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Mere Mention in Suicide Note Insufficient for Abetment Charge: Supreme Court.

Vikas Chandra v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr.

Case No.: Criminal Appeal No.__________ of 2024 (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No.1196/2018).

Date: February 22, 2024.

Court: Supreme Court of India.

Quorum: Hon’ble J. C.T. Ravikumar, J. Rajesh Bindal.

Facts of the Case:

The case concerns the death by suicide of Brijesh Chandra, father of the appellant Vikas Chandra. Brijesh Chandra was a retired military man working as a security guard at Mandi Samiti, Puwaya. The respondent Ram Babu Sharma was the Secretary of the Mandi Samiti at the time.

According to the complaint filed by Vikas Chandra, his father’s salary from March 2004 to August 2004 and September 2004 onwards was not paid. On October 12, 2004, when Brijesh Chandra requested the release of his salary, Ram Babu Sharma allegedly told him: “I will see that how will you get your salary and who will help you in getting your salary, I will bring out your military-man-ship and either you die or your children, but I do not care, get out of here, why you do not take poison”.

On October 23, 2004, Brijesh Chandra committed suicide by consuming poison in the office of Sub-Mandi, Alhaganj, where he was working at the time. He left a suicide note allegedly attributing responsibility for his suicide to Ram Babu Sharma.

Initially, the complainant approached the court of the Judicial Magistrate, but the complaint was not forwarded for investigation under Section 156(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The matter was taken up in revision and eventually to the High Court. Based on the High Court’s orders, an FIR was registered under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for abetment of suicide.

After investigation, the police filed a closure report. The Magistrate did not accept this report and conducted an inquiry under Section 202 CrPC based on a protest petition filed by the complainant. Subsequently, the Magistrate issued summons to Ram Babu Sharma to face trial for the offense under Section 306 IPC.

Ram Babu Sharma challenged this summons order in the High Court under Section 482 CrPC. The High Court quashed the summons order, leading to the present appeal before the Supreme Court.

Legal Issues:

Whether the High Court erred in quashing the summons issued against the respondent?

Whether the High Court exceeded the settled guidelines and parameters for exercising power under Section 482 CrPC?

Whether there was sufficient prima facie evidence to issue summons for the offense of abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC?

Legal Provisions:

  1. Indian Penal Code:
  • Section 306 IPC – Abetment of suicide.
  • Section 107 IPC – Abetment.

  1. Code of Criminal Procedure:
  • Section 156(3) CrPC – Police officer’s power to investigate cognizable case.
  • Section 173(2) CrPC – Report of police officer on completion of investigation.
  • Section 190 CrPC – Cognizance of offences by Magistrates.
  • Section 202 CrPC – Postponement of issue of process.
  • Section 204 CrPC – Issue of process.
  • Section 482 CrPC – Saving of inherent powers of High Court.

Contentions of petitioners:

The appellant strongly argued that the High Court had committed a grave error in law by quashing the summons issued against the respondent. They contended that the Magistrate’s decision to issue summons was based on sufficient prima facie evidence and should not have been interfered with by the High Court. The appellant asserted that the High Court had exceeded the settled guidelines and parameters for exercising power under Section 482 CrPC. They argued that the High Court’s power to quash proceedings should be exercised sparingly and only in cases where there is a clear abuse of the process of law.

The appellant maintained that there was ample prima facie evidence to justify the issuance of summons for the offense of abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC.

They pointed to the following elements:

  • The alleged threatening and instigative remarks made by the respondent on October 12, 2004.
  • The non-payment of salary, which they argued created circumstances that led to the suicide.
  • The suicide notes mentioning the respondent’s name and attributing responsibility to him.

The appellant argued that given the serious nature of the allegations and the existence of prima facie evidence, the matter deserved a full trial. They contended that quashing the summons at this stage would prevent a proper investigation into the circumstances of Brijesh Chandra’s death.

