Society seldom survives if they feel that offenders and sinners are beyond redemption, the Delhi High Court bench remarked while directing the authorities to consider granting furlough to a 65-year-old man furlough without being treated as a “habitual offender”.
Sudhir Sharma is serving jail sentence after getting convicted in six ‘cheating’ cases. He submitted before the court that in spite of the fact that his conduct is satisfactory, he was denied furlough on the ground that he is a “habitual offender”. He contended before the court that all those cases were of the same nature and most investigating officers and witnesses were common, but yet intentionally and deliberately different cases were filed and charge sheets were filed at different times only with the intent to keep him in long judicial custody. He is in jail for more than 10 years now.
A bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice AK Chawla was considering the appeal against single bench order that dismissed his plea.
The bench, perusing the judgments which had convicted Sharma, observed: “They show that between 1992 to 1997/98, the offences were committed by him, in conspiracy with others. No doubt, there is a similarity of these offences. Yet, it would be difficult to characterize that he was a “habitual” offender. The fact that most of these cases were registered, at different times, though the period of their commission is common, is undeniable. As a consequence of this peculiar feature, the trials took place in the latter part of 1999 and ended in 2009-2010. In between, the appellant was in and out of prison; he has claimed set off of those periods, in respective of the cumulative prison sentence of 19 years. He has completed sentence in four out of the six cases he was convicted in; the total period of sentence undergone by him appears to be about 11 years.”
The bench further observed: “Given these objective circumstances, it is evident that any criminal propensity that he had about two decades ago (when the offences were committed) must have diminished altogether or extinguished. It is also a fact that today he is over 65 years; he has a family of grown up married children and is even a grandfather. Having regard to these facts, the peculiar feature that he had committed several offences (maybe in sequence, but which were pursued one after the other by the CBI) will in effect hang on his neck as a millstone in perpetuity and deny him the right to seek furlough.”
Directing the jail authorities to consider his application, the bench remarked: “The appellant is not in the prime of his life; his best years – when he could have seen a budding family and participated in the thrill of new life as a grandfather, have gone by. He is not a lifer; no doubt the crimes he was convicted of were serious and he, therefore, received his “just deserts” so to speak. Yet, he is not beyond redemption. His past prison record assumes significance as does his conduct (which was blameless) during the time he was let out on parole. Society seldom survives if they feel that offenders and sinners are beyond redemption. Jurisprudence in an evolved society presupposes that the ultimate goal of all penal sanctions is to reform the individual, not eradicate her personality. As wisely put in verse, if a soul is “shut out” it is extinguished.”
Justice Bhat concluded the judgment by quoting a verse from ‘Tramp’
“Shut in by sin and self, The soul
Is prisioned in a dungeon deep
And there shut out from God and Man
Dies in a sleep… (From the “Tramp”)”