Cannot allow default sentences to run concurrently: SC
New Delhi, Sep 21: The Supreme Court has held that default sentences cannot be directed to run concurrently, as it may defeat the very objective of the punishment.
A bench of Justices A M Sapre and U U Lalit said, "If imposition of fine and prescription of mandatory minimum is designed to achieve a specific purpose, the very objective will get defeated if the default sentences were directed to run concurrently."
The top court's verdict came on a plea filed by Maharashtra resident Sharad Hiru Kolambe, challenging a Bombay High Court order passed in December 2013, which upheld his conviction under various offences including MCOCA.
Kolambe was charged under provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999 and under Sections 364A (kidnapping for ransom), 395 (dacoity), 397 (robbery, or dacoity, with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt) and 387 (putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt, in order to commit extortion) of the India Penal Code.
He was never released after arrest, during the trial as well as during the pendency of the appeal and thus completed 14 years of actual sentence awarded to him.
Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Kolambe, had contended that the cumulative fine imposed upon Kolambe under various counts of punishment was over Rs 15 lakh and the default sentence in case of non-payment was cumulatively 10 years.
He submitted that it was impossible for Kolambe to deposit the fine due to the financial condition of the family.
"For a person whose family was reduced to a state of starvation, it was impossible to deposit payment of fine as directed. Resultantly, the appellant would have to suffer default sentence of 10 years," said Gonslaves.
He said that though the substantive sentence stood remitted and the appellant was directed to be released on completion of 14 years of actual sentence, he would still be inside till he completes 24 years.
The court in its 20-page verdict penned down by Justice Lalit said that if default sentences awarded in respect of imposition of fine in connection with two or more offences, are directed to run concurrently, then there would not be any occasion for the convicts to deposit the fine in respect of the further offences.
"It would effectively mean imposition of one single or combined sentence of fine. Such an exercise would render the very idea of imposition of fine with a deterrent stipulation while awarding sentence in default of payment of fine to be meaningless," said the bench.
The court highlighted the Sections 31 and 427 of the CrPC, which confers the power on court to direct running of sentences concurrently.
"In the circumstances, we reject the submission regarding concurrent running of default sentences, as in our considered view default sentences, inter se, cannot be directed to run concurrently," the bench said.
However, the court even while rejecting the submissions, considered Kolambe's financial condition and reduced the default sentence to three years and four months out of which three years have already been served by him.