The Delhi High Court has quashed a criminal complaint under the customs law against a 26-year-old woman national level shooter whose father was found using her licence in the alleged import of firearms, saying she ought not to be punished for the purported acts of her father.
The high court said prima facie no case is made out against petitioner Disha Langan under the provisions of the Customs Act as the allegations against her do not disclose the essential ingredients of the offence she is charge with and no presumption can be drawn that she had knowledge of the alleged offences committed by her father.
“Considering the fact that the petitioner is a young girl of 26 years with a bright future ahead and who while studying law is also keeping her aspirations flying high through shooting and bringing laurels for the country, this court is of the considered opinion that she ought not to be punished for the alleged acts of her father solely on the pretext of her license being used by him,” Justice Saurabh Banerjee said.
The high court said it is a general practice in most, if not all, Indian families that a student studying in school, college, or university, and that too when it happens to be in another state or country, it is the family, primarily the parents, who play the role of supporting them and fill in for them.
“It is a matter of common knowledge that most of such students are dependent upon their parents. This is more so when the parents are also involved in the same activity, like in the present circumstances, where the father of the petitioner is himself a shooter.
“Considering the state of affairs involved, this court is of the view that like any other student, the petitioner would have been busy in her studies and like any other sportsperson, she would also have been busy with her shooting practices and therefore her father filled in for making all arrangements qua procuring arms and ammunitions for her shooting practices/ competitions,” it said.
The high court said the chief metropolitan magistrate was wrong in proceeding to issue summons to the woman.
As per the complaint filed by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), three persons, including the woman’s father, were intercepted at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on April 29, 2017 on the basis of a specific intelligence information that a syndicate was involved in smuggling of arms and ammunition from Slovenia to India.
It said the syndicate members would be arriving at Terminal 3 of the airport carrying prohibited items concealed in their baggage without disclosing them before the customs.
The complaint said the petitioner’s father utilised here Arms and Ammunition Licence’ issued by the Delhi police and the ‘Renowned Shooter Certificate’ issued by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) for importing weapons using bogus invoices and by suppressing the true value and description of the weapons without the recommendation of NRAI.
It was alleged that the members of the syndicate were selling the smuggled weapons of foreign origin in India making huge profits. The weapons were used for hunting wildlife animals, the complaint said.
The woman, in her statement before the DRI, stated that on the date of the incident, she was not in Delhi and was at Gujarat National Law University in Gandhinagar where she was studying at that point of time.
Langan said she never ordered any import of arms and it was her father who procured them on her behalf. She said she was only concerned with the shooting competitions and all arrangements for firearms and their procurement were made by her father.
Langan said she was also not aware of the number of arms in her name as all paperwork was handled by her father.
The woman’s counsel submitted before the high court that she cannot be punished for the alleged offences committed by her father and no case was made out against her.
The counsel for DRI, however, contended specific allegations have been made against the petitioner about commission of offence under the Act as she allowed her licence to be used by her father in the alleged import of arms.
He also argued that since the petitioner allowed her father to use her licence, she had knowledge of the fact that her father was wrongly importing arms.
The high court noted it was not disputed that on the date of the incident, the petitioner, besides being enrolled in LLB course at Gujarat National Law University, was also a national level shooter.
The high court said the woman’s statement in the present scenario is very plausible and, in the opinion of the court, she never ordered any import of arms herself and that her father, being a renowned shooter himself, was responsible for procuring them for her and that she was unaware of the alleged offences committed by him.
It said the petitioner cannot be punished for the alleged offences committed by her father as there is no concept of vicarious liability under the criminal law.
It clarified that the proceedings against the remaining accused named in the criminal complaint shall continue in accordance with law.