Case comment…Bilal v State of Andhra Pradesh (1997) 7 Supreme Today 127

Introduction

This project is based on a real criminal case which took place in the city of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. This is a very interesting case where an individual who was convicted with life imprisonment and other rigorous punishment by the lower court finally gets acquitted by the highest court of the country. This case involves the conviction of a youth by the lower courts but eventually after a successful appeal to the Supreme Court of India, he was acquitted of the offences committed on most of the issues. The issues involved in this particular case are very serious and startling. The evidences here were scrutinised by various administrative officials and forensic departments and finally the appellant was acquitted.

The case here shows the wise of the Supreme Court in deciding this case as the Supreme Court while making decision. The case is overruled by the Supreme Court and also the Supreme Court warns the lower court of any such judicial negligence in the future by the lower courts in making any decision. This case shows the negligence of the lower court in scrutinizing the evidences and arriving at a justified rationale for the decision.

Brief Statement Of Facts

Bilai Ahmed Kaloo was an active member of a militant outfit called Al-Jehad which was formed with the ultimate object of liberating Kashmir from Indian Union. With this in mind appellant spread communal hatred among the Muslim youth in the old city of Hyderabad and exhorted them to undergo training in armed militancy and offered them arms and ammunitions. He himself was in possession of lethal weapons like country-made revolver and live cartridges. He was propagating among the Muslims that in Kashmir Muslims were being were being subjected to atrocities by the Indian Army personnel.

During the period when series of bomb-blasting occurred in the city of Hyderabad the police kept a close watch on the activities of the appellant who was then staying in a room adjacent to Masjid-e-Niyameth Kha-e-ali at Mir-ka-Daira at Haribowli in Hyderabad. He was arrested on 19-1-1994 and after recording his confessional statement the police seized a revolver and two cartridges which were produced by him. After investigation was completed he was challaned before the Designated Court at Hyderabad for offences under Sections 124-A, 153-A and 505(2) IPC, and under Sections 3(3), 4(3) and 5 of the TADA, and also under Section 25 of the Indian Arms Act.

As mentioned above the Designated Court acquitted him of the offences under TADA but convicted him of the offences under the Indian Penal Code and also under Section 25 of the Indian Arms Act and was sentenced as aforesaid.

Issues Involved

The issues involved in this particular case were –

  • Whether the appellant was guilty under 124-A of the IPC.
  • Whether the appellant was guilty under the Sec 153-A of the IPC.
  • Whether the appellant was guilty under 505(2) of the IPC.
  • Whether the appellant was guilty under 25 of Arms Act.

The designated court had already acquitted the appellant under Sec. 3(3), 4(3) and 5 of TADA Act.

 

Law on the Point

The law involved in this case is mostly related to the provisions in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Arms Act and the TADA Act.

The sections involved in this particular case are –

INDIAN PENAL CODE

  1. Section 124 – A: Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards,102 [***] the Government estab­lished by law in 103 [India], [***] shall be punished with 104 [im­prisonment for life], to which fine may be added, or with impris­onment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine. Explanation 1.—The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity. Explanation 2.—Comments expressing disapprobation of the meas­ures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section. Explanation 3.—Comments expressing disapprobation of the admin­istrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.]

 

  1. Section 153 – A: Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.—

Whoever—

by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or                       otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different reli­gious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communi­ties, or

  1. b) commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquillity, 2[or] 2[(c) organizes any exercise, movement, drill or other similar activity intending that the participants in such activity shall use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, or participates in such activity intending to use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the partici­pants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, against any religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community and such activity for any reason whatsoever causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of such religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community,] shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both. Offence committed in place of worship, etc.—(2) Whoever commits an offence specified in sub-section (1) in any place of worship or in any assembly engaged in the performance of religious wor­ship or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.]

 

  1. Section 505(2): Statements conducing to public mischief.—2[

(1) ]  Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report,—

(a)   with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, any offi­cer, soldier, 3[sailor or airman] in the Army, 4[Navy or Air Force] 5[of India] to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such; or

(b)   with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquillity; or

(c)   with intent to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to 6[three years], or with fine, or with both. 7[(2) Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes.—Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement or report containing rumour or alarming news with intent to create or promote, or which is likely to create or promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different reli­gious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communi­ties, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

(3)   Offence under sub-section (2) committed in place of worship, etc.—Whoever commits an offence specified in sub-section (2) in any place of worship or in an assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.]

(Exception) —

It does not amount to an offence, within the meaning of this section when the person making, publishing or circulating any such statement, rumour or report, has reasonable grounds for believing that such statement, rumour or report is true and makes, publishes or circulates it 8[in good faith and] without any such intent as aforesaid.

