advocatemmmohan

My photo

ADVOCATEMMMOHAN -  Practicing both IN CIVIL, CRIMINAL AND FAMILY LAWS,Etc.,

WELCOME TO LEGAL WORLD

WELCOME TO MY LEGAL WORLD - FOR KNOWLEDGE IN LAW & FOR LEGAL OPINIONS - SHARE THIS

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Reduced the sentence from life to 10 years in sec. 304 B IPC Apex court held that same principles laid down in death cases- would apply with little modifications for assessing the sentences in other cases = SUNIL DUTT SHARMA Vs. STATE (GOVT.OF NCT OF DELHI) published in judis.nic.in/supremecourt/ ?filename=40877

Reduced the sentence from life to 10 years in sec. 304 B IPC applying the participles laid down in commuting death penalty to life imprisonment, even though there is no guide lines and separate rules for lessor sentences - other than death sentences ; Apex court held that same principles laid down in death cases-  would apply with little modifications for assessing the sentences in other cases =

whether  sentence
of life imprisonment imposed on the accused-appellant for commission of  the
offence under Section 304-B of the Penal Code is in  any  way  excessive  or
disproportionate so as to require interference by this Court. =

 The power and authority conferred by use of the different  expressions noticed above indicate the enormous  discretion  vested  in  the  Courts  in sentencing an offender who has  been  found  guilty  of  commission  of  any particular offence.  No where, either in the Penal Code or in any other  law
in force,  any  prescription  or  norm  or  even  guidelines  governing  the exercise of the vast discretion in the matter of sentencing  has  been  laid down except perhaps, Section 354(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure,  1973  which, inter-alia, requires the judgment of a Court to  state  the  reasons for the sentence awarded when the punishment prescribed is imprisonment  for
a term of years.

   we see no reason as  to  why
the principles of sentencing evolved by this Court over  the  years  through
largely in the context of the death penalty will not be  applicable  to  all
lesser sentences so  long  as  the  sentencing  judge  is  vested  with  the
discretion to award a lesser or a higher sentence resembling  the  swing  of
the pendulum from the minimum to the maximum.  


 (1)  the  young  age  of  the  accused   


    (2) the possibility of reforming and rehabilitating the  accused
        


       (3) the accused had no prior criminal record 




       (4) the accused was not likely to  be  a  menace  or  threat  or
        danger  to  society  or  the  community  



           [pic](5) a few other reasons need to be mentioned  such  as  the
        accused having been acquitted by one of the courts 




       (6) the crime was not premeditated 




        (7) the case was one of circumstantial evidence 
        Would the above principles apply to sentencing  of  an  accused  found
guilty of the offence under Section 304-B inasmuch as the  said  offence  is
held to be proved against the accused  on  basis  of  a  legal  presumption?
This is the next question that has to be dealt with.     
So  long  there  is
credible  evidence  of  cruelty  occasioned  by  demand(s)  for  dowry, 
 any
unnatural death of a woman within seven years  of  her  marriage  makes  the
husband or a relative of the husband of such woman liable  for  the  offence
of “dowry death” under Section 304-B 
though there  may  not  be  any  direct
involvement of the husband or such relative with the death in question.   
In
a situation where commission of an offence is held to be proved by means  of
a legal presumption the circumstances surrounding  the  crime  to  determine
the presence of aggravating circumstances (crime test) may  not  be  readily
forthcoming unlike a case where there is evidence  of  overt  criminal  acts
establishing the direct involvement of the accused with the crime to  enable
the Court to come to specific conclusions with regard to  the  barbarous  or
depraved nature of the crime committed.  
The necessity to combat the  menace
of demand for dowry or to prevent atrocities on women and like social  evils
as well as the necessity to maintain the purity of social conscience  cannot
be determinative of the quantum of sentence inasmuch as the said  parameters
would be common to all offences under Section 304-B of the Penal Code.   
The
above,  therefore,  cannot  be  elevated  to  the   status   of   acceptable
jurisprudential principles to act as a rational basis for  awarding  varying
degrees of punishment on a case to case basis.  
The  search  for  principles
to satisfy the crime test in an offence under Section  304-B  of  the  Penal
Code must,  therefore,  lie  elsewhere.  
Perhaps,  the  time  spent  between
marriage and the death of  the  woman;  the  attitude  and  conduct  of  the
accused towards the victim before her death; the extent to which the  demand
for dowry was persisted with and the manner and circumstances of  commission
of the cruelty would be a surer basis for determination of the  crime  test.

Coupled with the above, the fact whether the accused was also charged  with
the offence under Section 302 of  the  Penal  Code  and  the  basis  of  his
acquittal of the said charge would be another  very  relevant  circumstance.

As  against  this  the  extenuating/mitigating  circumstances  which   would
determine the “criminal test” must be allowed to  have  a  full  play.   
The
aforesaid two sets of circumstances being mutually irreconcilable cannot  be
arranged in the form of a balance sheet as observed in Sangeet  (supra)  but
it is the cumulative effect of the two sets of different circumstances  that
has to be kept in mind  while  rendering  the  sentencing  decision.  
 This,
according to us, would be  the  correct  approach  while  dealing  with  the
question of sentence so far as the offence under Section 304-B of the  Penal
Code is concerned.



14.   Applying the above parameters to the facts  of  the  present  case  it
transpires that the death of the  wife  of  the  accused-appellant  occurred
within two years of marriage.  
There was, of course, a demand for dowry  and
there is evidence of cruelty or  harassment.   
The  autopsy  report  of  the
deceased showed external marks  of  injuries  but  the  cause  of  death  of
deceased was stated to be due to asphyxia resulting from strangulation.   
In
view of the aforesaid finding of Dr. L.T. Ramani (PW-16) who  had  conducted
the postmortem, the learned Trial Judge thought  it  proper  to  acquit  the
accused of the offence under Section 302 of the Penal Code  on  the  benefit
of doubt as there was  no  evidence  that  the  accused  was,  in  any  way,
involved with the strangulation of the deceased.  
The proved  facts  on  the
basis of which offence under Section 304-B of the Penal Code was held to  be
established, while acquitting the accused-appellant  of  the  offence  under
Section 302  of  the  Penal  Code,  does  not  disclose  any  extraordinary,
perverse or diabolic act on the part of the  accused-appellant  to  take  an
extreme view of the  matter.  
 Coupled  with  the  above,  at  the  time  of
commission of the offence, the accused-appellant was about 21 years old  and
as on date he is about 42 years.  
The accused-appellant also has a  son  who
was an infant at the time of the occurrence.  
He has no previous  record  of
crime.  
On  a  cumulative  application  of  the  principles  that  would  be
relevant to adjudge the crime and the criminal test,  we  are  of  the  view
that the present is  not  a  case  where  the  maximum  punishment  of  life
imprisonment ought to have been awarded to the  accused-appellant.   
At  the
same time, from the order of the learned Trial Court, it is clear that  some
of the injuries on the deceased, though obviously not  the  fatal  injuries,
are attributable to the accused-appellant. 
 In  fact,  the  finding  of  the
learned Trial Court is that the injuries No. 1  (Laceration  1”  x  ½”  skin
deep on the side of forehead near hair margin) and 2 (Laceration 1 ½”  x  1”
scalp deep over the frontal area) on the deceased had  been  caused  by  the
accused-appellant with a pestle.  
The said part of the order of the  learned
Trial Court has not been challenged in the appeal  before  the  High  Court.
Taking into account the said fact, we are of the view that  in  the  present
case the minimum sentence prescribed i.e. seven years would  also  not  meet
the ends of justice. 
 Rather we are of the  view  that  a  sentence  of  ten
years RI would be appropriate.  Consequently, we modify the  impugned  order
dated 4.4.2011 passed by the High Court of Delhi and impose  the  punishment
of ten years RI on the accused-appellant for the commission of  the  offence
under Section 304-B of the Penal Code.  
The sentence of fine is  maintained.
The accused-appellant who is  presently  in  custody  shall  serve  out  the
remaining part of the sentence in terms of the present order.






                        REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION



                      CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1333  OF 2013
                 (Arising out of SLP(Crl.) No. 7002 of 2012)


Sunil Dutt Sharma                            ...   Appellant(s)

                                   Versus

State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi)                ...   Respondent(s)


                               J U D G M E N T


RANJAN GOGOI, J.

1.    The accused-appellant was tried for offences under  Sections  302  and
304-B of the Indian Penal Code (hereinafter for short the “Penal Code”)  for
causing the death of his wife in the night intervening 16/17.05.92.  He  has
been acquitted of the offence under Section 302 of the  Penal  Code  on  the
benefit of doubt though found guilty for the offence under Section 304-B  of
the Penal Code following which the sentence of life  imprisonment  has  been
imposed.  The conviction and sentence has been affirmed by the  High  Court.
Aggrieved, the appellant had moved this  Court  under  Article  136  of  the
Constitution.

2.    Limited notice on the question of sentence  imposed  on  the  accused-
appellant having been issued by this Court the scope of the  present  appeal
stands truncated to a determination of the question as to
whether  sentence
of life imprisonment imposed on the accused-appellant for commission of  the
offence under Section 304-B of the Penal Code is in  any  way  excessive  or
disproportionate so as to require interference by this Court.

3.    Section 304-B(2) of the Penal Code  which  prescribes  the  punishment
for the offence contemplated by Section 304-B(1) is in the  following  terms
:
           “Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment
           for a term which shall not be less than seven  years  but  which
           may extend to imprisonment for life.” (emphasis is ours).

