Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Explaining the difference between Sections 34 and 149 of the IPC, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, Surya Kant* and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has held that

“Although both Section 34 and 149 of the IPC are modes for apportioning vicarious liability on the individual members of a group, there exist a few important differences between these two provisions. Whereas Section 34 requires active participation and a prior meeting of minds, Section 149 IPC assigns liability merely by membership of the unlawful assembly. In reality, such ‘common intention’ is usually indirectly inferred from conduct of the individuals and only seldom it is done through direct evidence.”

The Court was hearing a case where all the accused had individually inflicted blows on the victim’s body using axes. The appellants made death threats to the complainant on 24.01.1998 if he were to attempt to irrigate his fields and then they used sharp edged weapons the very next day and further declared that they would not rest till they killed the complainant.

Applying the aforementioned principles to the case, the Court noticed that both the common object and the common intention were traced back to the same evidence, i.e., evaluating the conduct of the accused as narrated by the injured and the eye-witness. Further, a perusal of Section 313 CrPC statement showed that the appellants were expressly confronted with their specific role in the offence: that each of them had individually attacked the complainant with a deadly object in furtherance of the common intention of killing him.

The Court, hence, held that the appellants did not suffer any adverse effect when the High Court held the three of them individually guilty for the offence of attempted murder, without the aid of Section 149 IPC.

Noticing that an offence under Section 307 IPC was clearly made out against each of the appellants, the Court held that the medical experts have in their depositions clearly explicated that the weapons used and the injuries inflicted were more than sufficient to cause death in ordinary course of nature. Also, the facts of the case manifest the appellant’s intention to inflict bodily injury knowing fully that such injuries would ordinarily lead to the complainant’s death.

“The gravity of the injuries is beyond doubt. Not only were there seven injuries, some of which were deep cuts on vital parts of the body including on the head (above the ear); but the appellants broke all the bones in the complainant’s feet below the knee. Most appallingly, the injuries have led to amputation of an entire limb, leaving the complainant permanently disabled.”

That apart, even the requirements of Section 34 of IPC are well established as the attack was apparently pre-meditated. The incident was not in a spur-of-the-moment. The appellants had previously threatened the complainant with physical harm if he were to attempt to irrigate his fields.

Noticing that there was nothing on record to suggest that the complainant caused any provocation, the Court held that specific roles have been attributed to each of the appellants by the injured and the solitary eye-witness, establishing their individual active participation in the crime.

On the issue of mitigation of sentence, the Court said that it cannot be oblivious of the fact that the appellants and their deceased co-accused were all armed with deadly weapons.

“They surrounded the complainant and in a brutal attack caused him gruesome injuries and disabled him for life.”

It further noticed that the appellants have not undergone even half of their sentence period.

“Having enjoyed the more productive part of their lives outside jail cannot be, per se, taken as a mitigating factor. Any misplaced sympathy with the appellants is likely to cause injustice to the victim of the crime.”

The Court, hence, refused to show leniency and reduce the sentence.

[Rohtas v. State of Haryana, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1014, decided on 10.12.2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The criminal revision was filed before a Bench of Aniruddha Singh, J., against the judgment and order passed by the Sessions Judge, Mathura where revisionist were convicted under Sections 325 read with 34 of the Penal Code.

Facts of the case were that FIR was filed against the revisionist alleging that they committed assault on one Lakshman who received only two injuries which were serious and the rest were simple injuries. The trial court had found the case to have been proved beyond reasonable doubt, thus by the impugned judgment and order, the sentence was awarded and the appeal was dismissed. Hence, this revision was filed. Revisionist submitted that the impugned order passed by the appellate court was illegal, arbitrary and without application of mind. High Court found no illegality or infirmity in the conviction by the appellant court which had given concurrent finding as trial court on the conviction.

High Court while considering the point of sentence observed the age, their belonging to rural areas and social and economic status of the revisionists, held that end of justice would be served if the revisionists are punished for the period of imprisonment already undergone with a fine of Rs 500. Therefore, impugned order passed by session judge was set aside. [Ganeshi v. State, 2018 SCC OnLine All 3365, order dated 01-12-2018]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

High Court of South Africa, Kwazulu-Natal Division: A Single Judge Bench of Mbatha, J., mitigated sentence to accused alleged for the offence of murder.

Facts of the case were that the accused killed one person alleging that person to have used witchcraft in order to kill a child. One person, Induna called a meeting and went to find the culprit behind the child’s death. When he returned he disclosed the name of accused due to which the incident leading to the alleged death occurred. The question before Court was whether the belief in witchcraft should still be considered as a mitigating factor where Section 11 of the Bill of Rights recognises that everyone has a right to life.  Court viewed that some of the accused before the Court were educated, having attended high school. Those without a formal education had been exposed to religion.

High Court considered personal circumstances such as the fact that they belong to stable family backgrounds, the breadwinner of their family with some accused were primary caregivers to their children. Thus, accused found to be primary caregivers Court considered Section 28(2) read with Section 28(1)(b) of the Constitution. Accepting the probation officer’s reports and considering all the relevant facts of this case court was persuaded that there were substantial and compelling circumstances justifying Court’s departure from imposing the prescribed minimum sentence for life imprisonment. Therefore, the Court directed the accuses person’s punishment to be mitigated. [State v. Mkhombi Xaba, CC 48 of 2016, dated 03-07-2018]