Section 427 Of Cr.PC : Supreme Court Summarises Principles Of Awarding Concurrent Sentence
A Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justice MR Shah and Justice BV Nagarathna has upheld the powers of the Trial Courts to use its discretion while deciding whether sentence in a subsequent conviction should run concurrently or consecutively while laying down principles applicable to Section 427 Cr.PC.
The Court considered the question whether the sentences imposed against the Appellant – accused by two different courts in two different trials should run concurrently, as submitted on behalf of the appellant – accused or consecutively as awarded.
After considering Section 427 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC) and the various judgments on the issue in question, the Court summarised the principles of law as under:
(i) if a person already undergoing a sentence of imprisonment is sentenced on a subsequent conviction to imprisonment, such subsequent term of imprisonment would normally commence at the expiration of the imprisonment to which he was previously sentenced;
(ii) ordinarily the subsequent sentence would commence at the expiration of the first term of imprisonment unless the court directs the subsequent sentence to run concurrently with the previous entence;
(iii) the general rule is that where there are different transactions, different crime numbers and cases have been decided by the different judgments, concurrent sentence cannot be awarded under Section 427 of Cr.PC;
(iv) under Section 427 (1) of Cr.PC the court has the power and discretion to issue a direction that all the subsequent sentences run concurrently with the previous sentence, however discretion has to be exercised judiciously depending upon the nature of the offence or the offences committed and the facts in situation. However, there must be a specific direction or order by the court that the subsequent sentence to run concurrently with the previous sentence.
In this case, the Appellant was convicted for 12 years imprisonment the offence under Section 23 and Section 21 of the NDPS Act, PS Customs, Amritsar, Punjab for recovery of 4 kg of heroin. Another FIR was was registered against him at New Delhi for recovery of 750 grams of heroin from Delhi. The Trial Court in the second case awarded a sentence of 15 years RI. No specific order was passed by the Trial Court at Delhi in the subsequent trial as to whether the sentence imposed would run concurrently or consecutively.
Advocate Sangeeta Kumar appeared for the Appellant while Advocate Akaanksha Kaul represented the State.
After hearing the parties, the Court dismissed the Appeal filed by the Appellant by concluding that the Appellant has been convicted with respect to two different transactions. The Court held that there are different crime numbers and the cases have been decided by different judgments. The Court noted that there is no order or direction issued by the court while imposing the subsequent sentence on whether the subsequent sentence would run concurrently with the previous sentence.
The Court stated, "Even otherwise as observed hereinabove under Section 427 (1) of Cr.PC, the Court has the power and discretion to issue a direction that the subsequent sentence to run concurrently with the previous sentence in that case also, the discretion has to be exercised judiciously depending upon the nature ofoffence or the offences committed."
Looking to the facts of the case, the Court opined that no leniency should be shown to an accused who is found to be guilty for the offence under the NDPS Act.
"Those persons who are dealing in narcotic drugs are instruments in causing death or in inflicting death blow to a number of innocent young victims who are vulnerable. Such accused causes deleterious effects and deadly impact on the society. They are hazard to the society. Such organized activities of clandestine smuggling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances into this country and illegal trafficking in such drugs and substances have a deadly impact on the society as a whole," the Bench observed.
The Bench noted that the Trial Courts should not use its discretion under Section 427 in favor of the accused who indulged in the narcotic substances and the such discretion should be exercised judiciously depending upon the offence committed.
"Therefore, while awarding the sentence or punishment in case of NDPS Act, the interest of the society as a whole is required to be taken into consideration. Therefore, even while applying discretion under Section 427 of Cr.PC, the discretion shall not be in favour of the accused who is found to be indulging in illegal trafficking in the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. As observed hereinabove, even while exercising discretion under Section 427 of Cr.PC to run subsequent sentence concurrently with the previous sentence, the discretion is to be exercised judiciously and depending upon the offence/offences committed," the Bench noted.
While dismissing the Appeal, the Court observed, "Considering the offences under the NDPS Act which are very serious in nature and against the society at large, no discretion shall be exercised in favour of such accused who is indulging into the offence under the NDPS Act."