Read Order: Surat Singh & others v. State of Haryana & another

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, March 29, 2022: The liability of an accused would arise for assaulting a person, who was suffering from a disorder disease or bodily infirmity thereby accelerating the death of the other only if it could be said that the accused had the knowledge thereof, held the Punjab and Haryana High Court. 

In this, an FIR was registered on the statement of the complainant who stated that owing to a land dispute between him and his brother, he and his son were assaulted by his brother and others. He also alleged that his wife was also assaulted with a brick and kick blow on her chest and stomach and was also pulled down on a melted road, leading to her death. 

Initially, the said FIR was registered under Sections 148, 149 and 302 IPC. However, pursuant to the post-mortem and Histopath Report, the cause of her death was stated to be cardiogenic/neurogenic shock and therefore, the report under Section 173 Cr.P.C. was submitted under Sections 148, 149 and 323 Cr.P.C. During the course of the trial, an application under Section 323 Cr.P.C. was moved by the complainant for committing the case to the Court of Sessions on the ground that an offence of either Section 302 or 304 IPC was made out.

The trial Court held that the statement of Dr. Poonam Dahiya (who conducted the post-mortem and prepared Histopath Report) did not in any way suggest that an offence under Section 302/304 IPC was made out. Thus, the application of the complainant was dismissed. 

The complainant challenged the same before the Additional Sessions Judge, Sonepat which remanded the case back to the trial Court for reconsideration but made observations to the effect that a prima facie case under Section 302 IPC was made out and that the case should have been committed to the Court of Sessions. It is this order which is in challenge in the present petition. 

The case of the petitioner’s counsel was that the deceased-Satwanti did not receive any visible injury on her person as per Dr. Poonam Dahiya. The Histopathological Report was also inconclusive about the cause of death and therefore, Dr. Poonam Dahiya opined that cardiogenic/neurogenic shock could not be ruled out as the possible cause of death, the counsel added. Thus, the counsel contended that no offence under Sections 304/302 IPC was made as observed by the Sessions Court while remanding the case back to the trial Court.

On the other hand, the counsel for the complainant contended that there was sufficient evidence to establish that an offence under Sections 302/304 IPC was made out. A reading of the FIR would reveal that the deceased was assaulted and that resulted in her death. Therefore, the counsel submitted that it would be a matter of trial as to whether the assault on the deceased was one for which they could be liable under Sections 302/304 IPC or in the alternative under Section 323 IPC. 

The court observed at the very outset that a perusal of the post-portem of the deceased Satwanti would reveal that no external injury marks on her body were seen, and therefore, the cause of death was to be given after the Histopath Report. Further, the court noted (as mentioned in the chagrsheet) that the deceased-Satwanti was suffering from severe anemia and she died due to deficiency of blood due to her old ailment. 

Thus, it became apparent to the court that not only did the deceased not receive any external injury or internal injury and that being an old case of anemia, her death was caused on account cardiogenic/neurogenic shock. Also, the Court added that the absence of any injury on the deceased shows that she was not subjected to any severe beating. 

“When this was so, had she not had a preexisting medical condition she in all probability would not have died”, asserted Justice Jasjit Singh Bedi. 

Also, the court noted that the charge sheet did not make a mention of the fact that any of the accused/petitioners, were aware of the pre-existing medical condition of the deceased at the time when the occurrence took place. 

In this backdrop the Court made the above-stated observations to the effect,“The liability of an accused would arise for assaulting a person, who was suffering from a disorder disease or bodily infirmity thereby accelerating the death of the other only if it could be said that the accused had the knowledge thereof as has already been submitted hereinabove.”

Thus, the Court opined that an offence under Section 302/304 IPC could not be made out. 

While observing that the Additional Sessions Court remanded the matter back without actually providing any reasoning for the same, the Court held that the Judge ought not to have remanded the matter back for reconsideration with the observations to the effect that a prima facie case under Section 302 IPC was made out because it left the Magistrate with virtually no discretion in the matter to objectively assess the evidence on record and then pass an order.

Thus, the impugned order was set aside. 

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