Wednesday 14 June 2023

Can the Court Infer the Accused's Intent to Commit Murder if They Claim the Right of Private Defence under their statement U/S 313 of CRPC?

 Ext. 96 refers to inculpatory admissions as well as seeks to bring out exculpatory circumstances. The statement has to be read in its entirety. The inculpatory admissions emerging from this statement against the Appellant are (i) his presence at the spot and (ii) sustaining of injuries by the victim and the other prosecution witnesses while the Appellant, as claimed, was attempting to save himself from getting injured. The exculpatory circumstances sought to be established are (i) the Appellant's description of the act complained of as involuntary, which was compelled by inevitable circumstances and not guided by choice and, (ii) sustaining of injury by him in the same transaction. {Para 19}

20. In view of the inculpatory admissions appearing from Ext.96, the trial court, and the High Court while concurring with the trial court, need not have laboured much to convict the Appellant as the person instrumental for the homicidal death of the victim by discussing the evidence led in course of the trial in details. The Appellant's presence at the spot and the victim and the injured witnesses sustaining injury in course of the scuffle could be held to have been established from Ext.96 itself. However, by not looking into Ext. 96 with the other evidence on record, what the trial court omitted to consider is, whether the prosecution was justified in claiming that the offensive act amounted to culpable homicide amounting to murder or whether the Appellant being guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, deserved punishment Under Section 304, Part II, Indian Penal Code. True it is, the trial court considered the arguments advanced on behalf of the Appellant that (i) he had "exercised his right of private defence", and though (ii) "he exceeded such right", (iii) the present case at the most would fall Under Section 304, Part II, Indian Penal Code; but, it proceeded to overrule such arguments by relying on the oral testimony of P.W.s 2 to 4. In the process, the trial court failed to appreciate the defence version as spelt out in Ext.96, which appears to us to be plausible. A senior citizen who visits Katol from Nagpur, his place of residence, for collecting rent, having the intention of murder would possibly not attempt to do so in broad daylight and in the presence of witnesses, and that too with a weapon such as a knife. Reading Ext.96 as it is, we do find it probable that there could have been provocation at the instance of the victim, who allegedly indulged in spitting on the Appellant coupled with verbal abuse, whereafter P.W.2 and later P.W.s 3 and 4 sprang into action, resulting in a scuffle where both parties indulged in inflicting injuries on each other resulting in an unwanted loss of life.

22. Be that as it may, we have no difficulty in proceeding to record our conclusions resting on the evidence on record as well as Ext.96, which the Appellant voluntarily filed before the trial court as his response to the incriminating materials appearing in the evidence against him while being questioned Under Section 313, Code of Criminal Procedure, for whatever it is worth. It appears to us to be a fair and proper disclosure of the Appellant's version as to what transpired on that fateful evening. The offensive act committed by the Appellant has to be appreciated in the surrounding circumstances noted below.

23. Though there is no specific admission by the Appellant that he had stabbed the victim or the other injured witnesses, reading of the contents of Ext.96 does evince an act of retaliation spurred by sudden provocation resulting in a quarrel as well as a scuffle which ultimately, most unfortunately, cost the victim his life and left some others injured. The Appellant too sustained injuries in the scuffle and there is evidence on record that one of the injuries was grievous, yet, the criminal law was surprisingly not set in motion to bring to book those responsible for inflicting such injury. It was in a sudden quarrel, which could have been provoked by the victim and P.W.2, that blows followed from each side. Most importantly, the circumstances in which the incident occurred does clearly negate any suggestion of premeditation in mind. That apart, it cannot be overlooked that while the victim was middle-aged, the Appellant was in his late fifties. At the time of the alleged incident, apart from P.W.s 2 and 3, Shankarrao Fartode, Umrao Charde, Ramesh Korde (all three not examined) were present at the spot, as per the version of P.W.2. It is indeed improbable that in the presence of such persons, the Appellant wielding a weapon like a knife would come to the spot with an intention to commit the offence of murder overpowering all of them without any sufficient reason or provocation. In our opinion, the trial court lacked in objectivity by not examining the facts and circumstances as to whether the situation was such as is likely to reasonably cause an apprehension in the mind of the Appellant that there was imminent danger to his body, of either death or grievous hurt being caused to him, if he did not act in private defence. To impute intention to cause death or the intention to cause that particular injury, which proved fatal, in these circumstances seems to be unreasonable.

24. Exception 4 to Section 300, Indian Penal Code ordains that 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. The explanation thereto clarifies that it is immaterial in such cases which party offers the provocation or commits the first assault. Four requirements must be satisfied to invoke this exception, viz. (i) it was a sudden fight; (ii) there was no premeditation; (iii) the act was done in a heat of passion; and (iv) the assailant had not taken any undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner.

25. Taking an overall view of the matter, we are inclined to the opinion that the Appellant was entitled to the benefit of Exception 4 to Section 300, Indian Penal Code.

26. The upshot of the above discussion is that this is not a case where the Appellant could be convicted for murder of the victim. His conviction for murder and sentence of life imprisonment are liable to be set aside. It is ordered accordingly.

27. However, we think it proper to convict the Appellant Under Section 304, Part II, Indian Penal Code. 


Criminal Appeal No. 211 of 2023

Decided On: 03.03.2023

Premchand  Vs. The State of Maharashtra

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:

S. Ravindra Bhat and Dipankar Datta, JJ.

Author: Dipankar Datta, J.

Citation: MANU/SC/0209/2023.

Read full Judgment here: Click here

Print Page

No comments:

Post a Comment