The Supreme Court has set aside a High Court judgment which applied principles governing suspension of conviction to reject a plea seeking suspension of execution of sentence.
- Ramamurthy was convicted by the Trial Court under various provisions of Indian Penal Code and also Prevention of Corruption Act. The prosecution case against him was that he entered into a criminal conspiracy and committed several acts of breach of trust, cheating, forgery, falsification of accounts and misappropriation of funds. The Trial Court found that he had forged the signatures of many customers, had created withdrawal slips with dishonest intention, and had misappropriated the amount of various depositors from their accounts.
While filing an appeal before the Karnataka High Court, he also moved an application seeking suspension of execution of sentence. Though appeal was admitted, the High Court dismissed the plea seeking suspension of execution of sentence on the ground that “the sentence of imprisonment all put together comes to 45 years of rigorous imprisonment (for all the proven guilt put together)”. It also referred to judgment inNavjot Singh Sidhu vs. State of Punjab and observed that the Appellate Court could suspend the order of conviction only when the convict specifically shows the consequences that may follow if the order is not suspended or stayed.
The Apex Court bench comprising Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari observed that the High Court erred in observing that sentence comes to 45 years of imprisonment. It noted that the sentences were ordered to run concurrently by the Trial Court and hence, the maximum period of imprisonment is 7 years apart from certain default stipulations, which would come in operation only if the fine is not paid.
It also observed that the High Court proceeded on entirely irrelevant consideration with reference to the principles related with the prayer for suspension of the operation of the order of conviction that such a suspension could be granted only in rare and exceptional cases and for special reason.
“With respect, the High Court appears to have missed out the fact that the prayer on behalf of the appellant had only been for suspension of execution of sentence and not for stay or suspension of the operation of the order of conviction. Hence, reference to the decision in Navjot Singh Siddhu (supra) had been obviously inapt on the facts and in the circumstances of the present case.”
Referring to judgment in K.C. Sareen v. CBI, Chandigarh, the bench observed that, ordinarily, the superior Court should suspend the sentence of imprisonment in the matters relating to the offence under the PC Act, unless the appeal could be heard soon after filing.
The bench then remanded the matter to High Court for it to consider afresh.