It is the duty of the Court to award just sentence to a convict against whom charge is proved. While every mitigating or aggravating circumstance may be given due weight, mechanical reduction of sentence to the period already undergone cannot be appreciated. Sentence has to be fair not only to the accused but also to the victim and the society. It is also the duty of the court to duly consider the aspect of rehabilitating the victim.
Supreme Court in the instant matter observed that if any one defies law, he has to face the wrath of law, depending on the concept of proportionality that the law recognizes. At times certain crimes assume more accent and gravity depending on the nature and impact of the crime on the society. No court should ignore the same being swayed by passion of mercy. It is the obligation of the court to constantly remind itself that the right of the victim, and be it said, on certain occasions the person aggrieved as well as the society at large can be victims, never be marginalised.
The above view came up in the matter where Court had to deal with concept of adequacy of quantum of sentence imposed by the High Court in a case under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The accused was convicted for causing death of two persons by rash and negligent driving of a motor vehicle.
The High Court in appeal upheld the conviction and reduced the sentence to the period already undergone. The State against the above impugned order had moved the present appeal. It was contended that when the prosecution had been able to establish the charges leveled against the accused and both the trial court and the appellant court had maintained the sentence there was no justification on the part of the High Court to reduce the sentence to the period already undergone solely on the basis that the accused had paid some compensation as directed by MACT.
The Supreme Court observed that it is the duty of the Court to award just sentence to a convict against whom charge is proved. While every mitigating or aggravating circumstance may be given due weight, mechanical reduction of sentence to the period already undergone cannot be appreciated. Sentence has to be fair not only to the accused but also to the victim and the society. It is also the duty of the court to duly consider the aspect of rehabilitating the victim.
It was held that it cannot be said as a proposition of law that whenever an accused offers acceptable compensation for rehabilitation of a victim, regardless of the gravity of the crime under Section 304A, there can be reduction of sentence.
In the instant case the factum of rash and negligent driving was established. It was observed that India has a disreputable record of road accidents. There is a non-challant attitude among the drivers. They feel that they are the “Emperors of all they survey”. Drunkenness contributes to careless driving where the other people become their prey. The poor feel that their lives are not safe, the pedestrians think of uncertainty and the civilized persons drive in constant fear but still apprehensive about the obnoxious attitude of the people who project themselves as “larger than life”. In such obtaining circumstances, the lawmakers should scrutinize, re-look and re-visit the sentencing policy in Section 304A, IPC.
The present was accordingly held as a fit case where the High Court swayed away by the passion of mercy in applying the principle that payment of compensation is a factor for reduction of sentence and absolutely in the realm of misplaced sympathy. The sentence was accordingly modified and States’ appeal was allowed.
[State of Punjab vs. Saurabh Bakshi]
(SC, 30.03.2015 – Criminal Appeal No. 520 of 2015)