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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

“Victim Compensation Scheme” = “Matrimonial matters are matters of delicate human and emotional relationship. It demands mutual trust, regard, respect, love and affection with sufficient play for reasonable adjustments with the spouse. The relationship has to conform to the social norms as well. …” = The Court further directed that the acid attack victims shall be paid compensation - Regard being had to the aforesaid decisions, we direct the accused- respondent No. 2 to pay a compensation of Rs.50,000/- and the State to pay a compensation of Rs.3 lakhs.

                                                                  REPORTABLE
                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                     CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS.406-407 OF 2017
                 (@ S.L.P. (Criminal) Nos. 9389-90 of 2016)


Ravada Sasikala                             …Appellant

                                   Versus

State of Andhra Pradesh & Anr.              …Respondents



                               J U D G M E N T


Dipak Misra, J.
      In Chetan Dass v. Kamla Devi[1], this Court had observed:-
“Matrimonial  matters  are  matters  of   delicate   human   and   emotional
relationship. It demands mutual trust, regard, respect, love  and  affection
with sufficient  play  for  reasonable  adjustments  with  the  spouse.  The
relationship has to conform to the social norms as well. …”

2.    Though the aforesaid observations  were  made  in  the  context  of  a
matrimonial dispute arising out of a proceeding  under  Section  13  of  the
Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 praying for dissolution of marriage by  granting  a
decree of divorce,  yet we have commenced our judgment with the same as  the
facts of the present  case  painfully  project  what  a  relation  in  close
proximity can do to a young girl when his proposal for his marriage  is  not
accepted and he, forgetting the  fundamental  facet  of  human  dignity  and
totally  becoming  oblivious  of  the  fact  that  marriage,  as  a   social
institution, is  an  affirmance  of  civilized  society  order,  allows  his
unrequited love to be converted to complete venom  that  leads  him  on  the
path of vengeance, and the ultimate  shape  of  such  retaliation  is  house
trespass by the accused carrying an acid bottle  and  pouring  it  over  the
head of the girl, the appellant herein.
3.    The necessary facts.  On the basis of the statement  of  the  injured,
an FIR under Sections 448 and  307  of  the  Indian  Penal  Code  (IPC)  was
registered at police station  Vallampudi.  The  injuries  sustained  by  the
victim-informant required long treatment and eventually after recording  the
statements of the witnesses, collecting various materials from the spot  and
taking other aspects into consideration  of  the  crime,  the  investigating
agency filed  the  charge  sheet  for  the  offences  that  were  originally
registered under  the  FIR  before  the  competent  court  which,  in  turn,
committed the matter to the Court of  Session,  Vizianagaram.   The  accused
abjured his guilt and expressed his desire to face the trial.
4.    The prosecution,  in  order  to  establish  the  charges  against  the
accused, examined 12  witnesses  and  got  marked  Ex.  P1  to  P14  besides
bringing 11 material objects on record.  The defence chose  not  to  examine
any witness.  It may be noted that on behalf of the  defence,  one  document
Ex. D-1, was marked.
5.    The learned Assistant Sessions Judge, Vizianagaram did  not  find  the
accused guilty under Section 307 IPC but held him guilty under  Section  326
and 448 IPC.  At the time of hearing of the sentence  under  Section  235(2)
of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the convict pleaded for  mercy  on
the foundation of his support to  the  old  parents,  the  economic  status,
social strata to which he belongs and certain  other  factors.  The  learned
trial  judge,  upon  hearing  him,  sentenced   him   to   suffer   rigorous
imprisonment for one year and directed to pay a fine of Rs. 5,000/-  with  a
default clause under Section 326 IPC and sentenced him to pay a fine of  Rs.
1000/- for the offence under Section 448 IPC with a default clause.
6.    The State preferred Criminal Appeal No. 1731  of  2007  under  Section
377(1) CrPC before the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad for  the  State
of Telangana and the State of Andhra Pradesh for  enhancement  of  sentence.
Being grieved by the judgment of  conviction  and  order  of  sentence,  the
accused-respondent had preferred Criminal Appeal No. 15 of 2006  before  the
Sessions Judge, Vizianagaram which was later  on  transferred  to  the  High
Court and registered as Transferred Criminal Appeal No. 1052 of 2013.
7.    Both the appeals were heard together by the learned Single  Judge  who
concurred with the view taken by the learned  trial  judge  as  regards  the
conviction. While dealing with the quantum of sentence,  the  learned  Judge
opined thus:-
“However, the sentence of imprisonment imposed by the trial  Court  for  the
offence under Section 326  I.P.C.  is  modified  to  the  period  which  the
accused has already undergone, while maintaining the sentence  of  fine  for
both the offences.”

