karnataka high court

Karnataka High Court: While considering the instant revision petition wherein the complainant had challenged the quantum of punishment given to the accused who was convicted under Section 429, Penal Code, 1860, Section 93 of Karnataka Police Act and Section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and was sentenced to pay fine of Rs 700, Rs 100 and Rs 200 as per the respective provisions and undergo simple imprisonment; the Bench of J.M. Khazi, J.*, held that plain reading of Section 372 of CrPC makes it clear that the victim has no right of appeal to challenge the quantum of punishment; they can only challenge the acquittal or conviction for a lesser offence or imposing inadequate compensation.

Background and Legal Trajectory: The complainant who was an Honorary Animal Welfare Officer, filed a complaint against the accused alleging that on 15-03-2016, in the evening, accused removed eight puppies aged 20 days old from the drain near her house and flung them in a nearby site, because of which they died. When questioned, the accused did not show any remorse. It was alleged that the accused blocked the drain so that the puppies and their mother could not go back to the drain.

Based on the complaint, the police registered case against the accused and after completing the investigation, the charge sheet was filed against the accused. The accused appeared before the Trial Court and pleaded guilty to the charges levelled against her. The trial Court thus convicted and sentenced her to pay fine.

Aggrieved with the quantum of punishment imposed, the complainant filed appeal under Section 372 CrPC before the Session Court. After considering the arguments, the Sessions Court dismissed the appeal by holding that the Trial Court has imposed the punishment in exercise of its discretionary power, and it is not a case that requires interference.

Being aggrieved with the afore-stated order, the complainant thus approached the High Court with the instant petition. The complainant contended that both Trial Court and Sessions Court have committed error in taking lenient view by awarding a “flea bite sentence”, which is unjust, improper and liable to be set aside.

The complainant further pointed out that Article 51-A(g) of the Constitution mandates that it is duty of every citizen to have compassion for living creatures and sought for enhancing the punishment imposed on the accused.

Per contra, counsel for the accused submitted that this was the first offence committed by the accused and taking into consideration her age and the fact that she pleaded guilty, using its discretion the Trial Court had rightly imposed the punishment of only fine.

Court’s Assessment: Perusing the facts and contentions of the case, the Court noted that the State did not challenge the impugned order of the Trial Court before the Sessions Court and it was the complainant who came up with the appeal under S. 372, CrPC albeit with a delay. It was noted that the Sessions Court dismissed the appeal on merits and due delay in filing the appeal.

Perusing S. 372, CrPC, the Court stated that the victim has a right to prefer appeal against any order of acquittal passed by the Court or conviction of accused for a lesser offence or imposing inadequate compensation. It was further pointed out that plain reading of the provision clarifies that victim has no right to appeal vis-a-vis challenging the quantum of punishment given to the accused.

The Court noted that the accused in the instant case was 65 years old when the incident took place. It was further noted that finding a stray bitch having given birth to 8 puppies and who were consistently howling day in and out, she had the pups removed from the drain and kept them in a vacant site. However, separated from their mother, the puppies died in the sun. the Court pointed that, “though it was alleged that the puppies could not go to their mother, it is not clear whether the stray bitch was also not able to reach her puppies”. Considering the provisions under which the accused was convicted, the Court noted that the Trial Court exercised its discretion to impose a punishment of fine.

Having regard to the fact that at the time of incident, the accused was aged 65 years and she had admitted her guilt, the Trial Court was well within its power to exercise discretion. Now that the accused is aged about 72 years, the Court was of the considered opinion that this is not a fit case to interfere in exercise of the power under Section 397 r/w 401 CrPC. The instant petition was thus dismissed and impugned orders of the Trial Court and Sessions Court were confirmed.

[Harish KB v. Ponnamma, 2024 SCC OnLine Kar 1, decided on 11-01-2024]

*Order by Justice J.M. Khazi

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For petitioner- Tomy Sebastian, Sr. Counsel for Girish YL, Advocate

For respondents- Adithya S. Kumar, Adv for R1; Channappa Erappa, HCGP for R2

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