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When a deceased person has multiple stab wounds on his body, it could point to the fact that the killing was not done at the spur of the moment.
Pertinent observations were made in this regard by a Supreme Court Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta which stated,
“Since there are multiple wounds, it cannot be said that the appellants have acted at the spur of the moment without pre-meditation and that the appellants are not taken any advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner. It is not a case of single injury which one can infer on account of sudden fight.”
The case was an appeal against a judgment of the Gujarat High Court which had convicted the appellants for offences under Section 302 and 324 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The prosecution case was that on July 1, 1987 at midnight, the appellants caused injuries to Bhura Govind and Lakha Arjan with spears etc and on account of grievous injuries inflicted, both of them died on the spot.
After completion of the investigation, the appellants were made to stand trial. The appellants were convicted by the trial court and sentenced to life imprisonment for offence under Section 302 but no separate punishment was inflicted for the offence under Section 324 IPC. The conviction was upheld by the Gujarat High Court leading to the appeal in Supreme Court.
Before the Supreme Court, the appellants contended that the deceased and their accomplices, who were nine in number, were the aggressors.
The appellants were only protecting the possession of their land when the deceased came and, thus, they have acted in their right of private defence. While doing so, the appellants also received grievous injuries. Such injuries have been proved by PW-10, Dr. Nikhilkumar Buch who was posted at Civil Hospital, Junagarh at the relevant time.
It was also argued in the alternative that the occurrence had taken place at the spur of the moment without any pre-meditation and that the appellants did not taken any advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner. Therefore, the conviction of the appellants for offences under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC is not sustainable. In fact at best, an offence under Section 304 (Part II) can be said to have made out, they submitted.
The Court after noting the various injuries received by the appellants as well as by the deceased stated that there was no evidence on the part of the appellants that the deceased were armed with any weapon.
The right of private defence is not available when the alleged assailants are unarmed. The right of private defence is to protect the person and the property. In such right, the person cannot cause more harm than what is necessary for the protection of the person and the property, the Court said.
The deceased persons were unarmed and the post mortem report corroborated that they had received stab wounds. The injured witnesses also testified that the appellants were armed with spears and other weapons.
Therefore, the appellants cannot be said to have acted in the right of their private defence, the Court concluded.
It then proceeded to address the contention that the appellants acted at the spur of the moment without pre-meditation. It noted that the deceased had multiple stab wounds on the chest. Hence, it cannot be said that the appellants have acted at the spur of the moment since it is not a single injury which one can infer on account of a sudden fight.
“The deceased had multiple stab wounds on the chest. Since there are multiple wounds, it cannot be said that the appellants have acted at the spur of the moment without pre-meditation and that the appellants are not taken any advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner. It is not a case of single injury which one can infer on account of sudden fight. We, therefore, do not find any merit in the alternate argument that the appellants are entitled to be convicted under Section 304 IPC as they have given multiple injuries on the vital parts of the deceased.”
The Court, therefore, upheld the conviction of the appellants and dismissed the appeal.
Advocates Ravi Prakash Mehrotra and Ankit Agarwal appeared for the appellants while advocates Hemantika Wahi and Jesal Wahi represented the State of Gujarat.