Ranveer Singh Vs.
State of M.P.  INSC 114 (21 January 2009)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. OF 2009 (Arising
out of SLP (Crl.) No.3905 of 2008) Ranveer Singh ...Appellant State of M.P.
Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT,
in this appeal is to the judgment of a Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh
High Court at Gwalior Bench. The appellant was convicted by learned First
Additional Sessions Judge, Bhind, for offence punishable under Section 302 read
with Section 109 or in the alternative under Section 302 read with Section 34
of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (in short the `IPC'). He was sentenced to
undergo imprisonment for life.
High Court by the impugned judgment altered the conviction to section 304 Part
I IPC read with Sections 109 and 34 IPC. He was sentenced to undergo
imprisonment for 5 years and to pay a fine of Rs.20,000/- with default
version in a nutshell is as follows:
Report Ex.P/1 was
lodged by complainant Lakhansingh (PW1) according to which on 31.5.1990 his
cousin Pappu had some altercation with Kanthshree (DW1), sister-in-law of
appellant. Due to that incident when on 1.6.1990 at 6.00 a.m. Pappu was going
to answer call of nature, he was surrounded by appellant Ranveer Singh and his
son Munnu alias Prithviraj and was thrashed to ground. When he shouted,
complainant Lakhansingh (PW 1), Vasudev (P.W.3) and Vrindawan (PW 3) reached
the spot alongwith Lalita alias Firki (hereinafter referred to as the
`deceased'), sister of the complainant Lakhansingh and his cousin Sunil (PW8).
Seeing them, appellant asked his son Prithviraj alias Munnu to bring his
licensed rifle from the home. Prithviraj alias Munnu brought the gun from the
On exhortation of the
present appellant, Munnu fired a gun shot which caused injury to Lalita on the
left thigh. Lalita was taken to the hospital in a bullock cart but on the way
she succumbed to the injury sustained by her.
Report of the
incident was lodged on 1.6.1990 at about 7 A.M. at police station Dehat, Bhind.
On the basis of the report lodged by Lakhansingh (PW 1), police registered a
criminal case against the present appellant and his son Prithviraj alias Munnu.
Said Prithviraj alias Munnu being a minor, his case was referred to the
Juvenile Court. So far as the present appellant is concerned, the matter was
investigated by the police and challan was filed against him. The case was
committed to the Court of Sessions for trial. The Sessions Court recorded the
evidence and after appreciating the evidence convicted and sentenced the
present appellant as indicated hereinabove. An appeal was preferred before the
Before the High Court
the basic stand was that the accused had exercised the right of private defence
and, therefore, no offence was made out. The High Court held that even if the
right of private defence is accepted to be available at some point of time, it
was exceeded and, therefore, the appropriate conviction was under Section 304
Part II IPC.
counsel for the appellant submitted that the appellant is clearly protected
because he was exercising the right of private defence.
counsel for the State on the other hand supported the judgment.
question which needs to be considered is the alleged exercise of right of
private defence. Section 96, IPC provides that nothing is an offence which is
done in the exercise of the right of private defence. The Section does not
define the expression `right of private defence'. It merely indicates that
nothing is an offence which is done in the exercise of such right.
