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Case Analysis: State Of Orissa vs Ram Bahadur Thapa AIR 1960 Ori 161, 1960 CriLJ 1349


PETITIONER: State Of Orissa 

RESPONDENT: Ram Bahadur Thapa 

Bench: R Narasimham, S Barman, Orissa High Court

DATE OF JUDGEMENT: 9 th November, 1959

Rasgovindpur, a village in Balasore district, is a village with an abandoned aerodrome which had a huge amount of valuable aero scrape. There were two chaukidars named Dibakar (P.W. 22) and Govind (P.W. 23) to look after at the aero scrape and restricting any kind of unauthorized persons.

Jagat Bandhu Chatterjee (P.W. 29) was one from the firm of Chatterji Brothers, Calcutta who came to Rasgovidpur with his servant Ram Bahadur Thapa (Respondent) who was Nepali by origin. They came to the village to purchase aero scrapes.

Jagat and Ram stayed at the residence of Krishna Chandra Patro (P.W. 26) who had a tea stall at Rasgovindpur.

There were many adivasi villages near and around the aerodrome and was mostly inhabited by Santals and Majhis. These adivasi people and others living around the aerodrome believed strongly in the presence of ghosts and the abandoned aerodrome also was known for the infestations of ghosts.

Many footpath cuttings were seen near the aerodrome area but due to the fear of ghosts, adivasis did not venture in the area at the night alone.


On 20th May 1958, Chandra Majhi(P.W. 11), who was the resident of Telkundi village, went to the tea stall of Krishna Chandra Patro (P.W. 26) in Rasgovidpur at 9 pm. Since he was afraid of the ghosts, he decided to take shelter at Krishna’s residence. Jagat and Ram, on the other hand, were anxious to experience the presence of ghosts and they decided to visit the areas. They then woke up Krishna in the mid night and convinced him to accompany them. They also woke up Chandra and assured to escort him to his village Telkundi safely. They dropped Chandra to his village and started to return by footpath across the aerodrome. While returning, near camp IV, they noticed a flickering of light from a distance of about 400 cubits from their pathway. The weather was so that the wind was blowing heavily and it made the impression of flickering lights scarier. Jagat, Ram and Krishna thought that it is not something very usual and had the impression of ghosts ('will-o' the wisp’- meaning whispering witches). They felt some movements around the flickering lights and they all ran towards it.

Ram ran and reached the spot first. He, with his “Khurki” immediately began to attack the ghosts indiscriminately. Krishna arrived some time later but Ram did not notice him. One of the blows of his khurki hit Krishna also and Krishna started screaming aloud that he was hit badly by Ram. In the meantime, others also started crying and screaming in distress. Ram soon realised that the impression of ghosts were originally “human beings” and straight away stopped attacking. They saw that they were female Majhis of the locality who were collected under a 'Mohua' tree. They carried hurricane lantern with them so as to gather “Mohua” flowers at that time of the night.

Sections imposed on respondent

1. Section 302 I.P.C. for the murder of Gelhi Majhiani.

2. Section 326 I.P.C. for having caused grievous hurt to P.Ws. 27 and 28.

3. Section 324 I.P.C. for having caused hurt to Krishna Chandra Patro (P.W. 26)


Whether the sessions court rightfully acquitted the respondent on the grounds that a mistake of fact took place in good faith? And therefore was the standard of care met?


It was held by the Hon’ble court that under section 79 of IPC, the respondent was protected believing that the respondent had hit the females in the good faith believing it to be the ghost. The appeal was dismissed at the thought that the sessions court was right at the acquittal of the respondent where section 79 of IPC was applicable and the mere thought that if the respondent had acted thoughtfully is not a ground for this case.


It is expected from the law of the justice system that the defense of knowledge of fact must not be misused and justice must be provided to the victims. The courts must observe that section 52 of IPC is used with the full precaution that the accused must be in a good faith before attacking the victim and also the accused must act with due care and attention. It has to be a considerate reason to use the defense of knowledge of the fact and understand the mental conditions of the accused. There is a thin line between the mistake of the fact and negligence. On the other hand, it is the obligation of the court of law to see that the accused had adequate punishment and justice is served to the victim.









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