Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले

Crl. A. No. 1229/2011 , Crl. A. No. 1230/2011,
Crl. A. No. 213/2012 & Crl. A. No. 682/2013
1. The only point which arises for consideration is whether on
the basis of testimony of a solitary witness, eight men can be
allowed to suffer incarceration for life, as has been concurrently
held by the courts below. In the aforesaid backdrop, we are duty
bound to examine as to whether the testimony of this sole eyewitness Yankappa Panchagavi (PW-1) is worthy of credence; Is
he trustworthy?; Has he deposed truthfully?; Is his testimony
believable and free from embellishments, improvements or
material discrepancies so as to render it shaky or doubtful?; and
as to whether the prosecution has established its case beyond
reasonable doubt, against all accused persons or not? All this is
what we are called upon to examine.
2. It is not in dispute that one Satyappa was found to have been
murdered in broad day light in village Kaltippi, Jamakhandi
Taluka. It is also not in dispute that in relation to the said
incident, the very same day, i.e., on 13.08.2004 at 04.00 p.m. a
report was lodged with Terdal Police Station, District Bagalkot,
Karnataka. It is also not in dispute that the I.O Shri Hanamappa
Sangappa Keri (PW-32), who conducted the investigation reached
the spot and after making preliminary inquiries and conducting
investigation, recovered the dead body and sent it for postmortem which was conducted by Dr. Shabbir Patel, PW-27. The
post-mortem report (Ex.P-25) duly proven by the said expert,
does establish the deceased to have sustained 21 stab injuries
inflicted on different vital parts of the body. The multiple injuries
serious in nature, were caused by sharp-edged weapon(s). They
being on all the vital parts of the body, resulted into the death of
the deceased. Herein only, this Court notices, that in relation to
the said crime, the trial court convicted all the eight accused
persons, namely, Ramappa (accused No.1), Shanker (accused
No.2), Krishnappa (accused No.3), Gulappa Gavappa Karigar
(accused No.4), Beerappa (accused No.5), Ravasaheb Laxman
Patil (accused No.6), Yankappa Shivappa Naik (accused No.7) and
Parappa @ Gulappa (accused No.8), for having committed murder
of the deceased with the use of different weapons, i.e.,
jambia/jambe (sharp-edged weapon), button knives. Chilli
powder was also used as a weapon of assault.
3. In the considered view of the trial court, despite most of the
prosecution witnesses (32 in number) having turned hostile, the
prosecution case stood established beyond reasonable doubt,
through the unrefuted testimony of PW-1 as supported by the
unrefuted part of testimony on the hostile witness, namely,
Shasappa Reddi (PW-7). Hence, the trial court convicted the
accused and sentenced them to undergo imprisonment as
indicated in the tabular form hereunder :
Name Section under which sentence was
awarded under Indian Penal Code,
1 Ramappa Shanker (A-1)
143 - 6 months simple imprisonment &
fine of Rs. 500/- each
147 - 6 months simple imprisonment &
fine of Rs. 500/- each
148 – 1 year simple imprisonment & fine
of Rs.1000/- each
504 – 1 year simple imprisonment & fine
of Rs.1000/- each
302 – Life Imprisonment & fine of Rs.
1,000/- each
2 Shanker (A-2)
3 Krishnappa (A-3)
4 Gulappa Gavappa Karigar
5 Beerappa (A-5)
6 Ravasaheb Laxman Patil
7 Yankappa Shivappa Naik
8 Parappa @ Gulappa (A-8)
The sentences, identical for all accused persons, were awarded
to run concurrently.
4. The High Court, while concurring with the reasons and
findings returned by the trial court, also took note of the factum
of prior animosity inter se the parties in relation to a
land/boundary dispute.
5. Before us, only three accused, namely, (i) Ravasaheb @
Ravasahebgouda (A-6), (ii) Yankappa Shivappa Naik (A-7) and (iii)
Parappa @ Gulappa (A-8), have assailed the said judgment by
way of these two appeals by special leave.