The appellant argued for a broader interpretation of the suicide note, suggesting that even if it didn’t explicitly mention the October 12 incident, the overall content implied abetment by the respondent.

Contentions of the Respondents:

The respondents argued that the summoning order was issued without satisfying the grounds required under law. They contended that mere mention of a name in a suicide note does not automatically amount to abetment of suicide. They argued that the Magistrate’s order did not reflect proper application of mind to form an opinion regarding sufficient basis for proceeding against the respondent. They pointed out that the order lacked detailed reasoning for issuing the summons. The respondents emphasized that there was no material suggesting instigation by the respondent in the suicide note. They argued that for abetment under Section 306 IPC, there must be clear evidence of instigation or creation of circumstances that left no option but suicide. They pointed out the significant time gap (11 days) between the alleged instigation and the suicide, arguing that this weakened any case for abetment. They also contended that there was no evidence of a continued course of conduct that could be seen as abetment.

The respondents highlighted that the alleged incident of October 12, 2004, which formed the basis of the complaint, was not mentioned in the suicide note. They argued that if this incident was indeed the trigger for the suicide, it would have been mentioned. They further argued that allowing the case to proceed based on such flimsy evidence would amount to misuse of the criminal process and cause undue harassment to the respondent. They contended that the High Court’s use of power under Section 482 CrPC was justified to prevent abuse of the process of law and to secure the ends of justice.

Analysis of the judgement:

In its judgment, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the High Court’s decision to quash the summons order. The Court reaffirmed that while a Magistrate has the power to issue summons even after a closure report is filed by the police, this power must be exercised judiciously. It emphasized that issuing summons is a serious matter that affects an individual’s dignity and reputation, and therefore should not be done mechanically but only upon satisfaction of sufficient grounds for proceeding.

The Court clarified that for an offense under Section 306 IPC (abetment of suicide), there must be specific abetment as contemplated by Section 107 IPC, with an intention to bring about the suicide of the person concerned. In this case, the Court found no explicit or implicit reference in the suicide note to the alleged incident of October 12, 2004, or any instigation by the respondent. The significant time gap of 11 days between the alleged instigation and the suicide further weakened the case for abetment. The Court held that the mere statement in the suicide note that the respondent would be responsible for the suicide was not sufficient ground to issue summons for an offense under Section 306 IPC.

The judgement emphasized the need for careful judicial scrutiny before issuing summons in criminal cases, serving as a safeguard against arbitrary or mechanical issuance of summons. The Court’s clarification on the ingredients of abetment of suicide is vital, stressing that specific abetment with the intention to bring about the suicide is necessary, and mere attribution of responsibility in a suicide note is not sufficient.

The Court’s consideration of the lack of proximity between the alleged instigation and the suicide, as well as the absence of a continued course of conduct, as factors weakening the case for abetment, provides valuable guidance for similar cases. The judgment also offers insights into how suicide notes should be appreciated in the context of abetment charges, suggesting that courts should look for specific allegations and material of a definite nature, not merely inferences.

Conclusion

The decision serves as a reminder to lower courts to exercise their powers judiciously, especially in cases involving serious charges like abetment of suicide. It also provides guidance on how to appreciate evidence, particularly suicide notes, in such cases.

 

Reviewed by Maria Therese Syriac.


Click here to read the Judgement.

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Beyond Technicalities: Supreme Court Adopts Justice-Oriented Approach in Trust Management.

Shri Mallikarjun Devasthan, Shelgi vs. Subhash Mallikarjun Birajdar and Others.

Dated: April 25, 2024.

Court: Supreme Court of India.

Quorum: Hon’ble J. A.S. Bopanna, J. Sanjay Kumar.