4.    Expressions similar to what has been noticed above are to be found  in
different sections of the Penal Code which may be taken note of :
|(i)  |Sections 115, 118, 123, 124, 126, |                           |
|     |127, 134, 193, 201, 214, 216,     |                           |
|     |216A, 219, 220, 221, 222, 225,    |                           |
|     |231, 234, 243, 244, 245, 247, 249,|“may extend to seven       |
|     |256, 257, 258, 259, 260, 281, 293,|years/ten years”;          |
|     |308, 312, 317, 325, 333, 363, 365,|                           |
|     |369, 370, 380, 381, 387, 393, 401,|                           |
|     |402, 404, 407, 408, 409, 433, 435,|                           |
|     |437, 439, 452, 455, 466, 468, 472,|                           |
|     |473, 474, 477A, 489C, 493, 494,   |                           |
|     |495 and  496                      |                           |
|(ii) |Sections 122, 222, 225, 305, 371, |“imprisonment for life or  |
|     |449, 450                          |imprisonment for a term not|
|     |                                  |exceeding ten years”       |
|(iii)|Sections 124A, 125, 128, 130, 194,|“imprisonment for life or  |
|     |232, 238, 255 etc.                |with imprisonment of either|
|     |                                  |description which may      |
|     |                                  |extend to ____ years”      |
|(iv) |Sections 122, 225, 305, 371, 449  |“imprisonment for life or  |
|     |                                  |with imprisonment of either|
|     |                                  |description for a term not |
|     |                                  |exceeding ___ years”       |
|(v)  |Section 304B                      |“imprisonment for a term   |
|     |                                  |which shall not be less    |
|     |                                  |than seven years but which |
|     |                                  |may extend to imprisonment |
|     |                                  |for life”                  |
|(vi) |Section 376                       |“imprisonment of either    |
|     |                                  |description for a term     |
|     |                                  |which shall not be less    |
|     |                                  |than seven years or for    |
|     |                                  |life or for a term which   |
|     |                                  |may extend to ten years”   |


5.    The power and authority conferred by use of the different  expressions noticed above indicate the enormous  discretion  vested  in  the  Courts  in sentencing an offender who has  been  found  guilty  of  commission  of  any particular offence.  No where, either in the Penal Code or in any other  law
in force,  any  prescription  or  norm  or  even  guidelines  governing  the exercise of the vast discretion in the matter of sentencing  has  been  laid down except perhaps, Section 354(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure,  1973  which, inter-alia, requires the judgment of a Court to  state  the  reasons for the sentence awarded when the punishment prescribed is imprisonment  for
a term of years.
In the above situation, naturally,  the  sentencing  power
has been a matter of serious academic and  judicial  debate  to  discern  an
objective and rational basis for the exercise of the  power  and  to  evolve
sound jurisprudential principles governing the exercise  thereof.
In  this
regard the Constitution Bench decision of this Court in Jagmohan  Singh  vs.
The State of U.P.[1]  (under  the  old  Code),  another  Constitution  Bench
decision in Bachan Singh  vs.  State  of  Punjab[2],  a  three  Judge  Bench
decision in Machhi Singh and Others vs. State of Punjab[3],  are  watersheds
in the search for jurisprudential principles in the  matter  of  sentencing.
Omission of any reference to other equally  illuminating  opinions  of  this
Court rendered in scores of other monumental decisions is not  to  underplay
the importance thereof but solely on  account  of  need  for  brevity.
Two
recent pronouncements of this Court in Sangeet  and  Another  vs.  State  of
Haryana[4] and Shankar Kisanrao Khade vs. State  of  Maharashtra[5]  reflect
the very labourious and painstaking efforts of this Court to  summarize  the
net result  of  the  judicial  exercises  undertaken  since  Jagmohan  Singh
(supra) and the unresolved issues and grey areas  in  this  regard  and  the
solutions that could be attempted.
The aforesaid decisions  of  this  Court
though rendered in the context of exercise of the power to award the  death sentence, whether  the principles laid down, with suitable  adaptation  and modification, would apply to all ‘lesser’ situations so long  the  court  is confronted with the vexed problem of unraveling the parameters for  exercise of the sentencing power is another question that needs to be dealt with.

6.    For the sake of precision it may be sufficient to  take  note  of  the
propositions held in Bachan Singh (supra) to have flown from Jagmohan  Singh
(supra) and the changes in propositions (iv)(a)  and  (v)(b)  thereof  which
were perceived to be necessary in the light  of  the  amended  provision  of
Section 354(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.  
The  above  changes
were noticed in Sangeet (supra) and were  referred  to  as  evolution  of  a
sentencing policy by shifting the focus from the crime (Jagmohan  Singh)  to
crime and the criminal (Bachan Singh).
The two concepts were  described  as
Phase-I and Phase-II of an emerging sentencing policy.

7.    The principles culled out from Jagmohan Singh (supra) in Bachan  Singh
(supra) and the changes  in  proposition  (iv)(a)  and  (v)(b)  may  now  be
specifically noticed.
        Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab2
        160.     In the light of the above conspectus, we will now consider
        the effect of the aforesaid legislative changes  on  the  authority
        and efficacy of  the  propositions  laid  down  by  this  Court  in
        Jagmohan case. 
These propositions may be summed up as under:


           “(i)  The  general  legislative  policy  that   underlines   the
        structure of our criminal law, principally contained in the  Indian
        Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, is to define an offence
        with  sufficient  clarity  and  to  prescribe  only   the   maximum
        punishment therefor, and to allow a very  wide  discretion  to  the
        Judge in the matter of fixing the degree of punishment.
           With the solitary exception of  Section  303,  the  same  policy
        permeates Section 302 and some other sections of  the  Penal  Code,
        where the maximum punishment is the death penalty.


