The Case Analysis 'Monirul Molla v. State of West Bengal' by Shivani Sangwan contains a remarkable decision of the Calcutta High Court that issued a directive to trial courts in West Bengal stipulating that a sentence of life imprisonment till death, without any scope of remission, can only be passed in rape cases.

The Case Analysis 'Monirul Molla v. State of West Bengal' by Shivani Sangwan contains a remarkable decision of the Calcutta High Court that issued a directive to trial courts in West Bengal stipulating that a sentence of life imprisonment till death, without any scope of remission, can only be passed in rape cases. According to the law, punishment is given to deter the offender from committing the offence once again. A person's wrongdoing has a consequence or outcome called punishment.

Section 53 and Chapter III contain provisions for punishment under the Indian Penal Code 1860. There are five types of punishment as per the provision which includes death, imprisonment for life, simple and rigorous imprisonment, forfeiture of property, and fine. But not all the Courts are empowered to grant all these provisions as there is limited jurisdiction of the Courts to penalize the accused. Furthermore, these punishments could be set off by the Courts under Section 428 of the Criminal Procedure Code and as per the Constitution of India, the President and the Governors of India have the powers to grant pardon under Articles 72 and 161 respectively.

Court: Calcutta High Court

Bench: Justice Joymalya Bagchi, Justice Bivas Pattanayak

Citation: C.R.A. 604 of 2014

Date of Judgment: 6th April, 2022

Facts

● On 10.11.2011 at 7 a.m. Sanjay, a driver, had been called by Monirul Molla. Mondal (P.W. 1), a resident of a nearby village, was there too: Along with his mother and wife, he drove to Digha. Mondal, Sanjay accepted such a suggestion. at 7 o'clock He traveled to Kataliya village and

● Monirul got into the car with a companion. Monirul is informed that his mother will not come. However, a woman who was identified as the wife of Monirul got inside the car. In the back of the vehicle, Monirul and the woman sat behind while Jiarul was sitting next to Sanjay. They reached Kolaghat where they had dinner and proceeded with the journey.

● On their way a heated argument took place and when Sanjay wanted to raise an alarm about the same he was threatened by Jiarul who placed a gun on his head and asked him to continue driving. Somehow Sanjay managed to return to the same place where they had dinner. After reaching the place Sanjay started shouting and the two men sitting in the car ran away while a dead body of the lady with severe acid burns was recovered from the Scorpio.

● Jiarul Molla was listed as an absconder on the charge sheet after Monirul Molla was detained. Jiarul was then arrested and put on trial. The appellants were accused of violating sections 326/302/34 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 25(1A) and (1B) of the Arms Act.

● They pleaded not guilty and claimed to be tried. In the course of the trial, the prosecution

examined 25 witnesses and exhibited a number of documents. In conclusion of the trial, the trial Judge by the impugned judgment and order dated 25.08.2014 and 26.08.2014 convicted and sentenced the appellants, as aforesaid.

Issue

  • Whether the trial courts may sentence the accused to life imprisonment till death or without remission.

Laws applied

Indian Penal Code 1860

Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention(Section 34)

When a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.

The punishments to which offenders are liable under the provisions of this Code(Section 53) are:

First.—Death;

Secondly.—Imprisonment for life;

Fourthly.—Imprisonment, which is of two descriptions, namely:—

(1) Rigorous, that is, with hard labour;

(2) Simple;

Fifthly.—Forfeiture of property;

Sixthly.—Fine.

Punishment for murder (Section 302) —Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to a fine.

Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means(Section 326) —Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 335, voluntarily causes grievous hurt by means of any instrument for shooting, stabbing or cutting, or any instrument which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, or by means of fire or any heated substance, or by means of any poison or any corrosive substance, or by means of any explosive substance, or by means of any substance which it is deleterious to the human body to inhale, to swallow, or to re­ceive into the blood, or by means of any animal, shall be pun­ished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Arms Act

Punishment for certain offences (Section 25)

(1A) Whoever acquires, has in his possession, or carries any prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition in contravention of section 7 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years, but which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.