8.    At the outset, we must note that the State has not assailed  the  said
judgment. The appellant, after obtaining permission  of  this  Court,  filed
the special leave petition which we entertained for the  simon  pure  reason
it has been asserted that the period of custody suffered by the  accused  is
30 days. It is  apt  to  note  here  that  the  accused-respondent  has  not
challenged the conviction and, therefore, it has to be  assumed  that  apart
from accepting the judgment of  conviction,  he  must  have  celebrated  the
delight and jubilation of liberty inasmuch as despite the sustenance of  the
judgment  of  conviction,  he  was  not  required  to  suffer  any   further
imprisonment.
9.    The centripodal question, indubitably a disquieting one,  whether  the
High Court has kept itself alive to the precedents pertaining to  sentencing
or has been guided by some kind of unfathomable and  incomprehensible  sense
of individual mercy absolutely ignoring the  plight  and  the  pain  of  the
victim; a young girl who had sustained an acid attack, a horrendous  assault
on the physical autonomy of an individual that gets  more  accentuated  when
the victim is a young woman.  Not for nothing, it has been stated stains  of
acid has roots forever.
10.   As the factual matrix gets unfolded from the judgment of  the  learned
trial Judge, the appellant after completion of her intermediate  course  had
accompanied her brother to Amalapuram of East  Godavari  District  where  he
was working  as  an  Assistant  Professor  in  B.V.C.  Engineering  College,
Vodalacheruvu and stayed with him about a  week  prior  to  the  occurrence.
Thereafter, she along with her brother went to his  native  place  Sompuram.
At that time, the elder brother of the accused proposed a marriage  alliance
between the accused  and  the  appellant  for  which  her  family  expressed
unwillingness. The reason for expressing the unwillingness is not borne  out
on record but the said aspect, needless to say,  is  absolutely  irrelevant.
What matters to be  stated  is  that  the  proposal  for  marriage  was  not
accepted.  It is evincible from the material  brought  on  record  that  the
morning of 24.05.2003 became the darkest and blackest one  in  her  life  as
the appellant having a head bath had put a towel on her  head  to  dry,  the
accused trespassed into her house and poured  a  bottle  of  acid  over  her
head. It has been  established  beyond  a  trace  of  doubt  by  the  ocular
testimony  and  the  medical  evidence  that  some  part  of  her  body  was
disfigured and the disfiguration is due to the acid attack.
11.   In this backdrop, the heart of the matter is  whether  the  imposition
of sentence by the learned Single Judge is proportionate  to  the  crime  in
question.
12.   In this context, Ms. Aparna Bhat, learned counsel  appearing  for  the
appellant submits that by no stretch of imagination, the  period  undergone,
that is, 30 days, can be regarded  as  appropriate  for  the  offence  under
Section 326 IPC and definitely not when there is  acid  attack.   She  would
further urge that  in  such  a  situation,  the  concept  of  justice  feels
embarrassed and a dent is created in the criminal justice  system.   Learned
counsel would further submit that mercy “whose quality is  not  unstrained”,
may be considered as  a  virtue  in  the  realm  of  justice  but  misplaced
sympathy and exhibition of unwarranted mercy is likely to pave the  path  of
complete injustice. She has commended us to  certain  authorities  which  we
shall, in due course, refer to.
13.   Per contra, contends Mr. Y. Raja Gopala Rao, learned counsel  for  the
respondent that the occurrence had taken place long back and with efflux  of
time, the appellant as well  as  the  respondent  have  been  leading  their
individual  separate  married  lives  and,  therefore,  it  would   not   be
appropriate to interfere with the sentence reduced by the  High  Court.   It
is canvassed by him that the respondent has not  challenged  the  conviction
before the High Court but he has been leading a reformed life  and  after  a
long lapse of time, to send him to custody  would  tantamount  to  injustice
itself.
14.   We have noted earlier  that  the  conviction  under  Section  326  IPC
stands established.  The  singular  issue  is  the  appropriateness  of  the
quantum of sentence.  Almost 27 years back  in  Sham  Sunder  v.  Puran  and
another[2], the accused-appellant therein was convicted  under  Section  304
Part I IPC and while imposing the sentence, the appellate court reduced  the
sentence to the term of imprisonment already undergone,  i.e.,  six  months.
However, it enhanced the fine. This Court ruled that  sentence  awarded  was
inadequate.  Proceeding further, it opined that:-
“No particular reason has been given by the High  Court  for  awarding  such
sentence. The court in  fixing  the  punishment  for  any  particular  crime
should take into consideration the nature of the offence, the  circumstances
in which  it  was  committed,  the  degree  of  deliberation  shown  by  the
offender. The measure of punishment should be proportionate to  the  gravity
of the offence. The sentence imposed by the High  Court  appears  to  be  so
grossly and entirely inadequate as to involve a failure of justice.  We  are
of opinion that to meet  the  ends  of  justice,  the  sentence  has  to  be
enhanced.”

