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Indian Case Summary

Santa Singh vs State Of Punjab on 17 August, 1976 – Case Summary

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In the case of Santa Singh vs State Of Punjab on 17 August, 1976, the Supreme Court of India was faced with a significant question regarding the interpretation of section 235(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The case revolved around Santa Singh, who was convicted by the Sessions Court under section 302, IPC, and sentenced to death. The key issue was that on the date of the judgment, his advocate was not present, and the trial court did not give the accused an opportunity to be heard in regard to the sentence as required by s. 235(2), Cr.P.C., 1973. The appellant also did not insist on his right to be heard. The conviction and sentence were confirmed by the High Court.

Facts of the Case

Santa Singh was tried before the Sessions Judge, Ludhiana for committing a double murder, one of his mother and the other of her second husband. He was represented by a lawyer during the trial, and after the evidence was concluded and the arguments were heard, the learned Sessions Judge adjourned the case to 13th February, 1975 for pronouncing the judgment. However, on 26th February, 1975, the appellant was present without his lawyer and the learned Sessions Judge pronounced the judgment convicting the appellant of the offence under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced him to death. It was common ground that after pronouncing the judgment convicting the appellant, the learned Sessions Judge did not give the appellant an opportunity to be heard in regard to the sentence to be imposed on him and by one single judgment, convicted the appellant and also sentenced him to death.

Issues Raised

The main issue raised in this case was whether the sentence is vitiated because of the violation of s. 235(2), which requires that in every trial before a court of sessions, there must first be a decision as to the guilt of the accused. The court must, in the first instance, deliver a judgment convicting or acquitting the accused. If the accused is acquitted, no further question arises. But if he is convicted, then the court has to “hear the accused on the question of sentence, and then pass sentence on him according to law”.

Court’s Observations

The Supreme Court observed that the hearing contemplated by section 235(2) is not confined merely to hearing oral submissions, but it is also intended to give an opportunity to the prosecution and the accused to place before the court facts and material relating to various factors bearing on the question of sentence. If they are contested by either side, then to produce evidence for the purpose of establishing the same. The Court also noted that sentencing is an important stage in the process of administration of criminal justice and it should not be consigned to a subsidiary position.

The Court held that the matter should be remanded to the trial court for giving an opportunity to the appellant on the question of sentence. The Court also emphasized that the hearing on the question of sentence should not be abused and turned into an instrument for unduly protracting the proceedings. The Court must be vigilant to see that this hearing on the question of sentence is not abused and turned into an instrument for unduly protracting the proceedings.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court of India in this case laid down important principles regarding the interpretation of section 235(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, emphasizing the importance of giving the accused an opportunity to be heard in regard to the sentence to be imposed on him after the judgment is pronounced convicting him.