depends upon.
well known doctrines which control the
reltigation of issues which are settled by prior litigation." In a
subsequent case Marz v. The Queen(2), Dixon, C.J.
stated as follows :"The law which gives
effect to issue-estoppels is not concerned with the correctness or
incorrectness of the finding Which amounts to an estoppel still less with the
processes of reasoning by which the finding was reached in fact....... It is
enough that an issue or issues (1) 77 C.L.R. 511 a, pp. 518-519.
(2)  96 C.L.R. 62.
242 have been directly raised and found. Once
that is I done, then, so long as the finding stands, if there by any subsequent
litigation between the same parties, no allegations legally, inconsistent with
the finding may be made by one of them against the other, Res judicate pro veritate
accipitur. And ....
this applies in pleas of the Crown."
Again in Brown v. Robinson(1) Herron and Maguire, JJ. said "Before
issue-estoppel can succeed in a case such as this there must be prior
proceeding determined against the Crown necessarily involving an issue which
again arises in a subsequent proceeding by the Crown against the same prisoner
.... It depends upon an issue or issues having been distinctly raised and found
in the former proceeding".
The principle of issue-estoppel has received
the approval of this Court in Pritam Singh v. State of Punjab (2) and Manipur
Administration v. Thokchom Bira Singh (3) and several later decisions. But the
principle cannot be invoked in the present case because the parties are
different and the decision upon any issue as between State and Nand Lal Sehgal
in the same litigation cannot operate as binding upon the State with regard to
For issue-estoppel to arise there must have
been distinctly raised and inevitably decided the same issue in the earlier
proceedings between the same parties'. 'In our opinion, mr.
Mitter is unable to make good his argument on
this aspect of the case.
It was then contended on behalf of the
appellant that there was no corroboration of the approver's evidence so far as
he was concerned. An accomplice is undoubtedly a competent witness under the
Indian Evidence, Act. There can be, however, no doubt that the very fact that
he has participated in the commission of the offence introduces a serious taint
in his evidence and Courts are naturally reluctant to act on such tainted
evidence unless it is corroborated in material particulars by other
independent, evidence. It would not, however, be right to expect that such
independent corroboration should cover the whole of the prosecution case or
even all the material particulars of the prosecution case. If such a view is
adopted it will render the evidence of the accomplice wholy superfluous. On the
other hand, it will not be safe to act upon such evidence merely because it is
corroborated in minor particulars or incidental, details because, in such, a
case, corroboration does not afford the necessary assurance that the (1) 
S.R.(N.S.W.)297,301. (2) A.I.R. 1956 S.C. 415.
(3) 7 S.C.R. 123.
243 main story disclosed by the approver can
be, reasonably and safely accepted as true'. It is well settled that the
appreciation of approver's ',evidence has to satisfy a double test. His
evidence must show that he is reliable witness and, that is a test which is
common to all the witnesses. If this test is satisfied the second test, which
still remain to be applied is that the approver's' evidence must receive
sufficient corroboration. (See Sarwan Singh v.
State, of Punjab) (1). In the present case
the High Court has rightly applied this, principle and reached the conclusion
that the approver's evidence was materially corroborated so far as the
appellant was concerned. In the first place, the approver, said that while
going from his house when he fled from Phagwara, he had thrown the remaining
pieces of the shirt in a cluster of sarkandas. As a result of search A.S.I.
Pritam Singh recovered torn pieces of cloth Exs. P.9/ 11 to P. 9/ 3 from a bush
about 150 yards, from the Mill. The testimony of the expert Mr.
Longia P.W. 7 shows that Exs. P. 9/1 to P.
9/3 were parts of the same cloth as pieces Exs. P. 10/1 to P. 10/3 which were
used for Dacking the bomb between the inner and the outer boxes. If the
approver was not a participant to the packing of the hand grenade, he could not
possibly be in possession of the pieces. of cloth Exs. P. 9/1 to P. 9/3.
In the second place, the evidence of Nazar
Singh, P.W. 22 indicates that he made the outer box for Piara Singh and was
paid Re. 1/by him. Gian Singh, P.W. 23 also said that he had been asked by
Piara Singh to make Phaties about 4" in length for the preparation of-the
box. Amrik Singh, P.W. 23 has also given corroborative evidence. Piara Singh
had met him at Amritsar on 3rd October 1966 and told him that Piara Singh had
despatched the parcel. The testimony of Sri Niwas, P.W. 27 is crucial in this
case. He has corroborated the statement of the approver. in important
The evidence of Sri Niwas was criticised on
behalf of the appellantas Sri Niwas made his statement to the police after some
delay viz., on the 17th October, 1966. On this point Sub-Inspector Mohinderpal
Singh explained that earlier on 9th October, 1966, he tried to contact Sri
Niwas, but the latter was not found in his seat in Phagwara Chowk. He made
another effort to trace him on 13th October, 1966, but it was equally
fruitless. It is true that the Sub-Inspector could have made more strenuous
efforts to trace out Sri Niwas, but he was going to other places also in
connection with the investigation. The High Court has held that merely on
account of this delay the statement of Sri Niwas could not be rejected. On the
contrary the High Court has found the evidence of Sri Niwas to be true and
reliable. It is manifest that there is sufficient corroboration of the evidence
of the approver so far as the appellant is concerned and the argument of Mr.
Mitter must be rejected on this aspect of the case.
(1) A.I.R. 1957 S.C. 637.
244 Lastly, it was contended that the hand
grenade could not be arranged in the manner stated by the approver, but that
the hand grenade was intact and when the parcel was opened, some one may have
caused it to explode. In this connection Mr. Mitter referred to the evidence of
expert Mr. Murti P.W. 6.
According to Mohinder Singh, only one hole was
made in the inner box through which the wire fitted in the grenade in place of
the safety pin was taken out. The argument of the appellant was that,two holes
should have been made in the inner box, but according to the approver only one
hole Was made. It was also said that according to the report of the expert,
bent steel wire was found in the first parcel which was sent to him. It was
argued that the report of the expert was not consistent with the evidence of
the approver who said that the safety pin of the wire had been removed.
It was suggested that Mohinder Singh would
have probably thrown the safety pin and not kept it in the box. The High Court
has examined in detail the argument of the appellant on this point and reached
the conclusion that the statement of the approver with regard to, the packing,
of the hand grenade should be accepted as 'true. The question involved is one
of appreciation of evidence and not a question of law. In any event, we see no
sufficient reason for taking a view different from that of the High Court in
For, these reasons we hold that there is no
merit in these appeals which are accordingly dismissed.
Y.P. Appeals dismissed.