SC : Default sentences, inter se, cannot be directed to run concurrently.

In the matter of Shantilal v. State of M.P. (2007) 11 SCC 243 it was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that:

The term of imprisonment in default of payment of fine is not a sentence. It is a penalty which a person incurs on account of non-payment of fine. The sentence is something which an offender must undergo unless it is set aside or remitted in part or in whole either in appeal or in revision or in other appropriate judicial proceedings or “otherwise”. A term of imprisonment ordered in default of payment of fine stands on a different footing. A person is required to undergo imprisonment either because he is unable to pay the amount of fine or refuses to pay such amount. (Para 31)

In the matter of Sharad Hiru Kolambe v. State of Maharashtra and others, (Copy of judgementThe Hon’ble Apex Court expressed that:

If the term of imprisonment in default of payment of fine is a penalty which a person incurs on account of non-payment of fine and is not a sentence in strict sense, imposition of such default sentence is completely different and qualitatively distinct from a substantive sentence. (Para 13)

Imposition of fine, especially when certain minimum quantum is prescribed and/or mandatory imposition of fine is contemplated, has some significance. (Para 13)

Theoretically, if the default sentences awarded in respect of imposition of fine in connection with two or more offences are to be clubbed or directed to run concurrently, there would not be any occasion for the persons so sentenced to deposit the fine in respect of the second or further offences. It would effectively mean imposition of one single or combined sentence of fine. Such an exercise would render the very idea of imposition of fine with a deterrent stipulation while awarding sentence in default of payment of fine to be meaningless.  (Para 13)

If imposition of fine and prescription of mandatory minimum is designed to achieve a specific purpose, the very objective will get defeated if the default sentences were directed to run concurrently. (Para 13)

The rigour of the provisions is such that even if a person gets the benefit of commutation of a sentence, the sentence in default of payment of fine shall be in excess or in addition.  (Para 13)

Default sentences, inter se, cannot be directed to run concurrently.  (Para 15)

-Tushar Kaushik

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