Srinagar: The Supreme Court of India has upheld life sentence to a soldier found guilty of killing his Commander on duty in Baramulla in 2006, turning down his plea of grave provocation following ‘attempt to sodomize’ by the officer.
According to prosecution, the soldier B.D. Khunte was posted at Razdan Post, and on June 28, 2006 at about 0930 pm he while on guard duty shot dead Randhir Singh (senior JCO/Post Commander).
Police registered an FIR and after investigation filed a chargesheet against Khunte who was enrolled in the army on July 30, 2004.
Subsequently, Sessions Court Baramulla transferred the case to the army allowing an application by GOC 15 Corps seeing permission to try the accused under the Army Act.
Later, a Court Martial found Khunte guilty for the commission of offences punishable under Section 69 of the Army Act and Section 302 of the Ranbir Penal Code. He was dismissed from service and sentenced to life imprisonment.
After exhausting various remedies against the sentence, Khunte knocked door of the Supreme Court seeking benefit of Exception 1 to Section 300 of the IPC.
His lawyer, senior counsel Sisodia, said that on the fateful day his client was resting in his bunker after lunch when Randhir Singh came to his cot in an inebriated state, slapped him twice and asked to follow him.
“Thinking that he was being called for some kind of duty, Khunte followed him to the store room where the officer bolted the door from inside. He asked (Khunte) to remove his pants suggesting thereby that he intended to sodomise him. When he declined, (the officer) punched, kicked him repeatedly and asked him to put up his hand…,” Sisodia said, as observed by a bench headed by Chief Justice and comprising Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and R. Banumathi.
“Thereafter, the officer made unwelcome and improper advances like kissing his body, cheeks and stomach,” the lawyer said.
“While this was going on, two other personnel, Hadgal Vilas and Anil Gadge knocked at the door of the store room. The (officer) opened the door and asked them to go away and shut the door again only to continue (Khunte’s) torture for half an hour.
“Khunte somehow managed to free himself and return to his barrack, shaken and crying inconsolably.”
It was also alleged that while Khunte shared his grief and sorrow about the whole episode with his colleagues and immediate superior officers, no formal report was, however, was lodged.
Khunte said that he and his colleagues planned to gather near the water heating point in the evening and beat up the officer and with that resolve performed administrative tasks during the day till it was time for him to go for night picket guard duty commencing at 2000 hours.
After taking early dinner, Khunte said that he reached his place of night guard duty and saw someone approaching him. As per the prevailing drill and procedure, Khunte claimed to have challenged the approaching person, but he paid no heed to the warning and continued to approach till Khunte could recognise him to be Randhir Singh.
“Seeing (Ranbir Singh) and still seething with anger, he opened fire upon him from his service weapon. He was hit and dropped dead on the spot.”
On the other hand, the army contended plea for invocation of Exception 1 to Section 300 of IPC by Khunte.
“The contention that the day time incident being such that (Khunte) could get a grave provocation, the moment he saw (Ranbir Singh) coming towards the place where he was on guard duty, also has not appealed to us,” the apex court bench said in the judgment announced by Justice T.S. Thakur
“It is not the case of (Khunte) that (Ranbir Singh) had come close to him or tried to act fresh with him so as to give to the appellant another provocation that could possibly justify his losing self-control and using his weapon.”
“His version that he had called halt as all soldiers on guard duty are trained to do in operational areas, but when the person approaching him did not stop and when he recognised the person to be none other than the deceased shot him,” court said, “clearly suggests Ranbir Singh was not in close physical proximity to Khunte.”
“Khunte may have been angry with (Ranbir Singh) for his act of misdemeanour. But any such anger would only constitute a motive for taking revenge upon the deceased. It could not be described as a grave and sudden provocation for which deceased could have been shot the moment he came in front of (Khunte). The deceased, at any rate, could not be accused of having given any provocation to (Khunte) by moving towards the place where he was on guard duty for the deceased was well within the sphere of his duty to keep an eye on those who were performing the guard duty,” the court said and dismissed Khunte’s plea.