Be you ever so high, the law is always above you!

The Hon’ble Supreme Court today in the matter of Yashwant etc. v. The State of Maharashtra while dealing with a case of custodial death held that our police force needs to develop and recognize the concept of ‘democratic policing’, wherein crime control is not the only end, but the means to achieve this order is also equally important. The Hon’ble Apex Court re­iterated that  “With great power comes greater responsibility”. (Para 1)

In response to the plea of ‘Nuremburg defence’ (the defence of superior order) taken by the accused­ persons (subordinate officers). The Hon’ble Court observed  that since accused A­1 had passed away and the matter against him stood abated, the other accused­ appellants, with a view to take advantage of this situation, as an after­thought had pleaded  the defence that they were merely executing the orders of accused A­1. (Para 25)

The Apex Court pronounced that it is not merely that the accused­  person(s) has/have to prove that they have followed the order of the superior officer, rather they need to also prove to the Court that they bonafidely believed that the orders issued by accused A­1 were legal. (Para 25)

The Apex Court was of the opinion that as the police in this case were the violators of law, who had the primary responsibility to protect and uphold law, this fact in itself had mandated that the punishment for such violation should be proportionately stringent so as to instill confidence  in the society while having an effective deterrent effect on the wrongdoers. (Para 33)

The Hon’ble Court furthermore stated that those, who are called upon to administer the criminal law, must bear, in mind, that they have a duty not merely to the individual accused before them, but also to the State and to the community at large. Such incidents involving police usually tend to deplete the confidence in our criminal justice system much more than those incidents involving private individuals. The Hon’ble Court additionally factored this aspect while imposing an appropriate punishment to the accused. (Para 33)

Ergo, The Hon’ble Supreme Court  held that the punishment of three year imprisonment imposed by the Trial Court under Section 330 of IPC, was grossly insufficient and dis­ proportional, therefore while modifying the sentence, the term of sentence was increased to maximum imposable period under Section 330 of IPC i.e., seven years of rigorous imprisonment. However the fine imposed by the Trial Court was maintained. (Para 34)

Copy of Judgement: Judgement_04-Sep-2018

-Tushar Kaushik

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