SEMA, J. -
(1.)ABIZARRE tale of gruesome murder in which eight members of two families - Sukhwant Singh, wife Piar Kaur, daughters Gurjit Kaur (12 years) and Gogi (9 years) and Bhupinder Singh, wife Joginder Kaur, sons Harjinder Singh (6 years) and Bhupinder Singh (13 years), were eliminated by the appellants due to greed to grab the land of the deceased - Sukhwant Singh. The murder was engineered by the accused Bachittar Singh, the younger brother of the deceased. The story of 'Pahom' in Shakespere's play, "How much land does a man need ?" is being repeated in these proceedings. Ultimately, the land required is a 'place for funeral pyre and burial'.
(2.)RECAPITULATION of brief facts is necessary. Accused - Bachittar Singh had two brothers - Deceased Sukhwant Singh and Bhupinder Singh, who were elder to him. All the three brothers were residents of the Village Dholewala. Sukhwant Singh and Bhupinder Singh were residing in the Haveli, whereas accused Bachittar Singh was residing separately in the village. On 19-4-1994, at about 6.30 A.M., daily diary report No. 35 was got recorded by Bachittar Singh, stating therein that during the night time he had gone to irrigate his land and when he came back at about 3 A.M., he received information from his wife - Rajbir Kaur, that during the night time, she had heard firing in the village. Bachittar Singh, however, ignored it. At about 6.00 A. M., his cousin Pipal Singh, S/o Balkar Singh came to his residence and reported to him that at about 1.00 A. M. two unknown persons had murdered Sukhwant Singh, Bhupinder Singh and their families. Thereafter, Bachittar Singh accompanied by Pipal Singh went to the house of his brothers and found his brothers - Sukhwant Singh and Bhupinder Singh murdered along with their wives and children. Pipal Singh was left there to guard the dead bodies and Bachittar Singh had gone to the Police Station to lodge a report and as per his statement daily diary report was recorded at 6.30 A. M.
As per the prosecution story, when the police was investigating the case on the spot, Joginder Singh (PW-3) son of Ajaib Singh, resident of village Mastewala came there and his statement under S. 161, Cr. P.C. was recorded by the police. In his statement, Joginder Singh stated that his sister - Piar Kaur was married to Sukhwant Singh about 15 years back. Sukhwant Singh was not keeping food health as he indulged in excessive drinking. Since he was not keeping good health, he had given his land on Theka to his younger brother - Bachittar Singh, but Bachittar Singh was not paying reasonable Theka. As the financial position of Sukhwant Singh was not sound and they were having difficulties in maintaining the family, Sukhwant Singh and Piar Kaur consulted PW-3 and other family members and decided that this time the land would not be given to Bachittar Singh on Theka. When this fact was brought to the notice of Bachittar Singh, he threatened to eliminate both his brothers along with their families and he refused to vacate the land. It is further stated that on last Thursday (before the incident) his sister - Piar Kaur visited the Village Mastewala and disclosed that the land was not to be given to Bachittar Singh. Joginder Singh along with his father and some persons had gone to the Village Dholewala along with Piar Kaur to have a talk with Bachittar Singh to vacate the land. It is stated that Bachittar Singh along with Malook Singh Sarpanch, came to the house of Sukhwant Singh and Bachittar Singh was requested to vacate the land as Sukhwant Singh had minor children to support. Since Bachittar Singh was not giving reasonable theka, they wanted to give the land to Bhupinder Singh to cultivate. Bachittar Singh did not agree to this and replied that he would not vacate the land at any cost. Malook Singh Sarpanch supported him stating that the land should remain with Bachittar Singh and they should not create any problem for him. Bhupinder Singh also requested Bachittar Singh to vacate the land, but without any result. Thereafter, Joginder Singh, his father and other members came back to Village Mastewala with the idea of further consultation in the matter. On 18-4-1994, Joginder Singh had gone to the house of Sukhwant Singh to enquire about the welfare of the family and to convene a Panchayat. After meals, Joginder Singh was sleeping on the roof, when at about 1.00 A. M. he heard firing from the side of Deory. Then, he saw Bachittar Singh empty handed, Malook Singh - Sarpanch armed with 12 bore gun and Amarjit Singh @ Fauji armed with rifle. Malook Singh and Amarjit Singh were with muffled faces. He saw them in the electric light, which was on in the courtyard. At the instance of Bachittar Singh, Amarjit Singh @ Fauji had gone towards the room of Bhupinder Singh along with Bachittar Singh and got opened the doors. In the meantime, Malook Singh - Sarpanch had gone towards the room of Sukhwant Singh where the inmates of families were sleeping. The room was locked from inside. Malook Singh had managed to go inside the room by removing the left plank of the door. At this time, Joginder Singh heard firing from the rooms of Bhupinder Singh and Sukhwant Singh. He was empty handed. Out of fear he came down from the roof from the western side of the Haveli by jumping on the grass from the house of Sukhwant Singh. Joginder Singh then came straight to his Village - Mastewala and disclosed about the incident to his family members. Thereafter, Joginder Singh along with his family members came back to Village Dholewala and found the police on the spot. ASI Surinder Mohan prepared inquest report at 6.30 A. M. and also took into possession one piece of cloth, thatha, turban, empty cartridges etc. vide recovery memos, attested by the witnesses.
