Ram Vs. State of Rajasthan  INSC 1205 (25 September 1996)
G.N. (J) Ray, G.N. (J) Nanavati G.T. (J) G.N. Ray.J.
NO. 1007 OF 1996)
appellant Surja Ram was convicted by the learned Additional Sessions Judge. Hanumangarh
in Sessions Trial No. 29 of 1991 for the offence under Section 302 IPC for
murdering his real brother Raji Ram, Raji Ram's two sons Naresh and Ramesh and Niko
Bai their Bua, and for an offence under Section 307 IPC for attempting to
murder Sudesh, the daughter of Raji Ram and Phoola Devi the wife of Raji Ram
and also for offence under Section 450 IPC for committing house trespass in
order to commit offence punishable with imprisonment for life. The learned Additional
Sessions Judge awarded death sentence against the said accused Surja Ram for
the offence of murder. He was sentenced to suffer imprisonment for life and a
fine of Rs.2,000/-, in default of payment of fine, further rigorous
imprisonment for three months for the offence under Section 307 IPC and he was
also sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for ten years and fine of
Rs.1000/-, in default of payment of fine, to suffer further rigorous
imprisonment for one month for the offence under Section 450 IPC.
such convictions and sentences, the accused Surja Ram preferred D.B.Criminal
Appeal No. 265 and 266 of 1995 before the Rajasthan High Court (Jodhpur Bench).
The said appeals were heard along with D.B. Criminal Murder Reference No,1 of
1995 by the Rajasthan High Court and by the impugned common judgment dated January 18, 1996. the High Court dismissed both the
appeals registered by the accused Surja Ram and confirmed the death sentence
passed against him.
Ram filed S.L.F. (Crl.) No. 744 of 1996 through a learned counsel against his
convictions and sentences before this Court. He also sent another special leave
petition from Jail to the Registry of this Court which has been numbered as D.No.
1007 of 1996. His special leave petition was dismissed by this Court after
nearing the learned counsel so far as the order of convictions passed against
the said Accused is concerned but notice was issued to the State of Rajasthan limited only on the question of
sentences to be passed against the accused for his convictions for the offences
Dutt, the learned counsel appearing for the accused appellant Raji Ram has
submitted that it is not a fit case calling for awarding extreme penalty of
death sentence because sufficient grounds warranting such extreme penalty by
holding it as one of the rarest of rare cases are not present. Mr. Dutt has
submitted that certain facts, relevant for the consideration of appropriate
punishment to be awarded against the accused appellant the accused appellant,
should be noted.
accused appellant and his two brothers Dalip Ram and the deceased Raji Ram had
been living in one compound (Anata) in their respective residential unit. The
accused appellant used to reside in the middle portion of the said compound and
the deceased Raji Ram and Dalip Ram used to reside respectively on the northern
and southern side of the said compound. The parents of the accused and his
brothers were residing in Punjab. There
had been partition of joint property amongst the brothers. On such partition
the accused and Dalip Ram each got 13 killa of land and the deceased Raji Ram
got 14 killa.
was some land dispute amongst the brothers about 6 to 7 months prior to the
said incident of murder but such dispute is stated to have been sorted but at
the intervention of Sarpanch Chandra Pal.
5 or 6 days prior to the incident, the accused expressed the desire to erect
wire fencing in the compound but the deceased Raji Ram protested against such
proposal of the accused.
prosecution case as proved by the evidences adduced in the trial, is that on August 7, 1990 at about 9.00 P.M., the members of the family of the deceased Raji Ram retired
after taking their dinner. The informant Dalip Ram. who is the other brother of
the deceased and the wife of Dalip Ram were sleeping in their courtyard. Raji
Ram and his two sons Naresh and Ramesh were sleeping in the outer room of his
residential unit. Raji Ram's wife Phoola Devi, her daughter Sudesh and Raji
Ram's father's sister Niko Pai were sleeping in their courtyard. In the
courtyard of Surja Ram the wife of the accused Imarti was also sleeping. After
taking meal, the appellant went out of the house. At about 12.30 A.M..Dalip Ram heard the cries of Sudesh. When he came
out, he saw in the light that their accused Surja Ram was standing with a kassi
in his hand and was assaulting Sudesh.