6. Briefly, we may summarise that the deceased died as a result
of multiple injuries inflicted with sharp-edged weapons. For the
sake of brevity, we need not repeat, as already noticed supra, the
injuries and the incised wounds sustained by the deceased on
different parts of the body. Most of the spot witnesses or the
witness to the events prior or leading to the incident have not
supported the prosecution. However, that would not mean that
the testimonies of all these witnesses would automatically stand
discarded, with the natural corollary being acquittal of the
7. In the exercise of the power under Article 136 of the
Constitution of India, this Court, normally would not interfere
with the concurrent findings of fact, except in very special
circumstances or in the case of a gross error committed by the
courts below. Only where the High Court ignores or overlooks
"crying circumstances" and “proven facts” or “violates and
misapplies well established principles of criminal jurisprudence”
or refuses to give benefit of doubt to the accused persons, etc.,
would this Court step in to correct the legally erroneous
decisions. We are also not to interfere only for the reason that we
may arrive at a different conclusion, unless, of course, there are
compelling circumstances to tinker with conclusions drawn and
that the accused were innocent/guilty. Undoubtedly, there are
limitations in interfering with the findings of conviction,
concurrent in nature.
8. We are not dealing with a case of circumstantial evidence.
Here, the evidence is direct both in relation to the crime as also
the reason thereof.
9. At this juncture, we may record the relationship between the
accused and the deceased who were far off cousins. Both the
parties were holding lands adjacent to each other. Deceased
(Satyappa) is the real brother of Yanakappa Panchagavi (PW-1).
Accused Nos.4 and 5 are real brothers of accused No.1 and
accused Nos.2 and 3 are sons of accused No.1. Accused Nos.6 to
8 are all relatives of accused Nos. 1 to 5. It has come forth in the
testimony of the witnesses especially PW-1, which, to this extent
stands unrefuted that there was a dispute inter se the opposing
parties with respect to the use of bullock cart road. In relation to
it, six months prior to the incident a quarrel had taken place
when accused No.1 had filed a complaint with respect thereto.
The dispute was resolved with the intervention of the elders of
the family/village. But nonetheless, allegedly, as per the
statement of the said witness, the dispute persisted. Shasappa
Reddi (PW-7) who is also a relative of the parties, though initially
stated that there was no dispute between the deceased Satyappa
and accused but then, in the very same breath, clarifies that, 15
days prior to the incident, dispute in relation to the land had
arisen and "as per my advise accused No. 1 Ramappa has not
provided passers way to Satyappa". Even Pandappa Sidareddi
(PW-8) does depose the factum of the dispute between the parties
in relation to the land. Thus, to our mind the findings of the
courts below in relation to the factum of the inter se dispute
cannot be said to be not borne from the material on record or
incorrect appreciation of evidence led by the prosecution.
10. The next question which arises for consideration is as to who
committed the crime, and in what manner. The courts below have
concurrently, fully appreciating the testimony of PW-1, found the
accused to have committed the same by using different weapons
referred to supra.
11. Elaborating further, having perused the testimony of PW-1
we notice him to have deposed that on the fateful day, i.e,
13.08.2004 both he and the deceased had met at a place known
as Terdal where the deceased handed him a sum of Rs.50,000/-
which he had withdrawn from the Grameen Bank Sasalatti
branch. The deceased, after purchasing fodder started returning
on his bicycle to the Kaltippi Village (Place of his residence). This
witness along with a pillion rider, Ashok Mareguddi (PW-19),
started following him. On the way, around 2.45 p.m. the witness
found all the accused (Nos.1 to 8), who had been hiding in the
jali kanti trees, running towards the deceased. Accused Nos.2
and 8 started abusing that ‘found satya Sulemagane Ninnanu
Kondu Hakut teve’ (You son of a whore, we will kill you). Noticing
them, the deceased leaving his bicycle started running away from
the spot with all the accused chasing him. Thereafter, accused
No.8 Parappa @ Gulappa threw chilli powder on the face of the
deceased; accused Nos.1 and 2 gave blows with jambia/jambe on
the left side of the neck and chest of the deceased; accused Nos.3
to 7 gave blows with button knives on various parts of the body,
which led to the death of the deceased on the spot. Soon accused
fled away towards Golabhavi village. The witness cried for help
when Shasappa Reddi (PW-7), Pandappa Sidareddi PW-8),
Shrishail (PW-11) and Ramappa (PW-12) arrived at the spot. Also,
adjacent land owners, namely, Lakawwa Siddapur (PW-9) and
Sushilawwa (PW-13) arrived. He got a complaint drafted
through an Advocate, namely Hanamant Bhimappa Reddi (PW24) and being illiterate, affixed his thumb impression, and lodged
report with the police.
