Why the Supreme Court reduced the sentence of a retired Army officer who shot a child dead for plucking fruit from trees
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Why the Supreme Court reduced the sentence of a retired Army officer who shot a child dead for plucking fruit from trees

Bar & Bench

Smrithi Krishna Prasad

A retired Army officer convicted for the murder of a minor child was granted partial relief by the Supreme Court earlier this month. The Court held that the act of the appellant of shooting and killing the deceased child from a distance of 100 meters would fall under the offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

The order was passed by a Supreme Court Bench of Justices Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Aniruddha Bose in an appeal against a Madras High Court judgment.

The facts of the case were that the appellant was a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Indian Army, residing at the staff quarters in the defence compound. He had shot the deceased, who along with three other boys, had entered the Armymen’s enclave to pluck fruits from the trees located in the area. The only question to be determined by the Court was the intention of the appellant to murder the deceased child.

After carefully perusing the evidence on record and giving due regard to the temperament of the appellant during his frequent clashes with the children, the Court held that the appellant had committed the offence whilst “deprived of the power of self-control upon sudden provocation”. This finding, along with the absence of a calculated intention or premeditation to commit murder, caused the offence to fall under the first exception to Section 300 of the IPC, according to the Court. The judgment reads,

“…we are of the opinion that the appellant committed the offence in question whilst he was deprived of the power of self-control upon sudden provocation by the children. In our considered opinion, there was no calculated intention or premeditation on his part to commit the murder of the deceased. Hence, the offence committed by the appellant may fall under the first exception to Section 300 of the IPC. Consequently, it can be safely said that the appellant has committed the offence under Section 304, Part II of the IPC.”

Ultimately, the Court allowed the appeal in part, awarding a modification of the sentence handed by both the trial court and the High Court. The Court altered the sentence from life imprisonment to ten years in jail and increased the amount of fine from Rs. 50,000/- to Rs. 2 lakhs, while directing the period of imprisonment already undergone to be set off. It was also held that the entire amount would be disbursed to the parents of the deceased as compensation. 

Senior Advocate Ratnakar Dash, Advocate-on-Record G Sivabalamurugan, and Advocates M Vivek Bharathi and S Mahendran represented the appellant. The respondent was represented by Advocate-on-Record M Yogesh Kanna and Advocate S Raja Rajeshwaran.

[Read the Judgment]

Kandaswamy-Ramaraj-v-state.pdf
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