Ram and the wife of the accused Imarti challenged the accused and the accused
had run away. It has been proved that Sudesh had suffered severe injuries on
her neck and she fell down in the courtyard and Niko and Phoola were also found
lying seriously injured. Niko was, however, found dead and Phoola was gasping
for life. When Dalip Ram went inside the room, he found the Raji Ram and his
son Naresh were lying dead and the other son Ramesh though alive, was
critically injured. The said Ramesh, however, died shortly thereafter and Sudesh
and Phoola were taken in a jeep and admitted in the hospital at Sangaria. On
being treated in the hospital both of them survived.
awarding the sentence of death against the accused- appellant, the learned
Additional Sessions Judge noted that:
accused had committed extremely barbaric and henious crime of causing murder of
four persons and also attempted to murder the other two who, though seriously
injured, providentially survived.
The accused committed murder of his own real brother, two minor sons of his
said brother and also his Bua.
the accused also attempted to kill the daughter and the wife of his brother,
they, being seriously injured. luckily survived.
The accused committed the murder of the said persons and also attempted to
murder the other two close relations while all the said victims were defenceless
as they were asleep then and therefore, had no opportunity to save themselves
or resist the attack.
The accused attempted to kill Phoola his brother's wife by cutting her neck and
being critically injured, she remained unconscious for about 15 days and
hovered between life and death but luckily survived. Attempt was also made to
kill the daughter of his brother by cutting her neck with kassi but she also
The intention of the accused was only to murder all the said persons because he
inflicted injuries or the neck of all the said persons with a sharp cutting
The accused ensured that no male member in the family of hi s brother Raji Ram
was alive. As a matter of fact, he attempted to wipe out the whole family of Raji
Ram but the widow and the daughter of Raji Ram survived even though they
suffered serious injuries on their necks by the kassi blows inflicted by the
There was no instigation or provocation for causing the said murders of four
very close relations and attempting to cause murders of the other two persons.
For some land dispute which was settled six months before and the dispute and
altercation over a small incident of putting the barbed wire in the compound of
the residential complex which had also taken place 2 to 3 days before the
incident, the accused in a cool and calculated manner attacked all the said
persons when they were sleeping in their house and were utterly helpless in
resisting attacks made on them.
The previous and the subsequent conduct of the accused clearly revealed that he
was mentally alert for which he selected the opportune moment to commit the
said murders when the victims were asleep and after committing the crime
escaped from the scene of crime.
There was complete absence of any feeling of remorse of the accused.
learned Additional Sessions Judge after indicating the aforesaid aggravating
factors in the commission of the crime came to the finding that there was
absence of any mitigating factor in favour of the accused and the heinous act
of murder of four persons including an old aunt and two minor sons of his real
brother and attempting also to kill his brother's wife and her daughter in a
most cool and calculated manner by ensuring that none of the victim could offer
any resistance because they were asleep at the time of being attacked,
constituted the offence committed by the accused as one of the rarest of rare
cases for which the extreme penalty of death was warranted.
learned Judge held that the death sentence per se was not unconstitutional as
has been held by this Court in and others (1992 SCC (Crl.) 24).
the learned counsel for the accused- appellant has submitted that though the
appellant has committed a very serious crime by killing his own brother, his
two minor sons and his Bua when they were asleep and he also attempted to kill
his brother's wife and brother's daughter, the appellant did not act with
cruelty or in a barbaric manner and also did not torture anyone of them before
committing the murder or attempting to cause murder.
learned counsel has submitted that though it is extremely unfortunate that the
appellant committed the said ghastly murders of his brother and his two minor
sons and the old aunt and also attempted to kill brother's wife and daughter,
it should be kept in mind that the appellant felt deeply aggrieved against the
conduct of his brother Raji Ram on account of dispute with him in land matter
and the recent quarrel which he had with the deceased for not allowing the
appellant to put fencing as desired by him, in the compound of their
residential complex. The appellant unfortunately fell victim to his deep seeded
ill feeling towards his brother and members of the family of the said brother
and lost his normal frame of mind for which he could not restrain himself and
being mad with rage and being actuated by an urge for vengeance, murdered the
said persons and attempted to murder the other two.