The Supreme Court of India, in its recent judgment dated April 25, 2024, delivered a significant ruling in the case of Shri Mallikarjun Devasthan, Shelgi vs. Subhash Mallikarjun Birajdar and others. The case revolves around the acceptance of Change Reports concerning the Vahiwatdar (Administrator) and Trustees of Shri Mallikarjun Devasthan, Shelgi, a Public Trust registered under the Maharashtra Public Trusts Act, 1950 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”).

Facts of the case:

Shri Mallikarjun Devasthan, Shelgi, was registered as a Public Trust in 1952 by Mallikarjun Mahalingappa Patil for the upkeep and maintenance of Shri Mallikarjun Temple at Shelgi. The mode of succession of managership and trusteeship, as provided in the application, was that Mallikarjun Mahalingappa Patil would be the Vahiwatdar of the Trust, and the eldest male member of his family would succeed him. After Mallikarjun Mahalingappa Patil’s death in 1992, his eldest son, Ashok Mallikarjun Patil, became the Vahiwatdar. Subsequently, upon Ashok’s demise in 1997, his brother Jagdishchandra Mallikarjun Patil, the third son of Mallikarjun Mahalingappa Patil, assumed the role of Vahiwatdar, although he was not the eldest male member in the family.

Legal issues:

  1. What is the effect of delay in filing a Change Report under Section 22 of the Maharashtra Public Trusts Act, 1950, and whether such delay can be condoned? If so, what is the procedure for condonation of delay?
  2. Can mere devotees of a Temple, who have previously failed in challenging the registration of the Public Trust itself, legitimately object to the succession and appointment of the Vahiwatdar (Administrator) and Trustees of the Trust through the Change Report mechanism under the Act?

 

Legal provisions:

The Maharashtra Public Trusts Act, 1950

  • Section 17: Maintenance of books, indices, and registers containing particulars of Public Trusts.
  • Section 18: Registration of Public Trusts.
  • Section 22: Reporting of changes in the entries recorded in the register and the procedure for accepting such changes.
  • Section 70: Appeals against the findings or orders of the Deputy or Assistant Charity Commissioner.
  • Section 70A: Revision powers of the Charity Commissioner.

Contentions of petitioner:

The learned counsel of the petitioner Jagdishchandra Mallikarjun Patil, being the third son of the founder Mallikarjun Mahalingappa Patil, filed a delay condonation application along with Change Report No. 899 of 2015, seeking condonation of the delay in filing the report to inform the authorities about his assumption as the Vahiwatdar (Administrator) of the Trust after the demise of his elder brother Ashok Mallikarjun Patil in 1997. Even though there was no specific proviso in Section 22(1) of the Maharashtra Public Trusts Act, 1950 (the Act) for condonation of delay before the 2017 amendment, the general provisions of Section 29(2) of the Limitation Act, 1963, and Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963, could be invoked for condonation of the delay in filing the Change Report.

The Joint Charity Commissioner, Pune, had already passed an order on January 29, 2019, holding that the delay in filing Change Report No. 899 of 2015 stood condoned by accepting the Change Report itself, thereby implying that the delay was excused. After the earlier dismissal of the revision filed by the Birajdar family challenging the very registration of the Trust, they had no legitimate grievance or locus standi as mere devotees to challenge the succession to the post of Vahiwatdar, which was a matter concerning the administration of the Trust by the founder’s family.

Contentions of respondents:

The learned counsel of the respondent Jagdishchandra Mallikarjun Patil, being the third son, was not the eldest male member of the founder Mallikarjun Mahalingappa Patil’s family. Therefore, he had unlawfully and without any authority assumed the role of Vahiwatdar by filing Change Report No. 899 of 2015, circumventing the established mode of succession. The Deputy Charity Commissioner, Solapur, had failed to conduct a proper inquiry and had not passed a separate explicit order condoning the inordinate delay of over 17 years in filing Change Report No. 899 of 2015, as mandated under Section 22 of the Act, thereby rendering the acceptance of the Change Report illegal.

