The case of outraging the modesty of woman and murder is not the rarest of the rare, says Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence — awarded by a trial court and confirmed by the Bombay High Court — to an accused for outraging the modesty of a woman and killing her brutally.
Giving this ruling, a Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and Ranjan Gogoi said, “The life imprisonment to the appellant Maheboobkhan will continue for a life-term but subject to the orders of remission granted by the State government by passing appropriate speaking orders.”
While observing that there cannot be a “straight jacket” formula to decide on capital punishment, the Bench noted the brutality with which a young girl of 20 years was assaulted by the accused. It observed that the post-mortem report and the evidence of the doctor, who performed the autopsy of the body of the deceased person, “speak volumes [of] the way the appellant assaulted the deceased with a knife on account of her resistance.”
But the Bench also said that the “appellant” had entered the victim’s house only with a motive of committing theft and robbery, which subsequently led him to outrage the modesty of the deceased. Therefore, “it is not a case where the court could arrive at only one conclusion that is the imposition of death penalty is the only punishment that would serve the ends of justice.”
The Bench said, “Considering the mitigating circumstances, we do not subscribe to the view of the High Court that the case falls within the parameters of the rarest of rare case…” and added that there was a possibility of rehabilitation and reformation of the appellant. The Bench also noted the deterrence provided by lifelong prison terms.
The prosecution case was that the deceased — Vidya Deshmukh — and her family members, after having their dinner, retired to bed. Between 3 and 3.15 a.m., Maheboobkhan, along with others, barged into the house intending to commit theft and robbery and threatened Vidya’s parents and uncle at knife point not to raise any alarm and tied their hands with a piece of a sari. The appellant, while ransacking the house, snatched Vidya’s mangalsutra and thereafter attempted to remove her golden ear rings. Upon resistance, the appellant assaulted Vidya by biting her on her cheek and lips followed by nine to ten successive blows of knife which resulted in her death.
The trial court awarded the death sentence and this was confirmed by the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court and the present appeal is directed against this judgment.