The question is whether a convict sentenced to fine can deposit the same after the stipulated period granted by High Court or Sessions Court without a fresh order for enlargement of time from the Court. The answer to this question is in the affirmative. The law related to the question and judgement are detailed below for better understanding.
Section 68 of Indian Penal Code states that the imprisonment which is imposed in default of payment of a fine shall terminate whenever the fine is either paid or levied by process of law. Section 69 of the same Code states that if, before the expiration of the term of imprisonment fixed in default of payment, such a proportion of the fine be paid or levied that the term of imprisonment suffered in default of payment is not less than proportional to the part of the fine still unpaid, the imprisonment shall terminate.
The illustration provided in the Code itself for the above section is follows: A is sentenced to a fine of one hundred rupees and to four months' imprisonment in default of payment. Here, if seventy five rupees of the fine be paid or levied before the expiration of one month of the imprisonment, A will be discharged as soon as the first month has expired. If seventy five rupees be paid or levied at the time of the expiration of the first month, or at any later time while A continues in imprisonment, A will be immediately discharged. If fifty rupees of the fine be paid or levied before the expiration of two months of the imprisonment, A will be discharged as soon as the two months are completed. If fifty rupees be paid or levied at the time of the expiration of those two months, or at any later time while A continues in imprisonment, A will be immediately discharged.
It is evident from the above provisions that once the fine is paid or levied, the imprisonment must end. The right of the convict to deposit fine is not taken away by fixing a period for deposit of fine by the Court. If the convict fails to deposit fine, he can be held in prison. Court can also enlarge the time upon its own discretion for depositing the fine. So the dictum is that the discretion should be exercised judiciously and merely because the convict failed to deposit fine within the specified timeline, provision for enlargement of time is not lost.
The above provisions were recently discussed in Subhash Sait vs. Sree Gokulam Chits and Finance by Kerala High Court. The convicted person in a cheque case was asked to deposit fine and in default undergo imprisonment. He went to High Court and got the sentence modified and was given the option to directly pay the compensation to the complainant within six months from the date of order. High Court also directed the convict to produce memo on direct payment. The period of payment was extended later. Subsequently the convict paid the amount to complainant in instalments. But this was made after the stipulated time-frame. Trial Court did not entertain the receipt produced by the convict solely on the reason that the amount was not paid within the prescribed time-limit and initiated coercive steps against the convict. Here the honourable High Court of Kerala held that the provisions are so clear that upon payment of fine, the convict has to be discharged and thus there is no scope for further punishment even though the amount was paid after stipulated time. Permission from High Court also not needed in the case as the lower court can act upon its discretion as the provisions are clear on the aspect.
Thus following things can be noted in the above decision:
1) Convict can pay the fine/compensation and get free from imprisonment.
2) Payment made even after the stipulated time gives benefit of provisions to the accused.
3) Merely because higher Court extended/stipulated time frame, it does not mean that trial Courts are limited with inherent power to act upon statutory provision to further extend the time.