What is Suspension of Sentence

Suspension of Sentence is a statutory remedy within the scope of Section 389, CrPC where the sentence of an accused is suspended by a judicial authority exercising discretion while the appeal is not heard, and finally decided. The broader parameters and the principles have been laid down by the Hon’ble Apex Court & various High Courts, and the courts shall exercise the judicial discretion within this ambit of broader parameters and the principles.

Section 389 in the simpler terms and language stipulates that the suspension of sentence may be allowed while an appeal is pending and the accused can be released on bail:

(1) The appellate court can suspend the sentence of an accused while the appeal is pending and the reasons for suspension have to be recorded in writing. It can also order the release of the accused if he is confined to the custody on bail by filing his personal bail bond;

(2) The authority conferred on an Appellate Court by this section can also be exercised by the High Court in the case of an appeal.

(3) Where a convict satisfies the Court of his intention to file an appeal against the judgment where he is convicted, the Court shall:

(i) While on bail, where such person is sentenced to imprisonment less than 3 years, or

(ii) When the offence under which a convict has been sentenced is bailable one and while on bail, his sentence shall be deemed to be suspended unless there are special reasons for refusing bail.

(4) If the appellant is finally sentenced to a period of imprisonment or to life imprisonment, the time he is released shall be deducted from the term for which he is convicted.

When & Why to seek the Suspension of Sentence?

After the conviction, when the appeal has not been finally decided by the appellate court, an accused can move the suspension of sentence. The provision of suspension of sentence during appeal is found in Section 389 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The legislature in its wisdom formulated this provision by considering that if the appeal is anticipated to take a long time to conclude, it would be unjust to hold the accused in detention for that time, as this could render the appeal of the accused worthless.

Where & Who Can Apply the Suspension of Sentence?

An appellate court can grant Suspension of Sentence under the mandate of Section 389, CrPC and it can be the Court of Sessions, the High Court, or the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Any accused can apply as long as the appeal is not decided by the Appellate Court. The sentencing court cannot grant suspension except for applying the mandate of 389 (3) (ii) or any other applicable provision of law.

Can The Suspension of Sentence be Conditional or Unconditional?

The Suspension of Sentence can either be conditionally or unconditionally and it is usually mentioned in a judicial order. The courts impose conditions when it feels that the relief granted shall not be misused by the accused or some other reason related to public order, peace, and tranquillity. The prerequisite conditions enumerated in the order normally serve various purposes in the aid of this provision; for example, the regular attendance of an accused to a police station will restrict his presence to a jurisdiction/city that is intended in a judicial order. An unconditional suspension of sentence is the one in which the sentence is simply suspended without any conditions attached thereto. Such orders are passed by the courts when there are no perceivable threats of any kind.

Does a Suspension of Sentence Mean a Criminal Record is Left Behind?

Yes, the criminal record of an accused will reflect conviction even after the sentence gets suspended. For all practical intent and purposes, the suspension of sentence is akin to a bail provision after conviction and is independent of the reflection of the record. The accused can invoke quashing of FIR or criminal proceedings to clear the criminal records whenever there are chances.

Meaning of dismissed as withdrawn and dismissed on merits in Suspension of Sentence:

The procedure for withdrawal and dismissal is applicable on the Sessions Court and the High Court/Supreme Court alike.

Dismissed as withdrawn: If the suspension of sentence application is withdrawn, it can be refiled before the same court after explaining the change of circumstances, and that application can be argued on merits. But, if an application is withdrawn, it cannot be filed before appellate forum.

Dismissed on merits: If the suspension of sentence application is dismissed on merits, it can only be filed before the appellate forum.

Bail and Suspension of Sentence:

Jurisprudentially, the terms bail and suspension of sentence’ are not interchangeably used in criminal law. The accused who seeks bail would be an undertrial and is governed by Section 437 for Regular Bail, Section 438 for Anticipatory Bail, or Section 439 that provides Special Powers of Sessions Court & High Court, CrPC.

The accused who seeks Suspension of Sentence would be a convict and is governed by Section 389, CrPC. The appeal of the convict must be pending against his conviction of trial court and there is a statutory need for the appellate court to record justifications in writing for suspension of sentence. The fact that the accused was granted bail during the trial and no allegations of any offence were there against the accused is of limited consequence.

Probation and Suspension of Sentence:

The accused who have got the suspension of the sentence must follow the terms of their probation or there can be a consequence of ending up in the prison. The duration of probation is decided by the judge, considering the state laws/amendments, and the seriousness of the criminal charges; typically, the probation can last one to five years. The length of probation may also be determined by the seriousness of criminal charges presented against the accused. The conditions imposed on the accused and duration of the probation period may include:

  • Submitting a report to the probation officer;
  • Volunteering in a community;
  • Counseling for the substance abuse;
  • Drug testing to be conducted at the random times;
  • A prerequisite to search and start a job;
  • Restitution and fines;
  • Living at a certain address or in a specific geographical area;
  • Payment of probation fees, court costs, penalties, or restitution on a regular basis;
  • Not committing any crime in future.

You Can Consult Our Criminal Lawyers:

Suspension of Sentence is a statutory remedy that is dependent upon a number of factors and evolving judicial precedents. If you need comprehensive guidance on Suspension of Sentence or other criminal cases, you can consult our best criminal lawyers.

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