Monday, March 11, 2024

Supreme Court sets aside conviction and sentence under Section 302 of IPC for death due to celebratory firing

In Shahid Ali v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2024), Supreme Court's bench of  Justices Vikram Nath and Satish Chandra Sharma set aside conviction and sentence under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the version of the Prosecution, the Trial Court  judgment of conviction and order dated February 23, 2018, passed by Sessions Judge, Firozabad  and the  judgment of Allahabad High Court dated April 4, 2019. The judgement dated March 11, 2024 was authored by Justice Satish Chandra Sharma. 

The Court observed that "The act of celebratory firing during marriage ceremonies is an unfortunate yet prevalent practise in our nation. The present case is a direct example of the disastrous consequences of such uncontrolled and unwarranted celebratory firing." But in the absence of any evidence on record to suggest that either that the Appellant aimed at and / or pointed at the large crowd whilst engaging in such celebratory firing; or there existed any prior enmity between the Deceased and the Appellant, the Court was "unable to accept the Prosecution’s version of events as were accepted by the Trial Court and confirmed by the High Court."

The Court probed question as to whether the Appellant’s act of engaging in celebratory firing during marriage ceremony could be construed to be an act so imminently dangerous so as to, in all probability, cause death or such bodily injury as was likely to cause death?

In its judgement, the Court held that "The Appellant is convicted for an offence under Section 304 Part II of the IPC. The appellant has already undergone approximately 8 years of incarceration."  It factored in the totality of circumstances of the case. The fact that there was no previous enmity between the Deceased and there was no intention may be attributed to the Appellant as may be culled out from the record to cause death of the Deceased. The Court drew on  position of law enunciated by the Court in Kunwar Pal Singh v. State of Uttarakhand, (2014) and subsequently, in Bhagwan Singh v. State of Uttarakhand (2020). It found that "the Appellant is guilty of commission of ‘culpable homicide’ within the meaning of Section 299 IPC i.e., punishable under Section 304 Part II of the IPC."

It concluded that "Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, we award a sentence equivalent to the period already undergone. The conviction and sentence awarded to the Appellant under Sections 25 & 27 of the Arms Act remains unaltered. Resultantly, the Appellant be released forthwith, if not required in any other case."

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