STATE OF ORISSA V. RAM BAHADUR THAPA 1960: Case Brief
High Court of Orissa
A village, Rasgovindpur, there was an abandoned aerodrome by The Garrison Engineer of Defense Department. They have kept two chowkidars for the aerodrome. There, aero scrap was collected in large amounts. From a firm Chatterjee Brothers, Jagat Chatterjee came to buy some aero scrap from the respondent Ram Bahadur Thapa who was a servant. At night, the village used to see a ghost along the pathway of the aerodrome by the local villagers also called Adivasis. Therefore, no big projects or any kind of work was done at night time. Jagat and Ram feared the ghost and were in a hurry to get the work done so they convinced Krishna Chandra Patro and Chandra Majhi, a local at the village Rasgovindpur to come along with them at the sight.
They went to see a ghost and while returning to the village through the way of the aerodrome, they saw a light glimmering through the dark. Ram Bahadur Thapa at the thought of self-defense, in a rage, took out his khurki and began hitting the ghost. He went so wild that in the rage to kill the ghost, he also hit the people who were around him. People were hurt by the respondent and some of them were female Majhi who were there to collect mahua flower at that time under the mahua tree with hurricane lantern. A girl named Gelhi Majhiani was also killed and other two girls were injured. He was charged with sections 302, 324 and 326 of the IPC for murder and for voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapon or means respectively.
1. Whether the decision given by the Sessions Court is correct?
2. Can the respondent be protected under Indian Penal Code Section 79?
Appellant: Counsel at the side of appellant cited section 52 of the IPC that if the intentions are no wrong or it is done with due care then it will be not considered as murder and that Gelhi Majhiani would be alive. Counsel also brought in front of the court sections 304A and 336 of IPC for murdering Gelhi and causing hurt to others respectively.
Respondent: Counsel on behalf of respondent said that at the time of the incident, it was neither the criminal intentions nor the knowledge that he is hitting on real people other than the ghost. Counsel also asked the court to protect the respondent under section 79 of IPC that provides the benefit that in the mistake of knowledge of fact and in the good faith that is to be justified by law, the accused did likewise.
It was held by the Hon’ble court that under section 79 of IPC, the respondent was protected believing that the respondent had hit the females in the good faith believing it to be the ghost. The appeal was dismissed at the thought that the sessions court was right at the acquittal of the respondent where section 79 of IPC was applicable and the mere thought that if the respondent had acted thoughtfully is not a ground for this case.
The Hon’ble court must have considered the fact that section 79 of IPC was not applicable in this matter because when the respondent hit first, there were voices of the females and despite the human voices, the respondent did not stop. The thought that it was a ghost was nothing but just a mere belief because the locals used the hurricane lantern to collect the mahua flowers under the mahua tree. The respondent did not even bother to check the source of light but negligently started hitting not the ghost but the people. The second fact that after hitting the people, there was human bodily touch and still the respondent did not think to stop at the touch.
Words to Define:
Good Faith, Mens Rea, Knowledge of the fact, Manslaughter, Negligence.
It is expected from the law of the justice system that the defense of knowledge of fact must not be misused and justice must be provided to the victims. The courts must observe that section 52 of IPC is used with the full precaution that the accused must be in a good faith before attacking the victim and also the accused must act with due care and attention. It has to be a considerate reason to use the defense of knowledge of the fact and understand the mental conditions of the accused. There is a thin line between the mistake of the fact and negligence. On the other hand, it is the obligation of the court of law to see that the accused had adequate punishment and justice is served to the victim.
About the author Jasbir Singh, a law student from Jagran University, Bhopal - India.