In the Supreme Court of India Case No. Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 3459 of 1980 Equivalent Citation: 1981 AIR 1917, 1982 SCR (1) 360 Appellants State of West Bengal Respondent Shew Mangal Singh & Ors Decided on 25th August, 1981 Bench Y.V. Chandrachud, C.J.I., V. Balakrishna Eradi, J.
The trial was initiated against the respondents who were police officers, on the basis of private complaint filed by Benoy Chakraborty, brother of deceased. The learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate initiated proceedings against respondents and convicted them for the offence under § 302 read with § 34 of Indian Penal Code (I.P.C) and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
An appeal was filed by the respondents in the High Court of Calcutta against the conviction order as passed by the subordinate court. The Honorable Court acquitted the appellants on the ground that police was on patrol duty and orders were there from Deputy Commissioner for open fire and thus actions of the convicts were totally justified. The court set aside the orders of trial court and acquitted the appellants for the case being.
Aggrieved by the decision, the Special Leave Petition is filed by the State of West Bengal against the impugned judgment of the High Court of Calcutta dated 1st August, 1980.
Statutes and Provisions involved:
- Article 136 of the Indian Constitution.
- Section 34, 302 of Indian Penal Code.
1. Whether High Court was justified in setting aside the orders of the subordinate court or not.
2. Whether orders of open fire was justified or there was malicious intention behind the act.
On 11th November, 1970 at around 10:00 pm deceased Ranjit and his brother Samir were sitting outside their house and suddenly 3 police vehicles having 15-20 officers stopped in front of their house and rushed towards them. Both of them started running towards their house and the police officers were chasing them, having revolvers in their hands. Bibhuti Chakraborty made a shot from point blank range on Ranjit and other officers were also constantly firing on both of them which injured Ranjit and were able to catch both of them.
They were dragged and dumped into the car. Ranji and Samir both died before any medical assistance could be provided to them as they were injured due to the tussle at their house. Thereafter, Benoy brother of deceased was taken into custody, but was released on the bail.
So, aggrieved by the decision of the police officers he filed a complaint in the court and the trial was initiated against them in the Sessions Court of Calcutta.
Contentions of both the Parties:
Counsel on behalf of petitioners: A.P. Chatterjee, A.K. Ganguly, and B.K. Chatterjee
It was contended by the petitioners that in S.S. Bobde V. State of Maharashtra, the same court held that miscarriage of justice may arise equally with the acquittal of guilty and conviction of an innocent. He strongly argued that it will be a serious disregard for judiciary if unmerited acquittal likes this if so happens.
He also contended that respondents are undoubtedly guilty of murder and the judgment of High Court is totally “lighthearted”. He submitted that police is regarded as protector of laws and regulations and history will never forgive us if the destroyers of law will be acquitted in this particular case.
Counsel on behalf of respondents: A.K. Sen, Senior Advocate
It was contended by the respondents that the actions of officers are totally justifiable as they have received orders from the Deputy Commissioner of the concerned area regarding open fire and they were obeying the instructions of senior officers.
It was also argued by them that the night on which the incident took place it was drizzling and there are serious deficiencies in the evidences as the witness were deposing the nine year law incident and which is totally insufficient in establishing the identity of accused for the murder.
The Special Leave Petition was dismissed by the Apex Court on the ground that police officers were only obeying the orders of the Deputy Commissioner of open fire in that particular area and hence cannot be convicted for an offence under Section 302 of I.P.C. It was also laid down that materials on record and evidences were insufficient to establish the identity of an accused.
So, the Apex Court upheld the judgment of High Court as it will be against the general principles of law and will lead to grave injustice if the respondents are convicted in the present case.
Concepts Highlighted in the present Case:
It was highlighted in the present case that an officer cannot be held liable for obeying the instructions of the senior officers. It must be proved by the applicant that either the order was unjustifiable and was malicious or the person obeying it has committed the act beyond the scope of that order and maliciously.
It can be concluded from the above mentioned case that firstly, there must be sufficient evidences to establish the clear identification of the accused and secondly, that a subordinate officer cannot be held liable for obeying the instructions of the senior officers.
Edited by Pragash Boopal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
 1973 (2) SCC 793