Death sentence must be in cases where court feels there is no alternative: Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: SUBRAMANIUM S

Death penalty should be resorted to by courts only if the crime is an “uncommon” one, the Supreme Court has held.

No mitigating circumstances of the convict should should be able to overcome the aggravation or, for one, the brutality of the crime, the court explained. The crime should be of a nature that leaves the court with the opinion that life sentence would be inadequate.

“All murders are inhuman. For imposing capital sentence, the crime must be uncommon in nature, where even after taking into account the mitigating circumstances the Court must be of the opinion that the sentence of imprisonment for life is inadequate and there is no alternative but to impose death sentence,” a three-judge Bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar observed in a recent judgment.

The case was the “heinous and brutal” rape and murder of an eight-year-old by her uncle. The court commuted the death penalty of the convict to life sentence with no remission for 30 years of the imprisonment.

Justice Ravikumar, who wrote the judgment, said the nature of commission of crime, the victim being a relative and the hapless situation of the girl and the “shocking” injuries found on the child were all aggravating circumstances.

But the mitigating circumstances also count.

“The undisputable fact that the appellant had no criminal antecedents, he hails from a poor socio-economic background and also his unblemished conduct inside the jail cannot go unnoticed. So also, it is a fact that at the time of commission of the offence the appellant was aged 25 years,” the court noted.

The court said it cannot rule out the possibility and the probability of reformation and rehabilitation of the appellant.

“The long and short of the discussion is that the present case cannot be considered as one falling in the category of ‘rarest of rare cases’ in which there is no alternative but to impose death sentence,” Justice Ravikumar reasoned.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2022 5:19:12 pm |