Read Order: Satnam Singh V. State Of Punjab 

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, March 15, 2022: In a case wherein the petitioner suffered the agony of the criminal trial for nearly 9 years, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has, considering the mitigating factor as also the fact that the petitioner was a first offender, ordered the release of the petitioner on probation for a period of one year on his furnishing personal bonds for a sum of Rs.10,000 with one surety of the like amount to the satisfaction of the Trial Court. During the period of probation, the Court directed the petitioner to maintain peace and good behaviour. 

The Bench of Justice Vinod S. Bhardwaj held, “Considering the facts as well as the legal principles as noticed above; the maximum sentence awarded by the Courts below as well as other mitigating circumstances, I am of the view that present case is a proper case where the interest of justice, would be well served in case the benefit under the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 is extended to the petitioner.”

The Court was dealing with a revision petition challenging the judgment of conviction and order of sentence passed by the Trial Court in a criminal case arising out of an FIR registered under Sections 279, 337 and 338 IPC

By means of the said judgment the petitioner, a Driver with the PRTC, was convicted and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of six months for offence under Section 279 IPC while for the offence punishable under Section 338 IPC, he was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of one year. Both the sentences were ordered to run concurrently. 

Aggrieved, an appeal was preferred by the petitioner before the Sessions Judge, Mansa which was dismissed. Thus the petitioner preferred the instant revision petition against the said judgments. 

The petitioner’s counsel argued that the case of the petitioner ought to have been considered by the Courts below under Section 360 Cr.P.C. or under Section 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 as he was not a previous convict and the offences for which he was convicted were punishable with imprisonment for a term of less than 7 years. It was further contended that there were no reasons to deny the petitioner the said benefit to which he was entitled under the law. 

Reliance was placed on the judgmetn of this Court in Chhotu Ram versus State of Haryana, Criminal Revision No. 3045 of 2017 where probation was granted to the petitioner upon his conviction in offences under Section 279, 337 and 338 IPC. 

Per contra, the State counsel did not dispute the ratio of the aforesaid judgments but defended the orders passed by the Courts below. It was argued that the petitioner endangered human life by his rash conduct. He should thus not be shown any leniency, contended the Counsel. 

The Court at the outset referred to the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court pertaining to the matter of sentencing in State of Punjab Vs. Prem Sagar & Ors (2008) 7 SCC 550, and Soman Vs. State of Kerala, (2013) 11 SCC 382. 

After perusing these decisions and applying them to the present case, the Court opined that the incident in question took place on April 3, 2013, and thus the petitioner suffered the agony of the criminal trial for nearly 9 years. Besides, the Court also noted that the petitioner was the first offender. Also, the fact that at the time of the incident, the petitioner was aged around 46 years and there was nothing to suggest that the petitioner was involved in any other offence of similar nature during trial pursuant to the registration of FIR in question or even thereafter. 

The aforesaid circumstances, the Court opined, constituted sufficient grounds for the Court to examine the case of the petitioner for release on probation. Considering the facts of the case, the legal principles the maximum laid down by the Top Court, and considering other mitigating circumstances, the Court was of the opinion that the present case was a proper case where the interest of justice, would be well served in case the benefit under the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 was extended to the petitioner.

Thus, the Trial Court decision was set aside and the petitioner was ordered to be released on probation for a period of one year on his furnishing personal bonds for a sum of Rs.10,000/- with one surety of the like amount to the satisfaction of the Trial Court. During the period of probation, the petitioner was directed to maintain peace and good behaviour. 

“The conviction shall not be treated as a disqualification attached to conviction as per Section 12 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958”, held the Court. 

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