Celebratory firing of guns licensed for self protection needs to stop: SC

Supreme Court: In a case where 2 persons died after being shot during a celebratory firing in a wedding ceremony, a furious 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and BR Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ said,

“Incidents of celebratory firing are regretfully rising, for they are seen as a status symbol. 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.”

In the incident dating back to 2007, celebratory gunshots were fired by the accused due to which, out of the 5 injured persons, 2 succumbed to their injuries. Pleading not guilty, the accused argued that he had no intention to cause anyone’s death. He stated that the firing was accidental and was caused by a ball with which some children were playing. The ball struck against the gun in his hand and led to the firing of shots.

Refusing the accept the submission, the Court noticed that the version of eye­witnesses completely belies such a defence story.

“Otherwise also, it does not appeal to common sense that a ball would strike the gun in appellant’s hand resulting in an undersigned firing. Unless the safety lock of the gun was moved forward, the gun wouldn’t go off automatically even if its butt was hit by a play­ball.”

The Court took note of the evidence on record which showed that the appellant aimed the gun towards the roof and then fired. It noticed that though it was an unfortunate case of mis­firing, 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. 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. He was expected to know that pellets could cause multiple gun­shot injuries to the nearby persons even if a single shot was fired.

“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.”

The appellant was, thus, held 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. 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.

[Bhagwan Singh v. State of Uttarakhand, CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 407 OF 2020, decided on 18.03.2020]

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