Satbir Singh & ANR Vs. State of
Punjab  INSC 85 (14 March 1977)
CITATION: 1977 AIR 1294 1977 SCR (3) 195 1977
SCC (2) 263
Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (Act II of
1974), S. 378 (Code of 1898, s. 417)--Appeal against acquittal--Salutary
principles in dealing with an appeal.
Evidence Act (Act I of 1872), 1872--S.
24--Confession obtained by the superior officer by questioning separately the
accused after several abortive attempts to secure confession, S. 24 is
All the accused were tried for offences u/s.
302/120B and 364 I.P.C., but acquitted by the Additional Sessions Judge,
Amritsar. On State's appeal against acquittal, the High Court convicted five of
the appellants (Satbir Singh, Paramjit Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Shiv Narain and
M.P. Singh) under s. 302/120B I.P.C. and sentenced them to imprisonment for
life. Satbir Singh was also convicted on the sole testimony of Puran Singh
(PW3) u/s. 364 I.P.C. and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for seven years
The High Court held the extra judicial
confessions made by Shiv Narain and Harbhajan Singh before R.K. Kapur (PW 41)
the commander Border Security Force as admissible in evidence before convicting
them and rejected the plea of encounter on the Indo-Pakistan border. The High
Court convicted the remaining eight appellants (Ajit Singh, Darshan Singh,
Arian Singh, Baghal Singh, Tara Singh, Dial Singh, Bachan Singh and Malook
Singh) u/s. 364 I.P.C. and sentenced them also to rigorous imprisonment for
seven years with fine.
Allowing the appeals under the Supreme Court
(Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 1971, the Court,
HELD: (1) This was not a fit case where the
High Court should have interfered with the acquittal of any of the appellants.
The High Court has not at all considered the reasons given by the Sessions
Judge for acquitting the accused. It has given its own reasons for convicting
the appellants but that is not enough in an appeal against acquittal. [205 B-C]
(2) As a practical proposition, in an appeal against acquittal, it is always
necessary that the reasons given by the trial court for according an acquittal
should be examined by the High Court. If the conclusions of the trial court are
not based upon any evidence or they are such as no reasonable 'body of men,
properly instructed in law can reach, on the evidence, or they are so palpably
wrong as to shock 'the sense of justice, the High Court will be justified in
taking a contrary view by giving its own reasons.
It is not enough that it is just possible for
the High Court to take a contrary view. While interfering with acquittal the
judgment of the High Court should demonstrate clearly the unworthiness of the conclusions
of the trial court having regard to all the relevant evidence in record.
The High Court has followed these salutary
principles in dealing with an appeal against acquittal. [204 G-H, 205 A] (3) In
deciding whether a particular confession attracts the frown of section 24 of
the Evidence Act, the question has to be considered from the point of view of
the confessing accused as to how the inducement. Threat or pro-raise proceeding
from a person in authority would operate in his mind.
In the instant case, the extra judicial
confessions by the two accused Shiv Narain and Harbhajan Singh, have to be
completely excluded from consideration being hit by s. 24 of the Evidence Act.
When the two accused were -questioned separately after several abortive attempts
to secure confessions it cannot be said that there was no inducement, threat or
promise of some kind. [203 H-204 A, E] 196 Observations:
The witness cannot be relied upon by resort
to a kind of special pleading. in his aid. The line of approach in a criminal
case in order to find justification for conviction on .shaky testimony by
making a virtue of the inalertness of the police administration is not to be
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal Nos. 178179 and 228 of 1975.
(From the Judgment and Order dated 10-4-1975
of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Criminal Appeal No. 40 of 1972).
Frank Anthony, Herjinder Singh and S.N.
Singh, for appellant No. 1 in Crl. A.178/75 and appellants in Crl. 179/75 and
Appellants Nos. 1-2 in Crl. A.228/75.
A.K. Sen, and Herjinder Singh for appellant
No. 2 in Crl. A.178/75.
R.L. Kohli, Rameshwar Nath and Miss Manju
Malhotra for appellant No. 3 in Crl. A. No. 228/75.
