Rawalpenta Venkalu v. State of Hyderabad [1956 SC]

Rawalpenta Venkalu and Bodla Ram Narsiah have been sentenced to death under Section 302 for the murder of Md. Moinuddin, Banjardar of Mohiuddinpur on 18-2-1953.

The prosecution case, shortly stated, was that on the night between the 18th and 19-2-1953 the two appellants along with three others (acquitted by the trial Judge) in pursuance of a conspiracy to commit the murder of Md. Moinuddin had set fire to the single room hut in which he was sleeping, after locking the door of the room from outside.

PW 8, an old servant who was sleeping in front of the cottage outside the room occupied by the deceased, was awakened by the noise of the locking of the door from outside. Just at that time Moinuddin also called out for him from inside and asked him to open the door. PW 8 replied that he could not do so as he found the door locked from outside. Three other employees of Moinuddin, who were watching his harvest about fifty paces away, were also called out by him. When they came near the cottage, they were assaulted by the culprits.

The two appellants then set fire to the cottage and the employees of Moinuddin were kept at bay by the superior force of the accused and their associates. Those employees naturally, therefore, went towards the main habitation in the village shouting for help. When the villagers came, the appellants and others prevented them from going to the rescue of the helpless inmate of the cottage by throwing dust in their eyes, literally speaking, and by the free use of their sticks.

On the 23rd February the appellants are said to have made their confessional statements. Those confessions were recorded by a munsif magistrate.

It will be seen that except for the single difference between the two statements as to who lighted the match stick, on other points the two statements agree.

But the case against the appellant does not depend upon those confessional statements. The prosecution has examined as many as 19 witnesses, of whom PWs 4, 7 and 8 saw the occurrence from the beginning to the end.

It has been found by the courts below that there was longstanding dispute between the deceased and the family of the second appellant over land.

Both of them have argued in the first place that the confessional statement made by both the accused was not admissible in evidence, firstly, because it had not been voluntarily made and secondly, because the one contradicts the other. It has also been argued that having been retracted at the sessions stage, the confessions are wholly unreliable.

In this connection it is enough to point out that the learned Judges of the High Court have in the first instance discussed the positive evidence led by the prosecution to bring the charge home to the accused. They have relied upon the evidence of the two eyewitnesses, namely, PWs 4 and 7. We do not find any good reasons for reopening the findings of the courts below that the oral testimony adduced in this case was by itself sufficient to prove the guilt of the appellants. After discussing and accepting the testimony of witnesses the High Court observed as follows at the end of its judgment:

It is to be remarked that these confessional statements were not retracted until the accused were examined by the Sessions Judge under Section 342, CrPC. The first appellant, when questioned about the confession, answered that he gave the statement “under police pressure”. He said he was beaten by the police for three days. But that is clearly a lie because he was, as already indicated, arrested on the 22nd February and the very next day his confessional statement was recorded. The second appellant, when similarly questioned, answered as follows: I do not know whether I had given any statement, because I was severely beaten and then I had fever.

It is clear that neither of these two appellants has been able to point to any circumstance  which could lead to the conclusion that these confessional statements had been extorted from them. But it is not necessary further to examine the force and effect of these confessional statements because the direct testimony against the appellants is clear and cogent enough to bring the charge home to them. The intention to kill Moinuddin is clear from the fact deposed to by the prosecution witnesses that the accused took care to lock the door from outside so that his servant PW 8 sleeping outside could be of no help to the deceased who had thus been trapped in his own cottage.

Furthermore, when the villagers were roused from their sleep and were proceeding towards the cottage which was on fire, they were prevented from rendering any effective help to the helpless man, by use of force against them by the accused. The appellants took active steps to prevent the villagers from bringing any succour to the man who was being burnt alive.

It is clear from the evidence that each one of the two appellants actively contributed to the burning of the cottage while the man had been trapped inside. Each one of them therefore severally and in pursuance of the common intention brought about the same results by his own act.  It is clear therefore that though Section 34 is not added to Section 302, the accused had clear notice that they were being charged with the offence of committing murder in pursuance of their common intention to put an end to the life of Moinuddin.

There is clear evidence that both accused lighted a match stick and set fire to the cottage and each one of them therefore is clearly liable for the offence of murder. Their subsequent acts in repelling all attempts at bringing succour to the trapped person clearly show their common intention of bringing about the same result, namely, the death of Moinuddin. The circumstances disclosed in the evidence further point to the conclusion that the offence was committed after a pre-concerted plan to set fire to the cottage after the man had as usual occupied the room and had gone to sleep.

For the reasons given above we do not find any reasons for differing from the conclusions arrived at by the courts below. The appeals are accordingly dismissed.