The Supreme Court will hear on May 10 a plea seeking that various jail terms awarded to a convict under special laws on corruption and terrorism to run consecutively, as in countries like the US and not concurrently as is the case in India .
On March 25, a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta had issued notice to the Centre on a PIL by lawyer and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyaya. It was his contention that the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which says a convict can serve varying jail terms concurrently for multiple offences should not apply to those serving time for “heinous cases”. He went on to detail the “heinous” cases as “the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), the Black Money and Imposition of Tax Act, and Fugitive Economic Offenders Act,”, agencies reported.
“Extorting money by spreading terrorism in society is the aim of organized criminals. The money is not spent on just causes but to derail state economy. It is therefore essential to provide for strictest punishment. Punishment envisaged in the Maharashtra Control Organised Crime Act was three to 10 years of imprisonment which can be extended to life imprisonment,” it said.
Section 31 of CrPC says that in cases of conviction of several offences in one trial, the court may sentence him to the several punishments where one jail term would commence after expiration of the other, unless the court directs that such punishments shall run concurrently.
The plea had sought directions to the Law Commission to examine anti-corruption, anti-separatism and anti-terrorism laws and policies of the USA, Australia, Israel, and others. It also sought directions to the central government to ascertain the feasibility of adopting the best laws and policies of these countries against corruption, separatism and terrorism.
The plea said the country does not have a policy on consecutive and concurrent sentences and the apex court had indicated the need for consecutive sentences in its past judgements.
“However, successive governments have failed to take appropriate steps in this regard,” it said.
The plea said that the punishment for white collar crimes is not sufficient as can be seen in the coal scam where Rs 185,591 crore were involved but the maximum punishment awarded was three years with a fine of Rs 50,00,000.
“CWG scam was of Rs 70,000 crore, which not only affected our economy but also the integrity of the nation. The accused was charged with conspiracy, forgery, misconduct and under provisions of PC Act. This clearly shows that not only the sentence under the PCA should be increased but also it should be consecutive,” it said.
The plea said that though there were recommendations to confiscate property, increase the sentence and to run sentences consecutively as offences form a part of several dependent or parallel transactions, the current law was not sufficient.
—India Legal Bureau