Dal Singh v. King Emperor, AIR 1917 PC 25: 18 Cr LJ 471


Dal Singh v. King Emperor, AIR 1917 PC 25: 18 Cr LJ 471


On October 23, 1915, a woman named Kalia, who lived in the village of Hardua, close to Jubbulpore, was killed, by blows from an axe. The hits were lethal in nature, with one nearly taking her head off. The allegations stated that Dal Singh, Bhojraj, and Shanker, Dal Singh’s servant as well as Nanhe and Mithua, who were also his servants and were said to have escorted him to Mohan’s field carrying lathis, or sticks, were guilty of rioting and murder. 

The Sessions Court of Jubbulpore found Dal Singh, the appellant, guilty of murder and sentenced him to death. The police diary entries were incorrectly used by the Court of Appeal to undermine defence testimony, even though the judgment was upheld. The Judicial Commissioner of Central Provinces upheld the conviction and denied the appeal. The appellant then requested permission to appeal to the King in Council, claiming that the improper assessment of witness reliability and the unlawful use of police diaries had tainted the decisions made in India. 

The Judicial Committee took into account the restrictions on its authority while serving as a Court of Review. The Committee carefully reviewed the case, taking into account the nature of the conviction and the use of police diaries during the trial. The Committee recommended that the appeal be dismissed without costs after coming to the conclusion that the trial judge’s decision was just.


  • Whether the Court of Appeal’s inappropriate use of police diary entries raise questions about the admission of the evidence and amount to a procedural error?
  • Whether the witness statement’s credibility be upheld, and would the appellate court then take that into consideration?


  • Section 172 of Criminal Procedure Code : It recognises the admissibility of case diaries. According to the regulation, police diaries may be used as evidence in a criminal court’s own investigation or trial. Nevertheless, the police journal entries themselves are not admissible as evidence in court.
  • Section 374 of Criminal Procedure Code : It described how the Court of the Judicial Commissioner, the higher court in this instance, affirmed a death sentence. The legal need was to confirm a death sentence in accordance with the statute. It today governs the provisions of Appeals from Conviction.
  • Procedural Error and Fair Trial : The case calls into question the legality of the right to a fair trial and procedural justice. Errors in procedure, particularly if they affect the fairness of the proceedings, may give rise to intervention or review.


The misuse of police diary entries by the Court of Appeal is the central issue in this case. The court has addressed in-depth Dal Singh’s claims that the “judgments have been vitiated by illegal use of police diary and credibility of witness” in paragraph 2. According to the petitioner, these events also resulted in a grave “miscarriage of justice.” The argument implied a breach of legal rules or principles and argued that the police diaries were used in an illegal and prejudiced manner during the trial, thereby compromising the admissibility or trustworthiness of the evidence. In its ruling, the court determined that it was a grave error to use a diary as a means of undermining defence witnesses, as this went against Section 172 of the Criminal Procedure Code’s procedural guidelines. While acknowledging the procedural error, the Judicial Committee evaluated whether or not substantial justice was served.  The court cited the rule established in Queen-Empress v. Mannu, where a full court stated that a diary of this type may be used to help the court that is trying the case by suggesting ways to clarify points that need clarification and are important for the administration of justice between the Crown and the accused, but not as containing entries that can be taken to be proof of any date, fact, or statement contained in the diary on their own. The petitioner argued that the case’s circumstances were so unique that it qualified as a “exceptional class” and should be reviewed by a higher authority, specifically His Majesty in Council, a claim that the court answered negatively.

The unwritten rules of the Empire’s Constitution were understood to place restrictions on the Judicial Committee’s ability to act as a general Court of Review in criminal matters. The Judicial Committee was not meant to serve as a standard criminal appeal body, the court implied in paragraph 4 of its ruling, by ruling that “Sovereign in Council does not act, in the exercise of the prerogative right to review.” The use of this prerogative, stressed that it should only be done in cases where a serious and substantial injustice has been proven. It made it clear that the Sovereign in Council (which frequently included the Judicial Committee) did not get involved only because the lower court’s verdict on guilt or innocence was incorrect. It specified multiple circumstances in which interference might be justified. Disregard for the established procedures of the legal system was grounds for interference, particularly if it was substantial and not merely technical. Errors or discrepancies in the assessment of the evidence were not grounds for interference. This highlights how crucial it is to follow the law and ensure procedural justice. This framework emphasizes the significance of respecting basic legal principles and just processes and shows a cautious approach to the use of higher authorities in criminal cases.

