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SC Declines to Suspend Sentence in Murder Case while Criticizing the Trend of Avoiding Merits Arguments

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Published on: 22 September 2023 at 18:37 IST

The Supreme Court has recently refused to intervene in a decision by the Allahabad High Court denying a suspension of sentence or bail request.

The Court took note of a concerning trend among lawyers who press for the suspension of sentences or bail but avoid arguing the appeals on their merits. Consequently, the Supreme Court dismissed the Special Leave Petition.

A bench comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice S.V.N. Bhatti, while addressing this trend and admonishing the counsel, stated, “We have noticed this trend in several cases/orders, that are made subject matter of challenge before this Court. Learned counsel, it appears, press for hearing of the application for suspension of sentence/bail, but want to avoid arguing the main appeal on merits. Learned counsel should be willing and ready to argue the appeal on merits, especially in cases where the appellant/accused have suffered incarceration for some years.

As a result, the bench urged the High Court to expedite the hearing of the criminal appeal filed by the petitioner and other co-accused. The counsel for both the appellant-accused and the State were directed to prepare for arguments on the appeal.

The appeal in question before the High Court challenged an order dated January 9, 2018, issued by the Sessions Judge, Varanasi. The appellant had been convicted and sentenced under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs.1000/-. In default of payment, the appellant would face one year of simple imprisonment.

This was the second bail application before the High Court, seeking suspension of the sentence and bail due to the petitioner’s detention period, which had extended to about 8 years and 3 months. Notably, the first bail application had been rejected through an order dated September 12, 2018.

Opposing the bail application, the State argued that the appellant was not entitled to benefit from the judgments passed by the Supreme Court in the cases of Saudan Singh V. State of U.P. and in Suleman V. The State of Uttar Pradesh.

A bench consisting of Justice Pritinker Diwaker and Justice Nalin Kumar Srivastava, while rejecting the repeat bail application, had previously noted that when the counsel for the appellant was asked to argue the matter conclusively, he had requested additional time to complete formalities. Given the circumstances, the bench had declined to release the appellant on bail and had scheduled the matter for final hearing in May 2023.

Case Title: Pradeep Goswami v. State Of Uttar Pradesh