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Indian Case Summary

State Of U.P vs Ram Swarup & Anr on 2 May, 1974 – Case Summary

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In the case of State Of U.P vs Ram Swarup & Anr on 2 May, 1974, the Supreme Court of India was faced with a complex legal situation involving a murder case, the right to private defense, and the locus standi of State Governments to file appeals in criminal matters. The case was presided over by Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, and the judgment was delivered on May 2, 1974.

Facts of the Case

The case revolved around a murder that took place in a vegetable market in Badaun, U.P., on the morning of June 7, 1970. The deceased, Sahib Datta Mal alias Munimji, was a trade rival of Ganga Ram. The two had a history of animosity, with Munimji having outbid Ganga Ram in the annual auction of the Tehbazari contract for the vegetable market in 1970-71.

On the day of the murder, Ganga Ram, along with his three sons, Ram Swarup, Somi, and Subhash, went to the market. Ganga Ram had a knife, Ram Swarup had a gun, and the other two sons carried lathis. They advanced aggressively towards Munimji, who attempted to retreat. However, Ram Swarup shot him dead at point-blank range.

The Sessions Court convicted Ram Swarup under section 302 and sentenced him to death. Ganga Ram was convicted under section 302 read with section 34 and was sentenced to imprisonment for life. The other two sons were acquitted of all charges. On appeal, the High Court of Allahabad acquitted Ram Swarup and Ganga Ram and confirmed the acquittal of the other sons.

Issues and Court Observations

The Supreme Court, while confirming the acquittal of Ganga Ram, restored the conviction of Ram Swarup and awarded him a life sentence. The court observed that the burden of proof rests on the prosecution to establish its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and this burden is neither neutralized nor shifted because the accused pleads the right of private defense.

The court further noted that the right of private defense is a right of defense, not of retribution. It is available in the face of imminent peril to those who act in good faith. The court held that the force used must bear a reasonable proportion to the injury to be averted. There was no justification for killing the deceased selectively. The right of defense ends with the necessity for it.

The court also addressed the issue of the locus standi of State Governments to file appeals in criminal matters. The court recognized that all crimes raise problems of law and order and some raise issues of public disorder. The State Governments are entrusted with the enforcement and execution of laws directed against the prevention and punishment of crimes. Therefore, they have a vital stake in criminal matters. The objection that the State Government has no locus standi to file the appeal was rejected.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court’s judgment in this case underscores the importance of the right to private defense and the limitations of this right. It also emphasizes the role of the State in criminal matters and its right to appeal in such cases. The case serves as a significant precedent in the interpretation and application of the right to private defense in Indian law.