Thursday 12 July 2012

Identification of Accused For First time in the court cannot be relied on in absence of other evidence

 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA                    
Sukhbir Singh & Anr.  Vs.  State of Punjab
Dated: 27/1/2011                                                     
WITH SLP(CRL) No. 5580 of 2008 
Citation: 2011 CR. L. J. 2336 SC
                                      O R D E R

1.     This   judgment   will   dispose   of   Criminal   Appeal   No.   1198   of   2007

and Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No. 5580 of 2008.   The facts have been

taken from Criminal Appeal No. 1198 of 2007.

2.     At about 9 p.m. on the 26th  December 1991 Naranjan Singh PW-2

son of Jaswant  Singh deceased a resident of village Vinjwan was in his

house   along   with   his   father   when   there   was   a   knock   at   the   door.

Naranjan Singh and his father, who happened to be the Sarpanch of the

village,   thereupon   opened   the   door.     Two   Sikh   youth,   who   were

subsequently   identified   as   the   appellants   herein,   Sukhbir   Singh   and

Dilbagh   Singh,   were   standing   outside   carrying   AK-47   rifles. 
   They   told

Jaswant Singh that he was raising an unnecessary dispute with regard

to the school land, part of which under the possession of Mohanjit Singh,

Amir  Singh and Bhupender Singh sons of Harbans  Singh (all  accused).

Jaswant Singh answered  that he alone was not the deciding factor and

                              Crl. Appeal No.1198/2007

the   other   members   of

the   Panchayat   and   the   Lambardar   be   also   called.     Jaswant   Singh   was

then taken towards the house of Mohinder Singh Lambardar, by the two

appellants followed  by Naranjan Singh.   Mohinder Singh too was called

out   of   his   house   and   the   entire   group   then   went   on   to   the   house   of

Hardev Singh, Member Panchayat.  Hardev Singh too was called out and

the   appellants   told   them   that   the   dispute   should   be   settled   then   and

there.     They   also   took   Jaswant   Singh,   Lambardar   Mohinder   Singh   and

Member, Panchayat Hardev Singh towards the side of the school outside

the village again followed by Naranjan Singh.   The three were thereafter

told   to   sit  on   the   ground  whereupon   one   of   the   appellants   went   to   call

Harbans   Singh   appellant.     He   returned   about   5/6   minutes   later

accompanied by Harbans Singh and directed Jaswant Singh to stand up

and   after   telling   him   that   he   alone   was   not   permitting   Harbans   Singh

and his family to live peacefully and that he was attempting to construct

a school building over his land, they fired a burst each from their rifles

killing  Jaswant   Singh  on the  spot.    Naranjan  Singh  then  ran  away  but

returned  after some  time  and seeing his father's  dead  body, left for the

police   station.     He,   however,   came   across   a   police   party   at   about   4.45

a.m. on the canal bridge near village Taragarh and made a statement to

Inspector Jarnail Singh PW-8 and on its basis an FIR was registered  at

Police   Station,   Sadar   Batala.     The   Special   Report   was   delivered   to   the

Magistrate   in   Batala   itself   at   6.30   a.m.     In   the   FIR,   Naranjan   Singh

                                Crl. Appeal No.1198/2007

stated   that   two   Sikh

youth   who   had   killed   his   father   were   militants   25-30   years   of   age,   of

medium build, wearing kurta pajamas and that he could identify them, if

confronted.  He further stated that he suspected that Harbans Singh and

his sons Mohanjit Singh, Amir Singh and Bhupender Singh had entered

into   a   conspiracy   along   with   the   appellants   to   commit   the   murder.

Harbans Singh and his three sons were arrested soon after the incident

but   Sukhbir   Singh   and   Dilbagh   Singh   were   arrested   on   the   21st  May

1992   by   Sub-Inspector   Pyara   Singh.     On   the   completion   of   the

investigation,   all   the   accused   were   brought   to   trial   for   offences

punishable   under   section   302   read   with   Section   149   and   120-B   of   the


3.        The   prosecution   in   support   of   its   case   placed   reliance   on   the

evidence   of   Sukhdip   Singh   PW-1,   the   doctor   who   had   carried   out   the

post-mortem   on   the  dead   body,  Naranjan   Singh   PW-2,  Mohinder   Singh

Lambardar    PW-3 who too supported  the  prosecution story  and further

stated that he had seen Harbans Singh and his sons talking to one of the

appellants, and PW-8 Sub-Inspector Jarnail Singh who had recorded the

statement of Naranjan Singh near the canal minor bridge and which had

led to the registration of the formal FIR. 

