The man has been in jail since his arrest in 2019. (Image for representation)
The Supreme Court today slashed an 18-year jail sentence given to a UP man for electricity theft to two years, saying that "the liberty of a citizen would be abrogated" if this wasn't done. It also said the High Court should already have "noticed the serious miscarriage of justice".
The man in jail, identified only as Iqram, is set to walk free as he has already served three years, after a trial court had sentenced him to nine jail terms of two years each to run consecutively.
"If we do not act in matters of personal liberty and grant relief then what are we doing here?" remarked Chief Justice DY Chandrachud during the hearing.
To the UP government lawyer opposing the man's request to have the terms run parallel, the Chief Justice said: "You can't equate theft of electricity to a murder."
He added, "The Supreme Court exists to hear the cry of such petitioners. No matter is small or big for us. We get such matters every other day. Are we going to send someone to jail for 18 years for stealing electricity?"
The man had gone to the High Court, which didn't agree that the terms be run concurrently, meaning parallel, thus lasting two years overall.
In jail since his arrest in 2019, he was convicted in 2020 after the trial court held separate trials for nine FIRs, and convicted him in all of them on the same day.
"The net consequence of the position is that [he] would have to undergo a total term of imprisonment of 18 years," the Supreme Court noted.
The law under which he was convicted — Section 136 of Electricity Act — carries a maximum sentence of five years.