Tan Chun Seng v Public Prosecutor

JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date06 June 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGCA 26
Date06 June 2003
Subject MatterMurder,Whether life imprisonment appropriate,Ingredients of defence,Sudden fight,Offences,Criminal Law,Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) ss 304(a), (b),Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Sentencing,Culpable homicide,Penal Code (Cap 224, 1985 Rev Ed) s 300(c) Exception 4
Docket NumberCriminal Appeal No 2 of 2003
Published date17 December 2003
Defendant CounselDavid Chew Siong Tai (DPP)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Plaintiff CounselSubhas Anandan, Anand Nalachandran (Harry Elias Partnership)

Delivered by Yong Pung How CJ

1 This was an appeal by Tan Chun Seng (the appellant) against his conviction in the High Court of murder under s 300(c) of the Penal Code punishable under s 302 of the Penal Code.


2 The deceased, Krishnan s/o Sengal Rajah (Krishnan), had at about 8.30pm on 30 June 2001 met a friend Chandrasegaran s/o Raman (Chandrasegaran) for drinks at Rajini Wines, which was a bar along Dunlop Street within the vicinity of Little India. Krishnan was a deaf-mute, a fact which, at all material times, the appellant did not know. Whilst at Rajini Wines, Krishnan and Chandrasegaran consumed four quarter-litre bottles of gin. They left Rajini Wines at about 10.30pm, and had another drink at the Back Alley Pub. After leaving the pub, the two of them walked down Dunlop Street. At about this time the appellant was parking his newly-purchased Nissan Sunny car along Dunlop Street. The appellant had intended to have Teochew porridge at a coffee shop at the end of Dunlop Street before heading off to Johor Baru for the weekend. Just as he was parking the car, he saw two Indian males walking towards his car. These two Indian males were Krishnan and Chandrasegaran. The appellant had never met them before. Just as they approached the car, Chandrasegaran hit the glass window on the front passenger side of the car.

3 The appellant was furious at this. He turned his head and saw that Chandrasegaran and the deceased had moved to the rear of the car, where they stopped. Chandrasegaran was seen gesturing to the appellant to come down from his car, with Krishnan standing beside him. The appellant parked his car swiftly. He was set on confronting Chandrasegaran. He walked a short distance to catch up with the two men but soon realised that the one wearing the black T-shirt, Chandrasegaran, was no longer in sight. He had turned into one of the many side alleys which ran off from the road they had been walking on. Krishnan however had not turned into a side alley – he continued to walk down Dunlop Street.

4 Not being able to confront Chandrasegaran about why he hit his car, the appellant went to catch up with Krishnan, and shouted to him, asking him why his friend had hit his car. The fact that Krishnan continued walking, unperturbed at the appellant’s outburst, only enraged the appellant. He started to hurl Hokkien vulgarities at Krishnan. When he had almost caught up with Krishnan, the latter turned around and faced the appellant. Krishnan, now facing the appellant, just stood his ground and looked at the appellant. The appellant kept on hurling Hokkien vulgarities at Krishnan. He coupled his verbal outburst with expressive hand gestures. He noticed at this point that Krishnan was of a big physical build. The autopsy report later showed that Krishnan weighed 94 kg and was 172 cm tall. As the appellant continued his verbal onslaught and hand gesturing, he moved forward thereby closing the gap between himself and Krishnan.

5 Krishnan then pushed the appellant with great force such that the appellant immediately fell to the ground. This push was not an ordinary shove. It was meant to fell the appellant to the ground. Evidence of the fact that this push was of great force was seen in the trial judge’s grounds of decision, the appellant’s evidence at trial and two of the appellant’s statements to the police. The importance of this fact needed to be stressed. Therefore, we tabulated the evidence which clearly showed that Krishnan’s push was an aggressive one which resulted in the appellant being thrown to the ground.

Table 1: Proof that Krishnan’s push was aggressive and forceful



Trial judge’s

grounds of decision

The trial judge stated: ‘In these circumstances, I will assume, without casting blame on Krishnan, that he did push the accused a little harder than he ought to.’

The appellant’s evidence at trial

When on the stand the appellant stated in Hokkien: ‘As I walked nearer towards him, this man used his right hand and pushed me on the chest. The force he used was very great and I fell onto the ground.’

The appellant’s

police statements

The appellant recounted the force with which Krishnan pushed him in two separate police statements.

In the first statement, he stated in Hokkien: ‘When I walked near him, he pushed me with his hand and I fell to the ground…I realised that I could not overpower him with my bare hands.’

In the second statement, he stated in Hokkien: ‘He used his right hand to push at my chest. I fell on the ground due to his pushing.’

6 When the appellant was on the ground, he spotted a wooden pole on top of a pile of rubbish at the side of the street. He had realised that he was not going to be able to overpower Krishnan in a bare-handed fight, and so grabbed the pole, got up, and gave chase with the pole in hand. Krishnan had advanced a few steps from the place where he had pushed the appellant. Thus, the appellant had a slight distance to make up before he hit Krishnan on the head with the pole. The appellant stated in his police statements that he hit Krishnan numerous times with it.

