July 15, 2023 In Uncategorized


A two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Sanjay Karol passed a Judgment dated 05.07.2023, in Pritinder Singh @ Lovely v. The State of Punjab, Criminal Appeal No. 165 of 2010 and observed that the Appellants-Accused ought to be acquitted, as there was serious doubt regarding the credibility of witnesses’ statement and extra-judicial confession, there were loopholes in police investigation and failure of the Prosecution to examine the ballistic expert to establish that the injuries caused to the Deceased were due to the bullets allegedly fired from the Accused’s gun.


1) In the present case, one, Tapinder Singh, the Complainant, filed a Complaint dated 04.09.1998 with the Bhatinda Police against his step mother, Manjith Kaur and one, Pritinder Singh (Appellants-Accused), for commission of murder of the Complainant’s brother, Ravinder Singh (Deceased) on 03.09.1998. Thereafter, the Police registered FIR against the Appellants for the offences punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) (Punishment for murder) read with Section 34 IPC (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).

2) The Complainant stated in his Complaint that two days prior to the date of the incident, i.e., on 01.09.1998, a dispute arose between the Deceased and his stepmother i.e. Accused- Manjit Kaur, whereby the Accused spoke ill about the Deceased’s character. As a result, the Complainant physically abused the Accused, after which, the Accused-Manjit Kaur allegedly threatened to harm the Deceased.

3) Thereafter, two days later, i.e., on 03.09.1998, the Accused-Manjit Kaur along with co-Accused- Pritinder Singh, allegedly came in a car bearing Registration No. HR 21 7778 and took the Deceased with them on the pretext of purchasing shoes. It is pertinent to note here that at the relevant time, the Complainant was also present in the house, who allegedly noticed that the Accused-Manjit Kaur was carrying her 12-bore, double-barreled licensed gun in the car.

4) Later, when the Deceased did not return in the evening, suspicion arose in the mind of the Complainant, and on the very next day, he, along with one Gurdeep Singh, went to Naga Mahantanwala Dera in search of the Deceased. The Mahant of the Dera told them that the three people had come in a car the previous night at around 9:30 PM; that the Deceased and his stepmother, Accused- Manjit Kaur were arguing with each other and, while leaving the place, the Accused had mentioned that they were going to the house of one Surjit Singh, a resident of village Kotha Guru, in their car.

5) Thereafter, the Complainant and Gurdeep Singh, while going to Surjit Singh’s house and reaching the bridge of the minor canal on the way to Kotha Guru at about 8:30 AM, found the dead body of the Deceased lying on the pavement of the canal. The body bore two gunshot wounds. The car in which the Appellants-Accused and the Deceased were travelling was also visible at the same place, with the gun kept inside, along with the cartridges.

6) Thereafter, the Bhatinda Police arrested the Accused and submitted an Inquest Report and the Forensic Science Laboratory Report before the Ld. Additional Sessions Judge, Bhatinda (Trial Court) which stated that out of the two cartridges found in the car, one had been shot from the right barrel of the 12 bore double-barreled licensed gun, while the other had been shot from the left barrel of the same weapon.

7) Thereafter, the Ld. Trial Court, vide Judgment and Order dated 10.07.2001, convicted the two Accused – Appellants, under Section 302 IPC read with Section 34 IPC and sentenced them to undergo life imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs. 1000/- each.

8) Aggrieved by the Ld. Trial Court Order dated 10.07.2001, the Accused filed an Appeal bearing CRLA 430 DB of 2005 before the Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana, which was dismissed by the High Court vide Order dated 04.02.2010.

Supreme Court Analysis and Findings

Aggrieved by the High Court Order dated 04.02.2010, the Appellant filed Criminal Appeal No. 1635/2010 before the Supreme Court. The Apex Court passed a Judgment dated 05.07.2023, and made the following observations:

i) That the present case is based on circumstantial evidence. The law with regard to conviction in the case of circumstantial evidence is explained as follows in the case of Shivaji Sahabrao Bobade v. State of Maharashtra [(1973) 2 SCC 793:

“(1)..Certainly, it is a primary principle that the accused must be and not merely may be guilty before a court can convict, and the mental distance between ‘may be’ and ‘must be’ is long and divides vague conjectures from sure conclusions.”