12. Here only, we may record that the presence of the accused on
the spot is not disputed by anyone of them. This we may say so
not only from the line of their cross-examination of the witnesses
but also as we would notice hereinafter, to have come on record
through the testimonies of the witnesses, who despite not having
supported the prosecution on the issue of the accused having
assaulted the deceased, have supported on this count. Perusal of
cross-examination part of the testimony of PW-1 unrefutedly
reveals all the accused hiding in bushes at the spot. This
witness, despite being cross-examined extensively, is consistent
in his testimony to the effect that the accused caught hold of the
deceased and inflicted serious injuries upon his person. The
accused had used chilli powder as a weapon to stop him from
fleeing away and pushed him to the ground. Though, the witness
is not clear as to which one of the accused had assaulted the
deceased after he fell down, but then he is categorical with regard
to the role played by each one of them.
13. PW-7, despite being hostile, in his undisputed testimony, has
recorded the presence of accused Nos.1, 2 and 3 on the spot.
Immediately after the incident they were seen fleeing towards
Golabhavi Village. Further he noticed the deceased to be inflicted
with several injuries as also chilli powder found on his body.
Here only we may record that Lakkappa Siddapur (PW-9) and
Ashok Mareguddi (PW-19) though turned hostile in Court, had in
fact made statements to similar effect before the police, with
which they were confronted, which fact, in any event stands
proven through other prosecution witnesses.
14. In view of the aforesaid, the questions in respect of the
testimony of the sole eye-witness PW-1 being worthy of credence,
trust-worthy, truthful and believable are answered in the
15. To answer the point of law as to whether the testimony of a
single eye-witness is sufficient to put all the eight persons behind
bars, for life or not, we must deal with the submissions made at
the bar.
16. It is stated that it is the quality and not the quantity of the
witnesses that matters and since, PW-1 is an interested witness
being the brother of the deceased, and that his statement is not
“inherently believable” or of “sterling quality” as recently held by
this Court, in the presence of two possible versions, the one that
favours the accused is required to be taken.
In support of their submissions, the learned senior counsel
rely primarily on Marudanal Augusti Vs. State of Kerala (1980)
4 SCC 425, specifically on the part where the learned Division
Bench notes that 29 hours’ delay in the FIR reaching the
Magistrate despite the same having been sent by express delivery,
as a “serious infirmity”; and the recent judgment in Chotkau Vs.
State of U.P. (2022) SCC OnLine 1313. Both these cases have
been cited to substantiate the submission that there is a delay in
the FIR reaching the Magistrate.

17. This Court has on numerous occasions considered cases
similar in nature, and, from such consideration emanated various
principles in deciding the cases. Some of the principles essential
for the instant lis to be decided are –
17.1 Evidence of hostile witness:
a) Corroborated part of the evidence of a hostile witness
regarding the commission of offence is admissible. Merely
because there is deviation from the statement in the FIR, the
witness’s statements cannot be termed totally unreliable;
b ) The evidence of a hostile witness can form the basis of
c) The general principle of appreciating the evidence of
eye-witnesses is that when a case involves a large number of
offenders, prudently, it is necessary, but not always, for the
Court to seek corroboration from at least two more witnesses as a
measure of caution. Be that as it may, the principle is quality
over quantity of witnesses. [Mrinal Das Vs. State of Tripura
(2011) 9 SCC 479]
17.2 Effect of omissions, deficiencies:
Evidence examined as a whole, must reflect/ring of truth.
