The Benefit of Probation Under PO Act isn’t Excluded by the Provisions of the Mandatory Minimum Sentence Prescribed for Offences Under IPC: SC

The benefit of probation under PO Act isn’t excluded by the provisions of the mandatory minimum sentence prescribed for offences under IPC: SC

The benefit of probation under Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 is not excluded by the provisions of the mandatory minimum sentence prescribed for offences under Indian Penal Code, noted the Apex Court.

Brief Facts of the Case

  • The accused were convicted under Section 397 IPC and were sentenced to undergo Rigorous Imprisonment of 7 years each.
  • In appeal it was contented by the accused that the dispute had been amicably resolved.
  • Defending the prayer of the accused seeking benefit under the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, the state argued that the minimum sentence provided by the statute under Section 397 is 7 years and the same cannot be reduced below that period.

Observation of the Court

  • The Court held that Section 4 of the Act could come to the aid of the accused as the offence committed, of which they have been found guilty, is not punishable with death or imprisonment for life. Further, the Court said that since they were under 21 years of age on the date of the offence and not on the date of conviction, Section 6 would not come to their aid.
  • “The legal position insofar as invocation of Section 4 is concerned has been analysed in Ishar Das vs. State of Punjab elucidating that nonobstante clause in Section 4 of the Act reflected the legislative intent that provisions of the Act have effect notwithstanding any other law in force at that time. The observation in Ramji Missar (supra) was cited with approval to the effect that in case of any ambiguity, the beneficial provisions of the Act should receive wide interpretation and should not be read in a restricted sense”, the judgment stated.
  • The fact that Section 18 of the Act does not include any other such offences where a mandatory minimum sentence has been prescribed suggests that the Act may be invoked in such other offences. A more nuanced interpretation on this aspect was given in CCE vs. Bahubali. It was opined that the Act may not apply in cases where a specific law enacted after 1958 prescribes a mandatory minimum sentence, and the law contains a non-obstante clause. Thus, the benefits of the Act did not apply in case of mandatory minimum sentences prescribed by special legislation enacted after the Act.It is in this context, it was observed in State of Madhya Pradesh vs. Vikram Das (Supra) that the court cannot award a sentence less than the mandatory sentence prescribed by the statute. We are of the view that the corollary to the aforesaid legal decisions ends with a conclusion that the benefit of probation under the said Act is not excluded by the provisions of the mandatory minimum sentence under Section 397 of IPC, the offence in the present case,
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    observed the Court on the contention that Courts cannot impose less than the minimum sentence prescribed by the statute.
  • Hence, the Court directed the release of the accused on probation of good conduct under Section 4 of the said Act ‘on their completion of half the sentence and on their entering into a bond with two sureties each to ensure that they maintain peace and good behavior for the remaining part of their sentence, failing which they can be called upon to serve that part of the sentence.’

Case name: LAKHVIR SINGH VS. STATE OF PUNJAB

Citation: CRIMINAL APPEAL NOs.47-48 OF 2021

Coram: Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy

The benefit of probation under PO Act isn’t excluded by the provisions of the mandatory minimum sentence prescribed for offences under IPC: SC

Also Read: Is ‘Malice’ A Ground To Challenge A Law Made By The Legislature?

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