Whether in a
particular set of circumstances, a person legitimately acted in the exercise of
the right of private defence is a question of fact to be determined on the
facts and circumstances of each case. No test in the abstract for determining
such a question can be laid down. In determining this question of fact, the
Court must consider all the surrounding circumstances. It is not necessary for
the accused to plead in so many words that he acted in self-defence. If the
circumstances show that the right of private defence was legitimately
exercised, it is open to the Court to consider such a plea. In a given case the
Court can consider it even if the accused has not taken it, if the same is
available to be considered from the material on record. Under Section 105 of
the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (in short `the Evidence Act'), the burden of
proof is on the accused, who sets up the plea of self-defence, and, in the
absence of proof, it is not possible for the Court to presume the truth of the
plea of self-defence. The Court shall presume the absence of such
circumstances. It is for the accused to place necessary material on record
either by himself adducing positive evidence or by eliciting necessary facts
from the witnesses examined for the prosecution. An accused taking the plea of
the right of private defence is not necessarily required to call evidence; he
can establish his plea by reference to circumstances transpiring from the
prosecution evidence itself. The question in such a case would be a question of
assessing the true effect of the prosecution evidence, and not a question of
the accused discharging any burden. Where the right of private defence is
pleaded, the defence must be a reasonable and probable version satisfying the
Court that the harm caused by the accused was necessary for either warding off
the attack or for forestalling the further reasonable apprehension from the
side of the accused. The burden of establishing the plea of self-defence is on
the accused and the burden stands discharged by showing preponderance of
probabilities in favour of that plea on the basis of the material on record.
(See Munshi Ram and
Ors. v. Delhi Administration (AIR 1968 SC 702), State of Gujarat v. Bai Fatima
(AIR 1975 SC 1478), State of U.P. v. Mohd. Musheer Khan (AIR 1977 SC 2226), and
Mohinder Pal Jolly v. State of Punjab (AIR 1979 SC 577). Sections 100 to 101
define the extent of the right of private defence of body. If a person has a
right of private defence of body under Section 97, that right extends under
Section 100 to causing death if there is reasonable apprehension that death or
grievous hurt would be the consequence of the assault. The oft quoted
observation of this Court in Salim Zia v. State of U.P. (AIR 1979 SC 391), runs
"It is true that
the burden on an accused person to establish the plea of self-defence is not as
onerous as the one which lies on the prosecution and that, while the
prosecution is required to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, the accused
need not establish the plea to the hilt and may discharge his onus by
establishing a mere preponderance of probabilities either by laying basis for
that plea in the cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses or by adducing
accused need not prove the existence of the right of private defence beyond
reasonable doubt. It is enough for him to show as in a civil case that the
preponderance of probabilities is in favour of his plea.
plea of right of private defence cannot be based on surmises and speculation.
While considering whether the right of private defence is available to an
accused, it is not relevant whether he may have a chance to inflict severe and
mortal injury on the aggressor. In order to find whether the right of private
defence is available to an accused, the entire incident must be examined with
care and viewed in its proper setting. Section 97 deals with the subject matter
of right of private defence. The plea of right of self defence may relate to
the body or property (i) of the person exercising the right; or (ii) of any
other person; and the right may be exercised in the case of any offence against
the body, and in the case of offences of theft, robbery, mischief or criminal
trespass, and attempts at such offences in relation to property. Section 99
lays down the limits of the right of private defence. Sections 96 and 98 give a
right of private defence against certain offences and acts. The right given
under Sections 96 to 98 and 100 to 106 is controlled by Section 99. To claim a
right of private defence extending to voluntary causing of death, the accused
must show that there were circumstances giving rise to reasonable grounds for
apprehending that either death or grievous hurt would be caused to him. The
burden is on the accused to show that he had a right of private defence which
extended to causing of death. Sections 100 and 101, IPC define the limit and
extent of right of private defence.
102 and 105, IPC deal with commencement and continuance of the right of private
defence of body and property respectively. The right commences, as soon as a
reasonable apprehension of danger to the body arises from an attempt, or
threat, to commit the offence, although the offence may not have been committed
but not until there is that reasonable apprehension. The right lasts so long as
the reasonable apprehension of the danger to the body continues. In Jai Dev. v.
State of Punjab (AIR 1963 SC 612), it was observed that as soon as the cause
for reasonable apprehension disappears and the threat has either been destroyed
or has been put to route, there can be no occasion to exercise the right of
order to find whether right of private defence is available or not, the
injuries received by the accused, the imminence of threat to his safety, the
injuries caused by the accused and whether the accused had time to have
recourse to public authorities are all relevant factors to be considered.
Similar view was
expressed by this Court in Biran Singh v. State of Bihar (AIR 1975 SC 87).
