Singh & Ors Vs. State of Punjab 
INSC 155 (6 March 1998)
Nanavati, S.P. Kurdukar Nanavati, J.
learned counsel for both the sides.
appeal by special leave is filed against the judgment of the High Court of
Punjab and Haryana in Criminal Appeal No. 91-SB of 1986. The High Court
confirmed the conviction of the appellants under sections 147, 353, 447 and 307
read with 149 IPC, but reduced their sentence to the period already undergone.
The appeal to the High Court was against the judgment and order of the Court of
Additional Sessions Judge in Sessions Code No.9 of 1984.
the prosecution case that a dispute was going on Since 1981 between Ghala Singh
and Balbir Singh on the one hand and Dayal Singh and Munsha Singh on the other,
in respect of an agricultural land of village Bhadaur. Ghala Sigh and Balbir
Singh who belong to the faction of Sant Narain Singh were claiming that they
are the owners and in possession of that land. Dayal Singh were claiming that
the land belongs to Gurudwara Nanaksar and it is cultivated by Daya Singh and Munsha
Singh. There is a building in one corner of the said land and it is used as a
`That' (a place where reading of the `Holy Book is done). This dispute led to
initiation of proceedings under section 145 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The Sub- Divisional Magistrate, Barnala passed an order under section 146 of
the Code on 22.4.1983 to attach the said land and to give effect to that order
appointed Naib Tehsildar, Lal Chand as the Receiver and ordered him to take its
possession and manage it till the final order was passed. A police guard
comprising Head Constable, Chanan Singh and Constables Pawan Kumar, Karnail
Singh and Bhalinder Singh was also posted on that land to see that land to see
that no breach of peace took place.
the Receiver could take possession of the land the incident giving risotto this
case happened. During the night between 24th and 25th April, 1983 at about 1.00
a.m. accused Joginder Singh long with a large number of persons belonging to
the party of Sant Gurdev Singh went to the land in a truck and two jeeps. They
had carried a saffron collared `Nishan Sahib' and were also armed with fire
arms and other weapons. They wanted to fix the Nishan Sahib there to create
evidence that they were in possession of that land. When they reached near the
gate of the building Head Constable, Chanan Singh inquired about their identity
and then tried to persuade them not to take forcible possession of the land in
that manner. At the stage accused Joginder Singh raise a `lalkara' that
"come what may, we shall take possession and finish the dispute once for
all". Joginder Singh and his companions then surrounded the building.
Apprehending danger to their persons, Karnail Singh, Gurcharan Singh and Mohinder
Singh who were present in a tent pitched on the adjoining land rushed to that
building at the same time. In order to save themselves Mohinder Singh, Karnail
Singh and Gurcharan Singh who were armed with guns also started firing. As the
situation became serious Head Constable, Chanan Singh instructed the three
constables to take care of themselves and rushed to the Police Station for
help. He reached there at about 1.30 a.m. and informed Sub-Inspector, Iqbal Singh about what had happened. Iqbal
Singh registered an offence and then along with Head Constable, Chanan Singh
and other policemen went to the place of the incident at about 3.00 a.m. By that time all except the three constables had
left that place. Iqbal Singh inspected the scene of offence in the morning and
found five dead bodies belonging to the party of Jodinder Singh on that land
outside the `That'. He also found one jeep lying there. After completing
further investigation he charge-sheeted 19 persons.
order to prove its case the prosecution mainly relied upon the evidence of the
three eye-witnesses, namely, Head Constable Chanan Singh (PW-1), Constable Pawan
Kumar (PW-2) and Constable Karnail Singh (PW-4), Neither karnail Singh nor Gurcharan
Singh nor Mohinder Singh was cited and examined as an eye-witness.
the accused except Harjinder Singh and Sukhdev Singh stated in their
examination under section 313 of the Code that they were falsely involved.
Accused Sukhdev Singh adopted the version of accused Harjinder Singh. The
version of Harjinder Singh was that on 24.4.1983 in the evening he, Sukhdev
Singh, Major Singh, Nachhattar Singh, Jit Singh and Nazir Singh wee present at Gurudwara
Nanaksar to hear recitation of Rehras'. The recitation was over at about 8.00
p.m. At that time they saw one harvester combine proceeding towards the land in
dispute. They apprehended that Ghala Singh and other followers of Sant Narain
Singh might harvest and take away the crop from that land. They, therefore,
decided to go to the land to inquire and for that purpose were waiting for a
vehicle to come. After some time Dayal Singh came there with his jeep. So they
all left in that jeep for the land. As they had not seen the policemen who were
posted near the Gurudwara Nanaksar they thought that possibly the policemen had
gone on a round to the land. So after reaching there they shouted for those
policemen but they were not found there. Suddenly Gurcharan Singh, Ghala Singh,
Daya Singh, Bachan Singh and Gurdial Singh came out of the building armed with
rifles, swords and gandasas and attacked them. He was injured by a bulled and,
therefore, tool shelter in a nearby `khal'. He had also noticed that others
were also injured by the bullets and other weapons.
