The Bombay High Court has directed the State of Maharashtra to pay at least Rs. 2 lakh as compensation to one Ranjit Singh Gill for keeping him in jail, three years above his actual sentence.
A bench of Justice TV Nalawade and Justice SV Kotwal at Aurangabad directed the state government to pay the amount within 45 days, failing which an interest of 12% would be applicable.
Gill had filed a petition seeking compensation of Rs. 25 lakh from the state.
Arrested on murder charges, on August 30, 1975, Gill was acquitted by the sessions court two years later in 1977. Thereafter, the state filed an appeal against the acquittal before the high court, which was allowed, and Gill was convicted for murder on October 10, 1981.
He was sentenced to suffer life imprisonment.
Although Gill was granted bail on appeal, his appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court and he was finally arrested on February 2, 1993.
Gill was finally released after 17 years, 9 months and 12 days in jail.
In his petition, Gill contended that as per Section 433 of Criminal Procedure Code, he could not have been kept behind bars for more than 14 years and this period was inclusive of remission period.
The petitioner also submitted that he was informed by the government that his case was covered by amended provision Section 433-A of CrPC and so, the remission period cannot be considered, and he needs to be kept in jail, as per the new provision.
After his release, a criminal writ petition filed by Gill was allowed by the high court and it was held that the Section 433 sans amendment was applicable in this case, meaning that the high court held that Gill was held illegally.
What Court Said
Clarifying all the contentions raised in the said order, the court observed that even if Gill was convicted after the amended provision, Section 433, not 433-A, would apply. The court said:
“We are mindful of one anomaly and must provide for its elimination. If the trial court acquits and the higher Court convicts and it so happens that the acquittal is before Section 433-A came into force and the conviction after it, could it be that the convicted person would be denied the benefit of prospectively and consequential non-application of Section 433-A merely because he had the bad luck to be initially acquitted? We think not. When a person is convicted in appeal, it follows that the appellate court has exercised its power in the place of the original court and the guilt, conviction and sentence must be substituted for and shall have retroactive effect from the date of the judgment of the trial court. The appellate conviction must relate back to the date of the trial court's verdict, and substitute it.”
Allowing the appeal, the court said-
“In view of the aforesaid decision given by this Court in favour of the petitioner, in the present proceeding, it needs to be presumed that the petitioner was kept behind bars illegally for the period mentioned in the Criminal Writ Petition by him, and so he is entitled to get compensation.
On the date of present petition, the petitioner was aged about 50 years and it can be said that he lost more than 3 years of his active life due to the illegal detention. When a person is kept behind bars, his entire family suffers, as in our society the male member is generally the earning member of the family. Even when there was such direction, correct decision was not taken by the respondents. In view of this circumstance also, this Court holds that compensation needs to be paid to the petitioner.”
Read the Judgment Here