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Supreme Court finds fault with Rajasthan HC order reducing sentence in attempt to murder case

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The Supreme Court has disparaged the Rajasthan High Court‘s practice of disposing criminal appeals, wherein the High Court reduced the sentence from three years Rigorous Imprisonment to period already undergone for 44 days in an attempt to murder case.

The Bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathna upheld the trial court judgment which awarded 3 years Rigorous Imprisonment to respondent Banwari Lal convicted under Section 307 IPC, while allowing the appeal preferred by Rajasthan government against the setting aside of order of sentence passed to Banwari Lal by the Rajasthan High Court.

The Apex Court division bench vide judgment dated April 8, 2022, directed convict Banwari Lal to surrender before the jail authority concerned within a period of 4 weeks, to undergo his remaining sentence.

The Apex Court also criticized the view taken by the High Court of Rajasthan to relax the sentence to 44 days, the period Banwari Lal underwent imprisonment. The Bench said the High Court, without introspecting on the facts, weighed only the submissions of Banwari Lal that incident occurred on 31.03.1989 and he has been facing trial since last 26 years, when he committed the offence, he was young and now he is aged. Such cannot become the sole factor to award appropriate and adequate sentence.

“Merely because a long period has lapsed by the time the appeal is decided cannot be a ground to award the punishment which is disproportionate and inadequate. The High Court has not at all adverted to the relevant factors which were required to be while imposing appropriate/suitable punishment/sentence”

-such is the categorical observation in para 10 of the Supreme Court order.

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However, the primary question that arose for determination by the bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarthna, in relation to the principles for sentencing and tests, the sentencing court follows to award an appropriate sentence, in this case whether it was followed or not.

The apex court took in aid of judgment of Mohan Lal, wherein High Court modified the judgment and order passed by the learned trial court and sentenced the accused to the period already undergone by him, which was only six days and no reasons were assigned by High Court, this court setting aside the order, further held that lenient view taken by sessions court and High court in related to offences under Sections 325 and 323 IPC shook the judicial conscience of this court.

The apex court earlier in Alister Anthony Pareira v. State of Maharashtra, (2012) 2 SCC 648 talked about the principles a sentencing court must follow. There is no straitjacket formula for sentencing an accused on proof of crime. However, the sentencing court must keep in mind the twin objectives of the sentencing policy is deterrence and correction.

Also Read: Supreme Court releases two life imprisonment convicts on bail

Another observation akin to sentencing policy being adopted by sentencing court/sessions court callously, the Apex Court in the present appeal in para 13 of the judgment that the sentence should be appropriate, adequate, just, proportionate and commensurate with the nature and gravity of the crime and the manner in which the crime is committed.

The Rajasthan High court while dealing with two appeals filed by Banwari Lal and Mohan Lal, one of the appeal filed by state of Rajasthan against Mohan Lal was dismissed subsequently. Mohan Lal,

accused got convicted under Section 324 IPC and was released on probation under section 360 CrPC.

The High Court, without any detailed analysis of the facts of the case, nature of injuries caused, weapon used, has simply reduced the sentence to the period already undergone (44 days), observed the apex court.

The trial court had convicted Banwari Lal for the offence under Section 307 IPC for having caused serious injuries on victim/injured Phool Chand, who sustained a lacerated wound of 10 x 1 cms bone deep extending up to brain membrane in the centre of the skull.

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The Rajasthan High court while dealing with two appeals filed by Banwari lal and Mohan Lal, one of the appeal filed by state of Rajasthan against Mohan lal was dismissed subsequently. Mohan lal, accused got convicted under section 324 IPC and was released on probation under section 360 CrPC.

The High Court, without any detailed analysis of the facts of the case, nature of injuries caused, weapon used, has simply reduced the sentence to the period already undergone (44 days), observed the apex court.

INJURIES CAUSED BY VICTIM –
The trial Court convicted Banwari Lal for the offence under Section 307 IPC for having caused serious injuries on the vital part of the body of the victim/injured Phool Chand. Injured Phool Chand sustained one lacerated wound of size 10 x 1 cms bone deep extending up to brain membrane in the centre of the skull and the bone was swollen.

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