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Lekh Ram And Brij Lal vs State Of Punjab on 6 April, 1992

Lekh Ram And Brij Lal vs State Of Punjab on 6 April, 1992Equivalent citations: 1992 CriLJ 1930, I (1993) DMC 418 SC, JT 1992 (4) SC 163
Author: Y Dayal
Bench: K Singh, Y Dayal

JUDGMENT

Yogeshwar Dayal, J.

1. This is an appeal against the judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court dated 23rd May, 1978 upholding the conviction of Brij Lal aged 36 years, teacher and Sh. Lekh Ram aged 65 years under Sections 302/34 IPC for the murder of Sukhcharanjit Kaur, wife of appellant Brij Lal.

2. The learned Additional Sessions Judge had convicted the aforesaid two appellants but had acquitted Smt. Shanti Devi and Rani for the same charge.

3. It appears that on an application (Ext. P.A.) to the Chief Minister of Punjab regarding the murder of Smt. ukhcharanjit Kaur during the night between between 8th and 9th August, 1974 an F.I.R. was recorded by S.H.O. Jaitu on 22nd August, 1974. The complaint inter alia stated that deputation of about 70 persons want to wait upon your honour to explain the causes of the murder of Sukhcharanjit Kaur at the hands of her husband Brij Lal, her two sisters, brother and mother and other family members. It was also recited in the complaint that the deceased was married to Brij Lal about 1 1/2 years back. Brij Lal, her husband, used to torture her for transferring her bank balance of Rs. 25,000/- standing in her name and that her father had not given a scooter in dowry.

4. That on her refusal to accede to his illegal designs, on the night of 8th and 9th August, 1974 Brij Lal, his two sisters, Shanti and Rani and his mother Kishen Dai and her younger brother Paramjit Singh had murdered her by strangulation of her neck.

5. That on receipt of information of her death when women folk reached Jaitu the deceased was dead. When the body was being taken to the cremation ground, in the way when her face was seen by the women folk her eyes and tongue were bulging out and were in an indifferent manner. Even on the insistence of the women folk Brij Lal did not accede to their wish and hurriedly burnt her in the cremation ground.

6. That the matter was reported to the police. Nothing has been done so far in the matter. Grave and manifest injustice has been done. It is also submitted that this has been done with a view to grab her dowry and bank balance standing in her name in the bank. The culprits should not have gone unpunished. It was requested that the case be registered and the persons be arrested and challenged in court. It was also prayed that the local police be further directed to take possession of the dowry articles which were given in her marriage and the same may be ordered to be returned to the complainant. That the dowry (which amounts not clear) be returned to the complainant.

7. It appears that this complaint was forwarded to S.S.P. who directed the case to be registered and accordingly the case was registered and the prosecution put up for trial not only Brij Lal and his two sisters but also his father.

8. During trial the prosecution relied on the statement of Raj Singh, father of the deceased (P.W. 1); Harbans Lal, brother of the deceased (P.W. 3); and Smt. Kushalya Devi, sister of the deceased (P.W. 2). The prosecution also examined Bhan Chand and Kishan Lal, alleged eyes witnesses to the murder, as PWs. 4 and 5 respectively. Gyani Mohinder Singh, S.I. Police Lines, Faridkot (PW. 7) was examined as the Investigating Officer. Gyani Mohinder Singh stated that he received the complaint Ext. P.A. from S.S.P.’s office which bore the endorsement of the Chief Minister and S.S.P. and the investigation was started by him on the same day. He visited the place of occurrence and got the rough site plan prepared and the statements of Bhan Chand and Kishan Lal were recorded on 23rd August, 1974 and the statement of Harbans Singh was recorded on 24th August, 1974. Letters Exts. P.B., P.C. and P.D. alongwith their postal covers were brought by the father of the deceased Shri Raj Singh on 30th August, 1974. He stated that he was transferred during the course of investigation and the remaining investigation was done by the S.P. (Headquarters), ASI Rajinder Kumar and S.I. Jaswant Singh. The accused were also arrested by him on 3rd September, 1974. The Investigating Officer in the cross examination admitted that the police station is about 2 furlongs from the house of the accused. He also stated that he interrogated the person employed at that machine of Balbir Singh, namely-Soma (DW. 3). He did not interrogate Balbir Singh. He entered his machine premises also. A wooden ladder was lying there. He did not take it into possession. Nothing was mentioned about the ladder in the Zimni, He had interrogated the accused Brij Lal and Lekh Ram on 26th August, 1974. On 10th September, 1974 he had questioned Dr. Brij Lal. He also admitted having interrogated persons living in the neighbourhood. He stated on oath that to his knowledge no one had reported the incident in question in the police station. He also stated that Ajaib Singh, A.S.I was posted in the police station in those days but he did not interrogate Ajaib Singh A.S.I. in this regard.

