1. For the murder of Varinder Singh, a resident of the locality known as Latoorpura in Patiala town, any for a murderous assault on his brother Khushvinder Singh (P. W. 5), Balbir Chand alias Billu, another resident of the-same locality, has been found guilty by the learned Sessions Judge, Patiala of offences under Sections 302 and 307 of the-Indian Penal Code and has been sentenced to death on the first count and to rigorous imprisonment for seven years on the second.
The judgment of the learned Sessions Judge is dated the 4th of October. 1973, against which Balbir Chand convict (hereinafter referred to as the appellant) has filed Criminal Appeal No, 1075 of 1973' which we are hereby disposing of along with Murder Reference No. 56 of 1973 made by the trial Court for confirmation of the sentence of death.
2. The prosecution case may be stated thus. At about 6.00 P.' M. on the 10th of March, 1973. Varinder Singh deceased, his brother Khushvinder Singh (P. W. 5) and their father Surinder Singh (P. W. 2) were present at their house when the former went to the shop of Arjan Dass (P. W. 3), which adjoins that house, for making enquiries about the rate at which the deceased could sell his Ajwain Varinder Singh took his seat by the side of Arjan Dass (P. W. 3) and so did Hari Mohan (P. W. 4), a neighbour, who also arrived there in the meantime. The appellant was then sitting on a wheel-barrow opposite the shop of Arjan Dass (P.W.. 3). Shortly afterwards, some school girls passed by the wheel-barrow-when the appellant addressed them thus:
Sohneo bare dinna picchon mille ho.
The deceased at once objected to the appellant's misbehaviour. The appellant retorted with a question as to whether the girls were the sisters or daughters of the deceased, who then descended from his perch at the shop of Arjan Dass (P. W. 3) and walked towards the appellant who met him half way, held him by the collar of his shirt and gave him a couple of blows with a spring knife. The occurrence was witnessed not only by Arjan Dass (P. W. 3) and Hari Mohan (P. W. 4) but also by Surinder Singh (P. W. 2) and Khushvinder Singh (P. W. 5), who had been attracted to the scene by the wordy duel between the appellant and the deceased, Khushvinder Singh (P. W. 5) tried to capture the appellant but himself received a blow from the appellant's knife. Thereafter the appellant made good his escape.
Hari Mohan (P. W. 4) and Khushvinder Singh (P. W. 5) at once removed Varinder Singh in a rickshaw to the Rajindra Hospital, while Surinder Singh (P. W. 2) reached the City Kotwali at 6-10 p.m. and there lodged report. Exhibit PC, which contains substantially the same version of the occurrence as has been set out above. A copy of the report was received by the Ilaqa Magistrate at 10.45 P, M. on the same day.
Varinder Singh breathed his last shortly after being admitted in the hospital.
Khushvinder Singh (P. W. 5) was examined by Dr. Rameshwar Chander, Registrar, Casualty Ward. Raijndra Hospital, Patiala (P. W. 6') at 6-20 p.m. on the same day and was found to have sustained a stab wound having the dimensions 3/4' X 1/2' X 3' in the right axilla. His shirt and banian bore corresponding cuts. In the opinion of the doctor the in- jury had been inflicted within 12 hours of the examination.
The dead body of Varinder Singh was subjected to an autopsy by Dr. (Mrs.) J. K. Sethi (P. W. 1) on the 11th of March, 1973, from 11-45 A. M. onwards. The deceased was found to have suffered two incised wounds, both of which were located in the left side of the chest region in its front. One of the wounds had the dimensions 2.5 cms,. X 1 cm. X 9 cms. while those of the other were 2 cms. X 1 cm, X 2.5 cms. The former had cut the lower margin of the sixth rib. The left ventricle of the heart and the left lobe of the liver were found cut and that is why, according to the doctor, Varinder Singh died.
The incised wound suffered by Khushvinder Singh (P. W. 5) was found not to have injured any vital structure and he was discharged from the hospital within a week as cured.
3. Thirteen witnesses were examined at the trial in support of the prosecution case. They included four eyewitnesses, namely, Surinder Singh (P. W. 2), Arjan Dass (P. W. 3), Hari Mohan (P. W. 4) and Khushvinder Singh (P. Wt 5), all of whom gave substantially the same version of the occurrence as has been set out above and as finds 'a place in the first information report. Their depositions were found by the learned Sessions Judge to be consistent with each other and reliable, supported as they were by a prompt first information report and the medical evidence.
4. Mr. Sibal. learned counsel for the appellant, has not raised any objection to the conviction of the appellant which, on a perusal of the evidence recorded by the learned Sessions Judge, we find to be well based. The occurrence took place in the immediate vicinity of the house of Surinder Singh (P. W. 2) and Khushvinder Singh (P. W. 5) whose presence at the time and place of the occurrence is quite natural, and when they say that they were attracted, to the scene by the wordy duel between the appellant and the deceased, there is no reason for the Court not to believe either of them. Besides, Khushvinder Singh (P. W. 5) was himself seriously injured in the same occurrence, which is an added reason in support of his reliability. He would not have named as his assailant any one except the real culprit and when he ascribes the injuries suffered by the deceased also to the appellant, his word is acceptable. Furthermore, the testimony of Surinder Singh (P. W. 2) is not only supported by the prompt first information report but also by the depositions of Arjan Dass (P. W. 3) and Hari Mohan (P. W. 4), both of whom too are natural witnesses of the occurrence and are not interested either in the prosecution against the appellant. Their word is practically a clincher, when coupled with the evidence of Surinder Singh (P. W. 2), Khushvinder Singh (P. W. 5) and the two doctors.
5. For the reasons stated the conviction must be and is hereby maintained. But the same is not true of the sentence which we regard to be excessive. There was no previous enmity between the appellant on the one hand and the deceased and his injured brother on the other. The occurrence resulted from a sudden quarrel and was wholly unpremeditated, It is no doubt true that no part of the conduct of the deceased was blameworthy and that the fault lay entirely with the appellant who not only misbehaved with the girls but was overpowered by rage when the deceased protested against his misbehaviour. But then, as laid down by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Ediga Anamma v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 1974 Pun LJ (Cri) 15 : (1974 Cri LJ 683) (SO. the present state of the law makes a departure from the earlier concept of penoloav that death sentence is to be the rule in murder cases. It is now an exception while the rule is imprisonment for life. In the circumstances stated above, we do not find that the appellant should be visited with the exceptional penalty which is meant for cases of more reprehensible forms of murder. Accordingly we convert the sentence awarded to the appellant for the offence under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code into one of the imprisonment for life. To that extent alone is the appeal accepted, it being otherwise dismissed. The sentence imposed upon the appellant for the offence under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code in respect of the injury caused by him to Khusvinder Singh (P. W. 5) is maintained but is directed to run concurrently with the sentence of imprisonment for life hereby awarded. The reference made by the learned Sessions Judge is declined.
Pritam Singh Pattar, J.
6. I agree.