State of Haryana Vs. Gurdial Singh And
Pargat Singh  INSC 60 (19 March 1974)
KHANNA, HANS RAJ KHANNA, HANS RAJ GOSWAMI,
CITATION: 1974 AIR 1871 1974 SCR (3) 657 1974
SCC (4) 494
Indian Penal Code--Sec. 302 read with Sec.
34--Two contradictory versions presented by prosecution--Benefit of doubt must
go to the accused.
P & G were convicted u/s. 302 and were
sentenced to death.
The High Court set aside the convictions of
both the accused and acquitted them. The State has filed the present appeals
against the acquittal of the 2 accused by special leave.
The prosecution case is that on account of a
family feud, the deceased was murdered by one P. with a double-barrel gun, in
front of one A, the widow of a rich landlord.
The trial court accepted the prosecution
version of occurrence and relied upon the evidence of A which was corroborated
by the youngest son and the daughter, that P, was holding a gun etc. and he was
convicted along with G, an associate.
On appeal the High Court found that the
F.I.R. was recorded subsequently after due deliberation and consultation. The
High Court also found that the witnesses, relied on by the trial court had
supported another version of the occurrence.
It was found that an attempt had been made to
improve upon the story with a view to save D, the eldest son of the landlord.
The High Court, therefore, set aside the conviction of the accused and
Dismissing the appeal,
HELD : In the present case, the prosecution
witnesses have come out with two inconsistent versions of the occurrence.
One version of the occurrence is contained in
the evidence of the witnesses in Court, while the other version is contained in
their statements made before the police.
According to the version given before the
Court, it was P, who shot dead the deceased while according to other version,
it was G of village Ramana, who was responsible for the crime. Again, according
to the version given in Court, the occurrence was witnessed by A. As against
that, the version contained in the police statement was that A had not
witnessed the occurrence. In view of these contradictory versions, the High
Court rightly set aside the conviction and there is no ground for interference
by this Court in the present appeal. [664B-D]
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeals Nos. I & 2 of 1971.
Appeals by special leave from the judgment
and order dated the 13th May 1970 of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in
Criminal Appeals Nos. 170 and 201 of 1970.
Janardan Sharma and R,.-N. Sachthey, for the
Nuruddin Ahmed and U. P. Singh, for the
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
KHANNA, J. Pargat Singh (31) of village Taraori was convicted by learned
Sessions Judge Karnal under section 302 Indian Penal Code and was sentenced to
death. Gurdial Singh (35) of village Ramana was 658 also tried along with
Pargat Singh and was convicted under section 302 read with section 34 Indian
Penal Code. He too was sentenced to death. On appeal and reference the Punjab
and Haryana High Court set aside the conviction of both the accused and
acquitted them. The State of Haryana has filed these appeals against the
acquittal of the two accused by special leave.
The prosecution also filed charge sheet
against Gurdial Singh of village Taraori, a brother of Pargat Singh accused,
but as he was found to be insane, the committing magistrate directed that his
case be separated and a separate challan be filed against him. The said Gurdial
Singh of village Taraori was, in the meanwhile, directed to be sent to the
hospital for his treatment.
The prosecution case is that Avtar Kaur (PW
3) was married about 33 yearsago to Gurinder Singh of village Shamgarh.
Gurinder Singh wasone of the biggest
landlords of Karnal district and belongedto a family of Chiefs. About four.
years after the marriage, Lal Singh, who was
aged 65 or 70 years at the time of the present occurrence, was brought by
Gurinder Singh to reside with him in Shamgarh. Lal Singh was previously in the
service of the mother of Avtar Kaur.
Lal Singh was respected like a Guru and was
known as Dadaji.
Gurinder Singh used to consult Lal Singh
deceased with regard to his affairs and generally acted upon the advice of Lal
Singh. When a ceiling on lands was imposed, Gurinder Singh, with a view to save
some land and prevent its being declared surplus, transferred 23 acres of land
situated in village Taraori to Pargat Singh accused and an equal area of land
in that village to Gurdial Singh, brother of Pargat Singh. Pargat Singh and
Gurdial Singh were sons of Sher Singh, maternal uncle of Gurinder Singh, and
used to reside with him. After the land had been transferred by Gurinder Singh
to Pargat Singh and Gurdial Singh, they shifted to village Taraori which is at
a distance of about 4 miles from Shamgarh. They, however, used to visit
Shamgarh off and on.