O.P. Sharma and Miss Kusum Chaudhury, for the
respondents in all the appeals.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
GOSWAMI, J.--These appeals under the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal
Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 1976, are directed against the judgment and order
of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana convicting five of the appellants
(Satbir Singh, Paramjit Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Shiv Narain and M.p. Singh)
under section 302/120B, Indian Penal Code, and sentencing them to imprisonment
for life. Satbir Singh was also convicted on the sole testimony of Puran Singh
under section 364 IPC and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for seven years
and fine. The remaining eight appellants (Ajit Singh, Darshan Singh, Arjan
Singh, Baghal Singh, Tara Singh, Dial Singh, Bachan Singh and Malook Singh)
were convicted under section 364 IPC and sentenced to seven years rigorous
imprisonment and fine. They had all earlier been acquitted by the Additional
Sessions Judge, Amritsar.
This case throws a lurid light on smuggling
activities at the international India-Pakistan border near Amritsar.
Amongst the appellants (hereinafter to be
described as the accused) M.P. Singh was an Inspector of the Border Security
Force (BSF), Shiv Narain was a Sub-Inspector (BSF) and Harbhajan Singh was a
Constable (BSF). Accused Ajit Singh is the father of the two accused, Satbir
Singh and Paramjit Singh. Ajit Singh is alleged to be a big 'smuggler indulging
in his smuggling activities at the India-Pakistan border with his two sons and
the other accused persons, namely, Darshan Singh, Arian Singh, Baghal Singh,
Tara Singh, Dial Singh, Bachan Singh and Malook Singh. It is alleged that
Inspector M.P. Singh, S.I. Shiv Narain and Constable Harbhajan Singh, along
with other BSF personnel were conniving at the smuggling activities of Ajit
Singh and party and were reaping their illegal harvest:.
197 Shingara Singh and his son Hardip Singh
and Kartar Singh are the three deceased whose murders form the subject matter
of this case. While the dead bodies of Hardip Singh and Kartar Singh were found
that of Shingara Singh was not available.
Puran Singh (PW 3) son of Shingara Singh
(deceased) was a member of the gang of smugglers headed by accused Ajit Singh
and in the course of smuggling activities there was a quarrel with regard to
the sharing of money to the extent of Rs. 15,000/which was said to be his due
and which Ajit Singh and party were not paying. A few months prior to July 6,
1970, the date of occurrence, when accused Satbir Singh, Jasbir Singh and ten
or twelve labourers along with Puran Singh smuggled 15 jackets of gold each
weighing 1000 tolas from Pakistan into Indian territory with the connivance of
Inspector M.P. Singh and S.I. Shiv Narain (BSF), Puran Singh succeeded in
slipping away under the cover of darkness with two jackets of gold. The gold with
which Puran Singh fled away was then worth about Rs. 5 to 6 lakhs.
May 20, 1970: A report was lodged by Shingara
Singh deceased, at Police Station, Gharinda, alleging that his son Puran Singh
(PW 3) who had been carrying on smuggling activities with the sons of accused
Ajit Singh was taken away by accused Satbir Singh and some others (not before
us) on May 6, 1970, in a car. He did not then suspect anything. But now he had
a firm suspicion that Satbir Singh, Jasbir Singh and Paramjit Singh, sons of Ajit
Singh of Village Burj, Rajinder Singh and Makhan Singh, had abducted his son
Puran Singh over a dispute about .the smuggled gold and they had kept him
concealed at some unknown place with the intention to kill him. On receipt of
this report a case under section 364 IPC was registered by S.I. Baldev. Singh
(PW 63) at Police Station, Gharinda (Ex. P.P.Y.).
July 7, 1970: A report was sent to Police
Station, Gharinda by accused Shiv Narain, S.I. (BSF) about an encounter of BSF
with smugglers on the mid-night of July 6, 1970, on the border of India
Pakistan at Border Pillar No.
100 near Amritsar that "two sikh young
men" fall dead to the fire opened by the Border Security Force of the
July 17, 1970: The first information report
(Ex. PPZ/R) of the present case was registered by Police Station, Gharinda, on
the report dated July 12, 1970 (Ex. P.P.Z.) of D.S.P. Surjit Singh (PW 64)
which, inter alia, disclosed:
"I heard a rumour on 8th July, 1970, on
my return from casual leave that three persons namely Shingara singh son of
Inder Singh, Kartar Singh son of Mangal Singh and Hardip Singh son of Shingara
Singh jats residents of Ranike, Police Station Gharinda had been abducted
forcibly by Ajit singh of Burj and his sons residents of village Burj, Police
Station Gharinda and party from near Crystal Chowk, Amritsar and that they had,
been shown killed in an encounter in connivance with Border Security Force and
198 This report of D.S.P. Surjit Singh has
discounted the encounter story as a fib but yet it continued to be the defence
of the accused. According to the trial court "the encounter version
appears to be true".
Were the three persons, Shingara Singh,
Hardip Singh and Kartar Singh, killed in an encounter with the BSF or murdered
in pursuance of a conspiracy .to abduct and murder ? While the first part of
the question need not even be proved, the second part must needs be proved to
The prosecution case further is that Puran
Singh after having been taken away from his village was taken to the Haveli of
Ajit Singh where he was asked about the gold which he had stolen away. Puran
Singh informed the accused persons that he 'had delivered the gold to his
brother, Hardip Singh. It is alleged that Puran Singh was afterwards taken to
the border and left with accused M.P. Singh and accused Shiv Narain who later
on handed over 'him to Shaffi and Yakub, two Pakistan smugglers and the latter
took him to village Dial (Pakistan). Puran Singh was brought to the Indian side
of the border on the night intervening 6th and 7th July, 1970, but was again
taken back to Pakistan wherefrom he could manage to escape and cross over to
the Indian side of border only on November 6, 1970, to figure as an eye witness
to the murder of his father.
It is alleged that on July 6, 1970, Shingara
Singh, Hardip Singh and Kartar Singh (all deceased) along.with Harnam Singh (PW
5) went. to Amritsar. Shingara Singh and Hardip Singh had gone to attend court,
Kartar Singh to sell his vegetables and Harnam Singh to attend to his wife,
Smt. Piaro, who was a patient in the V.J. Hospital. After being free from their
work at about 1.00 p.m. the three deceased along with Harnam Singh (PW 5) went
towards the V.J. Hospital. When they had reached Crystal Chowk on way to the
Vijay Hospital a big vehicle and a car came from the side of the Railway
Station, in which accused Ajit Singh, Jasbir Singh (absconder), accused Satbir
Singh, Satara (absconder), accused Paramjit Singh, accused Baghal Singh,
accused_ Tara Singh, accused Arian Singh, accused Bachan Singh, accused Darshan
Singh, Pritu. (Pritam Singh) (acquitted), accused Malook Singh and accused Dial
Singh with two other; Jetsons in police uniforms (Pamma and Malkiat) were
travelling. 'These persons were armed with guns and revolvers. The accused came
out of the vehicle and physically lifted Shingara Singh, Hardip Singh and
Kartar Singh and whisked them away in the said vehicles. It is alleged that the
deceased persons were first taken to the HaveIi of Ajit Singh in village Burj
where they were belaboured and later on, blindfolded and tied, removed to the
Indo-Pakistan border where on that night some goods were to be exchanged
between the accused with Balkar Singh (PW 4) and the Pakistani smugglers.
Accused M.P. Singh was also present there.
At about mid-night all of them including
accused Shiv Narain and accused Harbhajan Singh moved near Pillar No. 100. This
party handed over 1-1/4 maunds of silver to Yakub and Shaffi, Pakistani
smugglers and received gold in return Hardip Singh and Kartar Singh were
brought by accused Satbir Singh and others towards Indian side of the border
but Shingara Singh 199 was left behind with the Pakistani smugglers. Balkar
Singh (PW 4) then enquired as to why Shingara Singh had been handed over to
Pakistanis. At that moment accused Shiv Narain fired two shots with very light
pistol. Accused Harbhajan Singh, accused M.P. Singh, accused Paramjit Singh and
accused Satbir Singh also fired shots at Hardip Singh and Kartar Singh from a
distance of 25 yards who then dropped dead. Accused Jasbir Singh (absconder)
came there and untied their hand's and removed the cloth covering their eyes. A
rifle was placed near the dead body of Hatdip Singh and a Kitpan was placed
near the dead body of Kartar Singh.
Balkar Singh (PW 4) also heard the sound of a
fire shot in Pakistan territory when Ajit Singh (accused) said that Shingara
Singh had also been killed.
According to the prosecution to justify the
killing of Hardip Singh and Kartar Singh, accused M.P. Singh, accused Shiv
Narain and accused Harbhajan Singh with other officials of BSF, manipulated an
encounter story and got a false case registered at Police Station, Gharinda, on
July 7, 1970 (Ex.
P.P. O/1) on a "ruqa" having been
sent by S.I. Shiv Narain (accused) falsely alleging, inter alia, that on a
secret information having been received by Inspector M.P. Singh (accused) that
some Smugglers would bring some goods from Pakistan to India they conducted an.
ambush behind Burj (Border Pillar) No. 100 on the night intervening 6th and 7th
July, 1970, and during the process in defence the Naka party fired which
resulted in killing of two persons who were subsequently identified as Hardip
Singh and Kartar Singh.
The accused persons were charged under section
364/120B IPC for abducting Puran Singh. They were also charged under section
364/120B IPC for abducting Shingara Singh, Hardip Singh and Kartar Singh. They
were further charged under section 302/102B IPC for causing the death of Kartar
Singh and Hardip Singh. They were also charged under section 109 IPC for
abetting the murder of Shingara Singh which offence was committed in
consequence of the abetment.
The prosecution examined 68 witnesses. The
accused denied the charges and the BSF accused suggested a motive for the
prosecution by alleging animus against the D.S.P.
Surjit Singh (PW 64). According to them
Kartar Singh and Hardip Singh were killed as a result of an encounter with
smugglers on the border.
The Sessions Judge giving his reasons for not
accepting the evidence of the eye witnesses and other material evidence
acquitted all the accused. The High Court on appeal confirmed the acquittal of
two accused, namely, Pritam Singh and Mehar Singh, but convicted the appellants
as mentioned above.
With regard to the charge under section
302/120B IPC the case will depend upon the evidence of Puran Singh (PW 3) and
the extrajudicial confession by the accused, Shiv Narain and Harbhajan
14--240SCI/77 200 Singh, before R.K. Kapur (PW 41). With regard to the charge
under section 364 IPC the prosecution rests upon Hamare Singh (PW 5) and also
upon the evidence of Gurdial Singh (PW 10), Inspector Gurmukh Singh (PW 11) and
Constable Amrik Singh (PW 46) with regard to the Roznamcha entry (Ex. PP.
A). We may also note here that Puran Singh
(PW 3) and Balkar Singh (PW 4) were the two eye witnesses to the murder and
Balkar Singh (PW 4) was disbelieved both by the Sessions Judge and the High
Court. Harnam Singh (PW 5) is an eyewitness to abduction. We should also note
that Gutdip Singh (PW 14), Atma Singh (PW 27) and Mohinder Singh (PW 28) who
were witnesses with regard to the charge of abduction were also disbelieved
both by the Sessions Judge and the High Court. Harnam Singh (PW 5) who is the
eye-witness to abduction was disbelieved by the Sessions Judge but partly believed
by the High Court.
In the above state of the evidence Mr. Sharma
appearing on behalf of the state rests his case on the evidence of Puran Singh
(PW 3) and the extra-judicial confession made by the accused Shiv Narain and
Harbhajan Singh before R.K. Kapur (PW 41) with regard to the murder charge
under section 302/120B IPC. He also relies upon the Roznamcha and the
We will therefore first examine the reasons
given by the Sessions Judge for acquitting the accused. After narrating the
facts deposed to by Puran Singh (PW 3) the Sessions Judge held that "the
story on the face of it appears to be false". According to Puran Singh (PW
3) the accused took him away to Ajit Singh's Haveli and then to the Indo-Pakistan
border only with a view t9 recover the gold which he had earlier managed to
steal away. _ The Sessions Judge took note of the fact that Puran Singh had
told the accused that the gold was lying with his brother, Hardip Singh. It
was, therefore, inconceivable that this clue with regard to the gold would not
be pursued by the accused and Hardip Singh would be left out and Puran Singh
alone would be taken away.
