Author-Aditi Goyal, [NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad]
The Supreme Court is set to hear a Public Interest Litigation on May 10, 2019 regarding the demand for several jail terms given to a convict under special laws about terrorism and corruption to not run concurrently like it does, but to turn consecutively like in the USA.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta issued a notice to the Centre on March 25 on a PIL by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyaya and a lawyer. His contention was that the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) should not apply to the criminal serving time for ‘heinous crimes’ regarding the provision which states what a convict can serve varying jail terms concurrently for several offences.
Section 31 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that in the conviction of several offences in one trial, the court can sentence them the various punishments in which one jail term would begin after the completion of the other unless the court directs it to be concurrent.
He defined the ‘heinous cases’ as “the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), the Black Money and Imposition of Tax Act, and Fugitive Economic Offenders Act”
The plea said, “Extorting money by spreading terrorism in society is the aim of organized criminals. The money is not spent on just causes but to derail state economy. It is therefore essential to provide for strictest punishment. Punishment envisaged in the Maharashtra Control Organised Crime Act was three to 10 years of imprisonment which can be extended to life imprisonment,”
The plea said that India does not possess a policy about the concurrent and consecutive sentences and the Supreme Court has indicated the requirement for the consecutive sentences in the previous judgements.
The plea demanded for directions to the Law Commission to examine anti-separatism, anti-corruption and anti-terrorism policies and laws of Australia, USA, Israel and other. Further, it also sought guidelines to the central government to figure out the feasibility of validating best policies and laws of these countries against separatism, terrorism and corruption.
The PIL said that “However, successive governments have failed to take appropriate steps in this regard.” And that, “CWG scam was of Rs. 70,000 crore, which not only affected our economy but also the integrity of the nation. The accused was charged with conspiracy, forgery, and misconduct and under provisions of PC Act. This clearly shows that not only the sentence under the PCA should be increased but also it should be consecutive.”
The plea stated that the punishment for the white collar crimes is not enough because it can be discerned that in the coal scam, Rs. 1,85,591 crore were in question but the maximum punishment given was 3 years with a fine of Rs.50,00,000. It also said that while there were recommendations about confiscation of property, the increase of sentence and to run sentences consecutively, the current laws are not sufficient.