‘No undue sympathy’: Supreme Court restores 2-year jail term on rash driver

ByAbraham Thomas
Mar 31, 2023 10:24 PM IST

SC’s order was passed by a bench of justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar on Tuesday on an appeal by the Punjab government.

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has set aside the Punjab and Haryana high court’s verdict reducing the jail term of a man convicted of causing death due to rash and negligent driving, ruling that the high court order showed undue sympathy to the accused to reduce the jail term to eight months from 2 years on the condition that he pays 25,000 to the victim’s family.

The Supreme Court said it was not sustainable (HT File Photo)
The Supreme Court said it was not sustainable (HT File Photo)

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The top court’s order was passed by a bench of justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar on Tuesday on an appeal by the Punjab government which challenged the high court order, arguing that it could not be sustained and was a classic case of “undue sympathy”. The convict, Dil Bahadur, pleaded for leniency, underlining that he was a driver by profession of limited means and had a family to support.

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The trial court had sentenced the accused to 2 years imprisonment for rash and negligent driving. When the case reached the high court, the accused had undergone a sentence of 7 months and 15 days. The high court reduced the sentence to eight months based on the period already undergone.

Restoring the original punishment awarded to the convict by the trial court, the Supreme Court said: “The judgment and order passed by the high court (in April 2017) interfering with the sentence imposed by the trial court...by showing undue sympathy to the accused is unsustainable and the same deserves to be quashed and set aside.”

The two-judge bench, which directed the convict to surrender in four weeks, stressed that the “principle of just punishment is the bedrock of sentencing in respect of a criminal offence” and the bench had to keep in mind the “proportionality” between the crime and punishment.

“While reducing the sentence, the high court has not at all considered the gravity of the offence and the manner in which the accused committed the offence.”

The incident took place in Punjab in 2012 when the accused was driving a sports utility vehicle at a high speed and rammed an ambulance which turned turtle due to the impact. One person died in the accident and two others sustained serious injuries.

The top court did not approve of the compensation. “The financial loss, emotional and social trauma caused to a family on losing a bread-winner, or any other member of the family, or incapacitation of the victim cannot be quantified.”

The top court noticed that one of the factors that weighed with the high court to reduce the sentence was the poor economic background of the accused. “The high court has not properly considered that because of the rash and negligent driving on the part of the accused one innocent person died and two persons who were travelling in the ambulance sustained injuries.” It further stated that the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is punitive and deterrent in nature and its principal aim is to punish offenders for their crimes.

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