IN A RECENT JUDGEMENT SET OUT BY ASSIDUOUS EFFORTS OF HK LAW OFFICES IN CASE TITLED AS ‘VASUDEV V. STATE OF M.P., 2022 SCC OnLine SC 118, AIR Online 2022 SC 80‘, WHEREIN THE HON’BLE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA POINTED OUT THE GRAVE ERROR COMMITTED BY TRIAL COURT AND HIGH COURT IN CONVICTING THE APPELLANT FOR THE CHARGE U/S 307/34 IPC READ WITH SECTION 27 ARMS ACT AND ALLOWED THE APPEAL REAFFIRMING THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS OF SECTION 307 IPC AND OBSERVED THAT THE PROSECUTION IS REQUIRED TO PROVE ITS CASE BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT AND CONVICTION CANNOT BE BASED MERELY ON THE BASIS OF PRESUMPTION TO RULE OUT THE PRESENCE OF ACCUSED.
HERE IS THE JUDGEMENT ANALYSIS OF VASUDEV V. STATE OF M.P., 2022 SCC OnLine SC 118, AIR Online 2022 SC 80. [BY INTERN, HEMANT CHAUDHRY]
A Special Leave Petition was filed against the judgment dated 14.02.2020 passed in the Criminal Appeal No. 622 of 2009 by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, judicature at Jabalpur, confirming the judgment dated 07.03.2009 in S.T. No. 185of 2006 passed by the Session Judge (Fast Track Court), Chhatarpur.
According to the Prosecution’s case, on 15.06.2006, Sub Inspector R.S. Bagri alongwith Sub Divisional Officer Dr. Sanjay Agarwal reached village Mahoi Kala on having information at P.S. Sarwai that the absconding accused Rajesh Shukla was hiding with his associate members in the said village and was hidden beside the house of Jhallu Kachhi. The police personnel of nearby police stations were called at the said village and under the command of Dr. Sanjay Agarwal, police parties were prepared to apprehend the accused and challenged the accused persons to surrender and come out of the house. The accused Rajesh Shukla did not surrender and open the fire on police personnel from inside the house and thereafter, the police parties retaliated the firing. However, after sometime, the accused Rajesh Shukla expressed his wish to surrender and accordingly the accused Rajesh Shukla along with the accused/appellant Vasudev Shukla surrendered before the police and were taken into custody. After surrendering, guns and some live and empty cartridges were recovered from them. Thereafter, the FIR was registered and accused persons were arrested. After following the required legal procedure, the case was committed to the competent court and charges were framed under Sections 307/34 r/w Section 3/25(1B) (a) and Section 27/34 of the Arms Act against both the accused.
During the trial, Prosecution had examined 16 witnesses, while the accused had not examined any witness in defence. The trial court convicted the accused persons after referring the statements of Prosecution Witnesses, on the pretext that they were aware regarding the challenge of police but the accused persons fired gun shots and also they were holding the guns without any license and therefore, they were convicted u/s 307/34 of IPC r/w Sections 3/25(1B) (a) and 27 of Arms Act and directed to undergo rigorous imprisonment for four years with fine of Rs. 2000/- and rigorous imprisonment for two years with fine of Rs. 1000/- and rigorous imprisonment for three years with fine of Rs. 1000/- respectively with default sentences.
The judgment passed by the Trial Court was challenged before the High Court. The appellant Rajesh Shukla died in 19.02.2016, therefore, his appeal was dismissed as abated, while the appeal of Vasudev was dismissed confirming the judgment of the Trial Court.
In the said Special Leave Petition, the learned counsel for the appellant, Shri. H.K. Chaturvedi, had argued that there no apprehension of abscondment of appellant as it is clear from the statements of prosecution witnesses that the deceased co-accused was allegedly said to have been hiding himself in the house of Jhallu Kachhi and not the appellant. It was also contended that witnesses have not named and seen the appellant from firing on them, having intention and knowledge to commit the murder and it was also contended that the as per FSL report, the cartridges which were found from the appellant were mismatched from the gun recovered from him. It was further urged that as per the testimony of witnesses, it is clear that they had not seen firing any of the accused on police party and it was recorded in the statements that the object of the firing by the accused persons was towards hill and not towards the police party. Therefore, the prosecution has failed to prove the intention and knowledge to commit an act which may amount to commission of an offence of attempt to murder. In support of his contention, the learned counsel for appellant had placed reliance on the case of Parsuram Pandey and others vs. State of Bihar AIR 2004 SC 5068.
Per contra, Shri Mukul Singh, learned counsel representing the State, submitted that the Trial court and the High Court have rightly convicted and sentenced the appellant and the interference in this appeal is not warranted in exercise of power under Article 136 of the Constitution.
After hearing counsels for both the parties, the Hon’ble Supreme Court looked and analysed whether the ingredients to prove an offence under Section 307 IPC are satisfied. The Hon’ble Supreme Court reaffirmed that nn perusal of the provision section 307 IPC, it is apparent that “whoever does any act, with intention or knowledge, which may cause death and in furtherance to the said intention and knowledge, he was doing an act towards it.” However, the Hon’ble Court observed that it is required to be seen by the evidence brought on record by the prosecution whether the ingredients to prove, the case of prosecution beyond reasonable doubt, the charge under Section 307/34 IPC have been established.
Further, the Hon’ble Court looked into the statements of the star witnesses in this regard. It was found by the court none of the prosecution witnesses have seen the appellant firing on police party, with intention or knowledge to commit an offence, proving his guilt and therefore, police party has failed to prove the intention and knowledge to commit an act beyond reasonable doubt. Also as per the statements of prosecution witnesses, it was observed by the court that seizure had been prepared at the police station and not on the spot. It was also observed by the court that there was no independent witness in any of the proceedings who could have supported the Prosecution. The Hon’ble Court also observed that as per the FSL Report, it is clear that the cartridges were not matching with the gun and therefore the conviction u/s 27 of Arms Act is also not justified.
After considering all these aspects, the court, in its opinion observed that the ingredients of Section 307/34 IPC and Section 27 of Arms Act have not been proved by the prosecution beyond the reasonable doubt, proving the guilt of the accused/appellant. Therefore, the Trial Court and High Court committed error in convicting the appellant for the charges under Section 307/34 IPC r/w Section 27 of Arms Act. Therefore, the Hon’ble Supreme Court allowed the appeal in part and set aside the conviction and sentence, and acquit the appellant for the same, except for the charges u/s 25(1B) (a) of Arms Act. However, the appellant had already served the sentence for the charge u/s 25(1B) (a) of Arms Act, therefore, he be released forthwith from jail.