Supreme Court of India
Pruthiviraj Jayantibhai Vanol vs Dinesh Dayabhai Vala . on 26 July, 2021Author: Navin Sinha
Bench: Navin Sinha, R. Subhash Reddy
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 177 OF 2014
PRUTHIVIRAJ JAYANTIBHAI VANOL …APPELLANT(S)
DINESH DAYABHAI VALA AND OTHERS …RESPONDENT(S)
NAVIN SINHA, J.
This appeal arises from an order of acquittal, reversing the
conviction of respondents 1 to 4 under Sections 302, 34, 120B
of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) sentencing them to life
imprisonment and fifteen days imprisonment under Section
135(1) of the Bombay Police Act.
2. The deceased was assaulted on 01.10.2003 at 2:30 am
while he was returning on a motorcycle along with PW2 who
was the pillion rider. The respondents are said to have
Signature Not Verified
Digitally signed by
assaulted with iron pipe, steel rod and stick, causing three stab
wounds and nine incised wounds. The acquittal is premised on
the reasoning that the evidence of the eyewitnesses PW2 and
PW10, is inconsistent with the medical evidence, regarding the
nature of injuries visàvis the weapons of offence.
3. Shri Shikhil Suri, the learned amicus curie appearing on
behalf of the appellant submitted that the First Information
Report was lodged promptly at 5:15 am the same day by PW2
naming the four respondents. The deceased, PW2, and the
four respondents were well known to each other from earlier.
Relations between them had soured, leading to the occurrence.
PW12 had deposed that the respondents had threatened the
deceased earlier also. The deposition of PW2 is corroborated by
an independent witness, PW10 the security guard of the
bungalow near which the occurrence took place. There were
street lights near the place of occurrence.
4. The deceased was brought to the hospital emergency ward
by PW2 at 2:45 am, with serious injuries and expired at 8:00
am, as deposed by the Doctor PW14. The witness deposed that
Dr. Vishwamitra, whose signatures he identified, had noted that
the injuries to the deceased were caused by sharp weapons.
5. The postmortem report, as deposed by the Doctor PW1,
revealed three stab wounds and nine incised injuries. Injuries 1
to 4 which were on the head, were sufficient to cause death.
The witness deposed that the iron rod used for assault had a
turned sharp edge which could cause incised injuries. The stab
wounds were possible by a sharp instrument.
6. It was submitted that there was no inconsistency between
the ocular and medical evidence. The High Court erred in the
appreciation of evidence by failing to take not that the iron rod
had a sharp edge by which the injuries on the deceased were
possible. It is only if the medical evidence was totally
inconsistent with the ocular evidence, the former was to be
given precedence. Reliance was placed on Solanki
Chimanbhai Ukabhai vs. State of Gujarat, 1983 (2) SCC 174
and State of U.P. vs. Krishna Gopal and Another, 1988 (4)
SCC 302 and Baleshwar Mahto vs. State of Bihar, 2017 (3)
7. Shri Kanwaljit Kochar, learned counsel appearing on
behalf of the first three respondents, the fourth one absconding
till date, relying on Ramesh Babulal Doshi vs. State of
Gujarat,1996 (9) SCC 225, Dhanna vs. State of M.P. with
Kanhiyalal and another vs. State of M.P., 1996(10) SCC 79,
and Ghurey Lal vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2008(10) SCC
450, submitted that in an appeal against acquittal if two views
are possible, the benefit of doubt should be given to the
accused. It was submitted that stab and incised injuries were
not possible by a steel rod or iron pipe. The genesis of the
occurrence was therefore itself in doubt. The acquittal by High
Court therefore calls for no interference. The recovery of the
weapons from the place of occurrence is doubtful as the seizure
witnesses, PW4 and PW5 have both turned hostile. There is
no FSL report with regard to the finger prints on the weapons of
assault to link them with the respondents. The occurrence is
stated to have taken place in an open area near a bungalow and
not on the street where street lights may be available. It was a
dark night with no moonlight even. Identification of the
respondents is therefore doubtful. Disputing that PW2 was an
eye witness to the assault, it was submitted that he had run
away from the spot.
