SENTENCE IN A RAPE CASE.

 

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1887 OF 2008

State of Rajasthan                                       ... Appellant

Versus

Vinod Kumar                                             ... Respondent

WITH

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1888 OF 2008

State of Rajasthan                                        ... Appellant

Versus

Heera Lal                                          ... Respondent

 

O R D E R

 

    1.      These appeals have been preferred  by  the  State  against  the

    judgment  and  order  dated  5.4.2007  passed  by  the  High  Court  of

    Judicature for Rajasthan (Jaipur Bench) in S.B. Criminal Appeal  No.103

    of 2005  and  S.B.  Criminal  Appeal  No.82  of  2005,  by  which,  the

    conviction of the respondents Vinod Kumar  under  Section  376  of  the

    Indian Penal Code, 1860  (hereinafter called IPC) and Heera  Lal  under

    Section 376 read with Section 120B  IPC  made  by  the  Special  Judge,

    Scheduled  Castes/Scheduled  Tribes  (Prevention  of  Atrocities)   Act

    (hereinafter  called  SC/ST  Act)  Jaipur  dated  22.1.2005  passed  in

    Sessions Case No.123 of 2002 has  been maintained but the  sentence  of

    respondent Vinod Kumar has been reduced from 7 years  to  5  years  and

    that of accused Heera Lal from 7 years to 11 months and 25 days.

 

    2.      Facts and circumstances giving rise to these appeals  are  that

    on 29.8.2002, Guddi, complainant, appeared before the Officer  Incharge

    of the  police  station  alongwith  her  brother-in-law  Babu  Lal  and

    submitted a report that one day earlier, i.e. on 28.8.2002 she attended

    a memorial function in respect of death of her relative.  She left  the

    place alongwith Babu Lal, her brother-in-law  and  stayed  in  the  Jai

    Hotel.  Two persons came there and one of them introduced himself to be

    the Station House Officer and wanted to check the room.  Another person

    asked her relationship with other  occupant  Babu  Lal.   She  informed

    about her relationship but he raised the question  as  to  why  such  a

    relationship has not been disclosed in the  Hotel  Register  and  thus,

    under this pretext, they entered into the  room  for  holding  enquiry.

    They  took  Babu  Lal,  brother-in-law  of  the  complainant   outside.

    Thereafter, one of  them came alone into the room, bolted the door from

    inside, and pushed her on the cot forcibly and committed rape upon her.

     She raised alarm but in vain. After commission of rape he fled away by

    opening the door of the room.  She also gave  the  description  of  the

    said person.                                                                                            

 

    3.      On the basis of the aforesaid report, Case No.168 of 2002 under

    Sections 376, 120B IPC  was  registered  and  investigation  commenced.

    During the course of  investigation,  the  accused  were  arrested  and

    identification  parade  took  place.   The  prosecutrix  was  medically

    examined. After completion  of  the  investigation,  chargesheet  under

    Sections 376, 120B IPC and Section 3(2) (5)  of  SC/ST  Act  was  filed

    against Vinod Kumar and Heera Lal.  The prosecution in support  of  its

    case examined Guddi, Babu Lal and a  large number  of  other  witnesses

    including  the  doctors  who  had  examined   the   prosecutrix.    The

    respondents were  examined  under  Section  313  of  Code  of  Criminal

    Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter called Cr.P.C.). They simply denied  their

    involvement, however, they did not  adduce  any  evidence  in  defence.

    After appreciating the evidence on record, the  trial  Court  convicted

    the said respondents under Section 376 IPC  and  Section  376/120B  IPC

    respectively and awarded punishment for 7 years  Rigorous  Imprisonment

    and a fine of 5,000/- to each and in default, the accused were  ordered

    to undergo simple imprisonment for 3 months.

 

    4.      Aggrieved, both of them preferred appeals before the High Court

    which have been disposed of by the impugned judgment.  The  High  Court

    maintained their convictions as awarded by the  trial  Court.  However,

    their sentences have been  reduced  as  aforementioned.   Hence,  these

    appeals.

 

    5.      Learned counsel for the State has submitted that in a  case  of

    rape, the minimum punishment is 7 years and mandatory requirement under

    Section 376 IPC is to impose the punishment of imprisonment  of  either

    description for a term which shall not be less than 7 years  but  which

    may be life or for a term which may extend to 10 years,  provided  that

    the court may for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned  in  the

    judgment, impose the punishment for a term less than 7 years.   In  the

    instant case, the High Court did not record any  special  and  adequate

    reasons and reduced the punishment substantially.  Therefore,  in  case

    the High Court maintained their convictions for the aforesaid offences,

    there was no justification for reducing  their  sentences.   Thus,  the

    appeals deserve to be allowed.