Gurinder Singh died a few months before the
present occurrence. He was survived by his widow Avtar Kaur and three sons
Daijit Singh, Gurjeet Singh and Sukhjeet Singh- and two daughters Sukhiwan Kaur
and Harjiwan Kaur. Sukhjeet Singh and Harjiwan Kaur were the only two unmarried
children. Sukhjeet Singh was a student of Doon School Dehra Dun, while Harjiwan
Kaur was studying in another school in Dehra Dun. Both of them were present in
their house at Shamgarh during the days of the present occurrence having come
there during winter vacation. The house is also described during the course 659
of evidence as a fort. Daljit Singh and Gurjeet Singh also used to live: in
that house. Sukhjiwan Kaur too was present there on the night of occurrence.
After the death of Gurinder Singh, Avtar Kaur
used to consult Lal Singh in every matter. Gurinder Singh at the time of his
death was constructing a cold storage. One chamber of the cold storage had been
completed during the life time of Gurinder Singh, while the other chamber yet
remained to be completed. Some money was required by Avtar Kaur in that
connection. Lal Singh deceased accordingly called Pargat Singh accused about 15
days before the present occurrence and told him that as Gurinder Singh had
given to him and his brother land worth rupees two lakhs, they should help
Avtar Kaur when she was in need of money. Pargat Singh accused then stated that
he had nothing to do with that. He also abused Lal Singh and told' him that he
was nobody to demand the money. Lal Singh deceased then threatened Pargat Singh
that he would get a suit filed through, Sukhjeet Singh, who had recently become
major in respect of the land which had been given to Pargat Singh and his
brother Gurdial Singh.
Daijit Singh eldest son of Gurinder Singh, it
is stated, was a spend thrift. Lal Singh deceased and Gurinder Singh used to
tell Daijit Singh not to spend too much money. After the death of Gurinder
Singh, Daljit Singh demanded more land in addition to the land which had been
given to him by Gurinder Singh in his life time. Demand was also made by Daljit
Singh for more money. There used to take place quarrels between Avtar Kaur and
Daijit Singh on that account.
The case of the prosecution further is that
on December, 11, 1968 Avtar Kaur, Sukhjiwan Kaur, Harjiwan Kaur, Sukhjeet Singh
and Lal; Singh took their meals in the dining room on the ground floor of the
fort. Gurjeet Singh was on that day away to Ferozepore to attend a marriage.
After finishing the meals at 9.15 p.m. Avtar Kaur and her two daughters went to
her bed room on the upper Storey. Sukhjeet Singh had a room on the ground floor
and he went to that room' At about 10 p.m. Avtar Kaur after finishing other
work went to the room of Lal Singh. Lal Singh at that time sat on his cot,
while Avtar Kaur sat nearby on a chair. Avtar Kaur during the course of her
talk asked: Lal Singh to settle the matter about Daljit Singh and to give to
him what was his due.
When Avtar Kaur and Lal Singh deceased were
talking, they heard the sound of a car in the outer courtyard. Daljit Singh,
Pargat Singh, Pargat Singh's brother Gurdial Singh, Gurdial' 660 Singh of
Ramana and Rajinder Singh alighted from the car.
Rajinder Singh belongs to village Bairsal. He
had borrowed Rs. 3,000/- in connection with the election of Chanda Singh to the
Haryana Legislative Assembly in 1968. Earlier on that day Rajinder Singh
refunded Rs. 1,500 out of the amount of Rs. 3,000/- to Ram Lal, who was working
as an accountant of Gurinder Singh's estate. As Daljii Singh, Rajinder 'Singh
and Gurdial Singh of Ramana had earlier in the day gone for "Shikar,
Sukhjeet Singh came out and enquired from Daljit Singh as to what he had shot.
