Section 149 IPC assigns liability merely by membership of the unlawful assembly: Supreme Court

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. This judgment was delivered by three judge bench comprising hon’ble Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Aniruddha Bose at Supreme Court in the matter of Rohtas & anr. v. State of Haryana [Crl. A. No. 38 of 2011].

The appellant in the present appeal has alleged that a complaint was lodged with the police by the victim­ Ranbir Singh on 26.01.1998 expressing that two days prior while on his approach to water his agricultural field, he was halted by Rohtas, Sanjay, Bijender (the current three appellants) and Om Prakash (since deceased) who on the whole threatened him with death if he somehow happened to return of his fields for irrigation. The complainant returned to his home and portrayed the episode to his relatives who while advising him against picking a squabble, asked him to do his everyday practice. On the next day, i.e., 25.01.1998, when the complainant was passing by the Hudawala field while on his way to another rural plot (known as Patewala field), the four denounced Om Parkash, Rohtas, Sanjay and Bijender caught him. They began incurring blows on the complainant’s body utilizing tomahawks, subsequently making him tumble down and genuinely harming his legs, hand and head. Another gathering of three denounced people, containing Hawa Singh, Virender @ Beero and Rajinder additionally participated in whipping the complainant. The aggressors further pronounced that they would not rest till they murdered the complainant. After hearing the complainant’s cries, his sibling Balwan (PW­3) who was inundating a close by Budewala field, raced to the spot and raised a caution. From there on, every one of the seven charged ran from the spot. Balwan along these lines conveyed his harmed sibling to Government Civil clinic at Sonipat for treatment. Inferable from the earnestness of numerous wounds, Ranbir was alluded to Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences at Rohtak (so, “PGIMS, Rohtak”).

These two criminal appeals, which have been heard through video conferencing, are directed against the judgment dated 15.03.2010 of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana whereby conviction of Rohtas and Sanjay (appellants in Criminal Appeal No. 38 of 20110 and Bijender (appellant in Criminal Appeal No. 775 of 2011) under Sections 307 and 148 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) has been upheld, though the sentence of seven years rigorous imprisonment awarded by the Additional Sessions Judge, Sonipat has been reduced to five years, with a fine of Rs. 1,00,000 (Rupees One Lakh) payable as compensation to the victim-complaint.

The hon’ble Supreme Court while discussing the matter opined that both in reality, such ‘common intention’ is usually indirectly inferred from conduct of the individuals and only seldom it is done through direct evidence. We, therefore, do not find that the appellants suffered 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. 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. We, therefore, do not find any justification to show leniency and reduce the sentence.  Given that earlier the appellants had been ordered to serve their two   sentences   of   five   years   under   Section   307   and   one   year under Section 148 of IPC concurrently, acquittal in the latter would effectively have no impact on their outstanding period of sentence. As a sequel to the above discussion, both the appeals are found to be without any merit so far as conviction of the appellants under Section 307 IPC is concerned, and are dismissed accordingly. However, their conviction under Section 148 is set aside. Their bail bonds are cancelled and the State of Haryana is directed to take the appellants into custody to serve the remainder of their five-year sentence as awarded by the High Court.



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