Rajasthan Vs. Teja Ram & Ors  INSC
33 (1 February 2000)
by a midnight blitz that two sleeping inmates of
a dwelling house were axed to death by armed assailants.
the victims was the old mother of the other victim.
younger among them was not the target of the assailants but he was mistaken for
his brother. In the Sessions court seven persons were put on trial as the
assailants in the aforesaid double murder episode. Out of them six were convicted
under Section 302 read with Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code and for
certain other lesser but allied offences. They were sentenced to imprisonment
for life for the principal offence and for lesser terms for the lesser
offences. When they appealed a Division Bench of the High Court of Rajasthan
set aside the conviction and sentence and acquitted them all. State of Rajasthan has, therefore, come up in appeal
to this Court by special leave.
there were seven accused in the case, out of which six are the respondents now,
they can be referred to as accused in the same rank as they were arrayed in the
trial court so that possible mistake in identifying them can be prevented. A1 Teja
Ram, A2 Ram Lal and A3 Bhanwar Lal are the sons of one Maga Ram and they are
cousins of deceased Ram Lal. Other accused are close relatives of those two
accused. The backdrop of the case unfurls a story of continued hostility which
existed as between the cousins on account of disputes over landed properties.
PW15 Mota Ram (son of deceased Smt. Gamni) had launched litigation against A1
and A2. On a motion made by him the authorities concerned have initiated
proceedings under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure against A1 Teja
Ram and A2 Ram Lal. Thus, they looked upon each other with bitterness.
incident happened on the night next morning of which was a Sunday (13.9.1981).
Prosecution case is that all the seven accused, armed with axe and lathis etc.
in a tractor and at a subsequent stage they walked on foot and reached the
house of the deceased by midnight.
Ram Lal and his mother Gamni were sleeping inside the room adjoining the gate
of their house. Mota Ram used to sleep at that place but on the fateful night
Ram Lal thought it convenient to sleep there as that was the cruel game of his
fate. The assailants entered into the room and hacked both the deceased with
axe. The squall of the victims rumbled the neighbour-hood. All those who heard
it rushed to the scene but by the time they reached the assailants took to
their heels and escaped from the place.
inmates of the house carried the injured in a vehicle to the hospital and on
the way Mota Ram (PW15) informed the police about the incident at the Police Out
Post at Auwa.
there he proceeded to Kharchi police station and lodged the FIR. The SHO (PW21)
recorded the statement of both the injured who were removed to the hospital
thereafter. Ram Lal died on the same night, while his mother lived for a week
more fighting with death and she too succumbed to the injuries on 21.9.1981.
court, while convicting six accused, mainly relied on Ex. P31 and Ex.P32 which
are the two dying declarations attributed to deceased Ram Lal and Gamni
respectively which were recorded by PW21, the Investigating Officer. Besides
the above, the trial court relied on certain circumstances, such as the
testimony of witnesses who reached the scene saw the accused running away with
axes and lathis, and recovery of the weapons effected pursuant to the informations
elicited from the accused.
the Division Bench of the High Court of Rajasthan declined to act on the two
dying declarations. High Court was not persuaded to place any reliance on the
witnesses who claimed to have seen the assailants running away. High Court
put-forth two reasons for adopting that course. First is that prosecution
failed to examine any independent witness even though such persons were
residing in the neighbour-hood, and the witnesses examined by the prosecution
for that point are close relatives of the deceased. Second is that there are
discrepancies between their versions and such discrepancies are of a
substantial nature. The High Court declined to act on the evidence relating to
the recovery of axes for the main reason that since human blood could be
detected only on one of them while origin of the blood on the other was not
established, there was room for entertaining doubt as to the real person whose
blow with the axe would have caused the injury.
final end the Division Bench, after voicing a lamenting chord that it is
unfortunate that two cold blooded murders are going unpunished in this case,
expressed its view that it is unsafe to maintain the conviction. Hence, the
High Court set aside the conviction and sentence passed on the respondents.
on the defence side a number of witnesses were examined neither the trial court
nor the appellate court placed any reliance on any of them. Nor did the
appellant make any endeavour to convince us that those witnesses are of any use
for the defence.