The Judicial Committee stressed that its jurisdiction as a Court of Review was restricted, and it would only step in when there had been a grave injustice or denial of justice. Based on reliable prosecution witnesses, the trial judge found the defendant guilty and rejected the testimony of the defence witnesses. Inconsistencies were uncovered in Dal Singh’s police statement. It was noted that the statement at various places completely contradicts what Dal Singh later said in court. It is critical to compare Dal Singh’s account during his trial with the information he provided in the report-he submitted to the police and signed, a record that is adequately verified. Based on the analyses of paragraph 10, the Sessions Judge believed the document to be a refutation of his defence. In addition, the prosecution claimed that Dal Singh, the accused, was the one who delivered the blows, but the defence contended that they originated from Mohan, Kalia’s husband, who was accused of killing his wife to create the basis for a false accusation against Dal Singh. As a result, the two sides’ arguments differed. Nonetheless, the judge accepted Mohan and Jhunni’s account, finding it credible and concluding that it was supported by known facts. These differences between what he testified and what the witness testified affected the result.

The Court of the Judicial Commissioner validated Dal Singh’s punishment on April 19, 1916, based on the justifications stated in their ruling that was issued on the same day in relation to the appeal. When the Court of Session grants a death sentence, the matter must be sent to the High Court (in this case, the Court of the Judicial Commissioner) in accordance with Section 374, as upheld in paragraph 12. The High Court’s confirmation was a prerequisite for the sentence to be carried out. 

Despite the mistake, the Judicial Committee found that the trial judge’s ruling was reasonable. The case emphasizes how crucial it is to follow the rules for a fair trial, the appropriate use of evidence, the proper course of legal proceedings, and the value of reliable witness testimony in order to reach a just conclusion. As stated in paragraph 11, “Court of Appeal have properly dismissed the appeal on the simple ground that an examination of the evidence on the record disclosed no reason to differ from the finding of the Judge who tried the case” the judicial committee was of the opinion that they found no reason to differ from the view of the court of appeal, other than the nature of admissibility of evidence.

The Court of Appeal had the chance to follow the Sessions Judge’s approach and just upheld the verdict based on the already-recorded evidence. The court agreed that the Sessions Judge’s conviction was supported by sufficient and appropriate evidence, as stated in paragraph 13 “with the view of making their opinion still more conclusive…. statements of these witnesses made to the police and entered in the police diary.” This implies that there was adequate evidence used during the first trial to support the verdict. Rather than just affirming, the Court of Appeal looked at the matter further. They also looked at the earlier statements the witnesses had given to the police and had written down in the police journal.

In paragraph 14, the court further emphasized the conditions under which procedural errors can be deemed severe enough to merit the Sovereign’s involvement. It was suggested that some faults could be so egregious as to warrant such intervention. The court makes the argument that a procedural error can be serious enough to skew the results of the proceedings against the core values that the administration of justice demands to be upheld. This suggests that the mistake has to be so grave that it fundamentally compromises the integrity and justice of the legal system.


The case’s conclusion had been impacted by the misuse of the evidence. But the crucial question is whether justice was eventually compromised and if this mistake had a significant effect on the result. There are divergent accounts from witnesses for the prosecution and defence in this case. The effect of the procedural error on the overall fairness of the trial was duly taken into account by the Committee. The case poses more general concerns on how to strike a compromise between upholding procedural standards and obtaining substantive justice. The murder case itself is complicated, with multiple charges, different narratives, and motivations. For cases involving procedural errors in the future, this ruling establishes a precedent. The examination looks at how the main objective of enforcing the law must be balanced with the stringent adherence to legal formalities, as demonstrated by the improper use of evidence.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *