Taking suo moto cognizance of a complaint against release of one Raghubir Singh under Section 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, after his conviction under Section 332 IPC for beating a police officer, the Himachal Pradesh High Court upheld his release on probation and remarked that the Act does not bar the grant of probation to "spoilt brats".
Justice Anoop Chitkara said,
"De-jure power of his father had gone to the head of the convict. He was showing off the authority of his father as well as the respect earned by his family and his father, to make his way, by-passing the law and order being enforced by the complainant. No doubt, this kind of behaviour is deplorable but still the Probation of Offenders Act does not bar the grant of probation to spoilt brats. With the passage of time, the convict must have acquired maturity and would have understood the power of law."
Singh had been convicted by the Trial Court for manhandling and abusing a police constable who tried to prevent him from entering his car into the market, which was already choked with jam. He was also accused of giving blows to the constable in the SHO office. Accordingly, the Judicial Magistrate had sentenced Singh to undergo simple imprisonment for one month and to pay a fine of Rs. 500/-. Subsequently however, based on directions from the Appellate Court to consider the release of Singh under the Probation of Offenders Act, the trial court called for the report of the Probation Officer and after perusing the report, released him under Section 4 of the Act.
Contesting such release, the anonymous complainant in his letter had stated that as mentioned in the report of the Probation Officer, Singh was the son of an MLA, a very influential politician and that the grant of probation was under his influence.
Nonetheless, upholding the above directions given by the Appellate court and the subsequent release of Singh, the high court said,
"Trial Court had granted the benefit of Probation of Offenders Act to the convict by specifically mentioning that at the time of such grant of probation there was no case pending against the convict. It was further mentioned that there was previously one case under Sections 452 and 323 read with Section 34 IPC, but the prosecution in such case stood withdrawn under Section 321 CrPC long ago. The perusal of the order does not reveal that the learned Trial Court or the learned first Appellate Court were under any kind of influence or that they had passed the said order on the considerations other than judicial."
Considerably, the anonymous complaint had also questioned the power of the Sessions Judge to remand the case for considering the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act. In this regard the court said,
"Answer to this lies in the bare perusal of Section 386(b)(iii) CrPC which defines the powers of the Appellate Court and states that in an appeal from conviction the Appellate Court may, with or without altering the findings, alter the nature or extent of sentence, but not so as to enhance the same. Thus the learned Sessions Judge acted under this mandate and it was well within his legal domain to remand the matter for calling the report of the Probation Officer for considering the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act while upholding the conviction part. Thus what the Appellate Court had done was that it upheld the conviction but expressed disagreement on sentencing on the ground for non consideration of Section 361 CrPC. No fault can be found in such an approach."
Lastly the court clarified that the spirit of the Act demands that a conclusion for releasing a person on probation or not must be arrived at only after calling for the report of the Probation Officer. Reliance was placed on State of Himachal Pradesh v. Lal Singh, 1990 CriLJ 723, wherein a full bench of the high court held that,
"The reason why the Legislature has allowed two different sets of law to remain on the Statute Book is not far to seek. The provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 are more beneficial and result-oriented and wider in scope and applicability for "the reformation and rehabilitation of the offender as a useful and self-reliant member of society without subjecting him to the deleterious effects of jail life" than the provisions of Section 360."
The convict Raghubir Singh was represented by Advocate Sunil Mohan Goel and the State by M/s Ashwani K. Sharma and Additional Advocate General, Nand Lal Thakur.