The principle of sentencing proportionality and adequacy of sentence

In the case of Sumer Singh v. Surajbhan Singh and others reported in , (2014)7 SCC 323, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had an occasion to consider the principle of sentencing proportionality and adequacy of sentence. In the aforesaid decision while emphasizing the need for appropriate punishment in paragraph- 36 the Hon’ble Supreme Court has observed and held as under:–

“36. Having discussed about the discretion, presently we shall advert to the duty of the court in the exercise of power while imposing sentence for an offence. It is the duty of the court to impose adequate sentence, for one of the purposes of imposition of requisite sentence is protection of the society and a legitimate response to the collective conscience. The paramount principle that should be the guiding laser beam is that the punishment should be proportionate. It is the answer of law to the social conscience. In a way, it is an obligation to the society which has reposed faith in the court of law to curtail the evil. While imposing the sentence it is the Court’s accountability to remind itself about its role and the reverence for rule of law. It must evince the rationalized judicial discretion and not an individual perception or a moral propensity. But, if in the ultimate eventuate the proper sentence is not awarded, the fundamental grammar of sentencing is guillotined. Law cannot tolerate it; society does not withstand it; and sanctity of conscience abhors it. The old saying “the law can hunt one’s past” cannot be allowed to be buried in an indecent manner and the rainbow of mercy, for no fathomable reason, should be allowed to rule. True it is, it has its own room, but, in all circumstances, it cannot be allowed to occupy the whole accommodation. The victim, in this case, still cries for justice. We do not think that increase in fine amount or grant of compensation under the IPC would be a justified answer in law. Money cannot be the oasis. It cannot assume the centre stage for all redemption. Interference in manifestly inadequate and unduly lenient sentence is the justifiable warrant, for the Court cannot close its eyes to the agony and anguish of the victim and, eventually, to the cry of the society. Therefore, striking the balance we are disposed to think that the cause of justice would be best subserved if the respondent is sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment of two years apart from the fine that has been imposed by the learned trial Judge.”

 Again in the case of Narinder Singh and others v. State of Punjab and another reported in , (2014) 6 SCC 466, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had an occasion to consider the sentencing policy, the purpose/jurisprudential justification of awarding sentence (deterrence, retribution or rehabilitation) vis-a-vis nature of crime. In para 14, 16 and 17 the Hon’ble Supreme Court has observed as under:

“14. The Law prohibits certain acts and/or conduct and treats them as offences. Any person committing those acts is subject to penal consequences which may be of various kind. Mostly, punishment provided for committing offences is either imprisonment or monetary fine or both. Imprisonment can be rigorous or simple in nature. Why those persons who commit offences are subjected to such penal consequences? There are many philosophies behind such sentencing justifying these penal consequences. The philosophical/jurisprudential justification can be retribution, incapacitation, specific deterrence, general deterrence, rehabilitation, or restoration. Any of the above or a combination thereof can be the goal of sentencing.


Categories: Criminal

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