 

  1. Section 25 of the Arms Act: whoever –
  • manufactures, sells, transfers, converts, repairs, tests or proves, or exposes or offers for sale or transfer, or has in his possession for sale, transfer, conversion, repair, test or proof, any arms or ammunition in contravention of section 5; or
  • shortens the barrel of a firearm or converts an imitation firearm into a firearm in contravention of section 6; or21 [***]

(c) bring into, or takes out of, India, any arms or ammunition of any class or description  in contravention of section 11, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.

 

Decision of the Court

The unanimous decision of the court was that the appellant was not guilty under the sections 124-A, 153-A and 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code but he was guilty under the section 25 of the Arms Act. So the appellant was liable for the punishment under the section 25 of the Arms Act.

 

 

 

Ratio

The Supreme Court in its decision laid the ratio that the appellant was not liable under the section 124-A, of the IPC because clearly by the facts the appellant did not create any hatred against the government, he was only supplying the people with arms and ammunitions.

Regarding the section 153-A and section 505(2) are concerned, they both deal with the common ingredient of promoting feeling of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious or racial or linguistic or regional groups or castes or communities. Section 153A covers a case where a person by “words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations”. But the appellant never promoted feelings of enmity between any groups which are mentioned above hence the appellant was not guilty under the sections 153-A and section 505(2) of the IPC.

Regarding the section 25 of the Arms Act the court said that because there was no challenge by the appellant against the seizure report of the arms that were recovered, thus it is implied that the appellant confirm the presence of those arms in his house. Thus he was convicted under the section 25 of the Arms Act.

My Comment

On reading the case, my personal opinion is that the Supreme Court is very justified in pronouncing such a judgement. Bilal was staying in Hyderabad and propagating the view that the military officials in Kashmir were creating problems for the residents of Jammu and Kashmir. He was distributing arms and ammunitions to the people of Hyderabad. But to be charged with provision of sedition, the conditions were not fulfilled. As per the case of Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar[1] it was discussed that sedition against the country is constituted when a person arises hatred in the minds of people against the country. But here the appellant did nothing which would incite hatred in the minds of people against the country, merely informing about the behaviour of the army officials towards the citizen does not mean that Bilal was inciting people against the state. Thus in my opinion the court is justified in acquitting Bilal under section 124-A of IPC.

Regarding the provision of 153-A and 505(2), the common ingredient in both the offences is promoting feeling of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious or racial or linguistic or regional groups or castes or communities. Section 153A covers a case where a person by “words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations” promotes or attempts to promote such feeling. Under Section 505(2), promotion of such feeling should have been done by making and publishing or circulating any statement or report containing rumour or alarming news. In Balwant Singh and Ors v. State of Punjab[2]  that mens rea is a necessary ingredient for the offence under Section 153A. Mens rea is an equally necessary postulate for the offence under Section 505(2) also as could be discerned from the words “with intent to create or promote or which is likely to create or promote” as used in that sub-section. In this case there was no Mens Rea on the part of the appellant. In Sunilakhya Chowdhury v. H.M. Jadwet and Ors[3] it has been held that the words “makes or publishes any imputation” should be interpreted as words supplementing to each other. A maker of imputation without publication is not liable to be punished under that section. The common feature in both sections being promotion of feeling of enmity, hatred or ill-will “between different” religious or racial or language or regional groups or castes and communities it is necessary that at least two such groups or communities should be involved. Merely inciting the felling of one community or group without any reference to any other community or group cannot attract either of the two sections. So I appreciate the decision of the Supreme Court.

And last, regarding the provisions of section 25 of the Arms Act, as per the facts when the Superintendent of the police along with the revenue officers reached the appellant’s house, the appellant yielded a gun and live cartridges. The recovered arms were immediately sent to the Forensic laboratory where the arms were examined. The doctor of the Forensic Dept. issued a certificate that the gun was in full working condition. It was also contended that the recovered arms were kept in the police station for a substantial time, so the arms could have been tampered with by the police officials. But no such claims were made by the appellant in the whole proceedings. This shows that the appellant confirms that the arms belonged to him and he was guilty of carrying deadly arms without a proper licence. Thus he was convicted under the Arms Act.

I appreciate the decision of the Supreme Court, as there was a proper scrutiny of the evidences and the witnesses, every minutes were taken care of and the court came out with the most justified answer to the problem/case.

Conclusion

This case clearly shows the negligence of the lower court in making the decision, this case is a clear example of the Supreme Court being the superior court in the country in terms of position and in terms of justice delivery system. The court here takes full care in deciding the case and is vigilant regarding each and every detail of the case. The way the lower court had convicted the appellant under the sections 124-A, 153-A and 505(2) was highly unexpected from the court and it does serve the purpose at all.On searching I have not found any follow up of this particular case.

[1] AIR 1962 SC 955.

[2] (1995) 3 SCC 214.

[3] AIR 1968 SC 266.

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