The court must not give undue importance to omissions and
discrepancies which do not shake the foundations of the
prosecution’s case. [Rohtash Kumar Vs. State of Haryana
(2013) 14 SCC 434; Bhagwan Jagannath Markad Vs. State of
Maharashtra (2016) 10 SCC 537; and Karan Singh Vs. State of
Uttar Pradesh (2022) 6 SCC 52]
17.3 Reliance on single witness:
If a witness is absolutely reliable then conviction based
thereupon cannot be said to be infirm in any manner.
[Karunakaran Vs. State of Tamil Nadu (1976) 1 SCC 434; and
Sadhuram Vs. State of Rajasthan (2003) 11 SCC 231]
17.4 Testimony of a close relative:
A witness being a close relative is not a ground enough to
reject his testimony. Mechanical rejection of an even “partisan” or
“interested” witness may lead to failure of justice. The principle of
“falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” is not one of general application.
[Bhagwan Jagannath Markad Vs. State of Maharashtra (2016)
10 SCC 537]
17.5 Preponderance of probabilities:
To entitle a person to the benefit of a doubt arising from a
duality of views, the possible view in favour of the accused must
be as nearly reasonably probable as that against him. [Gopal
Reddy Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (1979) 1 SCC 355]
17.6 Delay in sending FIR:
Unless serious prejudice is caused, mere delay in sending
the FIR to the Magistrate would not, by itself, have a negative
effect on the case of the prosecution. [[State of Rajasthan Vs.
Doud Khan (2016) 2 SCC 607]
One of the external checks against ante-dating or antetiming an FIR is the time of its dispatch to the Magistrate or its
receipt by the Magistrate. A dispatch of a copy of the FIR
forthwith ensures that there is no manipulation or interpolation
in the FIR. [Mehraj Vs. State of U.P. (1994) 5 SCC 188; and
Ombir Singh Vs. State of U.P. (2020) 6 SCC 378]
17.7 Last seen theory :
On its own, last seen theory is considered to be a weak basis
for conviction. However, when the same is coupled with other
factors such as when the deceased was last seen with the
accused, proximity of time to the recovery of the body of deceased
etc. The accused is bound to give an explanation under Section
106 of the Evidence Act, 1872. If he does not do so, or furnishes
what may be termed as wrong explanation or if a motive is
established – pleading securely to the conviction of the accused
closing out the possibility of any other hypothesis, then a
conviction can be based thereon. [Satpal Singh Vs. State of
Haryana (2018) 6 SCC 610; and Ram Gopal Vs. State of M.P.
(2023) SCC OnLine 158]
17.8 Cases involving several accused Persons
A three judge bench of which one of us (B.R Gavai J.) was a
member, observed as under in respect of the application of
Section 149, of the Indian Penal Code, 1860-
“30. Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code is declaratory of
the vicarious liability of the members of an unlawful
assembly for acts done in prosecution of the common
object of that assembly or for such offences as the
members of the unlawful assembly knew would be
committed in prosecution of that object. If an unlawful
assembly is formed with the common object of committing
an offence, and if that offence is committed in prosecution
of the object by any member of the unlawful assembly, all
the members of the assembly will be vicariously liable for
that offence even if one or more, but not all committed the
offence. Again, if an offence is committed by a member of
an unlawful assembly and that offence is one which the
members of the unlawful assembly knew to be likely to be
committed in prosecution of the common object, every
member who had that knowledge will be guilty of the
offence so committed.” [Hari v. State of UP 2021 SCC
OnLine SC 1131; Shambhu Nath Singh v. State of Bihar,
AIR 1960 SC 725]
While overt act and active participation may indicate
common intention of the person perpetrating the crime, the mere
presence in the unlawful assembly may fasten vicariously
criminal liability under Section 149. [Lalji Vs. State of U.P.
(1989) 1 SCC 437]
When a case involves large number of assailants it is not
possible for the witness to describe the part played therein by
each of such persons. It is not necessary for the prosecution to
prove each of the members’ involvement especially regarding
which or what act. [Masalti Vs. State of UP AIR 1965 SC 202]
17.9 Power of Court of Appeal:
a) The Court of appeal has wide powers of appreciation of
evidence in an order of acquittal as in the order of conviction,
along with the rider of presumption of innocence which continues
across all stages of a case. Such Court should give due
importance to the judgment rendered by the Trial Court. [Atley
Vs. State of UP AIR 1955 SC 807]
b) Referring to Gurudutt Pathak Vs. State of U.P.
