Courts can’t re­duce min­i­mum sen­tence, says SC

Mad­hya Pradesh had ap­pealed against an HC or­der that cut short a six-month jail term to 11 days

The Hindu - - NEWS - Le­gal Cor­re­spon­dent

The courts can­not im­pose less than the min­i­mum sen­tence pre­scribed by law­mak­ers for an of­fence, the Supreme Court has held.

The rul­ing came on an ap­peal by the Mad­hya Pradesh govern­ment against the 2012 de­ci­sion of the High Court, which cut short the six­month prison sen­tence awarded to Vikram Das — who was found guilty un­der the Sched­uled Castes and Sched­uled Tribes (Pre­ven­tion of Atroc­i­ties) Act, 1989 — to the 11 days he had served so far.

“Where the min­i­mum sen­tence is pro­vided for, the court can­not im­pose less than the min­i­mum sen­tence. It is also held that pro­vi­sions of Ar­ti­cle 142 of the Con­sti­tu­tion can­not be re­sorted to im­pose a sen­tence less than the min­i­mum sen­tence,” a Bench of Jus­tices D.Y. Chan­drachud and Hemant Gupta said.

The trial court has awarded the min­i­mum pu­n­ish­ment of six months and ₹500 in fine for the of­fence un­der Sec­tion 3(1)(ix) of the Act. The min­i­mum pu­n­ish­ment un­der the sec­tion is six months. The con­vict moved the High Court for the lim­ited re­lief of fur­ther re­duc­tion in the sen­tence. The court re­duced the term, but in­creased the fine to ₹3,000.

The Supreme Court al­lowed the ap­peal and held the “High Court could not award sen­tence less than the min­i­mum sen­tence con­tem­plated by the statute” even if it was done in ex­er­cise of its in­her­ent pow­ers un­der Ar­ti­cle 142 of the Con­sti­tu­tion. “The re­spon­dent [Das] shall un­dergo the re­main­ing pe­riod of the sen­tence. The re­spon­dent shall sur­ren­der be­fore the court within four weeks,” the judg­ment said.

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