4 April 2023 7:39 AM GMT
“The Indian Penal Code is punitive and deterrent, with its principal aim and object being punishing offenders for committing offences under the act,” said the Supreme Court on March 28, while reversing a decision by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to lessen a sentence imposed on a man convicted in a motor accident case, of rash driving and causing death due to negligence. The...
“The Indian Penal Code is punitive and deterrent, with its principal aim and object being punishing offenders for committing offences under the act,” said the Supreme Court on March 28, while reversing a decision by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to lessen a sentence imposed on a man convicted in a motor accident case, of rash driving and causing death due to negligence. The ‘undue sympathy’ shown by the high court, the apex court bench categorically stated, was unsustainable, therefore, meriting interference with its order.
A division bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar was hearing an appeal preferred by the Punjab government against the high court upholding the conviction of the accused but reducing his sentence from two years’ rigorous imprisonment to eight months, subject to the payment of compensation. The bench held:
“This court has time and again emphasised on the need to strictly punish offenders responsible for causing motor vehicle accidents. With rapidly increasing motorisation, India is facing an increasing burden of road traffic injuries and fatalities. The financial loss, emotional and social trauma caused to a family on losing a bread winner, or any other member of the family, or incapacitation of the victim cannot be quantified. The principle of proportionality between the crime and punishment has to be borne in mind. Further, the principle of just punishment is the bedrock of sentencing in respect of a criminal offence.”
This appeal has arisen out of a motor accident, which occurred due to the accused driving in a ‘reckless and negligent’ manner. His rash driving resulted in the death of one person and also led to an ambulance turning turtle, causing injuries to two people inside the ambulance. The accused was convicted under Sections 279 and 304A of the Indian Penal Code. Even though the high court confirmed his conviction, it thought it wise to interfere with the sentence imposed by the lower courts in view of the financial status of the accused, who drove cars for a living.
However, the apex court took a markedly different stance, saying that the high court had failed to consider the gravity of the offence and how the accused committed it. “Due to the rash and negligent driving by the accused, one innocent person lost his life and two persons who were travelling in the ambulance sustained injuries. The high court has also not properly considered the fact that due to the collision, the ambulance turned turtle, which only shows the impact on the ambulance and the rash and negligent driving on the part of the accused.” Therefore, the bench held, there were no valid grounds for interfering with the cogently reasoned sentence handed to the accused by the trial court. The court also noted, “The case on behalf of the accused is that him coming from a poor family be considered as a mitigating circumstance. However, the high court has not properly considered that because of the rash and negligent driving on the part of the accused one innocent person died and two persons were injured.”
The bench led by Justice Shah relied on the judgements in State of Madhya Pradesh v. Surendra Singh [(2015) 1 SCC 222], in which it was held that undue sympathy by means of imposing inadequate sentence would do more harm to the justice system by leading to the erosion of public confidence in the efficacy of law, and in State of Punjab v. Saurabh Bakshi [(2015) 5 SCC 182] in which the top court observed that the principle of sentencing recognised corrective measures but there were occasions when deterrence was an ‘imperative necessity’. Applying the dicta of the said rulings, the bench finally allowed the appeal by the state of Punjab, saying that the ‘undue sympathy’ shown by the high court was unsustainable and as such, the impugned order deserved to be quashed and set aside.
State of Punjab v. Dil Bahadur | Criminal Appeal No. 844 of 2023
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 267
Motor Accident Case – Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Sections 279, 304A – Reduction of sentence of convict – Object of Indian Penal Code is to punish offenders for offences under the act – Indian Penal Code punitive and deterrent – Corrective measures ought to be recognised while sentencing convict but deterrence became imperative necessity under certain circumstances – Expressing undue sympathy by imposing inadequate sentence harms justice system by causing the erosion of public confidence in efficacy of law – Held, undue sympathy expressed by the high court unsustainable and order liable to be quashed and set aside thereby restoring the original sentence imposed by lower courts – Appeal allowed.
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment