Apex court strikes balance between justice and compassion

December 31st, 2008 - 2:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 31 (IANS) The Supreme Court has upheld a five-year jail term to a paralysed Gujarati woman who abused a member of a Scheduled Caste, but has suspended her sentence for three months to enable her to appeal to the governor for remission of her sentence.The verdict, which struck a fine balance between justice and compassion, was delivered earlier this month by a bench of judges Arijit Pasayat and Mukundakam Sharma.

In the verdict, which was released days after its delivery, the bench upheld the five-year jail term to Kashiben Chhaganbhai Koli of village Paniyari in Surat district of Gujarat, saying “the sentence imposed suffers from no infirmity to warrant interference”.

But after learning that the woman was bed-ridden since July 2004 after she suffered a paralytic stroke and needed to approach the state governor to seek remission of the sentence, the bench suspended her sentence for three months.

“The woman’s counsel submitted that an application for reduction of sentence shall be made to the state governor. We do not express any opinion in that regard.

“However, in view of the statement made (about the woman’s intent to seek remission of sentence from the governor) we direct that she need not surrender for a period of three months (to undergo the jail term),” the bench ruled.

Kashiben landed herself in the legal tangle after she tried to forcibly take back in February 1995 the possession of a piece of land that she had sold months earlier to Kanchhibhai, member of a Scheduled Caste.

According to the prosecution, Kashiben struck a deal of Rs.145,000 to sell her land to Kanchhibhai, who paid her Rs.100,000. But before he could pay the rest, Kashiben tried to take possession of the land and even abused Kanchhibhai for delaying payment.

Kanchhibhai complained to the police, which prosecuted Kashiben under Section 427 of the Indian Penal Code for causing pecuniary loss to him and under Section 3(1)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The trial court sentenced the woman to jail for one year for the monetary loss and for four years for having abused him.

The court also ruled that the two jail terms would run one after the other.

The Gujarat High Court upheld the trial court ruling against Kashiben.

So did the apex court.

But, given the state of Kashiben’s health, it suspended her sentence for three months.

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