 

    6.      On the contrary, Shri Naresh Kumar, learned Amicus  Curiae  has

    submitted that the incident occurred more than a decade ago.  The  said

    respondents had already served the sentences awarded by the High Court.

     Undoubtedly, the High Court has not given  any  adequate  and  special

    reasons for reduction of their sentences,   however, it  could  be  the

    age, their social status, family circumstances which could have  swayed

    the High Court in reducing  the  sentences.   Therefore,  the  impugned

    judgment and order does not  warrant  interference.   The  appeals  are

    liable to be dismissed.

 

    7.      We have  considered  the  rival  submissions  made  by  learned

    counsel for the parties and perused the records.

            In the instant case as  the  respondents  have  not  challenged

    their order of conviction under Section 376 IPC and  Section  376  read

    with Section 120B IPC respectively, it attained  finality.   Therefore,

    the only question remains for consideration  is  as  to  whether  there

    could be any justification for the High Court in reduction of sentences

    and that too without recording any reason.

 

    8.      The statutory requirement for awarding the punishment less than

    seven years is to record  adequate  and  special  reasons  in  writing.

    Dictionary meanings of the word “adequate” are commensurate in fitness,

    sufficient,  suitable,  equal  in  magnitude  and  extent,  and  fully.

    “Special reasons” means exceptional;  particular;  peculiar;  different

    from others; designed for a particular purpose,  occasion,  or  person;

    limited in range; confined to a definite field of action.

            Thus, in a case like the instant one, in order  to  impose  the

    punishment lesser  than  prescribed  in  the  statute,  there  must  be

    exceptional reasons relating to the crime as well as to the criminal.

 

    9.      In Meet Singh v. The State of Punjab, AIR 1980  SC  1141,  this

    Court while dealing with expression  “special  reasons”  held  that  it

    means special to the accused concerned.  The court has to weigh reasons

    advanced in respect of each individual accused whose case is  taken  up

    for awarding sentence.   The word 'special' has  to  be  understood  in

    contradistinction to word  'general'  or  'ordinary’.   Thus,  anything

    which is common to a large class governed by the same  statute,  cannot

    be said to be special to each of them.  Therefore, in  the  context  of

    sentencing process, special reasons must be 'special’ to the accused in

    the facts and  circumstances of the case in which the sentence is being

    awarded.

 

    10.     In Madhukar Bhaskarrao Joshi v. State of Maharashtra, AIR  2001

    SC 147, this Court examined a similar provision under the Prevention of

     Corruption Act, 1988 which also contained a   provision  that  accused

    shall be imposed the punishment which “shall not be less than one year”

    , however, a lesser punishment may be  awarded  recording  the  special

    reasons.  The Court held:

             “…. The proviso is in the form of a rare  exception  by  giving

             power to the Court for reducing the imprisonment  period  below

             one year only when there are  "special  reasons"  and  the  law

             required that those special reasons must be recorded in writing

             by the Court……

             …..Parliament  measured  the  parameters   for   such   condign

             punishment and in that process wanted to fix a minimum sentence

             of imprisonment for giving deterrent  impact  on  other  public

             servants who are prone to corrupt deals……..Such  a  legislative

             insistence  is  reflection  of  Parliament's  resolve  to  meet

             corruption cases with very strong hand and to give  signals  of

             deterrence as the most pivotal feature of sentencing of corrupt

             public servants…….

                   In the present case, how could the mere  fact  that  this

             case was pending for such  a  long  time  be  considered  as  a

             "special reason"? That is  a  general  feature  in  almost  all

             convictions under the PC Act and it is not a speciality of this

             particular case. It is the defect of the system that  longevity

             of the cases tried under the PC Act is too lengthy. If that  is

             to be regarded as sufficient for reducing the minimum  sentence

             mandated by the Parliament the legislative exercise would stand

             defeated.”                                (Emphasis added)

 

    11.     In State of Jammu & Kashmir v. Vinay Nanda, AIR  2001  SC  611,

    while dealing with a similar issue, this Court held as under:

             “…….Where the mandate of law  is  clear  and  unambiguous,  the

             Court has no option but to pass the sentence upon conviction as

             provided under the statute……..

