Light punishment humiliates victim: SC | India News

NEW DELHI: The hand of an extremely fit person is a weapon in itself and can inflict injury and a “disproportionately light punishment” handed out to the assaulter frustrates the victim, the Supreme Court said on Thursday, sentencing former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu to a year’s rigorous imprisonment in a 1988 road rage case.
A fine of Rs 1,000 is grossly inadequate punishment for a crime involving the death of Gurnam Singh, the SC said, agreeing with review petitioner’s counsel Sidharth Luthra. “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,” the bench said.
Justices SK Kaul and AM Khanwilkar said, “While a disproportionately severe sentence ought not to be passed, simultaneously it also does not clothe the law courts to award a sentence which would be manifestly inadequate, having due regard to the nature of the offence, since an inadequate sentence would fail to produce a deterrent effect on the society at large.”
Explaining why the SC in March 2018 imposed a lenient sentence, the bench said some material aspects which were required to be taken note of appear to have been somehow missed out at the stage of sentencing, such as the physical fitness of Sidhu as he was an international cricketer, who was tall and well built and aware of the force of a blow that even his hand would carry.
“Sidhu cannot say that he did not know the effect of the blow or plead ignorance on this aspect… In the given circumstances, tempers may have been lost but then the consequences of the loss of temper must be borne,” it said.
Sidhu, along with co-accused Rupinder Singh Sandhu, was tried for charges under Section 302 IPC and Section 323 read with Section 34 (common intention) of IPC, but was acquitted by a Patiala court on September 22, 1999. On the Punjab government’s appeal, the HC in December 2006 convicted Sidhu under Section 304-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and sentenced them to three years’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1 lakh each. On January 23, 2007, the apex court had suspended the conviction and sentence.
The 2007 SC order remained in force for more than 11 years and on May 15, 2018, another bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar wrote a final judgment on Sidhu’s appeal saying he was at best liable to be convicted under Section 323 of IPC, which provided a punishment of one year imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000. Justice Chelameswar had said since it was a 30-year-old offence, Sidhu could be let off with a fine of Rs 1,000.

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