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Quantum of Punishment: A Tale of Justice and Family Ties

Punishment shall be commensurate with the crime. Even if a crime is committed with a close family member, that by itself will not be considered as a mitigating circumstance. Misguided leniency encourages criminals, and society suffers when pleas for reduction are based on delay or the accused having married and settled.

The Apex Court has ruled that this is not a tenable ground for an offense under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Sentencing requires great care and caution. The law provides both maximum and minimum terms of punishment, and courts have wide powers and discretion to select the proper term and quantum of punishment for offenders, considering the gravity of the crime, circumstances of its commission, harm caused to the victim, age, and previous conduct of the culprit.

In the matter at hand, the accused, who was a distant relative of the deceased, attacked her with a lathi, causing grievous injuries to her head and vital points of her body without any provocation from her side. She was unarmed and not in a position to harm the accused in any way. When PW1 intervened, she too was given two lathi blows. The accused's conduct does not mitigate the circumstances in his favor. The trial court has already been benevolent by convicting him under Section 304 Part II of the IPC instead of Section 302.

Since no appeal challenging that judgment has been filed by the State, the Court must uphold the conviction. The seven-year imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 5000/- awarded to the accused-appellant is not excessive by any standard. In a similar case (Camilio Vaz v. State of Goa), the Apex Court awarded seven years of rigorous imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 50,000/- under Section 304 Part II IPC. While other judgments may have awarded five years of imprisonment along with a fine, the specific facts and circumstances of each case play a crucial role.

Considering that an unarmed, helpless lady received vital blows from a lathi without provocation, and when her sister (PW1) tried to intervene, she too was struck, the Court finds no valid and sufficient reasons to interfere with the quantum of sentence. However, if the fine is released, it should be paid to the deceased's husband, who likely incurred substantial expenses for her treatment.

Written By: S Kundu & Associates
Email: [email protected], Ph No: +9051244073

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