SUPREME COURT HOLDS THAT EXISTENCE OF A SERIOUS OR FATAL INJURY IS NOT REQUIRED TO CONVICT A PERSON FOR THE OFFENCE OF ATTEMPT TO COMMIT MURDER
A two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah passed a Judgment dated 28.11.2023, in Sivamani and Anr v. State Represented by Inspector of Police, Criminal Appeal No. 3619 of 2023, and observed that a grievous or life-threatening injury is not necessary to maintain a conviction under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC) (Attempt to murder).
(i) In the present case, one, Prakash alias Chinnaraj, the Complainant herein filed a Complaint on 15.09.2012 with the Vellore Taluk Police Station, Vellore District against one, Thilagaraj- Accused No.1, Santhosh Kumar- Accused No.2, Sivamani- Appellant-Accused No. 3, Dinesh Kumar – Appellant-Accused No. 4 and Jegannathan- Accused No.5, thereby, alleging that the Accused No. 2 to 5, entered the grocery store, while Complainant was sitting alone inside; then the Accused No. 2 physically beat the Complainant on the cheek and used foul language against him. The Complainant further suffered abrasion injuries to his right shoulder and left thumb as a result of the Appellants’ attempt to attack him with a knife.
(ii) The Complainant’s Mother -Indirani, responded to this alarm by coming to his aid, and at that moment, the Accused No. 5 assaulted her with a cold drink bottle on her back, causing her a minor injury. As the neighbors arrived at the scene of the incident and attempted to rescue the Complainant, the Accused No. 2 and 5 fled in an auto rickshaw. The people living in the vicinity apprehended the Appellants and bound them to a streetlight post. After that, the locals presented them to the Vellore Police.
(iii) The Police registered a case in Crime No.409 of 2012 for the offences under Sections 294 (b) of IPC (Obscene acts and songs), 323 IPC (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 324 IPC (Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 452 IPC (House-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint) and 307 IPC (Attempt to murder) read with (r/w) 109 of IPC (Punishment of a abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment) and after completion of investigation, the Respondent Police filed a final report before the Ld. Judicial Magistrate No. I, Vellore, for the offences under Sections 120B IPC (Punishment of criminal conspiracy), 294b IPC, 323 IPC, 324 IPC and 307 IPC r/w. 115 of IPC.
(iv) Thereafter the case was transferred to Ld. Additional Assistant Sessions Judge, Vellore (Trial Court), in C.No.84 of 2013. The Ld. Trial Court, vide Order dated 08.04.2015, acquitted A.1, A.2 and A.5 from all the charges and convicted the Appellants under Section 307 IPC and sentenced them to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and to pay a fine of Rs.1000/- each, in default, to undergo simple imprisonment for two months.
(v) Aggrieved by Trial Court Order dated 08.04.2015, the Appellants filed a Criminal Appeal bearing No. 228 of 2015 before the High Court of Judicature at Madras (High Court). The High Court vide Order dated 06.08.2021 upheld the Trial Court Order, confirmed the imposition of fine of Rs.1000/- each and reduced the sentence to 5 years Rigorous Imprisonment.
(vi) Aggrieved by the High Court Order dated 06.08.2021, the Appellants-Accused filed Criminal Appeal No. 3619 of 2023 before the Supreme Court.
I) That there was previous enmity between the Complainant and the Accused No.1, in connection with dispute concerning a lane between their houses. A civil case in that regard was also pending between them.
II) In the said civil litigation, the Court appointed an Advocate Commissioner to measure the disputed land and assigned sections to Accused No. 1 and the Complainant while the matter was pending. As the Complainant installed fencing on the section that was given to him, the Accused No. 1 and the Complainant used to quarrel. The fencing was taken down by the Accused No. 1 fifteen days before the incident.
III) That Section 307 IPC could not have been used to convict the Appellants because the Doctor who treated the Complainant concluded that the injuries were neither serious nor were sustained on any critical part of the body. Furthermore, it was claimed that there was no premeditation or repeated hits, and that there was no purpose to kill, even though it was acknowledged that a Civil Suit was pending between Accused No. 1 and Complainant.
IV) That Sections 323 IPC and 324 IPC may have provided some basis for prosecution of the Appellants, but not under Section 307 of the IPC, as has been done. That the two victims had only minor wounds, whereas the Complainant’s Mother claimed she had fallen after being attacked on her back, but even that injury was determined to be minor in nature and the Complainant’s injury was also simple in nature.
Supreme Court Analysis
1) That in Jage Ram v State of Haryana, (2015) 11 SCC 366, the Apex Court observed that Section 307 of IPC states that an accused person’s motive can be determined by looking at both the surrounding circumstances and the actual injury, if any. However a serious or life-threatening injury was not required to sustain a conviction. Among other things, it is possible to deduce purpose / motive based on the type of weapon used and the force of the blows delivered.
2) That in the present case, there was no allegation of repeated or severe blows having been inflicted.
3) That the injuries of the Complainant and his Mother have been found to be simple in nature.
4) That from the materials on record, only offences under Sections 323 IPC and 324 IPC can be made out and the conviction under Section 307 IPC cannot be sustained.
Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, the Supreme Court modified the sentences which have been awarded to the Appellant-Accused under Sections 323 IPC and 324 IPC and as such, the sentence so modified had already been undergone by the Accused. As a result, the conviction of the Appellant was set aside. Therefore, the Appeal filed by the Appellant-Accused was allowed, and the High Court Order dated 06.08.2021 and the Trial Court Order dated 08.04.2015 convicting the Appellant-Accused under Section 307 IPC were set aside.
Suneel Kumar Jaiswal
The Indian Lawyer