      After so stating the Court enhanced the sentence to  one  of  rigorous
imprisonment for a period of five years.
15.   In Shyam Narain v. State (NCT of Delhi)[3], it  has  been  ruled  that
primarily it is to be borne in mind that sentencing for any  offence  has  a
social goal. Sentence is to be imposed regard being had  to  the  nature  of
the offence and the manner in which the  offence  has  been  committed.  The
fundamental purpose of imposition of sentence  is  based  on  the  principle
that the accused must realise that the crime committed by him has  not  only
created a dent in the life of the victim but also a concavity in the  social
fabric. The purpose of just punishment is designed so that  the  individuals
in the society which ultimately constitute  the  collective  do  not  suffer
time and again for such  crimes.  It  serves  as  a  deterrent.   The  Court
further observed that on certain occasions, opportunities may be granted  to
the convict for reforming himself but it is equally true that the  principle
of proportionality between an offence committed and the penalty imposed  are
to be kept in view.  It has to be borne in  mind  that  while  carrying  out
this complex exercise, it is obligatory on the part of the court to see  the
impact of the offence on the society as a whole  and  its  ramifications  on
the immediate collective as well as its repercussions on the victim.
16.   In State of Madhya Pradesh v.  Najab  Khan  and  others[4],  the  High
Court of Madhya Pradesh, while maintaining the conviction under Section  326
IPC read with Section 34  IPC,  had  reduced  the  sentence  to  the  period
already undergone, i.e., 14 days.   The  two-Judge  Bench  referred  to  the
authorities in Shailesh Jasvantbhai v. State of  Gujarat[5],  Ahmed  Hussain
Vali Mohammed Saiyed v. State  of  Gujarat[6],  Jameel  v.  State  of  Uttar
Pradesh[7] and Guru Basavaraj v. State of Karnataka[8] and held thus:-
“In operating  the  sentencing  system,  law  should  adopt  the  corrective
machinery or deterrence  based  on  factual  matrix.  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.  We also reiterate that undue sympathy to  impose  inadequate
sentence would do more harm to the justice dispensation 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 courts 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.”

