SC: Don't ignore conviction while deciding sentence

The Supreme Court has decried the practice among high courts to decide appeals in criminal cases by addressing the quantum of sentence only and ignoring the conviction part, saying that it is impermissible in law.

A bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said that this practice should not be resorted to even after a counsel for the convict submits that he wanted to challenge the sentence only.

“We are compelled to note here that we have come across many cases where the high courts, after recording the non-challenge to the conviction, have proceeded to dwell upon the proportionality of the quantum of sentence. We may clearly state that the same being impermissible in law should not be taken resort to. It should be borne in mind that a convict who has been imposed substantive sentence is deprived of his liberty, the stem of life that should not ordinarily be stenosed, and hence, it is the duty of the court to see that the cause of justice is subserved with serenity in accordance with the established principles of law,” the court said.

The apex court bench was of the view that the HCs should not deal with the appeal in casual manner and instead decide it on merits.

“We are obliged to state that when a convicted person prefers an appeal, he has the legitimate expectation to be dealt with by the courts in accordance with law. He has intrinsic faith in the criminal justice dispensation system and it is the sacred duty of the adjudicatory system to remain alive to the said faith. That apart, he has embedded trust in his counsel that he shall put forth his case to the best of his ability assailing the conviction and to do full justice to the case. That apart, a counsel is expected to assist the courts in reaching a correct conclusion.”

“Therefore, it is the obligation of the court to decide the appeal on merits and not accept the concession and proceed to deal with the sentence, for the said mode and method defeats the fundamental purpose of the justice delivery system,” Justice Misra wrote on the part of the bench.

The bench was hearing an appeal filed by three convicts challenging a Chhattisgarh High Court’s order reducing their jail term from three years to one year in case of rioting and voluntarily causing hurt for property.

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