4.        The   trial   court   relying   on  the   aforesaid   evidence   convicted   all   the

accused   for   offences   punishable   under   Section   120-B   of   the   IPC   and

                              Crl. Appeal No.1198/2007

sentenced them to RI of

7 years  and to fine,  Sukhbir Singh and Dilbagh Singh appellants under

Section   302   of   the   IPC   and   sentenced   them   to   life   imprisonment   along

with   fine     and   Harbans   Singh,   Mohanjit   Singh,   Amir   Singh   and

Bhupender  Singh under Section  302/149 of the IPC also to serve a life

sentence.   The matter was thereafter taken in appeal to the High Court

and during the pendency of the appeal Harbans Singh passed away.  The

appeal   against   him   has   dismissed   as   having   abated.     The   High   Court

observed that there was no delay in the lodging of the FIR in which the

names   of   Harbans   Singh,   Mohanjit   Singh,   Amir   Singh   and   Bhupender

Singh   alias   Shastri   had   been   mentioned,   and   although   the   two   main

accused (the appellants herein) had not been named, but they fitted the

description given in the FIR and that further support with regard to the

occurrence was to be found from the statements of Naranjan Singh and

Mohinder   Singh   PWs.   as   to   the   manner   in   which   the   entire   incident

happened   which   clearly   revealed   that   the   two   sets   of   accused   had

entered   into   a   conspiracy   to   eliminate   Jaswant   Singh   as   he   was   an

impediment in the efforts of Harbans Singh and others to take over the

school   land.     The   High   Court   observed   that   the   two   primary  assailants

Sukhbir Singh and Dilbagh Singh had opened fire on Jaswant Singh only

after getting a green signal from Harbans Singh and his sons.  The Court

also   observed   that   the   identification   of   the   appellants   in   Court   for   the

first time fully satisfied the test of proper identification notwithstanding

                               Crl. Appeal No.1198/2007

the   fact   that   they   had

been   arrested   long   after   the   incident   on   the   21st  May   1992   by   Sub-

Inspector   Pyara   Singh   who   had   not   been   produced   as   a   witness.     The

High   Court   also   observed   that   as   PW-3   Mohinder   Singh   was   an

independent   witness,   there   was   no   reason   whatsoever   to   disbelieve   his

testimony.  Two appeals have been filed against the judgment of the High

Court.  Criminal Appeal No. 1198 of 2007 by Sukhbir Singh and Dilbagh

Singh   and   Special   Leave   Petition   (Crl)   No.   558   of   2008   by   Amir   Singh,

Mohanjit   Singh   and   Bhupender   Singh.     We   grant   leave   in   this   Special

Leave  Petition  as  well.    As  already  indicated  above, the  facts have  been

taken from Criminal Appeal No. 1198 of 2007.

5.      Mr.   Patwalia,   the   learned   senior   counsel   for   the   appellants   has

raised one primary argument during the course of hearing of the appeals.

He has pointed out that there was absolutely no evidence with regard to

the   identification   of   the   appellants   and   their   identification   for   the   first

time   in   Court   during   the   course   of   the   trial   would   not   be   sufficient   to

record   a   conviction   in   the   absence   of   any   other   evidence.     In   this

connection,  the  learned  counsel has placed reliance on  Dana Yadav vs.

State   of   Bihar  2002   (7)   SCC   295   and  Ramesh   vs.   State   of   Karnataka

2009(15) SCC 35.   Mr. Kuldip Singh, the learned counsel has, however,

placed reliance on  Malkhansingh & Ors. vs.   State of M.P.   2003(5) SCC

746   to   contend   that   there   was   no   inflexible   rule   that   an   identification

made   in   Court   for   first   time   could   not   be   taken   as   a   good   piece   of

                                Crl. Appeal No.1198/2007

evidence   and   as   in   the

present   matter   the   description   of   the   appellants   had   been   given   in   the

FIR that itself was a corroborative circumstance to the prosecution story.

Mr. Patwalia has also urged that once it was held that the appellants, the

main accused were not involved in the incident as their identification was

suspect, the involvement of the others with the aid of Section 120-B or

149 of the IPC too could not be spelt out. 

