Supreme Court Of India

Ramappa Vasappa Badiger V. State of Karnataka

Criminal Appeal No. 353 Of 1984 [From The Judgment And Order Dated 20.3.1984 Of The Karnataka High Court In Crl.A. No. 357 Of 1982]. 22-02-1994


K. Jayachandra Reddy, J.

This is an appeal filed under Section 2-A of the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 1970. There are three appellants (original accused Nos. 1 to 3). They alongwith eight others were tried for offences punishable under Sections 302 and 201 I.P.C. The trial court acquitted all of them. The State preferred an appeal but the High Court granted leave only against A-1 to A-4. However, finally the High Court set aside the acquittal of A-1 to A-3 namely the appellants herein and convicted them under Section 302 I.P.C. and sentenced them to imprisonment for life and confirmed the acquittal of A-14.

2. The prosecution case is as follows:

The appellants and A-9 are the resident of Village Bedaratti Village in Belgaum District. The deceased Sabu Venkappa Belagali was the brother of P.W.4. He got separated and was living separately in a house. There were serious differences and ill-feelings between the deceased and A-1 to A-3 for different reasons. The accused and the deceased are inter-related. A-l's grand-mother entrusted some cash and gold to the deceased for safe custody and after her death when A-1 demanded the same, the deceased denied. There were disputes between A-l and the deceased regarding purchase of land and it is also alleged that the deceased set fire to the house of A-1. Likewise there was some enmity between the deceased and A-2 and A-3. Therefore A- 1 to A-3 and A-9 conspired to do away with the deceased. The deceased being afraid also stopped his grocery shop business and he also started moving with a gun. Two years prior to the occurrence a band of people of followers of Inchageri Muth came singing bhajans in the Village and they had tea and tiffin in the house of A-1 and when they were going in a procession, the deceased accompanied by four to six persons prevented them. This aggravated the situation. On 31.3.81 being a Tuesday, as per the practice in the early morning after taking bath, P.W.7, wife of the deceased, went to the temple of the local deity Lakkawwa and she returned to the house. Then the deceased also went to the temple which is situated on the outskirts of the Village armed with his gun M.O. 6. P.W.2 Gangawwa, a lady went to the temple to worship the deity and P.W.3 Shanthawwa, another lady used to clean the temple premises. Both of them were at the temple. The deceased after some time left the place and P.W.2 also left the temple and P.W.3 after finishing the sweeping went alongwith P.W.2. On the way, according to the prosecution, A-4 who was present near a tree, took out a country-made pistol from his hand bag and shot at the deceased thrice on his back from a close range as a result of which the deceased fell down and started crying. A1 to A-3 also came there from the hiding place armed with sickles and an axe and started cutting the deceased. In the meanwhile A-4 took the gun of the deceased and fired into the air. Thereafter A-3 took the same and smashed it and threw it near the deceased. P.W.5, father of the deceased and P.W.6 rushed to the scene of occurrence and they saw A-l to A-4 going away. P.W.7 also came there. All of them found the deceased dead. P.W.8 also came there and P.W.2 accompanied by P.W.8 went to the Igali Police Station, nine miles away where P.W.2 orally complained before P.W.32, A.S.I. of Police who recorded the complaint Ex.P.3 and registered the case. Thereafter both of them returned to the Village. P.W.32 also came to the place of occurrence, held the inquest, seized certain articles and sent the dead body for post- mortem. P.W.28, the Doctor, who conducted the post-mortem, found as many as 19 injuries. Some of them were firearm injuries and many of them were incised injuries on the vital parts of the body. On internal examination he found that there were pellets in the lungs and also incised wounds on the lower part of the right lung. He, opined that injuries Nos. 4,6,14,17,18 and 19 were individually sufficient to cause the death. The accused were arrested and after completion of the investigation, the charge-sheet was laid. The accused pleaded not guilty. However, their plea was that the deceased had a number of enemies and the occurrence happened in the early hours and nobody could have seen and the deceased must have been killed by some unknown persons who were his enemies. The learned Sessions Judge rejected the evidence of the eye- witnesses and acquitted all of them. The High Court having considered the reasons given by the learned Sessions Judge held that the learned Sessions Judge committed an error in outrightly rejecting the evidence of P.Ws. 3, 4 and 5 and the High Court has also considered all other reasons and held that the same were fallacious and highly unsound.

