18 March 2020
Supreme Court


Case number: Crl.A. No.-000407-000407 / 2020
Diary number: 33928 / 2017





[Arising out of Special Leave Petition(Crl.)No. 656 OF 2018]

Bhagwan Singh ..... Appellants(s)


State of Uttarakhand  .....Respondents(s)


Leave granted.

2. This Criminal Appeal is directed against the judgment dated 26 th

July,  2017 passed by  the  High Court  of  Uttarakhand whereby  the

appellant’s criminal appeal against the judgment and order dated

11th/12th July, 2013 rendered by Learned Sessions Judge, Bageshwar

convicting the appellant under Sections 302 and 307 of Indian Penal

Code (for short, ‘IPC’) and sentencing him to undergo life

imprisonment (under Section 302, IPC) and 5 years’ rigorous

imprisonment   (under Section 307, IPC) along with a fine of Rs.

Page | 1


20,000/­  in default  whereof  he was directed  to undergo 6 months’

additional rigorous imprisonment, was dismissed. The appellant was,

however,  acquitted for offence  punishable  under  Section  25  of the

Arms Act for want of the requisite sanction.  

3. It may be mentioned at the outset that notice of the special leave

petition was issued on the limited question to determine the nature of

offence committed  by the appellant i.e.  whether it falls  under the

ambit of Section 302 or 304 of IPC. To determine this question the

facts may be briefly noted.

Facts: 4. On 21st April, 2007, the marriage ceremony of the Appellant’s

son was taking place at  village  Dafaut,  Uttarakhand,  when around

5:30 pm as soon as the marriage procession reached the Appellant’s

courtyard ­ he suddenly fired celebratory gunshots. The pellets struck

5 persons standing in the courtyard namely, Smt. Anita W/o

Chanchal Singh, Khushal Singh @ Sonu, Ummed Singh (P.W.6), Smt.

Vimla W/o Devendra Singh (P.W.5) and Smt. Vimla W/o Bhupal Singh

(P.W.7). The injured were taken to the hospital where two of them –

Anita and Khushal Singh @ Sonu succumbed to their injuries. Later at

about 8:40 pm, Dharam Singh (P.W.3) filed an FIR at PS Kothwali,

Bageshwar, narrating in full detail the incident of which he himself

was a witness. 5. After the conclusion of investigation, initially a charge sheet

Page | 2


under Section 304, IPC was filed but later on the appellant was

charged under Sections 302 and 307, IPC along with Section 25 of the

Arms Act. 6. The  Ld.  Sessions Judge  held the appellant guilty of offences

under Sections 302 and 307, IPC based on testimonies of eye

witnesses  and injured  witnesses. It  was  noted that  Appellant fired

shots from his son’s licensed gun causing fatal injuries to Smt. Anita

and Khushal Singh and injuring three others. He was consequently

sentenced in the manner as briefly noticed in the opening paragraph

of the order.  7. The appellant went in appeal before the High Court. His primary

contention was that he had no intention to cause anyone’s death. He

stated that the firing was accidental and was caused by a ball with

which some children were playing. The ball struck against the gun in

his hand and led to the firing of shots. The occurrence was an

admitted fact  and  the  only  plea  taken was that it  being a  case  of

accidental firing, Section 300 punishable under Section 302, IPC was

not attracted.

8. The High Court rejected the appellant’s plea and held as follows: “There is no merit in the submission put forth by learned

Advocates appearing  for the appellant.  PW2 Chanchal  Singh

has categorically deposed that the appellant has aimed at his

wife Smt. Anita and fired.  The bullet hit on her chest.  She was

taken to the hospital and declared dead.   In his cross­

examination,  he  has  denied the  suggestion that the  ball  has

struck against the gun which led to accidental fire.   PW3

Page | 3


Dharam Singh has also admitted that the injuries were caused

by the accused with the firearm.  The injured were taken to the

hospital.   He has also denied that it was a case of accidental

fire.  PW4 Tejpal Singh is another eyewitness. According to him

the appellant fired.   The pellets had hit Anita and his son

Khushal @ Sonu. He has also denied the suggestion that it was

an accidental fire.  PW5 Vimla Devi  W/o Devendra Singh has

also corroborated the statements of eyewitnesses PW2

Chandchal (sic.) Singh and PW4 Tejpal Singh.  According to her

also, the appellant has fired and she suffered the pellet injuries

and was taken to the hospital. PW6 Ummed Singh is another

eyewitness.   According to him  also, the appellant was seen

holding a gun. He also received the injuries. He was taken to the

hospital for treatment. He has also denied that it was a case of

accidental fire.   PW7 Vimla Devi W/o Bhupal Singh is also the

eyewitness. According to her, the appellant  fired his gun and

she along with others had received the pellet injuries.  She was

also taken to the hospital.   He has admitted in the cross­

examination that the appellant fired aiming Anita Devi and

Khushal Singh.”  

The High Court has further held that: “Appellant was standing on the roof.   He aimed at Anita Devi.

The bullet struck Anita Devi on her chest. Khushal Singh @ Sonu

also received firearm injuries.   Other persons also suffered the

pellet injuries by firearm. Appellant was seen shooting by PW2

Chanchal Singh, PW4 Tejpal Singh, PW5 Smt. Vimla Devi W/o

Devendra Singh, PW6 Ummed Singh and PW7 Vimla Devi W/o

Bhupal Singh. It cannot be termed as the case of negligence.  The

accused had knowledge throughout that if the bullet is fired

aiming at a particular person, it would result in his/her death.”

Page | 4


9. As stated earlier, this Court issued notice restricted to the nature

of the offence. The appellant’s culpability of causing the death of Smt.

Anita and Khushal Singh by way of gunshot injury as concurrently

established was thus neither intended to be interfered with nor the

same has been seriously re­agitated before us. Contentions:

10. Learned senior counsel for the appellant very passionately

contended that this is a case of celebratory firing which unfortunately

caused unintentional death of two persons and injuries to three

others. It is not ‘culpable homicide’ because the appellant had, while

firing towards roof,  no  knowledge that the  act  was likely to  cause

death. He contended that such an act amounts to negligence of the

nature as defined under Section 304­A, IPC. Learned senior counsel

alternatively submitted that the appellant’s act at best would

constitute culpable  homicide  not amounting to  murder  punishable

under Section 304 Part­2, IPC, for the appellant can be said to have

the knowledge that his act was likely to cause death but he had no

intention to cause death or such bodily injury likely to cause death.

Reliance was placed on the decision of this Court in Kunwar Pal vs.

State of Uttarakhand1.  

11. Conversely, learned State Counsel reiterated that the appellant

was rightly convicted under Section 302, IPC as the evidence on

1  (2014) 12 SCC 434

Page | 5


record does suggest that while standing on the roof he aimed at Smt.

Anita and fired the gunshot and the bullet struck her chest. Similarly,

Khushal  Singh  @ Sonu received firearms injuries.  Both  Anita  and

Khushal Singh admittedly died of those injuries.  Analysis:

12. We have heard learned counsel for the parties and perused the

record.  From the contents of FIR read with the statements of injured

and eye­witnesses, it emerges out that there was a marriage function

of son of the appellant and no sooner did the rituals of marriage were

performed at about 5.30 p.m., the appellant fired from a licensed gun

pointing  towards  the  roof  and caused  injuries to  5  persons.  Smt.

Anita W/o Chanchal Singh and Khushal Singh @ Sonu were

grievously injured who eventually succumbed to their respective

injuries. Smt. Anita as well as Khushal Singh were present there in

order to participate in the marriage celebrations which suggests that

neither they nor their families had any animosity with the appellant.

Similarly, Dharm Singh (P.W.3) – complainant, too had no axe to grind

against the appellant.   The eye­witness account further reveals that

the shots were fired towards the roof and not aiming at any of the

victims.  It may thus be difficult to accept that the appellant had any

intention to kill Smt. Anita or Khushal Singh.  

13. Equally unfounded is the defence plea taken by the appellant

that he was only holding the licenced gun and a ball thrown by the

Page | 6


children who were playing with it, struck the gun causing accidental

firing.   The version of eye­witnesses completely belies such a defence

story. Otherwise also, it does not appeal to common sense that a ball

would strike the gun in appellant’s hand resulting in an undesigned

firing. Unless the safety lock of the gun was moved forward, the gun

wouldn’t go off automatically even if its butt  was hit by a play­ball.

Appellant’s attempt to   shelter behind Section 304­A, IPC is thus an

exercise in futility and is liable to be rejected.  

14. In this backdrop, the short question which falls for consideration

is  whether the  appellant’s  act  of causing death  of  Smt.  Anita  and

Khushal Singh tantamounts to offence of ‘murder’ as held by the trial

court and the  High  Court or any lesser offence  as  urged  by  Shri

Siddharth Luthra, learned senior counsel for the appellant. Sections

299 as well as 300, IPC provide for situations in which death is caused

by an act with the intention of causing death or such bodily injury

which the offender knows is likely to cause death. Both Sections 299

and 300 deal with instances in which death is caused by an act with

the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knows to be

likely to cause death of the person to whom injury is inflicted.  These

provisions also deal with cases where there is no intention of either

causing death or a bodily injury which is ordinarily sufficient to cause

death. The absence of intention to cause death or bodily injury which

Page | 7


is in the ordinary course of nature likely to cause death is, therefore,

not conclusive.  What is required to be seen is whether the act is one

where the offender must be deemed to have had the knowledge that he

was likely, by such act, to cause death.

15. The trial court as well as the High Court have proceeded on the

premise  that the appellant’s  act  by  firing  from the gun which was

pointed towards the roof, was as bad as firing into a crowd of persons

so he ought to  have known that  his  act  of  gun­shot  firing  was  so

imminently dangerous that it would, in all probability, cause death or

such bodily injury as was likely to cause death.

16. The facts and circumstances of the instant case, however, do not

permit to draw such a conclusion. We have already rejected the

prosecution version to the extent  that the appellant  aimed at  Smt.

Anita and then fired the shot(s).   The evidence on record contrarily

shows that the appellant aimed the gun towards the roof and then

fired.   It  was  an  unfortunate  case  of  mis­firing.  The  appellant  of

course cannot absolve  himself of the conclusion that  he  carried  a

loaded gun at a crowded place where his own guests had gathered to

attend the marriage ceremony.  He did not take any reasonable safety

measure like to fire the shot in the air or towards the sky, rather he

invited full risk and aimed the gun towards the roof and fired the shot.

He was expected to know that pellets could cause multiple gun­shot

Page | 8


injuries to the nearby persons even  if  a  single  shot  was  fired.  The

appellant is, thus, guilty of an act, the likely consequences of which

including causing fatal injuries to the persons being in a close circuit,

are attributable to him. The offence committed by the appellant, thus,

would amount to  ‘culpable homicide’ within the meaning of Section

299, though punishable under Section 304 Part 2 of the IPC.

17. Incidents of celebratory firing are regretfully rising, for they are

seen as a status symbol. A gun licensed for self­protection or safety

and security of crops and cattle cannot be fired in celebratory events,

it being a potential cause of fatal accidents.   Such like misuse of fire

arms convert a  happy event to a pall of gloom.  Appellant cannot

escape the consequences of carrying the gun with live cartridges with

the knowledge that firing at a marriage ceremony with people present

there was  imminently dangerous and was likely to cause death.  

18. A somewhat, similar situation arose  in  Kunwar  Pal (Supra)

wherein this Court held as under:  

“12. We find that the intention of the appellant to kill the deceased, if any, has not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt and in any case the appellant is entitled to the benefit of doubt which is prominent in this case. It is not possible therefore to sustain the sentence under Section 304 Part I IPC, which requires that the act by  which  death is caused,  must  be  done  with the intention  of causing death or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death. Though it is not possible to attribute intention it is equally not possible to hold that the act was done without the knowledge that it is likely to cause death. Everybody,

Page | 9


who carries a gun with live cartridges and even others know that firing a gun and that too in the presence of several people is an act, is  likely to cause death, as  indeed it  did. Guns must be carried with a sense of responsibility and caution and are not meant to be used in such places like marriage ceremonies.”

19.   Resultantly, we hold that the appellant had the requisite

knowledge essential for constituting the offence of ‘culpable homicide’

under Section 299 and punishable under Section 304 Part­2 of IPC.

He is thus held guilty under Section 304 Part­2 and not under Section

302 of IPC. On the same analogy, the appellant is liable to be

punished for ‘attempt to commit culpable homicide’ not amounting to

murder  under  Section  308, in  place  of  Section 307 of IPC  for the

injuries caused to the other three victims. To this extent, the

appellant’s contentions merit acceptance.

Conclusion: 20. For the above­stated reasons, the appeal is allowed in part. The

conviction of the appellant  under Section 302, IPC is  modified to

Section 304 Part­2, IPC and that under Section 307, IPC is altered to

Section 308, IPC. As a necessary corollary, the sentence of life

imprisonment  awarded to the  appellant for committing the  offence

under Section 302 IPC, is reduced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment

and  the  sentence awarded to him under Section 307, IPC is

substituted with Section 308 IPC, without any alteration in the fine

imposed by the trial court.

Page | 10


…………………………….... (S.A. BOBDE)


……..……………………..J. (B.R. GAVAI)

…………………………… J. (SURYA KANT)


DATED : 18.03.2020

Page | 11