Sentence has to be proportionate with the offence committed; convicts in ‘Naroda Patiya Riot case’ awarded 10 years RI

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Harsha Devani and A.S. Supehia, JJ. pronounced the order on quantum of sentence in the ‘Naroda Patiya Riot case’. The respondents who were earlier convicted for various offences of IPC were awarded 10 years imprisonment.

On a fateful day, as many as 93 persons were done to death by the unlawful assembly of which the respondents were a part. The High Court had already convicted the respondents in the case. The respondent-accused 24 moved an application seeking the benefit of the provisions of Probation of Offenders Act. On this point, the High Court noted that the respondents were convicted inter alia under Sections 326 and 436. Since the sections prescribe a punishment of life imprisonment, the Court relying on Jugal Kishore Prasad v. State of Bihar, (1972) 2 SCC 633, held that the benefit of Section 4 of Probation of Offenders Act was not available to the respondents.

Coming to the question of quantum of sentence to be awarded to the respondents, the Court referred to State of H.P. v. Nirmala Devi, (2017) 7 SCC 262, and observed that the punishment should be proportionate to the offence committed. While sentencing a person for a heinous crime, deterrence theory as a rationale for punishing the offender becomes more relevant. The Court considered the magnitude of destruction caused by the unlawful assembly; entire incident had serious communal overtones; properties of innocent victims were reduced to ashes. The offences committed were not against any individual but against the society at large. The Court was of the view that imposing too lenient a sentence would be a travesty of justice. Considering gravity of offence and agony of the victims, the Court awarded 10 years of rigorous imprisonment for the offence under Section 436 IPC along with various sentences for other offences; sentences were directed to run concurrently. [Farzanabanu Ayubkhan Pathan v. Umeshbhai Surabhai Bharwad, 2018 SCC OnLine Guj 1194, decided on 25-06-2018]

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