Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Dealing with an issue relating to special remission being granted to certain categories of prisoners by the Governor of Haryana on the occasion of the Independence Day i.e., 15th August, 2019, in exercise of powers conferred by Article 161 of the Constitution of India, The 3-judge bench of UU Lalit, MM Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran referred the question to a larger bench and framed the following issue:

“Whether in exercise of power conferred under Article 161 of the Constitution a policy can be framed, whereunder certain norms or postulates are laid down, on the satisfaction of which the benefit of remission can thereafter be granted by the Executive without placing facts or material with respect to any of the cases before the Governor and whether such exercise can override the requirements under Section 433-A of the Code.”

In the matter before the Court, the appellant was convicted under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code and sentenced to suffer life imprisonment and to other punishments including fine and default sentence under certain other offences. The Supreme Court had rejected his bail application in 2017 and when t\the Court took up the second bail application for consideration, it was reported that after having completed 8 years of actual sentence and the Appellant being aged above 75 years, in accordance with the existing policy of the State Government, he was prematurely released in 2019.

The Court, therefore, called upon the State to file an affidavit indicating whether the policy permitted premature release even before completion of actual sentence of 14 years in connection with an offence punishable under Section 302 IPC. State submitted before the Court that special remission was granted to certain categories of prisoners by the Governor of Haryana on the occasion of the Independence Day i.e., 15th August, 2019, in exercise of powers conferred by Article 161 of the Constitution of India. The individual facts and circumstances of the case were not even placed before the Governor.

While hearing the matter, the Court noticed that the consistent line of cases decided by this Court has laid down that the principles of Section 433-A of the Code do not and cannot apply to the exercise of constitutional power either under Article 72 or under Article 161 of the Constitution.

“It has always been accepted that no limitation can be read into the exercise of such constitutional power that the sovereign power would not be bound by restrictions emanating from Section 433-A of the Code.”

In Maru Ram v. Union of India, (1981) 1 SCC 107 , the Constitution Bench of this Court considered the validity of Section 433-A of the Code. The majority Judgment cautioned that mere length of imprisonment may not by itself regenerate goodness in a convict and stated that the rules of remission may be effective guidelines of a recommendatory nature.

“The decisions of this Court rendered since Maru Ram and some of them being decisions of the Benches of three Judges of this Court, do show that the relevant material must be placed before the Governor in order to enable him to exercise the power under Article 161 of the Constitution and failure on that count could result in quashing of the concerned orders of remission issued under Article 161 of the Constitution.”

The Court further noticed that the modalities adopted in the present matter, unmistakably, show that the individual facts and circumstances of the case were not even placed before the Governor. The basic aspects viz., the manner in which the crime was committed, the impact of the crime on the Society and the seriousness of the crime got completely suppressed and relegated in the background under the norms laid down in the policy and it was then left to the Executive to see whether any individual case came within the parameters laid down by the policy. The basic facts and circumstances of the case were not even looked into.

Hence, considering that the decision in Maru Ram was rendered by the Constitution Bench, the Court thought it proper to refer the matter to a larger bench.

[Pyare Lal v. State of Haryana, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 583 , order dated 17.07.2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Each criminal trial is but a quest for search of the truth.

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Ranjan Gogoi, Navin Sinha and K.M. Joseph, JJ. disposed of a criminal appeal filed against the judgment of Delhi High Court whereby the order of the trial court acquitting the appellant was reversed and she was convicted under Sections 302, 307 and 34 IPC.

The appellant, along with other co-accused, was alleged to have murdered the family (brother, sister, and mother) of her son-in-law (PW 1). As per prosecution case, the motive for the crime being that the accused were not happy with the marriage of her daughter with PW 1. The trial court, after appreciation of evidence, convicted four out of seven accused;  the appellant and two others were acquitted. However, the High Court, on an appeal, reversed the order of acquittal as far as the appellant was concerned. She was sentenced to undergo life imprisonment. Further, she was denied any remission in sentence until she completed 25 years in custody. Aggrieved thereby, the present appeal was filed by the appellant.

While adjudicating, the Supreme Court discussed the weightage of evidence by different witnesses, the duty of a Judge, and the proportionality of sentence in a criminal trial. A few of the important points as discussed and reiterated by the Court are delineated hereinafter:

  • In a criminal trial, normally the evidence of wife, husband, son or daughter is given great weightage on the principle that there is no reason for them not to speak the truth and shield the real culprit.
  • There is no reason why the same principle cannot be applied when such a witness deposes against a closely related accused.
  • It would require great courage of conviction and moral strength for a daughter to depose against her mother.
  • While appreciating the evidence of a witness, the approach must be whether the evidence of the witness read as a whole inspires confidence.
  • The prosecution evidence may suffer from inconsistencies here and discrepancies there, but that is a shortcoming from which no criminal case is free. The main thing to be seen is whether those inconsistencies go to the root of the matter or pertain to insignificant aspects thereof.
  • The duty of a Judge presiding over a criminal trial is not merely to see that no innocent person is punished, but also to see that a guilty person does not escape. One is as important as the other. Both are public duties which a Judge has to perform.
  • Sentencing has always been a vexed question as part of the principle of proportionality. Once the appellant has been convicted with the aid of Section 34 IPC, there appears no justification to single out that convict for differential treatment in sentencing.

