14 Nov 2009

Punishment to be proportional with the offence committed: Supreme Court

In a recent decision has the Supreme Court has emphatically declared that the award of punishment for commission of offences should be proportional and commensurate with the gravity of offence committed. The Supreme Court declared, "The general policy which the courts have followed with regard to sentencing is that the punishment must be appropriate and proportional to the gravity of the offence committed. Imposition of appropriate punishment is the manner in which the Courts respond to the society's cry for justice against the criminals. Justice demands that Courts should impose punishment befitting the crime so that the Courts reflect public abhorrence of the crime."

The Court further observed,
In operating the sentencing system, law should adopt the corrective machinery or deterrence based on factual matrix. By deft modulation, sentencing process be stern where it should  be, and tempered with mercy where it warrants to be. The facts and given circumstances in each case, the nature of the crime, the manner in which it was planned and committed, the motive for commission of the crime, the conduct of the accused, the nature of weapons used and all other attending circumstances are relevant facts which would enter into the area of consideration.
It was the duty of every Court to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in which it was executed or committed. The sentencing Courts are expected to consider all relevant facts and circumstances bearing on the question of sentence and proceed to impose a sentence commensurate with the gravity of the offence.
The Court was dealing with the challenge to the two year rigourous imprisonment granted to accused who had been convicted for the offence of 'attempt to commit culpable homicide' under Section 308 of the Indian Penal Code for assaulting one with lathis and causing injuries to the head. The Supreme Court noted the declaration of the law on the aspect of quantum of punishment its recent decision as under;

Recently, this Court, in Gurmukh Singh v. State of Haryana, JT 2009 (11) SC 122 = 2009 (11) SCALE 688, enumerated the various considerations which will be taken into account while determining the sentence which read as under:
"24. These are some factors which are required to be taken into consideration before awarding appropriate sentence to the accused. These factors are only illustrative in character and not exhaustive. Each case has to be seen from its special perspective. The relevant factors are as under:
a) Motive or previous enmity;
b) Whether the incident had taken place on the spur of the moment;
c) The intention/knowledge of the accused while inflicting the blow or injury;
d) Whether the death ensued instantaneously or the victim died after several days;
e) The gravity, dimension and nature of injury;
f) The age and general health condition of the accused;
g) Whether the injury was caused without pre-meditation in a sudden fight;
h) The nature and size of weapon used for inflicting the injury and the force with which the blow was inflicted;
i) The criminal background and adverse history of the accused;
j) Whether the injury inflicted was not sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death but the death was because of shock;
k) Number of other criminal cases pending against the accused;
l) Incident occurred within the family members or close relations;
m) The conduct and behaviour of the accused after the incident. Whether the accused had taken the injured/the deceased to the hospital immediately to ensure that he/she gets proper medical treatment?
These are some of the factors which can be taken into consideration while granting an appropriate sentence to the accused. The list of circumstances enumerated above is only illustrative and not exhaustive. In our considered view, proper and appropriate sentence to the accused is the bounded obligation and duty of the court. The endeavour of the court must be to ensure that the accused receives appropriate sentence, in other words, sentence should be according to the gravity of the offence. These are some of the relevant factors which are required to be kept in view while convicting and sentencing the accused."
For these reasons and taking note of the fact that the "trial Court as well as the High Court, taking note of the enmity and intention of the accused and nature of injuries, evidence of both oral and documentary and medical evidence, concluded and awarded punishment" upheld the punishment awarded to the accused and declined to interfere.

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