After the death of Ashok Mallikarjun Patil, the eldest son of the founder, the villagers were handling the functioning and administration of the Trust themselves, and Jagdishchandra was merely overseeing the Temple activities without any legal authority. The Trust, under the administration of Jagdishchandra and the Trustees appointed by him, was not taking proper care of the Temple and its activities, and therefore, the changes in the administration through the acceptance of Change Reports No. 899 of 2015 and No. 1177 of 2017 should not have been allowed.

The Judgment:

The Supreme Court set aside the High Court’s judgment and confirmed the acceptance of Change Report Nos. 899 of 2015 and 1177 of 2017. The Court observed that the delay in filing a Change Report is curable, and the failure to file a Change Report within the stipulated time does not automatically invalidate the assumption of office by the Vahiwatdar or the changes in the Trust. The Act does not mandate that a separate written application be filed for condonation of delay. Relief can be granted upon an oral request, provided sufficient cause is shown. The proviso added to Section 22(1) in 2017, enabling the authority to condone the delay, is clarificatory and does not bring about a substantive change. Even before the amendment, Section 29(2) of the Limitation Act, 1963, and Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963, could be invoked for condonation of delay.

The Joint Charity Commissioner, Pune, had already passed an order on January 29, 2019, holding that the delay had been condoned by accepting the Change Report. This order was not challenged by the Birajdar family and had attained finality. The devotees (Birajdar family) had a grievance with the very registration of the Trust, which had been dismissed earlier, and as mere devotees, they could not challenge the succession to the post of Vahiwatdar. If the Trust is not taking proper care of the Temple, separate statutory remedies are available under the Act, and the devotees should pursue those instead of repeatedly attacking the Change Reports.

The Court clarified that delay in filing a Change Report is not fatal and can be condoned upon showing sufficient cause. This ruling provides much-needed flexibility in the administration of Public Trusts, recognizing the practical realities and challenges faced by Trustees and Administrators. Furthermore, the Court rightly highlighted that mere devotees cannot disrupt the succession process, or the administration of a Trust based on personal grievances or ulterior motives. The statutory remedies available under the Act should be pursued for specific issues, rather than resorting to collateral attacks on the Trust’s administration.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court’s judgment is a significant pronouncement on the administration of Public Trusts under the Maharashtra Public Trusts Act, 1950. The Court adopted a pragmatic and justice-oriented approach, emphasizing that technicalities should not be allowed to override substantive justice. Overall, the judgment strikes a balanced approach, upholding the principles of transparency and accountability in the administration of Public Trusts while also ensuring that technical objections do not impede the smooth functioning of such Trusts.

Judgement reviewed by Maria Therese Syriac.

Click here to read the Judgement.

PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a National Award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal fall into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer.

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NEET Reckoning: Supreme Court Cancels Grace Marks, Mandates Re-Test.

The Supreme Court of India’s decision to order a re-examination for 1,563 candidates who were initially awarded grace marks in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) UG 2024 results has sent shockwaves through the medical education community. This significant development has sparked widespread attention and debate, with far-reaching implications for the affected candidates, the medical education system, and the principles of fairness and transparency in competitive examinations.

The NEET UG 2024 results, declared on June 4th, were met with considerable backlash from candidates and parents. Multiple petitions challenged the results before the Supreme Court on three primary grounds including the awarding of grace marks to certain candidates, allegations of a leaked question paper, and suspected irregularities at specific examination centres. In response, the National Testing Agency (NTA) constituted a four-member panel to review the results, comprising representatives from regulatory bodies.

Allegations and the Court’s Intervention.

At the heart of the controversy lies the contentious issue of grace marks awarded to 1,563 candidates. The NTA granted these candidates compensatory marks through a normalization formula due to time constraints at their examination centres. This decision, based on a previous Supreme Court judgment, led to an unprecedented 67 candidates achieving a perfect score, 720/720, including 50 who secured top ranks after receiving grace marks. Additionally, there were candidates who scored 718/720, 719/720. This raised concerns among the population, institutes and other concerned partis because of the fact that each question in NEET carries 4 marks for every right answer and a negative 1 mark for every wrong answer. Therefore, scores like 718, 719 seemed logically impossible.