           (ii)-(a) No exhaustive enumeration of aggravating or  mitigating
        circumstances  which  should  be  considered  when  sentencing   an
        offender, is possible. “The infinite variety of cases and facets to
        each case would make general standards either  meaningless  ‘boiler
        plate’ or a statement of the obvious that  no  Jury  (Judge)  would
        need.” (referred to McGoutha v. California)
           (b) The impossibility of laying down standards is  at  the  very
        core of the criminal law as administered in India which invests the
        Judges with a very wide discretion in  the  matter  of  fixing  the
        degree of punishment.


           (iii) The view taken by  the  plurality  in  Furman  v.  Georgia
        decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, to  the  effect,
        that a law which gives uncontrolled and unguided discretion to  the
        Jury (or the Judge) to choose arbitrarily  between  a  sentence  of
        death and imprisonment for a capital offence, violates  the  Eighth
        Amendment, is not applicable in  India.  We  do  not  have  in  our
        Constitution any provision like the Eighth Amendment, nor are we at
        liberty to apply the test of reasonableness with the  freedom  with
        which the Judges of the Supreme Court of America are accustomed  to
        apply “the due process” clause. There are grave  doubts  about  the
        expediency of transplanting  western  experience  in  our  country.
        Social  conditions  are  different  and   so   also   the   general
        intellectual level. Arguments which would be valid  in  respect  of
        one area of the world may not hold good in respect of another area.


           (iv)(a) This discretion in the  matter  of  sentence  is  to  be
        exercised  by  the  Judge  judicially,  after  balancing  all   the
        aggravating and mitigating circumstances of the crime.
           (b) The discretion is liable to be corrected by superior courts.
        The exercise of judicial discretion on well  recognised  principles
        is, in the final analysis, the safest possible  safeguard  for  the
        accused.


           In view of the above, it will be impossible to  say  that  there
        would be at all any discrimination, since crime as crime may appear
        to be superficially the same but the facts and circumstances  of  a
        crime are widely  different.  Thus  considered,  the  provision  in
        Section 302, Penal Code is not  violative  of  Article  14  of  the
        Constitution on the  ground  that  it  confers  on  the  Judges  an
        unguided and uncontrolled discretion  in  the  matter  of  awarding
        capital punishment or imprisonment for life.


           (v)(a) Relevant facts and circumstances impinging on the  nature
        and circumstances of the crime can be brought before the  court  at
        the preconviction stage, notwithstanding the fact  that  no  formal
        procedure  for  producing  evidence  regarding   such   facts   and
        circumstances  had  been  specifically  provided.   Where   counsel
        addresses the court with regard to the character  and  standing  of
        the accused, they are duly considered by the court unless there  is
        something in the evidence itself which belies  him  or  the  Public
        Prosecutor challenges the facts.
           (b) It is to be emphasised that in exercising its discretion  to
        choose either of the two alternative sentences provided in  Section
        302 Penal Code, “the court is principally concerned with the  facts
        and circumstances whether  aggravating  or  mitigating,  which  are
        connected with the particular crime under inquiry. All  such  facts
        and circumstances are capable of being proved  in  accordance  with
        the provisions of the Indian Evidence Act in a trial  regulated  by
        the CrPC. The trial does not come to an end until all the  relevant
        facts are proved and the counsel on both sides have an  opportunity
        to address the court. The only thing that remains is for the  Judge
        to decide on the guilt and punishment and  that  is  what  Sections
        306(2) and 309(2), CrPC purport to provide  for.  These  provisions
        are part of the procedure established by law and unless it is shown
        that they are invalid for any other reasons they must  be  regarded
        as  valid.  No  reasons  are  offered  to  show   that   they   are
        constitutionally invalid and hence the death sentence imposed after
        trial in accordance with the procedure established by  law  is  not
        unconstitutional under Article 21”. (emphasis added)”


        161.     A study of the propositions set out above, will show that,
        in substance, the authority of none of them has  been  affected  by
        the legislative changes since the decision  in  Jagmohan  case.
 Of
        course, two of them require to be adjusted and attuned to the shift
        in the legislative policy.
The first of those propositions  is  No.
        (iv)(a) which postulates, that according to the then extant Code of
        Criminal Procedure  both  the  alternative  sentences  provided  in
        Section 302 of the Penal Code are normal sentences  and  the  court
        can, therefore,  after  weighing  the  aggravating  and  mitigating
        circumstances of the particular case,  in  its  discretion,  impose
        either of those sentences.
This postulate has now been modified  by
        Section 354(3) which mandates the court convicting a person for  an
        offence  punishable  with  death  or,  in  the   alternative   with
        imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term of years,  not  to
        impose the sentence of  death  on  that  person  unless  there  are
        “special reasons” —  to  be  recorded  —  for  such  sentence.
The
        expression “special reasons” in  the  context  of  this  provision,
        obviously means “exceptional reasons” founded on the  exceptionally
        grave circumstances of the particular case relating to the crime as
        well as the criminal.
Thus, the legislative policy now  writ  large
        and clear on the face of Section 354(3) is that on  conviction  for
        murder and other capital offences  punishable  in  the  alternative
        with death under the Penal Code,  the  extreme  penalty  should  be
        imposed only in extreme cases.


