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Chhajulal Vs The State Of Rajasthan : Can Munsif Magistrate Award Excessive Term Of Imprisonment For Default Of Payment Of Fine

Manish Yadav ,
  22 November 2022       Share Bookmark

Court :
Hon’ble Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
1972 AIR 1809 1972 SCR (3) 906 1972 SCC (3) 411

Case Title:
Chhajulal Vs. The State Of Rajasthan

Date of Order:
17 March, 1972

Bench:
Beg, M. Hameedullah

Parties:
Petitioner- Chhajulal
Respondent- The State Of Rajasthan

SUBJECT

While a Magistrate's powers are specifically limited by Section 33 Criminal Procedure Code, they must also be so exercised as not to contravene Section 65 Indian Penal Code. Here, the Hon’ble Supreme Courtheld that the punishment sentence awarded to the appellant by the First-Class Magistrate due to nonpayment of fine was in excess of the Magistrate’s Powers.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS

Indian Penal Code

  • Section 65 - Limit To Imprisonment For Fine
  • Section 406 – Punishment For Criminal Breach Of Trust

Criminal Procedure Code

  • Section 32 – Mode of Conferring powers
  • Section 33 – Powers of Officers Appointed

OVERVIEW

  • The appellant was convicted under Section 406 Indian, Penal Code and sentenced to six month’s rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 500/by the Munsif Magistrate of Karoli, District Bharatpur, Rajasthan.
  • In default of payment of fine, the appellant was awarded three months further rigorous imprisonment,
  • After he filed an appeal with the Court of Sessions, his conviction was overturned; nevertheless, the Trial Court was instructed to reopen the case at the point where the appellant was supposed to have been thoroughly questioned in accordance with Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
  • In accordance with Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the appellant was then given a complete opportunity to address the facts and circumstances that were used against him in the case. Then he brought five witnesses for his defence. However, he was found guilty again and sentenced to two years of rigorous imprisonment well as a fine of Rs. 2,000 and, in default, an additional year of rigorous imprisonment. The appellant again appealed to the Court of Sessions which dismissed his appeal.
  • The appellant then filed a Revision application which was dismissed summarily by the High Court of Rajasthan
  • Shortly after, the appellant tried again to use the High Court's inherent jurisdiction by filing an application in accordance with Section 561A of the Criminal Procedure Code to have at least one illegality in the sentence rectified, but this too failed.
  • A prayer for a certificate of fitness of the case to appeal to this Court was also rejected by the High Court.
  • The appellant then applied under Art. 136 of the Constitution of India to the Supreme Court.

ISSUES RAISED

Three sentences of imprisonment in default of a fine cannot exceed six months, main issue raised here is whether a Munsif Magistrate or First-Class Magistrate was empowered to award a sentence of one year’s rigorous imprisonment to the appellant for the default of fine?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT

  • Even if section 65 of the I.P.C. could be imposed, the maximum sentence for failing to pay a fine would be nine months because a violation of section 406 of the I.P.C. has a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
  • It must be held that while a Magistrate's power is specifically limited by section 33 Cr. P.C., it must also be exercised so as not to violate section 65 I.P.C. after reading ss. 32 and 33, Cr. P.C. together the Magistrate could not have awarded more than six months imprisonment in default of payment of fine.
  • Just as a First Class Magistrate presiding over a case involving an offence punishable under Section 406 I.P.C. cannot impose the maximum sentence of imprisonment allowed under the section due to Section 32's specific limitation on the power to impose an imprisonment term of no more than two years.
  • Three sentence of imprisonment in default of fine cannot exceed six months

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT

The Munsif Magistrate or the First-Class Magistrate was well within his powers guaranteed by the Criminal Procedure Code to grant a period of one-year rigorous imprisonment to the Appellant.

ANALYSIS BY THE COURT

  • A violation of Section 406 of the Indian Penal Code carries a sentence of up to three years of rigourous imprisonment and a fine. Therefore, even if Section 65 of the Indian Penal Code could be used, the maximum sentence for failing to pay a fine would be nine months.
  • It is clear that Section, 65 only fixes a maximum period of imprisonment which can be awarded for default of payment of fine whenever any court convicts. On the other hand, Section 33 Criminal Procedure Code governs specifically the powers of 1st Class Magistrates on this matter.
  • In its application to Magistrates, Section 33 of the Criminal Procedure Code likewise embodies the idea expressed in Section 65 of the Indian Penal Code. A First Class Magistrate cannot use Section 65 of the Indian Penal Code to award a period of imprisonment in default of payment of fine on the mistaken assumption that he has the power to do so, just as he cannot use Section 406 of the Indian Penal Code to impose the maximum amount of prison time because his powers to do so are specifically limited to those granted to Section 32 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
  • While a Magistrate's powers are specifically limited by Section 33 Criminal Procedure Code, they must also be so exercised as not to contravene Section 65 Indian Penal Code.
  • The Supreme Court allowed this appeal to the extent that it reduced only the sentence of one year's rigorous imprisonment awarded in default of payment of fine to six months rigorous imprisonment because the Munsif Magistrate had exceeded his authority in passing the sentence of one year's rigorous imprisonment in default of payment of fine. The remainder of the sentence, which is quite legal, must stand.

CONCLUSION

The Hon’ble Supreme Court lays down the emphasis on harmonization of Section 65 of the Indian Penal code and Section 33 of the Criminal procedure code.

Under its inherent power guaranteed by Article 136 of the constitution of India, the Supreme court allowed the appeal made by the appellant to the extent that it reduces only the sentence of one year's rigorous imprisonment awarded in default of payment of fine by six months rigorous imprisonment.

 
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