Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Allowing the review petition in the 34-year-old road-rage case involving cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu that resulted into the death of one 65-yer-old Gurnam Singh, the bench of AM Khanwilkar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, JJ has imposed a sentence of one-year rigorous imprisonment on Sidhu in addition to the fine of Rs.1,000/- imposed in the order dated 15.05.2018.

In 1988, Sidhu got into a fight with the deceased over his right to way at a traffic light in Patiala. Sidhu had pulled the deceased out of his vehicle and inflicted fist blows. The incident eventually culminated in the death of Gurnam Singh. The Court, however, held that Sidhu had voluntarily caused hurt to Gurnam Singh punishable under Section 323 IPC.

While dealing with the review petition, the Court noticed that some material aspects which were required to be taken note of appear to have been somehow missed out at the stage of sentencing, such as the physical fitness of Sidhu as he was an international cricketer, who was tall and well built and aware of the force of a blow that even his hand would carry. The blow was not inflicted on a person identically physically placed but a 65-year-old person, more than double his age.

The Court observed that Sidhu cannot say that he did not know the effect of the blow or plead ignorance on this aspect.

“It is not as if someone has to remind him of the extent of the injury which could be caused by a blow inflicted by him. In the given circumstances, tempers may have been lost but then the consequences of the loss of temper must be borne.”

The Court went on to state that to some extent it had been indulgent in ultimately holding Sidhu guilty of an offence of simple hurt under Section 323 of the IPC.

Observing that the hand can also be a weapon by itself where say a boxer, a wrestler or a cricketer or an extremely physically fit person inflicts the same, the Court said that,

“When a 25-year-old man, who was an international cricketer, assaults a man more than twice his age and inflicts, even with his bare hands, a severe blow on victim’s head, the unintended consequence of harm would still be properly attributable to him as it was reasonably foreseeable. That it would cause the death of a person is another matter since the conviction is only under Section 323 of the IPC. Even though any harm might not be directly intended, some aggravated culpability must be attached if the person suffers a grievous hurt or dies as a result thereof.”

On the aspect of sentencing, the Court said that a disproportionately light punishment humiliates and frustrates a victim of crime when the offender goes unpunished or is let off with a relatively minor punishment as the system pays no attention to the injured’s feelings.

Noticing that indifference to the rights of the victim of crime is fast eroding the faith of the society in general and the victim of crime in particular in the criminal justice system, the Court observed,

“The society cannot long endure under serious threats and if the courts do not protect the injured, the injured would then resort to private vengeance and, therefore, it is the duty of every court to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in which it was executed or committed.”

[Jaswinder Singh v. Navjot Singh Sidhu, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 652, decided on 19.05.2022]

Counsels

For Complainant: Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra

For Sidhu: Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Sadhana S. Jadhav, J. allowed a criminal appeal filed against the judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for the offence punishable under Sections 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint) of the Penal Code.  

The incident at heart of the matter occurred on 7-12-1992, a day after the demolition of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, on 6-12-1992, in the course of karseva. As an outcome of the said demolition, communal riots erupted across India in the midnight of 6/7-12-1992. The incidence of pelting stones and burning of vehicles, public and private, were reported to the police stations across Mumbai. The police were busy with maintaining law and order situation. During the course of the same events, an unlawful assembly of Muslim men attacked the house of one Balkrishana, the first informant. 14 people were arrested in relation to the said incident including the appellant. At the conclusion of the trial, all the accused persons except the appellant were acquitted of all the charges. However, the appellant was convicted under Sections 326 and 452 IPC. 

The High Court noted some pertinent facts of the case which caused prejudice to the appellant. The main point, inter alia, noted by the Court was that a composite charge was framed against all the 14 accused under several sections of IPC and yet Accused 1-13 were acquitted of all the charges; and the appellant was the only person who was convicted under Sections 326 and 452, although no specific charge was framed against him under those sections. 

The Court was of the opinion: “Little can be said as to how the appellant alone can be convicted for Sections 326 and 452 IPC when there was no specific charge framed against the accused.” Referring to Darbara Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 476, the Court was of the view that the defect in framing of proper charged in the present case was a material defect that caused serious prejudice to the case of the appellant. 

Opining that the trial court had lost sight of the charge framed, the High Court held: “In the present case Accused 1 to 13 have been granted clear acquittal and not with the aid of benefit of doubt. The appellant alone could not have been held liable for the act of causing assault upon PW 2 and PW 3. 

In such view of the matter, the Court reversed the judgment of the trial court impugned herein. While concluding, the Court also recorded appreciation for Lokesh Zade, Advocate appointed by the Court for the appellant, for putting his best efforts to espouse the cause of the appellant. [Abdul Gani Kamruddin Mulla v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 3102, decided on 10-06-2019]   

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Bench of A.S. Oka and A.S. Gadkari, JJ. modified the judgment of trial court and altered the appellant’s conviction under Section 302 (punishment for murder) to Section 326 IPC (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means).

The deceased, Farukh Shaikh had two wives. He doubted that the appellant and his cousin Saddam (co-accused who was a juvenile) had affairs with his wives. The appellant and Saddam were accused of having injuries to Farukh by giving him blows with a wooden log and stick. Thereafter, Farukh was admitted to Civil Hospital. Dr Appasaheb Ingale, the expert Surgeon informed Farukh’s relatives that his condition was serious who were not willing to continue with his treatment in Civil Hospital. They shifted Faruk to a Neurosurgical Centre against medical advice where he developed a cardiac arrest and expired. The appellant was tried and convicted for murder under Section 302. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant filed the present appeal.

Dr Yug Mohit Chaudhary, counsel for the appellant submitted that the nature of injuries got aggravated by shifting Farukh against medical advice and the real cause of death was not “head injury” but “cardiac arrest”. Per contra, J.P. Yagnik, Additional Public Prosecutor supported the judgment of the trial court.

The question before the High Court was —“what offence the appellant had actually committed?”

The High Court relied heavily on the statement of Dr Ingale who stated that Farukh died due to “cardiac arrest”. According to the Court, “there are so many reasons to develop a cardiac arrest”. The Court found it difficult to hold that Farukh died due to assault caused by the appellant and Saddam. The Court observed, “In view of the evidence of Dr Appasaheb V. Ingale, it is clear that it is due to the causation i.e. shifting of Farukh Shaikh from Civil Hospital, Sangli to another hospital of Dr Sanjeev M. Kukarni, the patient ultimately expired due to ‘cardiac arrest’. As noted earlier, there is no direct co-relation of the head injury with the said cardiac arrest in view of admission given by Dr Sanjeev M. Kukarni.” Thus, the Court held, that the appellant was liable for causing grievous hurt to Farukh and his act would fall within the ambit of Section 326 and he could not be held guilty under Section 302. The impugned judgment was accordingly modified. [Akram Khalil Ahmed Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 333, decided on 27-02-2019]