           163. Another  proposition,  the  application  of  which,  to  an
        extent, is affected by the legislative  changes,  is  No.  (v). 
 In
        portion (a) of that proposition,  it  is  said  that  circumstances
        impinging on the nature and  circumstances  of  the  crime  can  be
        brought on record before the pre-conviction stage. 
In portion  (b),
        it is emphasised that while making choice  of  the  sentence  under
        Section 302 of the Penal Code, the court is  principally  concerned
        with the circumstances connected with the  particular  crime  under
        inquiry. 
Now, Section 235(2) provides for a  bifurcated  trial  and
        specifically gives the  accused  person  a  right  of  pre-sentence
        hearing, at which  stage,  he  can  bring  on  record  material  or
        evidence, which may not be strictly relevant to or  connected  with
        the  particular  crime  under  inquiry,  but  nevertheless,   have,
        consistently with  the  policy  underlined  in  Section  354(3),  a
        bearing on the choice of sentence. 
The present  legislative  policy
        discernible from Section 235(2) read with Section 354(3) is that in
        fixing the degree of punishment or making the  choice  of  sentence
        for various offences, including one under Section 302 of the  Penal
        Code, the court should not confine its consideration  “principally”
        or merely to the circumstances connected with the particular crime,
        but also  give  due  consideration  to  the  circumstances  of  the
        criminal.


           164. Attuned to the legislative policy  delineated  in  Sections
        354(3) and 235(2), propositions  (iv)(a)  and  (v)(b)  in  Jagmohan
        shall have to be recast and may be stated as below:
           “(a) The normal rule is that the  offence  of  murder  shall  be
        punished with the sentence of  life  imprisonment.  The  court  can
        depart from that rule and impose the  sentence  of  death  only  if
        there are special reasons  for  doing  so.  Such  reasons  must  be
        recorded in writing before imposing the death sentence.
           (b) While considering the question of sentence to be imposed for
        the offence of murder under Section 302  of  the  Penal  Code,  the
        court must have regard to every relevant circumstance  relating  to
        the crime as well as the criminal. If  the  court  finds,  but  not
        otherwise, that the offence is of  an  exceptionally  depraved  and
        heinous character and constitutes, on account of its design and the
        manner of its execution, a source of grave danger to the society at
        large, the court may impose the death sentence.”




8.    In Sangeet (supra) the Court  also  took  note  of  the  “suggestions”
(offered at the Bar) noticed in Bachan Singh (supra) to  be  relevant  in  a
determination  of  the  circumstances  attending  the  crime  (described  as
aggravating circumstances) as well as those which pertain  to  the  criminal
as  distinguished  from  the  crime   (referred   to   as   the   mitigating
circumstances).  The attempt at evolution of a  principle  based  sentencing
policy as distinguished from a judge centric one was noted to have  suffered
some amount of derailment/erosion.  In fact,  the  several  judgments  noted
and referred to in Sangeet (supra) were found to  have  brought  in  a  fair
amount of uncertainty in application of  the  principles  in  awarding  life
imprisonment or death penalty, as may be, and  the  varying  perspective  or
responses of the court based on the particular facts of a given case  rather
than evolving standardized jurisprudential principles applicable across  the
board.

9.    The above  position  was  again  noticed  in  Shankar  Kisanrao  Khade
(supra).  In the separate concurring opinion rendered by  Brother  Madan  B.
Lokur there is an exhaustive consideration  of  the  judgments  rendered  by
this Court in the recent past (last 15  years)  wherein  death  penalty  has
been converted to  life  imprisonment  and  also  the  cases  wherein  death
penalty has been confirmed.  On  the  basis  of  the  views  of  this  Court
expressed  in the exhaustive list  of  its  judgments,  reasons  which  were
considered adequate  by  the  Court  to  convert  death  penalty  into  life
imprisonment as well as the reasons for confirming  the  death  penalty  had
been set out in the concurring judgment at paragraphs 106  and  122  of  the
report in Shankar Kisanrao Khade (supra) which paragraphs may  be  extracted
hereinbelow to notice the principles that have unfolded since  Bachan  Singh
(supra).