8. PW14 did not mention the presence of any stab or incised
injuries on the person of the deceased. PW1 acknowledged
that stab or incised injuries could not be caused by an iron rod.
In view of the variation between the ocular and medical
evidence, the High Court rightly opined that the Doctor was in a
confused state of mind. There was no motive and it was a mere
chance meeting of the respondents with the deceased. In
absence of any specific allegations with regard to which of the
respondents assaulted in what manner, and also considering
that respondent nos. 1 to 3 have undergone approximately eight
and half years of custody, in the entirety, their conviction may
be altered to one under Section 304 Part II IPC, sentencing
them to the period already undergone.
9. We have considered the submissions on behalf of the
parties and have been taken through the records.
10. The occurrence took place at 2:30 am. It is not in dispute
that PW2 who was accompanying the deceased on the
motorcycle, took him to the hospital at 2:45 am. The deceased
was unconscious and in a precarious condition as deposed by
PW14. The FIR was lodged barely hours later by PW2 at 5:15
am naming the respondents. There was no time for the witness
to consider and ponder for naming the accused except to state
the truth. PW2 deposed that the respondents stopped them
near the bungalow of one Chimanbhai Patel. He was pushed
down by Dipak who hit the deceased on his head with the iron
pipe. Thereafter all the respondents started assaulting the
deceased with iron pipes, sticks and iron rods. Thereafter, the
witness ran away and returned with his friends. The credibility
of PW2 as an eye witness has not been doubted by the High
11. The respondents were not strangers, but well known to
PW2 and the deceased. PW12 deposed that the respondents
had threatened the deceased earlier also, and were compelling
him to withdraw the case and would also demand money from
him because of which the deceased had shifted from the locality
where they all they lived earlier.
12. There is evidence about the availability of light near the
place of occurrence. Even otherwise, that there may not have
been any source of light is hardly considered relevant in view of
the fact that the parties were known to each other from earlier.
The criminal jurisprudence developed in this country recognizes
that the eye sight capacity of those who live in rural areas is far
better than compared to the town folks. Identification at night
between known persons is acknowledged to be possible by
voice, silhouette, shadow, and gait also. Therefore, we do not
find much substance in the submission of the respondents that
identification was not possible in the night to give them the
benefit of doubt.
13. In Nathuni Yadav vs State of Bihar, (1998) 9 SCC 238,
with regard to identification in the dark, this court observed:
“9…. Even assuming that there was no moonlight
then, we have to gauge the situation carefully. The
proximity at which the assailants would have con
fronted with the injured, the possibility of some light
reaching there from the glow of stars, and the fact
that the murder was committed on a roofless terrace
are germane factors to be borne in mind while judg
ing whether the victims could have had enough visi
bility to correctly identify the assailants. Over and
above those factors, we must bear in mind the fur
ther fact that the assailants were no strangers to the
inmates of the tragedybound house, the eyewit
nesses being well acquainted with the physiognomy
of each one of the killers. We are, therefore, not per
suaded to assume that it would not have been possi
ble for the victims to see the assailants or that there
was possibility for making a wrong identification of
them. We are keeping in mind the fact that even the
assailants had enough light to identify the victims
whom they targeted without any mistake from
among those who were sleeping on the terrace. If the
light then available, though meagre, was enough for
the assailants why should we think that the same
light was not enough for the injured who would cer
tainly have pointedly focussed their eyes on the
faces of the intruders standing in front of them.”
14. PW10 was an independent witness. Neither has his
presence been doubted nor his impartiality been suspected.
Sitting at the gate, he saw two persons on a motorcycle passing
through the ground. Four persons stopped them and started
beating the person who was driving the motorcycle while the
pillion rider ran away and then returned with four to five people.
The assailants had pipes, sticks and an iron rod with a turn.
The assailants ran away throwing the weapons of assault at the
place of occurrence. The witness has corroborated PW2 in all
15. PW1, the Doctor who conducted the postmortem, found
the following injuries on the person of the deceased:
“…(vi) 2.5 cm long cut wound on middle of right ear.
