Death due to “grave and sudden provocation” could not be termed as a “cruel act” of murder, the Supreme Court has said while reducing the life term of a man to 10-year-jail term in a homicidal case. A bench comprising justices A K Sikri and R K Agrawal granted the relief to Punjab resident Surain Singh who had filed an appeal against a 2008 judgment of High Court of Punjab & Haryana which had confirmed a 1998 trial court verdict awarding life imprisonment to him.
“It cannot be said that the accused had any intention of causing the death of the deceased when he committed the act in question. The incident took place out of grave and sudden provocation and hence the accused is entitled to the benefit of section 300 (murder) exception 4 (sudden fight) of the Indian Penal Code.
“Thus, in entirety, considering the factual scenario of the case on hand, the legal evidence on record and in the background of legal principles laid down by this court in the cases referred to supra, the inevitable conclusion is that the act of the accused was not a cruel act and the accused did not take undue advantage of the deceased,” the court said.
It noted that “the scuffle took place in the heat of passion” and the accused was entitled to benefit of exception 4 under section 300 IPC. It said that accused’s appropriate conviction would be under Section 304 part II (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of IPC, instead of section 302 (punishment for murder) IPC.
“Hence, the sentence of imprisonment for 10 years would meet the ends of justice,” the court said. The bench reached to the conclusion after noting that there was bitter hostility between the warring factions to which the accused and the deceased belonged and that the attack was not premeditated and preplanned.
“Criminal litigation was going on between these factions. It is also proved from the material on record that the attack was not premeditated and preplanned. Both the parties were present in the court of executive magistrate, Faridkot at the relevant time with regard to the proceedings under Section 107/151 of IPC (in a separate case). When the accused objected the presence of a member of the opposite side, the scuffle started between the parties which resulted into death of two persons.
“The conduct of the appellant-accused that he at once took out his Kirpan and started giving blows to the opposite party proves that the attack was not premeditated and it was because of the spur of the moment and without any intention to cause death. The occasion for sudden fight must not only be sudden but the party assaulted must be on an equal footing in point of defence, at least at the onset,” it said.
The court also cited the deposition of the doctor who had conducted autopsy of the deceased where he had stated that the stab wounds implied that in the spur of the moment, the accused inflicted injuries using ‘Kirpan’ though not on the vital organs of the body of the deceased but he stabbed the deceased which proved fatal.
“The injury intended by the accused and actually inflicted by him is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death or not, must be determined in each case on the basis of the facts and circumstances. In the instant case, the injuries caused were the result of blow with a small Kirpan and it cannot be presumed that the accused had intended to cause the inflicted injuries,” it said.
According to the prosecuting, in a fight which followed heated arguments between the families of the accused and the deceased in Faridkot in 1995, Singh attacked victims’ family, injuring several of them. The injured were taken to a hospital where Harbans Singh succumbed to his injuries, following which an FIR was lodged.