New Delhi: The Supreme Court has said the higher courts cannot proceed to decide quantum of sentence without going into the merits of the case when there is no challenge to the conviction in the appeal.
The apex court said the courts should not merely accept the "concession" of non-challenge of conviction and proceed on the punishment part, as it is "impermissible" and would defeat the fundamental purpose of the justice delivery system.
"We are obliged to state that when a convicted person prefers an appeal, he has the legitimate expectation to be dealt with by the courts in accordance with law.”
"Therefore, it is the obligation of the court to decide the appeal on merits and not accept the concession and proceed to deal with the sentence, for the said mode and method defeat the fundamental purpose of the justice delivery system. We may clearly state that the same being impermissible in law should not be resorted to," a bench comprising justices KS Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said.
The apex court gave its findings in a case in which Chhattisgarh High Court had reduced the sentences of five convicts without going into the merits of the appeal against conviction as they had advanced arguments only on punishment.
While remanding the case to the high court for deciding convictions on merit, the apex court said even if the high court chooses to dismiss the appeal summarily, some brief reasons should be given so as to enable this court to judge whether the case requires any further examination.
"If no reasons are given, the task of this court becomes onerous inasmuch as this court would be required to perform the function of the high court itself by reappraising the entire evidence resulting in serious harassment and expense to the accused," Justice Misra said.
The verdict came on an appeal by convicts challenging their conviction and sentencing by the high court for offences of rioting and causing hurt to extort property in which the trial court had sentenced them from three years imprisonment to three months.