Manipur High Court: In a case where the criminal appeal was pending and the applicant convicted under Section 6 of the Protection of children from sexual offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) filed an application for the suspension of sentence, on the ground of ill-health, M.V. Muralidaran, J. observed that right to life and liberty of an individual is precious under Art. 21 of the Constitution of India and is a very valuable right of accused/convict that continues during the appeal period, as appeal is the continuation of the trial. Further, there is no straitjacket formula which could be applied in exercising discretion for suspending the sentence of a convict, and the facts and circumstances of each case would govern the exercise of judicious discretion while considering an application filed by a convict under S. 389 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
It further observed that “under-trial prisoner’s right to life does not diminish even a wee bit when in jail as an accused/convict for an offence and such person’s health concerns have to be taken care by the State and if not done so, by the judiciary. The right to dignity of an accused does not dry out with the Judges. Rather, it subsists beyond the prison gates and operates until his last breath”.
In the present case, the applicant was convicted for doing sexual assault upon a minor girl aged 3 ½ years at the time of its occurrence, and the applicant was sentenced to undergo 20 years rigorous imprisonment and to pay fine of Rs. 30,000/-, in default, to undergo 6 months simple imprisonment. The applicant submitted that he has been suffering from failure of right kidney, calculi on the gall bladder, spinal cord problem and other serious bodily injuries, if not released on bail, pending disposal of the appeal, his life will be in danger. The court stated that the medical records produced by the prosecution are of 2019 and nothing has been produced to show improvement in the health of the applicant, and further no latest medical record has been produced to show that proper treatment is given to the petitioner for nearly four years in jail
The issue was whether the applicant is entitled to enlarge on bail by suspending the sentence on medical grounds pending appeal.
The Court took note of the ruling in Bhagwan Rama Shinde Gosai v. State of Gujarat, (1999) 4 SCC 421, wherein it was held that “when a convicted person is sentenced to a fixed period of sentence and when he files an appeal under any statutory right, suspension of sentence can be considered by the appellate court liberally unless there are exceptional circumstances”; and observed that the crime alleged against the applicant is serious in nature and also an insult to the human dignity of the society, however, taking into consideration the health condition of the applicant, it released the applicant on bail mainly on medical grounds by suspending the sentence.
The Court further viewed that where an appeal is preferred against conviction before the High Court, it has ample power and discretion to suspend the sentence judiciously depending upon the facts and circumstances of each case and while considering the suspension of sentence, each case has to be considered on the basis of:
nature of the offence,
manner in which the occurrence had taken place,
whether bail granted earlier had been misused.
Moreover, the Court while suspending the sentence of the applicant-convict, subject to some conditions, observed that “every person who is accused of an offence requires humane treatment by the prison authorities. Humane treatment to all including accused/convict is requirement of law. Furthermore, a prisoner/convict who is suffering from an ailment has to be given due treatment and care while in prison”.
[Sandam Bhogen Meetei v.State of Manipur, 2022 SCC OnLine Mani 371, decided on 23.08.2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
S. Jibon, Advocate, Counsel for the Applicant;
Public Prosecutor H. Samarjit, Advocate, Counsel for the Respondent.