learned counsel for the appellant has further submitted that life once but to
end can never be brought back. It is, therefore, essentially necessary to give
a very carefully and serious consideration as to whether such extreme penalty
of death which will put an end of the life of the accused, should be awarded in
a case or not. The learned counsel has also submitted that the number of
persons murdered though a relevant consideration in weighing the gravity of a
crime is not the only consideration in selecting the extreme penalty for murder
and unless the crime perpetrated by an accused can safely be placed in the
category of rarest of rare cases, the extreme penalty of death should not be
awarded. In support of such contention, the learned counsel for the appellant
has referred to a Karnataka (1994 (4) SCC 381).
learned counsel for the appellant has further submitted that the facts and
circumstances of the case do not reveal that the accused was a mania or
otherwise blood- thirsty with a high degree of propensity to commit murder of
innocent persons. On the contrary, the accused is a poor agriculturist who was
not booked for any crime.
for the said land dispute and the quarrel with the deceased in connection with
putting of a barbed fence in the domestic house, the appellant suddenly became
very much enraged and lost the normal frame of mind and control over his
passions. In such uncontrolled frame of mind, he decided to murder his brother
and his family members so as to out an end of any dispute with them for ever.
Such act though very heinous and extremely lamentable, cannot be categorised as
rarest of rare cases. The learned counsel has submitted that the accused
attacked each of the victim with a sharp cutting instrument kassi and inflicted
injuries on the neck of each of the victim so that the death could be hastened.
There was no tendency on his part to subject any of the victim to any cruel
treatment or torture before killing them. In the aforesaid circumstances, the
learned Additional Sessions Judge and the High Court should not have awarded
the extreme penalty of death against the appellant. The appellant should be
given a chance to reform himself in jail and repent for his crime during long soan
of imprisonment for life and thereafter to be a useful member in the society.
He has, therefore, submitted that the death penalty should be set aside by
commuting the sentence to the sentence of imprisonment for life.
learned counsel for the State, however, opposed the submissions of the learned
counsel for the appellant that the crime committed by the accused did not
constitute a rarest of rare cases for which the extreme penalty of death is
warranted. It has been submitted by the learned counsel for the State that all
the brothers had specific share of the land on partition of joint property and
they had been enjoying their respective share of land. There is nothing on
record to indicate that peaceful enjoyment of the land allotted to the share of
the accused was sought to be interfered with by the deceased who was none else
but his real brother. On the contrary, it has been proved that there was a
dispute between the brothers in respect of only one killa of partitioned land.
Such dispute was also sorted out at the intervention of the Sarpanch of the
village several months back. hence, there was no just cause for nursing any
aggrieved feeling and sense of injustice meted out to him in the hands of the
said brother. There was a minor dispute between the deceased and the accused 5
to 6 days before the date of the incident when the accused wanted to out a
barbed fencing on a portion of their residential complex and the deceased
protested against such intention of the accused. In a domestic life, such petty
discord and dissension often happen. For such a petty discord, there cannot be
any occasion for any man of normal composure to lose control of his senses and
to become so enraged as to commit murder of brother and his two minor sons and
an old aunt and to attempt to murder the brother's wife and daughter unless he
is a person of cruel nature and absolutely mean minded. Even if it is assumed
that because of such dispute, the appellant had felt aggrieved and became
enraged, the murders had not been committed immediately after the occurrence
when the accused might have lost normal frame of mind. The incident of dispute
in connection with putting of fencing had taken place several days before the
date of commission of murders.
quite evident that the accused did not commit said crime under a grave and
sudden provocation and in a fit of emotional set back but being determined to
wipe out the entire family of his brother, he selected the most opportune
moment to commit the said ghastly murders at dead of night when the brother and
the members of his family were fast asleep and were completely helpless to put
up any defence.
learned counsel for the State has also submitted that even if the accused had
occasion to feel aggrieved against him brother either on account of the land
dispute, though in fact no such dispute was then existing, or on account of
resistance given by the brother in not allowing the accused to put a fencing in
their residential complex, there was no occasion for the accused to kill two
innocent minor sons of his brother who were asleep at the time of murder.
