Pala Singh & ANR Vs. State of
Punjab  INSC 180 (23 August 1972)
KHANNA, HANS RAJ
CITATION: 1972 AIR 2679 1973 SCR (1) 964 1972
SCC (2) 640
CITATOR INFO :
R 1973 SC2187 (8) R 1976 SC2304 (9) R 1985 SC
131 (13) RF 1992 SC2155 (2)
Code of Criminal Procedure s. 417-Appeal in
High Court against acquittal by trial court--High Court's power to reverse
judgment of acquittal-Practice and procedure.
Code of Criminal Procedure s. 157-Delay in
sending occurrence report to magistrate-Whether whole investigation to be
regarded as tainted.
Constitution of India 1950, Art.
136-Interference by Supreme Court when justified.
The appellants along with some other accused
were tried for murder under s. 302 I.P.C. and connected offences. They were
acquitted by the Sessions Judge. The High Court reversing the judgment of
acquittal convicted the appellants. In appeal before this Court under article
136 of the Constitution it was contended that in apprising the evidence the High
Court had not followed the principles laid down by this-Court in Sanwant Singh
and other cases.
Dismissing the appeal,
HELD : (i) The contention that because the
judgment of the trial court prima facie seemed reasonable there was no scope
for reassessment of the evidence by the High Court was unacceptable. The Court
of appeal has full power under the statute to go into the entire evidence and
all the relevant circumstances of the case for coming to its own conclusion
about the guilt or innocence of the accused bearing in mind the initial
presumption of the innocence of the accused person and the fact that he was
acquitted by the trial court. The High Court in the present case did not commit
any error in the appraisal of the evidence on the record and in arriving at its
own conclusion as to the guilt of the appellants. The criticism about the
insertion of s. 120B in the site plan might raise a slight suspicion but in
view of the trustworthiness of the prosecution evidence led in the case that
could not in any way justify any grave suspicion of the prosecution story. It
could not be said that the High Court had not followed the principles laid down
in Sanwant Singh's case nor were its conclusions so erroneous as to justify
interference by this Court under Art. 136 of the Constitution. [971-F-H;
972A-B] Sanwant Singh v. State of Rajasthan,  3 S.C.R. 120, Rambhapala
Reddy v. State of A.P., A.I.R. 1971 S.C. 46 and Bansidhar Mohanty V. State of
Orissa, A.I.R. 1955 S.C.
585, considered and applied.
(ii) Section 157 Cr. P.C. requires an
occurrence report to be sent forthwith by the police officer concerned to a
magistrate empowered to take congnizance of the offence.
This is really designed to keep the
magistrate informed of the investigation of such cognizable offence so as to be
able to control the investigation and if necessary to give appropriate
direction under s. 159. But when it was found in the present case that the
F.I.R. was actually recorded without delay and the investigation started on the
basis of the F.I.R. and there- was no other infirmity brought 965 to the
Court's notice, then, however, improper or objectionable the delayed receipt of
the report by the magistrate concerned it could not by itself justify the
conclusion that the investigation was tainted and the prosecution
insupportable. It was not the appellants' case that they had been prejudicial
by this delay. [970 C-E]
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Criminal
Appeal No. 197 of 1969.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated May 15, 1969 of the Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandi- garh
in Criminal Appeal No. 385 of 1967.
R. L. Kohli, R. C. Kohli and J. C. Talwar,
for the appellants.
