Delhi High Court Rulings: the eventual consequence of any penal sanction should be to reform any individual, instead of shutting him out by putting him inside for life.


CASE NO: CRL.A. 53/2023 And others

ORDER ON: 20.05.2024



The facts leading to the present appeal in question is that, All the appellants were arraigned as accused in case RC No.08/2019/NIA/DLI. the Trial Court ascertained the charges, they all pleaded guilty. They were accordingly convicted for various offences under IPC and UAPA, Such order, related to quantum of sentence, is under challenge in the present petition. However, with respect to appellant Ishfaq Ahmad Bhat (A-7), when the appeal was filed under Section 21 of the National Investigation Agency Act (NIA Act), he challenged the legality of conviction as well, contending that the Trial Court had proceeded on the alleged plea of guilt in a mechanical manner. According to him, the conviction was not sustainable on the basis of such plea of guilt. Fact, however, remains that during course of consideration of the appeal, additional affidavit was filed stating therein that the appellant was no longer desirous of challenging his plea of guilt and consequent conviction and that he was confining his appeal to the extent of sentence qua those offences for which he had been given life sentence, Thus, the scope of all the aforesaid appeals is very limited in sphere and only the aspect related to the extent or legality of the sentence is required to be seen, the prayer being that they be given minimum sentence for offence under Section 121A IPC and in relation to appellant Muzzafar Ahmed Bhat, for offence under Section 23 UAPA as well. A specific application in terms of Section 229 Cr.P.C. was also moved seeking to plead guilty, stating therein, that the accused were remorseful for the alleged acts and voluntarily seek to plead guilty, without any pressure or coercion and that they had also duly understood the consequences of their pleading guilty to the different charges. Trial Court, rightfully so, gave them time for reflection and when the matter was taken up they, again, persisted in their such plea. The charges were framed on and the contents thereof were duly explained, separately to all of them, with the prescribed sentences under the law. After understanding such accusation, contents of charges and the sentence prescribed for such offences, the appellants pleaded guilty to all such charges. It was in the aforesaid backdrop that all the appellants have been convicted and sentenced. Since the contentions raised before the court are identical in nature and since all these appeals emanate from same case,the court  disposed of all these appeals by this common judgment.The Appellants, who have spent almost four years in prison, challenge the legality and extent of the sentence with respect to those offences for which they have been given maximum sentence i.e. imprisonment for life, Hence, this appeal.


Whether the quantum of sentence, awarded by the trial court is unduly harsh, as contended by the appellants?s


Section 23 UAPA talks about Enhanced penalties.

Section 121 IPC talks about waging, abetting or attempting to wage war against government

Section 302 IPC, talks about punishment for Murder

Section 21 of the National Investigation Agency Act

Section 229 of Cr.P.C. talks about conviction on plea of guilty

Section 375 Cr.P.C. which specifies that if any accused pleads guilty and is convicted on the basis of such plea of guilt, there shall be no appeal, except as to the extent or legality of the sentence.


The appelleant through their counsel contented that, Sentencing requires application of mind to several factors, including possibility of reform, family circumstances etc. The impugned order of sentence shows no reasoning, except for the seriousness of the offence. The counsel further submits that It, nowhere, talks about any possibility of reform, It does not take into consideration their young age, their antecedents, their background and have been sentenced to life, thereby jeopardizing any chance of their rehabilitation and joining mainstream, the counsel further submits that,The impugned order on sentencing merely refers to, but does not analyse, the nature of conduct in jail or socioeconomic factors, The grant of maximum punishment, given under Section 121A of the IPC, is nothing but perverse and absurd. Even in terror cases, a distinction needs to be drawn between a mastermind and a mere follower, and the latter should be dealt with more leniently. The counsel further contented that Even as a gesture of normalisation in Kashmir affairs, it would have been just and proper to have awarded less than the maximum, particularly when no actual violence had occurred and it remained a case of mere conspiracy, with no terror act committed for which they could have been made liable. 


The respondent through their counsel, Sh. Gautam Narayan, asserted that The limited scope of the present appeal is the reduction of sentence but there is no ground to interfere as the Ld. Special Judge has taken into account all the relevant factors at the stage of sentencing, Appellants were highly radicalised Over Ground Worker (OGW) of Jaish-e-Mohammed (“JeM”), a proscribed terrorist organisation under the First Schedule of the UAPA which had carried out several terrorist acts in India, Special Judge had requisitioned the socio-economic impact report pertaining to the appellants and noted both mitigating factors, namely, their age and their family background and gravity and enormity of the accusation. Apart from Section 121A, IPC, the Special Judge has not imposed maximum sentence for any other offence, It was not a case for showing any undue sympathy which would have rather sent a wrong signal Keeping in view the twin-objectives of deterrence and correction, the reduction of the sentence might result in their joining militancy, once again, after being released.


The court on hearing both the sides, observed that there were many offences which attracted life sentence but despite that learned Trial Court awarded sentence of rigorous imprisonment of five years for most such offences. The court also Refered to sentences imposed for commission of offences under Section 18, 18B, 19 of UAPA and Section 4 of ESA. As regards Section 122 IPC, though the maximum sentence was life, the concerned appellant has been awarded RI for 10 years, besides fine and Obviously, the issue seems to be concerning Section 121A IPC and Section 23 UAPA. The court further observed, that the appellants had pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, without any expectation.further court observed that There is nothing on record which may suggest that they are beyond redemption, The court also observed that It is strongly believed that, more often than not, the eventual consequence of any penal sanction should be to reform any individual, instead of shutting him out by putting him inside for life. Unfortunately, there are no sentencing guidelines which may assist court in selecting the most appropriate sentence, minimum or maximum or one falling between the two. The court further observed that the Trial Court has not given any specific reason as to why it was awarding maximum punishment for offence under Section 121A IPC and for Section 23 UAPA, the court also observed that in the present case, ends of justice would be met if instead of maximum of life sentence, appellants are punished with rigorous imprisonment for ten years, which punishment is just a step below. Similarly, with respect to the Section 23 of UAPA, minimum sentence is five years which may extend to life and taking stock of the factual matrix presented before us and in view of foregoing discussion, ends of justice would be met if such sentence is also reduced to rigorous imprisonment for ten years. Consequently,the court hereby disposed of all the appeals with modification that for offence under Section 121A IPC, appellants are directed to serve sentence of rigorous imprisonment for ten years with fine of Rs. 2,000/- and to further undergo SI for a period of one year in case of default of payment of fine. In relation to Crl. A. No. 56/2023 CRL.A. 53/2023 & four other connected appeals pertaining to appellant Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat, besides above modification, sentence with respect to Section 23 UAPA is also modified and is reduced to rigorous imprisonment for a period of ten years with fine of Rs. 2,000/- and to further undergo SI for a period of one year in case of default of payment of fine. The court further held that, Other terms and monetary imposition of fine for other offences for all the appellants shall remain unaltered.The court hereby disposed off Appeals in aforesaid terms.

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judgement reviewed by: Sowmya.R

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