9. We are purposely mentioning the role of the investigation to see the sequence as to how the investigation was conducted and how the prosecution case infolded itself.

10. The complainant Raj Singh examined himself as PW. 1. He is a labourer, aged 52 years and lives at village Rajon Majra. As per his statement the marriage of his daughter Sukhcharanjit Kaur to accused Brij Lal Son of accused Lekh Ram was celebrated on 8th January, 1973. Sukhcharanjit Kaur had been adopted by his Masi (maternal aunt of the witness) Devki. Not only his Devki Masi had adopted the deceased, she had also adopted both his sons Sarban Singh and Amarjit Singh who also live with the Masi at Village Upli. Even his wife Maya Wanti, at the time of the incident, was staying with his Masi.

11. The witness also admitted that the whole expenditure of deceased’s marriage was borne by his Masi and his Masi had spent about Rs. 40,000/- over the dowry. He also stated that he has other daughter Surjit Kaur whose marriage he celebrated to Jai Gopal son of Sant Ram but he did know whether the father of Jai Gopal, namely Sant Ram is the real brother of Bhan Chand, P.W. 4. In his examination-in-chief the witness deposed that six months after the ; marriage Brij Lal and other members of his family started ill-treatment of his daughter and they started saying that he had not given a motor cycle in the dowry. He also stated that about Rs. 20,000/- were lying deposited in the name of the deceased but at the time of her marriage, that amount was withdrawn and was spent on her marriage. He stated that Brij Lal was under the impression that another sum of Rs. 25,000/- was lying deposited in the name of the deceased and they had been pressing her to transfer that amount in the name of Brij Lal. As a matter of fact the deceased did not have any amount in the bank. He also stated that the accused used to grab salary of her daughter and put her to hard work such as chopping of fodder.

12. The witness went on to depose that on 8th or 9th August, 1974 Subedar Kishan Singh (maternal uncle of the husband, Brij Lal) and Sh. Pyare Lal (sister’s husband of Brij Lal) went in a car to Village Upli, where his wife was also staying with his Masi. Both his sons Harbans Singh and Amarjit Singh also live in that village with the Masi. Pyare Lal and Subedar Kishan Singh informed his Masi and wife that the deceased was seriously ill and was having fits and that she had desired her brother Harbans Singh and mother to come to her and on one else. Thereupon his Masi, his wife and his son Harbans Singh came to Jaitu to the house of the accused. His son Harbans Singh came to him on the morning of 10th August, 1974 and told him about these facts. He also stated that Harbans Singh told him that his mother and his Masi had found the deceased lying dead with her tongue bulging out and eyes also popping out indicating an unnatural death. He also further stated that Harbans Singh had asked the accused not to cremate her but despite his insistence they burnt her away in the cremation ground. He then went on to say that he accompanied Harbans Singh to Village Upli and consulted some knowledgeable persons to decide upon the proper course, of action. He then reached Jaitu on 11th August, 1974 and went to the Police Station. Ajaib Singh, A.S.I., was present in the Police Station but he did not pay any heed to him. He then came to Faridkot and met some officers there but no one heard him. Then he returned to Village Upli and collected some persons including Sarpanch Gadar Singh, Gurbachan Singh etc. Some persons of their own also accompanied them. A truck full of persons went to Chandigarh and they could manage the interview with the Chief Minister and then presented the application Ex. P.A. on which the F.I.R. was recorded.

13. It will be noticed that this witness gave his occupation as labourer. Both of his sons are adopted out and live with the Masi of the witness. The deceased was also adopted by the Masi of the witness and the Masi performed her marriage. Even his wife does not live with him. In any case, at the time of incident she was living with his Masi.

14. P.W. 2, Kushalya Devi is also known as Guddi. She merely proves the letters Exts. P.B., P.C., and P.D. We will deal with these letters little later. These letters were received by the witness from her deceased sister. She admitted that Ext. D.B. which is a letter dated 19th April, 1974 was written by the deceased to her mother. She also admitted that the letter Ext. D. A. was written by her to the accused Brij Lal. She stated that she had been mostly writing to her sister at her school address and wrote very few letters to Brij Lal. She admitted that she has another sister Surjit Kaur who is married with Jai Gopal son of Sant Ram and that Bhan Chand is Sant Ram’s brother who is present outside the Court. She also admitted that Brij Lal’s Nankas are in village Salabat Pura and Kishan Singh is the maternal uncle of Brij Lal but she did not know Kishan Lal’s brother. The only thing which the sister deposed, apart from the above, was that the deceased had told her that her in-laws had forbidden her to write any letter to her father and that is why she had been writing letters mostly to her. She did not depose about any ill-treatment or demand for dowry by any of the two appellants.

