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From stones pelting not being dangerous to pepper spray being one: How some of the judiciary’s confounding decisions have left the public befuddled 

In a recent ruling, the  Jammu and Kashmir & Ladakh High Court said that stones used in pelting cannot be considered “dangerous weapon” akin to those mentioned in Section 326 of Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) which pertains to causing grievous hurt with dangerous weapons.

There have been several cases wherein the courts randomly decided whether an object used in attack or self-defence is deadly or not. The judiciary has in some cases gone overboard in its “every sinner has a future” syndrome.

In a recent ruling, the  Jammu and Kashmir & Ladakh High Court said that stones used in pelting cannot be considered “dangerous weapon” akin to those mentioned in Section 326 of Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) which pertains to causing grievous hurt with dangerous weapons.

The bench of Justice Sanjiv Kumar said in April this year that “The size of stones used for pelting cannot, by any stretch of reasoning, be termed as a ‘dangerous weapon’ or ‘an instrument’ used for shooting, stabbing or cutting etc., nor can it be termed as ‘any corrosive or ‘any explosive substance’ or a substance which it is deleterious to the human body to inhale, to swallow, or to receive into the blood etc.”

Justice Kumar made these remarks while hearing a criminal appeal against a 2009 judgment issued by Kathua Chief Judicial Magistrate. Appellant Jasbir Singh currently lodged in Kathua Jail, challenged his conviction and sentence under section 326 of the RPC. Singh was convicted after he pelted stones upon the complainant for having trespassed on the disputed land.

Although the court noted that Singh’s stone pelting resulted in the loss of eyesight of one eye of the complainant, the court observed that the stones used did not qualify as ‘dangerous weapons’ under Section 326 RPC. Consequently, the court set aside Singh’s conviction under RPC section 326 and convicted him under RPC section 325.

Pepper spray is ‘deadly weapon’, can’t be used for self-defence: Karnataka High Court

In April this year, the Karnataka High Court refused to dismiss a criminal case against the director of a private company and his wife, who was accused of using pepper spray on a man in self-defence. The court labelled Pepper spray a dangerous weapon, which has also mandated an investigation. A single judge bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna issued the ruling on the 22nd of April in response to a plea to quash criminal charges against the wife and director of C Krishnaiah Chetty and Company Private Limited.

It happened in a case wherein the director was ordered to stop making changes that would have limited access to the contested property’s walls and partitions. The director and his wife were accused of getting into a fight with the people who obtained the injunction and using pepper spray on them when they tried to block the property’s gate with a wall. The defence’s counsel said that the defendants used pepper spray in self-defence meanwhile, the other party contended that the use of pepper spray comes under the definition of deadline weapon in the Indian Penal Code.

In this case, the court observed that the director’s wife should not have used pepper spray in self-defence as there was no threat to life and ordered an investigation into the matter. “(She) could not have used pepper spray as private defence, as prima facie there was no imminent threat or danger caused to her life. Therefore, the case at hand would require investigation in the least”.

The question here arises how did the court decide that there was no threat or danger caused to her life when she used the pepper spray without any investigation?

“Used stone not axe”: Supreme Court reduces one of the convict’s sentences in a political murder case

In February this year, the Supreme Court ruled that there was not enough evidence to conclude that a man and the other three co-accused had the same intention to commit murder. Thus, the man was found not guilty of murder. Since he used a stone instead of an axe, unlike the other three culprits, the court found him guilty of a culpable homicide that did not qualify as murder, changing his conviction from Section 302 to Section 304 Part II of the IPC.

Wife kills husband with a wooden stick, Supreme Court reduces her jail term saying “stick is not a deadly weapon”

In August last year, the Supreme Court reduced the jail term of a woman convicted of beating her husband to death using a wooden stick. The court modified Nirmala’s conviction to that of non-intentional homicide saying that a stick lying in the house cannot be considered a deadly weapon, overlooking the fact that it was used by the convicted woman to thrash the deceased victim resulting in his death.

Additionally, Justices BR Gavai and JB Pardiwala of the Supreme Court bench observed that the woman might have been “provoked” into attacking her husband as the incident transpired amid a fight between them over the victim’s refusal to give Rs 500 to send their daughter to National Cadet Corps (NCC) camp.

Karnataka High Court says attacking a man’s testicles during a fight is not an “attempt to murder”

In June 2023, the Karnataka High Court modified the conviction of a person named Parmeshwarappa in a 2010 case saying that “squeezing a man’s testicles during a quarrel cannot be deemed an attempt to murder.” The Court said that since the convict did not bring any deadly weapon with intent to kill victim Omkarappa, although the convict attacked the victim’s testicles which may have resulted in death, and he had to undergo surgery to get a testicle removed, it is a grievous hurt.

The court went on to state that the injury can be brought under IPC section 325 for causing grievous injury.

“Though he had chosen the testicles, which is a vital part of the body and may cause death, and the injured was taken to the hospital, underwent surgery, and had a testicle removed, it is a grievous hurt. “In my view, this is the case which falls under the category of grievous hurt caused by the accused during the quarrel without using any deadly weapons. Therefore, I am of the view, that the sentence passed by the trial court finding guilty for the offence punishable under Section 307 of IPC is not correct and the offence committed by the accused falls under Section 325 of IPC,” the Karnataka High Court said.

What has emerged common in the above-discussed cases is that the honourable courts decided whether a certain object used to attack a person resulting either in death or serious injury is a “deadly weapon” or not. In some cases, the court modified the conviction citing the convict’s intent. It, however, raises a question of how the courts despite saying that attacking a man’s testicle may cause death do not consider the act as an “attempt to murder” but only grievous hurt, how does a woman beating her husband to death with a stick over refusing to give money is given a relaxation saying that she may have attacked her husband in a fit of anger but did not “intend” to kill him? Sticks, stones, and bricks are not deadly enough but pepper spray allegedly used in defence is a deadly weapon?

Interestingly, section 326 of the Indian Penal Code says that Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 335, voluntarily causes grievous hurt through any instrument for shooting, stabbing or cutting, or any instrument which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, or using fire or any heated substance, or using any poison or any corrosive substance, or using any explosive substance, or employing any substance which it is deleterious to the human body to inhale, to swallow, or to receive into the blood, or using any animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

While the courts in such cases as mentioned above said that sticks and stones are not categorized in IPC section 326, the very expression “any instrument which is used as a weapon” gives the law a broader scope. When the law has specifically stated punishment for voluntarily causing hurt with any instrument used as a weapon of offence, it remains unclear why the judges do not find sticks, stones used for pelting and other though seemingly ordinary but used as a weapon of offence “deadly” enough.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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