Thursday, 18 August 2016

When court should not award consecutive sentences?

 Dealing with the question of sentences of imprisonment being consecutive or concurrent, this Court in Mohd. Akhtar Hussain v. Collector of Customs MANU/SC/0290/1988 : (1988) 4 SCC 183 had evolved the rule of a single transaction giving rise to two different or more offences under two or more enactments. This Court had taken the view that if a single transaction gives rise to more than one offence under different enactments it would not be correct to award consecutive sentences. The said view of this Court has been reiterated in Manoj Alias Panu v. State of Haryana MANU/SC/1251/2013 : 2014 (1) R.C.R. (Criminal) 525 : 2014 (1) Recent Apex Judgments (R.A.J.) 197 : (2014) 2 SCC 153 (paras 14 and 15).
5. In the present case, the charge Under Section 344 Indian Penal Code is in respect of illegal confinement of 27 persons on the same day. Similar is the charge under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 extracted above. In such a situation, the rule laid down by this Court in Mohd. Akhtar Hussain (supra) and consistently followed thereafter would be squarely applicable.
6. Mr. R. Basant, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the victims who has also been heard in the matter has laid before this Court a recent pronouncement in O.M. Cherian Alias Thankachan v. State of Kerala and Ors. MANU/SC/1003/2014 : 2014 (4) R.C.R. (Criminal) 922 : 2014 (6) Recent Apex Judgments (R.A.J.) 297 : (2015) 2 SCC 501. We have read and considered the aforesaid decision. The ratio of law discernible from the aforesaid judgment does not, in any way, depart from the basic rule laid down in Mohd. Akhtar Hussain (supra) with regard to two or more offences committed in the course of a single act/transaction.
7. In the present case, having regard to the law evolved in Mohd. Akhtar Hussain (supra) and consistently followed we are of the view that the award of consecutive sentences by the learned courts below was not correct and is contrary to the principles laid down by this Court in Mohd. Akhtar Hussain (supra). Consequently, we interfere with the order of the High Court insofar as the imposition of consecutive sentences is concerned and direct that the accused Appellant shall suffer imprisonment for the period(s) for which he has been sentenced for the different offences concurrently and not consecutively.
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Criminal Appeal No. 1617 of 2015 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 6942 of 2015)
Decided On: 01.12.2015
Appellants: M.S. Krishna Reddy
Vs.
Respondent: State of Karnataka
Hon'ble Judges/Coram:Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton Fali Nariman, JJ.

Citation: 2016 ALL SCR (CRI)399

1. Leave granted. The accused Appellant has been convicted Under Section 344 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 ("Indian Penal Code" for short) as well as under the provisions of Section 3 read with Section 14 of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and Section 16 and 17 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. He has been sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for two years for the offence Under Section 344 Indian Penal Code (Indian Penal Code); simple imprisonment for one year Under Section 3 read with Section 14 of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and rigorous imprisonment for two years for each of the offences Under Sections 16 and 17 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. The learned trial Court had directed that the sentences should run consecutively. The High Court has confirmed the conviction and the sentences and also directed that the sentences of imprisonment are to run consecutively. Aggrieved, this appeal has been filed.
2. In view of the limited notice issued by this Court the only question that would be required to be considered by the Court is whether the sentences imposed on the accused Appellant are to run concurrently or consecutively.
3. Pursuant to the orders passed by this Court the charges framed against the accused Appellant by the learned trial Court have been laid before the Court. Charge framed Under Section 344 Indian Penal Code pertains to illegal confinement of 27 persons (18 adults and 9 children). The charges under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 as framed by the learned trial Court are as follows:
"1. Charges framed on 20.09.2011 You are accused on 31.08.2010 you were carrying on stone mining activities at Cheruvapalli Village, while doing so you have engaged the services of 19 bonded labours and to my knowledge you have committed the offence punishable Under Section 16and 17 of the Abolition of Bonded Labour Act.
2. On the said date and at the time, you the accused engaged the services of 8 child labours and to my knowledge, you have committed the offence Under Section 3 and 14 of the Indian Child Labour (Prevention and Control) Act.
3. Additional charge framed on 08.07.2013 on 31.08.2010 you the accused have engaged 19 bonded labours in your land and 8 child labours have detained them in your land at Malakacharuvapalli, Bagepalli Taluk, and not allowed them to go out; to my knowledge you have committed an offence Under Section 344 of Indian Penal Code."
4. Dealing with the question of sentences of imprisonment being consecutive or concurrent, this Court in Mohd. Akhtar Hussain v. Collector of Customs MANU/SC/0290/1988 : (1988) 4 SCC 183 had evolved the rule of a single transaction giving rise to two different or more offences under two or more enactments. This Court had taken the view that if a single transaction gives rise to more than one offence under different enactments it would not be correct to award consecutive sentences. The said view of this Court has been reiterated in Manoj Alias Panu v. State of Haryana MANU/SC/1251/2013 : 2014 (1) R.C.R. (Criminal) 525 : 2014 (1) Recent Apex Judgments (R.A.J.) 197 : (2014) 2 SCC 153 (paras 14 and 15).
5. In the present case, the charge Under Section 344 Indian Penal Code is in respect of illegal confinement of 27 persons on the same day. Similar is the charge under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 extracted above. In such a situation, the rule laid down by this Court in Mohd. Akhtar Hussain (supra) and consistently followed thereafter would be squarely applicable.
6. Mr. R. Basant, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the victims who has also been heard in the matter has laid before this Court a recent pronouncement in O.M. Cherian Alias Thankachan v. State of Kerala and Ors. MANU/SC/1003/2014 : 2014 (4) R.C.R. (Criminal) 922 : 2014 (6) Recent Apex Judgments (R.A.J.) 297 : (2015) 2 SCC 501. We have read and considered the aforesaid decision. The ratio of law discernible from the aforesaid judgment does not, in any way, depart from the basic rule laid down in Mohd. Akhtar Hussain (supra) with regard to two or more offences committed in the course of a single act/transaction.
7. In the present case, having regard to the law evolved in Mohd. Akhtar Hussain (supra) and consistently followed we are of the view that the award of consecutive sentences by the learned courts below was not correct and is contrary to the principles laid down by this Court in Mohd. Akhtar Hussain (supra). Consequently, we interfere with the order of the High Court insofar as the imposition of consecutive sentences is concerned and direct that the accused Appellant shall suffer imprisonment for the period(s) for which he has been sentenced for the different offences concurrently and not consecutively. The appeal shall stand allowed to the extent indicated above. All pending applications shall also stand disposed of.
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