Libertatem Magazine

Amicable Settlement Between Parties Can Be a Factor for a Reduction in Quantum of Sentence Even in Non-Compoundable Cases: Supreme Court

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A Full Bench of the Supreme Court released the convicts of a criminal case owing to a mutual settlement between the parties.

Brief facts of the case

The Appellants Rajavelu and Murali, along with others, cornered and assaulted the victim. Murali struck the victim on his head with a hockey stick, and Rajavelu tried to kill him by giving a neck blow with a Veechu Aruval (sharp-edged object), which was fortunately blocked by the victim. In the process, the victim’s left hand and the thumb and finger of his right hand got severed. The victim was able to escape, and his friend reported the matter. All five persons were arrested. It further led to the registration of Sections 147,148,341,352, 323, 324, 307, and 34 of the IPC on the Appellants.

The Sessions Court held Murali guilty of wrongfully restraining the victim and voluntarily causing hurt with a dangerous weapon. Based on the medical evidence and recovery of the weapon from Rajavelu, the Trial Court further opined that the Appellant (Rajavelu) had a clear intention to murder the victim. If not for the victim defending himself, a fatal injury would have been caused to his neck, and he would have died instantaneously.

Consequently, Murali was imposed with a concurrent sentence of 3 months’ rigorous imprisonment under Section 324 IPC and 1-month rigorous imprisonment under Section 341 IPC. Rajavelu was awarded 5 years’ rigorous imprisonment under Section 307 IPC and another 1-month rigorous imprisonment under Section 341 IPC.  

The convicted Appellants challenged this judgment before two forums, both of which unanimously upheld their conviction.

The Appellants had approached this Court seeking to appeal against the High Court‘s dismissal of their conviction. 

However, through an application filed in 2019, they had sought to implead the injured victim and get their offences compounded based on mutual resolution and peaceful settlement between the parties. This Court had nevertheless issued limited notice only on the quantum of sentence.

Court’s Observations

The Bench observed that Section 320 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (“Cr.P.C”) does not encapsulate Section 324 and 307 IPC under its list of compoundable offences. The unequivocal language of Section 320(9) Cr.P.C explicitly prohibits compounding except as permitted under the said provision. Hence, it would not be possible to compound the Appellants’ offences.

However, the Bench considered the reduction in the quantum of their sentence based on an amicable settlement entered with the victim. The parties admitted their fault, took responsibility for their actions, and have maturely sought forgiveness from the victim. In turn, the victim has acknowledged the apology, and considering the young age of the Appellants at the time of the incident, has forgiven the appellants and settled the dispute. 

The Court noted that in previous occasions also it has taken note of the compromise between the parties to reduce the sentence of the convicts, even in serious non-compoundable offences.

The Bench considered that affidavit of the victim stating the acceptance of the apology due to the passage of time and owing to the maturity brought about by age. Also, there is no question of the settlement being a result of any coercion or inducement.

Secondly, the victim was a college student at the time of the incident, and both Appellants were no older than 20­22 years. The attack was in pursuance of a verbal altercation during a sports match, with there being no previous enmity between the parties. The Bench opined that it does raise hope that parties would have grown up and have mended their ways. Fifteen years have elapsed since the incident. The Appellants are today in their mid­thirties and presented little chance of committing the same crime.

Thirdly, the Appellants had no other criminal antecedents and are married and have children. They are the sole breadwinners of their family and had significant social obligations to tend to. In such circumstances, it might not serve the interests of society to keep them behind bars any further. 

Finally, the Bench observed that both the Appellants had served a significant portion of their sentences. Murali had undergone more than half of his sentence, and Rajavelu was in jail for more than one year and eight months.

Court’s Decision

The Bench considered that the parties were on friendly terms and a fit case to reduce their sentence. 

It reduced the quantum of the sentence imposed on the Appellants to the period already undergone by them and ordered for their release.

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