(See: Wassan Singh v. State of Punjab (1996) 1 SCC 458, Sekar alias Raja
Sekharan v. State represented by Inspector of Police, T.N. (2002 (8) SCC 354).
noted in Butta Singh v. The State of Punjab (AIR 1991 SC 1316), a person who is
apprehending death or bodily injury cannot weigh in golden scales on the spur
of the moment and in the heat of circumstances, the number of injuries required
to disarm the assailants who were armed with weapons. In moments of excitement
and disturbed mental equilibrium it is often difficult to expect the parties to
preserve composure and use exactly only so much force in retaliation which is
commensurate with the danger apprehended to him where assault is imminent by
use of force. It would be lawful to repel the force in self-defence and the
right of private-defence commences, as soon as the threat becomes imminent.
Such situations have to be pragmatically viewed and not with high-powered
spectacles or microscopes to detect slight or even marginal overstepping. Due
weightage has to be given to, and hyper technical approach has to be avoided in
considering what happens on the spur of the moment on the spot and keeping in
view normal human reaction and conduct, where self- preservation is the
paramount consideration. But, if the fact situation shows that in the guise of
self-preservation, what really has been done is to assault the original
aggressor, even after the cause of reasonable apprehension has disappeared, the
plea of right of private-defence can legitimately be negatived. The Court
dealing with the plea has to weigh the material to conclude whether the plea is
acceptable. It is essentially, as noted above, a finding of fact.
right of self-defence is a very valuable right, serving a social purpose and
should not be construed narrowly. (See Vidhya Singh v. State of M.P. (AIR 1971
SC 1857). Situations have to be judged from the subjective point of view of the
accused concerned in the surrounding excitement and confusion of the moment,
confronted with a situation of peril and not by any microscopic and pedantic
scrutiny. In adjudging the question as to whether more force than was necessary
was used in the prevailing circumstances on the spot it would be inappropriate,
as held by this Court, to adopt tests by detached objectivity which would be so
natural in a Court room, or that which would seem absolutely necessary to a
perfectly cool bystander. The person facing a reasonable apprehension of threat
to himself cannot be expected to modulate his defence step by step with any
arithmetical exactitude of only that much which is required in the thinking of
a man in ordinary times or under normal circumstances.
the illuminating words of Russel (Russel on Crime, 11th Edition Volume I at
"....a man is
justified in resisting by force anyone who manifestly intends and endeavours by
violence or surprise to commit a known felony against either his person, habitation
or property. In these cases, he is not obliged to retreat, and may not merely
resist the attack where he stands but may indeed pursue his adversary until the
danger is ended and if in a conflict between them he happens to kill his
attacker, such killing is justifiable."
right of private defence is essentially a defensive right circumscribed by the
governing statute i.e. the IPC, available only when the circumstances clearly
justify it. It should not be allowed to be pleaded or availed as a pretext for
a vindictive, aggressive or retributive purpose of offence. It is a right of
defence, not of retribution, expected to repel unlawful aggression and not as
retaliatory measure. While providing for exercise of the right, care has been
taken in IPC not to provide a mechanism whereby an attack may be a pretence for
killing. A right to defend does not include a right to launch an offensive,
particularly when the need to defend no longer survived.
above position was highlighted in V. Subramani and Anr. vs. State of Tamil Nadu
(2005 (10) SCC 358) and Salim and Ors. v. State of Haryana (SLP (Crl.) No.463
of 2008 disposed of on 11.8.2008.)
the present case the High Court has rightly held that even if it is accepted
that at some point of time the appellant was exercising the right of private
defence, the same was exceeded and has rightly found him guilty under Section
304 Part I, IPC and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for five years. The
sentence as imposed cannot be considered to be harsh.
On payment of fine of
Rs.20,000/-, same was to be paid to the heirs of the deceased. Here again there
appears to be no infirmity in the order of the High Court.
at from any angle, the appeal deserves to be dismissed, which we direct.
(Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT)
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