[(2021) 6 SCC 116] the judgment in Geeta Devi Vs. State of
U.P. [2022 SCC OnLine 57], this Court appreciated the law on
this aspect and then observed that the High Court, being the
First Appellate Court must discuss/re-appreciate the evidence on
record. Failure to do so is a good ground enough to remand the
matter for consideration.

17.10 Power of the Supreme Court under Article 136:
In the absence of very special circumstances or in the
presence of gross errors of law committed by the High Court, this
Court does not interfere with the concurrent findings of fact of
the courts below. [Sharad Birdhichand Sarda Vs. State of
Maharashtra (1984) 4 SCC 116]
The limitations under Article 136 are self-imposed
limitations where in the ordinary course appreciation of evidence
is not to be done in the absence of manifest error or the
judgment, subject matter of the special leave, being ex facie
perverse. [Kalamani Tex Vs. P. Balasubramanian (2021) 5 SCC
18. Learned counsel for the appellants would have this Court
hold that the learned Trial Court and the High Court erred in
convicting the accused as PW-1’s statements, which are indirect
in respect of number of the accused in no way form a solid basis
for the conviction to hold.
19. Having considered the submissions across the Bar, the
material objects and the exhibits forming the record of the case,
the learned Trial Court observed that on the basis of the sole
evidence of the complainant PW-1 and the supporting evidence of
PW-7 (a hostile witness) the prosecution had proven its case
beyond reasonable doubt. It was observed as under:
“The prosecution has proved its case against the
accused persons by adducing acceptable evidence of the
complainant and other witnesses referred to above and as
such the accused persons are found guilty of the offences
of unlawful assembly, commission of rioting who were
armed with deadly weapons and they have abused the
deceased Satyappa in filthy language and then they have
committed murder of the deceased Satyappa on
13.08.2004 in the afternoon at about 3.00 p.m., on a
public road leading from Terdal to Kaltippi and as such
they have to be punished accordingly.”
The view stands affirmed by the High Court substantiating
cogent reasons, in full appreciation of entire evidence on record
that the assistance of Hanamant Bhimappa Reddi (PW-24) in
drafting the complaint does not put a question to its credibility;
discrepancy in the time of entrustment of FIR to PW-28 as to the
working hours being 8 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. does not dislodge the
statement in the examination-in-chief where the time mentioned
was 4.45 p.m.
20. In regard to the delay in the FIR reaching the Magistrate, it
is the settled position of law that each and every delay caused is
not fatal to a case in the absence of demonstrated prejudice
[Bhajan Singh @ Harbhajan Singh Vs. State of Haryana (2011)
7 SCC 421]. In Chotkau (supra) it has been held that a Court is
“duty bound to see the effect of such delay on investigation and
even the credit worthiness of the investigation.” In the present
case, though, while there is reliance at the Bar on this principle
no submission has been made to show prejudice having been
caused to the accused. Statements sans adequate backing
cannot sway the Court. Even the delay in the receipt of the FIR
with the concerned Magistrate cannot be a reason to disbelieve
the prosecution case. It is not a case of non-compliance of
provisions equally the delay is not inordinate so as to cast any
doubt. For an FIR registered on 13.08.2004 at 4.45 p.m. was
immediately forwarded and received at 1.15 a.m.
21. Merely because no recovery was made from anyone apart
from accused Nos.2 and 4 would not mean that others were not
present at the scene of the crime; simply because a number of
witnesses had turned hostile, does not on its own give a ground
to reject the evidence of PW-1; and that PW-1 being the brother of
the deceased and therefore, is an interested as well a chance
witness, are untenable submissions. It is in the backdrop that
we do not find favour with the submissions of Mr. Nagamuthu S.,
and Dr. K. Radhakrishnan, learned senior counsel appearing for
the appellants that the conviction of eight persons based on
solitary evidence is not justified, particularly when there is no
vagueness in his testimony with respect to the role ascribed to
each one of the accused.
