Evolving a uniform sentencing policy is a tough call; Supreme Court [Read Judgment]

Evolving a uniform sentencing policy is a tough call; Supreme Court [Read Judgment]

A two Judge Bench of the Supreme Court has held that determining the adequacy of sentence to be awarded in a given case  is not an easy task, just as evolving a uniform sentencing policy is a tough call. Justices T.S. Thakur and Gopal Gowda by separate but concurring opinions, had ordered the release of an Accused, who was convicted by Delhi High Court for offence punishable under Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and reduced  sentence awarded by the Trial Court from 2 years to 1 year retaining Rs.5000/- fine imposed, with default sentence of 2 months, with the sentence already undergone.

In his separate opinion Justice Thakur held as follows;

Determining the adequacy of sentence to be awarded in a given case  is not an easy task, just as evolving a uniform sentencing policy  is  a  tough call. That is because the quantum of sentence that may  be  awarded  depends upon a variety of factors including mitigating circumstances peculiar to a given case. The Courts generally enjoy considerable amount of discretion in the matter of determining the quantum of sentence. In doing so, the courts are influenced in varying degrees  by  the reformative,  deterrent and punitive aspects of punishment, delay in the conclusion of the trial and legal proceedings, the age of the accused, his physical/health condition, the nature of the offence, the weapon used and in the cases of illegal gratification the amount of bribe, loss of job and family obligations  of accused are also some of the considerations  that  weigh  heavily  with  the Courts while determining the sentence to be awarded. The Courts have not attempted to exhaustively enumerate the considerations that go into determination of the quantum of sentence nor have the  Courts  attempted  to lay down the weight that each one of these  considerations  carry.  That  is because any such exercise is neither easy nor  advisable  given  the myriad situations in which the question may fall for determination. Broadly speaking, the courts have recognised the factors mentioned earlier as  being relevant to the question of determining the sentence. Decisions of this Court on the subject are a legion. Reference to some only should, however, suffice.

Justice Thakur relied on B.G. Goswami v. Delhi Administration (1974) 3 SCC 85,  where the accused was  convicted  under  Section  5(2)  read  with  Section  5(1)(d)  of  the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 and under Section 161 of  I.P.C  and  was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period  of  1  year  and  4 months. On appeal, Supreme Court while reducing the punishment  to  the  period already undergone, laid down the general principles that are to be borne  in mind by the Courts while determining the quantum of punishment.

He also relied on Dologovinda Mohanty v. State of Orissa (1979) 4 SCC 557, where the Supreme Court upon considering the negligible amount of Rs. 138/-  alleged  to  have been received by the accused as illegal gratification, took a  lenient  view by  reducing  the  sentence  of  the  accused  from  four  months   rigorous imprisonment to the period  already  undergone.

Read the Judgment here.