Over eight years after an NRI was kidnapped from Chandigarh before being rescued by the police from Kurukshetra after a gunfight, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has sentenced six convicts. Dropping the ransom charges against six persons convicted in an NRI kidnapping case, the Punjab and Haryana high court has reduced their punishment from a life sentence to a 10-year jail term. The bench observed that there is no evidence of ransom calls made to the NRI’s brother in Canada, and thus the charges could not be proved. As per the law, kidnapping entails a jail term of 10 years, but for ransom demand upon kidnapping, a person can be awarded a life sentence or death sentence.

NRI KIDNAPPING CASE FROM PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT

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Facts in Brief:

  • On April 10, 2012, Navneet Singh Chatha was kidnapped by the accused. He runs Navneet Singh Chatha runs a store in Brampton, Canada, and often visits his house in Sector 18, Chandigarh. On that day, he was called to Kurukshetra on the pretext of striking a property deal and kidnapped.
  • The accused had come in contact with the NRI some days ago in connection with the sale and purchase of the property. He had met them on April 10 to see some land in Haryana, but they took him to Sonipat town, 180 km from here, and held him captive.
  • The NRI was beaten up by the gang and had injuries on his body. They took away Rs.25 lakh in cash from his car and later forced him to call his brother in Canada to send more money as ransom.
  • The NRI’s brother, who is also a Canadian resident, had received the ransom call. The police laid a trap and arrested the accused.
  • The UT police had arrested six persons – Pradeep Malik, Nitin, Sanjeev Kumar alias Soni, Sukhdev, Anil Kumar, and Ajit Singh – on charges of kidnapping, robbery, wrongful confinement, receiving stolen property and forgery.All the accused are behind bars ever since.

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  • In August 2016, a local court of Kurukshetra convicted them in an attempt to murder the case for ten years imprisonment.
  • On Sept. 2016, the court of additional district and sessions judge RK Jain convicted six accused in the case involving the kidnapping of a Canada-based NRI in April 2012. It held guilty for kidnapping for ransom and other offenses under Sections 364-A, 120-B, 395, 397, 342, and 411 of the IPC.
  • Accused challenged the decision in Punjab and Haryana High Court.
  • Taking up their appeals, the Bench of Justice Jitendra Chauhan and Justice Archana Puri altered the offense of kidnapping for ransom under Section 364-A to kidnapping under Section 364 of the IPC.

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Legal Standpoint:

Sections 120B, 364A, 395, 397, 342, 411, 307 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 –

120B. Punishment of criminal conspiracy.—

(1) Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offense punishable with death, 2[imprisonment for life] or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall, where no express provision is made in this Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offence.

(2) Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable as aforesaid shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months, or with fine or with both

  1. Kidnapping or abducting in order to murder.—Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person in order that such person may be murdered or may be so disposed of as to be put in danger of being mur­dered, shall be punished with 1[imprisonment for life] or rigor­ous imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine. Illustrations

(a) A kidnaps Z from 2[India], intending or knowing it to be likely that Z may be sacrificed to an idol. A has committed the offence defined in this section.

(b) A forcibly carries or entices B away from his home in order that B may be murdered. A has committed the offence defined in this section. CLASSIFICATION OF OFFENCE Punishment—Imprisonment for life, or rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and fine—Cognizable—Non-bailable—Triable by Court of Ses­sion—Non-compoundable.

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364A. Kidnapping for ransom, etc.—Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person or keeps a person in detention after such kidnapping or abduction and threatens to cause death or hurt to such person, or by his conduct gives rise to a reasonable apprehension that such person may be put to death or hurt, or causes hurt or death to such person in order to compel the Government or 2[any foreign State or international inter-governmental organisation or any other person] to do or abstain from doing any act or to pay a ransom, shall be punishable with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.

  1. Punishment for dacoity.—Whoever commits dacoity shall be punished with 1[imprisonment for life], or with rigorous impris­onment for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
  2. Robbery, or dacoity, with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt.—If, at the time of committing robbery or dacoity, the offender uses any deadly weapon, or causes grievous hurt to any person, or attempts to cause death or grievous hurt to any per­son, the imprisonment with which such offender shall be punished shall not be less than seven years.
  3. Punishment for wrongful confinement.—Whoever wrongfully confines any person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.
  4. Dishonestly receiving stolen property.—Whoever dishonestly receives or retains any stolen property, knowing or having reason to believe the same to be stolen property, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
  5. Attempt to murder.—Whoever does any act with such intention or knowledge, and under such circumstances that, if he by that act caused death, he would be guilty of murder, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine; and if hurt is caused to any person by such act, the offender shall be liable either to 1[imprisonment for life], or to such punishment as is herein before mentioned. Attempts by life convicts.—2[When any person offending under this section is under sentence of 1[imprisonment for life], he may, if hurt is caused, be punished with death.

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Analysis:

The high court bench of justice Jitendra Chauhan and justice Archana Puri, while modifying the trial court order, observed that there is absolutely no evidence of ransom calls made to the NRI’s brother in Canada even as mobile numbers of all the accused were recovered. “In the light of the same, phono-connectivity as asserted (by the prosecution), does not stand established. Consequently, the demand of ransom amount, as such, does not stand proved, and that being so, necessary ingredient vis-a-vis offense under Section 364-A of the IPC does not stand established. The abduction of victim Navneet Singh Chatha by the accused after having been put in danger of being murdered stands established. Thus, an offense under Section 364 of the IPC is established,” the bench said while dropping the charges of ransom demand. Kidnapping entails a jail term of 10 years, but for demanding ransom upon kidnap, a person can be awarded a life or even death sentence.

On the kidnapping charges, the bench said the abduction stands amply established, even though the victim had property-dealing interaction with one of the accused and had voluntarily gone with him in a car. The other accused had joined in later and threatened the NRI with a gun and taken to Kurukshetra, where he was confined in a room in a farmhouse.

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For case specific advice, get in touch with best/top/expert Criminal lawyers in Chandigarh Panchkula Mohali Punjab Haryana High Court Chandigarh Kharar Derabassi Zirakpur.

This post is written by Gourav Kathuria

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