The Supreme Court Friday set aside the life term under the charge of murder for a former DSP in Punjab but sentenced him to 35 years in jail five years each for seven abductions.
A Bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Gyan Sudha Misra held that there was not enough evidence to nail the then DSP for murdering the seven persons,who have been missing since October 1991,but he could surely be held guilty of abduction and house trespass. The court returned similar findings for a co-accused constable,who was with ex-DSP Baldev Singh when they raided the house in Amritsar and picked up seven persons of a family.
As seven persons had been abducted by the appellants,they were guilty of seven offences under Section 364 IPC,and they should be punished for each of these offences. We,therefore,direct that the period of rigorous imprisonment will be five years for each of the seven offences of abduction and these five years rigorous imprisonment for each of the seven offences of abduction will not run concurrently but consecutively, held the Bench.
The court lent reliance on Section 220 of the Criminal Procedure Code,which provided that where an accused commits the same offence against multiple persons,he can be separately charged with different offences and consequently punished separately.
The court order is unique on two counts. First,it is rare when a convict is punished separately for each of the offences although they arise out of the same incident. Second,a convict can apply for a mercy from the government after 14 years of serving the jail term but with the apex court awarding 35 years specifically in this case,the duo may be deprived even of this opportunity now.
Baldev Singh and Balwinder Singh had moved the apex court in appeal against conviction and life term by a sessions court,which was upheld by the high court. They were held guilty of killing seven persons of a family in Amritsar after abducting them on October 29,1991.
The lower courts based its judgement on the last seen evidence. The courts held there had to be a presumption that the seven persons were killed since they were not seen ever after the abduction.
The apex court however rejected the presumptive theory after noting that these persons were taken from one police station to another and they had not gone missing immediately after being abducted by the accused.
The court cannot hold that the seven abducted persons were last in the custody of the appellants, it said while acquitting them under the charge of murder but maintaining their conviction for abducting them.