Suganthi Suresh Kumar v. Jagdeeshan
DATE OF ORDER:
Petitioner: Suganthi Suresh
The learned single judge bench of High Court of Madras, in the present case, pointed out the tendency of the trial courts of not keeping in mind the gravity of the offence while granting sentence of imprisonment or fine. It held that the Trial Courtsare required see to the fact that the provisions regarding imprisonment shall not end up being empty formality and the accused should not get away with his liability by paying a meagre fine.
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
- Section 29(3)- Empowers a Magistrate of second class to pass a sentence for imprisonment for a term which shall not exceed 1 year, or fine of a maximum amount of 5000 or both.
- Section 325- Requires a Magistrate to forward an accused to the Chief Judicial Magistrate in case he is of the opinion that the punishment to be inflicted upon the accused is more severe than such Magistrate is empowered to inflict.
- Section 357(1)-Enable a court passing a sentence of fine or a sentence of which fine forms a part to order such fine or part thereof to be used for the purpose of compensating the aggrieved party.
- Section 357(3)- Enables a court imposing a sentence which does not include a fine to order the accused to compensate the aggrieved party.
- Section 386 (Second proviso)- Imposes a limitation upon the Appellate Court to not give a punishment exceeding the maximum limit up to which the court from whose order the appeal lies was entitled to.
- The case relates to the dishonour of two sets of cheques drawn by the accused/respondenton the plaintiff/appellant.
- The total amount involved in the cheques was 4,50,000 (1,80,000+ 2,70,000).
- The court of IX Metropolitan Magistrate, Saidapet, Chennai held the respondent guilty of the offence u/s 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.
- However, the trial court inflicted upon him an imprisonment until the rising of the court and a fine of Rs. 5000.
- Aggrieved by the quantum of punishment granted by the trial court, the complainant preferred two revisions before the High Court of Madras.
- Whether the Court of Revision can interfere with the sentence passed by the Trial Court?
- Whether the Court of Revision can compel a Magistrate to take recourse to section 325?
- Whether the Court of Revision can order compensation to be paid either out of or above the fine imposed by the Trial Court?
ARGUMENTS RAISED BY THE APPELLANT
- The learned counsel for the appellant in this case contended that the quantum of imprisonment and fine inflicted upon the accused is grossly inadequate.
- The learned counsel further urged this court to either direct the respondent to compensate the complainant for his loss as provided by section 357 CrPC or to remand the matter to the trial court for imposing adequate sentence by taking a recourse to section 325 CrPC.
ARGUMENTS RAISED BY THE RESPONDENT
- The learned counsel appearing for the respondent contended that section 29 of the CrPc limits the quantum of fine (up to a maximum of Rs. 5000) that Magistrates have the power to impose and thus there can be no question of enhancement of sentence of fine.
ANALYSIS BY THE COURT
- Though the Code provides a limit on the gravity of punishment that can be imposed by a Magistrate, section 325 can be employed to punish the guilty more severely.
- However, to invoke section 325 of the Code, the Magistrate should be of the opinion that the accused is guilty and deserves to receive a punishment, different in kind from or more severe than that he is entitled to impose. In such a case, the Magistrate may record his opinion and submit his proceedings to the Chief Judicial Magistrate to whom he is subordinate and also forward the accused to him. In that case, it is for the Chief Judicial Magistrate to pass such judgement, sentence or order as he thinks fit.
- In the present case, the Magistrate did not take recourse to section 325 may be because he has not formed such an opinion. The quantum of imprisonment imposed by the Magistrate also points to the fact that in his opinion the accused did not deserve to be punished more severely.
- The court also observed that since the Magistrate has not chosen to act under section 325, the court cannot, at this stage, compel the Magistrate to do so.
- As far as the revision of the sentence of fine is concerned, this court is bound by the law laid down by the Apex Court in K Bhaskaran v. Sankaran Vaidhyan Balan and another [1997 (7) SCC 510] which provides that this court cannot impose a fine which exceeds Rs. 5000.
- Furthermore, the second proviso to section 386 CrPC also restricts the appellate Court from inflicting a punishment greater than the one that the court from whose decision such appeal lies is entitled to inflict.
- While taking into consideration the appellant’s plea asking the court to employ section 357 ordering the accused to compensate the complainant, the court observed that such power of awarding compensation has been dealt with in two phases-
- Where fine forms a part of sentence [Section 357(1)]
- Where fine doe not form a part of the sentence [Section 357(3)]
- In the former case mentioned above, this court can direct that either the whole or part of fine imposed be used to compensate the victim. However, the second proviso to section 386 again comes into picture and the court will be restricted from imposing a fine beyond Rs. 5000.
- In the latter case i.e., section 357(3), compensation can only be ordered when the court imposes a sentence of which fine does not form a part.
- Since, a sentence imposing a fine of Rs. 5000 has already been passed by the Magistrate in the present case, this court cannot award compensation unless the sentence of fine is deleted.
The learned single judge of the High Court of Madras preferred not to interfere with the punishment inflicted on the respondent by the trial court. As a result, he dismissed both the revision petitions and also refused to invoke section 357(3) of the Code.