Unconscious possession of live cartridge not an offence: Mumbai High Court

The bench said that while the Arms Act prohibits possession or control of any arms without licence, such a concept of possession must mean “an element of consciousness.”

Written by Ruhi Bhasin | Published:November 30, 2016 3:13 am
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Stating that unconscious possession of a live cartridge did not amount to an offence under the Arms Act, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday quashed an FIR filed against a woman who was found in possession of a bullet in her baggage at the International airport in Mumbai while she was travelling from Mumbai to New York.

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The woman who was found in possession of the bullet in 2013 has stated that her husband had participated in a shooting range competition in USA and one of the live cartridges used by him got left behind in the bag inadvertently being carried by her. She was arrested and later released on bail and a chargesheet was also filed against her.

Hearing a writ petition filed by the woman, a bench of Justice VM Kanade and Justice Nutan Sardesai said that while the Arms Act prohibits possession or control of any arms without licence, such a concept of possession must mean “an element of consciousness.”

“We are satisfied with the petitioner’s stand that she was not aware of the single live cartridge in her bag. Unfortunately, the police did not take care to call her husband and double check if he had taken part in the sports tournament. If they had taken the trouble, they would have found out the correctness of the matter,” said Justice Kanade while quashing the FIR. The court noted that there was no adverse notice against the couple either in India or USA.

The bench went on to cite the Apex Court’s March 2013 order on actor Sanjay Dutt’s conviction for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case saying that “SC had an occasion to examine the word possession and had said that must be with requisite mental consciousness and must not be mere custody,” said the court.

In this case, an FIR was filed at the Sahar Police Station while the security officers manning the scanning machines detected a live cartridge in one of the compartments in her travel bag. The petitioner, an IT engineer, was travelling to New York.

The petitioner, however, approached HC through her counsel advocate Mallika Ingale, seeking that the FIR be quashed. Advocate Ingale said that the petitioner’s husband had participated in a recreational shooting sport event sometime in 2009 in the USA and that the cartridge must have been “mistakenly left in the bag since then.” She also argued that the petitioner had used the same bag while travelling between New York and Mumbai on two previous occasions but hadn’t been stopped by the authorities.