Saturday, 23 January 2021

Whether the court can reduce punishment imposed on accused in the non-compoundable offence if there is a settlement between the parties?

In our considered opinion, it would not be appropriate to order

compounding of an offence not compoundable under the Code

ignoring and keeping aside statutory provisions. In our judgment,

however, limited submission of the learned counsel for the

appellant deserves consideration that while imposing substantive

sentence, the factum of compromise between the parties is indeed a

relevant circumstance which the Court may keep in mind.

 REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.24/2021


Murali  Vs State rep. by the Inspector of Police

 DATED : 05-01-2021

Leave granted.

2. These connected appeals have been preferred against the judgment

dated 01.11.2018 of the High Court of Madras which upheld Murali’s

(appellant in SLP (Crl) No 10813/2019) conviction under Sections 324 and

341 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”) with a sentence of three


months’ rigorous imprisonment, and Rajavelu’s (appellant in SLP (Crl)

10814/2019) conviction under Sections 307 and 341 of IPC and sentence of

five years’ rigorous imprisonment.

3. The prosecution case, in brief, is that on 07.08.2005, one Senthil had

a verbal altercation with Kumar (original accused no. 3) and Krishnan

(original accused no. 5) during a volleyball match. The injuredvictim

(Sathya

@ Sathiyajothi) came to the aid of his friend Senthil and opposed both

Kumar and Krishnan. Thereafter at about 2:30PM on 09.08.2005, the

appellants – Rajavelu and Murali (original accused nos. 1 and 2) along with

Muthu, Kumar and Krishnan (original accused nos. 3, 4 and 5) cornered the

victim and assaulted him. Murali allegedly struck the victim on his head

with a hockey stick and Rajavelu tried to kill him by giving a neck blow with

a Veechu Aruval (sharpedged

object), which was fortunately blocked by the

victim. In the process, the left hand of the victim and the thumb and finger

of his right hand got severed. The victim was able to escape and the matter

was reported by his friend, PW1.

All five persons were arrested. It further

led to registration of Crime No. 531 of 2005 under Sections

147,148,341,352, 323, 324, 307 and 34 of the IPC.

4. Relying upon the testimony of the victim (PW3),

which was held to be

unimpeachable and stellar, the Assistant Sessions Judge cumChief

Judicial Magistrate, Cuddalore, vide his judgment dated 28.01.2012 held

Murali guilty of wrongfully restraining the victim and voluntarily causing

hurt with a dangerous weapon. Based upon the medical evidence and

recovery of the Veechu Aruval from Rajavelu, the trial Court further opined

that the secondappellant

(Rajavelu) had a clear intention to murder the

victim and that if not for the victim defending himself, a fatal injury would

have been caused to his neck and he would have died instantaneously.

Consequently, a concurrent sentence of three months’ rigorous

imprisonment under Section 324 IPC and onemonth

rigorous

imprisonment under Section 341 IPC was imposed on Murali, and Rajavelu

was awarded five years’ rigorous imprisonment under Section 307 IPC and

another one month rigorous imprisonment under Section 341 IPC. Muthu,

Kumar and Krishnan were acquitted as there was no specific allegation by

the victim and no weapon or injury had been attributed to them by the

prosecution.

5. The convictappellants

challenged the aforestated

judgment before

two forums, both of which unanimously upheld their conviction. The

Additional DistrictcumSessions

Judge dismissed the first appeal through

an order dated 20.08.2013 and their criminal revision petition before the

High Court also met with the same fate vide an order dated 01.11.2018.

6. Unsatisfied still, the appellants have approached this Court seeking

special leave to appeal against the High Court’s dismissal of their

conviction. However, through an application filed on 22.11.2019, they have

sought to implead the injured victim

and get their offences compounded


based on mutual resolution and peaceful settlement between the parties.

This Court, nevertheless, issued limited notice only on the quantum of

sentence.

7. The records of the case elicit that the findings of all three preceding

forums are concurrent and without fault. Not only have the appellants been

unable to mount an effective challenge founded upon a question of law,

their learned Counsels, given the subsequent events and change in

circumstances, have very fairly restricted their prayer qua reduction of

sentence only.

8. A perusal of the applications for impleadment and compounding

makes it clear that the parties have on the advice of their elders entered into

an amicable settlement. The appellants have admitted their fault, taken

responsibility for their actions, and have maturely sought forgiveness from

the victim. In turn, the victim has benevolently acknowledged the apology,

and considering the young age of the appellants at the time of the incident,

has forgiven the appellants and settled the dispute. Learned Counsel for the

victimapplicant

has reiterated the same stance during oral hearings also.

9. There can be no doubt that Section 320 of the Criminal Procedure

Code, 1973 (“CrPC”) does not encapsulate Section 324 and 307 IPC under

its list of compoundable offences. Given the unequivocal language of Section

320(9) CrPC which explicitly prohibits any compounding except as

permitted under the said provision, it would not be possible to compound the appellants’ offences.

10. Notwithstanding thereto, it appears to us that the fact of amicable

settlement can be a relevant factor for the purpose of reduction in the

quantum of sentence. In somewhat similar circumstances where the parties

decided to forget their past and live amicably, this Court in Ram Pujan v.

State of UP [(1973) 2 SCC 456], held as follows:

“6. The only question with which we are concerned, as mentioned earlier,

is about the sentence. In this respect we find that an application for

compromise on behalf of the injured prosecution witnesses and the

appellants was filed before the High Court. It was stated in the application

that the appellants and the injured persons, who belong to one family, had

amicably settled their dispute and wanted to live in peace. The High Court

thereupon referred the matter to the trial court for verification of the

compromise. After the compromise was got verified, the High Court passed

an order stating that as the offence under Section 326 of the Penal Code,

1860 was noncompoundable,

permission to compound the offence could

not be granted. The High Court all the same reduced the sentence for the

offence under Section 326 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code, 1860

from four years to two years.

