Serve notice to accused before enhancing sentence: SC to HCs

The Supreme Court has said that high courts are required to give notice to the accused before enhancing sentences so that they get an opportunity to defend their case.

A bench of Justices B R Gavai and P S Narasimha set aside an order of the Rajasthan High Court which had awarded life term for the rest of their life to accused in a murder case.

The top court noted that it was the appellants who had challenged their conviction by way of an appeal before the high court.

It also took into account that the State had not appealed against the order of the Sessions Judge not awarding death penalty to the appellants.

“No doubt that the high court could have itself exercised suo moto powers and enhanced the sentence. However, prior to doing so, the high court was required to give a notice to the appellants. Admittedly, the same has not been done.

“As a result of the judgement and order of the high court, the sentence awarded to the appellants has been enhanced without the appellants having an opportunity to defend their case as to why the enhanced sentence should not be granted,” the bench said.

The apex court was hearing a plea filed by two accused challenging an order of the Rajasthan High Court which observed that the case against the present appellant fell within the category of ‘rarest of the rare cases’.

It was further held that the trial court has failed in not considering the present case to be falling in the category of ‘rarest of the rare cases’ for the purpose of awarding death sentence.

The high court had directed that the appellants shall undergo imprisonment for the rest of their life for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the IPC.

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