By – Illa Dwivedi

In The Supreme Court of India

CITATION 1988 AIR 1883, 1988 SCR Supl. (2) 24


Kehar Singh and Ors vs. State is famously known as the Indira Gandhi murder case. This is one of the well-known cases of all time. The then prime minister Mrs Indira Gandhi was brutally shot and assassinated by her security counsels. This case earned huge attention at that time. This case earned International attention and it had been a heated topic for years and even today. This case is one of the rarest rare cases that lead to the passing of the death sentence for all the accused individuals.


Kehar Singh case is also known as the Indira Gandhi assassination case. In June 1984 the Indian army mounted an operation known as operation blue star by which armed force personnel entered into the golden temple complex at Amritsar to remove the armed terrorists. That resulted in the loss of many Lives and Alak Takht in the golden temple which offended the religious feelings of some members of Sikhs. This initiated rage and they decided to take their revenge by killing her.

This case is based on the essential structure of the Constitution on the rights of the accused. In this case, the facts suggest that Kehar Singh was condemned for murder and connivance by the then prime minister of India Indira Gandhi. And he was convicted to death.

The case talks about the validity of the Constitutional rights of the accused under Article 21 of the Constitution to have access to fair, just, and open and open trials, and it also analyzed the power vested with the high court to direct trial of the case or place other than the usual seat of the session court.


Operation Blue Star was a military operation that was ordered by Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of India to remove Sikh militants who were collecting weapons in the Golden temples complex (Harminder Sahib) in Amritsar, to establish control over it.

The operation was launched in response to the destruction of law and order in Panjab. The origin of the operation blue star was drawn from the Khalistan movement.

 The Khalistan movement was a political Sikh nationalist movement that wanted to build an independent state for the Sikh people.

The main motive of operation blue star was to eliminate Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale along with other Sikhs militants and regain control over the Harminder Sahib in Amritsar, as Bhindranwale and his supporters occupied the Akal Takht complex including the golden temple in Amritsar.


In June 1984 operation Blue star was formed to enter into the Golden Temple complex at Amritsar to clear of all the terrorists who were hiding there and creating conspiracies against India. There was huge violence at the temple during the operation which resulted in damage to the sacred tomb of the golden temple called Akal Takht. This raged religious sentiment of the Sikh community which leads to expressing their anger toward Indira Gandhi the then prime minister of India how has ordered the Indian army to enter the Golden temple to detain the terrorists who had taken shelter in the temple to avoid the police and this whole operation was named Operation Blue Star 1954. In 1984 Indira Gandhi had an interview with Irish television, accompanied by her staff which included head constable Narayan Singh, Rameshwar Dayal assistant sub-inspector Nathuram, attendant, and RK Dhawan special assistant. Beant Singh and Satwant Singh also had their duties scheduled at the gate of the building where Beant Singh fired five rounds and Satwant Singh  25 gunshots at Indira Gandhi from their weapons. It was planned revenge of both of them against her. Indira Gandhi sustained injuries and fell and succumbed to her death the same day at AIIMS-New Delhi. The cause of death was confirmed as haemorrhage and shock by post mortem report. Both the assassins were arrested by police at the Indo-Tibetan border where Beats Singh died and Satwant Singh suffered injuries. Kehar Singh was the uncle of Beant Singh’s wife was a religious devotee who influenced Beant Singh to take revenge as it would be said the massage of the 10th guru of Sikhs. The charge sheet was filed against Satwant Singh, Kehar Singh, and Balbir Singh. The offences were under sec 120B, 109,34,302, of IPC and sec 27,54,59 of Arms act.


  • How far restrictions on the access of people are valid in a public open trial?
  • Whether high courts have the power to direct trial of the case or place other than the normal seat of sessions court?
  • Whether the conduct of the trial in Tihar jail is a valid trial, the open public trial is a right of an accused?



  • The fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution need not be under the mercy of the court and there should not be any discrimination in the course of public access to judicial proceedings. The principle of first come first should be followed no matter what.
  • The high court does not have any authority to announce or shift the trial of the criminal case at a place other than the normal seat of the court of session.
  • It was argued that article 21 of the Constitution guarantees speedy, open, and public trial, and holding the trial in  Tihar jail violates this right, given under sec 327 of the code of criminal procedure.
  • It was also argued that only in special cases the trial is to be recorded on the camera. The camera trial is not important and it is nowhere given in sec 327 of the code of criminal procedure.
  •  It was also argued that all the documents were not made available to the appellant that was related to the examination of the witnesses by the Thakkar commission .
  • Despite the prayer of the accused made during the session trial about the copies of the statements of witnesses who have been examined by the prosecution as well as by the Thakkar commission,  was not made available. For that matter, any report was not available to them.
  • The high court has misinterpreted the domain of sec 6 of the commission of inquiry act and misunderstood the observance in Dalmia’s case.
  • The confession of  Sawant Singh is not recorded in a procedure prescribed in sec.164 of the code is inadmissible in evidence and can not be used for sentencing the accused.


