Know Your Law: The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958

The author in this article talks about the Probation of offenders Act, 1958 aimed at rehabilitating amateur offenders into the society, preventing the conversion of youthful offenders into obdurate criminals.

India needs a reformative touch in its criminal system, the touch that destroys the criminality in the human rather than the human in the criminal. The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 is one such legislation, aimed at rehabilitating amateur offenders into the society, preventing the conversion of youthful offenders into obdurate criminals as a result of their association with hardened criminals of mature age in case these young offenders are sentenced to undergo imprisonment. This Act, which culminated in the legal form with 27 years of effort behind it, appreciates the importance of environmental influence in the commission of crimes and therefore it prescribes a remedy whereby the offenders can be reformed and rehabilitated in society[1].  

The Aim and Objective of the Act 

The basic objective of the Act is to release those offenders that the Court believes are amateur, young and should be released and rehabilitated back into the society rather than being sent to the prison where there will come under the influence of other seasoned criminals and under their peer pressure would not be able to find their way back to the mainstream society.  The kindly application of the probation principle is negative by the imperatives of social defence and the improbabilities of moral proselytization, by the thinking that these offenders are unfairly enjoying unconstrained impunity and as such sufficient safeguards have been put in place to ensure that public interest is not harmed. Section 3 and 4 of the Act deal with the offences and conditions wherein the act provides relief to the guilty.

Important Sections

Section 3 provides that if the offender has committed the offences mentioned under Section 379: Punishment for Theft, Section 380: Theft in Dwelling House, Section 381: Theft by clerk or servant of property in possession of master, Section 404: Dishonest misappropriation of property possessed by deceased person at the time of his death, or section 420 Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property of Indian Penal Code  or any offence punishable with imprisonment for not more than two years, or with fine, or with both, then the Court has the power to release him/her after due admonition. It is imperative to note here that there should be no proof of any previous conviction against him, and the court wherein he is found guilty believes that considering the circumstances of the case, nature of the offence committed, character and conduct of the offender, he is capable of being released with only due admonition rather than the procedure under Section 4.

In the case of Basikesan v.State of Orissa[2] a person of 20 years of age was found guilty of committing a punishable offence under section 380 of IPC and there was no prior conviction proof. The court held that the case is fit for the application of section 3 as the offence committed by the person was not planned or properly designed and should be released after due admonition. 

Section 4 provides that an offender in certain cases shall be released by the Court on probation of good conduct, if the Court, considering the circumstances of the case, the nature of the offence committed, and the character and conduct of the offender as well as the report of the probation officer concerned, think it expedient to do so. If the Court is satisfied it may release the offender by asking him to furnish a bond with or without sureties to appear and receive his/her sentence when summoned by the Court and will then be on good behaviour and maintain peace and tranquility in the society.  It is imperative to note that the offence committed should attract punishment of either death sentence or life imprisonment and that he has a fixed place of residence or an occupation in a place where in this same Court has jurisdiction for the time period of probation and that the period of probation does not extend three years.

Section 6 of the act states the provision of restriction on imprisonment of a person under 21 years of age. It provides that if a person less than 21 years of age is found guilty of committing an offence which is punishable of imprisonment (not imprisonment for life)  the court shall not sentence him to the imprisonment unless it is satisfied that, having regard to the circumstances of the case including the nature of the offence and the character of the offender, it would not be desirable to deal with him under section 3 or section 4, and if the court passes any sentence of imprisonment on the offender, it shall record its reasons for doing so. For the reason to satisfy that the case should be dealt under section 3 or section 4 of the act the court would call for the report from the probationary officer and will consider the information relating to the character or mental health condition of the person.[3]

If all the above conditions are satisfied, the Court would release the offender and in addition to the order of probation also pass a supervision order directing that the offender shall remain in the supervision of the mentioned probation officer for a specified period not less than one year as well as would have to follow the specified conditions mentioned in regards to the residence, abstention from intoxicants, etc. , if any, in the order and may also be required to furnish an additional bond for the same. Section 5 provides that the offender may also be required to pay costs of the proceedings or any costs to the victim for loss and injury. Probation of offenders Act provides special protection to persons below 21 years of age and provides that, unless the offence entails a punishment of life imprisonment or death, such persons shall not be sentenced to imprisonment and if a Court does so, conditions with sound reasoning should be recorded.

Conclusion

Probation is an alternative measure taken to improve the condition of an offender which he might have committed in a very unusual circumstance, it is important in the criminal legal system to give a change of improvement to a person to choose a right path in his life. The probation can be benefited only when there is synchronization in work between the Judiciary and the administration and the implementation should be done properly by the probationary officers. In a country like India where the jails are already overcrowded and with the least concern of the human rights of the prisoners, the concept of probation should be adopted effectively to save the youth and give them a chance of correcting their mistakes.

Also read Fugitive Economic Offenders


[1] Anurag Chaurasia, Probabtion of offenders act, in India and with case laws, Scribd, https://www.scribd.com/document/222142419/Probabtion-of-offenders-act-in-india-and-with-case-laws

[2] AIR 1967 Ori 4.

[3] Ayushi Singh, The Probation of Offenders Act- An Analysis, Legal Service India, (July 11, 2020, 2:45AM) http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-453-the-probation-of-offenders-act-an-analysis.html