This witness even after he had Seen the
murder of his father Shingara Singh, on July 6, 1970, stayed in Pakistan for
about four months without disclosing this fact to anybody nor did he
communicate about it to any of his relations. Although this witness said that
he crossed from Pakistan to India only on November 6, 1970, after the murder,
and was arrested and interrogated by S.I. Jai Ram (PW 58) and was also
prosecuted for crossing the border, there is no evidence from any police
officer, nor even from S.I.
Jai Ram (PW 58). No documentary evidence,
which would have been available if his statement Was true, was produced in the
case. Apart from that, this witness stated that he was arrested by S.I. Jai Ram
and he narrated the entire occurrence to him. S.I. Jai Ram does not Support
him. On the other hand he had earlier stated before the committing Magistrate
that he did not tell anything about the said murders to S.I. Jai Ram.
The Sessions Judge also note several
discrepancies in his evidence and finally came to the conclusion that he was
not actually present at the' time of the murders nor was he abducted by the
accused as alleged.
201 The High Court does not appear to have
closely considered the treasons given by the SesSions Judge for disbelieving
the testimony of Puran Singh. it is difficult to appreciate how the High Court
can say that the statement of this witness "seems to be quite
natural" in view of the infirmities pointed out by the Sessions Judge.
After examining the entire discussion of the evidence of this witness by the
High Court, we are not satisfied that the High Court was right in relying upon
the testimony of this witness.
It is pointed out that the High Court was not
correct in observing that "it is not disputed that he (Puran Singh) is
being tried for having come to Indian Territory on November 6, 1970 and the
moment he entered the Indian territory, he was taken into custody and his
statement was recorded by the police". On the other hand the Sessions
Judge found just to the contrary and there is no reference in the judgment of
the High Court to the discussion by the Sessions Judge with regard to this
We have next to see the reasons given by the
Sessions Judge for disbelieving the testimony of Harnam Singh (PW 5). This
witness gave evidence about the abduction of the three deceased from the
Crystal Chowk, near V.J. Hospital, Amritsar. The witness is a near relation of
the deceased and he admitted that when the three deceased were abducted he
suspected that the accused might inflict injuries on their person. Even so he
did not go for police assistance nor did he inform even Mangal Singh (PW 17),
father of the deceased .Kartar Singh, about the occurrence although the latter
was residing with him in the same house. He also did notask the relations of
the deceased to 'lodge any report with the police. Crystal Chowk is a busy
commercial area where there are shops and some residential houses and the shops
were open at the time of the incident. Even so this witness stated that there
were no shops or bazar near the place of occurrence. This witness named five
accused persons including two absconders and stated that he knew them by names
about one year prior to the occurrence. Since he had named accused Paramjit
Singh and accused Satbir Singh in the committing court he was asked there to identify
these two accused. He, however, wrongly pointed towards accused M.P.
Singh as Paramjit Singh and accused Pritam
Singh as Satbir Singh. Accused M.P. Singh was not even alleged to be present at
Amritsar at the time of abduction. Although this witness stated that he
informed Kabal Singh (PW 6) brother of Shingara Singh, Kabal Singh did not
corroborate him on this point.
Further, Harnam Singh (PW 5) states about
abduction of the three deceased from Crystal Chowk. The High Court accepts his
evidence as being corroborated by witnesses regarding his presence at Amritsar
with the three deceased persons.
It is difficult to see how because his
presence at Amritsar is proved the further fact about the abduction of the
three deceased from Crystal Chowk is also established. There is no
corroboration whatsoever of this part of the story. If the High Court has to
look for corroboration of the evidence of Harnam Singh even about his presence
at Amritsar on its own reasoning, the principal part of the prosecution case
about abduction depending upon his sole testimony cannot be held to be
established. The 202 High Court also seeks to find corroboration of this 'part
of the case from Roznamcha of July 6, 1970 (Ex. P.P. A) wherein a certain
information from an undisclosed source was received at 2.00 P.M. by Gurdial
Singh (PW 10) to the effect "that there was some fight between some
smugglers near Crystal Chowk or some legislator had been abducted". This
information is hearsay in absence of the informant. The name of the informant
is not even disclosed. Apart from this, this Roznamcha does not corroborate
Harnam Singh (PW 5) with regard to his statement that the three deceased
persons were abducted by the accused from Crystal Chowk.