Similarly, there was no occasion to kill the old aunt and also to attempt to
kill the brother's wife and the brother's daughter when they were also asleep
and completely defenceless. The brother's wife and daughter were given serious
injuries by the sharp cutting instrument on their necks and it was due to
extreme good luck that they ultimately survived after prolonged medical
treatment in the hospital. The learned counsel for the State has submitted that
such act of murders and attempt to murder had not been committed on account of
any grave or sudden provocation but the same had been committed in a cool and
calculated manner with clear and definite intention to wipe out each member of
the family of his real brother. Such act on the part of the accused has been
rightly categorised by the learned Additional Sessions Judge and also by the
High Court as one of the rarest of rare cases of murder. The learned counsel
has submitted that the said act of extreme brutality in committing the murder
of helpless innocent persons is bound to shock the conscience of the society
and the cry of the society for justice and just punishment to the criminal
cannot be met by showing any sympathy to the accused, when there is no real
mitigating factor in favour of the accused.
has, therefore, submitted that no interference is called for against the
capital sentence awarded against the accused.
giving our anxious consideration to the facts and circumstances of the case, it
appears to us that for deciding just and appropriate sentence to be awarded for
an offence, the aggravating and mitigating factors and circumstances in which a
crime has been committed are to be delicately balanced in a dispassionate
manner. Such act of balancing is indeed a difficult task. It has been very
aptly ((402) U.S. 183 L. Ed. II 711) that no formula of a full proof nature is
possible that would provide a reasonable criterion in determining a just and
appropriate punishment in the infinite variety of circumstances that may affect
the gravity of the crime of murder. In the absence of any full proof formula
which may provide any basis for reasonable criteria to correctly assess various
circumstances germane to the consideration of gravity of crime of murder, the
discretionary judgment in the facts of each case, is the only way in which such
judgment may be equitably distinguished.
Court has indicated that the choice as to which one of the two punishments
provided for murder is a proper one in a given case will depend upon the
particular circumstances of that case and the Court has to exercise its
discretion judicially and on well-recognised principles after balancing all the
mitigating or aggravating circumstances of the case.
Bharat Singh and others vs. State of Gujarat (1994(4) SCC 353), it has been
held by this Court that in the matter of death sentence, the Courts are
required to answer new challenges and mould the sentencing system to meet these
challenges. The object should be to protect the society and to deter the
criminal in achieving the avowed object of law by imposing appropriate
It is expected
that the courts would operate the sentencing system as to impose such sentence
which reflects the conscience of the Society and the sentencing process has to
be stern where it should be.
Chatterjee vs. State of west Bengal (1994
(2) SCC 220), this Court has observed that shockingly large number of criminals
go unpunished thereby increasing, encouraging the criminals and in the ultimate
suffer by weakening the system's credibility. The imposition of appropriate
punishment is the manner in which the Court responds to the society's cry for
justice against the criminal. Justice demands that courts should impose
punishment befitting the crime so that the courts reflect public abhorrence of
the crime. The Court must not only keep in view the right of the criminal but
also the rights of the victim of the crime and the society at last while
considering the imposition of appropriate punishment.- Similar view has also
been expressed in Ravji @ Ram Chandra vs. State of Rajasthan (JT 1995 (B) SC
520). It has been held in the said case that it is the nature and gravity of
the crime but not the criminal, which are germane for consideration of
appropriate punishment in a criminal trial.
Court will be failing in its duty if appropriate punishment is not awarded for
a crime which has been committed not only against the individual victim but
also against the society to which the criminal and victim belong.
punishment to be awarded for a crime must not be irrelevant but it should conform
to and be consistent with the atrocity and brutality with which the crime has
been perpetrated, the enormity of the crime warranting public abhorrence and it
should respond to the society's cry for justice against the criminal. If for
extremely heinous crime of murder perpetrated in a very brutal manner without
any provocation, most deterrent punishment is not given, the case of deterrent
punishment will lose its relevance.
