Release of Convicts on Probation of Good Behaviour

Probation of Offenders Act, 1958:

Objectives of the Act:

The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 is a milestone in the progress of the modern liberal trend of reform in the field of penology. It is the result of the recognition of the doctrine that the object of criminal law is more to reform the individual offender than to punish him. Broadly stated, the Act distinguishes offenders below 21 years of age and those above that age, and offenders who are guilty of having committed an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life and those who are guilty of a lesser offence. While in the case of offenders who are above the age of 21 years absolute discretion is given to the court to release them after admonition or on probation of good conduct, subject to the conditions laid down in the appropriate provisions of the Act, in the case of offenders below the age of 21 years an injunction is issued to the court not to sentence them to imprisonment unless it is satisfied that. having regard to the circumstances of the case, including the nature of the offence and the character of the offenders. it is not desirable to deal with them under ss, 3 and 4 of the Act.

[Source: Ratan Lal vs. State of Punjab, AIR 1965 SC 444, 1964 SCR (7) 676]

Reduction below ‘minimum’ sentence

When the legislature has prescribed minimum sentence without discretion, the same cannot be reduced by the Courts. In such cases, imposition of minimum sentence, be it imprisonment or fine, is mandatory and leaves no discretion to the court. However, sometimes the legislation prescribes a minimum sentence but grants discretion and the courts, for reasons to be recorded in writing, may award a lower sentence or not award a sentence of imprisonment. Such discretion includes the discretion not to send the accused to prison. Minimum sentence means a sentence which must be imposed without leaving any discretion to the court. It means a quantum of punishment which cannot be reduced below the period fixed. If the sentence can be reduced to nil, then the statute does not prescribe a minimum sentence. A provision that gives discretion to the court  not to award minimum sentence cannot be equated with a provision which prescribes minimum sentence. The two provisions, therefore, are not identical and have different implications, which should be recognized and accepted for the PO Act.
[Source: Mohd. Hashim vs. State of U.P. decided on 28 Nov. 2016 by Supreme Court]

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