Gupta, learned counsel for the State of Rajasthan contended that the approach made by the High Court is wholly untenable
in discarding the best evidence on the strength of some trivial reasons. Mr. Doongar
Singh, advocate for the accused argued in extenso supporting the reasoning of
the High Court and strongly pleading for maintaining the acquittal.
in agreement with the argument of Shri Doongar Singh that the High Court was
justified in not acting on the two dying declarations. The injuries found on
the body of Ram Lal as noted by PW9 Dr. Nand Kishore Sharma are the following:
Vertical incised wound with oozing of blood of 8.5 x 1.5 cms x brain deep on
the right forehead region to frontal region from eye brows to upward lacerated
brain tissues coming out from the wound. Injury was grievous and was caused by
of both the Eyelids of right eye. (iii) Haemotoma of left upper eye lid.
same doctor noticed the following injury on the body of Smt. Gamni: Vertical
incised wound with blood oozing with 8.5 x 3.0 x brain deep on the left
temporal region 3 cm above the ear pinna. Brain tissue was lying out of the
if the injured was able to mutter something or even speak out something after
sustaining the above injuries it is extremely unsafe to place any credence on
such statements as the brain functions of the injured would have impaired due
to the brain injury.
find it difficult to side-step the remaining circumstances as lightly as
Division Bench of the High Court has down-staged them. The first among the
circumstances is the strong motive for A1 Teja Ram and A2 Ram Lal because the
family of Mota Ram had moved the authorities to initiate proceedings against
them under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This shows the
acuteness of hostility which prevailed as between the two warring factions.
That aspect remains undisputed, though the defence contention is that they were
falsely implicated on account of that enmity.
that possibility has to be eschewed before counting the enmity aspect as a
circumstance against the accused. For that endeavour the Court has to look at
other circumstances presented by the prosecution against the accused.
father of Mota Ram was sleeping inside his house during the night. Mota Ram was
also sleeping in the same room. Gamni and her other son Ram Lal were sleeping
inside the room which adjoins the gate. PW13 said in his evidence that on
hearing the sound of a cry he woke up and rushed to the place wherefrom the cry
emanated and the he saw all the accused, among whom he noticed A1 Teja Ram and
A2 Ram Lal holding Kulhadi (axe). They were seen running away from the scene.
Ram) who is brother of PW13 (Idan) who was sleeping in his house situated in
the neighbour-hood and his son Chhoga Lal (PW4) who was sleeping inside the
cabin of a truck (which was parked in front of the house of the deceased) also
heard the sound of cry and they too rushed up to the scene and saw all the
accused scampering away from the place and A1 and A2 had axes with them and
others have lathis.
Ram) is another brother of PW13 (Idan) and he too was residing close by. He
also said that by midnight he heard the sound of a loud cry
from the house of his brother. PW13 -Idan and he also rushed to the place and
saw the accused, among them A1 (Teja Ram) and A2 (Ram Lal) were in possession
fact that the above witnesses were residing in the immediate neighbour-hood was
not disputed either in the trial court or at the appellate stage. When the
incident of this nature occurs the persons who would normally run to the place
of occurrence are those living in the neighbour-hood.
the High Court did not act on the testimony of those persons who reached at the
scene immediately on a very fragile reasoning.
Court pointed out a discrepancy in the evidence as between two sets of
witnesses, PW4 Chhogalal and PW15 Mota Ram said that the assailants were seen
going out from the western gate of the house while PW10 Oghada Ram and PW18 Roopa
Ram said that the assailants went out through the eastern gate. This according
to the High Court is a very substantial contradiction between them.
is little justification for blowing up such a motely discrepancy to the size of
a mountain and then to reject the whole evidence by depicting it as a material
discrepancy. What the High Court over-looked in the above exercise was the core
of the evidence and consideration of it on broad probabilities. We have to bear
in mind the time when the occurrence took place the wee hours of the night, the
sleeping locality was woken up by the yelling voice crying for help from ones
own kith and kin. When they rushed to the scene their focus would be on the
victims and the identity of the fleeing assailants. Perhaps some of the
assailants would have gone out through one gate and others through the other
gate. After all both gates were of the same house and are situate close to each
have absolutely no doubt that whoever rushed to the spot on hearing the squeak
or the out cry, it is most unlikely that they would have remained where they
were even after hearing the cries. It is extremely probable that the witnesses
would have seen the fleeing assailants in such a hubbub and if some witnesses
did not correctly notice the exact gate (out of the two gates) through which
each one of the assailants flushed out, it is not a good cause for drawing any
adverse inference against such witnesses.
reason which the High Court advanced to repel the testimony of such a good
number of probable witnesses is that they are all close relatives of the
deceased and that independent witnesses were not examined by the prosecution.