In the facts and circumstances of the present case, the Court held that the judgment impugned whereby the order of appellant’s acquittal passed by the trial court was reversed by the High Court, did not require interference. However, on the basis of the last point as delineated hereinabove, the direction given by the High Court for denial of remission in sentence to the appellant for 25 years was set aside. The appeal was disposed of in terms above. [Shamim v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1559, decided on 19-09-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court:  The Bench comprising of A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan JJ., addressed an appeal of a convict punished under Sections 302, 498-A and 506 IPC and modified the punishment granted to the convict by the High Court.

In the instant case, the appellant was punished for the offence of killing his wife and thereafter tried to kill himself. For the said convict the trial court awarded death sentence, which was further converted into life imprisonment for the reason that the circumstances were not to be put into the category of ‘rarest of the rare’ case. The High Court on awarding the same also stated that the minimum period of the sentence would be of 30 years without remission.

Therefore, a notice was issued that whether the High Court was justified in putting a cap of 30 years of life imprisonment or not?

While keeping the facts and circumstances of the case into consideration, the Supreme Court decided that the High Court should not have stated that the life sentence for a minimum period of 30 years must be served without remission.  The appeal was disposed of by deleting the portion of the impugned order by making it a case of life imprisonment simpliciter. [Nitin Balkishan Gaikwad v. State of Maharashtra, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 690, dated 09-07-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Deciding the matter regarding the Court’s power to remit or pardon, the bench of Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh, JJ held that the argument that when a pardon or remission can be given under Article 72 or 161 of the Constitution by the constitutional authority, this Court can exercise the similar power under Article 32 of the Constitution of India is absolutely based on an erroneous premise. It further said that Article 32 of the Constitution can be only invoked when there is violation of any fundamental right or where the Court takes up certain grievance which falls in the realm of public interest litigation.

In the present case, the petitioner convicted under Section 21 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act), had prayed for the issue of writ of mandamus commanding the Government to grant remission to them. It was contended that Chapter XIX of the New Punjab Jail Manual, 1996 lays down remission and award to the convicts depending upon good conduct and performance of duties allotted to them while they are undergoing sentence, but the benefit under the Chapter XIX of the Manual is not made available to the convicts under the NDPS Act on the ground that Section 32-A of the NDPS Act bars entitlement to such remission. However, it was further contended that the constitutional validity of Section 32-A of the NDPS Act and Section 433-A CrPC has been upheld in Dadu v. State of Maharashtra, (2000) 8 SCC 437 and Maru Ram v. Union of India, (1981) 1 SCC 107, respectively, and that the said provision does not come in the way of executive for exercising the constitutional power under Article 72 or 161 of the Constitution, hence, the denial to grant remission is totally arbitrary.

The Court, hence, held that the constitutional power engrafted under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution is different than the statutory power enshrined under Section 433-A CrPC. The petitioners do not have a right to seek remission under the Code because of Section 32A of the NDPS Act. However, they can always seek relief either under Article 71 or 161 of the Constitution, as the case may be, as it is in a different domain. Stating that the Article 32 of the Constitution of India enables a citizen to move this Court for enforcement of his fundamental rights, the Court held that the argument to invoke Article 142 in conjunction with Article 32 of the Constitution is absolutely fallacious. [Tara Singh v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 631, decided on 29.06.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the matter where the Court was hearing the petition against the order of the Punjab & Haryana High Court which directed the State of Gujarat to reconsider the application of premature release of the respondent who was convicted for offence committed under Section 3(3) of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 by the Designated Judge, Ahmedabad, it was held that the State of Gujarat is not the appropriate Government to consider the premature release of the convict as the offence was committed under the law made by the Parliament and not the State Legislature.

Considering the law laid down in G.V. Ramanaiah v. Superintendent of Central Jail, Rajahmundry, (1974) 3 SCC 531, the bench of Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh, JJ said that in the event of the conviction and sentence covered by the law made by the Parliament or the provisions of the Constitution even if the Legislature of the State is also empowered to make a law on the same subject and coextensive, the Appropriate Government will be the Union Government having regard to the prescription contained in the proviso to Article 73(1)(a) of the Constitution. Hence, the Court said that the High Court had erroneously opined that the State of Gujarat is the appropriate Government because it was guided by the principle that the respondent was convicted and sentenced in the State of Gujarat and had later sought transfer to the Central Prison, Punjab. It was further said that a Judge is expected to act in consonance and accord with the legal principles and he cannot assume the power on the basis of his individual perception or notion.

Hence, the Court, setting aside the order of the High Court, granted liberty to the respondent to submit a representation/application before the competent authority of the Union of India within a period of eight weeks and directed the authority to consider the same as expeditiously as possible in accordance with law and the guidelines framed for premature release. [State of Gujarat v. Lal Singh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 633, decided on 29.06.2016]