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State Of Tripura Vs Ram Bir Singh and Ors On May 8, 2007

CASE NO.:
Appeal (crl.) 927 of 2004

PETITIONER:
State of Tripura

RESPONDENT:
Ram Bir Singh & Ors

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/05/2007

BENCH:
S.B. Sinha & Markandey Katju

JUDGMENT:
J U D G M E N T

Markandey Katju, J.

1. This appeal has been filed against the impugned judgment of the
Gauhati High Court, Agartala Bench dated 31.7.2003 in Criminal Appeal
No.03 of 2001.

2. Heard learned counsel for the parties and perused the record.

3. The prosecution case in brief is that on 8.7.1996, some police
personnel of Dharmanagar Police Station led by Sub-Inspector of Police, Sri
Kamal Kar Chowdhury, who is the informant in the FIR, passed through the
Town Hall of Dharmanagar for law and order duty. In the course of doing
their duty, some organizer of a function approached the informant
complaining that some CRPF personnel had gate crashed their function and
forcibly occupied the seats in the hall. They were asked to vacate the seats
but they refused to do so. Thereupon, the informant entered the hall and
managed to remove the said CRPF personnel from the Hall. However, they
returned to the hall and occupied the rear side seats of the hall by evicting
the ticket holders. This was reported again to the informant, who again
drove them out. This time, there was some scuffling between the informant
and the said CRPF personnel in which one of them dealt a blow over the left
eye of the informant due to which the latter sustained serious injury.
Thereafter, the said CRPF personnel left the hall, but after threatening the
police personnel with due consequences.

4. It is the case of prosecution that after the above incident, the CRPF
personnel again returned to the hall with their fire arms and started firing
indiscriminately. One of the police personnel, namely Sukumar Ghosh, fell
on the ground sustaining bullet injuries. The informant and his party could
not immediately remove the injured due to the ongoing indiscriminate firing
by the said CRPF personnel. The said CRPF personnel did not even allow
Fire Brigade personnel to move into the place of incident for shifting the
victim to the hospital. The said CRPF personnel also went to the police
station in search of the informant. After sometime, it was found that the
injured had succumbed to his injuries at the place of occurrence.

5. On receipt of the information about the incident the Dharmanagar
Police Station registered the FIR vide No.63/1996 under Section 302/307/34
of I.P.C. and launched investigation of the case. In the course of
investigation, the police recorded the statement of witnesses, seized alamath
and also arrested the accused. Thereafter, the police filed the charge-sheet
against them.

6. The case was ultimately committed to the Ld. Sessions Judge, North
Tripura, Kailassahar for trial. The learned Sessions Judge framed the
charges against the appellants under Section 302/353/307 read with Section
34 of I.P.C., to which the respondents pleaded not guilty and claimed to be
tried. Thereafter, the learned Sessions Judge transferred the case to the
learned Addl. Sessions Judge, North Tripura, Dharmanagar for disposal of
the case.

7. At the trial, the prosecution examined as many as 24 witnesses and
exhibited documents along with alamath to bring home the charges against
the appellants.

8. The trial court after consideration of the evidence convicted the
accused under Section 302 read with Section 34 I.P.C. and under Section
353 read with Section 34 I.P.C. and also imposed a fine.

9. Aggrieved the accused filed an appeal in the Gauhati High Court,
which allowed the appeal, and hence the State Government of Tripura has
filed this appeal by Special Leave.

10. Before dealing with the impugned judgment and the material on
record, we would like to mention that it has been stated in para 7 of the
impugned judgment of the High Court that :
."By the order dated 31.7.2003, for reasons
to be recorded later, we allowed the appeal and
acquitted all the appellants of the charges framed
against them. The following are reasons for their
acquittal."

11. Thus it appears that the order allowing the appeal was passed earlier
and the reasons for the judgment were recorded later. In our opinion this
was a very unsatisfactory way of disposing of the case.

12. Moreover, while it is stated in para 7 of the impugned judgment that
by order dated 31.7.2003 the appeal was allowed and the accused acquitted,
but it was also stated therein that the reasons will be recorded later.
However, the appeal was allowed and all the accused were acquitted by the
impugned judgment dated 31.7.2003 containing reasons. We find it difficult
to believe that reasons were recorded on 31.7.2003, when an order allowing
the appeal (but without giving reasons) was said to have been passed on the
same day.

13. We went through the entire record and could not find the date on
which the reasons for the impugned judgment were recorded.

14. Thus the learned Judges of the Gauhati High Court appear to have
committed two irregularities in delivering the judgment – (i) It passed the
operative portion of the judgment in the criminal appeal earlier but purported
to record the reasons later and (ii) The date of the judgment giving reasons is
mentioned as 31.7.2003, which does not appear to be correct as in para 7 of
the judgment it is mentioned that the reasons will be given after 31.7.2003.
Thus the impugned judgment appears to be ante dated.

