–Report by Eshna Ray
A legal case involving criminal appeals filed by accused individuals and the State of Uttar Pradesh against a judgment of the High Court. The appeals challenge the conviction and sentences awarded by the Trial Court for various offences, including under the Indian Penal Code and the Arms Act. One of the accused has since died, leading to the abatement of one of the appeals. The State has filed appeals seeking enhancement of punishment, including the imposition of the death penalty.
This is a case of a quadruple murder in which the accused, including Braj Pal Singh, are charged with killing Vijay Pal Singh, his wife, son, and son-in-law while injuring his daughter. The prosecution’s case is based on the complaint made by Braj Pal Singh, who claimed to have found the victims with their necks cut, along with the statements of the two daughters of the deceased, Smt Pinky and Ms Rashmi. According to Smt Pinky, there was enmity between her father and Braj Pal Singh and his family, as well as their neighbour, Mukesh. She also claimed that Mukesh and Braj Pal Singh, along with others, assaulted her family with weapons and killed them. She further stated that Mukesh was ordered to “kill all of them.”
The appellants have raised multiple contentions before the appellate court. Firstly, they argue that the sole eyewitness in the case, Smt Pinky, is related to the deceased and has enmity with the appellants, making her an unreliable witness. Secondly, they claim that there is no other evidence to corroborate her testimony. Thirdly, they assert that Smt Pinky did not disclose the names of the assailants at the first instance, which suggests that her testimony has improved over time. Fourthly, they argue that the fact that a dog squad was summoned in the morning indicates that the assailants were unknown and that Smt Pinky did not actually see anyone or recognize them. Fifthly, they contend that the failure to examine Ms Rashmi and Horam, who was present at the place of occurrence, raises questions about the investigation. Sixthly, they claim that Smt Pinky’s statement was not recorded before the Magistrate under section 164 CrPC, which creates doubt. Seventhly, the appellant Ravi argues that Smt Pinky did not take his name before the Investigating Officer, and his name has been mentioned for the first time during the trial as an improvement. Lastly, the amicus appearing for the appellant Mukesh has referred to various discrepancies in the testimony of the witnesses.
The respondent-State’s main contention is that the findings of the Trial Court and the High Court are based on thorough scrutiny and appreciation of the evidence on record and do not require any interference. The State argues that the appellants, being close relatives and neighbours of the deceased, committed the ghastly act of brutally murdering four members of the same family and attempting to murder the injured witness Smt Pinky, who lost a couple of fingers of her upper hand in the act of protecting herself.
The State further argues that the appellants committed the murders to gain property and settle their score of enmity. Therefore, no leniency should be shown to them, and the High Court committed an error in commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment. The State contends that the sentence of life imprisonment awarded by the High Court should be set aside, and that of the Trial Court of the death sentence be restored.
In Criminal Appeal Nos. 598-600 of 2013 and Criminal Appeal No. 337 of 2014, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals filed by the accused and affirmed their conviction under Sections 302, 396, and 394 read with Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code, and the sentences awarded to them by the trial court and upheld by the High Court.
The prosecution relied on the testimony of a reliable witness who was injured during the attack and her statement under section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The witness was fully supported by her testimony, and nothing was elicited during cross-examination that weakened her testimony. The daughters of the deceased did not speak out at the time of the attack but later provided information to the Investigating Officer, leading to the arrest of the accused. The non-examination of certain witnesses and the failure to obtain a statement under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code did not affect the conviction. The appeals filed by the accused were dismissed, and their sentence was upheld. The appeals filed by the state for enhancement of the sentence were also dismissed, and the accused were ordered to serve out their sentence.
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