The Supreme Court took cognizance of the several petitions and issued a significant order on June 13, 2024. The key aspects of the order include cancelling the scorecards of the 1,563 candidates who received grace marks, allowing them the option of a re-test scheduled for June 23, 2024, and directing the NTA to declare re-test results before June 30 to avoid delays in the counselling process, as the Court emphasized that the ongoing counselling process would not be halted.

In addition to the grace mark controversy, the petitions raised concerns about alleged paper leakage and irregularities at certain examination centres. While the NTA and the Education Minister denied these allegations, the Supreme Court noted it would review these petitions on July 8, 2024, indicating its commitment to thoroughly investigating any concerns regarding the examination’s fairness and transparency.

Reactions, Concerns, and Implications.

The court’s decision sparked a range of reactions and concerns among stakeholders. While some applauded the commitment to fairness and transparency, others raised concerns about logistical challenges, potential admission process disruptions, and the mental toll on candidates. Conducting a nationwide re-test within a short timeframe poses significant logistical hurdles for the NTA, including ensuring adequate examination centres, adhering to security protocols, and maintaining question paper confidentiality. Any delay in declaring results could disrupt the admission process, causing uncertainty and anxiety for candidates and institutions.

The Supreme Court’s intervention has reignited broader debates surrounding the medical entrance examination system in India, highlighting the need for comprehensive reforms to prevent similar issues from arising in the future.

Stakeholders have called for clearer and more uniform guidelines governing decisions like awarding grace marks to prevent ambiguity or inconsistency across examination centres. The role of bodies like the NTA and the Medical Council of India (MCI) in ensuring the smooth conduct of high-stakes examinations has come under scrutiny. Calls for strengthening oversight mechanisms and introducing robust checks and balances to maintain integrity have been made.

The allegations of paper leakage, though denied, have highlighted the need for leveraging advanced technologies to enhance the security and confidentiality of examination materials, such as encrypted digital question papers, biometric authentication, and real-time monitoring systems. The Supreme Court’s decision has brought attention to the need for effective and transparent grievance redressal mechanisms for candidates, streamlining processes to prevent escalations and legal battles.

As legal proceedings continue and the re-examination is conducted, all stakeholders must engage in constructive dialogues and collaborate to address the systemic issues exposed by this incident. This could involve comprehensive policy reviews and revisions to ensure clear and consistent guidelines for examinations. Strengthening the regulatory framework and oversight mechanisms to maintain the highest standards of integrity. Exploring technological solutions to enhance security and transparency in the examination process. Establishing robust grievance redressal mechanisms and support systems for candidates. Fostering greater collaboration and communication among examination authorities, educational institutions, and student bodies.

The medical education system in India can emerge stronger by addressing these broader concerns and implementing necessary reforms, fostering an environment of fairness, transparency, and inclusivity for all aspiring medical professionals.

Upholding Ethical Conduct and Nurturing Excellence

As the re-examination unfolds, it is crucial for all stakeholders to approach this situation with understanding, and a commitment to upholding the highest standards of ethical conduct. The medical education system in India has the potential to nurture the best and brightest minds, but only through a collaborative and principled approach can it truly flourish and meet the nation’s healthcare needs. This incident serves as a wake-up call for the entire medical education ecosystem, underscoring the importance of transparency, fairness, and accountability in high-stakes competitive examinations that shape the futures of countless aspiring medical professionals.

Reviewed by Maria Therese Syriac.

PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a National Award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal fall into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer.

