No relief to Pak national serving “consecutive” sentences in two cases since 1999, as SC refuses to show any leniency to offenders under NDPS Act

Supreme Court: In a case where a Pakistan national was convicted under the NDPS Act by two Courts in two different trials and it was argued that the sentences should run concurrently, the bench of MR Shah* and BV Nagarathna, JJ has held that the offences under the NDPS Act are very serious in nature and against the society at large, hence, no discretion under Section 427 CrPC shall be exercised in favour of such accused who is indulging into the offence under the NDPS .

Factual background

In the case that dates back to 1999, the appellant – accused was convicted by two different courts in two different trials for the offences with respect to the different transactions.

  1. Amritsar Court: Sentenced to undergo 12 years RI for the offence under Section 23 and Section 21 of the NDPS Act by Amritsar Court for having in possession of 4 kg of heroin.
  2. Delhi Court: Sentenced to undergo 15 years RI for the offence under Section 29 read with Section 21(c) of the NDPS for having 750 grams of heroin.

The judgments in both the cases were delivered one after another and in the subsequent judgment by the Delhi court there is no specific order passed stating that the sentences have to run concurrently.

It was argued that the conduct of the appellant, who was 30 years of age when he was convicted and presently, he is 52 years old, in jail is good and there is no adverse remark made against him by the Jail Superintendent. Hence, the two sentences which the appellant is now undergoing, may be held to run concurrently under Section 427 Cr.P.C.

Analysis

Section 427 of Cr.PC – Explained

Under Section 427 of Cr.PC, when a person who is already undergoing a sentence of imprisonment is sentenced on a subsequent conviction to imprisonment or imprisonment for life, such imprisonment or imprisonment for life shall commence at the expiration of the imprisonment to which he has been   previously sentenced.  Meaning thereby the sentences in both the conviction shall run consecutively.

However, there is an exception to that, namely unless the Court directs that the subsequent sentence shall run concurrently with such previous sentence.

Further, as per Sub-section (2) of Section 427 of Cr.PC, when a person already undergoing a sentence of imprisonment for life is sentenced on a subsequent conviction to imprisonment for a term or imprisonment for life, the subsequent sentence shall run concurrently with such previous sentence. Therefore, in aforesaid two cases only the subsequent sentence shall run concurrently with previous sentence. Otherwise the subsequent sentence shall run consecutively and the imprisonment in subsequent sentence shall commence at the expiration of the imprisonment to which he has been previously sentenced.

Principles laid down in a series of Supreme Court Rulings

(i) If a person already undergoing a sentence of imprisonment is sentenced on a subsequent conviction to imprisonment, such subsequent term of imprisonment would normally commence at the expiration of the imprisonment to which he was previously sentenced;

(ii) ordinarily the subsequent sentence would commence at the expiration of the first term of imprisonment unless the court directs the subsequent sentence to run concurrently with the previous sentence;

(iii) the general rule is that where there are different transactions, different crime numbers and cases have been decided by the different judgments, concurrent sentence cannot be awarded under Section 427 of Cr.PC;

(iv) under Section 427 (1) of Cr.PC the court has the power and discretion to issue a direction that all the   subsequent sentences run concurrently with the previous sentence, however discretion has to be exercised judiciously depending upon the nature of the offence or the offences committed and the facts in situation. However, there must be a specific direction or order by the court that the subsequent sentence to run concurrently with the previous sentence.

Discretion under Section 427 CrPC

Even otherwise as observed hereinabove under Section 427 (1) of Cr.PC, the Court has the power and discretion to issue a direction that the subsequent sentence to run concurrently with the previous sentence in that case also, the discretion has to be exercised judiciously depending upon the nature of offence or the offences committed.

“No leniency should be shown to an accused who is found to be guilty for the offence under the NDPS Act. Those persons who are dealing in narcotic drugs are instruments in causing death or in inflicting death blow to a number of innocent young victims who are vulnerable. Such accused causes deleterious effects and deadly impact on the society. They are hazard to the society. Such organized activities of clandestine smuggling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances into this country and illegal trafficking in such drugs and substances have a deadly impact on the society as a whole.”

Therefore, it was noticed that while awarding the sentence or punishment in case of NDPS Act, the interest of the society as a whole is required to be taken into consideration and even while applying discretion under Section 427 of Cr.PC, the discretion shall not be in favour of the accused who is found to be indulging in illegal trafficking in the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

Hence, even while exercising discretion under Section 427 of Cr.PC to run subsequent sentence concurrently with the previous sentence, the discretion is to be exercised judiciously and depending upon the offence/offences committed.

Ruling on facts

The Court outrightly rejected the submission of the appellant – accused that his subsequent sentence to run concurrently with the previous sentence as,

  • the appellant has been convicted with respect to two different transactions, there are different crime numbers and the cases have been decided by the different judgments.
  • there is no specific order or direction issued by the court while imposing the subsequent sentence that the subsequent sentence to run concurrently with the previous sentence.

[Mohd. Zahid v. State through NCB, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1183, decided on 07.12.2021]


Counsels

For appellant: Advocate Sangeeta Kumar

For State: Advocate Akaanksha Kaul


*Judgment by: Justice MR Shah

Know Thy Judge | Justice M. R. Shah

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