31 Oct 2023 5:30 AM GMT
The Karnataka High Court has refused to quash criminal proceedings initiated against the former secretary of Taralabalu Kendra, for possessing a pistol furnishing the address of the Kendra and keeping the pistol in the premises of the Kendra, which is a religious institution. Justice K Natarajan pointed out that the petitioner's ignorance of the law was not a valid excuse, and the possession of...
The Karnataka High Court has refused to quash criminal proceedings initiated against the former secretary of Taralabalu Kendra, for possessing a pistol furnishing the address of the Kendra and keeping the pistol in the premises of the Kendra, which is a religious institution.
Justice K Natarajan pointed out that the petitioner's ignorance of the law was not a valid excuse, and the possession of a pistol was indeed prohibited under the Act.
"If at all the petitioner claims he is ignorance of Section 3 and 4 of the said Act, that he has obtained the license from the police and used it, but 'the ignorance of law is not an excuse' to the petitioner and the petitioner already committed the offence under Section 3 (c), 4 of which is punishable under Section 7 of the Act."
The plea was filed by Dr Siddaiah S who has been charged with offences punishable under Section 7 of Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse), Act, 1988.
The criminal proceedings were initiated in response to a complaint filed by the Secretary of the Taralabalu Kendra, alleging that the petitioner had violated the Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1988, specifically Section 3(c) and 4, by possessing a pistol within the religious institution.
Taralabalu Kendra is a religious institution established and maintained by Sri.Taralabalu Kendra Jagadguru Brihanmath, Sirigere, Chitradurga District and the petitioner was working as Honorary Secretary from 2004 to 2021.
The informant is the present Secretary of the Taralabalu Kendra. After he assumed charge, he came to know that the petitioner, while being the previous Secretary staying in the Kendra, had possessed a pistol since 2017 by furnishing the address of the Taralabalu Kendra and had kept the pistol in the premises of the Kendra.
Possessing and preserving a pistol on religious premises is prohibited and is an offence under Sections 3(c) and 4 of the Act which is punishable under Section 7 of the Act. The police investigated the same and filed the charge sheet.
The petitioner argued that he obtained a license for possession of the pistol. Accordingly, the police verified the spot where he had given the address of the Mutt. Thereafter, a report has been sent by the RT Nagar police. Accordingly, the license has been granted, as per the Arms Act.
The petitioner's argument included claims that they had obtained a license to possess the pistol from the police, as verified by the authorities, and argued that this license allowed them to possess the weapon at the Kendra. They further contended that the possession of the pistol did not violate the Arms Act or the State Act.
The petitioner's counsel also highlighted that other pontiffs in Karnataka possessed pistols under similar licenses and that the police had issued licenses for VIPs and pontiffs, indicating that the petitioner's possession of a pistol was lawful.
The government pleader and senior counsel for the complainant argued that the petitioner had violated Sections 3(c) and 4 of the Act by possessing a pistol within the religious institution without permission. They asserted that there was no legal basis for the petitioner to possess the weapon within the institution.
The bench noted that Section 14 (1)(b)(i)(1) of the Arms Act clearly prohibits issuing licenses if any other law prohibits acquiring or having possession and carrying of ammunition.
Further, Section 3 (c) of the (Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act prohibits storing ammunition in Religious Institutions. As per Section 4, there is a restriction for carrying arms into the Religious Institutions, which categorically defines that no Religious Institution or Manager shall allow the entry of any arms or ammunition or of any person carrying any arms into the Religious Institutions and the said restriction is not available to the Kirpan wearing by the Sikh and carry ammunition for their religious ceremony as per their customs.
“When the petitioner being himself was the Manager, he shall not allow any person carrying any arms or ammunition into the Religious Institution. There is a bar for carrying the weapons to the institution, such being the case, he is also not exempted from carrying any weapons to the Religious Institutions and to keep weapons in the Religious Institutions. Therefore, the restriction for carrying the weapons or arms is not only to the other persons, but also to the Manager and other persons in the Institution, except by obtaining any permission regarding any threat to life of the said person.”
It was also observed that the petitioner had admittedly not obtained any permission from the President of the Religious Institutions and there was no threat to his life for getting an armed force like a gunman for the purpose of protection, but he has taken the gun as self-protection in 2017, without the knowledge and permission of 16 the head of the institution.
It also took into consideration that in the complaint a reference is made that in spite of the request made by the mutt to surrender the weapon, the petitioner has not surrendered the same and kept it in his possession for almost one year.
Thereafter, it was surrendered, even while surrendering the weapon, the petitioner stated he wanted to sell the arms until he found the purchaser, and he wanted to deposit the weapon at the police station.
The Court dismissed the petitioner's request for quashing the proceedings, holding that the petitioner had violated the Act, and there were sufficient grounds to proceed with the trial. The petitioner could present their defence during the trial.
Appearance: Senior Advocate Sandesh J Chota for Advocate Rajashekar S for Petitioner.
HCGP B. Lakshman for R1.
Senior Advocate C V Nagesh for Advocates Sandeep Patil, Swamini Ganesh Mohanambal for R2.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Kar) 412
Case Title: Dr Siddaiah S AND State of Karnataka
Case No: CRIMINAL PETITION NO.7580 OF 2023
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