New Delhi: The agony faced by a person because of long trial cannot be a reason for a court to take a lenient view while punishing the accused and reduction of sentence merely on this ground is not justifiable, the Supreme Court has ruled.
The court said that undue sympathy to impose inadequate sentence would undermine the public confidence in the efficacy of law and the punishment awarded should be directly proportionate to the nature and the magnitude of the offence.
"We also reiterate that undue sympathy to impose inadequate sentence would do more harm to the justice system to undermine the public confidence in the efficacy of law. It is the duty of every court to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in which it was executed or committed.
"The court must not only keep in view rights of the victim of the crime but also the society at large while considering imposition of appropriate punishment," it said.
A bench headed by Justice P Sathasivam set aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court`s verdict which reduced the sentence of five years imprisonment to jail term undergone to an accused who spent just 14 months behind the bars during trial on the ground that it took 14 years for courts to conclude trial and his appeal in an attempt to murder case.
"It is unfortunate that the high court failed to appreciate that the reduction of sentence merely on the ground of long pending trial is not justifiable," the bench said.
The apex court said that punishment meted out to a convict should be proportionate to the gravity of the offence.
"The cardinal principle of sentencing policy is that the sentence imposed on an offender should reflect the crime he has committed and should be proportionate to the gravity of the offence. This court has repeatedly stressed the central role of proportionality in sentencing of offenders in numerous cases," it said.
"The legislature has bestowed upon the judiciary this enormous discretion in the sentencing policy, which must be exercised with utmost care and caution. The punishment awarded should be directly proportionate to the nature and the magnitude of the offence. The benchmark of proportionate sentencing can assist the judges in arriving at a fair and impartial verdict," it further said.