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Supreme Court Upholds Transparency in Elections: Ensures Voter Rights and System Integrity  

Case title: ASSOCIATION FOR DEMOCRATIC REFORMS VS ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA AND ANOTHER

Case no.: WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 434 OF 2023

Dated on:26th April 2024

Quorum: HON’BLE MR JUSTICE SANJIV KHANNA and HON’BLE MR DIPANKAR DATTA

FACTS OF THE CASE

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-governmental organization focused on electoral and political reforms, filed a petition against the Election Commission of India (ECI) and another respondent. The case was centered around the transparency and accountability in the electoral process, particularly regarding the disclosure of information by political candidates and parties.

ISSUES

  • Whether the Election Commission should mandate candidates to disclose their criminal antecedents, assets, liabilities, and educational qualifications.
  • whether the constitutionality and transparency of the electoral bonds scheme, which allows anonymous donations to political parties.

LEGAL PROVISINS

Article 324 of the Constitution of India: This article vests the power of superintendence, direction, and control of elections in India in the Election Commission.

Representation of the People Act, 1951: Sections 33A and 33B: These sections were added following a Supreme Court judgment and mandate candidates to file an affidavit declaring their criminal antecedents, assets, liabilities, and educational qualifications.

Section 29C: This section requires political parties to submit annual reports to the Election Commission disclosing donations above a certain threshold.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

The counsel for the petitioners, on 24.04.2024, drew our attention to a Wikipedia article which states that firmware is a software which provides low-level control of computing device hardware etc. It also states that programmable firmware memory can be reprogrammed via a procedure sometimes called flashing. Advocate for greater transparency in the electoral process to ensure that voters are well-informed about the candidates. Argued that non-disclosure of crucial information infringes upon the voters’ right to make an informed choice, a fundamental aspect of a democratic process. Challenged the electoral bonds scheme as it allows anonymous donations, leading to a lack of transparency and potential corruption. During the course of hearing, our attention was drawn to Rule 49MA which permits an elector to raise a complaint regarding the mismatch between the name and symbol of the candidate shown on paper slip generated by the VVPAT and the vote cast on the ballot unit. Such elector is required to make a written declaration to the presiding officer.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS

The ECI maintained that it had taken steps towards increasing transparency but argued that certain limitations exist within the current legal framework. Defended the electoral bonds scheme as a measure to curb black money in elections, arguing that it provides a cleaner alternative to cash donations.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

We could have dismissed the present writ petitions by merely relying upon the past precedents and decisions of this Court which, in our opinion, are clear and lucid, and as repeated challenges based on suspicion and doubt, without any cogent material and data, are execrable and undesirable. However, we would like to put on record the procedure and safeguards adopted by the ECI to ensure free and fair elections and the integrity of the electoral process. For this purpose, we shall refer to and take on record the features of EVMs.14 Lastly, we would give two directions, and take on record suggestion(s) for consideration of the ECI. I also wish to observe that while maintaining a balanced perspective is crucial in evaluating systems or institutions, blindly distrusting any aspect of the system can breed unwarranted scepticism and impede progress. Instead, a critical yet constructive approach, guided by evidence and reason, should be followed to make room for meaningful improvements and to ensure the system’s credibility and effectiveness. Be it the citizens, the judiciary, the elected representatives, or even the electoral machinery, democracy is all about striving to build harmony and trust between all its pillars through open dialogue, transparency in processes, and continuous improvement of the system by active participation in democratic practices. Our approach should be guided by evidence and reason to allow space for meaningful improvements. By nurturing a culture of trust and collaboration, we can strengthen the foundations of our democracy and ensure that the voices and choices of all citizens are valued and respected. With each pillar fortified, our democracy stands robust and resilient. I conclude with the hope and trust that the system in vogue shall not fail the electorate and the mandate of the voting public shall be truly reflected in the votes cast and counted. empowered to adopt a flexible approach in such cases, acknowledging their far-reaching public interest ramifications. The writ petitions and all pending applications, including the applications for intervention, are disposed of in the above terms.

