In a respite for a 61-year-old Israeli national, the Bombay High Court recently quashed the proceedings initiated against her for purportedly carrying a live cartridge in her luggage while flying to India.
The Bench comprising Justice R.M. Savant and Justice Sarang V. Kotwal set aside the criminal case against Ms. Rachelle Joel Oseran noting that she was carrying the cartridges inadvertently. It explained, "This is a case wherein the Petitioner cannot be said to have consciously possessed the cartridge in question and that the cartridge has remained in the bag which the Petitioner was carrying without her knowledge.
Admittedly no firearm or weapon has been recovered from the Petitioner. The petitioner had not concealed the bullet, the Petitioner on being questioned had immediately given her explanation. The charge sheet filed by the Sahar Police does not disclose any incriminatory material against the Petitioner."
Ms. Oseran had then been charged with offences under Sections 3 (Licence for acquisition and possession of firearms and ammunition) and 25 (punishment) of the Indian Arms Act, after she was found to have arrived at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport with a 5.56-mm rifle cartridge.
In her defence, she had claimed that she had taken the bag from a friend and a travel agent to carry sweets and other eatables to be distributed to children in an orphanage. The travel agent’s husband, who had just finished his compulsory military training in Israel, had forgotten the live cartridge inside the bag, she asserted. With the police refusing to believe her, she had now approached the High Court praying for quashing of proceedings against her.
Referring to several precedents, the Court noted that mere possession of firearms or ammunition would not constitute an offence under Sections 3 and 25 of the Arms Act and that knowledge of such possession was an essential ingredient to pin the blame.
It then opined that there was no other incriminating material recovered from her during the course of the investigation so as to find her guilty under the Act, and quashed the proceedings against her.