No harsher sentence be awarded because of involvement in other cases: Delhi High Court

Presumption of innocence must be maintained until the accused is held guilty and even though the appellant is involved in other cases, no harsh sentence can be awarded just because the appellant had been convicted in any of the other cases as well at the material time. Delhi High Court gave the judgment in the case of Chhotu Kumar vs. Govt. of NCT of Delhi [CRL. A. 331/2017] presided over by the single bench of Hon’ble Justice Vibhu Bakhru.

In the above-cited case, the appellant had filed the present appeal for challenging the earlier judgment of 30-11-2016 where he was convicted u/s 186, 353, and 307 of the Indian Penal Code and sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act, 1959. On 5-7-2015, secret information was received against the appellant that he was about to deliver and distribute illegal arms and ammunition in Delhi and Haryana. It was observed that the appellant was involved with gangsters and in various criminal cases including murder, attempted murder, looting, smuggling of weapons, and was quite capable of attacking the police as well. During the entire chasing operation, the appellant fired bullets on the police vehicles and didn’t surrender; but was finally caught.

During the trial, the prosecution examined eleven witnesses. The statement of the appellant was also recorded under Section 313 of the Cr.PC. He claimed that he had been falsely implicated and the police had planted their illegal weapons and framed him. The trial court examined all the witnesses & evidence and accepted that the appellant had fired five bullets and the same was established as five cartridges were recovered from the spot. They were also found to have been fired from the pistol recovered from the appellant.

The petitioner’s counsel contended that the appellant had already served more than five years of his prison sentence and thus, had served the sentence awarded to him in respect of all offences other than the offence punishable under Section 307 of the IPC and argued that the trial court had also based the decision on the FSL reports, which indicated that the bullet recovered from the bulletproof vests worn by the officers, were fired from the pistol used by the accused. However, the said report was never tendered and therefore, could not have been considered as evidence. Lastly, he contended that the sentence awarded to the appellant was harsh and onerous. The impugned order on sentencing indicated that the Trial Court had awarded a higher sentence on the ground that the appellant was involved in other cases.

In the further observations, it was found that the testimonies of all the witnesses were exactly similar to each other but with different names and the prosecution did not examine any of the six police officials who were part of the complete operation regarding the events leading to the apprehension of the appellant and there were no independent witnesses involved during the trial.

So, therefore, Delhi HC decided to set aside the conviction of the appellant for offence u/s 307 IPC; since there were no proper witnesses presented in the case and stated that “This Court is unable to accept that the prosecution has established its case that the appellant had committed an offence punishable under Section 307 of the IPC beyond any reasonable doubt.”

In addition to the above statement, the HC bench also contended that “It is not necessary to examine the contention that the Trial Court had erred in taking into account that the appellant was involved in other cases while awarding the sentence and it is settled law that the presumption of innocence must be maintained until the accused is found guilty. Therefore, even though the appellant may be involved in other cases, the same could not be considered as a factor to award a harsher sentence because the appellant had not been convicted in any of the cases at the material time”.

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