Harbans Singh and R. N. Sachthey, for the
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Dua, J. This appeal by special leave under Art. 136 of the Constitution of
India is directed against the judgment dated May 16, 1969 of the High Court of
Punjab and Haryana allowing in part the State appeal from the order of Shri
Kartar Singh, Additional Sessions Judge, Jullundur, acquitting the five
accused, charged under ss. 302, 302/34, 120B and 302/309, I.P.C. and convicting
on appeal Trilok Singh and Pala Singh, appellants,the former under s. 302,
I.P.C. and the latter under S. 302 read with S. 34, I.P.C;
They were both sentenced to imprisonment for
The facts giving rise to this appeal briefly
stated are that Atma Singh, resident of Basti Danish Mandan, Jullundur City had
purchased a plot of land measuring 58 kanals and 10 marlas in the aforesaid
Basti in the year 1959 for a sum of about Rs. 16,000 from the Government at a,
This piece of land was at that time being
cultivated by Hazara Singh, one of the five coaccused in the trial court and
his associates. As they were disinclined to give up possession Atma Singh
appointed Ram Singh (P. W. 14) and Sham Singh (Deceased) as his attorneys to
represent him in the litigation concerning the said land. These two attorneys
obtained possession of the plot with the help of the police and through the
intervention of the revenue authorities in June, 1963. A few days later Hazara
Singh and 7 or 8 others persons including Trilok Singh son. of Surain Singh,
accused no., I and Trilok Singh son of Inder Singh, accused no. 5, threatened
the two attorneys with death unless they dissociated themselves with the
litigation relating to this land. Sham Singh, deceased, thereupon applied, to
the City Inspector of Police complaining against this threat as a result of
which Hazara Singh and Trilok Singh son of Inder Singh were proceeded against
107, Cr. P.C. The two attorneys, it appears,
wanted to plough the land in question but were afraid of the accused persons.
They approached the Superintendent of 966 Police for help which was made
available to them against payment of the prescribed fee. The land in question
was actually ploughed by the attorneys in the presence of the police on June
26, 1963 when Hazara Singh, Trilok Singh son of Inder Singh and Harnam Singh,
father of Pala Singh, came there armed with lathes but were apprehended. The
police stayed on the land in question for about 5 or 6 days. On August 9, 1963
the crop standing on the said and was found damaged. At the instance of Ram
Singh (P.W. 14) the police prosecuted Hazara Singh, his brother Tara Singh, his
employee Channan and Trilok Singh son of Inder Singh, all of whom were found
guilty and convicted. In November, 1963 Hazara Singh, Harnam Singh, Bulkar
Singh ('brother of Pala Singh) and other persons were prosecuted for ploughing the
said land but: were acquited. On December 15, 1963 Hazara Singh and 17 or 18
other persons attached Sham Singh, deceased, and Ram Singh (P.W. 14). The
police proceeded against Hazara Singh, his wife Piar Kaur and his brother Mahal
Singh, wife of Tara Singh, brother of Hazara Singh and Mangal Singh, brother of
Trilok Singh son of Surain Singh under s. 107, Cr. P.C. During the pendency of
these proceedings Sham Singh, deceased, and Ram Singh (P.W. 14) were attached
by six persons including Hazara Singh, the two Trilok Singh's (Trilok Singh son
of Surain Singh, accused no. 1 appellant no. 2 in this Court and Trilok Singh
son of Inder Singh accused no. 5 in the trial court) Channan Singh, Harnam
Singh and Nangal Singh who were committed to the sessions court to stand their
trial for an offence under s.
307, I.P.C. and other offences. Sham,
deceased, and Ram Singh (P.W. 14) were to appear as prosecution witnesses in
that case which was adjourned to June 3 1966 because of the absence of Trilok
Singh, appellant. On May 23, 1966 at about 7.30 a. m. Laxman Singh (P.W.2) was
coming from his coal depot in Basti Danishmandan, to his residential house
situated in a lane in which Sham Singh, deceased, also resided. The deceased
was at that time going ahead of Laxman Singh and Narinder Singh, brother of the
deceased was following Laxman Singh about 3 or 4 yards behind. When Sham Singh
reached near the shop of Babu Rain, barber, Tirlok Singh, appellant, and Dhira
(accused no. 2 in the trial court) each armed with a kirpan and Pala Singh,
accused, and Trilok Singh son of Inder Singh armed with a Lathi each, appeared
at the spot. Trilok Singh son of Inder Singh shouted that the enemy had come
and should be murdered.
