NEW DELHI: After settling a 54 year old land dispute last week, the Supreme Court this week drew curtains on a 29-year-old criminal case relating to the murder of police sub-inspector in Madhya Pradesh by reducing the conviction from murder to culpable homicide amounting to murder and awarding 10 year imprisonment instead of life term.
Against concurrent findings by the Damoh trial court and Madhya Pradesh HC about the guilt of truck driver Mohd Rafiq in mowing down SI D K Tiwari, who was flagging down the vehicle which had already broken a forest department barrier and hit a motorcycle, a bench of Justices K M Joseph and S R Bhat ruled that though there was no discrepancy in the factual aspect of the crime, the driver did not appear to have the intention to kill the policeman.
Writing the judgment, Justice Bhat said, "There can be no serious dispute that the prosecution established the main elements of its factual allegations: the receipt of information of the breaking of the forest barrier; positioning of the deceased SI Tiwari, with a posse of policemen on the road; the identification of the appellant, as one who drove the truck; gesturing by the deceased to the appellant to stop the truck; the latter slowing down the vehicle; attempt by the SI to board the vehicle, and his being shaken off the truck, on account of the driver refusing to stop, and, on the other hand, speeding the vehicle."
The bench also found that the rogue driver had threatened to kill the SI if he did not get off the vehicle prior to he speeding off, the policeman falling off the vehicle and getting mowed down by the truck's rear wheels. However, it said, "Even if the prosecution version that the appellant having threatened to kill the deceased were to be accepted, one cannot set much store by it, because no motive or no animus against the deceased was proved. A general expression of the extreme threat, (without any real intention of carrying it, since the truck was not laden with any contraband6 or was not used for any illegal or suspect activity), cannot be given too much weight."
Justice Bhat said, "What is of consequence, is that upon the deceased falling off the truck, the appellant drove on. Here, the prosecution established that the truck was driven, without heed; however, it did not establish the intention of Mohd Rafiq to run over the deceased. This point, though fine, is not without significance, because it goes to the root of the nature of the intention. Did the appellant intend to kill SI Tiwari? We think not."
The SC bench said, "Clearly, Rafiq knew that SI Tiwari had fallen off; he proceeded to drive on. However, whether the deceased fell in the direction of the rear tyre of the truck, or whether he fell clear of the vehicle, has not been proved; equally it is not clear from the evidence, that the appellant knew that he did."
"What was established, however, was that he did fall off the truck, which continued its movement, perhaps with greater rapidity. This does not prove that Rafiq, with deliberate intent, drove over the deceased and he knew that the deceased would have fallen inside, so that the truck’s rear tyre would have gone over him. In these circumstances, it can however be inferred that the appellant intended to cause such bodily injury as was likely to cause SI Tiwari’s death," the bench said.
It said that since Rafiq had no previous animosity with Tiwari and his actions to drive off resulting in the death of the policeman not premeditated, it could be inferred that the driver reacted disproportionately leading to the death. "Such an act of throwing off the deceased and driving on without pausing, appears to have been in the heat of passion, or rage. Therefore, it is held that the appellant’s conviction under Section 302 IPC was not appropriate," the bench said.
SC altered Rafiq's conviction from under Section 302 of IPC to that under Section 304-I, as he had the intention of causing such bodily harm as was likely to result in his death, as it did. "Having regard to these circumstances, the conviction recorded by the courts below, is altered to one under Section 304 Part I, IPC. The sentence too is therefore modified - instead of rigorous imprisonment for life, the appellant is hereby sentenced to 10 years," the SC said.