Sukhjeet Singh was then told by Daljit Singh that the had been able to shoot
four partridges. Daljit Singh then went ,upstairs to his own room taking his
gun with him. Sukhjeet Singh also went to his own room. About 5 or 10 minutes
thereafter Sukhjeet 'Singh and Avtar Kaur heard some footsteps going up the
staircase. Pargat Singh, his brother Gurdial Singh and Gurdial Singh of Ramana
then came inside the room wherein Avtar Kaur was talking to Lal "Singh
deceased. Pargat Singh was holding a double barrel gun P2 in his hand. The said
gun belonged to Rajinder Singh. Avtar Kaur enquired from Pargat Singh and
others as to why they had come at such 'late hour. Pargar Singh replied that
they had come back after Shikar. Lal Singh then asked them as to whether all
three of them had become Shikaris. Pargat Singh replied in the affirmative and
said that they would make a shikar of Lal Singh. Pargat Singh at the same time
fired at Lal Singh. Before the shot was fired at Lal Singh, Pargat Singh and
his two companions made some signs to each other. Lal Singh on receipt of the
shot fell down on the spot and died soon thereafter. Avtar Kaur was stunned
because of the incident. Pargat Singh and his two companions then left.
Harjiwan Kaur, Sukhjiwan Kaur and Sukhjeet
Singh on hearing the gun shot came to the room where Avtar Kaur was present and
were told about the occurrence by her. Avtar Kaur was then taken to her room.
Sukhjeet Singh was directed by her to call accountant Ram Lal. When Ram Lal
came there he was told by Avtar Kaur that Pargat Singh had killed Lal Singh by
firing a shot with a double barrel gun. Ram Lal was told to go to the police
station and to bring the police. Ram Lal then woke up the car driver and went
in the car towards the police station. When the car reached near the bus stop
of village Shamgarh on the Grand Trunk Road, Ram Lal saw a police party which
included Sub Inspector Ram Rikh. Ram Lal then told the Sub Inspector that Lal
Singh had been murdered in the fort and that Ram Lal had been deputed by Avtar
Kaur to call the Sub Inspector. Sub Inspector Ram Rikh then went to the fort
where Avtar Kaur made statement PD at 3 a.m. to him. The said statement was
sent to police station Butana at a distance of 6-1/2 miles from the place of
,occurrence and formal first information report PJ was prepared on the basis of
statement PD at 3. 45 p.m. Inquest report relating to the dead 'body was
thereafter prepared by the Sub Inspector. The dead body 'was sent to the
mortuary in Karnal. Post mortem examination on the ,dead body was performed by
Dr. Jagdeep Singh at 4-30 p.m. on December 12.
On. the morning following the occurrence,
i.e. on December 12, 1968, a number of persons including Daljit Singh, Rajinder
Singh, Pargat Singh and the latter's brother Gurdial Singh assembled at the 661
fort. Sub Inspector Ram Rikh did not arrest Pargat Singh or his brother Gurdial
Singh, Daljit Singh then produced gun P2 of Rajinder Singh, along with an empty
cartridge which had been fired from that gun.. These articles were taken into
During the course of investigation, it is
stated, a counter versions of the occurrence came to light, Sub Inspector Ram
Rikh and the Deputy Superintendent of Police who was supervising the
investigation kept Superintendent of Police Brar (DW 1) informed of the
investigation. Final report under, section 173 of the Code of Criminal'
Procedure in court was filed by Sub Inspector Ram Rikh. In that report only
Gurdial Singh of village Ramana was shown as the culprit.The names of Pargat
Singh and his brother Gurdial Singh were mentioned in column No. 2 of the
challan. The reason for that, according to Sub Inspector Ram Rikh, was that
those two persons had been; found on investigation to be innocent." The
two accused in their statements under section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,denied
the prosecution allegations which appeared against them in the prosecution
evidence. In defence the accused examined Superintendent of Police S. S. Brar
who deposed that in view of the fact that there were two versions of the
occurrence, he ordered that before. ,any arrest was made, a thorough probe
should be made in the matter, to find out the truth.