15. Harbans Singh (P.W. 3) is the brother of the deceased. He deposed about Kishan Singh and Pyare Lal coming to his Village Upli and stated that he is also adopted by his father’s Masi. Pyare Lal and Kishan Singh told them that the deceased was slightly ill and that she had desired Harbans Singh and his mother to visit her, and accordingly he alongwith his mother accompanied them. They reached the house of the accused around 12.30 p.m. when they found some women folk and men sitting in the house. The dead body of his sister was lying on the floor. He immediately started weeping and was in a state of mental agony. It struck him that his sister could not have died so suddenly, he wanted to see her face but the accused, present in court, and some women sitting at their house forbade him to do so, but he lifted the cloth from her face and saw that her eyes were bulging out and her tongue was protruding out. Her belly was also swollen. There were bluish marks on her neck. He told that his mother also saw these symptoms and told his mother that it was not a natural death. He then charged the accused of having killed his sister and asked them not to remove her dead body. The persons sitting there then removed the dead body. He further deposed that on the way to cremation ground, the dead body of his sister was placed by the accused and their companions on the ground and they also managed to reach there and raised a hue and cry. They were, however, pushed back and then the accused forcibly burnt away the dead body. Then said, when the dead body was being taken to cremation ground he and his mother returned from there. They then caught a bus and reached Upli at about 6.30 p.m. The next morning he went to the Village of his father and informed him about the happenings. His father came to Jaitu, village of the accused. His statement was subsequently recorded by the police. He also stated that the accused used to maltreat his sister. They had been pestering her for some more money from the father. They had also been asking her to get some land which stood in his name transferred to sister’s name.

16. We may mention, as it appears from the correspondence, that the deceased was most unhappy with her brother, P.W. 3. However, we find that she does not talk about any demand of scooter or transfer of any bank account of the deceased in the name of the husband. In fact he mentions about the accused pestering the deceased for bringing the money from the father and the land from the brother. In cross-examination this witness admitted that the deceased used to visit Upli, (that is the place where the grand mother lives) off and on, after the marriage. He also used to go to Jaitu to bring her and also to leave her back. Husband of the deceased was posted as a school teacher in the same village. He also admitted that the house of the deceased is about 1 furlong from the bus stand at Jaitu but he shown ignorance where the Police Station is. In the cross-examination he tried to say that he did not know that one has to pass from in front of the Police Station when goes from the house of the accused to the bus stand and, therefore, could not say where the same is situated. He then stated that the accused had put down the dead body of his sister at a distance of 100 Karms from their house. He admitted that he was a matriculate but did not see the sign board of police station outside the police station. He also denied to know whether a constable was on duty outside the police station. He admitted that there were about 20 persons sitting in the house of the accused when they reached there, out of whom 7 were women folk. He was confronted with his police statement that when he wanted to see the face of his sister, the accused were present there and along with . others forbade him to do so, which was not mentioned there. It was also not mentioned in the police statement that there were marks on the neck of the deceased but he merely mentioned in the police statement that his sister had been strangulated. It was also not mentioned in the police statement that some persons there had caught hold of him.

17. In cross-examination the witness went on to say that the dead body had been removed from the house within 10 minutes of their reaching there. 8 or 10 persons had taken the dead body to the cremation ground and he had been caught hold of at the house of the accused by 4 or 5, persons and that he did not receive any injury marks at that time. He even denied the suggestion that he brought the dead body to the cremation ground and that he even lifted the dead body on his shoulders. He then stated that his mother and grand mother had accompanied him upto the place where the dead body was put on the ground. They all kept raising an alarm that the dead body was being forcibly taken to the cremation ground and that she had been done to death but no one came to their help. He also went on to state that at the time when the dead body was put down on the ground and the pitcher was broken, he had been caught hold of till the dead body had been burnt away. He was detained there for about one hour. After his release he did not talk to anyone on the way. He did not think of going to police station out of fear of the accused. He did not give any telegram to any authority. It was stated that the accused used to maltreat his sister but nobody was named who maltreated her. He denied the suggestion that he had helped the accused persons in collecting the last remains of the deceased. He denied that he went to Haridwar to perform any ceremony following his sister’s death.

18. It is thus clear that in one breath witness denied having gone to the cremation ground at the time of the cremation of his sister and on the other breath he is saying that he went to the cremation ground and tried to stop the cremation but failed. He never went to the police station to inform anybody.