        “106. A study of the above cases suggests that  there  are  several
        reasons, cumulatively taken, for converting the  death  penalty  to
        that of imprisonment for life. 
However, some of  the  factors  that
        have had an influence in commutation include:



           (1)  the  young  age  of  the  accused   [Amit   v.   State   of
        Maharashtra[6] aged 20 years, Rahul[7] aged 24 years, Santosh Kumar
        Singh[8] aged 24 years, Rameshbhai Chandubhai Rathod (2)[9] aged 28
        years and Amit v. State of U.P.[10] aged 28 years];


           (2) the possibility of reforming and rehabilitating the  accused
        (in Santosh Kumar Singh8 and Amit v. State of U.P.10  the  accused,
        incidentally, were young when they committed the crime);


           (3) the accused had no prior criminal record (Nirmal  Singh[11],
        Raju[12], Bantu[13], Amit v. State of  Maharashtra6,  Surendra  Pal
        Shivbalakpal[14], Rahul7 and Amit v. State of U.P.10);




           (4) the accused was not likely to  be  a  menace  or  threat  or
        danger  to  society  or  the  community  (Nirmal   Singh11,   Mohd.
        Chaman[15], Raju12, Bantu13, Surendra  Pal  Shivbalakpal14,  Rahul7
        and Amit v. State of U.P.10).



           [pic](5) a few other reasons need to be mentioned  such  as  the
        accused having been acquitted by one of the courts (State  of  T.N.
        v. Suresh[16], State of Maharashtra v.  Suresh[17],  Bharat  Fakira
        Dhiwar[18], Mansingh[19] and Santosh Kumar Singh8);




           (6) the crime was not premeditated (Kumudi Lal[20],  Akhtar[21],
        Raju12 and Amrit Singh[22]);




           (7) the case was one of circumstantial evidence (Mansingh19  and
        Bishnu Prasad Sinha[23]).




           In one case, commutation was ordered since there was  apparently
        no “exceptional” feature warranting a death penalty (Kumudi  Lal20)
        and in another case  because  the  trial  court  had  awarded  life
        sentence but the High Court enhanced it to death  (Haresh  Mohandas
        Rajput[24]).





        122. The principal reasons for confirming the death penalty in  the
        above cases include:

           (1) the cruel, diabolic, brutal, depraved and gruesome nature of
        the  crime  (Jumman  Khan[25],  Dhananjoy  Chatterjee[26],   Laxman
        Naik[27],  Kamta  Tiwari[28],  Nirmal   Singh11,   Jai   Kumar[29],
        Satish[30], Bantu[31], Ankush Maruti  Shinde[32],  B.A.  Umesh[33],
        Mohd. Mannan[34] and Rajendra Pralhadrao Wasnik[35]);




           (2) the crime results in public abhorrence, shocks the  judicial
        conscience or the conscience of society or the community (Dhananjoy
        Chatterjee26,  Jai  Kumar29,  Ankush  Maruti  Shinde32  and   Mohd.
        Mannan34);




           (3) the reform or rehabilitation of the convict is not likely or
        that he would be a menace to society (Jai Kumar29, B.A. Umesh33 and
        Mohd. Mannan34);




           (4) the victims were defenceless (Dhananjoy Chatterjee26, Laxman
        Naik27, Kamta Tiwari28, Ankush Maruti Shinde32, Mohd. Mannan34  and
        Rajendra Pralhadrao Wasnik35);




           (5) the crime was either unprovoked or that it was  premeditated
        (Dhananjoy Chatterjee26,  Laxman  Naik27,  Kamta  Tiwari28,  Nirmal
        Singh11, Jai Kumar29, Ankush  Maruti  Shinde32,  B.A.  Umesh33  and
        [pic]Mohd.Mannan34) and in three cases the antecedents or the prior
        history of the convict was  taken  into  consideration  (Shivu[36],
        B.A. Umesh33 and Rajendra Pralhadrao Wasnik35).”




      However, in paragraph 123 of the report the cases  where  the  reasons
for taking either of the views i.e. commutation  or  confirmation  as  above
have been deviated from have been noticed.   Consequently,  the  progressive
march had been stultified and the sentencing exercise continues to  stagnate
as a highly individualized and judge centric issue.

10.    Are  we  to  understand  that  the  quest  and  search  for  a  sound
jurisprudential basis for imposing a particular sentence on an  offender  is
destined to remain elusive and the sentencing  parameters  in  this  country
are bound to remain judge centric?  The  issue  though  predominantly  dealt
with in the context of cases involving  the  death  penalty  has  tremendous
significance to the Criminal Jurisprudence of the  country  inasmuch  as  in
addition to the numerous offences  under  various  special  laws  in  force,
hundreds of offences are enumerated  in  the  Penal  Code,   punishment  for
which could extend from a single day  to  10  years  or  even  for  life,  a
situation made possible by the use of  the  seemingly  same  expressions  in
different provisions of the Penal Code as noticed in  the  opening  part  of
this order.

