Bom HC | Sole convict in a case connected to 1992 Babri Masjid riots in Mumbai set free due to defective charge  

Bombay High Court: Sadhana S. Jadhav, J. allowed a criminal appeal filed against the judgment of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for the offence punishable under Sections 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint) of the Penal Code.  

The incident at heart of the matter occurred on 7-12-1992, a day after the demolition of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, on 6-12-1992, in the course of karseva. As an outcome of the said demolition, communal riots erupted across India in the midnight of 6/7-12-1992. The incidence of pelting stones and burning of vehicles, public and private, were reported to the police stations across Mumbai. The police were busy with maintaining law and order situation. During the course of the same events, an unlawful assembly of Muslim men attacked the house of one Balkrishana, the first informant. 14 people were arrested in relation to the said incident including the appellant. At the conclusion of the trial, all the accused persons except the appellant were acquitted of all the charges. However, the appellant was convicted under Sections 326 and 452 IPC. 

The High Court noted some pertinent facts of the case which caused prejudice to the appellant. The main point, inter alia, noted by the Court was that a composite charge was framed against all the 14 accused under several sections of IPC and yet Accused 1-13 were acquitted of all the charges; and the appellant was the only person who was convicted under Sections 326 and 452, although no specific charge was framed against him under those sections. 

The Court was of the opinion: “Little can be said as to how the appellant alone can be convicted for Sections 326 and 452 IPC when there was no specific charge framed against the accused.” Referring to Darbara Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 476, the Court was of the view that the defect in framing of proper charged in the present case was a material defect that caused serious prejudice to the case of the appellant. 

Opining that the trial court had lost sight of the charge framed, the High Court held: “In the present case Accused 1 to 13 have been granted clear acquittal and not with the aid of benefit of doubt. The appellant alone could not have been held liable for the act of causing assault upon PW 2 and PW 3. 

In such view of the matter, the Court reversed the judgment of the trial court impugned herein. While concluding, the Court also recorded appreciation for Lokesh Zade, Advocate appointed by the Court for the appellant, for putting his best efforts to espouse the cause of the appellant. [Abdul Gani Kamruddin Mulla v. State of Maharashtra, Crl. Appeal No. 613 of 1997, decided on 10-06-2019]   

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