NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has set aside a Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict, which reduced the sentence awarded to a man for causing death by rash and negligent driving, saying that undue sympathy would do more harm to the justice system to undermine the public confidence in the efficacy of law.
The top court also pointed out that the financial loss, emotional and social trauma caused to a family on losing a bread winner, or any other member of the family, or incapacitation of the victim cannot be quantified.
A bench of Justices M R Shah and C T Ravikumar applied the law laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Surendra Singh to the facts of the case on hand, to hold that the impugned judgment and order passed by the high court interfering with the sentence imposed by the trial court confirmed by the first appellate court by showing undue sympathy to the accused is unsustainable and the same deserves to be quashed and set aside.
The bench also cited an observation made in a previous ruling of the apex court, which said that undue sympathy to impose inadequate sentence would do more harm to the justice system to undermine the public confidence in the efficacy of law.
In the case at hand, the bench said, while reducing the sentence, the high court has not at all considered the gravity of the offence and the manner in which the accused committed the offence and driving the Scorpio in rash and negligent manner due to which one innocent person lost his life and two persons who were travelling in the ambulance sustained the injuries.
The bench noted that from the impugned judgment and order passed by the high court, it appears that the case on behalf of the accused that he is coming from a poor family, is considered as mitigating circumstance.
“The High Court has not at all considered the fact that the IPC (Indian Penal Code) is punitive and deterrent in nature. The principal aim and object are to punish offenders for offences committed under IPC. Sections 279 and 304A can be invoked only if the act of the accused is negligent and rash,” the bench said.
“With rapidly increasing motorisation, India is facing an increasing burden of road traffic injuries and fatalities. The financial loss, emotional and social trauma caused to a family on losing a bread winner, or any other member of the family, or incapacitation of the victim cannot be quantified,” the bench said.
The principle of proportionality between the crime and punishment has to be borne in mind and the principle of just punishment is the bedrock of sentencing in respect of a criminal offence, the bench added.
The Punjab government challenged the high court judgment, which upheld the conviction of an accused for the offence under section 304-A (causing death by rash and negligent act) of the IPC. However, the court reduced the sentence from two years to eight months, subject to a prior deposit of Rs 25,000 towards compensation to be paid to the family of the deceased.
The court noted that cogent reasons were given by the trial court which had sentenced the accused to two years in jail in the road accident, which occurred in January 2012 when a car driven by the accused hit an ambulance.
The apex court restored the sentence imposed by the trial court while allowing the Punjab government’s appeal, and it granted four weeks to the convict Dil Bahadur to surrender to undergo the remaining sentence.
Advocate Kanika Ahuja, appearing for the State, has vehemently submitted that the high court here has seriously erred in interfering with the sentence imposed by the trial court confirmed by the first appellate court.
While reducing the sentence the high court has shown undue sympathy to the accused. The accused was driving the Scorpio with such a high speed and that too when he was on the cross road, rashly and negligently and due to the collision, the ambulance turned turtle, resulting into death of one person and injuries to two others, she said.