22. The role of PW-24 in drafting the complaint cannot be taken
as negative simply because he was an advocate and so he paid
attention to detail. PW-1 has stated in his complaint that he does
not know how to read and write. The person to whom the role of
summoning PW-24 to write the complaint may be attributed or
the discrepancy in drafting either on the instructions of PW-1 or
on the basis of the notes prepared by the police is not so stark,
keeping in view the limited span of time within which all these
activities took place for it to lend credence to the grounds urged
in these appeals by special leave petitions with respect to the
approach of the learned Sessions Judge being entirely erroneous
or illegal. The genesis of the prosecution case cannot be said to
have been shaken or rendered doubtful. The complaint was
alleged to have been drafted by an advocate (PW-24), and not by
the petitioner with the help of the police personnel. Does it cast
doubt on the prosecution case? In our considered view, none.
For, as we have noticed the defence to have admitted their
presence on the spot and the independent witnesses ascribed a
specific role to each of the accused.
That a murder has been committed, has been unequivocally
and concurrently held by both the courts below. It is then for the
appellants before us to establish the existence of special
circumstances or any equally probable version of facts opposite to
the one taken by the courts, they seek to challenge.
23. The primary submission led was that reliance on a solitary
witness to convict as many as eight people (now six, with
proceedings against two having abated on their death) is
excessive. On a specific query by the Court as to what the
learned counsel can point to, to impeach the veracity of PW-1’s
testimony the answer was to say that looking at a number of
external factors as also the testimonies of other witnesses, the
elements to demolish the credibility are present – which to our
mind does not merit interference. For the heightened scrutiny
requirement, as observed by this Court in Jagdish Vs. State of
Haryana [(2019) 7 SCC 711] to be held as unsatisfied, the
surrounding evidence would have to be called into credible
question, which it was not. The admissions made by PW-7 in his
examination in chief have not been disputed and neither has, as
already observed earlier, the presence of any of the accused been
disputed. Keeping in view the principles noted in Mrinal Das
(supra), Rohtash Kumar (supra), Karan Singh (supra) and
Karunakaran (supra), the testimony of PW-1 can undoubtedly
form the basis of conviction of the accused persons.
24. We have also noticed the holding in the landmark Masalti
(supra), where four learned judges have held that the prosecution
need not prove specific acts to specific persons. With neither the
number nor the presence of the accused being disputed, we
cannot, within law, hold that the accused have been wrongly
convicted by the courts below.
25. PW-1 is an interested witness, being the brother of the
deceased; as also he being the solitary witness upon which
reliance is placed by the learned Trial Court is put forward as a
ground before us to question the verdicts. The position of law as
held in Harbans Kaur Vs. State of Haryana [(2005) 9 SCC 195]
is clear in stating that there is no proposition of law which doubts
the statement of a close relative simply for that reason. There is a
note of caution sounded in Bhaskarrao Vs. State of
Maharashtra [(2018) 6 SCC 591] which is undoubtedly on point
but we may also note the observation of this Court in Rajesh
Yadav Vs. State of U.P. [2022 SCC OnLine 150] wherein it has
been observed:
“30. Once again, we reiterate with a word of caution, the
trial court is the best court to decide on the aforesaid
aspect as no mathematical calculation or straightjacket
formula can be made on the assessment of a witness, as
the journey towards the truth can be seen better through
the eyes of the trial judge. In fact, this is the real
objective behind the enactment itself which extends the
maximum discretion to the court.”
26. The courts below, as we have already observed, have found
no reason to disbelieve the testimony of PW-1. In fact, to the
exact opposite it has relied on it. Keeping in view the holdings
in Bhagwan Jagannath Markad (supra), State of Rajasthan Vs.
Madan [(2019) 13 SCC 653], we cannot find ourselves in
agreement with the learned counsel for the appellant in this
27. In view of the aforesaid background, submissions advanced,
law appreciated and analysed we find the present appeals to be
lacking in merit and therefore, the same are dismissed. Accused,
if on bail, are directed to immediately surrender before the Court
Pending application(s), if any, shall stand disposed of
Dated : 16TH March, 2023
Place : New Delhi.


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