3. Since this is a regular appeal, we have gone through the evidence of the eye-witnesses and other materials carefully. We are satisfied that the occurrence has taken place on the path near the temple. The evidence of the eyewitnesses who are mostly ladies, appears to be natural and their presence cannot be doubted. P.W. 2 deposed in detail as to how she happened to go to the temple on that Tuesday and when she was returning alongwith P.W. 3, she witnessed the occurrence. She clearly stated that A-4 whom she identified before the Court as Puggawala shot at the deceased. She stated that A-1 to A-3 also came there armed with sickles and axe and attacked the deceased. She further stated that on hearing the cries others came there. P.W.3's evidence is to the same effect. She claimed to be the Sweeper and Cleaner of the temple premises. Therefore her presence at the temple is quite natural and she also deposed that after some time the deceased was seen going ahead of P.W.2 and herself. Then she has also given details of the occurrence and the overt acts committed by A-4 as well as A-1 to A-3. P.W. 4 is another eye- witness who deposed that hearing the firing of the gun he went there and saw A-1 to A-3 attacking the deceased with their weapons. He also speaks about the presence of P.Ws. 2 and 3. The medical evidence also corroborates the versions given by these witnesses. The learned Sessions Judge by a strange process of reasoning rejected the entire prosecution case.

4. The High Court, however, confirmed the acquittal of A-4 on a different ground namely on the question of identification. The High Court while accepting the prosecution version to the extent namely that one of the assailants in the first instance shot at the deceased, however, gave the benefit of doubt to A-4 on the ground that at the earliest moment A-4 was described as Puggawala and that the identification parade does not inspire confidence and that the identification of A-4 by P.Ws. 2 to 6 was not free from doubt.

5. Learned counsel for the appellants submitted that the view taken by the learned Sessions Judge is not unreasonable and therefore the High Court was not justified in taking a different view in an appeal against acquittal. The learned Sessions Judge referred to the medical evidence and by a strange process of reasoning rejected the evidence of the eye-witnesses holding that the medical evidence does not show that there were fire-arm injuries. The learned trial Judge after referring to the observations made by Dr. Modi and another learned author took a wholly incorrect view regarding the nature of the wounds. He entered into an unnecessary discussion regarding the nature and colour of the injuries namely whether they were burnt or they had burnt edges etc. in spite of the medical evidence being very clear. The evidence of the Doctor regarding injuries Nos. 9 and 10 and 17 to 19 leaves no room for doubt that the deceased was shot with fire-arm. But the learned Sessions Judge by counting the number of entry and exit wounds again held that the nature of the fire arms used was in doubt. Suffice it to say that the learned Sessions Judge took a most erroneous and unrealistic approach in appreciating the medical evidence as well as the evidence of the direct witnesses. The learned Sessions Judge also commented that there was no reason why P.W.2 should be selected to lodge the complaint when there were other relatives of the deceased. We are unable to see as to how that can be a ground to reject the evidence of P.W.2 On the other hand, the evidence of P.W.2 appears to be quite natural and inspires confidence. In the earliest report she has given all the details. In the cross-examination she asserted that she woke up at 5 A.M., immediately took bath and went to the temple. Regarding her presence at the scene of occurrence she has clearly stated that the deceased came to the temple and was going away and a little behind him, she herself and P.W. 3 were going and then they saw the attack. Some part of the cross-examination is about the identity of A-4. She admitted in the cross-examination that she identified A-4 on the basis of his teeth namely that he did not have lower teeth. The High Court gave benefit of doubt to A-4 doubting the authenticity of the identification. In such a situation so far as the part played by A-1 to A-3 is concerned, we do not find anything significant in the cross- examination which affects the veracity of these evidence. She denied the suggestion that her statement was recorded in the afternoon and that she did not go to the Police Station. Likewise P.W. 3 also was cross-examined at length and she affirmed her version and gave details of the attack by the appellants. The evidence of these two witnesses is further supported by the the evidence of other witnesses. The High Court has rightly accepted their evidence. The view taken by the High Court is the only reasonable view and we see no grounds to come to a different conclusion. The appeal is accordingly dismissed.

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