No Unlawful Assembly As Two Out Of Five Accused Were Acquitted: SC Acquits Three Men Accused In 21 Year Old Murder Case
The Supreme Court acquitted three men accused in a murder case of the year 2003.
The court said that alteration or modification of charges after twenty-one years on an incident, especially when the accused had undergone incarceration for more than seven years, was not possible.
The Court held that due to the acquittal of two out of three accused by the High Court, the condition for an unlawful assembly could not be established.
The accused had entered the house of the complainant and assaulted his parents (deceased) who succumbed to their injuries and died. The accused were convicted with the aid of Section 149 of the IPC.
Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan observed, “As regards the offence punishable under Section 460 of the IPC, there was no specific role attributed to any of the accused…and all of them have been convicted only with the aid of Section 149 of the IPC. It is established that there was no unlawful assembly as two out of five accused have been acquitted. The High Court could have altered the charge by applying Section 34 instead of Section 149 of the IPC, but that was not done.”
AOR Asha Gopalan Nair represented the appellants, while AOR Karan Sharma appeared for the respondent.
The Court noted that all the five accused were convicted for the offence punishable under Section 148 of the IPC (rioting, armed with deadly weapon). The condition precedent for attracting Section 148 of the IPC is that there should be an unlawful assembly of five or more persons.
Since the Punjab and Haryana High Court had acquitted two out of the three accused, The Supreme Court held that there was no unlawful assembly within the meaning of Section 141 of the IPC.
The Court analysed the testimonies of the eyewitnesses and remarked that the witness had not stated which accused and in what manner assaulted the deceased. There was only one vague statement that when the deceased challenged them, the accused caused injuries to them.
The Court held, “It is very difficult to connect any accused with the injuries sustained by the deceased in the absence of any cogent evidence. Therefore, it is not possible to uphold the conviction for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the IPC.”
The Court pointed out that the accused had undergone sentences of more than seven years, which was more than what can be imposed for the offences in the facts of the case and stated, “Therefore, in any case, they will have to be let off.”
Accordingly, the Supreme Court set aside the impugned judgment and allowed the appeal.
Cause Title: Kishore & Ors. v. State of Punjab (2024 INSC 91)
Appellants: AOR Asha Gopalan Nair, Advocates Nivedita Nair, Vagmi Singh and Surabhi Singh
Respondent: AOR Karan Sharma and Ajay Pal, Advocates Avishkar Singhvi, Rishabh Sharma, and Princy Sharma