Read Order: Satvir Kumar @ Surinder Kumar v. State Of Punjab

LE Correspondent

New Delhi, April 6, 2022: In view of the law laid by the full bench in Joginder Singh v. State of Punjab wherein it was held that a mere prescription of minimum sentence under Section 61 (1) (c) of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914 is not a bar to the applicability of Section 360 and 361 Cr.P.C. and the same itself is not a reason sufficient for denying the benefit of probation to a person convicted thereunder, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana has granted parole for a period of two years to the petitioner who was convicted for committing offence made punishable under Section 61(1) (a) (b) (c) of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914

While partly allowing the revision petition, the Bench of Justice Vinod S. Bhardwaj added, 

“The petitioner has already undergone an actual custody of 10 months and 09 days and a total sentence of a one year and 14 days, out of the total awarded sentence of 02 years… The petitioner has also availed parole of 545 days and had not involved himself in any other untoward incident or illegal activity.”

In this case, an FIR was registered against the accused/petitioner under Section 61 (1) of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914 for the reason that the petitioner was found to be in possession of 06 bottles and a quarter of illicit liquor (750 ML each) and 15 litres lahan. It was alleged that the petitioner was distilling illicit liquor without any permit or licence. 

Accordingly, the investigation was initiated and the recovered lahan, illicit liquor and the utensils deployed for distilling illicit liquor were taken into police possession. Upon conclusion of the investigation, a final report was filed and charges were framed against the petitioner under Section 61(1) (a) (b) (c) of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914. 

Upon consideration of the rival submissions advanced by the parties before the Trial Court, a finding of conviction was recorded by the Lower Court and the petitioner was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment. Aggrieved, the petitioner preferred an appeal before the Court of Sessions Judge, Fazilka, however, the same was dismissed. Hence, the instant revision petition was filed against the judgment of conviction and order of sentence.

The petitioner’s counsel restricted his arguments to the quantum of sentence and did not challenge the judgment on merits. He sought the grant of the benefit of probation as the sentence awarded to the petitioner was less than 03 years and the petitioner was a first-time offender. It was the case of the counsel that the case of the petitioner was covered within guidelines prescribed under Section 360 Cr.P.C. Besides, the Counsel added that the petitioner also underwent actual custody of 10 months including the custody as an under-trial and a total sentence of one year including remissions out of the awarded sentence of two years. 

The Counsel placed reliance on the case of Joginder Singh (Supra) to substantiate his case. A further reference was made to the judgment in the matter of “Dalbir Singh versus State of Punjab” reported as 2015 (3) R.C.R. (Criminal) 278 where on the sentence of 01 year and in a case of recovery of 50 Kgs. of “Lahan” and 180 Mls. of illicit liquor, the benefit of probation was extended to the accused. 

Upon consideration of the facts of the case and the precedents cited, the Court took note of the mitigating circumstance which emerged in this case. One such mitigating factor was that the incident in question occurred in the year 2018 and there was nothing to suggest that the petitioner was involved in any other case thereafter. Further, the Court observed (from the custody certificate filed by the State of Punjab) that the petitioner was not involved in any case prior to the occurrence in question. The Court also noted that even though the petitioner was on bail during the trial, he did not misuse such concession and was not indulged in the commission of any other offence. 

Also, the fact that the petitioner was a first-time offender and that he underwent actual custody of 10 months and 09 days and a total sentence of one year and 14 days, out of the total awarded sentence of 02 years, was considered by Justice Bhardwaj

Further, the Court observed that the petitioner did not involve himself in any other untoward incident or illegal activity while he was out on parole for 545 days. Also, the Court considered the fact that the petitioner was approximately 45 years of age and he had a family to support and look after. 

Thus, in view of the above cumulative mitigating circumstances, noticed above, the present revision petition was partly allowed.

The petitioner was ordered to be released on probation for a period of 02 years on the date he would furnish his bonds with regard to maintaining good behaviour to the satisfaction of the Trial Court. During the period of probation, the Court directed the petitioner to not commit any offence and maintain good behaviour. He was also directed to give an undertaking to the trial court that he would undergo the remaining part of his sentence if called upon to do so by a court of competent jurisdiction during the period of probation.

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