DEATH PENALTY : WHEN CAN BE IMPOSED

 

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS.1899-1900 OF 2011

 

MOHAMMED AJMAL MOHAMMAD AMIR KASAB @ ABU MUJAHID    … APPELLANT

VERSUS

STATE OF MAHARASHTRA                                                             … RESPONDENT

WITH

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1961 OF 2011

STATE OF MAHARASHTRA                         … APPELLANT

VERSUS

FAHIM HARSHAD MOHAMMAD YUSUF

ANSARI & ANOTHER                             … RESPONDENTS

AND

TRANSFER PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO.30 OF 2012

RADHAKANT YADAV                              … PETITIONER

VERSUS

UNION OF INDIA & OTHERS                      … RESPONDENTS

 

IN THIS LENGTHY JUDGEMENT, HON’BLE SC REITERATED THE PRINCIPLES/GUIDELINES FOR THE IMPOSITION OF DEATH SENTENCE AS FOLLOWS:-

565.  Coming back to the legalese of the matter:

    The Constitutional validity of death penalty was tested in Bachan Singh

v. State of Punjab[105] and in  that  case  a  Constitution  Bench  of  this

Court, while  upholding  the  Constitutional  validity  of  death  sentence,

observed that the death penalty may be invoked only in the  rarest  of  rare

cases. This Court stated that:

    “209. ….For persons convicted of murder life imprisonment is  the  rule

    and death sentence an exception. A real and  abiding  concern  for  the

    dignity of human life postulates resistance to taking  a  life  through

    law’s instrumentality. That ought not to be done save in the rarest  of

    rare cases when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed.”

                                                         (Emphasis Supplied)

566.  The Bachan Singh principle of the ‘rarest of rare cases’ came  up  for

consideration and elaboration in Machhi Singh v. State of  Punjab[106].   It

was a case of extraordinary brutality (from  normal  standards  but  nothing

compared to this case!).  On account of a  family  feud  Machhi  Singh,  the

main accused in the case along with eleven (11) accomplices, in  the  course

of a  single  night,  conducted  raids  on  a  number  of  villages  killing

seventeen (17) people, men, women and children, for  no  reason  other  than

they were related to one Amar Singh and his sister Piyaro  Bai.   The  death

sentence awarded to Machhi Singh and two other accused by  the  trial  court

and affirmed by the High Court was also confirmed by this Court.

567.  In Machhi Singh  this  Court  observed  that  though  the  “community”

revered  and  protected  life  because  “the  very  humanistic  edifice   is

constructed on the foundation of reverence for life principle”  it  may  yet

withdraw the protection and demand death  penalty.  The  kind  of  cases  in

which protection to life may be withdrawn and there may be  the  demand  for

death penalty were then enumerated in the following paragraphs:

    “32.   … It may do so “in rarest of rare  cases”  when  its  collective

    conscience is so shocked  that  it  will  expect  the  holders  of  the

    judicial power centre to inflict death penalty  irrespective  of  their

    personal opinion as regards  desirability  or  otherwise  of  retaining

    death penalty.  The community may entertain such a sentiment  when  the

    crime is viewed from the platform of the motive for, or the  manner  of

    commission of the crime, or the anti-social or abhorrent nature of  the

    crime, such as for instance:

     1. Manner of commission of murder

    33.          When the murder  is  committed  in  an  extremely  brutal,

    grotesque, diabolical, revolting or dastardly manner so  as  to  arouse

    intense and extreme indignation of the community.  For instance,

      (i)  when the house of the victim is set aflame with the end in  view

    to roast him alive in the house.

      (ii) when the victim is subjected  to  inhuman  acts  of  torture  or

    cruelty in order to bring about his or her death.

      (iii)      when the body of the victim is cut into pieces or his body

    is dismembered in a fiendish manner.

    II. Motive for commission of murder

      34.  When the murder is committed for a motive  which  evinces  total

    depravity and meanness. For instance when (a) a hired assassin  commits

    murder for the sake of money or reward (b)  a  cold-blooded  murder  is

    committed with a deliberate design in order to inherit property  or  to

    gain control over property of a ward or a person under the  control  of

    the murderer or vis-à-vis whom the murderer is in a dominating position

    or in a position of trust, or (c) a murder is committed in  the  course

    for betrayal of the motherland.

   III. Anti-social or socially abhorrent nature of the crime

    35.    (a)   When murder of a member of a Scheduled Caste  or  minority

    community,  etc.,  is  committed  not  for  personal  reasons  but   in

    circumstances which arouse social wrath.   For  instance  when  such  a

    crime is committed in order to terrorise such persons and frighten them

    into fleeing from a place or in order to deprive them of, or make  them

    surrender, lands or benefits conferred on them with a view  to  reverse

    past injustices and in order to restore the social balance.

           (b)   In cases of “bride burning” and what are known  as  “dowry

    deaths” or when murder is committed in order to remarry for the sake of

    extracting dowry once again or to marry another  woman  on  account  of

    infatuation.

    IV. Magnitude of crime

      36.  When the crime is enormous in  proportion.   For  instance  when

    multiple murders say of all or almost all the members of a family or  a

    large number of persons of a particular caste, community, or  locality,

    are committed.

     V. Personality of victim of murder

    37.    When the victim of murder is (a) an innocent child who could not

    have or has not provided even an excuse, much less a  provocation,  for

    murder (b) a helpless woman or a person rendered helpless by old age or

    infirmity (c) when the victim is a person vis-à-vis whom  the  murderer

    is in a position of domination or trust (d) when the victim is a public

    figure generally loved and respected by the community for the  services

    rendered by him and the murder is committed for  political  or  similar

    reasons other than personal reasons.”

568.  The above principles are generally  regarded  by  this  Court  as  the

broad guidelines for imposition of death sentence and have been followed  by

the Court in many subsequent decisions.

Comments