28 May 2023 3:51 AM GMT
Giving benefit of doubt to them in a 2018 double murder case, the Punjab & Haryana High Court has acquitted four convicts who were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2021 by Additional Sessions Judge, Gurdaspur.After noting various lapses in prosecution case, the bench of Justice Ritu Bahri and Justice Manisha Batra said, “This Court is of the opinion that the prosecution has failed to...
Giving benefit of doubt to them in a 2018 double murder case, the Punjab & Haryana High Court has acquitted four convicts who were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2021 by Additional Sessions Judge, Gurdaspur.
After noting various lapses in prosecution case, the bench of Justice Ritu Bahri and Justice Manisha Batra said, “This Court is of the opinion that the prosecution has failed to prove the charges against the appellants to the hilt as obligated in law and, therefore, they are entitled to be given benefit of doubt.”
The court was hearing appeals against the judgement of the trial court wherein the four accused were held guilty for commission of offences punishable under Sections 302, 147 and 427 read with Section 149 of IPC and sentenced them to undergo life imprisonment.
It was the prosecution's case that the victims, Sanjiv Kumar and Subegh Singh, died due to their Activa vehicle being hit by the Bolero driven by the appellant Hardev Singh and occupied by the remaining appellants and the absconding accused Nirmal Singh Randhawa. Whereas, according to the appellants, the victims had died due to injuries sustained in a road accident.
The case of the prosecution mainly rested upon the testimonies of witnesses Baghail Singh and Sukhjit Singh who claimed themselves to be eye-witnesses to the occurrence, the court noted.
There was a “gap of 5 hours between the time when the occurrence had taken place and the time of lodging of FIR”, the bench observed. On going through the sworn depositions made by both witnesses, it “clearly appears that they were unable to give any reasonable explanation for the delay”, the court said.
Witness Sukhjit Singh who is also the brother of one of the victims had said that he did not send anyone to report the FIR because he was busy taking care of the victim. On this, the court said that since the victims were “declared to be brought dead” in the hospital itself, therefore his statement to this effect “does not appear to be plausible at all”.
“The delay in registering the complaint when the police was present right from the inception is indeed a mystery and would, therefore, not justify either the actions of the complainant and PW-2 (brother of the victim) or of the police when the case was actually registered,” the court observed.
The bench further noted that, “an inference can certainly be drawn that the complainant and PW-2 in connivance with the police managed to not to get the formal FIR registered till 4 PM and the intervening time had been utilized by the complainant party for concocting a false story and for implicating the accused in this case”.
This fact has certainly created a dent over the veracity of the prosecution version, the benefit of which must have gone to the appellants but could not be given by the trial Court, it added.
The delay in lodging of the FIR which could not be satisfactorily explained by the complainant party has one more consequence as “the veracity of statements” of the two eye-witnesses with regard to their “very presence” at the spot of occurrence has become “questionable due to that reason”, the court observed.
However, their statements are suffering from several “material inconsistencies on this point”, the bench noted.
Considering that the witnesses have “failed to prove their presence on the spot” at the time of occurence, the court said, “Therefore, the possibility that they had been planted to implicate the appellants-accused falsely in this case cannot be ruled out.”
"There is yet another important circumstance creating a doubt about the veracity of the prosecution version. The rough site plan Ex.PW6/D of the place of occurrence had been prepared by PW-6 Inspector Avtar Singh on 06.02.2018 itself. He deposed that he had visited the spot with HC Kuldeep Singh and Davinder Singh Bedi. Interestingly, none of them was cited as a witness nor was claimed to be an eye-witness," said the court.
The court noted that in the site plan, the inspector is shown to have specifically marked the places where the vehicle of the appellants had allegedly hit the vehicle of the victims, where the victims were hit again, and the places where the eyewitnesses were present.
However, none of the witnesses deposed that they had accompanied the Investigating Officer to the place of occurrence and had identified the same as well as the spots where they were present at the relevant time, it said.
“These witnesses did not even know as to whether the police had visited the place of occurrence or not?”, the bench remarked.
The court further observed that the medico legal report did not prove that the victims had sustained any crush injury. "If the victims would have been again hit by way of reversing of vehicle by the assailants then some mark of crush injuries must have been reflected on the dead bodies of the victims," it added.
No skid or tyre marks were lifted from the place of occurrence by the I.O to establish that the Bolero vehicle had been reversed for the purpose of causing injuries to the victims, it added. All these circumstances “put this Court on guard as they are suspicious circumstances which have not been explained by the prosecution witnesses” and “have certainly rendered the prosecution case doubtful”, the court said.
In light of the above, the court set aside the judgement of conviction of the trial Court and acquitted all the convicts.
Case Title: Jagtar Singh and others v. State of Punjab
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (PH) 98
Appearance : Senior Advocate Bipan Ghai with Advocate Nikhil Ghai for the appellants.
AAG Alankar Narula for Punjab.
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment