Chasing and killing man is not self-defence: SC

New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) An accused cannot invoke a self-defence plea after chasing and killing an assailant fleeing from the scene of a clash, the Supreme Court has said.

Hearing a case on twin killings in Rajasthan in 2000, an apex court bench consisting of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice J.S. Khehar clarified in a judgment Friday that an accused who chased and inflicted fatal injuries on an assailant could not claim that he did so as he apprehended a threat to his own life.

The court said that one of the victims in the incident was killed in self-defence by the accused but the death of the second victim, who was chased and attacked, amounted to murder.

When a victim was escaping from the scene of violence, then the reasonable apprehension that he could have caused death or grievous hurt to the accused would have disappeared, the court said.

A person's right to self-defence under Section 97 of the Indian Penal Code gets extended to causing death under Section 100 if there is a reasonable apprehension that the person being assaulted would suffer death or grievous hurt as a result of the attack.

The court's decision came while upholding the life imprisonment awarded to Gopal and Mahesh for killing Rameshwar and Prabhat in Jaipur July 16, 2000, in a clash linked to a monetary dispute.

Rameshwar was killed at the spot where the clash took place. Prabhat, who was working in the fields nearby, came to the help of Rameshwar but was assaulted. Prabhat then ran for his life but was chased and fatally injured by Gopal and Mahesh, along with others, police said.

Differentiating between the killing of the two men, Justice Sathasivam said: "The reasonable apprehension had disappeared when they noticed that Prabhat was running away from the scene in order to escape..."

"In such circumstances, though the appellants were entitled to the plea of private defence insofar as the death of Rameshwar is concerned, they are not justified in availing the same for the cause of death of Prabhat," the apex court said.

Justifying the trial court convicting Gopal and Mahesh for murder and conspiracy and sentencing them to life imprisonment, the court said: "They exceeded their limit and the materials placed by the prosecution clearly shows that they chased Prabhat...pushed him down and inflicted several blows with lathis due to which he died."

"In such a situation, we are of the view that the appellants have no right to invoke the right of self-defence by chasing Prabhat and causing fatal injuries on him," the court said.

The police said that Rameshwar was the guarantor of a monetary agreement between Santosh and Jagdish in the Manoharpur area of Jaipur.

When Jagdish started demanding his money back from Santosh before the expiry of the agreement, Rameshwar intervened and sided with the latter. Since then Jagdish nurtured a grudge against Rameshwar which became the cause of the clash that resulted in the two deaths, police said.

The clash involved two groups with Bhagwan Shahi, Bodu Ram and Rameshwar on one side and Gopal, Jagdish, Mahesh, Patasi, Teeja, Gokali and Sita on the other, police said.

An additional sessions court April 18, 2001, awarded rigorous life imprisonment to Gopal, Jagdish, Mahesh and Teeja. Gokali and Patasi Devi were convicted for causing hurt and were awarded sentence equal to the imprisonment already undergone by them during the trial.

The Rajasthan High Court April 15, 2006, upheld the conviction and life sentence of Gopal and Mahesh and let off the others. The two convicts then appealed in the apex court.

(Parmod Kumar can be contacted at parmod.k@ians.in)

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