The Supreme Court observed that a long-standing preexisting dispute will not attract the exception of “grave and sudden” provocation under Section 300 of Indian Penal Code.
The bench of Justices Krishna Murari and S. Ravindra Bhat also observed that a lapse of time, would not per se constitute a determinative factor as to diminish the offender’s liability from the offence of murder to that of culpable homicide, not amounting to murder.
In this case, appellants were convicted by the Trial Court for the murder of one Vrindawan. The Chhattisgarh High Court affirmed the conviction.
Before the Apex Court, the appellants raised these contentions: (1) that the dispute arose in a flash, suddenly at the spot when the deceased -Vrindawan started getting the disputed land levelled, due to which the appellants (who lived in the same locality in adjacent houses) went out of their houses, and allegedly assaulted the deceased. Therefore, in these circumstances, they are liable only to the extent of their individual overt acts (2) That the incident happened all of a sudden and without premeditation and had no intention to cause death but deter Vrindawan from doing any activity on the disputed land (3) That the death of Vrindawan took place after about 20 days of the incident on account of complication in the surgery and it cannot be said that the cause of death was injury as the prosecution could not prove that injury caused to the deceased, in ordinary course of nature, was sufficient to cause death (4) that arguendo, if the prosecution could be said to have proved the attack by the appellants on the deceased, the cause of death neither being immediate nor a direct result of it, there is no question of the ingredients of the offence of murder under Section 302 IPC having been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Rejecting these contentions, the bench observed that the facts do not constitute a “sudden quarrel”, given that the accused abused the deceased, in an unprovoked manner, and then they went to where he was, armed with axes, and assaulted him.
"What is evident is that while there were pre-existing disputes of some vintage, between the appellants and the deceased, there is nothing to show that they had been aggravated. It is also, likewise, not clear whether the deceased said anything to the appellants which triggered their ire, leading to loss of self-control as to result in “grave and sudden provocation”. In any case, if there were something, the appellants ought to have brought the relevant material or evidence on record, as what facts did exist, was within their peculiar knowledge.", the court said.
On the issue of lapse of time, the court, while dismissing the appeal, observed:
"There can be no stereotypical assumption or formula that where death occurs after a lapse of some time, the injuries (which might have caused the 14 1992 (3) SCR 921 15 2002 (1) SCC 22 20 death), the offence is one of culpable homicide. Every case has its unique fact situation. However, what is important is the nature of injury, and whether it is sufficient in the ordinary course to lead to death. The adequacy or otherwise of medical attention is not a relevant factor in this case, because the doctor who conducted the post-mortem clearly deposed that death was caused due to cardio respiratory failures, as a result of the injuries inflicted upon the deceased. Thus, the injuries and the death were closely and directly linked."
For Appellant(s) Mr. Ravi Prakash Mehrotra, Sr. Adv. Mr. Jogy Scaria, AOR Ms. Beena Victor, Adv. Mr. Apoorv Srivastava, Adv. Ms. M. Priya, Adv.
For Respondent(s) Mr. Sourav Roy, D.A.G. Mr. Mahesh Kumar, Adv. Mr. VMZ Chambers, AOR
Indian Penal Code, 1860 ; Section 300 - There can be no stereotypical assumption or formula that where death occurs after a lapse of some time, the injuries (which might have caused the death), the offence is one of culpable homicide. Every case has its unique fact situation. However, what is important is the nature of injury, and whether it is sufficient in the ordinary course to lead to death. The adequacy or otherwise of medical attention is not a relevant factor. (Para 25-26)
Indian Penal Code, 1860 ; Section 300 - The standard of reasonableness for applying the “grave and sudden” provocation - mere long-standing preexisting dispute does not attract the exception. (Para 23-24)
Indian Penal Code, 1860 ; Section 300 - The requirement of Section 300 thirdly is fulfilled if the prosecution proves that the accused inflicted an injury which would been sufficient to have resulted in death of the victim. The determinative fact would be the intention to cause such injury and what was the degree of probability (gravest, medium, or the lowest degree) of death which determines whether the crime is culpable homicide or murder - When the nature of injury being so dangerous as to result in death (Section 300 fourthly), accused’s disregard to the consequences of the injury, and an element of callousness to the result, denotes or signifies the intention. (Para 18-19)
Indian Penal Code, 1860 ; Section 299, 300 - Distinction between murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder - Locus classicus on the issue viz. Virsa Singh v. State of Punjab  S.C.R. 1495. (Para 16-17)
Criminal Trial - The circumstance that most of the witnesses were related to the deceased does not per se exclude their testimony. (Para 14)