      In the said case, the Court ultimately set aside the sentence  imposed
by the High Court and restored that of  the  trial  Judge,  whereby  he  had
convicted the accused to suffer rigorous imprisonment for three years.
17.   In Sumer Singh v. Surajbhan Singh & others[9],  while  elaborating  on
the duty of the Court while imposing sentence for an offence,  it  has  been
ruled that it is the duty of the court to impose adequate sentence, for  one
of the purposes of imposition of requisite sentence  is  protection  of  the
society  and  a  legitimate  response  to  the  collective  conscience.  The
paramount principle that should be  the  guiding  laser  beam  is  that  the
punishment should be proportionate. It is the answer of law  to  the  social
conscience.  In a way, it is an obligation to the society which has  reposed
faith in the court of law to curtail the evil. While imposing  the  sentence
it is the court’s accountability to remind itself about  its  role  and  the
reverence for the rule of law. It  must  evince  the  rationalised  judicial
discretion and not an individual perception  or  a  moral  propensity.   The
Court further held that if in the ultimate eventuate the proper sentence  is
not awarded, the fundamental grammar of sentencing is  guillotined  and  law
does not tolerate it;  society  does  not  withstand  it;  and  sanctity  of
conscience abhors it.  It was observed that the  old  saying  “the  law  can
hunt one’s past” cannot be allowed to be buried in an  indecent  manner  and
the rainbow of mercy, for no fathomable reason, should be allowed  to  rule.
The conception of mercy has its own space but it  cannot  occupy  the  whole
accommodation.  While dealing with grant of further compensation in lieu  of
sentence, the Court ruled:-
“We do not think that increase in  fine  amount  or  grant  of  compensation
under the Code would be a justified answer  in  law.  Money  cannot  be  the
oasis. It cannot assume the centre stage for  all  redemption.  Interference
in manifestly inadequate and unduly  lenient  sentence  is  the  justifiable
warrant, for the Court cannot close its eyes to the  agony  and  anguish  of
the victim and, eventually, to the cry of the society.”

18.   In State of Punjab v. Bawa Singh[10], this Court, after  referring  to
the decisions in State of Madhya Pradesh v. Bablu[11] and  State  of  Madhya
Pradesh v. Surendra Singh[12], reiterated the  settled  proposition  of  law
that one of the prime objectives  of  criminal  law  is  the  imposition  of
adequate, just, proportionate punishment  which  is  commensurate  with  the
nature of crime regard being had to the  manner  in  which  the  offence  is
committed.  It has been further held  that  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 would shock the conscience of the  society.
 Emphasis was laid on the solemn duty  of  the  court  to  strike  a  proper
balance while  awarding  the  sentence  as  imposition  of  lesser  sentence
encourages a criminal and resultantly the society suffers.
19.   Recently,  in  Raj  Bala  v.  State  of  Haryana  and  others[13],  on
reduction of sentence by the High Court to  the  period  already  undergone,
the Court ruled thus:-
“Despite authorities existing and governing the field, it has  come  to  the
notice of this Court that sometimes the court of first instance as  well  as
the appellate court which includes the  High  Court,  either  on  individual
notion or misplaced sympathy or  personal  perception  seems  to  have  been
carried away  by  passion  of  mercy,  being  totally  oblivious  of  lawful
obligation to the collective as mandated  by  law  and  forgetting  the  oft
quoted saying of Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo, “Justice, though  due  to  the
accused, is due  to  the  accuser  too”  and  follow  an  extremely  liberal
sentencing  policy  which  has  neither  legal  permissibility  nor   social
acceptability.”

      And again:-
“A Judge has to keep in mind the paramount concept of rule of  law  and  the
conscience  of  the  collective  and  balance  it  with  the  principle   of
proportionality but  when  the  discretion  is  exercised  in  a  capricious
manner, it tantamounts to relinquishment of duty  and  reckless  abandonment
of responsibility. One cannot remain a total alien  to  the  demand  of  the
socio-cultural milieu regard being had to the command of law and also  brush
aside the agony of the victim or the survivors of the victim. Society  waits
with patience to see that justice is done. There is a hope on  the  part  of
the society and  when  the  criminal  culpability  is  established  and  the
discretion is  irrationally  exercised  by  the  court,  the  said  hope  is
shattered and the patience is wrecked.”


