The Bombay High Court has held that even if the accused pleads guilty, Courts are not empowered to impose a sentence below the minimum sentence prescribed in the given act passed by the Legislature and allowed an appeal filed by the State government seeking enhancement of the fine amount of Rs.1200 imposed on one Yalappa Khot, for employing a 12 year old boy for weaving in his factory.
Justice SS Jadhav had pronounced the judgment in June, it was made available today. Court heard the State's challenge to a judgment of the Judicial Magistrate First Class wherein he had decided to impose a fine of Rs.1200 only on accused Yalappa as he had pleaded guilty. This order was passed 18 years ago on October 15, 2001.
The complainant in this case was a labour officer of the government who filed a complaint before the Judicial Magistrate First Class on November 27, 1997 stating that as per the directions of the Supreme Court he conducted survey work on child labour in the concerned area and during the course of survey he found Mahesh Maikari, a 12-year-old boy aged working in the weaving process in the factory of the accused. Thus, the complainant officer concluded that the factory owner had committed an offence by contravening section 3 of the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, which is punishable under section 14(1) of the said Act.
During the trial, accused pleaded guilty and therefore, the judicial magistrate convicted the accused and sentenced him to pay a fine of Rs.1200 which he did. Following this, the State filed the present appeal seeking enhancement of sentence.
APP for the State YM Nakhwa argued that the magistrate has failed to impose minimum fine contemplated by section 14 of the said Act and therefore, the State was constrained to file an appeal for enhancement.
Justice Jadhav observed that although the magistrate imposed a fine of Rs.1200 only on the ground that the accused pleaded guilty, the language of part IV of Section 14 of Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, is very clear as it states that once a person is convicted under Section 3, the fine "shall not be less than Rs.20,000 but it may extended to Rs.50,000."
Noting that the punishment imposed cannot be less than the minimum, Court said-
"Although the accused has pleaded guilty, there is no reason for showing leniency, that the courts are not empowered to award less than minimum sentence only on the ground of the accused pleading guilty. It is for the Court to impose an appropriate punishment which would not be less than minimum, against the mandate of Legislature as contemplated under section 14 of the Act. The appeal, therefore, deserves to be allowed."
Thus, the JMFC's order was set aside and the petitioner was directed to deposit the remaining fine amount of Rs.18,800.
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