‘Celebratory firing’ means firing of shots into the air on occasion of any celebration. The practice is prevalent in some countries but this document specifically focuses on the celebratory firing in India. If we closely look at the scenario in India so mostly 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 the wedding.
The practice was carried on in society because a gun is considered a symbol of power and class in society. Keeping a gun with the person gives confidence to the person. While firing a gun at the wedding or on other occasions let the person seek the attention of other people and also helps those to demonstrate to the other people that they are powerful.
This practice is inherently dangerous as there are instances that show that this firing had caused injuries to the people attending the wedding also led to the death of some people. People firing in the air think that how this can harm or injury the people if they fire in the air but the truth is that the shots when to fall back to the ground so the speed of the bullet is a slow nut if struck in the head of someone while falling from the sky then it can lead to injuries.
In most of the incidents, the people are alcoholic so it is a high probability that the shots can be fired on the people attending the wedding or celebration rather than firing in the sky. There had been incidents when the shots have injured the attendees of the wedding.
The document further discusses some incidents, the law applicable, and also the take of the high court and apex court on ‘Celebratory Firing’. This practice is dangerous to the life of the people and it shall be stooped.
Some of the incidents that led to injuries by the celebratory firing are:
1) A boy was killed by the celebratory firing in Madhya Pradesh where he was attending a marriage procession. In the said procession one man started celebratory firing and the boy near him was injured and after some time declared dead. The police have registered a case.
2) A woman was being injured while seeing the procession of a marriage from her terrace. In the procession, a person opened celebratory firing and a shot hit on the elbow of the woman.
3) A 10-year-old girl was dead in the celebratory firing when she was attending the wedding. She had been identified as the cousin of the bride.
4) A 9-year child was killed in an incident of celebratory firing in U.P when he was attending a marriage function.
There are many more such incidents that have taken place. There are also some incidents where no injuries were caused to the public but the police had taken action the persons who have found indulged in celebratory firing.
Before 2019, there was no specific provision under the law that exclusively dealt with punishment for ‘Celebratory Firing’. And at that time, law agencies had taken the help of section 336 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and also taken action under the arms act for punishing the persons who were involved in the celebratory firing.
The current position of the law is clear after the amendment in the arms act in 2019. Now the Arms Act, 1959 under section 25(9) provides for the meaning and punishment of celebratory firing. The essential of the provisions are:
- Any person
- Using a firearm in a rash or negligent manner or celebratory firing
- By which human life is endangered
- Is punishable with imprisonment up to 2 years and a fine which can extend up to Rs. 1,00,000 or both.
HIGH COURT AND SUPREME COURT ON CELEBRATORY FIRING
- Shyam Sundar Kaushal v UOI and Ors. ( Delhi high court): In April 2016, public interest litigation was filed by Shyam Sunder Kaushal for seeking directions to state and central government to frame guidelines and policies for stopping the practice of celebratory firing. The petitioner had also submitted that the use of arms in functions to fire ammunition in the gesture of showing joy is harming or injuring the right to life which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution.
The court had disposed of the matter on 13.09.2017 issuing directions to the respondents to consider the issues raised by the petitioner in the writ petitions and notify an effective policy regarding the same.
- In Bhagwan Singh v. the State of Uttrakhand, the issue before the apex court was involving the punishment related to the issue of celebratory firing. The facts and the decision of the case are given below.
Facts of the case:
- In 2007, the marriage ceremony appellant’s son was going on in Uttarakhand. When the procession arrived at the appellant’s courtyard he started celebratory firing and by this 5 persons got hit by the pellets of which 2 persons died and 3 were injured.
- The case was filed against the appellant and the appellant was charged under section 302, 307 of Indian penal code, 1860 and section 25 of the arms act, 1989.
- The trial court after looking at the evidence held that the appellant is guilty under section 302 and 307 of the Indian penal code and the same was upheld by the high court in appeal.
- The appellant further appealed to the Supreme Court with the contention that he shall be charged under section 304-A of I.P.C and not under section 302 of I.P.C as there was no intention of doing the crime.
- The court listened to both the arguments of appellant and respondent and concluded that the sentence of the trial court shall be modified from section 302 to 304 of the Indian penal code and that under section 307 shall be altered to section 308 of the Indian penal code.
- The reasoning by the court was that it cannot come under section 304-A as the appellant was having sufficient knowledge that if he uses a firearm in a wedding procession so there are chances that someone can be injured. And as he knew the consequences but there was no intention, so the court altered section 302 to section 304.
- The court had also made an obiter dictum (which means a passing comment by the judge which is not binding as precedent) in the judgment stating that the celebratory firing incidents are rising which is regretful. The gun which is licensed for self-protection or the safety and security of the crops is used in the celebratory firing and can because of accidents. The court also stated that the appellants cannot escape the liability of carrying a loaded gun in a wedding with the knowledge that if fired can be dangerous and harm the life of the people present.
The practice of celebratory firing is very prevalent in India and it has become a part of traditions for some people. The enforcement of the law would be difficult mostly in the rural areas as the people are used to celebratory firing and they also sometimes get the support of the local strongmen. For enforcing the law, the people shall be made aware of the laws relating to the celebratory firing and the people should also be told the reasons and the need for stopping this practice. The law was there previously also, may not be exclusively written but the practices are still going on. This is high time that the practices are being followed and the incidents of injuries and death are taking place regularly. Now is the time that the people shall be made aware and this practice should be stooped by strictly abiding the people by law.