“Undue Sympathy”: Supreme Court Cancels High Court Order Reducing Sentence

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The Supreme Court has quashed a verdict of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which had reduced the sentence awarded to a man for causing death by rash and negligent act, holding that showing “undue sympathy” to the accused is unsustainable.
The top court observed the high court had not at all considered that Indian Penal Code (IPC) is punitive and deterrent in nature and the principal aim and object is to punish offenders for offences committed under the Code.

The top court delivered its verdict on an appeal filed by the state of Punjab against the high court judgment which had upheld the conviction of an accused for the offence under section 304-A (causing death by rash and negligent act) of the IPC but reduced the sentence from two years to eight months, subject to a prior deposit of ₹ 25,000 towards compensation to be paid to the family of the victim.

A bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar noted in its March 28 verdict that while reducing the sentence the high court had not considered the gravity of the offence and the manner in which the accused committed it by driving an SUV in a rash and negligent manner due to which one person died and two others, who were travelling in an ambulance, sustained injuries.

“The high court has also not properly appreciated and considered the fact that due to collision, the ambulance turned turtle. This shows the impact on the ambulance and the rash and negligent driving on the part of the accused,” it said, adding cogent reasons were given by the trial court which had sentenced the accused to two years in jail.

The road accident had taken place in January 2012 when an SUV driven by the accused hit an ambulance which was coming from Chandigarh and going towards Mohali.

Referring to a previous judgement of the Supreme Court, the bench noted it was observed that the top court had, time and again, emphasised the need to strictly punish offenders responsible for causing motor vehicle accidents.

The bench noted it was observed and held that the principle of proportionality between crime and punishment has to be borne in mind. The principle of just punishment is the bedrock of sentencing in respect of a criminal offence, it said.

Referring to another judgement delivered by the top court, the bench noted it was observed that the principle of sentencing recognises the corrective measures but there are occasions when deterrence is an imperative necessity depending upon the facts of the case.

“The high court has not at all considered the fact that the IPC is punitive and deterrent in nature. The principal aim and object are to punish offenders for offences committed under IPC,” it said.

“Applying the law laid down by this court… to the facts of the case on hand, the impugned judgment and order passed by the high court interfering with the sentence imposed by the trial court confirmed by the first appellate court by showing undue sympathy to the accused is unsustainable and the same deserves to be quashed and set aside,” it said.

The bench set aside the high court verdict reducing the sentence and restored the sentence imposed by the trial court.

While allowing the appeal, it granted four weeks for the accused to surrender to undergo the remaining sentence.

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