Dhira aimed a kripan blow at the head of Sham
Singh, deceased, who caught hold of the kirpan but the same was pulled away by
Dhira. Pala Singh there upon gave a lathi below on the head of the deceased as
a result of which he fell on the ground face downwards. This was followed by
three or four kirpan blows by the appellant Trilok Singh on the back of the
next of the deceased. The occurrence was witnessed by Gokal Chand (P.W.3) who
practises in Ayurvedic system of medicine and has a 967 shop nearby and
Trilochan Singh (P.W. 9) a tractor driver who happened to pass that way to
attend to his duties as such, The learned Additional Sessions Judge acquitted
all the ac- cused persons holding that the Assistant Sub-Inspector, Kashmiri
Lal, who had investigated the offence had not performed his duties in a fair
and straight forward manner and that the prosecution evidence was not
trustworthy so as to bring home the offence to the accused beyond the
possibility of a reasonable doubt. The trial court expressed the view that the
first information report had been recorded after great delay and after there
had been consultation with the interested persons,. The special report had also
not reached the duty magistrate- till after the expiry of 8 or 9 hours though
the duty magistrate lives in the same town. The inquest report prepared by
Kashimiri Lal had also been tempered with
inasmuch as there were interpolations in the statements of at least two
witnesses recorded therein. Gokal Chand (P.W.3) was also disbelieved by the
trial court and so was Trilochan Singh (P.W. 9). The recovery of blood-stained
sword at the instance of Trilok Singh, appellant, was also discarded as
unreliable. The site plan prepared by A.S.I. Kashmiri Lal was also held to have
been prepared not, as it purposed to be, before 9.45 a.m. but long thereafter
when he had decided to implicate Hazara Singh also as a party to the conspiracy
under s. 120B, I.P.C. As observed earlier, all the accused were acquitted by
the learned Additional Sessions Judge.
On appeal by the State the High Court
considered the entire evidence in great detail and examined all the material
circumstances which had weighed with the trial court in disbelieving the
prosecution story, and in disagreement with the trial court, came to the
conclusion that the prosecution had fully proved the case against the two
appellants in this Court.
Shri R. L. Kohli, the learned counsel for the
appellants, took us through the relevant evidence and the judgments of the two
courts below. The principal argument passed by him in support of this appeal
was that the learned Additional Sessions Judge had on a consideration of the
entire evidence come to a conclusion which is reasonable and had, the basis of
that conclusion held that the prosecution witnesses were not reliable and that
the accused were, therefore, entitled to acquittal. The High Court, according
to this submission, was not justified in reappraising the evidence for itself
and in disagreeing with the reasoning of the trail court for convicting the
appellants on appeal against acquittal.
We would first deal with the argument that
the first information report was recorded after a long delay, that the inquest
report was tampered with by A.S.I. Kashmiri Lal, and that the special report
was not sent to the duty magistrate with the promptitude 968 expected under the
Code of Criminal Procedure. P.W. 13, S.I.Pritam Lal has deposed that on May 23,
1966 when he was posted as Sub-Inspector, Police Station, Kotwal Jullundur he
received ruqa from Kashmiri Lal on the basis of which Ex.
PD/1 was recorded by him. He thereupon went
to the spot in Basti Danishmandan and reached there at 10 a.m. Dead body of
Sham Singh had by that 'time already been despatched by A.S.I. Kashmiri Lal
This witness then took over the investigation from Kashmiri Lal. There was no
cross- examination worth the name of this witness suggesting that he had not
told the truth in court. The F.I.R. purports to have been recorded at 9.5 a.m.
on May 23, 1966. The time of occurrence is stated to be 7-30 a.m. on that very
day and the distance between the place of occurrence and the Police Station is
about 24 miles. If S.I. Pritam Lal reached the place of occurrence at 10 a.m.
as deposed by him, which statement is not shaken by any cross-examination then
plainly the F.I.R. cannot be considered to have been lodged after undue delay.
Nor can it be said that the do-ad body of the deceased was despatched from the
place of occurrence after undue delay. Kashmiri Lal, A.S.I. appeared as P.W.21.
