Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJI and AS Bopanna* and Hima Kohli, JJ has elaborated on the question as to whether to be charged under Section 397 IPC, it is necessary to prove that the offender has put the weapon to “use”.

The law laid down by the Bench can be summarized as follows:

  • the use of the weapon to constitute the offence under Section 397 IPC does not require that the ‘offender’ should actually fire from the firearm or actually stab if it is a knife or a dagger but the mere exhibition of the same, brandishing or holding it openly to threaten and create fear or apprehension in the mind of the victim is sufficient.
  • if the charge of committing the offence is alleged against all the accused and only one among the ‘offenders’ had used the firearm or deadly weapon, only such of the ‘offender’ who has used the firearm or deadly weapon alone would be liable to be charged under Section 397 IPC.
  • in the teeth of the offence under Section 397 IPC being applicable to the offender alone, the vicariability of the same will also have to be noted if the charge against the accused under Sections 34, 149 IPC and   such other provisions of law, which may become relevant, is also invoked along with Section 397 IPC. In such event, it will have to be looked at differently in the totality of the facts, evidence and circumstances involved in that case and the provisions invoked in that particular case to frame a charge against the accused. In the instant case, the charge under Section 34 IPC was not framed against the appellant nor was such an allegation raised and proved against the appellant.
  • benefit of the interpretation raised on the scope of Section 397 IPC to hold the aggressor alone as being guilty, will be available to the appellant if there is no specific allegation against him.

Important Rulings

Shri Phool Kumar v. Delhi Administration(1975) 1 SCC 797

“The term ‘offender’ in that section, as rightly held by several High Courts, is confined to the offender who uses any deadly weapon. The use of a deadly weapon by one offender at the time of   committing robbery cannot attract Section 397 for the imposition of the minimum punishment on another offender who had not used any deadly weapon.”

Dilawar Singh v. State of Delhi(2007) 12 SCC 641

““Offender” refers to only culprit who actually used deadly weapon. When only one has used the deadly weapon, others cannot be awarded the minimum punishment. It only envisages the individual liability and not any constructive liability. Section 397 IPC is attracted only against the particular accused who uses the deadly weapon or does any of the acts mentioned in the provision. But the other accused are not vicariously liable under that section for acts of the co-accused.”

Ganesan v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1023

“… the term ‘offender’ under Section 397 IPC is confined to the ‘offender’ who uses any deadly weapon and use of deadly weapon by one offender at the time of committing robbery cannot attract Section   397 IPC for the imposition of minimum punishment on another offender who has not used any deadly weapon. Even there is distinction and difference between Section 397 and Section 398 IPC. The word used in Section 397 IPC is ‘uses’ any deadly weapon and the word used in Section 398 IPC is ‘offender is armed with any deadly weapon’. Therefore, for the purpose of attracting Section 397 IPC the ‘offender’ who ‘uses’ any deadly weapon Section 397 IPC shall be attracted.”

[Ram Ratan v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1279, decided on 17.12.2021]


For Appellant: Advocate Shishir Kumar Saxena

For respondent: Advocate Sunny Choudhary

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