20.   Though we have referred to the decisions covering a period  of  almost
three decades, it does  not  necessarily  convey  that  there  had  been  no
deliberation much prior to that. There had been. In B.G.  Goswami  v.  Delhi
Administration[14], the Court while delving into  the  issue  of  punishment
had observed that punishment is designed to  protect  society  by  deterring
potential offenders as also by preventing the guilty  party  from  repeating
the offence; it is also designed to reform the offender and reclaim  him  as
a law abiding citizen for the good of the society as a  whole.  Reformatory,
deterrent and punitive aspects of punishment thus play  their  due  part  in
judicial thinking while determining the  question  of  awarding  appropriate
sentence.
21.   The purpose of referring to the aforesaid precedents is that they  are
to be kept in mind and adequately weighed while  exercising  the  discretion
pertaining to awarding of sentence.  Protection of society on the  one  hand
and the reformation of an individual are the facets to be kept in view.   In
Shanti Lal Meena v. State (NCT of Delhi)[15], the Court  has  held  that  as
far as punishment for offence under the Prevention of Corruption  Act,  1988
is concerned, there is no serious scope for reforming the  convicted  public
servant.  Therefore, it shall depend upon the nature of  crime,  the  manner
in which it is committed, the propensity shown and the brutality  reflected.
 The case  at  hand  is  an  example  of  uncivilized  and  heartless  crime
committed by the respondent No.  2.   It  is  completely  unacceptable  that
concept of leniency can be conceived of in such a crime.  A  crime  of  this
nature does not deserve any kind of clemency.  It is  individually  as  well
as collectively intolerable. The respondent No. 2 might have felt  that  his
ego had been hurt by such  a  denial  to  the  proposal  or  he  might  have
suffered a sense of hollowness to his exaggerated sense of honour  or  might
have been guided by the idea that revenge is the  sweetest  thing  that  one
can be wedded to when there is no  response  to  the  unrequited  love  but,
whatever  may  be  the  situation,  the  criminal  act,  by  no  stretch  of
imagination, deserves any leniency or mercy. The respondent No. 2 might  not
have suffered emotional distress by the denial, yet the said  feeling  could
not to be converted into vengeance to have the licence to act  in  a  manner
like he has done.
22.   In view of what we have stated, the approach of the High Court  shocks
us and we have no hesitation in saying so.  When there is  medical  evidence
that there was an acid attack  on  the  young  girl  and  the  circumstances
having brought home by cogent evidence  and  the  conviction  is  given  the
stamp of approval, there was no justification to reduce the sentence to  the
period already undergone. We  are  at  a  loss  to  understand  whether  the
learned Judge has been guided by some unknown notion of mercy  or  remaining
oblivious of the precedents relating to sentence or  for  that  matter,  not
careful about the expectation of the collective  from  the  court,  for  the
society at large eagerly waits for justice to be  done  in  accordance  with
law, has reduced the sentence.  When a substantive sentence of  thirty  days
is imposed, in the crime of present nature, that is, acid attack on a  young
girl, the sense of justice, if we allow ourselves to say  so,  is  not  only
ostracized, but also is unceremoniously sent to “Vanaprastha”. It is  wholly
impermissible.
23.   In view of our analysis, we are compelled to set  aside  the  sentence
imposed by the High Court and restore that of the trial court.  In  addition
to the aforesaid, we are disposed to address  on  victim  compensation.   We
are  of  the  considered  opinion  that  the  appellant   is   entitled   to
compensation that is awardable  to  a  victim  under  the  CrPC.  In  Ankush
Shivaji Gaikwad v. State of Maharashtra[16], the  two-Judge  Bench  referred
to the amended provision, 154th  Law  Commission  Report  that  has  devoted
entire chapter to victimology, wherein  the  growing  emphasis  was  on  the
victim.
24.   In Laxmi v. Union of India and others[17], this Court observed thus:-
“12. Section 357-A came to be inserted in the Code  of  Criminal  Procedure,
1973 by Act 5 of 2009 w.e.f. 31-12-2009. Inter alia, this  section  provides
for preparation  of  a  scheme  for  providing  funds  for  the  purpose  of
compensation to the victim or his  dependants  who  have  suffered  loss  or
injury as a result of the crime and who require rehabilitation.

