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Patna High Court discharges bail bond liability and acquits the accused in a murder case

Case Title: Ravindra Singh and others v. State of Bihar

Case No.: Cr. Appeal No. 290 of 2017, Cr. Appeal No. 318 of 2017

Dated on: 17 May 2024

Coram: Hon’ble MR. JUSTICE RAJEEV RANJAN PRASAD and Hon’ble MR. JUSTICE JITENDRA KUMAR

 FACTS OF THE CASE

Janak Singh, The informant, his son and some people of his village had deposed against Ravindra Singh, the Mukhiya of Sevatar Gram Panchayat regarding alleged irregularities in the Indira Awas scheme to the B.D.O of Mohra Block on 3 September 2004. After inquiry when the B.D.O. went from Riula then on the same day at about 14:00 hours (i) Ravindra Singh; (ii) Deo Nandan Singh; (iii) Prabhanjan Singh; (iv) Tanik Singh; (v) Babloo Singh; (vi) Ashok Singh; and (vii) Umesh Singh armed with weapons encircled the informant and others in the paddy field situated to the west of Devi Asthan with common intention to kill them. Ravindra fired from the rifle in his hand upon Manohar Singh, the son of the informant. The shot first hit his left hand and after piercing the same, it went into the chest. When the informant and his son Mukesh went to save Manohar, then Deo Nandan Singh, Babloo and Prabhanjan Singh assaulted them by the butt of rifle and gun causing injury on head. The informant was assaulted by Tanik Singh, Ashok Singh and Umesh Singh on his left hand by butt of gun. The informant had become unconscious whereafter he was brought to Anugrah Narayan Magadh Medical College and Hospital on the same day and during treatment, Manohar Singh died. An FIR was filed and after investination  charges were framed against the accused under Sections 147, 148, 149, 323, 324, 307 and 302 IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act. After examining the evidences available on the record and upon consideration of the submissions of the prosecution as well as the defence, the learned trial court held the appellants to be guilty of the charge for the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC.

ISSUES

  • Whether the delay in giving the fardbeyan (First Information Report) affects the credibility of the prosecution’s case.
  • Whether the trial court correctly convicted the accused under Section 302/34 IPC (murder with common intention) without establishing the necessary elements of common intention and participation in the crime.
  • Whether the contradictions in the statements of the prosecution witnesses impact the reliability of their testimonies.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Section 302 of the Indian penal Code (IPC):

Section 302 of IPC deals with the punishment for murder. It states that whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC):

This section pertains to acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention. It states that when a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.

Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC):

This section states that every member of an unlawful assembly guilty of an offense committed in the prosecution of a common object. It states that if an offense is committed by any member of an unlawful assembly in prosecution of the common object of that assembly, or such as the members of that assembly knew to be likely to be committed in prosecution of that object, every person who, at the time of the committing of that offense, is a member of the same assembly, is guilty of that offense.

Section 325 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC):

This section pertains to the punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt. It states that whoever, except in the case provided for by section 335, voluntarily causes grievous hurt shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC):

This section deals with the punishment for voluntarily causing hurt. It states that whoever, except in the case provided for by section 334, voluntarily causes hurt shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.

Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959:

This section pertains to the punishment for using arms, etc. It states that whoever uses any arms or ammunition in contravention of section 5 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

The appellants contended that there was a significant delay in providing the F.I.R., raising doubts about the prosecution’s case. The appellants contended that the prosecution witness’s assertions were consistently contradictory, making their testimony untrustworthy. Furthermore, the prosecution did not call any independent witnesses to testify, even though there were hundreds of persons at the scene. There is insufficient supporting evidence to back up the prosecution’s case, as indicated by the absence of an independent witness. The appellants proposed that this false claim may have sprung from past familial animosity between them. At last, the appellants contested the trial court’s decision that the prosecution could not establish a shared intention between them. As a result, the appellant claimed that the trial court’s decision was unfair.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT

The respondents argued that the delay in lodging the FIR was due to the injuries inflicted upon them made them unconscious and as soon as the injured witness gained consciousness, they filed the FIR and thus lodging the FIR did not necessarily imply that the case was false. The prosecution emphasized that the evidence of injured witnesses, such as Janak Kishore Singh (PW-3) and Mukesh Kumar (PW-4), has greater evidentiary value unless compelling reasons exist there, their statements cannot be discarded lightly. They argued that the prosecution has been able to establish the genesis and the manner of occurrence through these witnesses. The prosecution sought to corroborate the evidence of the injured witnesses by pointing out that the Doctor (PW-5) found charring margin injuries on the deceased, which supported the prosecution’s case that Ravindra Singh fired a single shot from a distance of 4 feet. They also highlighted that the evidence of Dr. Ajay Kumar Jha (PW-5) and Dr. Asim Mishra (PW-7) corroborated the single entry wound with no exit injury, which further strengthened the prosecution’s case. They cited the Supreme Court’s judgment in Vadivelu Thevar and Another versus State of Madras, which held that the court should convict if it is satisfied that the testimony of a single witness is entirely reliable. In all the prosecution contended that minor inconsistencies do not affect the consequences as all the witnesses corroborated the evidence of time and place.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The high court found the delay in giving the FIR to be significant. It was of the view that the delay was not satisfactorily explained as the prosecution said that the injured witness had become unconscious but the court found that even though there were other witnesses present no one else could Lodge an FIR neither were any independent witness examined which raised reasonable suspicion. The court observed substantial contradiction in the statements of  the main injured witnesses due to their inimical relationship with the accused and other witnesses as well which made their statements unreliable. The High Court also found no conclusive evidence of common intention among the accused to convict them under Section 302/34 IPC. The Court cited previous judgments, including Mahbub Shah v. King-Emperor, Mamand v. Emperor, Fazoo Khan v. Jatoo Khan, and Kripal v. State of U.P., to emphasize the necessity of proving common intention for conviction under Section 34 IPC. The high court after assessing the medical witnesses came to a view that the prosecution also failed to prove that the injuries caused to them was only though rifles and guns. This lack of conclusive proof further weakened the prosecution case. The high court henceforth set aside the convictions of the appellants under Section 302/34 IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act due to the failure to establish their presence at the scene and the absence of proof of common intention. The Court also set aside the convictions of Tanik Singh and Umesh Singh under Section 325/34 IPC and of Deo Nandan Singh, Babloo Singh, and Prabhanjan Singh under Section 323 IPC. The High Court allowed the appeals, discharging the appellants from their bail bond liabilities and overturning the trial court’s judgment.

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Judgement Reviewed by – PRATYASA MISHRA

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