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Saturday, January 10, 2015

undue sympathy to impose inadequate sentence would do more harm to the justice system = CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.2401 OF 2014 (arising out of SLP (Crl.) No.5947 of 2013) State of Madhya Pradesh ….Appellant(s) Versus Surendra Singh …Respondent(s)


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                      CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.2401  OF 2014
                 (arising out of SLP (Crl.) No.5947 of 2013)

State of Madhya Pradesh                 ….Appellant(s)
Surendra Singh                    …Respondent(s)

1.     Leave granted.
2.    State of Madhya Pradesh has preferred this  appeal  by  special  leave
against the judgment and order dated  22.8.2012  passed  by  learned  Single
Judge of High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Bench at  Gwalior,  who  allowed  the
appeal,  preferred  by  the  respondent-accused,  in  part  maintaining  his
conviction but reducing the sentence awarded  by  the  trial  court  to  the
period already undergone  subject  to  depositing  further  compensation  of
Rs.2,000/- to the widow/mother of the deceased.

3.    The prosecution case, in brief, is that on 11.5.1998  a  ward  boy  of
Sabalgarh Hospital lodged a written report at Sabalgarh  police  station  to
the effect that one Vijay Singh of village Mangroli died in accident  caused
by a  jeep  bearing  registration  no.SP  7H  6045.   Thereafter,  case  was
investigated and challan was filed against the respondent-accused,  who  was
driver of the jeep and the accident occurred due to his rash  and  negligent
driving.  After completion of trial, the Judicial Magistrate,  First  Class,
Sabalgarh convicted the respondent-accused for the offence punishable  under
Sections 279, 337, 304-A of the Indian  Penal  Code  and  sentenced  him  to
undergo six months and two years  rigorous  imprisonment  respectively  with
fine of Rs.2,500/-.  Aggrieved by the order  of  conviction  passed  by  the
trial court, respondent filed appeal before the Additional  Sessions  Judge,
Sabalgarh, who upheld the order of conviction passed by the trial court.

4.    Aggrieved by the judgment of conviction, the respondent-accused  moved
the High Court in revision.  Learned counsel  for  the  respondent  assailed
the order and in the alternative submitted before the High  Court  that  the
accused, who is a poor person, has already served substantive part  of  jail
sentence and prayed that his sentence may be reduced to the  period  already
undergone and the  amount  of  fine  may  reasonably  be  enhanced.  Learned
counsel for the State objected and submitted  that  revisional  jurisdiction
of the High Court is limited and  no  interference  is  called  for  in  the
concurrent findings recorded by the courts below.   The  High  Court  partly
allowed revision petition of the accused maintaining findings of  conviction
of the accused with the modification to the extent that  the  jail  sentence
awarded to the accused is reduced to the period  already  undergone  subject
to  depositing  further  compensation  of   Rs.2,000/-    payable   to   the
widow/mother of the deceased Vijay Singh.

5.    Dissatisfied with the  order  of  the  High  Court,  State  of  Madhya
Pradesh has preferred  this  appeal  contending  that  the  High  Court  has
limited revisional jurisdiction and ought not to have  interfered  with  the
concurrent findings of the courts below.  It is further contended that  High
Court has erred in passing impugned order of partly  allowing  the  revision
petition of the accused without taking into  consideration  the  gravity  of
the act committed by the respondent, whereby an innocent man lost  his  life
due to negligence of the respondent.

6.    We have heard learned counsel for  the  parties  appearing  on  either

7.    In the instant case, after proper appreciation of evidence  the  trial
court came to the conclusion that the accused had  endangered  the  life  of
Vijay by driving the jeep on a public road in a rash and  negligent  manner.
The accused dashed the jeep against a pulia first and then against  a  Babul
tree.  As a result of such accident Vijay Singh, who was travelling  in  the
jeep got injured and died, and another person Mangilal, who was also in  the
jeep, received injuries.  We are of the opinion that  the  trial  court  has
not committed any illegality in passing the order of conviction and  in  the
appeal preferred by the accused findings of the trial court  were  affirmed.
However, without proper appreciation of the evidence  and  consideration  of
gravity of the offence, learned Single Judge of the High Court  shown  undue
sympathy by modifying the conviction to the period already undergone.

8.    In our considered opinion, the High Court while passing  the  impugned
order has completely failed to follow  the  principles  enunciated  by  this
Court  in  catena  of  decisions.   Undue  sympathy  by  means  of  imposing
inadequate sentence would do more harm to the justice  system  to  undermine
the public confidence in the efficacy of law and the society  cannot  endure
long under serious threats.  If the courts do not protect the  injured,  the
injured would then resort to personal vengeance.   Therefore,  the  duty  of
any court is to award proper sentence having regard to  the  nature  of  the
offence and the manner in which it was committed. (See Sevaka  Perumal   vs.
State of Tamil Nadu,  (1991) 3 SCC 471)

9.    In the case of Dhananjoy Chatterjee @ Dhana vs. State of West  Bengal,
(1994) 2 SCC 220, this Court held as under:
“In recent years, the rising crime rate-particularly violent  crime  against
women has made the criminal sentencing by the courts a subject  of  concern.
Today  there  are  admitted  disparities.  Some  criminals  get  very  harsh
sentences while many receive grossly different sentence for  an  essentially
equivalent crime and a shockingly large number even go  unpunished,  thereby
encouraging the criminal and  in  the  ultimate  making  justice  suffer  by
weakening the system's credibility. Of course, it is  not  possible  to  lay
down any cut and dry formula relating to  imposition  of  sentence  but  the
object of sentencing should be to see that the crime does not go  unpunished
and the victim of crime as  also  the  society  has  the  satisfaction  that
justice has been done to it.  In  imposing  sentences,  in  the  absence  of
specific legislation, Judges must consider  variety  of  factors  and  after
considering all those factors and taking an over-all view of the  situation,
impose sentence which they consider to be an  appropriate  one.  Aggravating
factors cannot be ignored and similarly mitigating circumstances  have  also
to be taken into consideration.
In our opinion, the measure of punishment in a given case must  depend  upon
the atrocity of the crime; the conduct of the criminal and  the  defenceless
and unprotected state of the victim. Imposition  of  appropriate  punishment
is the manner in which the courts respond to the society's cry  for  justice
against the criminals. Justice demands that courts should impose  punishment
fitting to the crime so that the courts reflect  public  abhorrence  of  the
crime. The courts must not only keep in view the rights of the criminal  but
also the rights of the victim of  crime  and  the  society  at  large  while
considering imposition of appropriate punishment.”

10.   While considering this aspect, the Apex Court in the  case  of  Mahesh
and others vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, (1987) 3 SCC 80, remarked that,
“…it will be a mockery of justice to permit these appellants to  escape  the
extreme penalty of law when faced with such evidence and  such  cruel  acts.
To give the lesser punishment for the appellants  would  be  to  render  the
Justice system of this country suspect. The common man will  lose  faith  in
courts. In such cases,  he  understands  and  appreciates  the  language  of
deterrence more than the reformative jargon. When we say  this,  we  do  not
ignore the need for a reformative approach in the sentencing process. ….”

11.   In the case of Hazara Singh versus Raj Kumar, (2013) 9 SCC  516,  this
Court has observed that it is the duty of the courts  to  consider  all  the
relevant factors to impose an  appropriate  sentence.  The  legislature  has
bestowed upon the judiciary  this  enormous  discretion  in  the  sentencing
policy,  which  must  be  exercised  with  utmost  care  and  caution.   The
punishment awarded should be directly proportionate to the  nature  and  the
magnitude of the offence. The  benchmark  of  proportionate  sentencing  can
assist the Judges in arriving at a fair and impartial verdict.   This  Court
further observed that the cardinal principle of sentencing  policy  is  that
the sentence imposed  on  an  offender  should  reflect  the  crime  he  has
committed and it should be proportionate to  the  gravity  of  the  offence.
This Court has repeatedly stressed the central role  of  proportionality  in
sentencing of offenders in numerous cases.

