Aggravating & mitigating circumstances of case are to be considered while imposing sentence: SC

India does not have a statutory sentencing policy in place and it is a well-established principle that aggravating and mitigating circumstances of a case are to be taken into consideration while imposing sentence, the Supreme Court has said.

While dealing with an appeal filed by a convict challenging the April 2019 verdict of the Allahabad High Court which had upheld the five year sentence awarded to him in an attempt to murder case of 1984, the apex court reduced his sentence to three years.

A bench of Justices A S Oka and Sanjay Karol noted no criminal antecedents of appellant Pramod Kumar Mishra have been brought on record, and it cannot be said that he had acted in a premeditated manner whatsoever.

“India, till date, does not have a statutory sentencing policy in place. This court, however, has proceeded to examine the objective behind sentencing and the factors to be kept in mind while imposing such punishments,” the bench said in its verdict delivered on Monday.

“It is a well-established principle that while imposing sentence, aggravating and mitigating circumstances of a case are to be taken into consideration,” it said.

Referring to the case, the bench said 39 years have passed since the date of the offence and two co-accused were acquitted by the trial court.

“Therefore, in the interest of justice and in consideration of the abovementioned mitigating factors, this court reduces the sentence imposed on the appellant – accused from five years rigorous imprisonment to three years of rigorous imprisonment,” the top court said.

While partly allowing the appeal, it said the appellant shall pay a fine of Rs 50,000 within six weeks which will be paid to the complainant by way of compensation.

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The bench noted the appeal arises from the high court verdict which had confirmed the March 1987 judgment of the trial court convicting Mishra for the offence of attempt to murder under the Indian Penal Code and sentencing him to five years rigorous imprisonment.

According to the prosecution, an FIR was lodged in August 1984 on the allegation that three people, including Mishra, had attacked a man who resisted their attempt to destroy his crop.

The apex court noted in its verdict that a charge sheet was filed against three accused.

During the trial, Mishra denied having committed the offence and claimed the case was registered against him because of old enmity.

“Having regard to the submissions made by the counsel appearing for the parties and findings of the courts below, it can be seen that 39 years have passed since the date of offence and both the other accused persons have come to be acquitted,” the bench said.

It directed the appellant to undergo the remaining period of his sentence.

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