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Judgement Reviewed by – HARIRAGHAVA JP

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Justice Served: Supreme Court Criticizes Monetary Compensation for Acid Attack Convicts’ Sentence Suspension

Case title: Shivani Tyagi vs. State of U.P. & Anr.

Case no: Criminal Appeal Nos.1957-1961 of 2024

Order on: April 5, 2024

Qoram: HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE RAJESH BINDAL

Fact of the case:

In this case, Shivani Tyagi, the appellant, was a victim of an acid attack. The private respondents (convicted individuals) were found guilty of attacking her with sulfuric acid, resulting in severe injuries that included 30 to 40 percent burns on her body. The trial court convicted the respondents and sentenced them to life imprisonment for their crimes, which included charges under Sections 307/149 and 326A/149 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The appellant challenged the suspension of the sentence and the subsequent release on bail of the convicted individuals. The trial court had previously ordered the suspension of the sentences based on the respondents’ offer to pay Rs. 25 lakhs for the appellant’s medical treatment, acknowledging that she had incurred Rs. 21 lakhs in medical expenses.

Issues framed by Court:

Whether the suspension of the life sentences and the release on bail of the convicted individuals were justified under Section 389 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC).

Legal provisions:

Section 389 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC): This section deals with the suspension of execution of sentence pending the appeal against conviction and the release of the appellant(s) on bail. The provision mandates that reasons must be recorded in writing for such suspension and release.

Indian Penal Code (IPC):

  Section 307: Attempt to murder.

  Section 326A: Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, etc.

 Section 149: Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object.

 Contentions of Appellant:

The appellant contended the severe nature of the crime, pointing out that the respondents were convicted of an acid attack that resulted in severe and permanent disfigurement. She argued that the serious nature of the crime warranted the continued incarceration of the respondents. The appellant contended that the High Court’s decision to suspend the sentence based on the respondents’ offer of Rs. 25 lakhs for her treatment was inappropriate. She argued that financial compensation should not influence the decision to suspend a sentence in cases involving heinous crimes. The appellant argued that the High Court did not properly consider the relevant factors required under Section 389 Cr.PC when suspending the sentences. She maintained that the High Court’s decision lacked a thorough assessment of the seriousness of the offence and its impact on the victim.

 Contentions of Respondents:

The respondents highlighted their offer to pay Rs. 25 lakhs for the appellant’s medical treatment, arguing that this demonstrated their willingness to make amends. They suggested that this offer should be considered a mitigating factor in favor of suspending their sentences. The respondents argued that they had already spent a considerable amount of time in jail and that the appeals process was likely to be lengthy. They contended that this period of incarceration, combined with the compensation offer, justified the suspension of their sentences and their release on bail. The respondents cited State of Haryana v. Hasmat case, where serious offence like Murder is punishable under Section 302 of IPC where sentences were suspended, arguing that their situation warranted similar consideration. They referred to the general principles that favor suspension of sentences in certain circumstances, especially where delays in the appellate process are expected. 

 Court analysis & Judgement:

The Hon’ble Supreme Court emphasized that the acid attack caused permanent disfigurement and severe trauma to Shivani. The seriousness of such a heinous crime cannot be underestimated. The Supreme Court criticized the High Court for suspending the attackers’ sentences just because they offered to pay Rs. 25 lakhs for Shivani’s treatment. This approach was deemed inappropriate for such serious offenses. The Supreme Court set aside the High Court’s order, canceling the suspension of the sentences and the bail granted to the respondents. The court directed the respondents to surrender before the trial court within four days, failing which they would be re-arrested and committed to custody. The Supreme Court allowed the appellant’s appeals, overturning the High Court’s order that had suspended the sentences of the respondents and released them on bail. The court stressed the importance of thorough and reasoned assessments in decisions involving the suspension of sentences for serious crimes. It highlighted the necessity of considering the nature and gravity of the offence, and the broader implications for public interest and social security.

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Judgement Reviewed By- Antara Ghosh

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