The Supreme Court on March 25, 2019, in the case of Goverdhan Dass v. Chaman Lal and Others, has observed that an accused convicted for an offence punishable with life imprisonment cannot be released on probation under Probation of Offenders Act, 1958.
A Bench comprising of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice M.R. Shah was hearing an appeal against the order passed by the Punjab & Haryana High Court in which the court maintaining the conviction of the accused released him on probation. The High Court invoked Section 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, on the ground that the incident took place about 23-1/2 years ago and no useful purpose will be served by sending the accused to jail at that stage.
The Trial Court had convicted the accused and sentenced them to undergo imprisonment for five years under Section 326 r/w Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, (hereinafter referred to as IPC), two years under Section 325 r/w Section 149 IPC, six months under Section 148 IPC and three months under Section 323 read with Section 149 IPC.
In the appeal filed by the complainant and state, the Bench observed that "There is no dispute that an offence under Section 326 IPC which carries a sentence of life imprisonment cannot be compounded either under Section 360 Cr.P.C. or under Section 4 of the Act. In view of the observations made by this Court when the matter was remitted back, the High Court ought not to have applied the Act in view of the settled law." However, the Bench took into account the factors like the passage of time from the date of the incident, the age and health condition of the respondents, and sentenced the accused till the rising of Court. The amount of compensation was enhanced from Rs.75, 000/- to Rs.5 Lakhs.