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Women criminals can be shown leniency, says Supreme Court

April 13, 2017

But No Mercy In Terror Cases, Court Clarifies

Supreme Court
Supreme Court

Gender isn’t a mitigating factor when it comes to punishment for any criminal acts, the Apex Court said that in Indian context, a woman convict who’s having 3 minor children to support would be a ground for courts to impose a lenient sentence on her.

But, compassion or mercy may not be shown in case in which a woman has committed a crime as part of a terrorist group, the court said.

The Supreme Court was hearing a case about a woman who helped a man rob another of ₹27,000 by drugging him in August 2000.

The victim was beaten up badly & left at a place near Himachal Pradesh’s Dalhousie. The woman was convicted of this offence, which is punishable with imprisonment up to 10 years.

A Chamba Trial Court took note that the woman had 3 children, 2 of whom were of unsound mind. In 2003, it awarded a sentence of 2 years in jail to her and a fine of ₹6,000. After 9 years, the Himachal High Court took a further lenient view & erased the sentence by substituting it with a fine of ₹30,000. The state govt. has appealed against this in the Supreme Court.

Apex Court bench of Justice A K Sikri & Justice Ashok Bhushan, through separate yet concurring recent judgments, agreed that slight leniency for the women criminals was justified in Indian context but it shouldn’t be to an extent to completely erase the trial court’s already lenient 2 year sentence.

Debating between reformative & deterrence mechanisms to quantify sentence, Justice A K Sikri said that when the Indian Penal Code provides discretion to the Indian judges in awarding sentences, the court will undoubtedly regard mitigating & extenuating circumstances.

Referring to the mitigating circumstances canvassed by the convict -being a woman & having to support 3 minor children -Justice A K Sikri said, “…In so far as Indian judicial mind is concerned, I find that in certain decisions of the court, gender is taken as a relevant circumstance while fixing the quantum of sentence.

I may add that it would depend upon the facts of each case and no hard and fast rule can be laid down.“ Justice A K Sikri restored the trial court’s lenient sentence of 2 imprisonment to the woman convict.

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