April 19, 2024
Home » Celebratory firings in India: Its laws, judgments and more
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This article has been written by Hardika, student of B.A.L.L.B. (HONS) Course from the Oxford of East, University of Allahabad

While sentencing a man accused of killing two persons in a celebratory firing to ten years of rigorous imprisonment, the Supreme Court expressed its concerns about the rising incidents of celebratory firing.[1]

Justice S.A. Bobde)

Celebratory firing means firing shots in the air on the occasion of any celebration. The practice is prevalent in some countries but this Article specifically focuses on the celebratory firing in India. If we closely look at the scenario in India most celebratory firing is being done in northern parts. After reading the incidents in the newspaper of celebratory firing, it can be made out that these firings are majorly done in celebrations of weddings or any other special occasions where people are elated and want to express their happiness by firing gunshots in the air with a free mouth of gun.

Marriage is the life-changing process of two persons and their families, where everyone is filled with great enthusiasm and exuberance for the event, with many rituals followed by other ceremonies of marriage taking place, but this joyful event can become terrifying and horrific if someone dies on the spot. So I would like to make the readers of this article more cautious and aware that “your means of pleasure can become someone’s lifelong pain”.  I want to make readers feel that making such infallible mistakes, which are not a big issue for one person but can become some other’s lifelong bruises, so make sure that if someone is playing with the cost of someone’s life then they should know the legal costs which they shall be bearing to the state as well to the aggrieved, who lost their precious gift of god that is life. In India celebratory firings have been banned due to several casualties every year many innocent people lost their lives in the glamour of the loud noise of “BARAAT.” Let’s see some facts and figures of the registered cases and loss of life, which is irreparable but still celebratory firings have become a ceremony to make the marriage more glamorous.

Firing in the air while celebrating marriages, religious functions or social gatherings is illegal and may result in the cancellation of the license and initiation of legal action. The firearm licenses are issued for self-protection or security under the Arms Act, 1959, and not for individual pleasure to fire without any cause or necessity. “There are already adequate legal provisions to regulate any such incidents,” said an affidavit filed by the police on a public interest litigation seeking directions to frame a stringent policy or guidelines to curb “obnoxious practice of celebratory firing”.

According to reports, the practice of celebratory firings, where men fire shots in the air at weddings and birthday parties common in North India, especially in Bihar, Punjab, Harayana, and Uttar Pradesh. According to Police data, besides leaving over 35 injured. The maximum number of cases were reported in the Shahabad region, which includes the Bhojpur, Rohtas, and Kaimur districts. In 2022, 99 incidents of celebratory firings claimed eight lives and left 36 injured.

Table of Cases Celebratory firings in India

  1. Shyam Sundar Kaushal vs UOI and ORS.( Delhi High Court): in April 2016, Shyam Sunder Kaushal filed public interest litigation for seeking directions to state and central government to frame guidelines and policies to counter Celebratory Firings. As there is no proper control or curb on this illegal ceremony people don’t hesitate to open fire. The petitioner had also submitted that the use of arms in functions to make the celebration more grand is violative of Article 12 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees the Right to Life. It was held by the court that celebratory firing should not be allowed in any crowded functions and directions and guidelines for the same were issued.[2]
  2. In Bhagwan Singh vs the State of Uttarakhand, the issue before the Supreme Court was involving the punishment related to the issue of celebratory firing. The facts of the case are in 2007, the marriage of the appellant’s son was taking place in Uttarakhand, where around evening 5:30 pm the marriage procession reached the courtyard he suddenly fired celebratory gunshots. The pellets struck 5 persons standing in the courtyard namely- Smt. ANITA W/O CHANCHAL SINGH, KHUSHAL SINGH@SONU, UMMED SINGH, Smt. VIMLA W/O DEVENDRA SINGH and Smt. VIMLA W/O BHUPAL SINGH.The injured were sent to the hospital where ANITA and KAUSHAL  succumbed to fatal injuries. Later Dharam singh filed FIR as he was the eyewitness of the mishappening. The appellant was charged under sections 302 and 307 of IPC, along with sections 25 of the Arms Act. As the appellant was charged with these charges he further appealed to the High Court that he was not intending to harm anyone and the firing was accidental. The HC rejected the PLEA as their no merit to the contentions contended by the learned counsel later the Court found that the eyewitness account further revealed that the shots were fired towards the roof and not aimed at any of the victims. It may thus be difficult to accept that the appellant had any intention to kill Smt. Anita or Kaushal. The Trial Court and the High Court after drawing conclusive evidence and proof, the learned Court held that the Offence committed by the Appellant, thus, would amount to ‘Culpable Homicide’ within the meaning of Section 299, through punishable under Section 304 of  IPC[3].
  3. In the case of State of Madhya Pradesh vs Saleem,(2005) SCC 554, the Court held that to sustain a conviction under Section 307, IPC, it was not necessary that a bodily injury capable of resulting in death should have been inflicted. As such, non-conviction under Section 307, IPC on the premise only that simple injury was inflicted does not follow as a matter of course. In the same judgment, it was pointed out that ‘The Court has to see whether the act, irrespective of its result, was done with the intention or knowledge and under circumstances mentioned in the section.’

    [4]

There are many cases filed and piled up in the Lower Courts to seek redressal from the Celebratory Firings but even after punishments and fines the cases are increasing at the same pace, this signifies that the unwanted death is more impulsive desire rather than healthy and safe environment where there is no use of these show off firing gunshots.

Laws applicable  for Celebratory Firings

Before 2019, there was no Specific provision under the Law that exclusively dealt with Punishment for ‘Celebratory Firing’. At that time, law agencies had taken the help of Section 366 of the Indian Penal Code,1860, and also took action under the Arms Act to punish the persons who were involved in the celebratory firing.

Current Position:

The Current Position of Law is Clear after the Amendment to the Arms Act in 2019. Now the Arms Act, of 1959 under Section 25(9). Provides for the meaning and punishment of celebratory firing. The essential provisions are:

  1. Any Person
  2. Using a firearm in a rash or negligent manner or celebratory firing
  3. By which human life is endangered
  4. Anyone found guilty under this offense may be punished with Imprisonment up to 2 years or a Fine which can extend up to Rs. 1 lakhs or both.
  5. Also the license will be permanently canceled or abated and will never be re-issued to the offender who will be charged for the offense, even for self-defense.

Conclusion

People who show their strength to maintain hegemony in society. They used to demonstrate muscle power in earlier times; now they use weapons. This is a feudalistic practice, this signifies the image of a macho man, who does not care about society. The drivel practice of firing gunshots to celebrate happiness is not a desirable means to celebrate parties rather try to find alternatives that should be eco-friendly as well and it should not take someone’s precious life, as everyone is guaranteed to live their life. Also, the government should implement strict vigilance over these activities and licenses should not be given easily, they should be provided after proper documentation and legal procedurals.


[1] Sivami and anr. Vs state of Tamilnadu

[2] 1969 AIR 212, 1969 SCR(1) 312

[3] Criminal appeal 407 of 2020, SC

[4] 2005 SCC 544


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