The fact that a lathi is also capable of being used as a weapon of assault, does not make it a weapon of assault simpliciter, the Supreme Court has observed.
In this case, the deceased died a day after the accused assaulted him with a lathi on the head. The Trial Court convicted the accused under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code for murder. Though the High Court opined that the assault was not premeditated but had taken place in a heat of passion due to a land dispute, it sustained conviction under Section 302 IPC.
While considering the appeal filed by the accused, the bench comprising Justices RF Nariman, Indira Banerjee and Navin Sinha observed that In a case of an assault on the head with a lathi, it is always a question fact in each case whether there was intention to cause death or only knowledge that death was likely to occur. It 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 a case like the present, of an assault on the head with a lathi, it is always a question fact in each case whether there was intention to cause death or only knowledge that death was likely to occur. The circumstances, manner of assault, nature and number of injuries will all have to be considered cumulatively to decipher the intention or knowledge as the case may be. "
The bench noted the observations made in earlier judgments which dealt with death due to lathi blow: Virsa Singh vs. The State of Punjab, 1958 SCR 1495 Joseph vs. State of Kerala, (1995) SCC (Crl.) 165, Chamru Budhwa vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1954 SC 652, Mohd. Shakeel vs. State of A.P., (2007) 3 SCC 119, Gurmukh Singh vs. State of Haryana, (2009) 15 SCC 635.
Allowing the appeal, the bench altered the conviction of the accused from Section 302 IPC to Section 304 Part II, IPC. As he has already undergone the maximum period of sentence prescribed, the bench directed his release.
Case name: JUGUT RAM vs. STATE OF CHHATTISGARHCase no.: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 616 OF 2020Coram: Justices RF Nariman, Indira Banerjee and Navin SinhaCounsel: Advocates Nanita Sharma, Sourav Roy