Uncontrolled celebratory firing is recipe for disaster: Supreme Court

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Rekha Devi (24), holding a photo with her husband Subhash Yadav who died in celebratory firing on May 3, 2023 in Tetariah village of Bandhara panchayat, in Supaul district of Bihar.
| Photo Credit: Nagendra Kumar Singh

The Supreme Court, in a judgment, has highlighted the often disastrous consequences of “uncontrolled and unwarranted” celebratory firing at weddingsincluding the maiming or loss of innocent lives.

This is the second time in as many years the court has raised its voice against the culture of gun-toting bravado.

In February 2023, the court had condemned the easy availability and possession of gunsmostly country-made or unlicensed, in States like Uttar Pradesh as a feudal practice that cocks a snook at a very basic fundamental right — the right to life — guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Recently, the top court again came across the case concerning the death of man who was fatally shot in the neck by a fellow guest at a wedding in 2016.

“The act of celebratory firing during marriage ceremonies is an unfortunate yet prevalent practice in our nation. The present case is a direct example of the disastrous consequences of such uncontrolled and unwarranted celebratory firing,” a Bench of Justices Vikram Nath and Satish Chandra Sharma observed.

The shooter, Shahid Ali, was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. The Allahabad High Court had dismissed his appeal, and he had approached the Supreme Court for reprieve.

Justice Sharma, who authored the judgment, found him guilty of culpable homicide, but not murder.

The top court concluded there had been no previous enmity between Ali and the man who died. Only a single bullet had been fired. The man had died instantly.

The court ordered Ali to be released forthwith. He had already served eight years of his sentence.

Justice Sharma said such deaths were unfortunate.

Last year, the court had similarly expressed its distress at the large number of cases concerning the possession and use of illegal guns in Uttar Pradesh while noting that the right to bear firearms was not a fundamental right under the Constitution.

A Bench of Justices K.M. Joseph (now retired) and B.V. Nagarathna had said the phenomenon was “disturbing”, to say the least.

The Bench had been hearing the bail application of an accused in a murder case.

“The Indian Constitution gives great significance to preservation of life. The proliferation of illegal and unlicensed weapons has to be stopped. If not, it would serve a huge blow to the rule of law,” the top court had said.

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