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A gun shot fired at roof in marriage celebration whereby causing death is 'culpable homicide not amounting to murder' (Sec 304 Part II IPC) - sentence of life imprisonment reduced to 10 years; SC.

Supreme Court of India


The SC on March 18, 2020 {Bhagwan Singh v State of Uttarakhand} held that the evidence on record shows that the appellant aimed the gun towards the roof and then fired.   It was held that it was an unfortunate case of mis­firing.   It was also held that the appellant of course cannot absolve himself of the conclusion that he carried a loaded gun at a crowded place where his own guests had gathered to attend the marriage ceremony. It was held that he did not take any reasonable safety measure like to fire the shot in the air or towards the sky, rather he invited full risk and aimed the gun towards the roof and fired the shot. It was held that he was expected to know that pellets could cause multiple gun­shot injuries to the nearby persons even if a single shot was fired. It was held that the appellant is, thus, guilty of an act, the likely consequences of which including causing fatal injuries to the persons being in a close circuit, are attributable to him. It was held by the SC that the offence committed by the appellant, thus, would amount to ‘culpable homicide’ within the meaning of Section 299, though punishable under Section 304 Part 2 of the IPC.

It was also held that incidents of celebratory firing are regretfully rising, for they are seen as a status symbol. It was held that a gun licensed for self-­protection or safety and security of crops and cattle cannot be fired in celebratory events, it being a potential cause of fatal accidents. It was held that such like misuse of fire arms convert a happy event to a pall of gloom. It was held that the appellant cannot escape the consequences of carrying the gun with live cartridges with the knowledge that firing at a marriage ceremony with people present there was imminently dangerous and was likely to cause death.

It was held that   the   appellant   had   the   requisite knowledge essential for constituting the offence of ‘culpable homicide’ under Section 299 and punishable under Section 304 Part­ 2 of IPC. He was thus held guilty under Section 304 Part­ 2 and not under Section 302   of   IPC.   On   the   same   analogy, it was held that  the   appellant   is   liable   to   be punished for ‘attempt to commit culpable homicide’ not amounting to murder under Section 308, in place of Section 307 of IPC for the injuries   caused   to   the   other   three   victims. 

Accordingly, the conviction of the appellant under Section 302, IPC was modified   to Section 304 Part­ 2, IPC and that under Section 307, IPC was altered to Section   308,   IPC.   As   a   necessary   corollary, the   sentence   of   life imprisonment awarded to the appellant for committing the offence under Section 302 IPC, was reduced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment and the sentence   awarded   to  him   under   Section   307,   IPC   was substituted with Section 308 IPC, without any alteration in the fine imposed - by the Supreme Court.

In the present case, the Criminal Appeal before the Supreme Court was directed against the judgment dated 26th July, 2017 passed by the High Court of Uttarakhand whereby the appellant’s   criminal   appeal   against   the   judgment   and   order   dated 11th/12th July, 2013 rendered by Learned Sessions Judge, Bageshwar convicting the appellant under Sections 302 and 307 of Indian Penal Code   (for short,   ‘IPC’)   and   sentencing   him   to   undergo   life imprisonment   (under   Section   302,   IPC)   and   5   years’   rigorous imprisonment     (under   Section   307,   IPC)   along   with   a   fine   of   Rs. 20,000/­ in default whereof he was directed to undergo 6 months’ additional rigorous imprisonment, was dismissed. The appellant was, however, acquitted for offence punishable under Section 25 of the Arms Act for want of the requisite by the courts below. 

The conviction and sentence of the appellant was accordingly reduced and modified as aforesaid by the SC.

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