The trial court accepted the prosecution
version of the occurrence, and, in doing so, relied upon the evidence of Avtar
Kaur. It was further held that the evidence of Avtar Kaur was corroborated by
that of' Sukhjeet Singh and Harjiwan Kaur, who had deposed that when they'
looked out on hearing the gun shot, they saw Pargat Singh holding a gun and two
Gurdial Singhs going downstairs. Regarding the counterversion of the occurrence
which appeared from the police statements, of Avtar Kaur, Sukhjeet'Singh and
Harjiwan Kaur, the trial court held that compared to that version, the version
as given in the evidence of the above witnesses in court was reliable. In the
opinion of the trial court, the investigation of the case was tainted and
unfair. The argument that there was delay in recording the report was rejected.
On appeal the learned Judges of the High
Court found that the,circumstances of the case showed that the first
information report was. recorded subsequent to the time at which it purported
to have been recorded and was the result of deliberation and consultations The
High Court also found that the witnesses, upon whose testimony, reliance had
been placed by the trial court, had supported another version of the
occurrence. It was found that an attempt had been made to improve upon the
story with a view to save Daljit Singh, eldest son of Avtar Kaur, Ocular
evidence was also found to be not in consonance with the medical evidence. In
the result the High Court accepted the appeal, set aside the conviction of the
accused and acquitted them.
We have heard Mr. Janardan Sharma on behalf
of the appellant State and Mr. Nuruddin on behalf of the accused-respondents
and' 662 are of the opinion that the judgment of the High Court calls for no
it is not disputed that Lal Singh deceased
died as a result of gunshot wound. Dr. Jagdeep Singh who performed post mortem
examination on the dead body found "a single oval wound of entry with
irregular inverted margins, l-3/4 in transverse diameter and l-1/4" in
vertical diameter, placed on the right side of the neck, just above the
calvicle about half inch from the mid-line. The margins of the wound showed
blackening and scorching. Hair of beard were not singed. The wound was directed
backwards and downwards and towards the midline producing extensive laceration
of underlying tissues and fracture of calvicle bone of right side. Right pleura
was ruptured on the top and the pleural cavity contained large amount of blood.
Upper lobe of right lung was lacerated completely. Middle and lower lobes were
contused, showing bleeding on the surface. A part of the projectile, lying on
the right side of the thoracic cavity, was recovered from mediastinum and two
from the left lung which was also showing haemorrhages at various parts. In the
mediastinum big vassels were ruptured at many places and mediastinum was found
containing large amount of clotted blood." The injuries were sufficient in
the ordinary course of nature. to cause death.
The case of the prosecution is that it was
Pargat Singh accused who fired shot at Lal Singh and thus killed him.
The prosecution for this purpose relied upon
the ocular evidence of Avtar Kaur (PW 3), who in the course of her deposition
supported the prosecution case as given above.
The High Court did not place reliance upon
the testimony of ,this witness, and we find no sufficient ground to take a
different view. Avtar Kaur was confronted with her statement made before the
police. In that statement Avtar Kaur stated that after taking her meals, she
went to her daughter's room and slept there. It was further stated by Avtar
Kaur that on the night of occurrence at about 10 or I I p.m. Rupinder Kaur,
wife of Daljit Singh, came to Avtar Kaur and woke 'her up. Rupinder Kaur also
told Avtar Kaur that Daljit Singh was 'Calling her below in the drawing room.
Avtar Kaur further stated be,fore the police that she had been told by Gurdial
Singh of Ramana ,,that in a drunken state he had shot dead Lal Singh deceased
and he be pardoned. According to that statement of Avtar Kaur, she immediately
directed that police be called and thereupon Gurdial Singh of ,village Ramana
tried to run away, but he was secured by Pargat Singh and Daljit Singh. Daljit
Singh also snatched the gun from his hand, it is thus plain that the version
given by Avtar Kaur in her statement before the police was materially
different. In view of that fact not much reliance can obviously be placed upon
the testimony of Avtar Kaur in court'.
