July 29, 2023 In Uncategorized


A two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Sanjay Karol, passed a judgment dated 27.07.2023 in the matter of No.15138812Y L/Nk Gurusewak Singh Vs. Union of India & Anr. [CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1791 OF 2023], wherein, the Bench observed that in the eyes of the law, the term ‘cruel manner’ has a subjective meaning. Exception 4 of Section 300[1] of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) comes into play when one person takes another’s life, an act considered cruel by normal standards. However, in this specific case, the Appellant fired just one fatal shot, choosing not to use more ammunition. Moreover, the Appellant didn’t try to escape but instead, he helped to transport the Deceased to hospital. Further the Apex Court, interpret the word ‘cruel’ based on its common understanding in Exception 4 and stated that it is clear that this exception cannot be applied here. Hence, the Apex Court relying upon Exception 4 to Section 300 decided that the Appellant’s conviction for culpable homicide, not amounting to murder was correct.


On 04.12.2004, the Appellant (Lance Naik Gurusewak Singh) and Deceased (Lance Naik Kala Singh) were on duty with the 13 Field Regiment at Ferozepur Cantonment. They were part of a team led by Guard Commander Naik Amrik Singh (PW13). Gunner Gurtej Singh (PW­14) was also a sentry in the same team.

On the night of 04.12.2004, the Deceased brought a bottle of country liquor. The Appellant, Deceased, and Guard Commander Naik Amrik Singh consumed the liquor. Later, an altercation arose between the Appellant and the Deceased over seniority, and the Guard Commander intervened. The Deceased replaced Gunner Gurtej Singh (PW­14) for guard duty outside the guard room. During a heated argument between the Appellant and the Deceased about seniority, the Appellant snatched the Deceased’s rifle and fired one fatal shot. The Deceased was taken to a hospital but was declared dead. The Appellant was arrested on the same day.


i) The Appellant was a Lance Naik in the Indian Army. He was convicted by Court Martial for the offence under Section 302[2] of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) along with Section 69[3] of the Army Act, 1950 (the Army Act).

ii) The Court Martial sentenced him to life imprisonment and also dismissed him from service.

iii) The Appellant filed preconfirmation and additional preconfirmation petitions, which were rejected by the Major General Officer Commanding on 28.09.2005. He then filed a petition to the Chief of the Army Staff, which was rejected on 12.06.2006.

iv) Subsequently, he filed a Petition under Article 226[4] read with Article 227[5] of the Constitution of India and Section 482[6] of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) before the Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana.

v) The High Court transferred the matter to the Armed Forces Tribunal in Chandigarh. Where the Armed Forces Tribunal, Chandigarh, dismissed the Petition, confirming the Appellant’s conviction and sentence.

vi) The Appellant filed another Writ Petition before the Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana, which was dismissed on 10.10.2018. However, Hon’ble High Court granted the Appellant the liberty to seek a remedy under Section 30[7] of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007.


Aggrieved by the High Court Order, the Appellant moved to the Apex Court where the Hon’ble Court after hearing the Parties and examining the evidence concluded as follows:

1) Hawaldar Malkiat Singh (PW-3) testified that the Appellant did not have any weapon. Naib Subedar Chandrika Prasad (PW-8) rushed to the incident location after receiving a call and found a sentry had been shot. He questioned the Appellant, who admitted to firing one round during an altercation and might have used the word “galti” (mistake) while replying.

2) Naik Amrik Singh (PW­13) was the Guard Commander along with the Appellant and Deceased. He treated the Appellant as the second Guard Commander due to seniority. They were having dinner when an altercation occurred between the Appellant and Deceased over seniority. PW­13 heard a gunshot while sitting in the guard room and saw the Appellant holding a rifle. The Appellant admitted to shooting the Deceased and sought help. PW­13 and the Appellant carried the Deceased to the roadside before taking him to the hospital in an ambulance.

