New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that mere presence of an accused at the crime scene is sufficient to convict a person provided he had an "active mind in furtherance of the common object."

The apex court bench comprising Justices V S Sirpurkar and A R Dave passed this ruling in a case where the groom was murdered on the very next day of his marriage.

The bench dismissed an appeal of four life convicts challenging their conviction on the ground that they were merely present at the site and their active involvement was not established.

"The law of vicarious liability under Section 149 IPC is crystal clear that even the presence in the unlawful assembly, but with an active mind, to achieve the common object makes such a person vicariously liable for the acts of the unlawful assembly," Justice Sirpurkar observed.

In this case, the groom Shankar Rai was killed after the convicts -- Amerika Rai, Mithilesh Rai, Sanjay Rai and Sipahi Rai along with another Chulhan Raj shot him dead.

The convicts and the deceased were all friends and relatives who had visited the bride's village the previous day to attend the marriage at Ishupur village in Vaishali district in Bihar on June 26, 1995.

At the bride's village there was an altercation between members of the two parties. On the next day, when Ram Babu, the brother-in-law of Shankar was assaulted by the convicts, Shankar intervened in the matter and after some time the convicts went inside their house and brought firearms.

In the melee that followed, Shankar was shot dead and another person seriously injured as he was presumed to be taking the side of his brother-in-law.

The Sessions Court had awarded life imprisonment to six of them, including Darbesh Rai. The Patna High Court dismissed their plea following which two of the convicts Amerika Rai and Mithlesh took the plea that they were merely present at the scene.

The apex court, rejecting the argument, said the evidence on record clearly established the involvement of the five convicts in the case.

The court said it was a cruel murder of a young bridegroom Shankar Rai who was married only a day before.

He was put to death virtually without any reason. All the accused persons appear to be either relations or neighbours of deceased Shankar Rai. The deceased had suffered as many as eight injuries, all attributable to the gun shot injuries.

The apex court however, acquitted Darbesh Rai another convict giving him the benefit of doubt.

 

(Agencies)