  • It was argued the latter part of sec 194 of CRPC provides that the high court can specify the judge for the trial court. There is no exception in the section.
  • There was no question of violation of any right insured under article 21 of the Constitution of India.
  •  The part of Tihar jail where the trial was held was not a portion where prisons were kept but it was an office area.
  • It was argued that if the confession is not recorded properly as prescribed by sec 164 reads with sec 281 which corresponds to earlier sec 364, it is a mere irregularity and can be fixed by sec 463  of the on taking evidence that the statement was duly recorded and that it has not injured the accused in his defense on merits.
  • The high court had the power to issue notification under sec 9(6) of CRPC to fix the place of sitting and trial for the particular case.
  • The court under the special leave petition which is given in article 136 of the constitution of India was not expected to interfere in the concurrent findings of the trial court.
  • There is nothing to show that the friends and family of the accused or any other member of the public were prohibited from having entry to the place where the trial was held. On the other hand, permission was granted to family and friends of the accused as well as the outsiders who wanted to have access to the court or to see the proceedings. Sec 2(p) of the CRPC defines place as including a house, building, tent, vehicle, and vessel. So the court can be held in a tent, vehicle, a vessel that then in court.


Article 19 of the constitution:- States that – “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right shall include freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Article 21 of the constitution:- States that – no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by the law.

Article 136 of constitution:-
Special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court

  •  Notwithstanding anything in this Chapter, the Supreme Court may, in its discretion, grant special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India
  • Nothing in clause ( 1 ) shall apply to any judgment, determination, sentence or order passed or made by any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces.

Section 34 of The Indian Penal Code

 It states that – When a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.[1]

Section 120B of The Indian Penal Code

It states that

  • Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, [imprisonment for life] or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall, where no express provision is made in this Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offence.
  • Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable as aforesaid shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months, or with fine or with both.[2]

Section 302 of The Indian Penal Code

 It states that – Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.[3]

Section 307 of The Indian Penal Code

  • Attempt to murder:- Whoever does any act with such intention or knowledge, and under such circumstances that, if he by that act caused death, he would be guilty of murder, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine; and if hurt is caused to any person by such act, the offender shall be liable either to [imprisonment for life], or to such punishment as is hereinbefore mentioned.
  • Attempts by life convicts:- When any person offending under this section is under sentence of 1[imprisonment for life], he may, if hurt is caused, be punished with death.[4]

Section 164 of CRPC

 Any Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate may, whether or not he has jurisdiction in the case, record any confession or statement made to him in the course of an investigation under this Chapter or under any other law for the time being in force, or at any time afterwards before the commencement of the inquiry or trial: Provided that no confession shall be recorded by a police officer on whom any power of a Magistrate has been conferred under any law for the time being in force.[5]

Section 354(3) of The Code Of Criminal Procedure

When the conviction is for an offence punishable with death or, in the alternative, with imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term of years, the judgment shall state the reasons for the sentence awarded, and, in the case of sentence of death, the special reasons for such sentence.[6]

Section 27 in Arms Act

States that:-

  • Whoever uses any arms or ammunition in contravention of section 5 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.
  •  Whoever uses any prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition in contravention of section 7 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.
  •  Whoever uses any prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition or does any act in contravention of section 7 and such use or act results in the death of any other person, shall be punishable with death.[7]


The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of justice Oza G.L., Ray B.C., Shetty K.J. held that:-

The incidence of the present case took away the popular leader who was serving the country for 40years. Indira Gandhi was unarmed when she was attacked and accused by the nature of their duty had confidence instilled in them for the safety of the prime minister.

By sec 194 of CrPC, the session judge of the division by special order is allowed to allot cases to the High Court. Sec 9 of the CrPC states that the high court may have authority to direct trial if deemed necessary to a place such fit. Therefore the trial held in Tihar jail was valid. Upon analyzing sec 6 of the commission of inquiry act the statement of a witness is protected and can’t be used for self-incrimination. There are two restrictions to be given by the witness. That is

  • Self-incrimination
  • Estoppel.

It was a criminal conspiracy of the accused to murder Indira Gandhi, as Indira Gandhi died as a result of gunshot injuries by Beant Singh and Satwant Singh by their service revolver and carbine respectively. Besides the evidence gathered through direct witnesses, the other evidence was also in corroboration with the post mortem report of the body, therefore the appeal of Satwant  Singh was dismissed. The findings of the trial court and high court were proven against Satwant Singh and the same was upheld by the Supreme Court. The charge of conspiracy against Kehar Singh and Satwant Singh has been proved without any reasonable doubt. As it is the rarest of the rare cases so the death penalty was given to all the accused persons.


The Kehar Singh and others v State of Punjab is one of the most important cases in the history of the Indian judiciary. Indira Gandhi was not only the prime minister of India but was the leader elected by a massive amount of people democratically. She was brutally murdered by the people who were on duty to protect her because of the decision taken by her, under the garb of her constitutional power. It can be said that the Supreme Court, in this case, delivered justice by ascertaining the provisions of the Constitution and the validity of rights ensured under the Constitution along with the witness testimony.  This case was however a concern for the whole society and the verdict was precisely delivered by the court.

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