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Lakhshmi Chand Vs. the State - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Reported in1965CriLJ832
AppellantLakhshmi Chand
RespondentThe State
.....and toxicology, eleventh edition, at page 281 under the heading 'intracranial haemorrhage'.it is thus stated- subarachnoid haemorrhage may be caused by injury or result without trauma......described in the report of capt. gungoly, was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. injury no. 1 was situated on the right side of the skull and was inflicted, according to the medical opinion) by a sharp-edged weapon.6. the prosecution case against the appellant for the murder of lt. col. sehgal rests on the medical testimony of lt. col. khurana (p. w. 1), capt. gungoly (p. w. 3) and dr. sondhi (p. w. 5) as also on the eye witness account given by the garrison engineer shri g. s. panesar (p. w. 4), shri dhani ram s. d. o. (p. w. 6) and shri durga das bhanot s. d. o. (p. w. 7). there is also the supporting evidence of shri ram lal sat pal, assistant garrison engineer (p. w. 8) and shri b. k. banga, assistant garrison engineer, engineer park (p. w. 9). the evidence.....

Shamsher Bahadur, J.

1. Lakshmi Chand appellant, who is 23 years of age, has appealed from his conviction under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code for having caused the murder of Lt. Col. M. L. Sehgal, who died in the morning of 8th of September 1963 as a result of fatal injuries inflicted on him at Engineer Park, Jullundur, at 11 a. m. on 7th of September 1903. The sentence of death awarded by the learned Sessions Judge is also before us for confirmation.

2. The appellant, a Chowkidar of the Engineer Park, Jullundur, went to see Lt. Col. M. L. Sehgal, Commander Works Engineer, on 23rd of August 1963 at 10 a. m. without obtaining prior permission of his immediate officer, and during the course of the interview is stated to have used insubordinate language. In pursuance of the complaint made by Lt. Col. Sehgal the appellant was charge-sheeted, for having committed these defaults, in a letter sent to him on 24th of August 1963 by Shri G. S. Panesar, Garrison Engineer. The appellant in this letter, Exhibit P. Q., was asked to show cause why his increment for one year should not be stopped with cumulative effect by way of penalty. A reply to this letter was sent by the appellant on 26th of August 1993. Shrj Panesar considering that the defence given in the representation was not convincing, passed a format order of punishment stopping the appellant's increment for one year with cumulative effect. This order, Exhibit P. S., was passed on 4th of September 1963.

3. On 7th of September 1963 a Darbar was held by Lt. Col. Sehgal as Commander Works Engineer (the abbreviated expression of which is C. W. E.) in Engineer Park, Jullundur Cantt., and all workers, who had any 'points/complaints about which they wished to speak in the Darbar', had been notified earlier to submit their points in writing to the Garrison Engineer before 28th of August 1963. The Darbar, which started at 8. 30 a. m. on 7th of September 1963, had 13 items on the agenda marked Exhibit P. Y. In the last item at column 13 of this agenda it is mentioned that

Shri Lakshmi Chand Chowkidar temporary (a) wants to say something about the charge-sheet given to him for his approach to C. W. E., direct, and (b) considerable time is taken in granting permission for interview with the officers.

Shri G. S. Panosar, Garrison Engineer, Shri Dhani Ram and Shri Durga Das Bhanot, Sub Divisional Officers, were present in the Darbar besides many workers. The appellant raised his two points in the Darbar, but obviously he was dissatisfied with the answers which he had received. The appellant then got up and addressed Lt. Col. Sehgal by saying that people who 'work honestly were charge-sheeted and others who did not work honestly were promoted.' The appellant was snubbed for the insulting language which he used and was asked by the C. W. E. to keep quiet otherwise he would be suspended. The appellant apparently (in ?) sarcasm said 'thank you' and sat down. Being the last item on the agenda the Darbar concluded with the points which had been raised, by the appellant at 10-30 A.M. (4) Lt. Col. Sehgal then went to the room of Shri G. S. Panesar, Garrison Engineer, which is about 400 feet from the place where the Darbar was held. Both Shri Dhani Ram and Shri Durga Das Bhanot were called in the office room. Lt. Col. Sehgal occupied the chair opposite to Shri Panesar and had his back towards the western door which was open with the curtain tuekedup. Without announcing himself the appellant suddenly turned up from this door and without much ado struck the picket, Exhibit P. 1, which is a piece of angle-iron used for pegging teats, on the head of Lt. Col. Sehgal which was uncovered. The blow was struck with great force as the picket was held by the appellant with both hands, All the three persons present in the room rushed towards Lt. Col. Sehgal but not before another blow had been inflicted which fell partly on his head and partly on his right hand. The appellant then exclaimed 'I do not mind if I am hanged now'. The picket was removed from the hands of the accused and other persons including Shri Ram Lal Sat Pal (P. W. 8) and Shri B. K. Banga (P. W. 9) came inside the room. Lt. Col. Sehgal became unconscious and was laid down on the floor which was covered with coir matting.

5. Lt. Col. Sehgal was removed at once to the Military Hospital and the Garrison Engineer Shri Panesar sent a report to the Station House Officer, Jullundur Cantt., at 11.30 a. m. setting out the preceding events of 24th of August, 1983 and of the Darbar held on the morning in the Engineer Park. A case under Section 307, Indian Penal Coda, was registered in the first instance vide First Information Report No. 108. Capt. Dr. D. N. Gungoly of the Military Hospital, Jullundur Cantt., received a telephonic message at 11.25 a.m. from the Military Hospital and examined Lt. Col. Sehgal at 11.35 a.m. in the Operation Theatre. The Colonel was examined both by Capt. Gungoly and Lt. Col. L. D. Khurana. These doctors had been told that Lt. Col. Sehgal had been in a comatose condition since 11 a.m. when he received the injuries on his head and hand. The Colonel was found to be unconscious and bleeding from nose and mouth and a local examination revealed-

1) A lacerated wound 2' x 1/2' x bone deep over the right occipital parietal region, Depressed fracture of the skull could be seen on separating the edges.

2) A small cut wound approximately 1 1/2' above the left eyebrow.

3) Contused wound over the dorsum of the right hand extending up to hypothenar eminence.

After an X-ray picture had been taken, an operation was performed by Lt. Col. Khurana. In spite of best medical efforts, Lt. Col. Sehgal died in the hospital at 9.10 a.m. on 8th of September, 1983. The postmortem on the body of the deceased was performed by the Civil Surgeon Dr. Sondhi at 11 a.m. on the 8th of September, 1983. Five injuries in all were noticed by the Civil Surgeon, two being the marks of the unsuccessful operation, In the opinion of Dr. Sondhi, death was due to 'extensive subarachnoid haemorrhage complicated by laceration of brain as a result of fracture of skull.' The injuries, in the opinion of the doctor, were sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature. It may also be mentioned that Lt. Col. Khurana (as P. W. 1) in his testimony has deposed that the first injury on the head, described in the report of Capt. Gungoly, was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. Injury No. 1 was situated on the right side of the skull and was inflicted, according to the medical opinion) by a sharp-edged weapon.

6. The prosecution case against the appellant for the murder of Lt. Col. Sehgal rests on the medical testimony of Lt. Col. Khurana (P. W. 1), Capt. Gungoly (P. W. 3) and Dr. Sondhi (P. W. 5) as also on the eye witness account given by the Garrison Engineer Shri G. S. Panesar (P. W. 4), Shri Dhani Ram S. D. O. (P. W. 6) and Shri Durga Das Bhanot S. D. O. (P. W. 7). There is also the supporting evidence of Shri Ram Lal Sat Pal, Assistant Garrison Engineer (P. W. 8) and Shri B. K. Banga, Assistant Garrison Engineer, Engineer Park (P. W. 9). The evidence tendered by the eye-witnesses has not been challenged by Mr Mulkh Raj Mahajan, learned Counsel for the appellant. It is, however, submitted on behalf of the appellant that the death of Lt. Col. Sehgal is not directly attributable to the injury inflicted by the appellant with the picket, Exhibit P. 1. It has been canvassed by Mr. Mahajan that the 'extensive subarachnoid haemorrhage' which was the immediate cause of death according to Dr. Sondhi could not have been the result of the picket injury alone. The edge of this point which has been pro. pounded for the first time in this Court is lost as no question, was ever asked from Lt. Col. Khurana, Capt. Gungoly and Dr. Sondhi. It is suggested that the depressed fracture of the skull which had been seen 'by separating the edges' might well have been the result of the operation which had been performed by Lt. Col. Khurana, and further that it was the duty of the doctor performing the post mortem to have investigated whether the 'subarachnoid haemorrhage' was the result of violence or the lesion caused by the operation. The innuendo of incompetence or negligence of the doctors who attended on the deceased or performed the autopsy is the major premise of the arguments addressed by the learned Counsel, and we must say at once that the line of approach adopted by him is neither convincing nor fair. In his statement made before the Sessions Judge under Section 342 of the Criminal P. C. the appellant admitted that he was punished by the order of Shri G. S. Panesar of 4th of September, 1963, by stoppage of one increment. He did not admit the events of 7th of September, 1963, and indeed denied his presence or participation in the Darbar altogether. He did not admit the infliction of blows by him to Lt. Col. Sehgal on the morning of 7th of September, 1963. The appellant attributed the case against him to the connivance of Messrs Bhanot, Dhani Ram and Panesar who having been reprimanded by Lt. Col. Sehgal as a result of repeated reports made by him about thefts of Government property have brought this false case of murder against him. In face of this defence it seems somewhat incongruous now for the learned Counsel for the appellant to raise the point that the injury inflicted on the deceased could not have caused his death,

