|Appeal No. 1333 OF 2018
|DATE OF JUDGEMENT
|Supreme Court of India
|State Of Madhya Pradesh
|Hon’ble Dr. Chandrachud, A.S. Bopanna
The case emphasises that the Commission of an offence under section 397 of the Indian Penal Code does not require the act use of a weapon, such as firing a firearm or stabbing with a knife or dagger. Instead, the mere exhibition, brandishing, or openly holding the weapon to threaten and instill fear in the victim’s mind is sufficient for the offense. Furthermore, if multiple individuals are accused of committing the offense and only one among them used a deadly weapon, only that specific offender would be liable under section 397 IPC.
It is highlighted that the applicability of section 397 IPC is specific to the individual offender. The statement cautions that when charges under other provisions like sections 34 and 149 of the IPC are invoked along with section 397 IPC, a careful examination of the totality of facts, evidence and circumstances is necessary to frame charges against the accused. In the specific case mentioned, it is clarified that the appellant was not charged under section 34 IPC, and no such allegation was raised or proven against the appellant.
FACTS OF THE CASE
- The case involves a complaint filed by Rajesh Meena, who alleges that on the night of June 26-27, 2012, while he was sleeping in a filed hut guarding crops, the appellant, along with Raju alias Rajendra and Chotu, woke him up. Raju had a gun and demanded money by pointing it at the complaint’s chest. The complaint stated he had no money, leading to the snatching of his motorcycle key and mobile phone. The accused then forced him to sit on the motorcycle, which was later abandoned due to a puncture.
- When the complaint’s uncle, Tulsiram, passed by, he narrated the incident, leading to the filing of a complaint, the police, after acting, recovered the motorcycle and mobile phone and arrested the accused. Charges were framed under sections 392/397 of the IPC and sections 11/13 of the M.P. Dakaiti Aur Vyapharan Prabhavit Kshetra Adhiniyam, 1981. The trial court found the accused guilty, leading to convictions to and sentences.
- During the appeal, the appellant and co-accused argued that the charges were falsely alleged and contested the section 397 IPC charge, claiming the firearm was not used. The High Court, upon detailed consideration, upheld the trial court’s judgement, leading to the current appeal by the appellant, challenging the convictions and sentences.
- Whether the charges under section 397 IPC are still valid if there is no material or evidence to support the accused appellant’s claim that the firearm was not used, regardless of when the claim was made?
- whether the charges under section 397 IPC were justified because it was argued that the weapon was not used?
CONTENTIONS OF APPELLANT
- Insufficiency of Evidence: They argue that the complaint filed by PW1 and the evidence presented are inadequate to prove the appellant’s guilt. They claim the appellate is falsely implicated due to political rivalry, suggesting that the appellant incident never occurred.
- Sustainability of section 397 IPC charge: The counsel contests the sustainability of the charge under section 397 of the IPC asserting that since the gun was not used during the alleged incident, the charge cannot stand. They argue that for a conviction under section 397, the offender must use a deadly weapon, which in this case is not substantiated.
- Lack of serious allegation or proof: Furthermore, they content that there is no special allegation or proof that the appellant used any weapon, let alone a deadly one, even if the incident of robbery is believed to have taken place. As a result, the advocate for the appellant’s acquittal or, considering the time served (approximately 4 years), a lenient view from the court regarding the sentence.
CONTENTIONS OF RESPONDENT
- Detailed Evidence Consideration: The counsel asserts that the trial court and the High Court meticulously considered the evidence presented during the trial. Both courts, having found the charge proven, rejected the contentions raised by the appellant and co-accused.
- Recovery of Stolen Items and Expert Examination: The counsel highlights the recovery of the stolen motorcycle and mobile phone, along with the seizure and examination of the gun used in the incident. They contend that the expert’s opinion stating that the gun was in working condition is significant. The counsel argues that the actual firing of the firearm is not necessary; the exposure of the weapon to create fear, confirmed by the expert’s assessment, is sufficient to establish the charge under Section 397 IPC.
- No Need for Interference: Given these considerations, the counsel contends that the judgments of both the trial court and the High Court should not be interfered with. They argue that the charge under Section 397 IPC has been sufficiently proven, and therefore, no interference with the established judgments is warranted.
- Consideration of Sentence: The Court stated that the sentence imposed on the appellant requires consideration. Since the charges under Section 397 and Section 11/13 of the MPDVPK Act, 1981, were not proven, the 7-year rigorous imprisonment imposed by the trial court and upheld by the High Court is set aside.
- Punishment for Offense under Sec 392 IPC: The Court noted that the offense under Section 392 IPC was proven, which provides for a punishment of rigorous imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine. Considering the recovery of stolen items and the nature of the robbery, the Court deemed around 3 years of imprisonment as sufficient punishment.
- Period of Imprisonment Served: The Court observed that as of November 10, 2021, the appellant had already served imprisonment for 3 years, 5 months, and 1 day, according to the statement filed before the Court. It considered this period as sufficient punishment in the interest of justice.
- Conviction under Section 392 IPC Sustained: The Court upheld the conviction of the appellant under Section 392 IPC by the trial court and confirmed by the High Court. However, it modified the sentence to align with the period of imprisonment already served by the appellant.
- Release and Fine Payment: The appellant is ordered to be set at liberty forthwith if the fine is paid, and he is not required to be detained further. The appeal is allowed in part, as indicated above.
- Difference in Language: Section 397 IPC uses the term ‘uses’ any deadly weapon, while Section 398 IPC uses the term ‘offender is armed with any deadly weapon.’
- Interpretation of Section 397 IPC: The Court clarified that for Section 397 IPC to apply, it requires the ‘offender’ to actively ‘use’ a deadly weapon. This distinction emphasizes that the person committing the offense must be directly involved in employing the deadly weapon.
- Observation Regarding the Offense: The Supreme Court, after considering the contents of the First Information Report (FIR) and the evidence presented by Prosecution Witness 1 (PW1), concluded that while all three accused were involved in the robbery offense, only one of them, Raju alias Rajendra, had ‘used’ the firearm. This observation is crucial in determining the applicability of Section 397 IPC to the case.
- Ram Ratan vs State Of M.P. on 17 December, 2021 (indiankanoon.org)
- RAM RATAN v. STATE OF M.P. | Supreme Court Of India | Judgment | Law | CaseMine
- SCC Online
This Article is written by Ritu Kuntal student of Bharati Vidyapeeth New Law College, Pune; Intern at Legal Vidhiya.
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