13. We are informed that pursuant to this provision, 17 States and  7  Union
Territories have prepared  “Victim  Compensation  Scheme”  (for  short  “the
Scheme”).  As  regards  the  victims  of  acid  attacks,  the   compensation
mentioned in the Scheme framed by these States and Union Territories is  un-
uniform. While the State of  Bihar  has  provided  for  compensation  of  Rs
25,000 in such Scheme, the State of Rajasthan has provided for  Rs  2  lakhs
of compensation. In our view, the compensation provided  in  the  Scheme  by
most of the States/Union Territories is inadequate. It cannot be  overlooked
that acid attack victims need to undergo a series of plastic  surgeries  and
other corrective treatments. Having regard  to  this  problem,  the  learned
Solicitor General suggested to us that the compensation by the  States/Union
Territories for acid attack victims must be enhanced to at least Rs 3  lakhs
as the aftercare and rehabilitation cost.  The  suggestion  of  the  learned
Solicitor General is very fair.”

25.   The Court further directed that the acid attack victims shall be  paid
compensation of at least Rs 3 lakhs by the State Government/Union  Territory
concerned as the aftercare and rehabilitation cost. Of this  amount,  a  sum
of Rs. 1 lakh was directed to be paid to  such  victim  within  15  days  of
occurrence of such incident (or being brought to the  notice  of  the  State
Government/Union Territory) to facilitate immediate  medical  attention  and
expenses in this regard. The balance sum of Rs.2 lakhs was  directed  to  be
paid  as  expeditiously  as  possible  and  positively  within  two   months
thereafter and compliance thereof was directed to be ensured  by  the  Chief
Secretaries of the States and the Administrators of the Union Territories.
26.   In State of M.P. v. Mehtaab[18], the Court  directed  compensation  of
Rs.2 lakhs to be fixed regard being had to the limited  final  resources  of
the accused despite the fact that the occurrence took  place  in  1997.   It
observed that the said compensation was not  adequate  and  accordingly,  in
addition to the said compensation to be paid by the accused, held  that  the
State was required to pay compensation under Section  357-A  CrPC.  For  the
said purpose, reliance was placed on the decision  in  Suresh  v.  State  of
Haryana[19].
27.   In State of Himachal Pradesh v. Ram Pal[20],  the  Court  opined  that
compensation of Rs. 40,000/- was inadequate regard being  had  to  the  fact
that life of a  young  girl  aged  20  years  was  lost.  Bestowing  anxious
consideration the Court, placing reliance on Suresh (supra),  Manohar  Singh
v. State of Rajasthan and Ors.[21] and Mehtaab (supra), directed  that  ends
of justice shall be best subserved if the  accused  is  required  to  pay  a
total sum of Rs.1 lakh and  the  State  to  pay  a  sum  of  Rs.3  lakhs  as
compensation.
28.   Regard being had to the aforesaid decisions, we  direct  the  accused-
respondent No. 2 to pay a compensation of Rs.50,000/- and the State  to  pay
a compensation of Rs.3 lakhs. If the accused does not pay  the  compensation
amount within six months, he shall suffer further rigorous  imprisonment  of
six months, in addition to what has been imposed by the  trial  court.   The
State shall deposit the amount before the trial court  within  three  months
and the learned trial Judge on proper identification of  the  victim,  shall
disburse it in her favour.
29.   The criminal appeals are allowed to the extent indicated above.

                                                                  ………………..J.
                                                 (Dipak Misra)

                                                                   …………………J.
                                                 (R. Banumathi)
New Delhi;
February 27, 2017
-----------------------
[1]    (2001) 4 SCC 250
[2]     (1990) 4 SCC 731
[3]     (2013) 7 SCC 77
[4]     (2013) 9 SCC 509
[5]     (2006) 2 SCC 359
[6]     (2009) 7 SCC 254
[7]     (2010) 12 SCC 532
[8]     (2012) 8 SCC 734
[9]     (2014) 7 SCC 323
[10]    (2015) 3 SCC 441
[11]    (2014) 9 SCC 281
[12]    (2015) 1 SCC 222
[13]    (2016) 1 SCC 463
[14]    (1974) 3 SCC 85
[15]    (2015) 6 SCC 185
[16]    (2013) 6 SCC 770
[17]    (2014) 4 SCC 427
[18]    (2015) 5 SCC 197
[19]    (2015) 2 SCC 227
[20]    (2015) 11 SCC 584
[21]    (2015) 3 SCC 449


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