No Compelling Reason for Consecutive Sentences: Rajasthan High Court Orders Concurrent Sentence in Cheque Bounce Case

In a landmark decision, the Rajasthan High Court, Jaipur Bench, has ruled that the sentences of a convict in three separate cheque dishonour cases will run concurrently, rather than consecutively. The judgement, delivered by Justice Anil Kumar Upman, provides significant relief to the petitioner, Bhoor Singh Kharwal, who was convicted under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act.

Background of the Case:

Bhoor Singh Kharwal, a resident of Village Jiyapur, Gangapur City, Rajasthan, was convicted in three different cases for issuing dishonoured cheques. The details of the cases are as follows:

1. Criminal Regular Case No. 174/2014 (CIS No. 2939/2014): Judgement dated August 5, 2022, by Judicial Magistrate No. 1, Gangapur City, District Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan. Kharwal was sentenced to six months of simple imprisonment and a fine of ₹4,00,000, with an additional 15 days of imprisonment in default of payment.

2. Criminal Regular Case No. 175/2014 (CIS No. 2944/2014): Judgement dated May 9, 2023, by Judicial Magistrate No. 1, Gangapur City, District Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan. Kharwal was sentenced to six months of simple imprisonment and a fine of ₹6,32,000, with an additional four months of imprisonment in default of payment.

3. Criminal Regular Case No. 264/2016 (CIS No. 3644/2015): Judgement dated July 20, 2023, by Judicial Magistrate No. 1, Gangapur City, District Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan. Kharwal was sentenced to six months of simple imprisonment and a fine of ₹15,65,000, with an additional two months of imprisonment in default of payment.

Legal Issues Involved:

The primary legal issue was whether the sentences in the three cases should run concurrently or consecutively. The petitioner, represented by Mr. Sandeep Sharma, argued that the absence of a specific order for concurrent sentences was causing great injustice. The petitioner had already served four months and 25 days of imprisonment in connection with one of the cases.

Court’s Decision:

Justice Anil Kumar Upman, after considering the submissions and the material on record, invoked Section 427 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which allows the court to direct that subsequent sentences run concurrently with previous sentences. The court noted:

> “The intention of the legislature is that even the life convicts have been held entitled to the benefit of subsequent sentences being run concurrently, be it life term or of any lesser term. Therefore, a different yardstick cannot be applied for those persons who have been awarded sentences of lesser duration than life unless there are compelling reasons to do so.”

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The court found no compelling reason to order that all the sentences awarded to the petitioner run consecutively. Consequently, the petition was allowed, and it was directed that the sentences in the three cases would run concurrently.

However, the court clarified that the petitioner would still have to serve the default sentences for non-payment of fines, as Section 427 CrPC does not permit concurrent running of substantive sentences with sentences awarded in default of payment of fine/compensation.

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