The Supreme Court on Thursday said that ‘hand can also be a weapon when a cricketer or extremely physically fit person inflicts the same’ and remarked that a disproportionately light punishment humiliates and frustrates a victim of crime when the offender goes unpunished or is let off with a relatively minor punishment.
A Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul remarks came while allowing review application on the issue of sentence against Navjot Singh Sidhu in a three-decade-old road rage case and imposed one-year rigorous imprisonment to him.
“The hand can also be a weapon by itself where say a boxer, a wrestler or a cricketer or an extremely physically fit person inflicts the same. This may be understood where a blow may be given either by a physically fit person or to a more aged person. Insofar as the injury caused is concerned, this Court has accepted the plea of a single blow by hand being given on the head of the deceased. In our view, it is this significance which is an error apparent on the face of the record needing some remedial action,” the Court said.
The Court remarked that punishments are awarded not because of the fact that it has to be an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth, rather having its due impact on the society; while undue harshness is not required but inadequate punishment may lead to the sufferance of the community at large.
The blow was not inflicted on a person identically physically placed but on a 65-year-old person, more than double his age and Sidhu cannot say that he did not know the effect of the blow or plead ignorance on this aspect, the court observed.
“It is not as if someone has to remind him of the extent of the injury which could be caused by a blow inflicted by him. In the given circumstances, tempers may have been lost but then the consequences of the loss of temper must be borne. In fact, this Court to some extent had been indulgent in ultimately holding respondent No.1 (Sidhu) guilty of an offence of simple hurt under Section 323 of the IPC. The question is whether even on sentence, the mere passage of time can result in a fine of Rs 1,000 being an adequate sentence where a person has lost his life by reason of the severity of blow inflicted by respondent No.1 with his hands, ” the Court said.
“Thus, a disproportionately light punishment humiliates and frustrates a victim of crime when the offender goes unpunished or is let off with a relatively minor punishment as the system pays no attention to the injured’s feelings. Indifference to the rights of the victim of crime is fast eroding the faith of the society in general and the victim of crime in particular in the criminal justice system, ” the Court said.
“Indifference to the rights of the victim of crime is fast eroding the faith of the society in general and the victim of crime in particular in the criminal justice system,” the Court said.
The Court also quoted an ancient quote saying that it reflects the aspects of sentencing and victimology. The Court said that the ancient quote means the person dispensing justice as per Dharmashastra should prescribe a penance appropriate to the age, the time, and strength of the sinner, the penance is such that he may not lose his life and yet he may be purified. A penance causing distress should not be prescribed.
“We are not setting forth much about how the investigation proceeded initially, how the court had to intervene to see that the relevant people are charged, the manner of leading of evidence, the hesitancy of doctors all of which weighed in this Court opined that a case beyond a reasonable doubt could be only of one under Section 323 of the IPC. We do believe that the indulgence was not required to be shown at the stage of sentence by only imposing a sentence of fine and letting the respondent go without any imposition of sentence,” the Court said.
The Court also said that the present case is not one where two views are possible such that
review should not be exercised. It is a case where some germane facts for sentencing appear to have been lost sight of while imposing only a fine on respondent No.1 (Sidhu) and, therefore, no question of choosing between two possible views arises.
“The result of the aforesaid is that the review applications/petitions are allowed to the aforesaid extent and in addition to the fine imposed we consider it appropriate to impose a sentence of imprisonment for a period of one-year rigorous imprisonment to be undergone by respondent No.1 (Sidhu). The parties are left to bear their own costs,” the Court said.