(1B) Whoever— (a) acquires, has in his possession, or carries any firearm or ammunition in contravention of section 3; or

(b) acquires, has in his possession, or carries in any place specified by notification under section 4 any arms of such class or description as has been specified in that notification in contravention of that section; or

(c) sells or transfers any firearm which does not bear the name of the maker, manufacturer's number, or other identification mark stamped or otherwise shown thereon as required by sub-section (2) of section 8 or does any act in contravention of sub-section (1) of that section; or

(d) being a person to whom sub-clause (ii) or sub-clause (iii) of clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 9 applies, acquires, has in his possession or carries any firearm or ammunition in contravention of that section; or

(e) sells or transfers, or converts, repairs, tests or proves any firearm or ammunition in contravention of clause (b) of sub-section (1) of section 9; or

(f) brings into, or takes out of, India, any arms or ammunition in contravention of section 10; or

(g) transports any arms or ammunition in contravention of section 12; or

(h) fails to deposit arms or ammunition as required by sub-section (2) of section 3, or sub-section (1) of section 21; or

(i) being a manufacturer of, or dealer in, arms or ammunition, fails, on being required to do so by rules made under section 44, to maintain a record or account or to make therein all such entries as are required by such rules or intentionally makes a false entry therein or prevents or obstructs the inspection of such record or account or the making of copies of entries therefrom or prevents or obstructs the entry into any premises or other place where arms or ammunition are or is manufactured or kept or intentionally fails to exhibit or conceals such arms or ammunition or refuses to point out where the same are or is manufactured or kept, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 3 [one year] but which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine: Provided that the Court may for any adequate and special reasons to be recorded in the judgment impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than 3 [one year].

Code of Criminal Procedure 1973

Period of detention undergone by the accused to be set off against the sentence or imprisonment (Section 428)

Where an accused person has, on conviction, been sentenced to imprisonment for a term, not being imprisonment in default of payment of fine], the period of detention, if any, undergone by him during the investigation, inquiry or trial of the same case and before the date of such conviction, shall be set off against the term of imprisonment imposed on him on such conviction, and the liability of such person to undergo imprisonment on such conviction shall be restricted to the remainder, any, of the term of imprisonment imposed on him.

Constitution of India

Power of President to grant pardons, etc, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases (Article 72)

(1) The President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence

(a) in all cases where the punishment or sentence is by a court Martial;

(b) in all cases where the punishment or sentence is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends;

(c) in all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death

(2) Noting in sub-clause (a) of Clause ( 1 ) shall affect the power to suspend, remit or commute a sentence of death exercisable by the Governor of a State under any law for the time being in force

Power of the Governor to grant pardons, etc, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases (Article 161)

The Governor of a State shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the State extends

Judgment

The Hon'ble Calcutta High Court ruled in Monirul Molla v. State of West Bengal that the trial courts may only sentence accused to life imprisonment in rape cases and in no other circumstances.

The Court cited the Apex Court's ruling in Union of India v. V. Sriharan, (2016) 7 SCC 1, alias Murugram and ors and Gauri Shankar v. State of Punjab, (2021) 3 SCC 380, and noted that, except in cases where the law specifies a sentence of life imprisonment, which means imprisonment for the remainder of the offender's natural life, as is provided in sections 376A, 376AB, 376D, 376DA, 376 DB, and 376E of the Indian Penal Code trial Courts while imposing a sentence of life imprisonment as is provided in section 53 Indian Penal Code, cannot qualify the said sentence by adding that the sentence shall continue till the remainder of that person's natural life.

With the aforesaid modification as to sentence imposed on Monirul the appeal is disposed of. The period of detention suffered by appellants during investigation, enquiry or trial shall be set off under Section 428 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The High Court (HC) stated that it had noted that in a number of cases [Motiyar Rahaman v. State of West Bengal, W.P. 15974(W) of 2013; Sk. Azaharuddin v. State of West Bengal, CRA 45 of 2021], the trial Courts had been sentencing the accused persons to imprisonment for life without the possibility of remission, and because of this, it felt the need to issue a practice direction to all the judicial officers in the State in order for them to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

To ensure proper notification and future obedience, the High Court's Registrar General was instructed to distribute the direction to all judicial officers in the State. The High Court did point out that the Court's discretion would not interfere with the President's and the Governor's constitutional authority as granted by Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution.

Conclusion

Considering the judgment, it could be interpreted that in the case of imprisonment, the majority of offences are those for which the Indian Penal Code specifies the maximum penalty and leaves the imposition of the proper period within that limit to the discretion of the court. For some offences, the minimum sentence is set by the Code, and the Judges have the discretion to impose a sentence that is greater than that. For other offences, the Code prescribes alternatives, and the Court is free to select any of them. Accordingly, generally speaking, the IPC gives the judicial officer a great deal of sentencing discretion.

This strategy aligns with constitutional norms since it enables the Court to make an informed conclusion. Furthermore, the judgment highlights the powers of the Court in determining the punishment for the accused and to make the judicial officers aware of the same the Court also ordered the distribution of such directions to all the officers.

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