ARIJIT PASAYAT, J. -
(1.)POLITICAL battles are increasingly being fought with bullets and not with ballots. Innocent lives are lost and in some cases of those who have no role to play therein.
(2.)TWO young boys, Manohar and Satish, aged about 10 and 12 years respectively (hereinafter referred to as the 'deceased' by the respective names) lost their lives allegedly on account of one such battle. The two accused-appellants Ruli Ram and his son Ramesh were said to be responsible for taking away their lives. The trial Court i.e. the Court of Session at Hissar held the accused-appellants guilty under Section 304, Part II of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (in short 'IPC'). In appeal by the State a Division Bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh held that the accused-appellants were to be convicted under Section 302, IPC. The trial Court awarded sentence of 10 years R.I. imprisonment; but the High Court substituted it by imprisonment of life.
Filtering out unnecessary details, the prosecution version is as follows :
On 2-8-1988 Datta Ram P.W. 2 lodged first information report alleging that while two young boys (his grandsons) were playing by the side of a pond, they were thrown into it by the accused-appellants. P. W. 3 Dharampal informed him about the incident and the found the accused-appellants running away from the spot. Effort was made to take out the two victims out of the water and later on they were taken to the hospital where they were declared dead. The act was stated to be on account of refusal by P. W. 2 and his family members to vote in favour of candidate supported by accused-appellants. On the date of the incident, election to the panchayat was being held. The accused-appellants wanted the informant and his family members to vote for their candidate, but on their refusal to do so, accused-appellants took their revenge in the manner as aforesaid.
On the basis of the information lodged, investigation was undertaken, arrests were made and charge-sheet was placed. Accused-appellants pleaded innocence. It is to be noted that almost as a sequel to the aforesaid incident, there were allegations of booth capturing and poll violence. Because the incidents were closely linked, common trial was held, where the accused-appellants and 10 others faced trial. While the case of the accused-appellants related to the commission of alleged offence punishable under Section 302, IPC, the other accused persons faced trial and were held guilty for commission of other offences with which the present appeals are not concerned.
(3.)BY a common judgment the Additional Sessions Judge as noted above convicted the accused-appellants under Section 304, Part II, IPC, while others were convicted for other offences. The accused-appellants as well as the State filed appeals before the High Court. BY a common judgment High Court disposed of the appeals. While appeal filed by the accused-appellants was dismissed, that of the State as indicated above was allowed. Judgment in said appeals is the susbject-matter of challenge in the present appeals.
In support of the appeal, learned counsel for the accused-appellants submitted that the evidence is so sketchy that no credence can be put on it. The witnesses were partisan and biased, more particularly in the background of almost admitted political enmity. The scenario as projected by the prosecution is highly improbable. Alternatively, it was pleaded that no case under Section 302, IPC is made out and the trial Court's conviction under Section 304 Part II should have been maintained by the High Court even if prosecution case was to be accepted. It was submitted that the maximum sentence of 10 years was awarded by the Sessions Judge and the same is highly disproportionate. In this context it was pointed out that one of the accused-appellants Ruli Ram is presently 80 years old. In response, the learned counsel for the State submitted that the case is clearly covered under Section 302, IPC. Evidence of the witnesses is unimpeachable. It was submitted that there is no scope for applying Section 304, Part II IPC because the said provision is applicable only when any of the exceptions to Section 300 covers the case. Strong reliance is placed on Harendra Nath Mandal v. State of Bihar (1993 (1) Crimes 984).