MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court has held that suspension of driving licence for 10 months in a case of drunken driving was too harsh a punishment for an offender, particularly because of the awful public transport system in the metropolis.

The ruling came on an appeal filed by Naresh Tari, a local resident who was found guilty by a magistrate of riding a motorbike in a drunken state on July 9.

Pulling up the police and the magistrate for not explaining the charge to the accused, Justice D. G. Karnik of the High Court also referred the case back to the magistrate for re-trial. The Court held, “The sentence imposed on the applicant is too harsh. This may be his first offence. Also punishment of simple imprisonment of 25 days appears to be harsh. If he is a government servant and remains in custody/jail for more than 48 hours, he may be suspended or dismissed.”

The Judge further noted, “The applicant is living in a commercial city of Mumbai and might be required to commute to his work everyday on a motorcycle. Considering the awfully poor transport system, suspension of a licence for ten months would be too harsh.”

“If he is a salesman and required to travel to various places daily, he may be out of job. Several factors are to be taken into consideration while imposing a sentence. This does not appear to have been done,” he noted.

According to Section 235(2) of CrPc if an accused is convicted, the Judge shall, unless he proceeds in accordance with the provisions of Section 360, hear the accused on the question of sentence and then pass sentence on him as per law. “In this case, the learned Judge merely recorded the plea of the accused but thereafter did not put to him any question regarding the sentence,” the High Court judge noted.“There is nothing on record to show that applicant was heard on the question of sentence. The accused was not given an opportunity to show existence of any circumstance which would deserve leniency or entitle him to an order of probation u/s 360 of CrPc”, Mr. Justice Karnik noted.

“The offence, the production of the accused before the court, recording of the plea, and the order of conviction and sentence were passed on the same day and in fact within a few hours of the offence. The offence was allegedly committed at 2-45 a.m. on 9th July, 2009, he was convicted and sentenced by forenoon the same day.... Provisions of Section 235(2) do not appear to have been followed,” the Court observed.

Allowing the appeal, the Court remanded the matter back to the magistrate for fresh trial in accordance with law. It asked the magistrate to explain to the accused the offence alleged against him and then record his plea. – PTI