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SUPREME COURT ENHANCED SENTENCE ONE YEAR JAIL TERM TO NAVJOT SIDHU IN 1988’S PATIALA CASE

May 19, 2022 03:52 PM

  Chandigarh/New Delhi (Subhash Jindal)

The Apex Court on Thursday enhanced sentenced Navjot Singh Sidhu  in 1988 patiala case, in which one person wa died.  The revision petition was heard by Supreme Court on Thursday. 

Supreme Court judged Mr.A.M. Khanwilkar and Mr.Sanjay Kishan Kaul, while pronouncing the judgement on revision petition, said, "The result of the aforesaid is that the review applications/petitions are allowed to the aforesaid extent and in addition to the fine imposed we consider it appropriate to impose a sentence of imprisonment for a period of one year rigorous imprisonment to be undergone by respondent No.1. The parties are left to bear their own costs." 

The Revision petition (Crl.) No.477 of 2018 in CRL.A. No.60 of 2007 Jaswinder Singh (DEAD) through legal representative …petitioner Versus Navjot Singh Sidhu & others respondents were heard today
BACKGROUND: The original controversy emanates from an FIR dated 27.12.1988 under Section 304/34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘IPC’) registered by the Sub-Inspector of P.S. Kotwali of Patiala District, Punjab on the basis of the information given by one Shri Jaswinder Singh (Informant) about an occurrence around 12:30 p.m. at the traffic light of Battian Wala Chowk. The Informant and one Avtar Singh (PW-3 and PW-4 respectively) were travelling with the deceased, Gurnam Singh in a Maruti Car driven by the deceased.

Apparently, a dispute arose on the right of way between the accused and the deceased and respondent No.1 (the first accused) came out of his vehicle, pulled out the deceased from his vehicle and inflicted fist blows.

As per the Informant his endeavour to intervene resulted even in the second accused (respondent No.2) (not mentioned in the FIR) getting out of the vehicle and giving fist blows to the Informant. It was alleged that the car keys of the deceased’s car were removed by the accused and they fled from the scene of occurrence. PW-3 and PW-4 took the deceased in a rickshaw to the hospital where the doctors announced that Gurnam Singh was dead.

A post-mortem was conducted by Dr. Jatinder Kumar Sadana (PW-2), who recorded that the injuries were ante-mortem in nature and caused by a blunt weapon though he reserved his opinion on the cause of death as it could apparently be given only after receiving the report of the pathologist. The Pathologist’s report dated 09.01.1989 noticed a large not notice any pathology insofar as the brain is concerned. Even after the Pathologist’s report, PW-2 did not give a definite opinion regarding the cause of death of Gurnam Singh. Thereafter, PW-2 wrote to the CivilSurgeon, Patiala on 11.01.1989 requesting that the case be referred to number of abnormalities in the condition of the deceased’s heart and did

Forensic Expert, Government Medical College, Patiala, as a result of which a Medical Board was constituted consisting of six members. 

Two of these members were examined as PW-1 and PW-2 but a very cryptic opinion was given by PW-1 with disinclination to give any further clarification when sought for by the prosecution. 3. A chargesheet dated 06.03.1989 was filed on 14.07.1989 under Section 304 of the IPC against respondent No.2, exonerating respondent No.1. During the course of trial, the Sessions Court exercised its powers under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Cr.P.C.’) and after recording the statement of the Informant summoned respondent No.1 to stand trial.

The Informant also filed a private complaint against both the accused for commission of offences under Sections 302/324/323 read with Section 34 of the IPC.

Both the cases were consolidated and on 20.08.1994 charges under Section 304 Part I were framed against both the accused arising from the FIR. While in the complaint, charges were framed under Section 302 of the IPC against respondent No.1 and under Section 302/34 of the IPC against respondent No.2. Charges under Section 323/34 of the IPC were framed against both the accused for causing hurt to the Informant.

The trial court post trial acquitted both the accused vide judgment dated 22.09.1999. In terms of the judgment of the trial court, the death was not caused by subdural haemorrhage and the deceased suffered sudden cardiac arrest under stress because of which he fell and received two abrasions leading to subdural haemorrhage. The death was caused due to violence but it was not certain as to when precisely Gurnam Singh had died.

The State and the complainant both moved the High Court vide separate appeals. The High Court in terms of the judgment dated 01.12.2006 opined that the cases of the two accused were to be considered separately. The High Court convicted respondent No.1 under Section 304 Part II of the IPC based on the testimony of the doctors,PW-1 and PW-2. As per their testimony, the cause of death was cardiac failure and all that they had stated was that the cardiac condition of the deceased was very weak.

On the opening of the skull, subdural haemorrhage was present over the left parietal region and brain. It was the haemorrhage which caused the death of the deceased and not the cardiac arrest. Insofar as respondent No.2 is concerned, he was held guilty under Section 304 Part II read with Section 34 of the IPC as well as Section 323 of the IPC.

Three criminal appeals were filed before this Court by the two accused and the Informant.

High Court judgment was analyzed by this Court, wherein it was opined that the testimony of the witnesses was trustworthy. Merely because there was a relationship between the Informant, Avatar Singh and the deceased, and more witnesses were not examined, could not have led to a conclusion that the case had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt The post-mortem report was examined closely which indicated only two external injuries – one on the temporal region and another on the left knee of the deceased, and both were abrasions.