12.   In  Shailesh Jasvantbhai vs. State of Gujarat, (2006) 2 SCC 359, the
Apex Court opined that
“7. The law regulates social interests, arbitrates  conflicting  claims  and
demands.  Security  of  persons  and  property   of   the   people   is   an
[pic]essential  function  of  the  State.  It  could  be  achieved   through
instrumentality of criminal law.  Undoubtedly,  there  is  a  cross-cultural
conflict where living law must find answer to the  new  challenges  and  the
courts are required to mould the sentencing system to meet  the  challenges.
The contagion of lawlessness would undermine social  order  and  lay  it  in
ruins. Protection of society and stamping out criminal  proclivity  must  be
the object of law which must be achieved by imposing  appropriate  sentence.
Therefore, law as a cornerstone of the edifice of ‘order’  should  meet  the
challenges confronting the society. Friedman in his Law in Changing  Society
stated that: ‘State of criminal  law  continues  to  be—as  it  should  be—a
decisive reflection of  social  consciousness  of  society.’  Therefore,  in
operating the sentencing system, law should adopt the  corrective  machinery
or deterrence based  on  factual  matrix.  By  deft  modulation,  sentencing
process be stern where it should  be,  and  tempered  with  mercy  where  it
warrants to be. The facts and given circumstances in each case,  the  nature
of the crime, the manner in which it was planned and committed,  the  motive
for commission of the crime, the conduct  of  the  accused,  the  nature  of
weapons used and all other attending circumstances are relevant facts  which
would enter into the area of consideration.
8. Therefore, undue sympathy to impose inadequate  sentence  would  do  more
harm to the justice  system  to  undermine  the  public  confidence  in  the
efficacy of law and  society  could  not  long  endure  under  such  serious
threats. It is, therefore, the duty of every court to award proper  sentence
having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in  which  it  was
executed or committed, etc.”

13.   A three-Judge Bench of this  Court  in  Ahmed  Hussein  Vali  Mohammed
Saiyed vs. State of Gujarat, (2009) 7 SCC 254, observed as follows:
“99. … The object of awarding appropriate sentence should be to protect  the
society and to deter the criminal from achieving the avowed object  to  (sic
break the) law by imposing appropriate sentence. It  is  expected  that  the
courts would operate the sentencing system so as  to  impose  such  sentence
which reflects the conscience of the society and the sentencing process  has
to be stern where it should be. Any  liberal  attitude  by  imposing  meagre
sentences or taking too sympathetic view merely on account of lapse of  time
in respect of such offences will  be  resultwise  counterproductive  in  the
long run and against the interest of society which needs  to  be  cared  for
and strengthened by string of deterrence inbuilt in the sentencing system.
100. Justice demands that courts  should  impose  punishment  befitting  the
crime so that the courts reflect public abhorrence of the crime.  The  court
must not only keep in view the rights of the victim of  the  crime  but  the
society  at  large  while  considering   the   imposition   of   appropriate
[pic]punishment. The court will  be  failing  in  its  duty  if  appropriate
punishment is not awarded for a crime which  has  been  committed  not  only
against the individual victim but also against the  society  to  which  both
the criminal and the victim belong.”

14.   We again  reiterate  in  this  case  that  undue  sympathy  to  impose
inadequate sentence would do more harm to the justice  system  to  undermine
the public confidence in the efficacy of law. It is the duty of every  court
to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and  the
manner in which it was executed or  committed.  The  sentencing  courts  are
expected to consider all relevant facts and  circumstances  bearing  on  the
question of sentence and proceed to impose a sentence commensurate with  the
gravity of the offence.  The court must not only keep in view the rights  of
the victim of the crime but also the society at large while considering  the
imposition of appropriate punishment.  Meagre  sentence  imposed  solely  on
account of lapse of time without considering the degree of the offence  will
be counter-productive in the long  run  and  against  the  interest  of  the

15.   In a recent decision in the case of State of Madhya Pradesh vs.  Bablu
- Criminal Appeal No.1845 of  2014,  after  considering  and  following  the
earlier decisions, this Court reiterated  the  settled  proposition  of  law
that one of the prime objectives  of  criminal  law  is  the  imposition  of
adequate, just, proportionate punishment which  commensurate  with  gravity,
nature of crime and the manner in  which  the  offence  is  committed.   One
should keep in mind the social interest and conscience of the society  while
considering the determinative factor of  sentence  with  gravity  of  crime.
The punishment should not be so lenient that it  shocks  the  conscience  of
the society.  It is, therefore, solemn duty of the court to strike a  proper
balance while awarding the sentence as awarding lesser  sentence  encourages
any criminal and, as a result of the same, the society suffers.

16.   In view of the  above,  we  set  aside  the  impugned  order  reducing
sentence to the period  already  undergone  and,  to  avoid  miscarriage  of
justice, this appeal is allowed restoring the sentence imposed by the  trial
court.  The respondent is  directed  to  surrender  within  two  weeks  from
today, failing which, the trial Judge is directed to take appropriate  steps
for sending him to prison to undergo the remaining period of sentence.

                                                                (M.Y. Eqbal)

                                                         (Shiva Kirti Singh)
New Delhi,
November 13, 2014.

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