The High Court did not fail to observe that
the reasons given by the witness for his belated examination by the police as
"padding obviously.. at the instance of the police". Even so, the
High Court explained away the fact' of Harnam Singh's not reporting to the
police 'in a very unusual way. The High Court observed firstly that it was
natural for the witness not to be involved in the dispute of smugglers and
secondly that there was no use informing the police as no petty police officer
would take action against the international smugglers. The High Court went on
to record that "it appears in the present day administration that no petty
police officer is likely to take responsibility in' the matter of prosecuting
international smugglers without having the blessings of the highest police
officer in the district and even above". Witnesses, like Harnam Singh,
were, therefore, according to the High Court "helpless". We cannot
commend this line of approach in a criminal case in order to find jurisdiction
for conviction on shaky testimony by making a virtue of the inalertness of the
police administration. The witness cannot be relied upon by resort to a kind of
special pleading in his aid. We find that the High Court has not given any
cogent reason for taking a different view with regarding to the appreciation of
evidence of this witness by the Sessions Judge.
About recovery of fire-arms and gold at the
instance of some of the accused, the case rested on the evidence of the police
officers alone. The other search witnesses were declared hostile on account of
their not supporting the prosecution. The Sessions Judge did not feel it safe
to act upon the testimony of police witnesses including Inspector Bachan Singh
(PW 68) in the matter of disclosure statement as well as of recovery of the fire-arms
and of gold in absence of corroboration by independent witnesses. The High
Court held that there was no reason to disbelieve the police witnesses. But
when both the Sessions Judge and the High Court seem to be in agreement in
finding that there was "padding" by the police in respect of evidence
produced in the case, it could not be said that the Sessions Judge was so
grievously in error that contrary appreciation of the evidence was compelling
under the circumstances.
There is also the evidence with regard to
extra-judicial confessions said to have been made by the accused Shiv Narain
and Harbhajan Singh before R.K. Kapur (PW 41), the Commandant of the Border
Security Force. The Sessions Judge has considered that evidence as inadmissible
under section 24 of the Evidence Act.
203 The High Court, differing from the
opinion of the Sessions Judge, held the extra-judicial confession as admissible
in evidence since, according to the High Court, "it cannot be held that he
(Kapur) gave any threat; inducement or promise to the accused". The High
.lm10 "When this (warning) was conveyed
to the accused by Shri Handa D.S.P., the accused still stuck to the encounter
versions and made their statements in writing supporting the encounter version.
The said threat of Shri Kapur P.W. did not work and the accused stuck to their
old story ......It was on 19th July, 1970 that Shiv Narain and Harbhajan Singh
were questioned separately when he told them that they should come" out
with the truth otherwise .they would them~ selves be responsible for their
actions and if they had done anything wrong, they would go to jail. Instead of
giving them any promise of help, he in fact told them that if they were in the
wrong, they would go to jail .... From the statement of this witness, which I
have gone through minutely, it is difficult to hold that he gave any
inducement, threat or promise to the accused persons and that the accused
persons made the confessions in pursuance thereof".
Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act
provides that a confession made by an accused person is irrelevant in a
criminal proceeding, if the making of the confession appears to the court to
have been caused by any inducement, threat or promise, having reference to the
charge against the accused person, proceeding from a person in authority and
sufficient, in the opinion of the court, to give the accused person grounds,
which would appear to. him reasonable, for supposing that by making it he would
gain any advantage or avoid any evil of a temporal nature in reference to the
proceedings against him.
