Ashok Kumar Vs. State (Delhi
Administration)  INSC 13 (29 January 1980)
CITATION: 1980 AIR 636 1980 SCR (2) 863 1980
SCC (2) 282
Criminal trials-Sentence-Offender in his
teens at the time of committing the offence-Age, if a mitigating circumstance.
The appellant was convicted and sentenced to
two years' imprisonment and fine of Rs. 2,000 and imprisonment for six months
and fine of Rs. 500 for car lifting and scooter poaching. On the question of
Allowing the appeals,
HELD : (a) The sentence of imprisonment is
reduced to the extent of the period already undergone; but the sentences of
fine and the alternative period of imprisonment in case of default are
maintained. [865 H] (b) The long protracted litigation from 1971 onwards is
some deterrent for a young man in his 20s. The youthful age of the offender is
a factor which deserve consideration. A long period of incarceration may
brutalise a boy and blunt his finer sensibilities so that the incarceration may
perhaps be more criminal than the one at the point of entry.
The offender having served a term of nearly
six months must have realised that the game of crime does not pay. [864 D, 865
C] (c) Payment of fine brings home the sense of responsibility in a surer
fashion than even short-terms of imprisonment in some cases. [865 C]
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
66-67 of 1980.
Appeals by Special Leave from the Judgment
and order dated 30/8/1979 of the Delhi High Court in Criminal Revision Nos.
65-66 of 1979.
N. S. Das Bahl for the Appellant.
M. N. Shroff for the Respondent.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
KRISHNA IYER, J.-The common appellant in both these appeals is a teen-aged
student turned criminal adventurer in the elitist area of car-lifting and
scooter-poaching current in our fashionable cities, including Delhi. While he
was a college student and but 19 years old, the appellant tried his hand at
stealing a scooter way back in 1971. He was arrested but bailed out and while
on bail was accused of committing a car theft. Both these cases were tried and
he was found guilty. The 864 scooter offence resulted in a sentence of two
years' imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 2,000. The car theft case got converted
into an offence under Section 411 I.P.C. and, consequently, a reduced sentence
of imprisonment for six months and a fine of Rs. 500.
The convictions being concurrent and no
substantial infirmity being present, we have confined leave to appeal to the
question of sentence only. But sentencing-the cutting edge of the judicial
process is the crucial strategy of the criminal law in achieving social defence
and delinquent rehabilitation. So we have to consider the totality of factors
bearing on the offence and the offender and fix a punishment which will promote
effectively the punitive objective of the law-deterrence and habilitation.
We do not deem it necessary to set out
elaborately all the socio-legal facts which have been discussed at the bar.
All that we need say is that the offence took
place in 1971 and we are now in 1980. A long protracted litigation is some
deterrent for a young man in his twenties. The accused was nineteen when the
offences were committed and his youthful age is a factor which deserves
consideration. A long period of incarceration in the present condition of
prisons may brutalise the boy and blunt his finer sensibilities so that the
end-product may perhaps be more criminal than the one at the point of entry.
Not that all prison terms are not deterrent but some cases prove to be counterproductive
especially when the delinquent is young.
It may be interesting to recall Lord Soper's
observations in the House of Lords in a debate on British Prisons, where he
"Now as to reform. I was a prison
chaplain for 30 years. I cannot remember a single man who was reformed by being
in prison-not one. I can remember those who, serving very short sentences, were
for a time, perhaps, brought to recognise something of the gravity of what they
had been doing; but I am completely convinced that the longer a man stays in
prison, the longer he stays in that kind of incarceration, the less is the
prospect of reform and the more certain is the process of decay.
That is why I have consistently tried to say
that any man who is imprisoned in one particular set of circumstances for more
than five years is probably dead for life. It is highly unlikely that those who
have endured that kind of monotonous deadening will be able to recover in the real
world what they have lost in the artificial element and environment of prison
There has been, I think, in my time, a
considerable increase 865 in the amelioration of conditions in prison; but, to
refer again for a moment to the artificiality of it, the longer a man stays in
prison the less capable he will be of recovering his place and establishing his
position back in the real world to which he is increasingly made alien by the
very processes which he undergoes." Moreover, the appellant has already
suffered nearly six months' imprisonment and it is a well-known fact for
criminologists that the initial few months of jail life are the most painful
and, therefore, the most deterrent. In the present case the offender having
served a term of nearly six months must well have realised that the game of
crime does not pay.
The fines of Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 500 imposed on
the appellant should remain without interference. Payment of fine brings home
the sense for responsibility in a surer fashion than even short terms of
imprisonment in some cases.
We, therefore, decline to reduce the fine and
reject counsel's plea in this behalf.
More important than these circumstances is
the social urgency of making this student offender a non-offender.
There are two circumstances which weigh in
our mind. The young man has married and has three children. This is a measure
of assurance that he will not play recklessly with his freedom. Family life is
ordinarily an insurance against a career of crime. We have also insisted on the
uncle of the appellant undertaking to assure the good behaviour of the nephew
who is the delinquent in question. The uncle Shri Kohli has filed an affidavit
dated 10-12-1979 in this Court making the necessary undertaking to guarantee
the good behaviour of his nephew. Thoughtless parents and guardians leaving a
free hand for their wards account for flippant criminality of the type we come
across in middle class society. The undertaking given by the uncle has,
therefore, considerable relevance. We make a breach of the conditions in the
affidavit actionable on the motion of the State.
It is a tragic reflection that affluent
criminality should become so pervasive among the student community. It is
uncomplimentary to the character-building component of the system of education
in the prestigious institutions of our cities. We hope the State will take
better care to instill a sense of values in the college campuses than it does
now. We allow the appeals to the extent of reducing the sentence of the
appellant to the period undergone, but maintain the sentences of fine and the
alternative period of imprisonment in case of default.
P.B.R. Appeals allowed.