The only reason given by the learned Trial Court while imposing the punishment lesser than the minimum provided under Section 376 of the IPC is that the accused is a poor and has a responsibility to maintain his wife and children. The aforesaid can hardly be said to be a cogent reason and/or special circumstances/case while awarding the punishment less than the minimum provided under Section 376 of the IPC, the Bench said.
Whether poverty is a mitigating factor for imposing punishment lesser than the minimum provided in the Indian penal code? This was the question before the Gujarat High Court in State of Gujarat vs. Jaydip Damjibhai Chavda. A division bench comprising of Justices M.R.Shah and Z.K.Saiyed answered it in the negative.
In this case, a 38 year old Step Father was found guilty by the Trial Court of raping his 16 year old Step-daughter. The Court, while imposing punishment, took into account his poor economic background and sentenced him to three and half years R.I. only for the offence under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code and three years for the offence under Section 377 of the IPC. The state preferred appeal before the High Court.
The High Court in its judgement has discussed various Apex Court decisions in the matter of awarding punishment to offences like Rape. The court said that a sentence of only three and half years for the offence under Section 376 of the IPC by no stretch of imagination can be said to be imposing adequate punishment commensurate with the gravity of the offence.
The mere fact that accused is poor and has a responsibility to maintain his wife and children can hardly be said to be a cogent reason and/or special circumstances/case while awarding the punishment less than the minimum provided under Section 376 of the IPC, the Bench said.
The Court also said that offence of rape is a heinous crime not only against the individual but also against the society at large and offences against the woman more particularly under Section 376 of the IPC are increasing. Therefore a message must go to the society that if such an offence is committed it shall be dealt with iron hand and strictly and that no leniency shall be shown, the Court said.
The Court said that the Trial Court did not exercise the discretion judiciously and has failed to perform its duty as a Judge while awarding appropriate and adequate punishment to an offender who is convicted for the offence under Sections 376, 377 and 506(2) of the Indian Penal Code.
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