some time when the assailants had left he along with Sukhdev Singh tried to
find out what had happened. He found that Nazir Singh, Dayal Singh and Jit
Singh were hit by bullets and had died. Nachhattar Singh and Major Singh were
injured with sharp edged weapons and they had also died. He, therefore, along
with Sukhdev Singh went to Gurudwara Nanaksar and from there along with Rupinder
Singh, Joginder Singh and others went to the Police Station at Bhadaur to
inform the police about the incident. Sub Inspector, Iqbal Singh who was in
charge of the Police Station did not record their complaint and instead took
them into custody. He and his companions were released on 3.5.1985.
trial court held that Ghala Singh and Balbir Singh were in possession of the
land and the defence of the accused that they were in possession was false. It
also held that those who had gone to the land had gone with the object of
taking forcible possession and thus they constituted an unlawful assembly. It
also held that they had committed trespass into the field and obstructed Head
Constable, Chanan Singh in execution of his duty to maintain peace. It further
held that while firing at the policemen and the other three persons who were in
the building the members of the unlawful assembly had committed an attempt to
murder those persons. It held that the identity of Joginder Singh, Harinder
Singh, Rupinder Singh Sohan Singh, Harjinder Singh, Major Singh, Sukhdev Singh
and Amar Singh was established beyond doubt; and therefore, convicted them for
the offences punishable under Sections 147, 354, 447 and 307 read with 149 IPC.
Rest of the accused were acquitted as their identity was not established.
High Court after re-appreciating the evidence confirmed the findings that Ghala
Singh and Balbir Singh were in possession of the land, that Joginder Singh, Harjinder
Singh and other convicted accused along with others had gone to the land to
take possession forcibly and that they had fired shots towards the building in
which the police party consisting of Head Constable, Chanan Singh and other
three constables were present. It, therefore, confirmed the conviction of the
appellants but reduced their sentence.
forcefully urged by the learned counsel for the appellants that in this case
neither the investigation was fair nor the trial was conducted fairly by the
Public Prosecutor. It was submitted that the High Court did not properly
consider this aspect and brushed aside this point by observing that there was
no reliable evidence that Sub- Inspector, Iqbal Singh and Inspector, Gurnam
Singh were followers of Sant Narain Singh and had, therefore, suppressed the
true facts and falsely made out a case against the accused instead of
registering a case against Ghala Singh, Daya Singh, Bachan Singh and Karnail
Singh who had caused the deaths of as many as five persons and injured Harjinder
gone through the evidence, we find that there is considerable substance in the
contention raised by the learned counsel for the appellants. Though it is true that
in view of the dispute regarding the land between the two factions, a police
party was required to be posted, Sub- Inspector, Iqbal Singh was not right when
he stated before the Court that a police party headed by Head Constable.
Singh was posted at the land which was the subject- matter of dispute. Iqbal
Singh had to admit in cross- examination when confronted by documentary
evidence that the police party was posted near Gurudwara Nanaksar and not on
the land. It is not believable that if the police party was really posted at
the land the accused either by themselves or along with others would have gone
to that land to take forcible possession thereof. If the police was really
staying in the `That' as deposed by Iqbal Singh then at the time when site and
recovery Panchnamas were made some articles or things belonging to the police
party would have been found from inside the building. As a matter of fact
nothing belonging to the police party was found from that place. If as a result
of the dispute regarding the land the situation had so worsened that it had
become necessary to post the police at the land then they would have certainly
carried fire arms with them. The evidence of Chanan Singh is that they did not
have fire arms at the time of the incident. it also becomes clear that the
prosecution witnesses have falsely stated that the building was used as a
`That'. No sacred book or any other religious scripture or any other material
was found from the building which could have supported their case that the
building was used as a `That'. The version of Chanan Singh and other two
constables that they were occupying the building and that Karnail Singh, Gurcharan
Singh and Mohinder Singh had pitched a tent in the nearby field which belonged
to them is unnatural and does not appear to be correct. If Ghala Singh and Balbir
Singh were in possession of the land and Karnail Singh, Gurcharan Singh and Mohinder
Singh were there to keep a watch over the land are there was hardly any
necessity for them to pitch a tent in the adjoining land and not to stay in the
building itself. The High Court failed to take into consideration all these
relevant and material aspects while appreciating the evidence of Chanan Singh
(PW-1), Pawan Kumar (PW-2) and Karnail Singh (PW-4) and Iqbal Singh (PW- 12)
which grate a serious doubt regarding truthfulness of their version.
evidence of PWs -1,2 and 4 is that when Joginder Singh and his companions came
near the gate of the `That', Chanan Singh inquired about their identity and tried
to persuade them not to take forcible possession of the land.
evidence is that Joginder Singh then raised a `lalkara' "come what may, we
shall take possession and finish the dispute once for all". Thereafter
they surrounded the `That' and also the tent in which Karnail Singh, Gurcharan
Singh and Mohinder Singh were present and so these three persons left the tent
and took shelter in the `That'.
