Ghapoo Yadav v. State of M.P. [2003 SC]

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Facts of the case

Lekhram and Gopal (‘the deceased’) were sons of Ramlal (PW-1). Accused Gapoo Yadav is the father of accused Janku, Kewal and Mangal Singh. Deceased, the witnesses and the accused belonged to the same village and there was land dispute between them.

On a request made by Ramlal, measurement of the land was done by the revenue authority. It was found that land belonging to accused Mangal Singh was in the possession of Ramlal and over the said land a berry tree existed. Though, initially the tree was in possession of Ramlal, after measurement he parted with the possession thereof. The said tree was cut by the family members of Ramlal a day prior to the incident.

On the date of the incident i.e. 9.6.1986, accused Janku enquired from the deceased as to why they were cutting the tree. Lekhram responded that the tree belonged to them and was planted by their family members. The deceased claimed that he had not cut the tree. This led to altercations and scuffles amongst them and the accused persons assaulted the deceased, which resulted in a fracture of his leg.

Ramlal and Lekhram fled away from the place of the incident, and returned later on with other villagers. They took the deceased, who was then grasping for breath, on a cot to Maharajpur Police Station. He was sent for treatment. On examination the doctor found 7 injuries on his body. His dying declaration was recorded. Later on, the deceased took his last breath on 10.6.1986 at 2.00 a.m.

On consideration of the evidence on record, the trial court found that the accused persons were guilty and accordingly convicted and sentenced them as aforenoted.

Applicability of Exception 4 to Section 300

The fourth Exception to Section 300, IPC covers acts done in a sudden fight. The said exception deals with a case of prosecution not covered by the first exception, after which its place would have been more appropriate. The exception is founded upon the same principle, for in both there is absence of premeditationBut, while in case of Exception 1, there is total deprivation of self-control, in case of Exception 4, there is only that heat of passion which clouds men's sober reason and urges them to deeds which they would not otherwise do.

There is provocation in Exception 4 as in Exception 1; but the injury done is not the direct consequence of that provocation. In fact, Exception 4 deals with cases in which notwithstanding that a blow may have been struck, or some provocation given in the origin of the dispute or in whatever way the quarrel may have originated, yet the subsequent conduct of both parties puts them, in respect of guilt, upon equal footing. A 'sudden fight' implies mutual provocation and blows on each side.

The homicide committed is then clearly not traceable to unilateral provocation, nor in such cases could the whole blame be placed on one sideFor if it were so, the Exception more appropriately applicable would be Exception 1. There is no previous deliberation or determination to fight. A fight suddenly takes place, for which both parties are more or less to be blamed. It may be that one of them starts it, but if the other had not aggravated it by his own conduct it would not have taken the serious turn it did. There is then mutual provocation and aggravation, and it is difficult to apportion the share of blame which attaches to each fighter.

The help of Exception 4 can be invoked if death is caused (a) without premeditation, (b) in a sudden fight; (c) without the offender's having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner; and (d) the fight must have been with the person killed. To bring a case within Exception 4 all the ingredients mentioned in it must be found.

It takes two to make a fight. Heat of passion requires that there must be no time for the passions to cool down and in this case, the parties had worked themselves into a fury on account of the verbal altercation in the beginning. A fight is a combat between two and more persons whether with or without weapons. It is not possible to enunciate any general rule as to what shall be deemed to be a sudden quarrel. It is a question of fact and whether a quarrel is sudden or not must necessarily depend upon the proved facts of each case.

For application of Exception 4, it is not sufficient to show that there was a sudden quarrel and there was no premeditation. It must further be shown that the offender has not taken undue advantage or acted in cruel or unusual manner. The expression 'undue advantage' as used in the provision means 'unfair advantage'. In the case at hand, out of the seven injuries, only injury no. 2 was held to be of grievous nature, which was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death of the deceased.

The infliction of the injuries and their nature proves the intention of the appellants, but causing of such injuries cannot be termed to be either in a cruel or unusual manner for not availing the benefit of Exception 4. After the injuries were inflicted the injured had fallen down, but there is no material to show that thereafter any injury was inflicted when he was in a helpless condition. The assaults were made at random. Even the previous altercations were verbal and not physical. It is not the case of the prosecution that the accused had come prepared and armed for attacking the deceased. The previous disputes over land do not appear to have assumed characteristics of physical combat. This goes to show that in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel followed by a fight the accused persons had caused injuries on the deceased, but had not acted in a cruel or unusual manner.

That being so, Exception 4 to Section 300 IPC is clearly applicable. Appellants are to be convicted under Section 304 Part I, IPC.

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