11.   As noticed, the “net value” of the huge number of in  depth  exercises
performed  since  Jagmohan  Singh   (supra)   has   been   effectively   and
systematically culled out in Sangeet and  Shankar  Kisanrao  Khade  (supra).
The  identified  principles  could  provide  a  sound  objective  basis  for
sentencing   thereby   minimizing   individualized   and    judge    centric
perspectives. Such  principles  bear  a  fair  amount  of  affinity  to  the
principles applied in foreign jurisdictions, a resume of which is  available
in the decision of this  Court  in  State  of  Punjab  vs.  Prem  Sagar  and
Others[37].
The difference is not in the identity  of  the  principles;  it
lies in the realm of application thereof to  individual  situations.   
While
in India application of the principles is left  to  the  judge  hearing  the
case, in certain foreign jurisdictions such principles are formulated  under
the  authority  of  the  statute  and   are   applied   on   principles   of
categorization of offences which approach, however, has been  found  by  the
Constitution Bench in Bachan  Singh  (supra)  to  be  inappropriate  to  our
system.  
The principles  being  clearly  evolved  and  securely  entrenched,
perhaps, the answer lies in consistency in approach.

12.   To revert to the main stream of the case, we see no reason as  to  why
the principles of sentencing evolved by this Court over  the  years  through
largely in the context of the death penalty will not be  applicable  to  all
lesser sentences so  long  as  the  sentencing  judge  is  vested  with  the
discretion to award a lesser or a higher sentence resembling  the  swing  of
the pendulum from the minimum to the maximum.  
In fact, we are  reminded  of
the age old infallible logic that what is good to one situation  would  hold
to be  equally  good  to  another  like  situation.  
Beside  paragraph  163
(underlined portion) of Bachan  Singh  (supra),  reproduced  earlier,  bears
testimony to the above fact.



13.   Would the above principles apply to sentencing  of  an  accused  found
guilty of the offence under Section 304-B inasmuch as the  said  offence  is
held to be proved against the accused  on  basis  of  a  legal  presumption?
This is the next question that has to be dealt with.     
So  long  there  is
credible  evidence  of  cruelty  occasioned  by  demand(s)  for  dowry, 
 any
unnatural death of a woman within seven years  of  her  marriage  makes  the
husband or a relative of the husband of such woman liable  for  the  offence
of “dowry death” under Section 304-B 
though there  may  not  be  any  direct
involvement of the husband or such relative with the death in question.   
In
a situation where commission of an offence is held to be proved by means  of
a legal presumption the circumstances surrounding  the  crime  to  determine
the presence of aggravating circumstances (crime test) may  not  be  readily
forthcoming unlike a case where there is evidence  of  overt  criminal  acts
establishing the direct involvement of the accused with the crime to  enable
the Court to come to specific conclusions with regard to  the  barbarous  or
depraved nature of the crime committed.  
The necessity to combat the  menace
of demand for dowry or to prevent atrocities on women and like social  evils
as well as the necessity to maintain the purity of social conscience  cannot
be determinative of the quantum of sentence inasmuch as the said  parameters
would be common to all offences under Section 304-B of the Penal Code.   
The
above,  therefore,  cannot  be  elevated  to  the   status   of   acceptable
jurisprudential principles to act as a rational basis for  awarding  varying
degrees of punishment on a case to case basis.  
The  search  for  principles
to satisfy the crime test in an offence under Section  304-B  of  the  Penal
Code must,  therefore,  lie  elsewhere.  
Perhaps,  the  time  spent  between
marriage and the death of  the  woman;  the  attitude  and  conduct  of  the
accused towards the victim before her death; the extent to which the  demand
for dowry was persisted with and the manner and circumstances of  commission
of the cruelty would be a surer basis for determination of the  crime  test.

Coupled with the above, the fact whether the accused was also charged  with
the offence under Section 302 of  the  Penal  Code  and  the  basis  of  his
acquittal of the said charge would be another  very  relevant  circumstance.

As  against  this  the  extenuating/mitigating  circumstances  which   would
determine the “criminal test” must be allowed to  have  a  full  play.   
The
aforesaid two sets of circumstances being mutually irreconcilable cannot  be
arranged in the form of a balance sheet as observed in Sangeet  (supra)  but
it is the cumulative effect of the two sets of different circumstances  that
has to be kept in mind  while  rendering  the  sentencing  decision.  
 This,
according to us, would be  the  correct  approach  while  dealing  with  the
question of sentence so far as the offence under Section 304-B of the  Penal
Code is concerned.