7. The linchpin of the appellant's case which has now been put before us by Mr. Mahajan is the statement made by Capt. Gungoly (P. W. 3) that an X-Ray picture was taken of Lt. Col. Sehgal before the operation. It is contended that this sciagram had been suppressed by the prosecution, and it is suggested that its production would have shown that there was no fracture of the skull at all. Now the prosecution was never asked to produce the X Ray picture and no question was put to have the statement made by Capt. Gungoly explained that a de-pressed fracture of the skull was seen by him underneath the injury on the right parietal region 'by separating the edges'. The wound may have been bone deep but the doctor has not been cross-examined OH the point. The passage on which Mr. Mahajan has placed strong reliance is found in John Glaister's Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology, Eleventh Edition, at page 281 under the heading 'Intracranial haemorrhage'. It is thus stated-

Subarachnoid haemorrhage may be caused by injury or result without trauma.

'Trauma' which is a technical term is defined in Blakiston's Medical Dictionary to be a wound or injury. It is submitted by Mr. Mahajan that as subarachnoid haemorrhage may be caused without any injury, it must be inferred that there was no fracture of the skull and that it is possible to say that the death was the result of some cause ether than the infliction of injuries on the brain. We are unable to read in this statement of Glaister the meaning which is attributed by Mr. Mahajan. A little later at page 2'1 the learned author also says that

rupture of a healthy artery may occur as the result of violence, for example a fracture of the skull associated with laceration of the brain. Intraeerebral haemorrhage may originate a secondary subarachnoid haemorrhage.

Without any guidance from the medical experts who have appeared as witnesses, we are unable to say that the inference which Mr. Mahajan seeks to draw is either plausible or legitimate. In fact there is a definite statement in Taylor's Principles and Practice of Medical Jurisprudence which negatives the theory of Mr, Mahajan. In volume I of the Eleventh Edition of this Treatise, it is said at page 309 that

haemorrhage into the subarachnoid space may be due to trauma, to spread of haemorrhages which originally were in the cerebral substance....

According to Taylor, therefore, trauma may be the cause of subarachnoid haemorrhage. Modi, in his Medical Jurisprudence (Fourteenth edition) at page 274, states that subarachnoid haemorrhage is caused

by injury to the blood vessels ... and is usually associated with fracture of the skull bones and with contusion or laceration of the cortex of the brain.

Discussing the medico-legal questions, it is said at page 275 that subarachnoid haemorrhage 'may be associated with contra coup type of injury to brain'. From the observations of the experts, it seems to us that the extensive haemorrhage assigned to be the reason of Col. Sehgal's death was probably the result of the violent physical blows inflicted on the deceased.

8. la our opinion there is neither any merit nor substance in the contention of Mr. Mahajan and we must hold that the death of the deceased was caused by the injuries inflicted by the appellant with the picket, Exhibit P. 1, which we have examined in Court. It weighs more than two killograms of solid iron and a blow aimed with it, with both hands, on the head could not conceivably leave the victim with any chance of survival. The ocular testimony has not been challenged by the counsel and we have no hesitation in believing it, the suggestion of interest and bias being wholly unsustainable and rightly not pressed by him. The report of the occurrence was in the hands of the investigating officer (Kirpal Singh P. W. 141 within half an hour and the accused was taken under arrest by him from the spot from where the chair and coir matting found to be stained with blood by the Serologist were taken into possession. The clothes worn by the deceased were likewise found stained with blood.

9. With regard to the remaining contention of the learned Counsel, we see no reason to interfere with the sentence of death awarded to the appellant, It was a calculated and premeditated assault. The picket was used with both hands and the intention of the appellant could not be left in any doubt. There is no escape from the conclusion that the appellant intended and presumed the natural consequences of his act. The appellant may have felt some grievance against the deceased but it could not possibly entitle him to act in the manner he did. We see nothing by way of extenuation and would confirm the sentence of death without any hesitation. The appeal will stand dismissed.

J.S. Bedi, J.

10. I agree.

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