The relevant provisions

Print edition : February 07, 1998

AS per the judgment in the Special Judge's trial No. 3 of 1943, the Bateshwar incident was a case under Sections 147 and 436/149 of the Indian Penal Code and under Rule 35(4) of the Defence of India Rules read with Rule 35(1) (a).

Section 147 IPC is "punishment for rioting" - imprisonment for two years or fine or both. Section 146 IPC defines rioting as if "force or violence is used by an unlawful assembly or by any member thereof in prosecution of common object of such assembly, every member of such assembly is guilty of the offence of rioting."

Section 436 IPC reads: "Mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house etc. Whoever commits mischief by fire or any explosive substance intending to cause or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause the destruction of any building which is ordinarily used as a place of worship or human dwelling or as a place for the custody of property shall be imprisoned for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine."

Section 149 IPC reads: "Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object. If an offence is committed by any member of an unlawful assembly in prosecution of the common object of that assembly or such as the members of that assembly knew to be likely to be committed in prosecution of that object, every person who at the time of committing that offence is a member of the same assembly is guilty of that offence."

Sections 147 and 149 IPC under which the accused were tried show that being a member of an unlawful assembly (as the Vajpayee brothers were) was crime enough. If they had been brought to trial, their confessional statement was clinching evidence that they were part of the unlawful assembly - present at the bazaar when the Ala was being sung, who went along with the crowd to the Bateshwar and Bichkauli forest outposts. Even if they did not actually participate in the attack/arson at the outposts, their willing presence in the "unlawful assembly" would have made them liable for punishment. It must be recalled that the incident took place in 1942 when the British authorities were particularly harsh in view of the ongoing Second World War.

Thus it is clear that the Vajpayee brothers, in all likelihood, would have been sentenced in the case despite their professed innocence and exculpatory statement. It also explains the anxiety of their father to get them out of jail and ensure that they did not come up for trial.

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