Singh and his companions thereafter made an attempt to enter into the `That'
and also started firing. Apart from this version being unnatural and,
therefore, not believable it also becomes clear from the site plan an the
recovery Panchnama that it is not a true version. It is not likely that when
police was present there they would have made such an attempt. The site plan
and the other evidence on record discloses that there is a building in the
north-western corner of the land consisting of about 10 rooms having an open
compound on the east and south and bounded by a compound wall having a gate in the
southern wall. The compound was covered from all the sides. The distance
between the gate of the accused or other companions of Joginder Singh had
entered the compound and had tried to enter into the building then as a result
of firing by s Karnail Singh, Gurcharan Singh and Mohinder Singh, dead bodies
of the persons who were hit by the bullets would have been found inside that
compound. Not a single dead body was found lying inside that compound. All of
them were found outside and that too at some distance. The dead bodies were
found lying scattered in the south-west, west and north-west directions. Not a
single article belonging to the accused or other companions of Joginder Singh
was found within the compound. This independent and unimpeachable circumstance
clearly establishes that none of the accused or other companions of Joginder
Singh had entered the compound of that building. Neither on the outer walls of
the building nor on the outer walls of the compound any marks were found
indicating that bullets were fired from outside and had hit the walls. Not a
single fired bullet was found either inside or near the building. The evidence
of PW-13, lachhman Singh, the Patwari who had prepared the site plan has stated
that neither Pawan Kumar nor anyone else had shown any pellet or bullet mark
of the empties which were found from within the compound and outside were
reported to have been fired from 30 Spring Field gun and 315 rifle which
belonged to Gurcharan Singh and Karnail Singh. Some of such empties were
recovered form neat the building and also from the places outside the compound
of that building. Surprisingly, the fire arms alleged to be belonging to the
accused and seized by the Investigating Officers were not sent to Ballistic
Expert to ascertain when the any of them was used recently and whether any of
the empties found from the place of the incident could have been fired therefrom.
All these circumstances create a serious doubt regarding Head Constable, Chanan
Singh and his two companions being impartial and reliable witnesses.
the evidence of Head Constable, Chanan Sigh and Sub-Inspector, Iqbal Singh is
that after Hear Constable, Chanan Singh had informed him about the incident and
the FIR was recorded both of them had left the police station and reached the
place of incident at about 3 a.m. Their version that they could see the dead
bodies of Major Singh, Jit Singh, Dayal Singh, Nazir Singh and Nachhattar Singh
in the morning is difficult to be accepted and it creates a doubt also
regarding their going to the place of incident at 3 a.m. A serious doubt also arises regarding the FIR having been
recorded by Iqbal Singh at 1.30 a.m. as
stated by him.
appears to be some substance in the defence suggestion that it was recorded by
him after his return from the scene of offence at about 12 noon. If only the beginning of exchange of fire between
two factions was reported by Head Constable Chanan Singh, then as an impartial
police officer he would have on his return registered an offence regarding the
homicidal deaths of those five persons whose dead bodies were found by him.
Even though accused Harjinder Singh had gone to the police station in the
morning and had injuries on his person he was sent to the doctor only in the
afternoon. It is also unlikely that accused Herjinder Singh would not have
informed the police to register his complaint against those who had killed his
five companions and injured him. The explanation of Iqbal Singh that he did not
record any complaint with respect to the homicidal deaths of those five persons
and injuries to Harjinder Singh as he had by then come to the conclusion that Joginder
Singh and his companions were the aggressors and the deaths and injuries were
caused by Karnail Singh, Ghala Singh and Mohinder Singh in exercise of their
right of private defence and thus they had committed no offence. By that time
he had not come to know how and when those five persons had received injuries.
dead bodies were found lying scattered outside the compound of that building.
Two of them, Major Singh and Nachhattar Singh, had died not because of gun shot
wounds but because of incised injuries. Neither Head Constable Chanan Singh nor
any pf the constables who had remained behind or anyone else had informed Iqbal
Singh as to how and when the incised injuries were caused to those persons. As
the police officer of some standing he would have certainly realised that the
assailants of those persons had gone outside the compound and chased them and
assaulted them. The body of Jit Singh who had received the gun shot injury on
his head was found lying in the north-western direction behind the building.
All these circumstances who that Iqbal Singh was acting with a determined mind
and was out to make out a case of self-defence for the assailants of those five
persons and Harjinder Singh. Chanan Singh and the two constables who were
examined as eye witnesses also fell in line with Iqbal Singh and that proves
that they were partisan witnesses and were not giving out the true version
regarding the incident.
Singh, Gurcharan Singh and Mohinder Singh, who had stated to have acted in
exercise of their right of private defence, were not examined as witnesses.
They were the best witnesses who could have explained under which circumstances
and at what point to time they had caused injuries to the five deceased and Harjinder
Singh. No good reason was given by the Public Prosecutor for not examining them
as witnesses in the case. That also creates a serious doubt regarding fairness
of the trial.
are of the view that neither the investigation not the trial was fair and we
find that the eye-witnesses examined in this case have not told the truth, this
appeal will have to be allowed and the conviction of the appellants will have
to be set aside. We accordingly allow this appeal, set aside the conviction and
sentence of the appellant. As the accused are on bail, their bail bonds are
ordered to be cancelled.