High Court says the case does not fall under the “rarest of rare” category or honour killing

Five death row convicts got some relief on Friday after the Delhi High Court refused to confirm their death sentences and modified the same to life imprisonment while holding that the case did not fall under the “rarest of rare” category or honour killing.

A Bench of Justices S. Muralidhar and Mukta Gupta refused to confirm the death sentences awarded to Old Delhi residents Mohammad Saleem, Shaheen Abbas, Sajid Wasim, Shaheen Zargam Ali and Shhabir Kasim for murdering one Tariq in 2008.

The trial court had on September 7, 2011, sentenced them to death while holding them guilty of the murder and the attempted murder of Tariq’s brother Mohammad Sadiq. A fine of Rs.15,000 was also imposed on them.

The trial court held it to be a case of honour killing as Tariq had married the sister of accused Sajid Wasim and Shabbir Kasim on May 1, 2007. The police had said enmity had developed between the two families on account of the marriage and Tariq and his wife had started living away from the family to avoid their wrath. They returned to the family 10 days before Tariq was shot dead in July 2008.

The State moved High Court for confirmation of the death sentence, while the accused challenged their conviction.

The Bench, however, held that “...the present case cannot possibly be termed as involving the crime of an honour killing. The incident took place more than one-and-a-half years after the marriage. Both families were staying in the same area. Yet there is no evidence to show that there was any incident of a quarrel between them prior to July 7, 2008”.

The Bench also noted that Tariq’s wife had stated that theirs was a love marriage but did not depose about having received any threats from any of the families.

The Court also said: “On the aspect of sentence apart from concluding that it was an honour killing, which therefore falls in the category of rarest of rare case, the trial Court has not analysed the role of each of the accused and the mitigating factors vis-à-vis each of them. The accused were of different ages and differently related to the wife of the deceased. By putting all the accused in the same basket, the trial Court has overlooked the legal requirement of carefully weighing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances qua each of them before awarding the extreme penalty.”

“...the Court declines to confirm the death sentence awarded to each of the accused. The impugned order on sentence is modified by sentencing each of the accused to life imprisonment” for offence of murder, the court said while maintaining their conviction.

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