'Long Pendency' Amounts To A 'Special Reason' For Imposing Lesser Penalty In Corruption Case Involving Meager Bribe Amount:SC
The Supreme Court reduced punishment imposed on a man who was convicted for receiving a bribe of Rs. 1200 in the year 1985, to 'period already undergone'.
Ambi Ram was working as "Kanoongo/Patwari" at Didihat, Uttarakhand. The prosecution case was that he assured one Gopal Singh that he would not arrest him nor would implicate him in one pending criminal case, if he pays him Rs.1200. While accepting the illegal gratification, he was caught by S.P. (Vigilance) in a trap arranged for this purpose at the behest of Gopal Singh.
The Sessions Court convicted and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of four years and to pay a fine of Rs.5000. The High Court, reduced the jail sentence from four years to one year. The accused underwent around one month and 10 days imprisonment.
Before the Apex Court, the counsel for the accused contended that he is now aged around 78 years and is suffering from heart ailment.
The bench comprising Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari observed that Section 5 (2) of the PC Act shows that it provides that any public servant, who commits criminal misconduct, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine. But it also empowers the Court to impose sentence of imprisonment of less than one year provided any special reasons are recorded in writing in support of imposing such reduce sentence of less than one year, the court noted.
The bench then cited 8 special reasons to reduce the punishment in this case. It said:
" Firstly, the incident is of the year 1985; Secondly, this case is pending for the last 34 years; Thirdly, the appellant has now reached to the age of 78 years; Fourthly, he is suffering from heart ailment, as stated by the learned counsel for the appellant, and is also not keeping well; Fifthly, he has so far, during the trial and after suffering conviction, undergone total jail sentence of one month and 10 days; Sixthly, he has been on bail throughout for the last 34 years and did not indulge in any criminal activities nor breached any conditions of the bail granted to him; Seventhly, the bribe amount was Rs.1200/-; and lastly, in the last 34 years, he has suffered immense trauma, mental agony and anguish. "
The bench then reduced the jail sentence imposed by the High Court and reduced it to "what is already undergone". The fine amount was increased to Rs. 10,000.