A two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, passed a Judgment dated 07.12.2022 in the case titled Ramcharan (Dead) & Anr. v. State of Madhya Pradesh in Criminal Appeal No. 162 of 2010 and Shyam vs State of Madhya Pradesh in Criminal Appeal No. 1716 of 2010 and set aside the conviction of the Appellants, as there was inconsistency in the testimony of Prosecution Witnesses.
In this case, when the incident occurred, one, Jagannath (“Complainant/P.W.1”), his Wife Kamlabai (“P.W.8”), and their Son Laxminarayan (“Deceased”) along with their two Daughters-in-Law Suganbai (“P.W.10”) and Sharmilabai (“P.W.11”) were sleeping in their house situated near a tube-well in their field. Further, it has to be noted that all the members of the family except P.W.10 and P.W.11., were sleeping outside the house.
Around midnight, one, 1) Ranglal, 2) Ramcharan, 3) Boro, 4) Prem Singh, 5) Bhagwan Singh, 6) Kamal Singh, 7) Benu, 8) Lakhan and 9) Shyam (“Accused-Appellants”) reached the Complainant’s house and started assaulting P.W.1. and P.W. 8. The Deceased-Son came forward to protect his parents. However, he was also assaulted by the Appellants. Though the Deceased ran away to save himself, the Accused chased him and assaulted him. He sustained injuries. While he was being taken to the police station, he died on the way.
The Trial Court vide Judgment dated 20.06.2003 passed in Sessions Trial/204/2000 held as follows:
i) The Trial Court convicted all nine Accused persons under Section 302 (“Punishment for Murder”) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) read with Section 149 IPC (“Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of the offence committed in prosecution of the common object”).
ii) Additionally, the Trial Court held the Accused No.1-Ranglal and Accused No.4-Prem Singh guilty of the offence punishable under Section 325 IPC (“Punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt”) read with Section 149 IPC for assaulting P.W.1 and P.W.8. Further, the Accused No.1-Ranglal and Accused No.4-Prem Singh were also convicted for the offences under Section 148 IPC (“Rioting, armed with deadly weapon“).
iii) The Trial Court sentenced all the Accused to undergo life imprisonment for the offences punishable under Section 302 IPC read with Section 149 IPC.
iv) The Accused were also separately punished for the other offences.
Aggrieved by the Trial Court Judgment dated 20.06.2003:
(i) The Accused No. 2 and 3- i.e. Ramcharan and Boro, preferred a Criminal Appeal bearing CRA-543-2003 before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Indore- The High Court, vide Judgment dated 31.07.2009, upheld the conviction of the Accused No. 2 and 3- i.e. Ramcharan and Boro and the sentence of life imprisonment as awarded by Trial Court.
(ii) The Accused No. 1, 4-9 –i.e. Ranglal and others, preferred a Criminal Appeal bearing number CRA-544-2003 before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Indore. During the pendency of the said Appeals, the Accused No. 4- Prem Singh died. – The High Court, vide Judgment dated 31.07.2009, acquitted Accused No.1, 5-8 but upheld the conviction of the Accused No. 9- i.e. Shyam and the sentence of life imprisonment as awarded by Trial Court.
Aggrieved and dissatisfied by the High Court Judgment dated 31.07.2009, the Accused No. 2 and 3- i.e. Ramcharan and Boro preferred Criminal Appeal No. 162 of 2010 and the Accused No. 9- i.e. Shyam preferred Criminal Appeal No. 1716 of 2010 before the Supreme Court. But during the pendency of the proceedings before the Apex Court, the Accused No. 2- Ramcharan passed away.
Contentions of Parties
(1) The Accused-Appellants contended that their conviction was solely based on the evidence of P.W.1 and P.W.8 which ought to be discarded, as there are several material omissions and contradictions brought on record during cross-examination. Further, it was submitted that on the ground of equality, even the Appellants (“Accused No. 3” and “Accused No.9”) ought to have been acquitted.
(2) The Respondent contended that there was no reason for the High Court to discard the testimony of P.W.10 and P.W.11 who were injured eyewitnesses. Further, both the Courts have believed the testimony of P.W.1 and P.W.8 and, therefore, there is no ground to interfere with the findings recorded based on the appreciation of their evidence.
Supreme Court Observation
The Apex Court vide Judgment dated 09.12.2022, made the following observations:
- That as, P.W.1 and P.W.8 are interested witnesses being the parents of the Deceased, thus their testimony requires scrutiny. In the examination-in-chief, P.W.1 claimed that he was lying on a bed when Accused No.1 and 4 came there and started assaulting him. Further, he claimed that 5-7 people started assaulting P.W.8, the mother of the Deceased. To save P.W.1 and P.W.8, the Deceased came in between, and at that moment the Accused No.1 and 4 gave him lathi blows which caused his death. On the flip side of the coin, P.W.8 stated that the Deceased came to save both of them and during the process the Accused No.1 and 4 assaulted him. Though the Deceased ran away to save himself, the Accused No.1 and 4 chased him and assaulted him. He sustained injuries but eventually died. Thus, there were discrepancies between the testimony of P.W.1 and P.W.8.
- Further, there were discrepancies between the testimony of P.W.1 and P.W.8 concerning the number of Accused persons who had assaulted them and the Deceased, the names of those Accused persons and the weapons used by the Accused, etc. All such discrepancies in the testimony of P.W.1 and P.W.8 created doubts about the truthfulness of their statements and thus, made their testimony less credible.
- Further, although P.W.1 and P.W.8 had accused all the nine Accused to have assaulted or caused injuries to them and their Deceased-Son, but the High Court convicted only the Accused No. 2 and 3- i.e. Ramcharan and Boro and the Accused No. 9- Shyam for the said offence and acquitted the other Accused persons. The Apex Court observed that there was no reason for the High Court to have treated the Accused No. 2, 3 and 9 differently from the other Accused persons who were acquitted by the High Court.
Thus, based on the aforesaid grounds, the Supreme Court allowed the Appeals and held that the conviction of the Appellants- Accused No. 2, 3 and 9 cannot be sustained. Thus, the Judgments of the Trial Court dated 20.06.2003 and the High Court dated 31.07.2009 were set aside to the extent of conviction of the Appellants- Accused No. 2, 3 and 9 and as a result, the surviving Accused No. 3 and 9 were acquitted.
The Indian Lawyer