Read Order: Gurjant Singh vs. State of Punjab

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, November 18 ,2021: The Supreme Court has held that an appeal could not have been dismissed as infructuous, simply because nobody was present for the appellant for any reason. 

A Division Bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Vikram Nath therefore affirmed the contention of Appellant’s counsel that an appeal against conviction could not have been treated as infructuous merely for the reason that the convicted appellant had served out the sentence awarded by the Trial Court.

The observation came pursuant to appeals challenging the order passed by Punjab & Haryana High Court (Chandigarh Bench), whereby, the regular criminal appeal filed by Gurjant Singh (Appellant) came to be dismissed, when no one appeared for the appellant and the Court accepted the submission of the State counsel that the appeal was rendered infructuous for the reason that the appellant had served out the sentence. 

The counsel for the Appellant pointed out that the sentence awarded to the appellant was only of five months’ imprisonment with fine of Rs.3,000; and even at the initial stage of appeal, it was specifically pointed out that the appellant had undergone the sentence of imprisonment and had deposited the fine imposed but, he was nevertheless seeking to assail his conviction.

The Apex Court noted that the order of the High Court effectively leads to the confirmation of the appellant’s conviction of offence u/s 18 of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985

Though the counsel for the respondent has attempted to support the conviction and sentence of the appellant but could not dispute the position that merely for execution of the sentence, an appeal against conviction cannot be treated as infructuous, added the Bench.

Noticing that the matter before the High Court was an appeal against conviction, the Bench observed that if nobody was present for the appellant for any reason, the High Court could have taken appropriate steps for representation on behalf of the appellant but, in any case, the appeal could not have been dismissed as infructuous.

Therefore, while setting aside the order of the High Court, the Apex Court restored the appeal filed by the appellant before the High Court to its number for consideration on merits.

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