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 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.