Recovery of the weapon is not an essential ingredient for conviction under Section 397 IPC

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Pratibha M. Singh, J. dismissed a criminal appeal while upholding the conviction and sentence of the appellant (accused) inter alia for the offence punishable under Section 397 IPC.

The appellant was accused of robbery by the use of a deadly weapon- a knife. It was alleged that the appellant along with other co-accused entered the house of the victims, threatened them with a knife and robbed their house. On victim’s information, FIR was registered, the appellant was apprehended, arrested, charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the trial court inter alia under Section 397 IPC. The appellant approached the High Court challenging the decision of the trial court contending that since the deadly weapon (a knife in this case) was not recovered, the appellant could not have been convicted under the section.

The High Court referred to a long catena of decisions to reach a conclusion that recovery of the weapon was not essential to convict the appellant under Section 397. The Court relied on Ashfaq v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2004) 3 SCC 116 wherein the Supreme Court referred to Phool Kumar v. State (UT of Delhi), (1975) 1 SCC 797 wherein it was held, “… what is essential to satisfy the word ‘use’ for the purpose of Section 397 is the robbery being committed by an offender who was armed with deadly weapon which was within the vision of the victim so as to be capable of creating a terror in the mind of the victim… knife is equally a deadly weapon, for purposes of Section 397”. The High Court referring to its earlier decisions held, the fact that the knife was not recovered would not matter as long as eye-witnesses to the crime are able to convincingly and consistently recount the fact that they were threatened by the sight of the accused wielding the knife while parting with their belongings. Placing reliance on the precedents and discussions held therein, the Court held, recovery of the weapon is not essential for conviction for an offence under Section 397 IPC. The Court, while holding that ingredients required for conviction under Section 397 were satisfied by the testimonies of prosecution witnesses, upheld the conviction and sentence awarded by the trial court and dismissed the appeal. [Murlidhar v.  State,2018 SCC OnLine Del 9401, dated 01-06-2018]

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