SC Agrees to Hear PIL Seeking Consecutive Jail Terms in Cases of Corruption, Terrorism [28-11-2019]

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday agreed to hear after four weeks a PIL seeking that various jail terms, awarded to a convict under special laws on corruption and terrorism, be made to run consecutively as in countries like the US and not concurrently.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde considered the submissions by lawyer and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay that the plea needed an urgent hearing as the apex court had issued the notice to the Centre in March this year.

He said the pleadings such as filing of responses by the Centre to the petition has already been completed and it be now listed for hearing.

"Let the matter be listed after four weeks," said the bench, which also comprised justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant.

The plea had said that the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) provision, which provides that a convict can serve varying jail terms simultaneously for several offences, should not be made applicable to the convicts in heinous cases.

Section 31 of the CrPC should not apply to special laws such 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 PIL 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," it said.

Section 31 of CrPC says that in cases of conviction of several offences in one trial, the court may sentence him to the several punishments where one jail term would commence after expiration of the other, unless the court directs that such punishments shall run concurrently.

The plea has sought directions to the Law Commission to examine anti-corruption, anti-separatism and anti-terrorism laws and policies of the United States of America, Australia, Israel and Spain and prepare a report within three months.

It also sought directions to the central government to ascertain the feasibility of adopting the best laws and policies of these countries against corruption, separatism and terrorism.

The plea said the country does not have a policy on consecutive and concurrent sentences and the apex court had indicated the need for consecutive sentences in its past judgements.

"However, successive governments have failed to take appropriate steps in this regard," it said.

The plea said that the punishment for white collar crimes is not sufficient as can be seen in the coal scam where Rs 185,591 crore were involved but the maximum punishment awarded was three years with a fine of Rs 50,00,000.

"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, 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," it said.

The plea said that though there were recommendations to confiscate property, increase the sentence and to run sentences consecutively as offences form a part of several dependent or parallel transactions, the current law was not sufficient.

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29 Nov 2019