SC: Under-21 Convicts Can Be Given Less Than Minimum Sentence, Resorts To Probation of Offenders Act

The Supreme Court resorted to the Probation of Offenders Act to sidestep the mandate under Section 397 of the Indian Penal Code that mentions a sentence of not less than 7 years to those convicted of armed robbery, to give a chance to two young convicts to reform their lives.

The trial court had convicted the youngsters under Section 397 in 2005, after they attacked a Taxi Driver with a sharped edged weapon, leading to serious injury. They also robbed his vehicle in 2003. Even though the convicts had invoked the PO act, the trial courts refused to relax the mandatory 7 years sentence. Their appeals were also rejected by the High Court in 2019.

The youngsters had also arrived at a compromise deal with the complainant Amrik Singh, which they attached along with the appeal they had made to the Supreme Court. The compromise deed stated that he didn’t want to take any action against the convicts and does not have any problem with their release on bail or acquittal. They also pleaded before the Supreme Court to release them from prisons.

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A bench of Justice H Roy and Justice Sanjay K Kaul referred to Section 6 of the PO Act which said

If any person under the age of 21 years has committed a crime that is awarded imprisonment and not life imprisonment, the court cannot sentence that person to imprisonment unless it is satisfied looking at the circumstances, nature of the act and the character of a person that they could not be given the benefit of the act, and if the court decides to pass the sentence of imprisonment it should give valid reasons for doing the same.

Justice Kaul said that after referring to the PO act, it explains the rationale for the enactment and to give the benefit of release to offenders on good conduct that sentencing them to a jail sentence. This increases the emphasis on the reformation and rehabilitation of offenders to turn them into responsible citizens of the country than just sentencing them to imprisonment.

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Thus, the court decided to release the appellants under Section 4 of the PO Act on probation of good conduct, on competition of half the jail sentence and entering into a bond with two sureties each to maintain peace for other parts of their sentence failing which they can be called to serve that part of the sentence.


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