Kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative industry all over the country, which must be dealt with in the harshest possible manner and an obligation rests on courts too, the Supreme Court has said.

It confirmed the death sentence awarded to two persons who kidnapped a schoolboy and sought a ransom of Rs.50 lakh from his father. As he did not pay up, they poisoned the boy to death.

A Bench of Justice H.S. Bedi and Justice J.M. Panchal referred to some of the earlier judgments dealing with the debate on the validity and propriety of death sentence in modern society and rejected the plea of the appellants, Vikram Singh and Jasvir Singh, that they be shown leniency as they were young.

The Bench, however, modified the death sentence awarded to an accomplice, Sonia, wife of Jasvir Singh, into life imprisonment. The trial court had slapped death sentence on the gang of three from Hoshiarpur in Punjab, and the judgment was confirmed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The Bench said: “There are the moralists who say that as God has given life, he alone has the right to take it away, and this privilege cannot be usurped by any human being. There are others who believe that the death sentence cannot be taken as a retributive or deterrent factor, as the statistics show that the possibility of a death sentence has never acted as a deterrent against serious crime.”

Writing the judgment, Mr. Justice Bedi said: “The theory which is widely accepted in India, however, is that as death penalty is on the statute book, it has to be awarded, provided the circumstances justify it. The broad principle has been laid in Bachan Sing’s case as the ‘rarest of rare cases’.”

“When the murder is committed in such an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical, revolting or dastardly manner as to arouse intense and extreme indignation of the community or when the victim of murder is an innocent child who could not have or has not provided even an excuse, much less a provocation, death penalty could be awarded,” it said. In this case, “we find that not only was the boy kidnapped for ransom, an act which itself would attract death penalty, but he was also murdered in the process.”

Citing an earlier judgment, the Bench said death sentence could be awarded even in a case of kidnapping and murder based on circumstantial evidence. Further, the boy’s terror could further be visualised when he would have heard threatening calls to his father and seen the preparations — the taping of his mouth and administration of an overdose of dangerous drugs — to do away with him. “The horror, distress and the devastation felt in the family on the loss of an only son can also be imagined,” the Bench said.

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