Another fact of which note may be taken is
that, according to Avtar Kaur, she was sitting on a chair in the room of Lal
Singh and ,it was while sitting on that chair that she saw the occurrence. No
such chair was found in that room when Sub Inspector Ram Rikh arrived there on
the night of occurrence. It is also nobody's ,case that any chair was removed
from that room after the occurrence.
663 The absence of the chair in that roam
creates considerable doubt about the correctness of the evidence of Avtar Kaur.
The prosecution has sought corroboration of
the evidence of Avtar Kaur from the testimony of Sukhjeet Singh(PW 4) and
Harjiwan Kaur, (PW 5), according to whom they saw Pargat Singh holding a gun
and two Gurdial Singhs going down the stairs after the occurrence. The version
of these witnesses in their statements before the police was, however,
materially different. Sukhjeet Singh stated before the police that on reaching
the drawing room he enquired from Daljit Singh as to what was the matter and
that Daljit Singh then replied that Gurdial Singh had shot dead Lal Singh.
The witness also stated before the police
that Gurdial Singh of village Ramana was lying at the foot of Avtar Kaur and
was saying that under intoxication he had fired the shot and he be pardoned.
Harjiwan Kaur in her statement made before the police stated that she had not
seen anybody going or coming. She had also not heard the sound of any gun shot.
According to that statement, she, her mother
and sister were sleeping in her room on the night of occurrence when Rupinder
Kaur came and woke them up.
The High Court also gave cogent reasons for
arriving at the conclusion that the first information report appeared to have
been recorded much later and not at the time it purported to have been done.
Police station Butana is at a distance of about 13 miles from Karnal. The two
place are connected by mettalled road on which buses ply frequently.
copy of the first information report was
received by the Ilaka magistrate at karnal at 2. p.m. If the formal first
information report had, in fact been prepared at 3.45 a.m.
it is not explained as to why the copy of the
same was not delivered to the Magistrate on the morning of December 12, 1968.
Likewise if the inquest report was prepared by Sub Inspector Ram Rikh shortly
after recording report PD at 3 a.m., there is no sufficient reason as to why
the dead body which was sent in the trolly of a tractor to Karnal should be
brought to the doctor not before 3.55 p.m. The evidence that it took time to
get the tractor ready has not been accepted by the High Court and we are not
inclined to take a different view.
There is another fact which also indicates
that on the morning of December 12, 1968 the police had no material with it
about the complicity of Pargat Singh for the murder of Lal Singh deceased.
Pargat Singh was admittedly amongst those persons who assembled at the house of
Avtar Kaur on the morning of December 12, 1968. Although Sub Inspector Ram Rikh
noticed his presence, he did not arrest Pargat Singh. It seems rather difficult
to believe that if the first information report had been recorded before the
assemblage of different persons including Pargat Singh on the morning of
December 12, 1968 and the name of Pargat Singh had been mentioned in that
report as the assailant of Lal Singh, the police Sub Inspector would not take
him into custody..
664 Reliance was placed by the trial court
upon the statement of Pargat Singh made before the committing magistrate that
on December I 1, 1968 he had gone to the room of Lal Singh to pay respects.
There is, however, nothing in that statement to show that it related to a visit
at day time or at night time. No incriminating inference can in the circumstances
be drawn from that statement against Pargat Singh.
The present is a case wherein the prosecution
witnesses have come out with two inconsistent versions of the occurrence.
One version of the occurrence is contained in
the evidence of the witnesses in court, while the other version is contained in
their statements made before the police.
According to the version given in court, it
was Pargat Singh who shot dead the deceased, while according to the other
version it was Gurdial Singh of Ramana who was responsible for the crime.
Again, according to the version given in court, the occurrence was witnessed by
Avtar Kaur. As against that, the version contained in the police statement was
that Avtar Kaur had not witnessed the occurrence. In view of these contradictory
versions, the High Court, in our opinion, rightly came to the conclusion that
the conviction of the accused could not be sustained. We see no ground to
interfere with the judgment of the High Court. The appeals fail and are
S. C. Appeals dismissed.