6.      We   have   considered   the   arguments   advanced   by   the   learned

counsel   for   the   parties.     It   will   be   seen   that   the   incident   happened   at

about 9 p.m. on the 26th  December 1991.   In the FIR recorded about 8

hours later, the appellants had been described as two Sikh youth 25/30

years of age wearing kurta pajamas.  The appellants were arrested on the

21st May 1992 by Sub-Inspector Pyara Singh, (who was not examined as

a witness) and they were identified for the first time in Court by Naranjan

Singh   on   the   21st  September   1993.     We   are   of   the   opinion   that   the

physical description of the appellants given in the FIR would fit millions

of youth in Punjab, and could not by itself pin the murder on them.  The

prosecution   has   also   not   come   out   with   the   steps   in   the   investigation

which had led to their identification as the primary assailants.  It was, in

this   background,   obligatory   on   the   part   of   the   prosecution   to   have

produced   Sub-Inspector   Pyara   Singh   who   could   have   testified   to   the

steps in the investigation made by him which had enabled him to identify

the   appellants   as   the   killers.     This   was   not   done.     In   this   view   of   the

                               Crl. Appeal No.1198/2007

matter,   the   judgments

cited   by   Mr.   Patwalia   fully   apply   to   the   facts   of   the   case.     There   is

absolutely no evidence other than in the identification in court made by

Naranjan   Singh   long   after   the   incident.     It   is   true   that   there   is   no

inflexible rule that an identification made for the first time in Court has

to be always ruled out of consideration but the broad principle is that in

the   background   there   is   no   other   evidence   against   an   accused   on

identification in Court made long after the event is clearly not acceptable.

The judgment cited by Mr. Kuldip Singh of Malkhansingh's case (supra)

is   on   the   facts   of   that   particular   case,   as   a   prosecutrix,   who   was   the

victim   of   a   gang   rape,   had   identified   some   of   the   accused   for   the   first

time   in   Court   on   which   this   Court   opined   that   the   identification   was

acceptable as a good piece of evidence.

7.      We   now   consider   the   case   of   the   appellants   in   the   connected

matter.   The suggestion made by the prosecution is that Sukhbir Singh

and   Dilbagh   Singh   had   been   engaged   by   the   other   appellants   to   settle

scores with Jaswant Singh as he was apparently an obstacle in their way

with   respect   to   the   school   land.     We   have,   in   this   connection,   gone

through the evidence of Naranjan Singh PW-2 and Mohinder Singh PW-3,

in   the   background   of   these   facts.       We   are   of   the   opinion   that   the

involvement of Sukhbir Singh and Dilbagh Singh has to be ruled out as

they were not properly identified and the charge qua them under Section

302 read with Section 120-B of the IPC must fail.   It is the prosecution

                               Crl. Appeal No.1198/2007

story   that   a   dispute

regarding the school land existed between Jaswant Singh and Naranjan

Singh   on   the   one   side   and   Harbans   Singh   and   his   sons   Amir   Singh,

Mohanjit Singh and Bhupender Singh appellants on the other.  It is also

clear   that   in   this   dispute   PW-3   Mohinder   Singh,   the   Lambardar   was

siding with Jaswant Singh.  We have gone through the evidence of PW-2

and PW-3 very  carefully.    We  see   very  substantial   improvements  in the

statements made by PW-2 in Court vis-a-vis his statement made to the

Police.   Confronted with these statements, he could not give any cogent

explanation for making them.  It is also clear that except for his ipse-dixit

with   regard  to   the   dispute,   there   is   no   other   evidence   that   any   dispute

did   exist.     It   has   come   in   the   evidence   that   no   threat   had   ever   been

received by Jaswant Singh from militants prior to the incident.   We are,

therefore,   of   the   opinion   that   the   statement   of   this   witness   cannot   be

relied   upon.     The   statement   of   PW-3   is   equally   uncertain.     PW-3   made

very   substantial   improvements   in   his   evidence   as   well.     The   story   that

after seeing the murder, he had not made any attempt to meet Naranjan

Singh,   and   his   plea   that   after   the   incident   he   had   returned   home   and

had gone to sleep is difficult to swallow as it would be contrary to normal

human   behaviour.     He   also   stated   that   a   grant   of   Rs.1,00,000/-   had

been received for the school about 12 days prior to the incident and that

the Qanungo had demarcated the school land which was legitimately in

possession of Harbans Singh.  No cogent evidence to this effect has been

                                Crl. Appeal No.1198/2007

produced          by         the

prosecution.   We are,  therefore, of the opinion that the evidence of this

witness cannot also be believed. 

8.     We therefore have no option but to allow Criminal Appeal No. 1198

of   2007   as   well   as   Criminal   Appeal   No........../2011   arising   out   of   SLP

(Crl.) No. 5580 of 2008 filed by Amir Singh and others.  The judgment of

the trial court dated  7th  August 1997 and that of the High  Court  dated

12th January 2007 are set aside. 

                                                            (HARJIT SINGH BEDI)

                                               (CHANDRAMAULI KR. PRASAD)

JANUARY 27, 2011

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