21 Mar 2011

Indiscretions of youth condonable: Supreme Court

Dealing with an appeal of the Government against acquittal of a person sought to be convicted for having tendered false statements while applying for the post of Head Constable (Ministerial), the Supreme Court in a recent decision [Commissioner of Police v. Sandeep Kumar] took note of the age of the accused at the time of the commission of the alleged offence to hold that the said offence having been committed at the tender age of the accused, was condonable. The Court took note of the societal compassion given to the youth to hold that indiscretions of the youth were condonable. 

The Bench of Justice MARKANDEY KATJU and Justice GYAN SUDHA MISRA, on this aspect inter alia observed as under;
We respectfully agree with the Delhi High Court that the cancellation of his candidature was illegal, but we wish to give our own opinion in the matter.
When the incident happened the respondent must have been about 20 years of age. At that age young people often commit indiscretions, and such indiscretions can often been condoned. After all, youth will be youth. They are not expected to behave in as mature a manner as older people. 
Hence, our approach should be to condone minor indiscretions made by young people rather than to brand them as criminals for the rest of their lives. In this connection, we may refer to the character 'Jean Valjean' in Victor Hugo's novel 'Les Miserables', in which for committing a minor offence of stealing a loaf of bread for his hungry family Jean Valjean was branded as a thief for his whole life.
The modern approach should be to reform a person instead of branding him as a criminal all his life. 
We may also here refer to the case of Welsh students mentioned by Lord Denning in his book 'Due Process of Law'. It appears that some students of Wales were very enthusiastic about the Welsh language and they were upset because the radio programmes were being broadcast in the English language and not in Welsh. Then came up to London and invaded the High Court. They were found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to prison for three months by the High Court Judge. They filed an appeal before the Court of Appeals. Allowing the appeal, Lord Denning observed :-
“I come now to Mr. Watkin Powell's third point. He says that the sentences were excessive. I do not think they were excessive, at the time they were given and in the circumstances then existing. Here was a deliberate interference with the course of justice in a case which was no concern of theirs. It was necessary for the judge to show – and to show to all students everywhere – that this kind of thing cannot be tolerated. Let students demonstrate, if they please, for the causes in which they believe.  
Let them make their protests as they will. But they must do it by lawful means and not by unlawful. If they strike at the course of justice in this land – and I speak both for England and Wales – they strike at the roots of society itself, and they bring down that which protects them. It is only by the maintenance of law and order that they are privileged to be students and to study and live in peace. So let them support the law and not strike it down. 
But now what is to be done? The law has been vindicated by the sentences which the judge passed on Wednesday of last week. He has shown that law and order must be maintained, and will be maintained. But on this appeal, things are changed. These students here no longer defy the law. They have appealed to this court and shown respect for it. They have already served a week in prison. I do not think it necessary to keep them inside it any longer. These young people are no ordinary criminals. There is no violence, dishonesty or vice in them. On the contrary, there was much that we should applaud. They wish to do all they can to preserve the Welsh language. Well may they be proud of it. It is the language of the bards – of the poets and the singers – more melodious by far than our rough English tongue. On high authority, it should be equal in Wales with English. They have done wrong – very wrong – in going to the extreme they did.
But, that having been shown, I think we can, and should, show mercy on them. We should permit them to go back to their studies, to their parents and continue the good course which they have so wrongly disturbed.” [ Vide : Morris Vs. Crown Office, (1970) 2 Q.B. 114 ]
In our opinion, we should display the same wisdom as displayed by Lord Denning.
As already observed above, youth often commit indiscretions, which are often condoned. It is true that in the application form the respondent did not mention that he was involved in a criminal case under Section 325/34 IPC. Probably he did not mention this out of fear that if he did so he would automatically be disqualified.
At any event, it was not such a serious offence like murder, dacoity or rape, and hence a more lenient view should be taken in the matter.


Chishty said...

The links for the judgments which you attach at the end lead us to documents which seem to be authorised copies. Can you please let us know as to from where you source the judgment documents from?

Tarun Jain said...

The decisions have been taken from the websites of the respective courts.

aswin said...

is this Judgment reported in journals.. can u give me the citations.... ????. is this case possess ratio decidendi?