Supreme court explains tests to be followed while sentencing a criminal

In the judgment of the case –State of Madhya Pradesh v. Udham and Others, delivered on October 22, 2019, Justices N.V.Ramana, Mohan M. Shantanagouder and Ajay Rastogi, at the Supreme Court, have underlined the need of  not to take the aspect of sentencing for granted, as this part of Criminal Justice System has determinative impact on the society and in the light of the same ,the Court has  provided further clarity on the said aspect.

The Court has stated that it is of the opinion that a large number of cases are being filed before the Court, due to insufficient or wrong sentencing undertaken by the Courts below. This Court has time and again cautioned against the cavalier manner in which sentencing is dealt with in certain cases. 

Sentencing for crimes has to be analyzed on the touchstone of three tests namely, crime test, criminal test and comparative proportionality test.

Crime test involves factors like extent of planning, choice of weapon, modus of crime, disposal modus (if any), role of the accused, anti-social or abhorrent character of the crime, state of victim.

Criminal test involves assessment of factors such as age of the criminal, economic conditions or social background of the criminal, motivation for crime, availability of defense, state of mind, instigation by the deceased or any one from the deceased group, adequately represented in the trial, disagreement by a Judge in the appeal process, repentance, possibility of reformation, prior criminal record (not to take pending cases) and any other relevant factor (not an exhaustive list).

Additionally, it may be noted that under the crime test, seriousness needs to be ascertained. The seriousness of the crime may be ascertained by (i) bodily integrity of the victim; (ii) loss of material support or amenity; (iii) extent of humiliation; and (iv) privacy breach.

In the present case, it is clear that there is no detailed analysis of the facts of this case, the nature of the injuries caused, the weapons used, the number of victims, etc. given by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in the impugned order.

The HC while sentencing the accused did not take into consideration the second charge proved against the respondents-accused herein, under section 452 of IPC. Even the fact that the respondents-accused had only undergone sentence of 4   days at the time of passing of the impugned order, brings into question the HC pointing the same as a reason for reducing their sentence. As such, the order of the HC merits interference by the Supreme Court.

For deciding the appropriate sentence to be imposed on the respondents-accused in this case, the facts of this case require closer scrutiny. The respondents-accused entered the house of the complainant, attacked the others present with axes and sticks. Four people, including the complainant, were injured. The injuries caused were incised wounds on the hands and backs of the victims, an incised wound next to the ear of one of the victims and bruising, etc. 

The respondents-accused were convicted for the offence under section 326 read with section 34 of IPC, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, or imprisonment of a term which may extend to ten years, and fine. They were also convicted under section 452 of IPC, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years along with fine.

The respondents-accused herein were males of age 33 years,33 years, 28 years and 70 years respectively at the time of the incident. The main allegation against the respondents 1 and 3 is that they had used an axe to attack the victim. In this scuffle there is no dispute that some of these respondents-accused were also injured profusely. Further, the motivation seems to be that the cow belonging to the victims had entered the household of the accused and the respondent-1 with his co-accused are proved to be aggressor herein.

From the perusal of the record, the injuries on some of the victims are not specifically attributed. The respondent group was not numerically matched with that of the victims and there were two respondent-accused within the group carrying lathis. The bodily integrity was compromised as a result, of the injuries caused, but there was no evidence led to indicate any permanent embellishments of any part. The scope of intrusion of privacy due to the assault is also minimal. There was no material destruction involved in the crime.

In this context, the Court noted that the highlighted facts of the case, however, need to be balanced with the fact that this was the first offence committed by the respondents-accused and that the motive, which is stated to be trivial. There is a requirement to treat the crime committed herein differently than other objectionable situations such s police atrocities etc. (refer to Yashwant v. State of Maharashtra- AIR 2018 SC 4067).

Having regard to the fact that the occurrence of the crime is of the year 2008 and the respondents-accused have been, in a way, only ordered to undergo four days of jail term with a fine of Rs 1,500/-, “we (the Court)need to enhance the same to commensurate with the guilt of the respondents-accused.

The present appeal was filed by the appellant-State against the final order passed by the Madhya Pradesh HC’s Gwalior Bench in criminal appeal 659/2011, whereby the HC partly allowed the appeal preferred by the respondents-accused herein and reduced the sentence awarded by the trial court to the period already undergone for the offences under section 326 of the IPC read with section 34 of IPC and section 452of the IPC.

The prosecution’s case is that the complainant lodged a report on April 15, 2008 that at around 9 pm while he was sitting inside his house with three other people, the respondents -accused barged in, carrying weapons. The accused persons asked the complainant why he had not kept his cow tied, and subsequently, on respondent-4’s exhortation, the respondents-accused attacked the complainant and the others present at that time resulting in various injuries to them. Thereafter, they allegedly threatened the complainant that if he did not keep his cow confined, he would be killed. Being aggrieved by the trial court’s verdict, the convicted and sentenced accused persons filed appeal before the HC challenging only the quantum of sentence.

The HC partly allowed the appeal and reduced the sentence to the period of imprisonment, already undergone by them, which was a period of 4 days, while enhancing the fine amount by RS 1500/- per accused or in default to suffer SI for 30 days.

The Supreme Court has partly allowed the appeal and enhanced both the sentence and fine imposed by the HC.

 

R.S.Agrawal 
on 08 November 2019
Published in Others
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