''Presence of accused at crime scene sufficient for conviction''

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New Delhi, Feb 27 (PTI) Mere presence of an accused atthe crime scene is sufficient to convict a person providedhe had an "active mind in furtherance of the common object,"the Supreme Court has ruled in a case where the groom wasmurdered on the very next day of his marriage.

A bench of Justices V S Sirpurkar and A R Dave passedthe ruling while dismissing an appeal of four life convictschallenging their conviction on the ground that they weremerely present at the site and their active involvement wasnot established.

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

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

The irony was that the convicts and the deceased wereall friends and relatives who had visited the bride''s villagethe previous day to attend the marriage at Ishupur village inVaishali district in Bihar on June 26, 1995.

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

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

The sessions court awarded life imprisonment to six ofthem, including Darbesh Rai.

The Patna High Court dismissed their plea followingwhich two of the convicts Amerika Rai and Mithlesh took theplea that they were merely present at the scene.

Rejecting the argument, the apex court said theevidence on record clearly established the involvement of thefive convicts in the case.

"In that light, when the evidence is examined, it isobvious that Amerika Rai (A-1) who was the elder in thefamily, Mithilesh Rai (A-4) and Chulhan Rai (A-3), instead ofacting in a responsible manner and preventing any unpleasantincident, exhorted the accused persons to bring the gun.

"The guns are normally not brought for making a show.

The exhortation to bring the gun definitely speaks about theguilty mind of Amerika Rai (A-1), so also the use of guns byMithilesh Rai (A-4), Sanjay Rai (A-5) and Sipahi Rai (A-6) isvery clear that they also had guilty mind," the bench said.

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