Punjab & Haryana High Court Rejects Concurrent Sentences for Serial Offenders in Heinous Crime Cases

Punjab & Haryana HC: Serial offenders of heinous crimes shouldn't get concurrent sentences, says Court in Brij Mohan @ Brijesh v. State of Haryana. Upholding the sentencing policy, the Court dismisses plea seeking concurrent running of sentences for attempt to murder & murder cases.

The Punjab & Haryana High Court recently made a significant statement regarding the sentencing of serial offenders convicted of serious crimes. Justice Jasjit Singh Bedi emphasized that courts should refrain from ordering concurrent running of sentences for individuals who are habitual offenders, particularly for committing severe crimes.

In a notable remark, Justice Bedi stated, "A sentencing policy which is unusually mild and sympathetic in its operation would have a disastrous effect on society and would do more harm than good to public confidence in the efficacy of law. It is therefore, the duty of every Court to award appropriate sentence having regard to the nature of the offence."

The court highlighted that in cases involving serial offenders, especially those guilty of heinous crimes, it would be advisable for the courts not to exercise their authority under Section 427(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to order concurrent running of sentences.

This observation came during the hearing of a plea filed by Brij Mohan, who sought directions for the concurrent running of sentences in two separate cases - one related to attempted murder in 2006 and another for murder in the same year.

Mohan had received a six-year sentence for attempted murder and life imprisonment for the murder case in 2006. Additionally, he had been sentenced to life imprisonment in another murder case in 2001, with the court ordering the sentences to run concurrently.

The petitioner's counsel argued that under Section 427(1) of the CrPC, the High Court could direct subsequent sentences to run concurrently with previous ones. Failure to do so, it was contended, would result in irreparable injustice to the petitioner.

However, the court referred to Section 427(2) of the CrPC, which mandates that in cases where the first sentence is life imprisonment and the second is for a fixed term or for life, sentences should run concurrently.

Justice Bedi underscored that the exercise of discretion under Section 427(1) of the CrPC is based on subjective satisfaction and certain parameters.

Citing the case of Joginder Singh v. State of Punjab, the High Court noted that concurrent running of sentences was justified in that case as the accused had been convicted for the same offense in multiple cases on the same day and by the same court.

The court pointed out that the offenses in Mohan's case were distinct, did not arise from the same incident, and were serious in nature. Therefore, there was no justification for exercising discretionary power under Section 427(1) of the CrPC.

Furthermore, the court emphasized that if the argument for the automatic exercise of power under Section 427(1) were accepted, it would lead to multiple convictions for different durations by different courts for various offenses, undermining the purpose of sentencing, which should serve as a deterrent and be commensurate with the crime committed.

In light of these considerations, the plea was dismissed by the court.

V.S. Rana represented the petitioner, while Kanwar Sanjiv Kumar appeared as the Assistant Advocate General for Haryana.