When the court convicts a person, it has an obligation to look into the criminal background of a person before fixing the sentence. His background and motives have a lot more to say than what we see, at sometimes. But, what about his age? Does old age allow for consideration of a lesser sentence?
This was the issue in a case before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The judge who decided the case was Justice H.S. Madaan.
The facts of the case were like this. The petitioner, Rajinder Singh, used to prepare fake matriculation certificates. Following a tip-off, the police arranged a plan to catch him red-handed. A decoy was arranged to turn the accused into the hands of the police. The plan was successful.
The justification of the accused was that the police charged him wrongfully. Also, when he was being caught by the police for the alleged crime, he was in an intoxicated state of mind. Therefore, he pleads before the judge that he was not guilty.
All of these pleas before the court were unsuccessful. The Chandigarh Magistrate, thus, convicted him of the offenses under Sections 420, 467, 471 of the IPC. Now, the accused has filed a revision application before the High Court to reconsider the term of the sentence.
Initially, the court had given the sentence as 2 years of each of the offenses of Sections 420, 467, 471 of the IPC. The Punjab and Haryana High Court reduced this 2 years to 1 ½ years considering the age of the petitioner. In the words of the court itself:-
“Keeping in view old age of the revision-petitioner and the fact that no previous conviction has arisen against him, I am of the considered view that ends of justice would be adequately met if the substantive sentence awarded to the revision petitioner is reduced from 2 years to 1 ½ years.”
Nevertheless, one can counter this argument with another recent decision of the Delhi High Court. In that case, a 16-year-old was disrobed and molested. When Old Age was taken as plea, the court chided by these words:-
Old age is no ground for token sentence in a sexual offense.
Thus, it can be seen that Old Age is no absolute defense. It is based on the circumstances; the seriousness of the offense and the term already served by the accused in jail during the trial that the decision on reduction of the sentence will be accepted.
 2017 SCC OnLine P&H 1717