The Allahabad High Court has overturned a 37-year-old conviction under dacoity of three persons from Kanpur Dehat on the grounds that in the absence of involvement of five or more persons, no conviction should be made out under clauses of dacoity.

Justice Saurabh Shyam Shamshery overruled the judgment of a special court (dacoity) judge made on March 11, 1983 in Kanpur Dehat district.

“The appellants are acquitted of the charges and are hereby ordered to be set at liberty forthwith,” the court said.

The three had filed an appeal against their conviction under Sections 395 (dacoity) and 397 (dacoity with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt). While Balbir and Mohar Pal alias Chhakauri were awarded five-year rigorous imprisonment, Lala Ram (who was charged under Sections 395 and 397) was given a seven-year term. They had been out on bail.

Counsel for the accused cited the Supreme Court’s decisions in Raj Kumar alias Raju vs. State of Uttaranchal (Now Uttarakhand), 2008, and Manmeet Singh alias Goldie vs. State of Punjab, 2015, cases to argue that the trial court erroneously convicted the three men under dacoity.

“…it is clear that in case there is a conviction of less than five persons under Sections 395/ 397 IPC, Trial Court must arrive to a finding that there was involvement of five or more persons,” the High Court observed.

In the absence of such finding no conviction could be made out under aforesaid sections, it noted.

It agreed with the argument of counsel for the convicted men Pranvesh that the trial court did not record any such finding. The trial court judgement simply mentioned that “three accused, facing trial before me, were also along with dacoits who committed dacoity in the house of Raj Kumar,” the High Court said quoting the lower court judgement.

“In my opinion, the above mentioned finding is not sufficient to conclude that five or more persons were involved in the offence and not sufficient to convict appellants, who are three in numbers under the offence of dacoity,” Justice Shamshery noted.

According to the prosecution, the incident took place on the intervening night of June 26 and 27, 1981, when the three accused, along with four others committed dacoity in three houses in village Badra Majra Bakauthia under Kakwan area of Kanpur Dehat. At 11 p.m. that day, four dacoits jumped into the courtyard of one Raj Kumar and opened the door, which allowed six other dacoits to enter inside. They started beating the inmates and looted the belongings of the resident, who ran away. The dacoits then looted the houses of Ochhey Lal and Ganga Ram in the same village. They also used a firearm in the course of dacoity.

As per the prosecution version, the witnesses saw the features of known dacoits in the light of lantern, torches and burning straw and recognized Balbir, Mohar Pal and Lala Ram.

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