House Breaking by Night: Verdict Reversal and Reinstatement of Military Personnel

In a significant legal development, the Supreme Court of India has revisited the case of house breaking by night involving a military personnel. The court’s ruling has overturned the previous decision and resulted in the reinstatement of the individual in question. This judgment carries implications for military justice and has sparked discussions on legal proceedings in such cases.


  • The Respondent was found guilty of a civil offense of house breaking by night.
  • He was sentenced to reduction in the ranks, dismissal from service, and seven months of rigorous imprisonment.
  • The High Court transferred the case to the Armed Forces Tribunal at Chandigarh.
  • Smt. Sudesh identified the Respondent standing outside her door after the incident.
  • The Tribunal found inconsistencies in Smt. Sudesh’s identification statement.
  • The Tribunal set aside the conviction and ordered the reinstatement of the Respondent without consequential benefits.
  • The Respondent was directed to be deemed in service from 10.11.1999 until his superannuation.
  • Smt. Sudesh deposed that the intruder sneaked into her house through a window in the toilet.
  • Two court witnesses confirmed that the intruder was recognized by Smt. Sudesh who immediately pointed to the Respondent as the man who broke into the house.
  • Medical examination of the Respondent on 18.10.1998 revealed abrasions on his arms which were three to four days old.
  • Summary of evidence was recorded in the presence of the Respondent as per Rule 23 of the Army Rules, and a charge sheet was laid against him for committing an offence under Section 69 of the Army Act contrary to Section 456 of the Indian Penal Code for house breaking by night.
  • Master Bittoo, a witness, stated that he was at Smt. Sudesh’s house at the time of the incident and woke up to see the lights had been switched off.
  • Court of Inquiry recommended disciplinary action against the Respondent between 11.08.1999 and 10.11.1999.
  • The Respondent pleaded not guilty to the charge and gave a statement in his defense at the trial, examining two defense witnesses.
  • The GOC 15 Infantry Division sanctioned trial of the Respondent by Summary Court Martial.
  • Multiple witnesses corroborated Smt. Sudesh’s account of the incident, including her son, Master Bittoo, and Smt. Mithilesh.
  • Various individuals were involved in investigating the break-in, with Lance Naik A. Hussain and Havildar K.K. Thakaran among those present at the scene.

Also Read: Court of Inquiry Revisited: A Case of Alleged Misconduct and Financial Impropriety


  • The Tribunal was not convinced of the identity of the intruder in Smt. Sudesh’s house due to contradictions in her evidence.
  • Judgments of acquittal should only be reversed with substantial and compelling reasons, such as ignoring or misreading material evidence.
  • The Tribunal’s judgment lacks consideration of material evidence like bruises on the arms of Smt. Sudesh and doctor’s opinion supporting the prosecution.
  • Minor contradictions in Sudesh’s evidence were exaggerated by the Tribunal, including her recognition of the intruder.
  • The Tribunal noted Sudesh’s acquaintance with the accused but failed to recognize the truth in her evidence.
  • The Tribunal overlooked testimonies of other witnesses like Master Bittoo, Lance Naik A. Hussain, Smt. Sunil Devi, and Smt. Mithilesh which supported the prosecution without contradictions.
  • Highlighting contradictions in Sudesh’s evidence should not discount the overall evidence supporting the charges against the accused.
  • The judgment of the Summary Court Martial should not have been interfered with by the Tribunal.
  • There is sufficient evidence on record to show that house breaking had taken place.
  • The material on record clearly indicates the guilt of the Respondent.

Also Read: DHFL Moratorium: Depositor Rights & RBI Intervention


  • Sentence of imprisonment modified to period already served
  • Judgment of the Tribunal set aside
  • Order passed in Summary Court Martial restored
  • Appeals allowed
  • Penalties of dismissal from service and reduction to ranks restored

Also Read: State of Karnataka v. [Respondent]


Case Number: Crl.A. No.-000003-000004 / 2015

Click here to read/download original judgement

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