(2) The facts so established should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused, that is to say, they should not be explainable on any other hypothesis except that the accused is guilty,

(3) the circumstances should be of a conclusive nature and tendency;

(4) they should exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved, and

(5) there must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the act must have been done by the accused”

ii) That the Prosecution’s case mainly depends on (a) the testimony of one, Mal Singh (PW-2), ex-Sarpanch of village Maluka, insofar as extra-judicial confession is concerned. (b) As for the last seen theory, the Prosecution relies on the evidence of the Complainant (PW-3), who happens to be the stepson of the Appellant-Accused- Manjit Kaur, and had last seen the Deceased with the Appellant-Accused the evening before his dead body was found. (c) The evidence of Dr. Rakesh Kumar Goel (PW-5), a Medical Expert who had conducted the autopsy, and SI Amritpal Singh (PW-11) were also made the basis of the Prosecution’s case.

iii) That as per PW-2, ex-Sarpanch, the Appellants had come along with the Deceased to his village and that the Appellant- Manjit Kaur took him on one side and told him that the Deceased was killed by them, on account of his suspicion that the Deceased was having illicit relations with various people.  The Bench observed that PW-2’s evidence is full of omissions and contradictions. Apart from that, he has admitted in his evidence that IO Amritpal Singh was known to him for the last 4-5 years. In his evidence, he clearly admitted that, though he had a telephone in his house, he neither informed the family members of the Deceased nor the Police about his extra-judicial confession. Further, he admitted that he did not convey any information about the said extra-judicial confession to the Police, though he was known to him.

iv) That the Supreme Court in the case of Pakkirisamy v. State of T.N. [(1997) 8 SCC 158 : 1997 SCC (Cri) 1249] held as follows regarding extra-judicial confession:

“8. … It is well settled that it is a rule of caution where the court would generally look for an independent, reliable corroboration before placing any reliance upon such extra-judicial confession.”

v) The Apex Court in Aloke Nath Dutta v. State of W.B. [(2007) 12 SCC 230 : (2008) 2 SCC (Cri) 264], held that the Court, while holding that reliance on extra-judicial confession by the lower courts in absence of other corroborating material, was unjustified. The Court must satisfy the evidence on: (1) voluntariness of the confession; (2) the truthfulness of the confession; and (3) corroboration.

vi) That in the present case, the Prosecution relied on the evidence of the Complainant, who is the stepson of the Appellant-Accused- Manjit Kaur. He has himself admitted in his evidence that the relations between him and the Appellant-Accused- Manjit Kaur were strained. Hence, it would be highly improbable that the Complainant would have allowed his own brother i.e. the Deceased to go with the Appellant-Accused in her car, after having known that the latter had earlier threatened to harm the Deceased and was in fact, carrying a gun with her in the car. Hence, the evidence of the Complainant could not be held reliable.

vii) That further, IO Amritpal Singh admitted in his evidence that the Deceased’s father was alive at the relevant time but the IO did not record his statement by visiting his village. Further, the IO admitted that he also did not visit the house of the Deceased to collect any evidence or about his leaving the house on the day before his dead body was found.

viii) Furthermore, the Apex Court in the case of Sukhwant Singh v. State of Punjab (1995) 3 SCC 367 held as follows regarding the importance of ballistic expert opinion in cases where injuries are caused due to firearms:

“21. ………It hardly needs to be emphasised that in cases where injuries are caused by firearms, the opinion of the ballistic expert is of a considerable importance where both the firearm and the crime cartridge are recovered during the investigation to connect an accused with the crime. Failure to produce the expert opinion before the trial court in such cases affects the creditworthiness of the prosecution case to a great extent.”

ix) The Supreme Court observed that apart from not collecting any evidence as to whether the said gun belonged to the Appellant- Manjit Kaur, the Prosecution did not bother to examine the Ballistic Expert to show that the wad and pellets were fired from the empty cartridges.


Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, the Apex Court held that the Prosecution failed to establish the offence against the Appellants-Accused, hence, they were acquitted. As a result, the Appeal was allowed, and the High Court Order dated 04.02.2010 and the Trial Court Order dated 10.07.2001 were set aside.

Suneel Jaiswal


The Indian Lawyer

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