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Supreme Court upholds trial court’s judgment and convicts woman for offences under section 307, 328 and 392 of the IPC. Observes that being a woman is not a ground for lesser punishment.

State of Himachal Pradesh vs. Nirmala Devi


State of Himachal Pradesh vs. Nirmala Devi

The Supreme Court has set aside a High Court Judgment and restored the Trial Court Judgment in a case registered against a woman under sections 307, 328 and 392 of the IPC. The Trial Court convicted the woman and sentenced her to undergo simple imprisonment of two years and a fine of Rs.2000/-. Against the Judgment of the Sessions Judge in the trial the accused woman filed an appeal before the High Court. The High Court affirmed the conviction however insofar as award of sentence was concerned, it drastically modified by removing imprisonment part of the sentence and substituting the same with fine simplicitor of Rs.30000/-. The state of Himachal Pradesh went up in appeal before the Supreme Court by filing a Special Leave Petition under article 136 of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court observed thus:

The second question is as to whether the circumstances pleaded by the respondent justify taking a lenient view in the matter. The acts committed by the respondent constitute heinous offences. Having common intention along with co-accused, she administered poison like substance to the complainant; robbed him of his money; and even attempted to kill him. As already held, award of sentence is imprisonment is a must. The question is, in the wake of the commission of crime of this nature, to what extent the mitigating factor viz. the respondent being a woman and having three minor children, be taken for the purposes of sentencing?
When the Indian Penal Code provides discretion to Indian Judges while awarding the sentence, the Court will have undoubtedly regard to extenuating and mitigating circumstances. In this backdrop, the question is as to whether the respondent being a lady and having three minor children will be extenuating reasons? I may observe that in many countries of the world, gender is not a mitigating factor. Some jurists also stress that in this world of gender equality, women should be treated at par with men even as regards equal offences committed by them. Women are competing men in the criminal world; they are emulating them in all the crimes; and even surpassing men at times. Therefore, concept of criminal justice is not necessarily synonymous with social justice.
In the present case, two mitigating circumstances which are pressed into service by the respondent are that she is a woman and she is having three minor children. This has to be balanced with the nature of crime which the respondent has committed. As can be seen, these circumstances were taken into consideration by the trial court and on that basis, the trial court took a lenient view by awarding imprisonment for two years in respect of each of the offences under Sections 307, 328 and 392 of the IPC, which were to be run concurrently. There was no reason to show any further mercy by the High Court. Further, as found above, removing the element of imprisonment altogether was, in any case, erroneous in law. I, thus, allow this appeal and set aside the sentencing part of the judgment of the High Court and restore the judgment of the trial court.


State of Himachal Pradesh vs. Nirmala Devi

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