By Aditya Balaji
This case is an appeal to the high court by the various accused that were previously convicted under criminal charges. The case deals with a group of people who fought over a land dispute resulting in the death of two people who were all charged with Murder and were therefore found guilty beyond reasonable doubt and were imprisoned. The number of people found guilty is 21. This case sees an appeal by 16 of the convicts wherein the appellants are making a case for their release based on inadequate proof of involvement in the issue and their lack of mention in the FIR. Based upon this they plead to the court to provide them with the benefit of the doubt and release them from custody. This case gives us an understanding of some of the procedural grounds that need to be considered when passing a judgment or convicting someone.
Facts of the Case
In 1978, Akalu and Budhu Md., Darbaru, and Imamuiddin along with a few more people were on a land that was disputed. They were trying to work on the land by plowing on it when they all noticed a group of 24 people came to the land which includes the appellants. They were all seen carrying weapons such as bows and arrows, knives, daggers, etc, and were armed to the teeth. What ensued was a bloody altercation between the two groups. The chaos that ensued resulted in the death of Damaru who died on the spot as a result of his injuries while Imamuddin
Died within an hour too because of his injuries. Other members suffered a bodily injury too. This led to Budhu Md. To file an FIR that contained the names of several appellants. After the investigation by the police, a charge sheet was filed where 26 names were included. The incident included far more people than those that were named in the FIR resulting in so many names in the charge sheet. Once the case was taken to trial, 19 witnesses were examined by the prosecution and 21 out of the 26 were charged under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code for Murder which was read along with Section 149 of the same act which punishes the group for committing that offense. They were also found guilty under sections 148 and 323 for voluntarily causing hurt, but since they were being imprisoned for life, it didn’t add much weightage to the punishment as it was already severe. Out of the remaining 5, 3 of them were acquitted while the other two passed away during the period of waiting for the trial. The appellants then filed a petition in 1990 before the High Court of Judicature of Calcutta where they heard 16 out of the 21 convicts as 5 of them passed away earlier. The court came to the conclusion that the convicts were rightly sentenced and therefore their issue was put to rest. This resulted in them taking their appeal to the supreme court which has the power to oversee this case under article 136 of The Indian Constitution.
The issue in front of the court was now to identify if there was a reason as to why any or all convicts have been sentenced appropriately. To do this better the court classified the 16 appellants into 3 different groups allowing for easier demarcation between them. The first group of the appellants consisted of 5 appellants, namely- Khairuddin, Nazrul Haq, Nasir Md. Munshi, Bhoka, and Ishwahaque have all been named in the FIR and have also been mentioned in the trial by the prosecution witnesses and in the depositions. The second Group Consisted of 8 appellants namely -Rahimuddin, Idrish, Nurul, Ibrahim, Khoka Md., Pasir, Kanchu, and Asir. They were all named in the FIR however there was not any proof of their presence by the depositions of the witnesses. Now the final group consisted of 3 appellants who were namely- Monglu, Hafijuddin, and Motilal Motin who were all not named in the FIR and therefore fall into a separate category from the rest. These are the 16 appellants who have thus been categorized into three groups for easier understanding of their case.
- Section 136 of The Indian Constitution
136. Special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court
(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Chapter, the Supreme Court may, in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India
(2) Nothing in clause ( 1 ) shall apply to any judgment, determination, sentence or order passed or made by any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces
2. Section 313 of The Code of Criminal Procedure
313. Power to examine the accused
(4) The answers given by the accused may be taken into consideration in such inquiry or trial and put in evidence for or against him in any other inquiry into, or trial for, any other offense which such answers may tend to show he has committed.
3. Section 142 of the Indian Penal Code
142. Being a member of unlawful assembly—Whoever, being aware of facts which render any assembly an unlawful assembly, intentionally joins that assembly, or continues in it, is said to be a member of an unlawful assembly.
4. Section 149 of The Indian Penal Code
149. Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of the offense committed in prosecution of common object—If an offense is committed by any member of an unlawful assembly in prosecution of the common object of that assembly, or such as the members of that assembly knew to be likely to be committed in prosecution of that object, every person who, at the time of the committing of that offense, is a member of the same assembly, is guilty of that offense.
The judgment was provided by T.S Thakur, J. In his judgment made it is clear where the three groups of appellants stand. The appellant group 1 which consisted of 5 convicts that were both named in the FIR and had even proof of their presence in the altercation via the depositions of the witness were clearly found rightfully guilty as there is enough evidence against them and it was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the matter for group 1 is crystal clear. The second group that consisted of 8 appellants were named in the FIR but no evidence against them was brought up. The judge considered that they could be tried together for unlawful assembly however there is a lack of credible evidence and therefore makes it unjust to do so. He also states that it is common in such cases for one party to blame multiple members of the opposite side in order to have the maximum number of people tried and increase the success of that party. However, by analyzing the circumstance that is the lack of strong evidence, the benefit of the doubt was granted to all 8 appellants belonging to the 2nd group.
The 3rd group consisted of only 3 appellants who were not named in the FIR. Here in this case or instance, Monglu, one of the 3 appellants belonging to this category gave a statement as to his role in the altercation. His statement was lodged under Section 313 of CrPC which gives the court the power to examine the accused. Monglu gave a statement where he stated that he was at the scene of the crime and furthermore was involved in a fight with Darbaru, one of the victims who died as a result of the fight between the two groups. He said that he hit Darbaru and fled away from the scene. This statement shows his involvement in the crime. The court stated that Monglu’s own statement is not only valid under section 313 (4) of the CrPC but also based on previous judgments such as Santhan Naskar v State of W.B where it was held that the accused’s statement under section 313 of the CrPC is to put all incriminating evidence in front of him and give him the opportunity to explain himself and also give the court the opportunity to use his statements in the inquiry and considers till what extent this statement can be considered. To give more clarity it was stated that the statement can be used to support the evidence but cannot be evidence in itself and therefore the statement only supports the claims of the prosecution is therefore valid. Other witnesses also state how Monglu attacked Darbaru the deceased and his involvement in the crime. This statement along with Monglu’s own statement is sufficient to prove his involvement beyond a reasonable doubt. The other two appellants in the group – Hafizuddin and Motilal however had no evidence showing their involvement and are therefore not included with Monglu
The judge allowed the appeal for the 2nd group consisting of 8 appellants and for the 2 appellants belonging to the 3rd group, besides Monglu. They were all given the benefit of the doubt by the court and an order was passed to acquit them of all charges and asked them to be released from custody. Meanwhile, those belonging to group 1 which consisted of 5 members and only Monglu from group 3 were all denied their appeal and therefore will continue serving their sentence. The case gives a good understanding of how evidence must be analyzed and what role it plays in providing justice and how every single aspect must be considered in order to ensure even the accused are given an equal opportunity to present their case and give them a chance to justify themselves or prove themselves.