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In what is being termed as one of the harshest sentences in Indian judicial history, the Delhi High Court has ordered Mr. Arun Sharma, a serial offender convicted for damage to railway property, to book over 50 Tatkal tickets online through the IRCTC online passenger reservation system.
Hon’ble Justice Kritpal Singh noted that though it was in excess of the punishment prescribed under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act and appeared severe at first glance, it was justified in that it promoted specific and general deterrence. “While I feel bad for subjecting the defendant to such harsh punishment, it is hoped that a railway passenger thinks twice before despoiling railway property, lest he or she be subjected to similar torture,” gravely observed Justice Singh.
As soon as the judgment was announced, a shocked Mr. Sharma was heard screaming, ”nahin, please anything but this. What did I do to deserve this? Spare me this torture” as he was led away from the courtroom to undergo his sentence.
The sentencing has sent shock-waves across the country. Taking suo moto notice of the issue, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has filed a review petition on behalf of the accused. “To punish someone by making him book railways tickets using the IRCTC server is inhumane and barbaric. There is no place for such forms of punishment in a civilized society. We have appealed to repeal the sentence since it is a direct infringement of the fundamental right to dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution,” said NHRC member, Shri Wajahat Habibullah.
Promptly acting on the review petition, a special bench of the Delhi High Court has set aside the earlier judgment, much to the relief of the accused and his kin. “Such punishments must be meted out only in the rarest of rare cases, under exceptional circumstances. We have therefore decided, on humanitarian grounds, to annul the earlier order and direct the authorities to release Mr. Sharma forthwith from the excruciating torture of dealing with the IRTC server,” read the order.