Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case relating to murder versus culpable homicide legal controversy, the Division Bench of M.R. Shah* and B.V. Nagarathna, JJ., held that the Uttaranchal High Court had erred in observing that the case would fall under Fourth exception to Section 300 IPC and had failed to properly appreciate the multiple injuries sustained by the deceased. The Bench expressed,

“…exception Fourth to Section 300 IPC ought not to have been applied by the High Court at all considering the fact that the main second incident had taken place subsequently at 12:00 in the night, much after the first incident of altercation was over in the mehendi ceremony. The impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court is unsustainable both, on facts as well as on law.”

The instant appeal was filed by the State to assail the order of the Uttranchal High Court by which the High Court had held that culpable homicide in the instant case was not murder and consequently converted the sentence from life imprisonment to ten years rigorous imprisonment.

Noticeably, some altercations took place between the deceased Virendra Singh and the accused Sachendra Singh Rawat but due to intervention of the villagers, the matter did not proceed further. Thereafter, at about 12:00 in the night, the accused attacked the deceased by giving him blows by a “Phakadiyat”–a rough piece of wood.  The deceased sustained multiple injuries on the head leading to skull fracture which ultimately caused death of the deceased after a few days.

The trial Court held that the culpable homicide was murder and thereby convicted the accused for the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC and imposed the sentence of life imprisonment. However, in appeal the High Court opined that since it was not a cold blooded murder; rather a sudden fight which ensued in the heat of passion between the two; as a result of a sudden quarrel in the marriage ceremony and that the weapon used was “Phakadiyat” which was a rough piece of wood, therefore it could not be said that there was any intention on the part of the accused to kill the deceased. Accordingly, opining that the case would fall under the Fourth exception to Section 300 IPC making it a case of culpable homicide instead of murder, the High Court converted the sentence from life imprisonment to ten years rigorous imprisonment.

Noticeably, the incident took place in two places. The first incident of altercation between the accused and the deceased was at the place of mehendi ceremony, thereafter at about 12:00 in the night, which could be said to be the actual incident which happened when the accused attacked the deceased by “Phakadiyat” and gave several blows to the deceased. The Bench opined,

“The second incident cannot be said to be a result of sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel. The accused chased the deceased at about 12:00 in the mid night and even after the deceased reached his house, he was beaten by the accused in front of his house which is witnessed by his wife, PW1.”

Therefore, the Bench held that the High Court had erred in observing that the incident had taken place due to a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel in the mehendi ceremony. The main cause of death was injuries sustained by the deceased on his head since the accused used the “Phakadiyat” with such a force that it resulted in skull fracture at the frontal wound on the left side; stitched wounds with 34 stitches with left side of the skull. The Bench remarked,

“…having caused the grievous injuries with such a force, how can the accused get the benefit of fourth exception to Section 300 IPC. The case would certainly fall under Clauses Thirdly and/or Fourthly to Section 300 IPC.”

Applying the law as laid down in Virsa Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1958 SC 465, that the question is not whether the prisoner intended to inflict a serious injury or a trivial one but whether he intended to inflict the injury that is proved to be present, the Bench held that the High Court had committed a grave error in observing that culpable homicide did not amount to murder, by applying exception Fourth to Section 300 IPC.

In the light of the above, the Bench set aside the impugned order and restored the findings of the Trial Court. The accused was held guilty for the offence under Section 302 IPC and was sentenced to undergo life imprisonment.

[State of Uttarakhand v. Sachendra Singh Rawat, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 146, decided on 04-02-2022]


*Judgment by: Justice M.R. Shah


Appearance by:

For the State: Virendra Rawat, Advocate

For the Respondent: Neha Sharma, Advocate


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together


 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Subramonium Prasad, J., addressed a very pertinent question of whether brandishing a revolver during the act of robbery be covered under Section 397 of Penal Code, 1860.

Petition in the present matter was directed against the decision of the lower court for offences under Sections 392, 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Lower Court held that the offence under Section 397 IPC was not made out against the accused and the matter was sent to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate for framing of charge under Section 392 IPC.

Question for consideration

Whether when an act of robbery is committed by showing a revolver/pistol then does an offence under Section 397 IPC made out or not?

Section 397 IPC:

 397. Robbery, or dacoity, with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt.—If, at the time of committing robbery or dacoity, the offender uses any deadly weapon, or causes grievous hurt to any person, or attempts to cause death or grievous hurt to any person, the imprisonment with which such offender shall be punished shall not be less than seven years.”

 Court cited the decision of Supreme Court in Phool Kumar v. Delhi Admn., (1975) 1 SCC 797, wherein it was observed that:

“7. If the deadly weapon is actually used by the offender in the commission of the robbery such as in causing grievous hurt, death or the like then it is clearly used…”

High Court opined that in view of the above decision the term ‘use’ would include brandishing the weapon against another person in order to overpower him or to frighten his victim.

Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the Bombay High Court in Govind Dipaji More v. State,1955 SCC OnLine Bom 263, by observing that if the knife was used for the purpose of producing such an impression upon the mind of a person that he would be compelled to part with his property, that would amount to ‘using’ the weapon within the meaning of Section 397 IPC.

Elaborating further, the Court observed that the weapon was not recovered in the instant case was no ground for not framing charges under Section 397 IPC.

Non-recovery of weapon cannot be a reason for not framing charges under Section 397 IPC.

 In view of the above discussion, revision petition was allowed with a direction to District and Sessions Judge, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi, to assign the case to its own Court or other Court in accordance with law. [State v. Hassan Ahmed, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4913, decided on 8-11-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner:

Meenakshi Chauhan, APP for the State with SI Surendar Singh, PS South Campus.

For the Respondent:

Rakhi Dubey with Himanshu Gera, Advocates

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Pratibha M. Singh, J. dismissed a criminal appeal while upholding the conviction and sentence of the appellant (accused) inter alia for the offence punishable under Section 397 IPC.

The appellant was accused of robbery by the use of a deadly weapon- a knife. It was alleged that the appellant along with other co-accused entered the house of the victims, threatened them with a knife and robbed their house. On victim’s information, FIR was registered, the appellant was apprehended, arrested, charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the trial court inter alia under Section 397 IPC. The appellant approached the High Court challenging the decision of the trial court contending that since the deadly weapon (a knife in this case) was not recovered, the appellant could not have been convicted under the section.

The High Court referred to a long catena of decisions to reach a conclusion that recovery of the weapon was not essential to convict the appellant under Section 397. The Court relied on Ashfaq v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2004) 3 SCC 116 wherein the Supreme Court referred to Phool Kumar v. State (UT of Delhi), (1975) 1 SCC 797 wherein it was held, “… what is essential to satisfy the word ‘use’ for the purpose of Section 397 is the robbery being committed by an offender who was armed with deadly weapon which was within the vision of the victim so as to be capable of creating a terror in the mind of the victim… knife is equally a deadly weapon, for purposes of Section 397”. The High Court referring to its earlier decisions held, the fact that the knife was not recovered would not matter as long as eye-witnesses to the crime are able to convincingly and consistently recount the fact that they were threatened by the sight of the accused wielding the knife while parting with their belongings. Placing reliance on the precedents and discussions held therein, the Court held, recovery of the weapon is not essential for conviction for an offence under Section 397 IPC. The Court, while holding that ingredients required for conviction under Section 397 were satisfied by the testimonies of prosecution witnesses, upheld the conviction and sentence awarded by the trial court and dismissed the appeal. [Murlidhar v.  State,2018 SCC OnLine Del 9401, dated 01-06-2018]