instant case, there is absence of any provocation. There is no material on
record from which it can be reasonably held that the accused had any occasion
to reasonably feel aggrieved for any unjust and improper conduct on the part of
the deceased brother. It has transpired from evidence adduced that joining
lands had been partitioned long back amongst the brothers and each of the
brothers including the deceased and the accused had been possessing his
respective allotted lands. There was an occasion for difference and dispute
between the accused and the deceased in respect of only one killa of land but
such dispute had been sorted out at the intervention of the Sarpanch of the
village about eight to ten months before the incident. After that no fresh
incident had taken place in recent past for which there was any occasion for
the accused to feel aggrieved concerning his landed property. From the evidence
it transpires that all the three brothers had been residing in separate
portions within their residential compound or Anata. A few days before the
incident, there was a quarrel between the accused and the deceased when the
accused intended to put a barbed fencing on a portion of their residential
complex but the deceased objected to such course of action. Such incident
cannot be reasonably held to be a cause for being temperamentally upset and for
entertaining so much wrath and spirit of vengeance as may impel man of normal
composure and frame of mind to run amuck and perpetrate ghastly murders of such
magnitude. There is no evidence to indicate that in view of such quarrel
happening a few days prior to the incident there had been any aftermath and
further dispute and resentment between the deceased and the accused either
immediately before or even proximately before the incident of murders and
attempts to commit murders. From the evidence adduced, it is clearly revealed
that the accused, in a cool and calculated manner intended to wipe out the
entire family of his brother. In that end in view, he selected the most
opportune moment, namely, dead of night when his brother and other members of
his family would remain asleep so that they would be absolutely helpless and
not capable to give any defence to save themselves. In order to ensure death,
the accused chose to cut vital part of the body, namely, the neck by a sharp
cutting weapon (kassi) when his victims were asleep. He, therefore, succeeded
in murdering his brother Raji Ram and his two minor sons by cutting their necks
without any resistance from them. He did not even spare the poor old aunt and
brutally murdered her by cutting her neck when she was asleep. In order to wipe
out the whole family of his brother, the accused also attempted to murder the
brother's wife and the brother's wife and the daughter were critically injured
by the accused by cutting their necks. The wife of the brother, as a matter of
fact, hovered between life and death and remained unconscious for a number of
days but out of sheer luck she could survive. The daughter of the brother also
luckily survived after being seriously injured when her neck was also cut by giving
a number of injuries in and around the neck. It has been indicated by the
learned Additional Sessions Judge that the accused was in full senses and had
committed the murders of four close relations one after the other and also
attempted to commit murder of his brother's wife and daughter in a cool and
calculated manner. He did not even feel remorsed and being quite alive to the
enormity of the crime committed by him he escaped from the place of occurrence.
true that the appellant was not convicted for any other offence on any previous
occasion. Such fact can hardly be considered as a mitigating factor in favour
of the appellant that will outweigh all the aggravating factors and
circumstances in which the crime of the murders had been committed. The murders
had been committed very brutally and mercilessly of absolutely innocent
persons, namely, the Bua and two minor sons of his brother with whom there was
no occasion to come in conflict and to entertain any grudge or ill feeling.
Even if it is assumed that there was still some property dispute between the
brothers despite sorting out of such dispute at the intervention of the Sarpanch,
for such common place property dispute between brothers particularly when the
accused was not dispossessed from the possession and enjoyment of his
demarcated landed property by the deceased brother, it cannot be reasonably
held that the accused had a genuine cause to feel aggrieved for injustice meted
out to him in the hands of his deceased brother which may impel him to cause
the murder of his brother. In any event, there could not be any cause to take a
decision to wipe out the entire family of the brother in a very cruel manner
when being asleep they were absolutely helpless. The members of the family of
his brother were absolutely innocent and two of them were even minors. Such
murders and attempt to commit murders in a cool and calculate manner without
provocation cannot but shock the conscience of the society which must abhor
such heinous crime committed on helpless innocent persons. Punishment must also
respond to the society's cry for justice against the criminal. While
considering the punishment to be given to the accused, the Court should be
alive not only to the right of the criminal to be awarded just and fair
punishment by administering justice tempered with such mercy as the criminal
may justly deserve, but also to the rights of the victims of the crime to have
the assailant appropriately punished and the society's reasonable expectation
from the court for the appropriate deterrent punishment conforming to the
gravity of the offence and consistent with the public abhorrence for the
heinous crime committed by the accused. In the facts and circumstances of the
case, we are of the view, that the crime committed by the accused falls in the
category of rarest of rare cases for which extreme penalty of death is fully
justified. We therefore, find no reason to interfere with the sentence of death
awarded against the appellant since confirmed by the High Court. This appeal
and the jail petition being numbered as D.No.1007/96 stand dismissed.
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