19. Then we have the evidence of two alleged eye witnesses – one is Bhan Chand (P.W. 4) aged 65 years and the other Kishan Lal (P.W. 5) aged 26 years, shopkeeper. We do not get any assistance from the investigating officer how he came into contact with these two witnesses when he recorded their statements on 23rd August, 1974. Bhan Chand, though he called himself a cultivator, stated that he is an unemployed person and was going to the house of Balbir Singh in connection with the search of a job. A job was available in Cinema and Balbir Singh being the member of the Municipal Corporation he wanted to use his influence to get him the job. He had learnt about the job 2 days earlier and he was in search of Balbir Singh but he was not available. He purports to have been going in search of Balbir Singh about 10 or 10.30 p.m. at night. At his (Balbir’s) house he learnt that Balbir had gone to his wheat Atta machine. He accordingly proceeded to wheat Atta machine of Balbir Singh. When he covered a short distance from the house of Balbir Singh, (P.W. 5) kishan Lal met him. Kishan Lal (P.W. 5) also started walking along with Bhan Chand. They both reached wheat Atta machine of Balbir Singh. The electric light was on at the machine but the employee, who worked at the machine was inside. He enquired from the employee whether Balbir Singh was there but was told that Balbir Singh had not come there. When they were about to return from there they heard two shrieks emanating from the house of the accused Brij Lal which adjoins the machine of Balbir Singh. A ladder was lying there and placing it along the wall he ascended the wall of the house of the accused and got on to the adjoining roof of Balbir Singh’s building. At that time Kishan Lal was standing on the ladder and they saw that Brij Lal’s father, Lekh Ram was holding the legs of the deceased while the two girls whose names he did not know and the witness pointed out towards Shanti and Rani holding her arms and the accused Brij Lal pressing her neck with his hands. He asked the accused to desist but they asked him to get away. Even he asked Kishan Lal to get away from there without involving ourselves in the affairs of the accused and without talking to any one. After several days Thanedar questioned him regarding the incident and took down his statement. He also deposed that since accused Brij Lal was strangulating the deceased he at once knew that he had killed her.

20. This witness was cross-examined and he admitted that Police Station is just 200 or 300 Karms from the house of the accused. He had not visited the cremation ground. His own house is 100 yards from the house of the accused and Salbir Singh’s house is about 200 Karms from his house. He stated that he is out of job, though the defence is raised that he was already employed as chowkidar in the Cinema much before the incident but the witness deposed that he got the job at the Cinema about one month after the incident. A person who could work as Chowkidar and was in search of a job for Chowkidar, one fails to understand what prevented him from going to Police Station. He has been passing the house of the accused occasionally.He admitted in cross-examination that he knew both accused Brij Lal and Lekh Ram by their names before the occurrence. Even after the incident he told nobody about the same. Bhan Chan, P.W. 4 admitted that he knew that Jai Gopal, son of Sant Ram is married to deceased’s sister. Even then he did not convey the information either to Jai Gopal or the girl’s father. He had to admit that Sant Ram is collateral and his son is married to sister of the deceased.

21. The other eye witness is Kishan Lal (P.W. 5). He happens to be a shopkeeper. He recited the incident in the manner as Bhan Chand had recited. He admitted that he had gone to the cremation ground when the dead body was taken there for cremation. He also admitted that 15-20 persons had gone there, besides some ladies, and the cremation was done around 4.00 p.m. No one on the way tried to detain the dead body or raise an alarm that the deceased had been murdered. He denied the suggestion that he is deposing falsely due to enmity with Pt. Laj Ram. He admitted that his house is close to the house of Pt. Laj Ram and Balbir Chand is the son of Pt. Laj Ram. He did not know whether Balbir Chand’s wife is the daughter of the maternal uncle of Brij Lal. He admitted that the house of the accused was 200 Karms from the police station and the cremation ground is about 250 Karms from the police station. He also admitted that one has to pass from in front of the police station while going from the house of the accused to the cremation ground. There is a large board of the police station outside the police station building and a Sentry on duty always stands there. The way from the house of the accused to the Bus stand also passes from in front of the police station. He admitted that at the time of the incident Bhan Chand was employed in the Cinema as Chowkidar. He also admitted that he sells beedis at his shop but did not have beedis at his shop at that time and had gone to purchase the beedis at Daulat Ram’s shop. His shop is 200 Karms from his house. Some other shops also fall on the way selling beedis but he did not purchase the beedis from any of those shops. In answer to Court Question he stated that those shops were lying closed.

22. On further cross-examination regarding the wheat Atta machine he stated that the outer gate of it was lying closed and they had got it opened from the servant after calling out to him. The machine was then working but he did not notice if anyone else was also present at the machine, besides the servant. He also admitted that he did not go to the police station to make report nor did he talk to anyone till his statement was recorded. He had been passing from in front of the house of the accused while going out to answer the call of nature. On the next day also he passed by that house and found several persons assembled at the house of the accused. He did not talk to anyone of them. He did not know any of the persons from the parental side of the deceased.

23. One thing is clear from his statement that no protest was made by anyone at the time of cremation or during the procession to the cremation ground as per his version.

24. It will be seen from the circumstances that it was not safe for the High Court to rely on this type of chance witnesses, particularly when P.W. 4 knew the paternal side of the deceased.

25. P.W. 6, Sh. Gadar Singh, had merely accompanied the deceased’s

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