New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ordered the release of a former Army gunner, who had killed another gunner “in a state of sleep” and had been in jail for 16 years for the crime.
On Wednesday, a top court bench comprising Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Surya Kant took note of the submissions made by the convict, Virender Prasad that he fired the shots under the delusion that a terrorist attack was underway.
“Undisputedly, the appellant was posted in Kashmir area, at a time when the State was undergoing the threat of terrorism at its peak. The appellant, after the incident, immediately came out of the tent, surrendered himself, and gave an explanation that he had fired the rifle under a delusion that there was a terrorist attack,” the court observed.
It also noted that Prasad’s behaviour in jail has been “excellent”.
While upholding his conviction, the court took note of the fact that he had already spent over 16 years in jail and directed him to be released.
The case details
Prasad was enrolled in Indian Army’s Signals Corps and was posted to HQ & Radar Battery of 20 Surveillance and target acquisition regiment since October 2002. He was sent to Peer Badeshwar Radar post in Jammu and Kashmir in May 2003.
A month later, in June 2003, he shot another gunner, Sushil Kumar, who was of the same regiment. Prasad fired a complete magazine of rifle ammunition on Kumar, resulting in the latter’s death. He then surrendered before the senior authorities and confessed to the crime.
Prasad was charged under Section 69 of the Army Act for committing a civil offence of murder and was found guilty in the Summary General Court Martial in August 2004. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and was dismissed from service.
His conviction was upheld by the Ministry of Defence and the Chief of Army Staff, as well as the Armed Forces Tribunal.
State of delusion
According to the judgment, Prasad now told the Supreme Court that he was “in a delusion of a militant attack, wherein he was firing in retaliation”, and that he had no control over his senses.
While the court upheld his conviction, it felt that Prasad’s sentence deserved to be considered.
It noted that a convict sentenced to life imprisonment cannot be considered for release, unless he has actually served 14 years in jail.
As Prasad had already spent more than 16 years in jail, the court directed his release, observing, “In the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, we are of the view, that the sentence already served by the appellant is much more than proportionate to the offence proved against him.”
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