                       The  mitigating   circumstances   in   a   case,   if

             established, would authorise the Court to pass such sentence of

             imprisonment or fine which may be deemed to be  reasonable  but

             not less than the minimum prescribed under an enactment……

             ………For imposing the minimum sentence the Court  has  to  record

             special reasons. 'Special reasons'  have  to  be  distinguished

             from 'good' or 'other reasons'. The fact that the  convict  had

             reached his superannuation is not a special  reason.  Similarly

             pendency of criminal case for over a period of  time  can  also

             not     be     treated     as     a     special     reason……….”

             (Emphasis added)

 

    12.     In State of Karnataka v. Raju, AIR 2007  SC  3225,  this  Court

    dealt with a case of rape of a  minor  girl  below  12  years  of  age,

    wherein the High Court reduced the sentence of the accused  from  seven

    years to three and a half years.  This  Court  held  that  the   normal

    sentence in a case where rape is committed on a child below 12 years of

    age, is not less  than  10  years'  rigorous  imprisonment,  though  in

    exceptional cases “for special and adequate reasons” sentence  of  less

    than 10 years' rigorous imprisonment can also  be  awarded.  The  Court

    observed that socio-economic status, religion, race, caste or creed  of

    the accused or the victim are irrelevant considerations  in  sentencing

    policy. After giving due consideration to the facts  and  circumstances

    of each case, for deciding just and appropriate sentence to be  awarded

    for  an  offence,  the   aggravating   and   mitigating   factors   and

    circumstances in which a crime has been committed are to be  delicately

    balanced on the basis of  relevant  circumstances  in  a  dispassionate

    manner by the Court.

          A similar view has been taken by this Court  in  State  of  Madhya

    Pradesh v. Babbu Barkare @ Dalap Singh, AIR  2005  SC  2846;  Dinesh  @

    Buddha v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 2006 SC 1267; Shailesh Jasvantbhai  &

    Anr. v. State of Gujarat & Ors., (2006) 2 SCC 359; and State of  Madhya

    Pradesh v. Basodi AIR 2009 SC 3081)

 

 

    13.     In State of Karnataka v. Krishnappa, AIR  2000  SC  1470,  this

    Court while dealing with the issue held:

           “The measure of punishment in a case of rape cannot depend  upon

           the social status of the victim or the accused. It  must  depend

           upon the conduct of the  accused,  the  state  and  age  of  the

           sexually assaulted female and the gravity of the  criminal  act.

           Crimes of violence upon women need to be  severely  dealt  with.

           The socio-economic status, religion, race, caste or creed of the

           accused  or  the  victim  are   irrelevant   considerations   in

           sentencing policy.  Protection  of  society  and  deterring  the

           criminal is the avowed object of law and that is required to  be

           achieved    by    imposing     an     appropriate     sentence.”

                          (Emphasis supplied)

 

    14.     Similarly in State of Punjab v. Prem Sagar and Ors.,  (2008)  7

    SCC 550, this Court observed as under:

           “To what extent should the Judges have discretion to reduce  the

           sentence so prescribed under the statute has  remained  a  vexed

           question. However, in India, the view always has been  that  the

           punishment must be proportionate to the crime. Applicability  of

           the said principle  in  all  situations,  however,  is  open  to

           question. Judicial  discretion  must  be  exercised  objectively

           having regard to the facts  and  circumstances  of  each  case”.

           (Emphasis supplied)

 

    15.     In  State of Madhya Pradesh v. Santosh Kumar, AIR 2006 SC 2648,

    this Court held that in order to exercise the  discretion  of  reducing

    the sentence, the statutory requirement is that the court has to record

    adequate and special reasons in the judgment and not  fanciful  reasons

    which would permit the  court  to  impose  a  sentence  less  than  the

    prescribed minimum. The reason has not only to  be  adequate  but  also

    special. What is adequate and special would depend upon several factors

    and no straitjacket formula can be indicated. (See also: Harbans  Singh

    v. State of Punjab, AIR 1984  SC  1594;  State  of  Andhra  Pradesh  v.

