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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)

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

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)

JUDGMENT
M.Y. EQBAL, J.
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
side.

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
society.
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.

…………………………….J.
(M.Y. Eqbal)
…………………………….J.
(Shiva Kirti Singh)
New Delhi,
November 13, 2014.

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