Indeed, Mr. Kapur was a person in authority
being the Commandant of the rank of a Senior Superintendent of Police and the
confessing accused were his subordinates. Apart from this, it appears from his
evidencethat the oral confessional statements were not readily forthcoming from
the accused persons but they had to be interrogated on several occasions. He
further advised D.S.P. Handa to interrogate them "with a warning that they
should state the truth otherwise they would not be supported by me". Mr. Kapur
further admitted in his cross-examination that he "did tell Mr. Handa on
telephone on 10th July, 1970 that he should give a warning to Border Security
Force people to come out with truth otherwise they themselves would be
responsible for their actions". Mr. Kapur also himself "enquired from
M.P. Singh and Shiv Narain accused about the matter on 19th July, 1970 telling
them that now that the case has been registered they should state the truth".
In deciding whether a particular confession
attracts the frown of section 24 of the Evidence Act, the question has, to be
considered 204 from the point of view Of the confessing accused as to how the
inducement, threat or promise proceeding from a person in authority would
operate in his mind.
It is true that Mr. Kapur, in his evidence,
denied having held out: to the accused any inducement, threat or promise. We,
however, find. that on July 1-7, 1970, the police gave a go by to the encounter
story and the present case was registered against the accused. Two days after,
on July 19, 1970, Mr. Kapur having already failed to get any confessional
statement from the accused through other agency, took upon himself to question
accused Shiv Narain and Harbhajan Singh separately and this time he succeeded
in securing confessional statements. When the two accused were questioned. Separately
after several abortive attempts to secure confessions, can it be said that
there' was no inducement, threat or promise of some kind proceeding from.
Mr. Kapur to have made any impact on their
minds 'resulting in the confessions ? Mr. Kapur having stated to the accused on
July 19, 1970, that "now that the case has been registered they should
state the truth", it is difficult to hold that by this statement he would
not generate in the minds of the accused some hope and assurance that if' they
told the "truth" they would receive his "support" which he
had earlier' conveyed to them through D.S.P. Handa. It is true that in the
course of cross-examination Mr. Kapur stated that he had told the accused that
if they had done anything wrong they would go to jail. But having regard to the
effect of the totality of the evidence of this witness, we are unable to hold
that the confessions made by the accused before Mr. Kapur on July 19, 1970,
were free from the taint of infirmity within the mischief of section 24 of the
Evidence Act.' We are, therefore, clearly of opinion that the extra-judicial
confessions by the two accused, Shiv Narain and Harbhajan Singh, have to be
completely excluded from consideration being hit by section 24 of the Evidence
Similarly not much can be made of abscondence
of certain accused when other material evidence connecting the accused with the
crime has failed in this case.
A serious infirmity in the judgment of the
High Court is that it has not at all considered the reasons given by the
Sessions Judge for acquitting the accused. The High Court has given its own
reasons for convicting the appellants but that is not enough in an appeal
As a practical proposition, in an appeal
against acquittal, it is always necessary that the .reasons given by the trial
court for recording an acquittal should be examined by the High Court. If the
conclusions of the trial court are not based upon any evidence or they are such
as no reasonable body of men, properly instructed in law, can reach, on the
evidence, or they are so palpably wrong as to shock the sense of justice, the
High Court will be justified in taking a contrary view by giving its own
reasons. It is not enough that it is just possible for the High Court to take a
contrary view. While interfering with acquittal the judgment of the High Court
should demonstrate clearly 205 the unworthiness of the conclusions of the trial
court having regard to all the relevant evidence in record. We are unable to
say in these appeals that the High Court has followed these salutary principles
in dealing with an appeal against acquittal.
We may also observe that the High Court need
not have mentioned the fact that the Sessions Judge was "suspended on
account of corruption charges". If we may say so, it was absolutely
unnecessary to refer to this in disposing of the appeal.
We are clearly of opinion that this was not a
fit case where the High Court should have interfered with the acquittal of any
of the appellants. The appeals are allowed.
The judgment and order of the High Court are
set aside and the appellants are acquitted of all the charges. The appellants,
Satbir Singh, Paramjit Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Shiv Narain and M.P. Singh shall
be released from detention forthwith. The remaining appellants, Ajit Singh,
Darshan Singh, Arjan Singh, Baghal Singh, Tara Singh, Dial Singh, Bachan Singh
and Malook Singh, who have been on bail shall be discharged from their bail
bonds S.R. Appeals allowed.