3) During cross-examination, PW­13 admitted consuming liquor with the Appellant and Deceased but claimed it was one and a half hours before the incident. He acknowledged that the Deceased brought the liquor bottle without consulting him. He also stated that the Appellant admitted his mistake of firing a bullet at the Deceased. However, when asked by the Court, PW­13 clarified that he did not witness the Appellant firing the rifle but saw him right after hearing the gunshot.

4) Gunner Gurtej Singh (PW­14), mentioned that on 4.12.2004, around 08.15 PM, he was having dinner with PW­13 in the guard room. After hearing a gunshot, he saw the Appellant holding a rifle near the entrance. The Appellant removed the magazine and threw it aside. He then made the rifle safe by cocking it and disposed of it in a snake pit. When questioned, the Appellant admitted to making a mistake. Earlier, PW­14 heard the Appellant asking the Deceased to bring water, but the Deceased refused, claiming seniority over the Appellant.

5) It is clear from the evidence that the Appellant, Deceased, and Naik Amrik Singh (PW­13) had consumed liquor during dinner. There was a heated argument between the Appellant and the Deceased regarding seniority. PW­13 confirmed that the Appellant was considered senior to him, leading to his designation as the second guard commander.

6) The evidence shows that the Appellant, without possessing a weapon, used the Deceased’s rifle and fired only one bullet out of 20 rounds. He did not flee the scene and assisted in taking the Deceased to the hospital. The altercation over seniority, combined with the consumption of liquor, suggests a heat of passion rather than premeditation. The act cannot be considered cruel, the term cruel manner is a relative term. Exception 4 applies when a man kills another. By ordinary standards, this itself is a cruel act. The Appellant fired only one bullet which proved to be fatal. He did not fire more bullets though available. He did not run away and he helped others to take the Deceased to a hospital. exception 4 to Section 300 of IPC should apply. Thus, the Appellant is guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under the first part of Section 304 of IPC, which carries a Punishment of Imprisonment for life or up to 10 years.

7) During the trial, Naik Parwinder Singh (PW­5) testified that he had known the Appellant since June 2003 and considered him disciplined. He stated that the Appellant had not misbehaved with the Deceased before. Lt. Col. Purty (PW­10) also acknowledged the Appellant’s ‘nice reputation.’ Considering the Appellant’s conduct and the period of approximately 9 years and 3 months already spent in incarceration, the sentence served by the Appellant appears appropriate in light of the evidence on record.

8) The appeal is partly allowed. The Appellant’s conviction under Section 302 of IPC is altered to Part 1 of Section 304 of IPC. The Appellant is sentenced to the period already served in imprisonment.


In conclusion, the case of Lance Naik Gurusewak Singh has been closely examined by the Apex Court. The Appellant’s conviction under Section 302 of IPC has been altered to Part 1 of Section 304 (Causing Death by Negligence) of IPC, finding him guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The evidence presented during the trial indicates that the act was not premeditated but rather a result of a heated altercation fueled by the consumption of liquor.

The Supreme Court considered the Appellant’s conduct, his disciplined reputation, and the period already spent in incarceration, leading to a sentence that appears reasonable in light of the circumstances. Consequently, the Appellant has been sentenced to the time already served in imprisonment.

With the appeal being partly allowed, the Appellant’s bail bonds stand cancelled. This case emphasises the importance of careful examination and consideration of all factors when arriving at a just and fair verdict in complex legal matters.



The Apex Court after considering all the facts that lead to the death of the deceased concluded that the homicide was not intentional or premediated and therefore reduced the Appellant sentence in the interest of justice.


Udit Krishna


The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services



Sushila Ram

Chief Consultant

The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services


[1] Exception 4 of 300 IPC – Culpable homicide is not murder if it is committed without premeditation in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel and without the offender having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner.

[2] Section 302 Punishment for murder

[3] Section 69 in The Army Act, 1950. Civil offences

[4] Article 226. Power of High Courts to issue Certain Writs

[5] Article 227. Power of Superintendence over all Courts by the High Court

[6] Section 482 CrPC. Saving of Inherent Powers of High Court

[7] Section 30 of Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 – Appeal to Supreme Court

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