According to his testimony on May 23, 1966 when he was posted as A.S.I. in charge
of police post no. 5, police station, Jullunder City at about 7.40 a.m. he was
present at bus stand at Basti Gujan when Laxman Singh (P.W.3) appeared before
him and made statement Ex. PD/I which was forwarded by the witness with his
endorsement to the police station Jullundur City for registration of the case
at about 8.30 a.m. Kashmiri Lal accompanied Luxman Singh to the spot in Main
Bazar Basti Danishmandan reaching there at about 8.40 a.m. The dead body of
Sham Singh was lying near the shop of Babu Ram and Narinder Singh, Gokul Chand
and several other persons were present there. He prepared the inquest report
Ex. PC and recorded the statements of Narinder Singh and Gokal Chand and sent
the dead body with the inquest report to the Mortuary for postmortem at about
9.45 a.m. through constable Takhat Singh. In cross-examination it was elicited
from him that he had prepared a site plan Ex. PH/1 when the dead body was still
there meaning thereby that he had prepared the site plan before 9.45 a.m. The
deceased was at that time wearing only a banian and a chaddar. The suggestion
that it was he who had recorded the F.I.R. and that he had prepared the site
plan in the afternoon in consultation with Luxman Singh, Narinder Singh and Ram
Singh (P.Ws) in the presence of Inspector Janak Raj was denied by him. The
inquest report Ex. P/C was subjected to strong criticism by Shri Kohli on three
counts. In the first instance it was urged that the statements of Narinder
Singh and Gokal Chand which were attached to the inquest report originally
referred to two injuries caused by Trilok Singh, appellant, with his sword, but
later the 969 digit 4 in one and the word four in the other were added in those
statements so as to make them read as if two or four injuries were inflicted by
Trilok Singh by his sword.
According to Shri Kohli's suggestion the
medical examination disclosed that there were five injuries on the person of
the deceased. From this it was sought to be concluded that the inquest report
was tampered with by A.S.I. Kashmiri Lal so that the number of injuries
mentioned therein may not differ from the number suggested by the medical
evidence. The second criticism related to the insertion in the site plan of S.
120B which only relates to Hazara Singh, whose name had not been mentioned by
anyone up to that stage. From the insertion of S. 120B in the site plan it was
inferred that Kashmiri Lal had some enmity with Hazara Singh and that he had,
therefore, already made up his mind to falsely rope Hazara Singh in. On this line
of. reasoning it was suggested that the investigation carried out by Kashmiri
Lal was far from honest, faithful and fair. It was contended that when
cross-examined Kashmiri Lal admitted that he had inserted the offence under S.
120B in the site plan at the same time, when the offence under s. 302/34,
I.P.C., was mentioned. The denial by this witness that he had recorded the
first information report and prepared the site plan late in the evening in
consultation with Laxman Singh, Narinder Singh and Ram Singh, P.Ws. argued Shri
Kohli, was not correct. In our opinion the criticism levelled by Shri Kohli
does not justify the rejection of the F.I.R. or of the site plan and the
inquest report, as suggested by Shri Kohli. It is noteworthy that in Laxman
Singh's information to P.W. 21 there is a clear reference to Hazara Singh's
grievance and his interest in the land in dispute. It cannot, therefore, be
said that in the site plan mention of Hazara and of an offence under s. 120B,
being a later interpolation, is a suspicious circumstance suggesting unfairness
of the investigation.
P.W. 21, when asked, denied that he had made
interpolations by adding figure 4 in the statement of Narinder Singh and word
four in the statement of Gokal Chand. Now as stated by P.W. 13, whom we see no
reason to disbelieve, that the inquest report was sent along with the dead body
then that report was prepared with due dispatch and sent in due course without
any delay. It was not improperly retained for any sinister purpose of
finalising it after consulting other prosecution witnesses. It was suggested by
Shri Kohli that after the post-mortem examination, inquest report was handed
over to the police officers and they must have made the necessary insertions in
the two statements so as to make them conform to the medical report. If that
was the object, when, one would have, expected the statements to convey that
there were five injuries and not merely two or four.
However, assuming without holding, that in
the 970 inquest report the figure 4 and word four were added afterwards, in our
view, this by itself does not detract from the general trustworthiness of the
inquest report nor does it render the investigation suspicious so as to be
fatal to the prosecution.
