A Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, while setting aside an order of Madhya Pradesh High Court observed, “Undue sympathy by means of imposing inadequate sentence would do more harm to the justice system to undermine the public confidence in the efficacy of law and the society cannot endure long under serious threats. If the courts do not protect the injured, the injured would then resort to personal vengeance. Therefore, the duty of any court is to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in which it was committed.”
The Court added, “We are of the opinion that the trial court has not committed any illegality in passing the order of conviction and in the appeal preferred by the accused findings of the trial court were affirmed. However, without proper appreciation of the evidence and consideration of gravity of the offence, learned Single Judge of the High Court shown undue sympathy by modifying the conviction to the period already undergone.”
The Court was hearing an appeal filed by the State of Madhya Pradesh against an order passed by Gwalior Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court which reduced the sentence awarded by the trial court to the accused, to the period already undergone subject to depositing further compensation of Rs 2,000 to the widow/mother of the deceased in a road accident case.
The convict had submitted before the High Court that the accused, who is a poor person, has already served substantive part of jail sentence and hence prayed that his sentence may be reduced to the period already undergone and the amount of fine may reasonably be enhanced.
The State contended before the Supreme Court that the High Court has erred in passing impugned order of partly allowing the revision petition of the accused without taking into consideration the gravity of the act committed by the respondent, whereby an innocent man lost his life due to negligence of the respondent.
In the instant case, the accused had endangered the life of the deceased, Vijay by driving the jeep on a public road in a rash and negligent manner. As a result of the accident Vijay Singh, who was travelling in the jeep got injured and died, and another person Mangilal, who was also in the jeep, got injured.
Talking about the proportionality of the sentence imposed, the Court observed, “The legislature has bestowed upon the judiciary this enormous discretion in the sentencing policy, which must be exercised with utmost care and caution. The punishment awarded should be directly proportionate to the nature and the magnitude of the offence. The benchmark of proportionate sentencing can assist the Judges in arriving at a fair and impartial verdict.”
The Court added, “The court must not only keep in view the rights of the victim of the crime but also the society at large while considering the imposition of appropriate punishment. Meager sentence imposed solely on account of lapse of time without considering the degree of the offence will be counter-productive in the long run and against the interest of the society.”
Read the judgment here.