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Report No. 35

Case No. 81

State of Bihar v. Ramautar Singh, AIR 1956 Pat 10 (15)

(Alunad and Sahai JJ.)

(Judgment by Sahai J.)

The appellant had been convicted by the Sessions Judge of murder of one M and sentenced to death. (He was also convicted of an attempt to commit the murder of M's daughter). On the Thursday preceding the day of occurrence a bullock belonging to the appellant's family had died. On Saturday, the appellant's father went to one "Bhagat", who told him that bullock had died due to witchcraft practised by M. Annoyed at this, the appellant, before sunset, came with a "tangi" in his hand to the field in which M and his daughter was watching the crops.

He gave several blows to M and killed him on the spot and dragged M's body to a well at a distance of about 195 feet and threw the body in that well. M's daughter raised hue and cry, whereupon the appellant began to throttle her with the intention of killing her. But one person heard her cries and came to the place of occurrence, whereupon the appellant left the daughter and went away saying, that he would kill her mother.

The High Court, while confirming the conviction on both counts, reduced the sentence to one of transportation for life.

Making these observations:-

"The appellant belongs to a backward class and he is aged about 20 to 22 years. Obviously, he believed that deceased Mangan Singh practised witchcraft and was responsible for the death of his bullock. As it seems to me that he under the stress of 'great emotion, I think that the lesser sentence will meet the ends of justice in this case.".

Case No. 82

Thothan (in re:), AIR 1966 Mad 425

(Somasundram and Ramaswami Gounder JJ.)

(Judgment by Somasundaram J.)

The appellant, aged about 40 years, stabbed his wife aged only 16 years. It appears that the appellant's wife started frequently going to the house of a cousin of the appellant and became intimate with him, and did not stop the intimacy in spite of the protests of the appellant. One day, the appellant was sleeping in the "pial" of the house and his wife was sleeping at the threshold of the house, when the appellant heard a noise caused by the beating of the coconut leaves with which the deceased was covering 'herself. Appellant asked her as to what the noise was, and she replied that she was driving away mosquitoes.

He again asked his wife as the dog was barking, but the wife gave no satisfactory reply. Next morning, the appellant questioned her about the previous night's incident, and the wife gave no satisfactory reply. On returning from the field, the appellant was found sharpening a knife in the presence of the deceased and on being questioned, he replied that he was doing so to cut a goat. The wife left his place and went to her uncle, being disgusted with her husband's threats. A few days after that, the appellant stabbed and killed his wife. He was convicted to murder by the Sessions Judge and sentenced to death.

The High Court confirmed the conviction and sentence. An argument was advanced before the High Court that the conduct of the deceased provoked him to commit the act, that the girl was unfaithful to him and that in spite of repeated requests and threats the girl persisted in going to M's house and that in a fit of passion the appellant stabbed her. High Court did not agree and pointed out that the appellant had been sharpening his knife even in the presence of the deceased and intended to use the knife against the deceased. There was no circumstances at the time of the commission of the offence which could be taken into consideration for lesser penalty.

As regards the recommendation of the Sessions Judge with regard to the desirability of commuting the sentence to one of transportation for life, the High Court observed that it was for the Government to consider whether it was fit case for such commutation.

Case No. 83

Prem Narain v. State, AIR 1957 All 177

(Mukherji and Choudhary JJ.)

(Judgment by Mukerji J.)

On the facts in view of the youth of the accused, the sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life.

Case No. 84

Hafizullah v. State, AIR 1957 All 377

(Roy and Sahai JJ.)

(Judgment by Roy J.)

This was a case of the accused giving the deceased a number of incised wounds with a sharp weapon like a knife, which entered the ribs, causing rupture of the peritoneum and the abdominal cavity and entering into the stomach, the liver and the spleen. Sentence of death was held to be the proper sentence.

Case No. 85

State v. Shankar, AIR 1957 Bom 226: ILR 1958 Bom 1092

(Dixit and B.N. Gokhale JJ.)

(Judgment by Dixit J.)

In this case, 5 members of a family and a servant were killed by the accused persons. Those killed included a six months' old child. Injuries inflicted numbered 67. The Court described it as a shocking crime which would perhaps remain "unsurpassed in its ferocity". There was a deliberate conspiracy to commit the murders and the conspiracy was carried out in a planned manner. Some of the accused persons were acquitted and the remaining convicted, and out of those convicted some had been sentenced to death by the Sessions Judge.

The conviction was under section 302 read with sections 34, 109 and 149, Indian Penal Code. The proceedings before the High Court comprised confirmation. State appeal against acquittal and appeal against conviction by those convicted. The importance of the case lies in the observations regarding sentence and the final order passed reducing the sentence of accused Nos. 10 and 11 from death to imprisonment for life.

The principle on which the reduction was ordered was, that where several persons were involved in a murder and evidence was forthcoming to show who were the persons who actually assaulted, then in a proper case the court should discriminate between the various accused on the ground of their major or minor part in the occurrence.

After discussing several cases on the point whether in a case of vicarious or joint liability or liability for common intention for the act of others, the court should discriminate, the Court came to the conclusion that if a just decision is to be arrived at, the Court should follow the principle laid down in Dalip Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 1953 SC 364 (368). to the effect that in cases where the facts are more fully known and it is possible to determine who inflicted the fatal blows and who took a lesser part, it would be a sound exercise of judicial discretion to discriminate in the matter of punishment.

The Court was not prevented from doing so by the later Supreme Court case of Rishideo v. State AIR 1955 SC 331., holding that the mere fact that the appellant did not inflict a blow did not justify a lesser sentence. The Court referred to what is known as the "Bawla murder case"-Emperor v. Shaft Ahmed decision dated 23rd May 1925 (referred to in 31 Bom LR 515) in which there was a charge of criminal conspiracy, and Crump J. in awarding sentence upon several accused, considered the principle of discrimination as sound. The Court also referred to the following decisions1:-

(1) Queen v. Basvanta, 1900 ILR 25 Bom 168 (175).

(2) Benoyendra Chandra v. Emperor, AIR 1936 Cal 73: ILR 63 Cal 929. (Plague germs case, conspiracy)2.

1. See also discussion in Rattan Lal, (1961), p. 784.

2. In Benoyendra's case (Plague germs), the sentences were reduced to transportation because of delay and because the actual murderer had not been arrested.

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