Friday, 18 September 2020

Whether the court can infer that accused intended to murder deceased if he had given a blow by lathi?

 A lathi is a common item carried by a villager in this

country, linked to his identity. The fact that it is also capable of

being used as a weapon of assault, does not make it a weapon of

assault simpliciter. In a case like the present, of an assault on

the head with a lathi, it is always a question fact in each case

whether there was intention to cause death or only knowledge

that death was likely to occur. The circumstances, manner of

assault, nature and number of injuries will all have to be considered cumulatively to decipher the intention or knowledge as the case may be.

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 616 OF 2020


JUGUT RAM Vs  THE STATE OF CHHATTISGARH 

Author: NAVIN SINHA, J.

Dated: SEPTEMBER 16, 2020

Leave granted.

2. The appellant assails his conviction under Section 302 of

the Indian Penal Code (in short, “IPC”) and the consequent

sentence of life imprisonment, upheld by the High Court.

3. Ms. Nanita Sharma, learned counsel for the appellant,

submits that all the four witnesses are related to the deceased.

The two independent witnesses were not examined. The

serological report with regard to the blood group of the deceased

matching that alleged to have been found on the lathi have not

been established. The recovery of the lathi has not been properly

proved. The deceased did not die immediately, but succumbed to

the injuries in the hospital. The assault was at spur of the

moment with no premeditation. The appellant had also suffered

injuries.

4. Learned counsel for the State, Sri Sourav Roy opposing the

appeal submits that the deceased was in possession of the field.

The appellant was the aggressor. The deceased succumbed on

the spot. The intention to cause death is apparent from the

assault made on the head, a sensitive part of the human body.

The appellant cannot urge to have acted in self defence as he was

the aggressor. He relies on State of A.P. vs. S. Rayappa, (2006)

4 SCC 512 and Laltu Ghosh vs. State of West Bengal (2019)

15 SCC 344, to contend that the evidence of related witnesses

cannot be discarded.

5. We have heard learned counsel for the parties at length.

There existed a civil land dispute between the parties. The

occurrence is stated to have taken place on 23.11.2001 at about

02.00 P.M. while the deceased was harvesting crops. The

appellant assaulted him with a lathi on the head. The deceased

expired in the hospital the next day at about 07.45 P.M. The

post mortem report proved by the Doctor, P.W. 13 found two

contusions on the left and right parietal portion and fracture on

the left parietal bone opining it to be dangerous to life. Other

injured witnesses have confirmed that the appellant also suffered

injuries in the occurrence.

6. The High Court on appreciation of evidence has come to the

conclusion that the assault was not premeditated but had taken

place in a heat of passion due to a land dispute. If the appellant

had the intention, nothing prevented him from further assaulting

the deceased. Nonetheless it maintained the sentence of the

appellant under Section 302, IPC because death had taken place

pursuant to the assault by him.

7. A lathi is a common item carried by a villager in this

country, linked to his identity. The fact that it is also capable of

being used as a weapon of assault, does not make it a weapon of

assault simpliciter. In a case like the present, of an assault on

the head with a lathi, it is always a question fact in each case

whether there was intention to cause death or only knowledge

that death was likely to occur. The circumstances, manner of

assault, nature and number of injuries will all have to be considered cumulatively to decipher the intention or knowledge

as the case may be. We do not consider it necessary to dilate on

the first principles laid down in this regard in Virsa Singh vs.

The State of Punjab, 1958 SCR 1495, which stand well

established. Suffice it to notice from precedents that in Joseph

vs. State of Kerala, (1995) SCC (Crl.) 165, the appellant dealt

two blows on the head of the deceased. The deceased died two

days later. The post mortem report found lacerated injury on the

head and internal examination revealed fracture to the occipital

bone extended up to the temporal bone. The High Court

convicted the appellant under Section 302 IPC holding that the

injury caused by the lathi was sufficient to cause death of the

deceased. This Court observed as follows:

“3. ….The weapon used is not a deadly weapon as

rightly contended by the learned counsel. The

whole occurrence was a result of a trivial incident

and in those circumstances the accused dealt two

blows on the head with a lathi, therefore, it cannot

be stated that he intended to cause the injury

which is sufficient (sic). At the most it can be said

that by inflicting such injuries he had knowledge

that he was likely to cause the death. In which case

the offence committed by him would be culpable

homicide not amounting to murder. We accordingly

set aside the conviction of the appellant under

Section 302 IPC and the sentence of imprisonment

for life awarded thereunder. Instead we convict the

appellant under Section 304 Part II IPC and

sentence him to five years’ RI.”

8. In Chamru Budhwa vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR

1954 SC 652, the appellant dealt a blow on the head of the

deceased with a lathi and which proved fatal. The injury was

medically opined sufficient in the ordinary course to cause death.

Conviction under Section 302, IPC followed. This court observed

as follows:

“5. It now remains to consider whether the offence

which he committed falls within the first part or

the second part of Section 304 of the Indian Penal

Code. When the fatal injury was inflicted by the

appellant on the head of the deceased by only one

blow given in the manner alleged by the

prosecution it could as well be that the act by

which death was caused was not done with the

intention of causing death or of causing such

bodily injury as is likely to cause death. The act

appears to have been done with the knowledge that

it was likely to cause death, but without any

intention to cause death or to cause such bodily

injury as is likely to cause death within the

meaning of Part II of Section 304 of the Indian

Penal Code.

6. We accordingly allow the appeal to this extent

that the conviction of the appellant under Section

302 of the Indian Penal Code and the sentence of

transportation for life awarded to him will be set

aside, but the appellant will be convicted of having

committed the offence under Section 304 Part II of

the Indian Penal Code and will be sentenced to

seven years’ rigorous imprisonment.”

9. In Gurmukh Singh vs. State of Haryana, (2009) 15 SCC

635, the deceased died three days later after an assault on the

head with a lathi opined to be sufficient in the ordinary course of

nature to cause death. Holding that the assault was made on the

spur of the moment without premeditation the conviction was

altered from one under Section 302 to Section 304 Part II and a

sentence of seven years was handed. Similarly in Mohd.

Shakeel vs. State of A.P., (2007) 3 SCC 119, the appellant had

caused only one injury and had suffered injury himself also.

Altering the conviction from under Section 302 IPC to 304 Part II,

the appellant was sentenced to the period undergone since 1999.

10. We do not consider that Laltu Ghosh (supra) and S.

Rayappa (supra), with regard to credibility of related witnesses,

have any relevance to the issue in question being decided by us.

11. We accordingly alter the conviction of the appellant from

Section 302 IPC to Section 304 Part II, IPC. The appellant is in

custody since 2004. He has already undergone the maximum

period of sentence prescribed under the same. The appellant is,

therefore, directed to be set at liberty forthwith unless wanted in

any other case.

12. The appeal is allowed.

…………...................J.

[R.F. NARIMAN]

…………...................J.

[NAVIN SINHA]

…………...................J.

[INDIRA BANERJEE]

NEW DELHI

SEPTEMBER 16, 2020


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