Case Brief: K. N. Mehra vs The State of Rajasthan

Brief Details:

  • Relevant Citation: AIR 1957 SC 369
  • Decided on: 11th February, 1957
  • Court: Supreme Court of India
  • Judge Bench: Honorable Justice Jagannadhadas B. Imam, Justice Syed Jaffer Menon and Justice P. Govinda.

Facts of the Case:

K. N. Mehra and M. Z. Phillips were cadets who were doing training in the Indian Air Force Academy situated in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Mehra was given training to be a Navigator (Navigator is a person who guides the pilot with the help of maps and instruments). On 13th May, 1952, Philips was discharged from the Academy on the grounds of misconduct. However, Philips knew how to fly an aircraft. On 14th May, 1952, Philips had to board a train to leave Jodhpur in view of his discharge from the academy. As a part of training, Mehra was due for a flight in a Dakota (a type of plane) alongside Om Prakash, a flying cadet. The authorized time given for the takeoff was between 6 am to 6:30 am. The cadets who are given training can fly only 20 miles around the aerodrome. On that morning, K. N. Mehra and Phillips took off with Harvard H.T. 822 and not with Dakota. They took off well before the scheduled time (i.e.) at about 5 am, without any authorization and without fulfilling any formalities, which are essential for an aircraft-flight. In the afternoon, they landed in the fields of Pakistan. On 16th May, 1952, around 7 am both of them contacted Mr. J. C. Kapoor, military advisor to the Indian High Commissioner situated in Karachi, Pakistan and told him that they lost their way and were forced to land in the fields of Karachi. They requested his help to go back to Delhi. Mr. Kapoor arranged the flight to send them back to Delhi. He also made arrangements to send the Harvard H.T. 822 back to Jodhpur. On 17th May, 1952, the plane halted at Jodhpur and both of them were arrested.

Issue Raised:

  1. Whether this flight to Pakistan is intentional or not?
  2. Whether this offence comes within the category of Section 378 of IPC, 1860?

Judgement:

The advocate appearing for the appellant argued that they are young cadets and they do not have any intention to take away things which belong to the Indian Air Force. Being cadets, they have the right to take away the aircraft. They had no intention to land the flight in Pakistan but due to bad weather and petrol near exhaustion, they were forced to land the plane.

The advocate appearing for the respondents argued that the appellants were allotted the Dakota plane but instead they took off with the Harvard H.T. 822 between 5 am and 5:30 am, which was before the scheduled time. Mehta was given instructions by the concerned authorities that he had to fly the plane with Om Prakash, but he took off with Philips. A flight authorization book and form No. 700 have to be signed before flying any plane. These formalities were also not fulfilled by the appellant. The cadets are given the instructions that they have to fly within 20 miles of the aerodrome. They went beyond the prescribed limit and landed 100 miles away from the India-Pakistan border. There were evidences which showed that Mehra was not satisfied with his word and was seeking employment in Pakistan.

The Supreme Court upheld the view of the respondent and changed the punishment given by the trial court.

The trial court convicted both of them under Section 378 of IPC, 1860. They both were sentenced, simple imprisonment of 18 months along with a fine of Rs. 750/-. If they fail to pay, they would have to undergo 4 months additional imprisonment. Since the appellant had already served a sentence of 11 months and 27 days. So, the Supreme Court reduced the sentence of imprisonment to the period already undergone. 

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