The accused - Bachittar Singh, Amarjit Singh and Malook Singh were arrested on 24-4-1994 and a black thatha was taken in possession. They were interrogated and suffered disclosure statements separately. A black turban and one DBBL gun were recovered in pursuance of the disclosure statement of Bachittar Singh. Right shoe was recovered in pursuance of disclosure statement of Amarjit Singh. One Kamij (shirt), Pyjama and a pair of shoes were recovered in pursuance of the disclosure statement of Malook Singh. Recovered articles were taken into opossession vide different recovery memos, attested by the witnesses. After completing all the formalities, prima facie case was made out and the charges were framed under S. 460/302 read with S. 34, I.P.C. and S. 30 of the Arms Act. The accused pleaded not guilty and claimed to be tried. To bring home the guilt of the accused, the prosecution examined as many as 24 witnesses, namely, Dr. Charanjit "Singh PW1; Dr. Rachhpal Singh PW2; Joginder Singh PW3; Dr. Gian Singh PW4; Piara Singh PW5; ASI Gurbhej Singh PW6; H. C. Gurdial Singh PW7; Ajaib Singh PW8; Gurbinder Singh Patwari PW9; Sl Surinder Pal PW10; A. S. Katari, JMIC PW11; Constable Karnail Singh PW12; Constable Kishan Chand PW13; H.C. Karamjit Singh PW14; SI Baldev Singh PW15; Surinder Singh S. P. (H) PW16; Gursewak Singh Draftsman PW17; MHC Surinder Singh PW18; Pardeep Kumar Ahlmad PW19; Jagtar Singh PW20; Tarsem Singh, Arms clerk PW21; ASI Surinder Mohan PW22; Inspector Balkar Singh PW23; and Jagjit Singh, Sub-Station Operator, PSEB PW24.
(3.)THE learned trial court, after thoroughly examining prosecution witnesses and the documents available on record, has come to the conclusion that the guilt of the accused has been established by the prosecution beyond the shadow of doubt. THE learned trial Court also afforded an opportunity to the accused of hearing on the quantum of sentence. While awarding Capitral punishment, the following reasons have been assigned:
"Admittedely, all the accused are in custody with effect from 24-4-1994. Bachittar Singh accused is real brother of Sukhwant Singh and Bhupinder Singh deceased. Sukhwant Singh along with his wife and two minor children aged about 12 years and 9 years were eliminated. Bhupinder Singh along with his wife and two minor children aged about 6 years and 13 years were also eliminated. Land of Sukhwant Singh deceased was on THEka with Bachittar Singh. Bachittar Singh accused was not paying normal theka to his brother, whose financial position was not sound. Instead of helping his brother, Bachittar Singh was not agreeing to vacate the land. To grab the property Bachittar Singh hired two persons and eliminated two families. Accused had no respect for human life. Simply to grab the land of his brothers minor children were not spared. So, I am of the opinion that no question of leniency. In the first authority four persons were killed. Accused was convicted and sentenced to death. In the second authority Victims were sister-in-law of accused and her daughter of 8 years. In the case in hand during night time all the accused, as per story, had gone to the house of the deceased and eight persons were murdered, i.e. two complete families were eliminated. Present case is one of the rarest of the rare cases."
After hearing the parties on quantum of sentence, the learned trial Court awarded Capital punishment to all the accused as under :