Fine without imprisonment if sufficient in the case of road rage?

Navjot Singh Sidhu road rage case:

Navjot Singh Sidhu

A dispute arose on the right of way between the accused and the deceased and respondent No.1 (the first accused) came out of his vehicle, pulled out the deceased from his vehicle and inflicted fist blows. It was alleged that the car keys of the deceased’s car were removed by the accused and fled from the scene of the occurrence. PW-3 and PW-4 took the deceased in a rickshaw to the hospital where the doctors announced that Gurnam Singh was dead.

The punishment under Section 323 of the IPC has been prescribed as a sentence of a term which may extend to one year or a fine which may extend to Rs.1,000/- or both. In the present case, only the fine has been imposed. The question, thus, to be analysed is whether in the given
factual scenario, grave error can be said to have been committed on the issue of sentence by not punishing with imprisonment of any term whatsoever.

Considerations for the sentence:

An important aspect to be kept in mind is that any undue sympathy to impose inadequate sentence would do more harm to justice system and undermine the public confidence in the efficacy of law. The society can not long endure under serious threats and if the courts do not protect the injured, the injured would then resort to private vengeance and, therefore, it is the duty of every court to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in which it was executed or committed. It has, thus, been observed that the punishment to be awarded for a crime must not be irrelevant but it should conform to and be consistent with the atrocity and brutality with which the crime has been perpetrated.

Right of victim to seek review of the inadequate Sentence:

Criminal jurisprudence with the passage of time has laid emphasis on victimology, which fundamentally is a perception of a trial from the viewpoint of the criminal as well as the victim. Both are viewed in the social context and, thus, victim’s rights have to be equally protected.

An offender cannot be allowed to be treated with leniency solely on the ground of discretion vested in a court. The twin objective of the sentencing policy is to be kept in mind which is
deterrence and correction and, thus, the principle of proportionality in sentencing a convict was held to be well entrenched in the criminal jurisprudence.

A disproportionately light punishment humiliates and frustrates a victim of crime when the offender goes unpunished or is let off with a relatively minor punishment as the system pays no attention to the injured’s feelings. Indifference to the rights of the victim of crime is fast eroding the faith of the society in general and the victim of crime in particular in the criminal justice system.

Culpability:

When a 25 year old man, who was an international cricketer, assaults a man more than twice his age and inflicts, even with his bare hands, a severe blow on his (victim’s) head, the unintended consequence of harm would still be properly attributable to him as it was reasonably oreseeable. That it would cause the death of a person is another matter since the conviction is only under Section 323 of the IPC. In that context it has been observed that even though any harm might not be directly intended, some aggravated culpability must be attached if the person suffers a grievous hurt or dies as a result thereof.

Sentence:

In a nutshell, the aspects of sentencing and victimology are reflected in the following ancient wisdom:

“यथावयो यथाकालं यथा प्राणंच ब्राह्मणे।
प्रायश्चितं प्रदातव्यंब्राह्मणैर्धर्धपाठकै ैः ।
येन शुध्ददर्वाप्नोश्चत न च प्राणैश्चवधयुज्यते।
आश्चतिंवा र्हतीं यश्चत न चैतद् व्रतर्ा श्चदशेत ।।“

It means: The person dispensing justice as per Dharmashastra should prescribe a penance appropriate to the age, the time and strength of the sinner, the penance being such that he may not lose his life and yet he may be purified. A penance causing distress should not be prescribed.

We are not setting forth much about how the investigation proceeded initially, how the court had to intervene to see that the relevant people are charged, the manner of leading of evidence, the hesitancy of doctors all of which weighed in this Court opining that a case beyond reasonable doubt could be only of one under Section 323 of the IPC. We do believe that the indulgence was not required to be shown at the stage of sentence by only imposing a sentence of fine and letting the respondent go without any imposition of sentence.

The present case is not one where two views are possible such that review should not be exercised. It is a case where some germane facts for sentencing appear to have been lost sight of while imposing only a fine on respondent No.1 and, therefore, no question of choosing between two possible views arises.

Conclusion:

The result of the aforesaid is that the review applications/petitions are allowed to the aforesaid extent and in addition to the fine imposed we consider it appropriate to impose a sentence of imprisonment for a period of one year rigorous imprisonment to be undergone by respondent No.1. (that is Navjot Singh Sidhu)

Read Full Judgement here:

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