Delhi High Court Disposes of Appeal To Enhance Prison Sentence, Additionally Charges Huge Fine

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The State filed an appeal against the impugned order dated 11.12.2015, which sentenced the respondents to undergo rigorous imprisonment for about two months. They were convicted for committing an offence punishable under Sections 208/34 of the Indian Penal Code. The State claims that the sentence awarded was highly inadequate and not commensurate with the gravity of their offence.   

Brief facts of the case

The State claimed that the accused persons were liable for attempt to commit culpable homicide. The accused Mukim Ali (Respondent no. 1) was present at the spot, on enquiring admitted his involvement in the incident. The victim’s testimony stated that he got attacked on 08.09.2012 at around 12.30 am. The accused Bijender followed him to a park where he got beaten up by Jumman. He was earlier involved in a quarrel with them. While he was being attacked, the victim appealed to two persons, they did not intervene but promised to inform his family members instead.

Despite this, the accused persons continued attacking the victim until he became unconscious. The accused were thus, charged under Sections 308/34 of the IPC to which they pleaded not guilty. On 11.12.2015, the judgment convicted the accused persons and sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment for two months. It was a term they had already undergone during trial. 

Arguments before the Court

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The learned counsel for the plaintiff contended that the sentence awarded is highly inadequate and disproportionate to the gravity of the offence. They submitted that the victim had suffered a dangerous injury which made him remain in the hospital for a month. He also had to undergo surgery and the evidence clearly established that the victim was brutally assaulted. In the given circumstances, awarding two months of imprisonment, already undergone during trial, was highly inadequate and manifestly erroneous. 

Ms. Shankaran, learned amicus curiae appearing on behalf of the respondents contended that the appeal filed was beyond the period of limitation. Therefore, the same ought to be dismissed on the ground of delay. The appeal was filed nearly after three months of passing of the impugned order. She submitted that it would be highly prejudicial to the respondents to be called upon the contest the appeal. That too, after expiry of more than eight years after the alleged offence and more than four years after they were released. She contends that the appeal was unmerited as the impugned order did not suffer any manifest error.

She also submitted that there was no minimum sentence prescribed for committing an offence punishable under Section 308/34 of the IPC. Thus, the sentence awarded was well within the scope of the Trial Court’s discretion. In the present case, she submitted that the respondents ought to have been acquitted of committing an offence punishable under Section 308/34 of the IPC. As the Trial Court erred in not appreciating that the testimony of the material witnesses as not reliable.

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She earnestly contended that the ingredients of Section 308 of the IPC were not established in the facts of the case. She claims that the injuries suffered by the victim were simple injuries. The victim also had elevated levels of blood alcohol at the time of admission to the hospital after the incident. Thus, concluding that the injuries sustained were as a result of some other circumstances. 

Court’s view

The High Court is of the view that the said delay in filing the appeal was explained and is thus, liable to be condoned. As a witness is not expected to memorise the exact words that were spoken, it is sufficient that he narrates the meaning of what he heard. The essence of the testimony of the victim establishes that he was admitted for a significant amount of time and had undergone surgery of his abdomen. The Court thus, agrees that there is consistency with the testimony of the victim. The Court however, finds merit in the respondent’s contention that they cannot be convicted of an offence punishable under Section 308 of the IPC. 

In the present case, the Trial Court had noted certain mitigating factors, namely, the young age of the respondents and the fact that they were the only bread winners in their respective families. The Trial Court had also noticed that the respondents have children, which they require to take care of. The Trial Court had further noticed that they did not have any previous convictions and their conduct during the course of the trial had remained unblemished. However, a punitive measure must also have a retributive element. The severe trauma suffered by the victim cannot be ignored. Plainly, keeping the same in mind, a prison sentence of only two months is inadequate and is not commensurate with the gravity of the offence.

Held

In view of the above reasoning, the High Court of Delhi considers it apposite not to enhance the prison sentence awarded at this stage. Instead, the Court imposed a fine of Rs. 20,000/- on each of the respondents. The fine is to be paid in three months, failure to pay will make the respondents undergo simple imprisonment for another period of three months. Based on the evidence, the respondents are guilty of offences punishable under Section 323 and 325 of the IPC. The appeal is disposed of with.


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