Supreme Court Demands 'Comprehensive Sentencing Policy' in Landmark Ruling

Mainstream
21-May-2024
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In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has directed the Central government to submit an affidavit within six months regarding the feasibility of introducing a comprehensive sentencing policy for criminal offenses. This move comes amidst growing concerns over disparities in sentencing across cases.

Expressing concern over the lack of a clear policy or law on sentencing, the Bench of Justices MM Sundresh and SVN Bhatti emphasized the need for consistency and fairness in judicial decisions.

"Sentencing shall not be a mere lottery ... Any unwarranted disparity would be against the very concept of a fair trial and, therefore, against justice," the Court observed. The issue, deemed complex by the Court, necessitates thorough discussion and debate involving all stakeholders, including the State and Union governments.

"This issue might require constituting an appropriate Commission on Sentencing consisting of various experts and stakeholders ... Societal experience would come handy in coming to a correct conclusion," the Bench opined.

The ruling stemmed from a batch of appeals against a Patna High Court order involving the suspension of an Additional Sessions Judge from Bihar. The judge had, within a day, convicted and sentenced a man to life imprisonment for the sexual assault of a minor, prompting the High Court to order a fresh trial due to procedural irregularities.

Despite dismissing the appeals, the Supreme Court expressed concern over the hastiness of the original judgment, highlighting the denial of due opportunity to the accused. "Every trial is a journey towards the truth ... It seems to us that the decision was rendered in the utmost haste," the apex court remarked.

The Supreme Court's directive underscores the critical need for a structured sentencing policy to ensure fairness, consistency, and adherence to constitutional principles. As the legal landscape evolves, this ruling serves as a pivotal moment in addressing systemic issues within the criminal justice system, promoting transparency, and upholding the fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

Author: Anushka Taraniya

News writer, MIT ADT University