Supreme Court: “Non-explanation of injuries on accused would create doubt…”

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While hearing the Parshuram vs. State of MP case on November 03, 2023, the Supreme Court of India observed that the non-explanation of injuries on the accused created doubt that the prosecution may have buried the real incident. The bench hearing the matter said, “Non-explanation of injuries on the persons of the accused would create a doubt, as to, whether the prosecution has brought on record the real genesis of the incident or not.” A three-judge bench including Justice BV Nagarathna, Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra, and Justice BR Gavai heard the matter. 

The SC bench further pointed out that “From the material placed on record, it is not clear as to whether the common object of the unlawful assembly was to cause the death of the deceased or not.” It added, “It is quite possible that the accused persons did not have an intention to cause death of anybody from the complainant party.” In this context, the bench ordered, “We are therefore of the considered view that the appellants are entitled to benefit of doubt. The conviction under Section 302 IPC would not be sustainable. The prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the unlawful assembly had an intention to cause the death of the deceased. As such, we find that the case would fall under Part II of Section 304 of IPC.” 

The case herein revolved around a village shed (taparia) dispute that escalated into confrontations. The trial court found seven individuals guilty of forming an unlawful assembly, grievously assaulting others, and causing a death, leading to various prison sentences. The two individuals were acquitted and the Madhya Pradesh High Court upheld the trial court's decision, prompting appeals by Parshuram and Jalim Singh, who were dissatisfied with their convictions and sentences. The accused then approached the Supreme Court against the judgment of the HC which upheld the sentence of the appellants for life imprisonment under Section 302 read with Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).   

During the proceedings, the Supreme Court also held that “It could thus clearly be seen that the Constitution Bench has held that it is not necessary that every person constituting an unlawful assembly must play an active role for convicting him with the aid of Section 149 of IPC. What has to be established by the prosecution is that a person has to be a member of an unlawful assembly, i.e. he has to be one of the persons constituting the assembly and that he had entertained the common object along with the other members of the assembly, as defined under Section 141 of IPC. As provided under Section 142 of IPC, whoever, being aware of facts which render any assembly an unlawful assembly, intentionally joins that assembly, or continues in it, is said to be a member of an unlawful assembly.”