15. We are only making our observations on this unsatisfactory way of
disposing of cases in the hope that this mistake will not be repeated again by
the courts in this country.

16. Apart from the above, we would also like to observe that the High
Court has not considered the evidence and material on record in a
satisfactory manner in the impugned judgment. The incident in question
was a very serious matter and hence it required very careful consideration of
the evidence and material on record. In this case the CRPF personnel
attacked the local police mainly because the local police asked the CRPF
personnel to vacate some seats in a function for which the CRPF personnel
did not have any tickets. In our opinion the local police was absolutely right
in insisting that the CRPF personnel who did not have tickets for the seats
they were occupying, should vacate the same, and the CRPF personnel
committed a gross illegality and misconduct in attacking the police
personnel as a consequence. The CRPF personnel who are responsible for
this incident deserve severe punishment both on the criminal side as well as
in departmental proceedings. No one can be allowed to take the law into his
own hands. If that is permitted the rule of law and democracy will collapse.

17. The only question which remains is the identity of the persons who
assaulted the police personnel. In this connection, in our opinion the High
Court has not dealt with the matter at all in a satisfactory manner. It was a
very serious incident in which CRPF personnel attacked the local police with
arms and in which one of the local police personnel was killed. Hence, the
matter should have been dealt with very carefully by the High Court but we
regret to say that has not been done.

18. The prosecution had produced as many as 24 witnesses. The
prosecution had proved unequivocal that the CRPF personnel had committed
the offence, and we are in full agreement with the same.

19. As regards the identity of the accused, the matter has been dealt with
in great detail by the trial court but we are afraid that the High Court has not
probably adverted to the points which had been considered by the trial court
in this connection. For instance, the prosecution had produced the Arms
Issue Register of the CRPF Authority to prove that the said Authority had
issued arms and ammunitions to the accused person, and the Investigating
Officer had seized those Self Loading Rifles from the CRPF Authority on
production of the same by them. The C.F.S.L. also corroborated the fact
after examining those Self Loading Rifles that those were used very recently
and were used for firing purpose.

20. The trial court has observed that all the eye witnesses of the
prosecution clearly, categorically and emphatically stated that the accused
CRPF personnel had opened fire indiscriminately from their self loading
rifles and the defence had not specifically denied this. This is another point
which should have been considered carefully by the High Court but that has
not been done.

21. As regards the point which has been emphasized by the High Court in
great detail, namely, that there was an opportunity to show the accused to the
witnesses before they were put up in the Test Identification Parade, the High
Court has not considered the fact that the accused had been kept in police
custody in a different police station and not in the police station to which the
witnesses belonged. The accused persons were arrested from Panisagar
Police Station, and they were produced before the officer-in-charge of the
said police station. However, it has come on record that the Investigating
Officer had produced them before the Chief Judicial Magistrage, North
Tripura, Kailashahar and then they were kept in Kailashahar Police Station,
which is different from Panisagar Police Station. This being so, the High
Court should have considered whether there was opportunity to show the
accused to the witnesses before the Test Identification Parade.

22. Learned counsel for the respondent has invited our attention to the
evidence of PW-18, who was the Magistrate before whom the Test
Identification Parade was held on 20.7.1996. He has mentioned that in the
second Test Identification Parade, held that day, the accused Bedmoni Misra
was mixed up with CRPF personnel of the same face feature, health and
height etc., during the test identification parade and witness Krishnapada
Bhowmik identified the suspect, Rajkumar Singh and could not identify any
other suspect. In our opinion there was an obvious mistake here in the
evidence of the learned Magistrate, and it was not Rajkumar Singh whom
Krishnapada Bhomick identified. This mistake becomes obvious when we
see the report of the Test Identification Parade and also from the fact that
since mention has been made in the Magistrate’s evidence that it was
Bedmoni Misra with whom 11 CRPF personnel were mixed up. Hence,
obviously Rajkumar Singh could not be the person identified by
Krishnapada Bhowmik, and it was Bedmoni Misra who was identified by
him.

23. It is not necessary for us to further dilate on the impugned judgment
of the High Court since we are of the opinion that the same deserves to be
set aside and the matter should be considered afresh by the High Court. In
the circumstances, we set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court
and remand the matter to the High Court which shall hear the appeal afresh
and shall consider all the evidence and material on record properly and then
pronounce its judgment. Since the matter relates to an incident of 1996, we
request the High Court to consider the feasibility of deciding the appeal as
expeditiously as possible.

24. Any observation made in this judgment shall not influence the High
Court in deciding the appeal.

25. The appeal is allowed. The impugned judgment of the High Court is
set aside and the matter is remitted to the High Court for a fresh decision.

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