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The Supreme Court has ruled that the principal of parity in awarding sentence for an offence to the accused persons in a case is applicable only when crime is a joint venture.

A bench comprising Justices P Sathasivam and H L Dattu, while dismissing the appeal of a convict Ajmer Singh under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act noted,’ The principal of parity in criminal case is that where the case of the accused is similar in all respects as that of the co-accused then the benefit extended to one accused should be extended to the co-accused.

‘For applying the principal of parity, both the accused must be involved in same crime and must be convicted in single trial, and consequently, a co-accused is one who is awarded punishment along with the other accused in the same proceedings.’ The apex court also quoted the judgement of foreign court which said parity was a principle which must be taken into account in any sentence and particularly where the offence was a joint venture.

The court of appeal Alvert, Canada had also said there will, of course, be cases where the circumstances of the co-accused are sufficiently different to warrant significantly different sentences, such as where one co-accused has a lengthy related criminal record or played a much greater role in the commission of the offence.

‘What we must strive for is an approach to sentencing whereby sentences for similar offences committed by similar offender in similar circumstances are understandable when viewed together particularly in cases involving joint ventures.’ the Canadian court further noted.

In the case, petitioner Ajmer Singh of Haryana who was sent in 10-year imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 1 lakh for illegally carrying 500 gm of charas had prayed for his release on the ground that one Ranbir Singh who was searched along with him on January 24, 1996 was found carrying one kg of charas, had been let off by the Haryana High Court with a lighter sentence.

The apex court refused to apply the principal of parity as the two persons were involved in different cases and were tried separately and separate FIRs were registered against them.

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