7. The appellants during the pendency of the appeal were not released on

bail and are stated to have already undergone a sentence of rigorous

imprisonment for a period of more than four months. As the parties who

belong to one family have settled their dispute, it is, in our opinion, not

necessary to keep the appellants in jail for a longer period. The major

offence for which the appellants have been convicted is no doubt

noncompoundable,

but the fact of compromise can be taken into

account in determining the quantum of sentence. It would, in our

opinion, meet the ends of justice if the sentence of imprisonment

awarded to the appellants is reduced to the period already

undergone provided each of the appellants pays a fine of Rs 1500 in

addition to the period of imprisonment already undergone for the offence

under Section 326 read with Section 34 of the of the Penal Code, 1860. In

default of payment of fine, each of the appellants shall undergo rigorous

imprisonment for a total period of one year for the offence under Section

326 read with Section 34 of the of the Penal Code, 1860. Out of the fine, if

realised, Rs 2000 should be paid to Ram Sewak and Rs 2000 to Ram

Samujh as compensation. We order accordingly.”

(emphasis supplied)

11. The aforecited

view has been consistently followed by this Court

including in Ishwar Singh v. State of MP [(2008) 15 SCC 667], laying

down that:

“13. In Jetha Ram v. State of Rajasthan [(2006) 9 SCC 255 : (2006) 2 SCC

(Cri) 561] , Murugesan v. Ganapathy Velar [(2001) 10 SCC 504 : 2003 SCC

(Cri) 1032] and Ishwarlal v. State of M.P. [(2008) 15 SCC 671 : JT (1988) 3

SC 36 (1)] this Court, while taking into account the fact of compromise

between the parties, reduced sentence imposed on the appellantaccused

to already undergone, though the offences were not compoundable. But it

was also stated that in Mahesh Chand v. State of Rajasthan [1990 Supp

SCC 681 : 1991 SCC (Cri) 159 : AIR 1988 SC 2111] such offence was

ordered to be compounded.

14. In our considered opinion, it would not be appropriate to order

compounding of an offence not compoundable under the Code

ignoring and keeping aside statutory provisions. In our judgment,

however, limited submission of the learned counsel for the

appellant deserves consideration that while imposing substantive

sentence, the factum of compromise between the parties is indeed a

relevant circumstance which the Court may keep in mind.

15. In the instant case, the incident took place before more than fifteen

years; the parties are residing in one and the same village and they are

also relatives. The appellant was about 20 years of age at the time of

commission of crime. It was his first offence. After conviction, the petitioner

was taken into custody. During the pendency of appeal before the High

Court, he was enlarged on bail but, after the decision of the High Court, he

again surrendered and is in jail at present. Though he had applied for bail,

the prayer was not granted and he was not released on bail. Considering

the totality of facts and circumstances, in our opinion, the ends of justice

would be met if the sentence of imprisonment awarded to the appellant

(Accused 1) is reduced to the period already undergone.”

(emphasis supplied)

12. In later decisions including in Ram Lal v. State of J&K, [(1999) 2

SCC 213], Bankat v. State of Maharashtra, [(2005) 1 SCC 343], Mohar

Singh v. State of Rajasthan [(2015) 11 SCC 226], Nanda Gopalan v.

State of Kerala [(2015) 11 SCC 137], Shankar v. State of Maharashtra,

[(2019) 5 SCC 166], this Court has taken note of the compromise between

parties to reduce the sentence of the convicts even in serious noncompoundable

offences.

13. Given this position of law and the peculiar circumstances arising out

of subsequent events, we are of the considered opinion that it is a fit case to

take a sympathetic view and reconsider the quantum of sentences awarded

to the appellants. We say so because: first, the parties to the dispute have

mutually buried their hatchet. The separate affidavit of the victim inspires

confidence that the apology has voluntarily been accepted given the efflux of

time and owing to the maturity brought about by age. There is no question

of the settlement being as a result of any coercion or inducement.

Considering that the parties are on friendly terms now and they inhabit the

same society, this is a fit case for reduction of sentence.

14. Second, at the time of the incident, the victim was a college student,

and both appellants too were no older than 2022

years. The attack was in

pursuance of a verbal altercation during a sports match, with there being no

previous enmity between the parties. It does raise hope that parties would

have grown up and have mended their ways. Indeed, in the present case,

fifteen years have elapsed since the incident. The appellants are today in

their midthirties

and present little chance of committing the same crime.

15. Third, the appellants have no other criminal antecedents, no previous

enmity, and today are married and have children. They are the sole bread

earners of their family and have significant social obligations to tend to. In

such circumstances, it might not serve the interests of society to keep them

incarcerated any further.

16. Finally, both appellants have served a significant portion of their

sentences. Murali has undergone more than half of his sentence and

Rajavelu has been in jail for more than one year and eight months.


17. Considering all these unique factors, including the compromise

between the parties, we deem it appropriate to reduce the quantum of the

sentence imposed on the appellants. The appeals are, therefore, partly

allowed and sentence of both the appellants is reduced to the period

already undergone by them. Consequently, they are set free and their bail

bonds, if any, are discharged. Any pending applications are disposed of

accordingly.

………………………………………….. J.

(N.V. RAMANA)

…………………………………………… J.

(SURYA KANT)

…………………..………………………. J.

(ANIRUDDHA BOSE)

NEW DELHI

DATED : 05012021


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