Shri Kohli strongly criticised the fact that
the occurrence report contemplated by S. 157, Cr.P.C. was sent to the
magistrate concerned very late. Indeed, this challenge, like the argument of
interpolation and belated despatch of the inquest report, was developed for the
purpose of showing that the investigation was not just, fair and forthright
and, therefore, the prosecution case must be looked at with great suspicion.
This argument is also unacceptable. No doubt, the report reached the magistrate
at about 6 p.m.
Section 157, Cr. P.C. requires such report to
be sent forthwith by the police officer concerned to a magistrate empowered to
take cognisance of such offence. This is really designed to keep the magistrate
informed of the investigation of such cognizable offence so as to be able to control
the investigation and if necessary to give appropriate direction under s. 159.
But when we find in this case that the F.I.R. was actually recorded without
delay and the investigation started on the basis of that F.I.R. and there is no
other infirmity brought to our notice, then, however improper or objectionable
the delayed receipt of the report by the magistrate concerned it cannot by
itself justify the conclusion that the investigation was tainted and the
prosecution insupportable. It is not the appellants case that they have been
prejudiced by this delay.
Shri Kohli took us through the evidence of
the- eye witnesses and pointed out certain minor discrepancies. But his main
contention was based on the argument that the judgment of the trial court was
reasonable and it was open to a court to come to the conclusion to which it
came. The High Court was, therefore, not justified in reversing the judgment of
acquittal into one of conviction. In support of his submission he relied on
three decisions of this Court 1. Sanwat Singh v. State of Rajasthan(1).
2. Ramabhupala Reddy v. State of A p. (2).
3. Bansidhar Mohanty v. State of Orissa(3).
In the latest decision of this Court in
Ramabhupala Reddy (supra) it has been observed that the controversy in regard to
the scope (1)  3 S.C.R. 120.
(2) A.I.R. 1971 S.C. 460.
(3) A.I.R. 1955 S.C. 585.
971 of an appeal against an order of
acquittal has been settled by this Court in Sanwant Singh (supra) in which the
legal position was summarised thus :
"1. An appellate Court has full powers
to review the evidence upon which the order of acquittal is founded;
2. the principles laid down in Sheo Swarup's
case (61 I.A. 398) afforded a correct guide for the appellate court's approach
to a case disposing of such an appeal;
3. the different phraseology used in the
judgments of this court such as :
(a) 'substantial and compelling reasons';
(b) good and sufficiently cogent reasons';
(c)'strong reasons' are not intended to
curtail the undoubted power of an appellate court in an appeal against
acquittal to review the entire evidence and to come to its own conclusion, but
in doing so it should not only consider every matter on record having a bearing
on the questions of fact and the rea- sons given by the court below in support
of its order of acquittal but should express the reasons in its judgment which
led it to hold that the acquittal was not justified." This, in our view,
correctly summarises the legal position as finally settled by this Court. The
submission urged by Shri Kohli, therefore,, that merely because the judgment of
the trial court prima facie seems reasonable there is no scope for reassessment
of the evidence by the appellate court is unacceptable. The court of appeal has
full power under the statute to go into the entire evidence and all the
relevant circumstances of the case for coming to its own conclusion about the
guilt or innocence of the accused bearing in mind the initial presumption of
the innocence of an accused person and the fact that he was acquitted by the
trial court. We do not think that the High Court committed any error in the
appraisal of the evidence on the record and in arriving at its own conclusion
as to the guilt of the appellants. The criticism about the insertion of S.
120B in the plan Ex PH/1, in our view, may
raise slight suspecion but in view of the trustworthiness of the prosecution
evidence led in the case we do not think that in any way justifies any grave
suspicion of the prosecution story.
Besides, the case is now before us under Art.
136 of the Constitution. We allowed Shri Kohli not only to state the case
broadly 972 and to take us through the judgments of the two courts below but
also to take us through such evidence as he considered proper for persuading us
to hold that the High Court had not followed the principals laid down in
Sanwant Singh's case (supra) or that its conclusions were otherwise so
erroneous as to justify interference by this Court under Art. 136 of the
Constitution. We are not persuaded to hold that there is any ground for
differing with the conclusion of the High Court.
The result, therefore, is that this appeal
must fail and is dismissed.
G.C. Appeal dismissed.