In a judgment, the Bombay High Court quoted Oscar Wilde in order to exemplify "the shift in manner of treating prisoners" with the passage of time. The court said that there was a focus on circumstances that compel such persons to contravene the law.
Justice SB Shukre and Justice SM Modak of the Nagpur bench were hearing a criminal writ petition filed by Akash Deshpande and Nikunj Sadhwani aged 21 and 23, respectively. Both the petitioners were seeking relief under Section 427 of CrPC as they were sentenced in seven different cases and all the sentences were directed to be run consecutively, instead of concurrently.
Petitioners were convicted under Sections 392 (punishment for robbery) and 393 (attempt to commit robbery) of the Indian Penal Code. They were tried jointly and convicted in a total of seven cases. Akash was tried individually in one case by Judicial Magistrate First Class, Tumsar. Both were tried in four cases by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Bhandara, whereas in two cases, both were tried together by the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Tumsar.
On behalf of the petitioners, heavy reliance was placed upon Section 427 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and high court's decision in the case of Abidkhan @ Salman Mukhtar Khan Pathan vs. State of Maharashtra, whereas the state insisted on consecutive running of sentences in view of charge sheets arising out of different incidents, time, places and victims.
So, issue before us is whether different crimes and conviction by two different Courts will disentitle the petitioners from claiming the benefit of concurrent sentence, the court said.
The court then referred to the said shift in the manner of treating prisoners: "After passage of time and modernization, there is a shift in manner of treating the prisoners. The prisoner is considered as a human being and there is a focus on circumstances compelling him to contravene the law. There is also focus on rehabilitation of such prisoner. We would like to quote the words of world-famous poet Oscar Wilde "every Saint has a past and every sinner has a future."
The bench computed the total number of years that the petitioners had been sentenced to and found that Akash would spend 24 years in jail while Nikunj will spend 21 years. Thus, the court observed-
"So, as per the consecutive theory of sentence, petitioner Nos.1 & 2 will be out of jail almost in the year 2040 & 2037. We admit that both these petitioners have robbed the individuals by way of committing profession only. They were not satisfied on robbing few persons. They must have done it for earning. They have adopted wrong mode. They must have now realized that they got nothing except incarceration and losing the company of family and society. The petitioners are aged about 21 and 23 years of age respectively. So, when they will come out of jail (in the year 2040 & 2037), they will be 45 years old. This factor perturbed us more.
So, reformative theory of punishment compels us to take lenient view of the matter. We do not want the young age of petitioners to be spoiled by keeping them in jail. Till this time, they must have realized the lesson for the sin committed by them. So, we are inclined to convert their sentences to concurrent from consecutive."
Finally, referring to Section 427 CrPC, the court said that even though trail courts may have been justified in denying the petitioners benefit of concurrent sentencing, trial courts, in general, are not aware of such provisions of law. Hence, the registry has been directed to circulate the said judgment and trial courts, as well as appellate courts, have been asked to consider Section 427 while dealing with the question of sentencing.
Read the Judgment Here