New Delhi: Presence of co-accused with
arms cannot be a ground for conviction, unless there was clear
finding regarding their common object of forming an unlawful
assembly, the Supreme Court has ruled while acquitting three
persons in a 11-year-old murder case.
"In the absence of such a finding as also any overt
act on the part of the accused persons, mere fact that they
were armed would not be sufficient to prove common object,"
the court held.
A bench of justices P Sathasivam and H L Gokhale said
that in order to convict a person or persons under Section 149
IPC, a clear finding regarding common object of the assembly
must be available.
The apex court passed the ruling while acquitting
three persons who were sentenced to life imprisonment for
murdering Usman alias Haneefa(24), in Kerala`s Palakkad
district on December 31, 2000.
The sessions court had sentenced four of the accused
to life imprisonment under Sections 302 IPC(murder) and
149(unlawful assembly for a common object). The Kerala High
Court had upheld the sentence following which they appealed in
the apex court.
Shaji, the main convict who actually committed the
murder was, however, granted remission by the State
The other convicts-Devarajan, Haridas and Kannan alias
Gopalakrishnan contended that their conviction was erroneous
as there was no evidence to prove that they had common object
with Shaji to commit the murder.
Upholding the plea, the apex court said in order to
attract Section 149 IPC, it must be shown that the
incriminating act was done to accomplish the common object of
unlawful assembly which was within the knowledge of all the
The apex court said the prosecution witnesses have not
attributed any role to the other accused except the main
accused Shaji, who had chopped off the victim`s head.
Hence, the bench felt the conviction of the co-accused
was not sustainable. Accordingly, it directed their forthwith