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Supreme Court of India
Jugut Ram vs The State Of Chhattisgarh on 16 September, 2020
Author: Navin Sinha
Bench: Rohinton Fali Nariman, Navin Sinha, Hon’Ble Ms. Banerjee
REPORTABLE IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 616 OF 2020 (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No.7416 of 2018) JUGUT RAM ...APPELLANT(S) VERSUS THE STATE OF CHHATTISGARH ..RESPONDENT(S) JUDGMENT
NAVIN SINHA, J.
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
Signature Not Verified
Digitally signed by R
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
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
“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
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.
SEPTEMBER 16, 2020