Karnataka HC lets off a gun enthusiast US Engineer charged for carrying ‘bullets’

Karnataka HC lets off a gun enthusiast US Engineer charged for carrying ‘bullets’

Karnataka High Court has let off a US citizen, quashing a criminal case registered against him after he was caught carrying a bullet in his hand bag when he was leaving for the U.S. on April 23, this year.  Justice A.N.Venugopala Gowda allowing the Criminal Revision petition filed by Thomas Jeffrey Kid, said “ I am convinced that the petitioner was not conscious/aware of the presence of the bullet in his handbag till it was detected by the security personnel during screening of the handbag at Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru and therefore, it was not a conscious possession.” The court further held that the continuance of the criminal proceeding against the petitioner would be an abuse of process of law.

Thomas Jeffrey Kid, is an American national and an IT Engineer.  He had come to Bengaluru in connection with his work. At Kempegowda International Airport,   when he was travelling back, his travel baggage was screened through X-ray machine at the security checking counter and was detained by the Central Industrial Security Force Officers by alleging that a live bullet was detected in the handbag, which he was carrying as his cabin baggage. He was arrested and later released on bail after he executed a personal bond for Rs.20,000/- and cash security of Rs. 10,000/- as stipulated.

Thereafter, he filed this Criminal Revision petition claiming that he was neither conscious nor did have knowledge about the presence of a live cartridge in his hand bag and that no offence is made out. He claimed that he is gun enthusiast and a trainer in handling weapons, and he frequently visited the rifle association in his hometown to teach and practice handling arms and ammunition and while visiting the rifle range and the association, he routinely used to carry his bag containing sporting accessories. Hegenuinely believed he had emptied all the materials in the bag before packing it in the check in baggage during the onward journey to India.

Charge against Petitioner

According to authorities, the petitioner has committed offences punishable under S.25(1-B)(a) and (b) of the  Arms Act which says “ Whoever—(a) acquires, has in his possession or carries any firearm or ammunition in contravention of section 3; or (b) acquires, has in his possession or carries in any place specified by notification under section 4 any arms of such class or description as has been specified in that notification in contravention of that section;… shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 25 [one year] but which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine”

No conscious possession to attract Section 25 Arms Act

The court following the decisions of Apex Court in Gunwantlal Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1972 SC 1756 andSanjay Dutt Vs. State through CBI, Bombay (II), (1994) 5 SCC 410 which held that ‘conscious possession’ is necessary to attract Section 25 of Arms Act, said “ it can be safely said that the petitioner had left behind 8 nos. of 0.22 mm bullets in his handbag by mistake and/or inadvertent oversight, when he started his journey from USA. He was not aware of its presence in his handbag till it was detected by the security personnel during screening of his baggage at the Bhubaneswar Airport and therefore, it was not a conscious possession. Further, the petitioner holds a valid licence for possessing such bullets, issued by the State of Florida in USA and admittedly no fire arm or weapon has been recovered from him. “

Read the Judgment here.