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Murder sentence lightened; Supreme Court says lathi an identity in villages, may have been used in a fit of anger

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court has observed that the lathi is an identity of the people living in the villages. It cannot be called a weapon of attack. 

A three-judge bench of Justices R.F. Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee made this observation while considering an appeal filed by Jagat Ram, who was convicted under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code for murder. 

In a land dispute the accused, Jagat Ram, had struck the head of a person with his lathi.  The victim died in hospital two days later from the injury. The trial court convicted the accused under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code for murder. The High Court sustained conviction under Section 302 IPC on the view that Jagat Ram had assaulted the deceased in a sudden heat of passion arising due to a land dispute.

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The court said in the present case the question that will always remain is whether the attack was done with the intention of killing? Did the person attacking know that this attack can kill someone? 

The Supreme Court also commented that something can be decided about one’s intention only by looking at the reality related to the case, the nature of the attack and its mode, number of blows and wounds etc.

The apex court observed:

“A lathi is a common item carried by a villager in this country, linked to his identity. The fact that it is also capable of being used as a weapon of assault does not make it a weapon of assault simpliciter.”

In light of these observations the court allowed the appeal and alter the conviction of the appellant from Section 302 IPC to Section 304 Part II, IPC. 

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The court has also ordered the release of the accused, considering the duration of his stay in jail as a punishment.

Read the judgment here;

28160-2017-33-1501-23944-Judgement-16-Sep-2020-1

-India Legal Bureau

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