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SC sets aside modification of conviction from Sec 302 IPC to Sec 326 IPC by Rajasthan HC

The SC on May 6, 2020 {State of Rajasthan v. Mehram & Ors.} held that it is open to the accused to challenge the finding   and   order   of   conviction   under   Section   326/148,   IPC recorded against him in the appeal filed by the State, assailing the impugned judgment of the High Court. It was held that being the settled legal position, including Section 377(3) of the Cr.P.C., which predicates that in the appeal filed against   the   sentence   on   the   ground   of   its   inadequacy, the accused   may   plead   for   his   acquittal   or   for   reduction   of   the sentence.

It was further held by the SC Bench, comprising of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar & Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, that the facts of the present case would indicate that the accused, in particular accused No. 5, at the relevant time, was deprived of the power of self-­control by grave and sudden provocation due to repeated unauthorised entry on the fields belonging to accused party. The Court held that the solitary fatal blow on the vital part of the head by accused No. 5 caused the death of Bhura Ram (deceased). It was held that the provocation was not invited by the accused   party,   but   was   obviously   at   the   instance   of   the complainant party, who entered the fields unauthorizedly despite the objection taken by the complainant party in that regard on the same day earlier. It was held, however, as the death of Bhura Ram (deceased) was caused by the act of accused No. 5 giving one fatal blow on the head, which was with the intention of causing his death or causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, the case would be covered by Section 304 Part I, IPC. The SC observed that it is certainly not a case to simply proceed under Section 326 of the IPC, as held by the High Court.

The Court held that the two theories (of being aggressors as opposed to exercise of right of private defence) are antithesis to each other. The accused was found to be aggressor by the SC.

In the present case, the  State took exception  to the   judgment    passed by   the High   Court of Judicature for Rajasthan at Jodhpur whereby the conviction of the respondent No. 1/original accused No. 5 (Mehram S/o Mr. Chhagna Ram) under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code has been converted into one under Section 326,   IPC   and   the   substantive   sentence   awarded   thereof   is reduced only to the period already undergone (about five months) by the accused No. 5.

The SC held that even for the sake of argument  if   the   High   Court   had   justly   applied Section 326, IPC, the Court fails to appreciate as to how the High Court could   have   imposed   sentence   only   for   a   period   (about   five months) undergone considering the nature and gravity of the offence and the background in which it is committed by the accused party, in particular, accused No. 5.

The SC held that taking overall view of the matter, it is of the considered opinion   that   in   this   case,   the   accused   No.   5   (Mehram   S/o Chhagna Ram) deserves to be awarded sentence of ten (10) years of simple imprisonment and he must pay compensation to the tune of Rs.50,000/­ (Rupees fifty thousand only) to the next kin of the deceased, if it is yet to be paid in terms of order of the High Court.

Accordingly, the SC partly allowed the appeal.   The impugned judgment   of   the   High   Court   and   that   of  the   trial   Court   were modified by the SC convicting the accused No. 5 (Mehram S/o Chhagna Ram) for offence punishable under Section 304 Part I and Section 148, IPC. 

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