If any person having been convicted of offences relating to Government stamps and coins (Chapter XII) or against property (Chapter XVII) punishable with simple or rigorous imprisonment of three years or more is again guilty of an offence under the aforesaid chapters punishable as aforesaid he shall be guilty for every such subsequent offence to imprisonment for life, or to imprisonment of either description which may extend to ten years (Section 75).
For the applicability of Section 75, it is not necessary that the actual sentences awarded for the purposes of previous conviction should be for three years or upwards but what is required is that the previous conviction required should be for any one of the offences under Chapter XII or Chapter XVII of the Indian Penal Code and for which the sentence of imprisonment is three years or upwards.
The key word is “punishable”. In other words, the quantum of punishments awarded is not a basis for enhanced punishment, but the permissible upper limit of the sentence of imprisonment for that offence should be three years or upwards.
The Court convicting the accused for the subsequent offence has to find that the previous conviction is in operation on the date of the subsequent conviction. If the previous conviction is in the meanwhile set aside, the accused would not be liable to enhanced punishment because on the date of the subsequent judgment it cannot be said that the accused has a previous conviction.
The principle of Section 75 is that if the previous sentence borned by the accused had no effect on him, a more severe sentence should be awarded. But it does not follow the rigid and inflexible rule that in all cases of previous convictions, an enhanced sentence should be awarded. It is good as a rule of a thumb that the circumstances of each case should be taken into account of inflicting punishment.
It is certainly open to a Magistrate to award a sentence less than that given on a previous occasion if the circumstances of the case warrant it. Proof of previous convictions must be given in the proper manner required by the Evidence Act before the provisions of Section 75 can be invoked.
Section 75 cannot be applied merely on an admission made by the accused when there is no proof of his previous conviction. When it is required that the accused should be dealt with severely; because of a previous conviction, there must be a specific charge under Section 75 of the Code.