over-insistence on witnesses having no relation with the victims often results
in criminal justice going awry. When any incident happens in a dwelling house
the most natural witnesses would be the inmates of that house. It is un-
pragmatic to ignore such natural witnesses and insist on outsiders who would
not have even seen any thing. If the Court has discerned from the evidence or
even from the investigation records that some other independent person has
witnessed any event connecting the incident in question then there is
justification for making adverse comments against non-examination of such
person as prosecution witness.
merely on surmises the Court should not castigate a prosecution for not
examining other persons of the locality as prosecution witnesses. Prosecution
can be expected to examine only those who have witnessed the events and not
those who have not seen it though the neighbour- hood may be replete with other
the circumstances which trial court relied on as incriminating the accused is
the recovery of two axes (Kulhadi) on the strength of statements of A1 Teja Ram
and A2 Ram Lal. They were subjected to chemical examination and the result is
that both axes were found stained with blood.
it was further subjected to test by Serologist the blood on one axe was found
to be of human origin, while the blood stain on the other axe was found to have
so disintegrated that its origin became undetectable. Ex.P10 is the report of
hidden beneath the rags were disinterred with the help of information elicited
from the accused. According to PW 21 (the Investigation Officer) A1 Teja Ram
told him I have concealed the axe under some rags and kept it at the left
corner of the hut in my farm at Dhokwa. The axe recovered pursuant thereto on
20.9.1981 as per Ex.P14 seizure memo was marked as Article No.8. Similarly, A2
Ram Lal has told the Investigation Officer that I have concealed the axe under
some rags and placed it on a slab in the store of my house. On the said
information another axe was recovered on 23.9.1981 as per Ex.P3 Seizure Memo.
That axe has been marked as Article 1.
facts discovered from the aforementioned statements and recovery of axes are
that those weapons were concealed by the said two accused.
the above circumstance should have been given weighty consideration in the
evaluation of circumstantial evidence. But the High Court down staged it on a
reasoning which is difficult to sustain. This is what the High Court has
observed regarding the evidence relating to the recovery of the two axes (Kulhadi).
evidence of the blood stained Kulhadi is not sufficient as the prosecution has
not been able to prove that Kulhadi which was stained with human blood was
recovered from whom. Thus it is not clear whether the recovered Kulhadi was of Teja
Ram or of Ramlal. The other infirmity in the Chemical Examiners Report is that
it does not mention the extent of blood seen on the Kulhadi. It has not been
established clearly as to which particular accused, the incriminating axe
belonged. As such, it can not be used against any one of these two accused.
of the Serologist to detect the origin of the blood, due to disintegration of
the serum in the meanwhile, does not mean that the blood stuck on the axe would
not have been human blood al all. Sometimes it happens, either because the
stain is too insufficient or due to hematological changes and plasmatic
coagulation that a Serologist might fail to detect the origin of the blood.
it then mean that the blood would be of some other origin? Such a guess work
that blood on the other axe would have been animal blood is unrealistic and
far-fetched in the broad spectrum of this case. The effort of the criminal
court should not be to prowl for imaginative doubts. Unless the doubt is of a
reasonable dimension which a judicially conscientious mind entertains with some
objectivity no benefit can be claimed by the accused.
counsel for the accused made an effort to sustain the rejection of the above
said evidence for which he cited the decisions in Prabhu Babaji vs. State of
Bombay [ AIR 1956 SC 51] and Raghav Prapanna Tripathi vs State of UP [AIR 1963
SC 74]. In the former Vivian Bose J. has observed that the Chemical Examiners
duty is to indicate the number of blood stains found by him on each exhibit and
the extent of each stain unless they are too minute or too numerous to be
described in detail. It was a case in which one circumstance projected by the
prosecution was just one spot of blood on a dhoti. Their Lordships felt that
blood could equally have spurted on the dhoti of a wholly innocent person
passing through in the circumstances described by us earlier in the judgment.
