Tailor, who took the lives of wife and two sons, also wanted to kill himself

New Delhi: ‘Life imprisonment for murder, and death is an exception’. Reiterating this rule, the Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted the death sentence awarded to a tailor for multiple murders to life sentence on the ground that he was suffering from extreme poverty.

A Bench of Justices S.J. Mukhopadaya and Kurian Joseph said: “Poverty, socio-economic, psychic compulsions, undeserved adversities in life are some of the mitigating factors to be considered.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Jospeh said: “Where the offender suffers from socio-economic, psychic or penal compulsions insufficient to attract a legal exception or to downgrade the crime into a lesser one, judicial commutation is permissible.”

Sunil Damodar Gaikwad was awarded the death sentence for causing the murder of his wife and two sons. Though he inflicted knife injuries on his daughter and tried to kill her, she survived. A sessions court in Maharashtra convicted him under Sections 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code. The Bombay High Court confirmed the death sentence.

The Supreme Court said: “It has come in evidence that the appellant suffered from economic and psychic compulsions. The possibility of reforming and rehabilitating the accused cannot be ruled out. The accused had no prior criminal record. On the facts available to the court, it can be safely said the accused is not likely to be menace or threat or danger to society... The appellant had in fact intended to wipe out the whole family including himself on account of abject poverty.

This aspect of the matter has not been properly appreciated by both the sessions court and the High Court, which held that the appellant had the intention to only wipe out others and had not even attempted, and he was not prepared either, for suicide. We are afraid the courts have not appreciated the evidence properly. Had his daughter not interrupted him asking… why he was killing her, his intended conduct would have followed, as is evident from his response that all of them needed to go from the world.”

The Bench said the case did not fall under the category of rarest of rare cases so as to warrant the punishment of death.

“The ‘individually inconclusive and cumulatively marginal facts and circumstances’ tend towards awarding a lesser sentence of life imprisonment. Imprisonment for life of a convict is till the end of his biological life. However, in case the sentence of imprisonment for life is remitted or commuted to any specified period (in any case, not less than 14 years in view of Section 433A of the Cr.PC.), the sentence of seven years imprisonment under Section 307 of IPC shall commence thereafter.”