(vii) One stitched wound one centimeter below the
injury No. 5, its size was 8 cm x .25 cm, it was stitched
with black thread.
(viii) One cut wound going oblique from lip to ear, its
size was 1.5 cm, it was deep upto muscle.
(ix) One cut wound, 2 cm below the right lip going
towards backside of ear, its size was 2.5 cm, it was
deep upto muscle.
(x) One stitched oblique wound on right side of chin
going towards backside, its size was 3.5 cm x .25 cm,
it was stitched with black thread.
(xi) One stabbed wound on right occipital protuberance
(at middle of the backside of skull), its size was 1 cm
x .5 cm, it was deep upto muscles of scalp.
(xii) One stabbed wound on right hand at upper 1/3
and lower 2/3 level, its size was 2 cm x 1.5 cm, deep
upto muscles, both the edges were T square and
wound margin was sharp.
(xiii) One stabbed wound at 2.5 cm below injury No.2,
its size was 2.5 cm x 1 cm, deep up to muscles, both
the edges were Tsquare and wound margin was
(xiv) Innumerous cut wounds on middle of arm region
of right hand and cutting each other at outside, its size
was 15 cm x 20 cm.
(xv) One cut wound on douser aspect of right forearm
(towards outside), it was starting from right wrist and
going upwards, its length was 10 cm and was deep
(xvi) One cut wound found in the middle of right
forearm, which was oblique and upward on the
anterior aspect, its size was 6.6 cm, it was deep upto
(xvii) One cut wound on index finger of left hand, on
douser aspect near base of second and third finger, its
size was 4.5 cm, it was deep upto muscles.
(xviii) One cut wound on base of left thumb oblique on
palmer aspect i.e. on palm, its size was 3.5cm, it was
deep upto muscles.
(xix) One cut wound found on base of left index. finger,
its size was 2.5 cm and was deep upto muscles.”
He deposed that the iron rod used for assault, shown to him,
had a turn and that injuries nos. 1 to 4 caused on the head
were possible by it. In his crossexaminations, he deposed that
the sharp cutting injuries were possible with the iron rod which
had a turn.
16. The recovery of the weapons of assault from the place of
occurrence stands established from the evidence of PW4 and
PW5 who had not denied their signatures on the seizure memo
and neither have they said that they were coerced into signing
the seizure memo. Cumulatively, in view of the nature of
evidence available, the absence of any FSL report with regard to
finger prints on the seized weapons is considered irrelevant.
17. Ocular evidence is considered the best evidence unless
there are reasons to doubt it. The evidence of PW2 and PW10
is unimpeachable. It is only in a case where there is a gross
contradiction between medical evidence and oral evidence, and
the medical evidence makes the ocular testimony improbable
and rules out all possibility of ocular evidence being true, the
ocular evidence may be disbelieved. In the present case, we find
no inconsistency between the ocular and medical evidence. The
High Court grossly erred in appreciation of evidence by holding
that muddamal no.5 was a simple iron rod without noticing the
evidence that it had a sharp turn edge.
18. The aforesaid discussion leads us to the conclusion that
the acquittal by the High Court is based on misappreciation of
the evidence and the overlooking of relevant evidence thereby
arriving at a wrong conclusion. It is not a case where two views
are possible or the credibility of the witnesses is in doubt.
Neither is it a case of a solitary uncorroborated witness. The
conclusion of the High Court is therefore held to be perverse
and irrational. The acquittal is therefore held to be
unsustainable and is set aside. In the nature of the assault,
Section 304 Part II, IPC has no application. The conviction of
respondent nos. 1 to 4 by the Trial Court is restored.
19. The respondent nos. 1 to 3 are directed to surrender
within two weeks to serve out the remaining period of their
sentence. The Director General of Police, State of Gujarat shall
take all necessary steps to apprehend the absconding, fourth
accused and bring him to justice. A report shall be submitted
to this Court in this regard within a period of 8 weeks when the
present matter shall be listed for that limited purpose.
20. The appeal is allowed.
(R. SUBHASH REDDY)
July 26, 2021