In the latter decision this Court observed regarding the certificate of a
chemical examiner that inasmuch as the blood stain is not proved to be of human
origin the circumstance has no evidentiary value in the circumstances
connecting the accused with the murder.
further part of the circumstance in that case showed that a shirt was seized
from a dry cleaning establishment and the proprietor of the said establishment
had testified that when the shirt was given to him for dry cleaning it was not
unable to find out from the aforesaid decisions any legal ratio that in all
cases where there was failure of detecting the origin of the blood the
circumstance arising from recovery of the weapon would stand relegated to
disutility. The observations in the aforesaid cases were made on the fact
situation existed therein. They cannot be imported to a case where the facts
are materially different.
counsel, in this context invited our attention to one step which PW21
(Investigating Officer) had adopted while preparing the seizure memos Ex.P3 and
Ex.P.4. He obtained the signature of the accused concerned in both the seizure
memos. According to the learned counsel the aforesaid action of the
Investigating Officer was illegal and it has vitiated the seizure. He invited
our attention to section 162(1) of the Code which prohibits collecting of
signature of the person whose statement was reduced to writing during
interrogation. The material words in the sub-section are these: No statement
made by any person to a police officer in the cause of investigation under the
chapter, shall, if reduced to writing, be signed by the person making it;..
doubt the aforesaid prohibition is in peremptory terms. It is more a direction
to the investigating officer than to the court because the policy underlying
the rule is to keep witnesses free to testify in court unhampered by anything
which the police claim to have elicited from them.
Singh vs. State of UP AIR 1959 SC 1012 and Razik Ram vs. JS Chouhan AIR 1975 SC
667). But if any Investigating Officer, ignorant of the said provision, secures
the signature of the person concerned in the statement, it does not mean that
the witnesses testimony in the court would thereby become contaminated or
Court will only reassure the witness that he not bound by such statement albeit
his signature finding a place thereon.
apart, the prohibition contained in sub-section (1) of Section 162 is not
applicable to any proceedings made as per Section 27 of the Evidence Act. It is
clearly provided in sub-Section (2) of Section 162 which reads thus:
in this section shall be deemed to apply to any statement falling within the
provisions of clause (1) of section 32 of the Indian Evidence
Act, 1872, or to affect the provisions of section 27 of that Act.
resultant position is that the Investigating Officer is not obliged to obtain
the signature of an accused in any statement attributed to him while preparing
seizure memo for the recovery of any article covered by Section 27 of the
Evidence Act. But, if any signature has been obtained by an investigating
officer, there is nothing wrong or illegal about it. Hence, we cannot find any
force in the contention of the learned counsel for the accused that the
signatures of the accused in Ex.P3 and P.4 seizure memo would vitiate the
evidence regarding recovery of the axes.
counsel for the respondent pointed out the evidence of Head Constable Jagan Nath
(PW8) who was in-charge of the police outpost at Auwa. The witness said,
initially in his evidence, that PW15 (Mota Ram who reached the outpost soon
after the incident) who reported about the incident could not mention the names
of the assailants as he said that he did not know about the assailants. Learned
counsel, laying emphasis on the aforesaid evidence contended that it knocks the
bottom off the prosecution case. Shri Aruneshwar Gupta, learned counsel for the
State invited our attention to a further portion of PW8s evidence where the
witness was permitted to be cross-examined by the Public Prosecutor during
which PW8 admitted having told the Investigation Officer that PW15 had in fact
mentioned the names of the accused as the assailants.
the permitted modes of impeaching the credit of a witness is proof of former
statements which is inconsistent with any part of his testimony, as indicated
in Section 155(3) of the Evidence Act. But the mode of using such former
statements for the purposes of contradicting the witness is prescribed in
Section 14 of the Evidence Act. It cannot be contended that the aforesaid
former statement was not available for the defence to confront PW8 (Mota Ram)
since the Head Constable PW15 was examined later. It was open to the defence to
request for recalling the witness for the purpose of further cross-examination
to impeach his veracity on the strength of the alleged former statement which
came on record subsequently (vide Naba Kumar Das vs.
Jana AIR 1923 PC 95). In this case PW15 was not asked anything about what he
told or not told PW8-Head Constable. We are unable to appreciate the contention
of the learned counsel on that score. In view of the retracing made by PW15
during later part of the cross-examination, we are not disposed to give any
further opportunity to the accused to confront PW8 with that material. We are
of the considered view that the High Court has committed serious error in
rejecting very sturdy circumstances as against A1 Teja Ram and A2 Ram Lal the
cumulative effect of which was the irresistible conclusion that they were
assailants in the double murder wherein deceased Ram Lal and his mother Gamni
therefore, set aside the order of acquittal in so far as the said two accused (Teja
Ram and Ram Lal) are concerned. We restore the conviction and sentence passed
on them by the trial court. We direct the Sessions Judge, Pali (Rajasthan) to
take immediate steps to put A1 Teja Ram and A2 Ram Lal back in prison to
undergo the remaining portion of the sentence.