7 Krishnan fell to the ground and was motionless. The appellant then threw the wooden pole to the side of the road, walked back to his car and drove to Johor Baru. Jahangeer s/o Jamaludden, a bystander, saw Krishnan collapse on the ground, and immediately called the police. This was at 10.46pm. Lyn John Pereira, a paramedic with the Singapore Civil Defence Force, received instructions at 10.49pm to go the scene. The paramedic arrived at 10.59pm and after examining the body pronounced Krishnan dead at 11.03pm. When the police took over investigation of the case, they handed over to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) three sachets of green substance and a straw of yellow substance for testing. These were found in Krishnan’s haversack. HSA analysis confirmed that the straw contained 0.21 grams of powdery substance which contained diamorphine. The three sachets contained 5.67 grams of fragmented vegetable matter which contained tetrahydrocannanibol and cannanibol.

8 Dr Paul Chui, a Consultant Forensic Pathologist with the Health Sciences Authority, confirmed in his autopsy report that the death had stemmed from a constellation of injuries over the right side and back of the head. He stated that these injuries could be explained by a single blunt blow over the right side of the head. He maintained throughout his time on the stand that the autopsy report did not reveal any other injuries elsewhere on the body, and that the constellation of injuries to the right side of the head was consistent with just one blunt blow. Thus, there was prima facie an inconsistency between the appellant’s evidence and the medical evidence. This issue will be addressed in the judgment below.

The Decision Below

9 The trial judge found that the prosecution had made out all the elements needed to crystallise the appellant’s culpability under s 300(c) of the Penal Code. Section 300(c) states:

Except in the cases hereinafter excepted culpable homicide is murder if it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person, and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.

10 Having come to this conclusion, the trial judge addressed the defence of provocation under Exception 1 to s 300 of the Penal Code. He found that it was Chandrasegaran who had hit the appellant’s car and then gestured to him to come out of his car. These two facts showed that the defence under Exception 1 was not available to the appellant since the provocation did not stem from the deceased. That the provocation must come from the deceased is a clear pre-requisite, as seen in Illustration (a) to the provocation exception. The trial judge stated that the only provocation that emanated from Krishnan was his pushing of the accused with such force that he fell. However, this act had been provoked by the accused himself. Thus, there was no room for the partial defence of provocation to apply. Accordingly, the accused was found guilty of murder under s 300(c) and was sentenced to suffer death.

The Appeal

11 The appellant raised three broad points at the appellate stage. We were of the opinion that only one of these points was of merit. To this end, we dealt summarily with the other two points.

Section 300 (c) of the Penal Code

12 Counsel for the appellant argued that the trial judge was wrong to find that the necessary elements for a s 300(c) offence were made out by the prosecution. We dismissed this argument. This court recently re-emphasised in the case of Arun Prakash Vaithilingam v PP (Criminal Appeal No. 23 of 2002) that it is trite law that to prove an accused guilty of murder under s 300(c) of the Penal Code, one of the essential elements which must be established is that ‘there was an intention to inflict that particular bodily injury, that is to say, that it was not accidental or unintentional, or that some other kind of injury was intended’. This interpretation was grounded in the cases of Virsa Singh v State of Punjab AIR 1958 SC 465 and Tan Cheow Bock v PP [1991] SLR 293. It was clear that the appellant intentionally struck a blow to Krishnan’s head. The injuries sustained caused the death. The requirements for an offence under s 300(c) were made out.


13 Counsel for the appellant argued that the trial judge was incorrect to dismiss the partial defence of provocation. We dismissed this argument. The provocation stemmed from Chandrasegaran. As regards Krishnan’s violent push, this act was provoked by the appellant. Thus, it was clear that the defence of provocation did not apply.

Sudden Fight

14 This was the crux of the appeal. We were of the view that the partial defence of sudden fight applied in this case.

15 The statutory defence of sudden fight resides in Exception 4 to s 300 of the Penal Code (Cap...

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7 cases
  • Pp v Afr
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    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 11 August 2010
    ...v PP [1993] 2 SLR (R) 670; [1993] 3 SLR 272 (refd) Tan Chee Hwee v PP [1993] 2 SLR (R) 493; [1993] 2 SLR 657 (refd) Tan Chun Seng v PP [2003] 2 SLR (R) 506; [2003] 2 SLR 506 (refd) Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) s 304 (b) (consd) ;ss 201, 299, 304, 304 (a) Cheng Howe Ming Winston and Tan......
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    ...having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner. Counsel relied on the Court of Appeal decision in Tan Chun Seng v PP [2003] 2 SLR 506, where it was held that there are three main ingredients in the defence of sudden fight, (a) a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a......
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    ...does not completely exculpate him from the consequences of his actions. 54 This court recently had the opportunity in Tan Chun Seng v PP [2003] 2 SLR 506 to examine the operation of the defence of sudden fight. In that case, we stated at [16] There are three main ingredients which prompt th......
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5 books & journal articles
  • Criminal Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2004, December 2004
    • 1 December 2004
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