14.   Applying the above parameters to the facts  of  the  present  case  it
transpires that the death of the  wife  of  the  accused-appellant  occurred
within two years of marriage.  
There was, of course, a demand for dowry  and
there is evidence of cruelty or  harassment.   
The  autopsy  report  of  the
deceased showed external marks  of  injuries  but  the  cause  of  death  of
deceased was stated to be due to asphyxia resulting from strangulation.   
In
view of the aforesaid finding of Dr. L.T. Ramani (PW-16) who  had  conducted
the postmortem, the learned Trial Judge thought  it  proper  to  acquit  the
accused of the offence under Section 302 of the Penal Code  on  the  benefit
of doubt as there was  no  evidence  that  the  accused  was,  in  any  way,
involved with the strangulation of the deceased.  
The proved  facts  on  the
basis of which offence under Section 304-B of the Penal Code was held to  be
established, while acquitting the accused-appellant  of  the  offence  under
Section 302  of  the  Penal  Code,  does  not  disclose  any  extraordinary,
perverse or diabolic act on the part of the  accused-appellant  to  take  an
extreme view of the  matter.  
 Coupled  with  the  above,  at  the  time  of
commission of the offence, the accused-appellant was about 21 years old  and
as on date he is about 42 years.  
The accused-appellant also has a  son  who
was an infant at the time of the occurrence.  
He has no previous  record  of
crime.  
On  a  cumulative  application  of  the  principles  that  would  be
relevant to adjudge the crime and the criminal test,  we  are  of  the  view
that the present is  not  a  case  where  the  maximum  punishment  of  life
imprisonment ought to have been awarded to the  accused-appellant.   
At  the
same time, from the order of the learned Trial Court, it is clear that  some
of the injuries on the deceased, though obviously not  the  fatal  injuries,
are attributable to the accused-appellant. 
 In  fact,  the  finding  of  the
learned Trial Court is that the injuries No. 1  (Laceration  1”  x  ½”  skin
deep on the side of forehead near hair margin) and 2 (Laceration 1 ½”  x  1”
scalp deep over the frontal area) on the deceased had  been  caused  by  the
accused-appellant with a pestle.  
The said part of the order of the  learned
Trial Court has not been challenged in the appeal  before  the  High  Court.
Taking into account the said fact, we are of the view that  in  the  present
case the minimum sentence prescribed i.e. seven years would  also  not  meet
the ends of justice. 
 Rather we are of the  view  that  a  sentence  of  ten
years RI would be appropriate.  Consequently, we modify the  impugned  order
dated 4.4.2011 passed by the High Court of Delhi and impose  the  punishment
of ten years RI on the accused-appellant for the commission of  the  offence
under Section 304-B of the Penal Code.  
The sentence of fine is  maintained.
The accused-appellant who is  presently  in  custody  shall  serve  out  the
remaining part of the sentence in terms of the present order.











15.   Accordingly, the appeal is partly  allowed  to  the  extent  indicated
above.



                       ..………………………..………………………J.
                               [SUDHANSU JYOTI MUKHOPADHAYA]




                                                    ..………………………..………………………J.
                               [RANJAN GOGOI]

NEW DELHI
OCTOBER  08, 2013
-----------------------
[1]    (1973) 1 SCC 20
[2]    (1980) 2 SCC 684
[3]    (1983) 3 SCC 470
[4]    (2013) 2 SCC 452
[5]    (2013) 5 SCC 546
[6]    (2003) 8 SCC 93
[7]    Rahul v. State of Maharashtra, (2005) 10 SCC 322
[8]    Santosh KumarSingh v. State, (2010) 9 SCC 747
[9]    Rameshbhai Chandubhai Rathod(2) v. State of Gujarat, (2011) 2 SCC
764
[10]   (2012) 4 SCC 107
8
1
[11]   Nirmal Singh v. State of Haryana (1999) 3 SCC 670
[12]   Raju v. State of Haryana (2001) 9 SCC 50
[13]   Bantu v State of M.P. (2001) 9 SCC 615
6
[14]   Surendra Pal Shivbalakpal v. State of Gujarat (2005) 3 SCC 127
7
1
1
[15]   Mohd. Chaman v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2001) 2 SCC 28
[16]   (1998) 2 SCC 372
[17]   (2000) 1 SCC 471
[18]   State of Maharashtra v. Bharat Fakira Dhiwar, (2002) 1 SCC 622
[19]   State of Maharashtra v. Mansingh, (2005) 3 SCC 131
[20]   Kumudi Lal v. State of U.P., (1999) 4 SCC 108
[21]   Akhtar v. State of U.P., (1999) 6 SCC 60
[22]   Amrit Singh v. State of Punjab (2006) 12 SCC 79
[23]   Bishnu Prasad Sinha v. State of Assam, (2007) 11 SCC 467
[24]   Haresh Mohandas Rajput v. State of Maharashtra, (2011) 12 SCC 56
[25]   Jumman Khan v. State of U.P., (1991) 1 SCC 752
[26]   Dhananjoy Chatterjee v. State of W.B., (1994) 2 SCC 220
[27]   Laxman Naik v. State of Orissa, (1994) 3 SCC 381
[28]   Kamta Tiwari v. State of M.P., (1996) 6 SCC 250
[29]   Jai Kumar v. State of M.P., (1999) 5 SCC 1
[30]   State of U.P. v. Satish, (2005) 3 SCC 114
[31]   Bantu v. State of U.P., (2008) 11 SCC 113
[32]   Ankush Maruti Shinde v. State of Maharashtra, (2009) 6 SCC 667
[33]   B.A. Umesh v. State of Karnataka, (2011) 3 SCC 85
[34]   Mohd. Mannan v. State of Bihar, (2011) 5 SCC 317
[35]   Rajendra Pralhadrao Wasnik v. State of Maharashtra, (2012) 4 SCC 37
[36]   Shivu v. High Court of Karnataka, (2007) 4 SCC 713
[37]   (2008) 7 SCC 550

-----------------------
23


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.