High Court judgment was analyzed by this Court, wherein it was opined that the testimony of the witnesses was trustworthy. Merely because there was a relationship between the Informant, Avatar Singh and the deceased, and more witnesses were not examined, could not have led to a conclusion that the case had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt The post-mortem report was examined closely which indicated only two external injuries – one on the temporal region and another on the left knee of the deceased, and both were abrasions. 

The doctors had opined that the second injury could be the result of the fall and, thus, it ismost unlikely that a person would simultaneously aim at the head andalso the knees of the victim while giving fist blows. Respondent No.1 possibly delivered more than one fist blows while only one of them landed on the head of the deceased and others missed the target.
This Court did not agree with the observations of the High Court that the death was caused by subdural haemorrhage and not cardiac arrest. There was stated to be uncertainty regarding the cause of death of Gurnam Singh and no weapon had been used, nor was there any past enmity between the parties, and what happened was the result of an instant brawl.
The case against respondent No.2 was held not to have been proved and mere presence of respondent No.2 with respondent No.1 was not sufficient to result in a conviction based on common intention. Even
for the offence under Section 323 of the IPC, respondent No.2 was held not guilty. 10. The Court recognized that there were lapses in investigation but then people are not convicted on the basis of doubts. Respondent No.1 was held not guilty of causing the death of Gurnam Singh, and the only
conclusion which was found acceptable was of the respondent No.1 causing voluntary hurt to Gurnam Singh which is punishable under Section 323 of the IPC. It was noticed that respondent No.1 was an
international cricketer and a celebrity at the time of the incident and at times there was an endeavour to turn a blind eye to the violations of law committed by celebrities. On the question of sentence, a fine of Rs.1,000/- alone was imposed vide order dated 06.12.2006, since the incident was 30 years old at the time, there was no enmity between the parties and no weapon was used.
ON EXPANDING THE SCOPE OF REVIEW APPLICATION:
A review application was filed by the complainant in which notice was issued on 11.09.2018 limited to the question of enlargement of sentence qua respondent no.1. The matter got delayed as initially the counsel could not enter appearance for the accused. There was a change of counsel and a change of senior counsel. However, when the arguments were addressed, Mr. Luthra, learned senior counsel for the complainant sought to persuade us to enlarge the notice qua the aspect of review as a whole and not limited to the question of sentence. The aforesaid plea was predicated on account of non-consideration of the decision of the co-ordinate Benches of this Court in Richpal Singh Meena v. Ghasi and Virsa Singh v. State of Punjab
In Richpal Singh Meena case, a proposition was advanced that cases where a homicide had occurred, but the conviction is only for causing grievous hurt, may even fall even within Section 300 (thirdly) of
the IPC and, therefore, would require reconsideration. Several judgments were relied upon on this aspect. After referring to these judgments, thejurisprudential aspect was discussed. In this behalf, it was submitted that there were cases where in spite of death of a person and a finding in some of them of an act of voluntarily causing grievous hurt, this Court has not considered the provisions of Section 299 read with Section 304 of the IPC. It was for the Court to determine on evidence, whether if it is a
culpable homicide, it amounts to murder as explained under Section 300 of the IPC or not as explained under Section 304 of the IPC. If culpable homicide cannot be proved, then it will fall in the category of “notculpable homicide”. In cases relating to hurt (from Section 319 of the IPC onwards), they do not postulate death as the end result. Apart from this the issue of sentencing was also addressed. It was opined that the Court should not ignore or overlook the question whether the homicide is culpable or not but merely treat the case as one of voluntarily causing grievous hurt punishable under Section 325 or Section 326 of the IPC.
The earlier judgment in Virsa Singh case looked into the aspect of intention to inflict the injury that is sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature. In such an eventuality, Section 300 thirdly of
the IPC would be unnecessary because the act would fall under the first part of the Section. However, it was also stated that it has to be found that the bodily injury was caused, the nature of injury must be established and whether any vital organs were cut or so forth. Thereafter the focus should shift to the intention to inflict the bodily injury that is found to be present.
It was also urged by Mr. Luthra, learned senior counsel for the complainant that the delay of 34 years cannot be a ground to acquit the accused when the delay was not attributable to the complainants or the victims.

 

On the other hand, Dr. Singhvi, learned senior counsel for respondent No.1 sought to emphasise that the incident is 34 years old pertaining to a dispute of right of way. The case had gone through several rounds of scrutiny at several stages and now re-assessing the merits of the case in terms of the charge against the respondent would be subversive of the basic foundations of criminal justice system.
On analysis of the aforesaid aspect, we are disinclined to enlarge the notice to something more than the aspect of sentencing. The evidence has been analysed in detail to come to a conclusion as to what is
the nature of injury. It has been taken into account that only one blow with bare hands as inflicted by respondent No.1 had landed on the head of the deceased. The finding is that apparently in the fist fight, other blows may have been attempted but did not fall on the material part of the body. Aspects such as lack of post enmity, lack of any weapon used except bare hands and the result of a spontaneous fight over a right of way were also taken into account.


 
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