    Vasudeva Rao, AIR 2004 SC 960;  State of M.P. v. Babulal, AIR  2008  SC

    582; and State of Rajasthan v. Gajendra Singh, (2008) 12 SCC 720)

 

 

    16.     In Kamal Kishore etc. v. State of Himachal Pradesh, AIR 2000 SC

    1920, this  Court  held  that  the  expression  “adequate  and  special

    reasons” indicates that it is not enough to have special  reasons,  nor

    adequate reasons disjunctively. There should be a conjunction  of  both

    for enabling the court to invoke  the  discretion.  Reasons  which  are

    general or common in many cases cannot be regarded as special  reasons.

    (See also: Bhupinder Sharma v. State of Himachal Pradesh, AIR  2003  SC

    4684; and State of Andhra Pradesh v. Polamala Raju @ Rajarao, AIR  2000

    SC 2854)

 

    17.     In State of M.P. v. Bala @ Balaram,  AIR  2005  SC  3567,  this

    Court while dealing with the issue observed:

             “The crime here is rape. It is a particularly heinous crime, a

           crime against society, a crime against human dignity,  one  that

           reduces a man to an animal. The penal statute has  prescribed  a

           maximum and a minimum punishment for an  offence  under  Section

           376 IPC. To view such an offence once it is proved, lightly,  is

           itself an affront  to  society.  Though  the  award  of  maximum

           punishment may depend on the  circumstances  of  the  case,  the

           award of the minimum punishment, generally, is  imperative.  The

           provisos to Sections 376(1) and 376(2) IPC give the power to the

           court to award a sentence lesser than the minimum  for  adequate

           and special reasons. The power under the proviso is  not  to  be

           used indiscriminately or routinely. It is to be  used  sparingly

           and only in cases where special facts and circumstances  justify

           a reduction. The reasons must be relevant  to  the  exercise  of

           such discretion vested in the court. The reasons must be set out

           clearly and cogently. The mere  existence  of  a  discretion  by

           itself does not justify its exercise. The long pendency  of  the

           criminal trial or the offer of the rapist to  marry  the  victim

           are not relevant reasons. Nor is the  age  of  the  offender  by

           itself an adequate reason.  It is true  that  reformation  as  a

           theory of punishment is  in  fashion  but  under  the  guise  of

           applying such theory, the courts cannot  forget  their  duty  to

           society and to the victim. The court has to consider the  plight

           of the victim in a case involving rape  and  the  social  stigma

           that may follow the victim to the grave and which in most cases,

           practically ruins  all  prospects  of  a  normal  life  for  the

           victim.”                          (Emphasis supplied)

 

    18.     In Ravji @ Ram Chandra v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1996 SC  787,

    this Court held that it is the nature and gravity of the crime but  not

    the criminal,  which  are  germane  for  consideration  of  appropriate

    punishment in a criminal trial. The court will be failing in  its  duty

    if appropriate punishment is not awarded for a  crime  which  has  been

    committed not only against the individual victim but also  against  the

    society to which the criminal and victim belong. The punishment  to  be

    awarded for a crime must not be irrelevant but it should conform to and

    be consistent with the atrocity and brutality with which the crime  has

    been  perpetrated,  the  enormity  of  the  crime   warranting   public

    abhorrence and it should respond  to  the  society's  cry  for  justice

    against the criminal.

 

    19.     Awarding punishment lesser than the  minimum  prescribed  under

    Section 376 IPC, is an exception to the general rule. Exception  clause

    is to be invoked only in exceptional circumstances where the conditions

    incorporated in the exception clause itself  exist.  It  is  a  settled

    legal proposition that exception  clause  is   always  required  to  be

    strictly interpreted even if there is a  hardship  to  any  individual.

    Exception is provided with the object of taking it out of the scope  of

    the basic law and what is included in it and what  legislature  desired

    to be excluded.  The natural presumption in law is  that  but  for  the

    proviso, the enacting part of  the  Section  would  have  included  the

    subject matter of the proviso, the enacting part  should  be  generally

    given such a construction which would make the exceptions carved out by

    the  proviso  necessary  and  a  construction  which  would  make   the

    exceptions unnecessary and redundant should  be  avoided.   Proviso  is

    used to remove special cases from the general enactment and provide for

    them separately.  Proviso may change the very concept of the intendment

    of the enactment by insisting on certain  mandatory  conditions  to  be

    fulfilled in order to make the enactment workable. (Vide:  S.  Sundaram

    Pillai, etc. v. V.R. Pattabiraman, AIR 1985 SC 582; Union  of  India  &

    Ors. v.  M/s. Wood Papers Ltd. &  Anr.,  AIR  1991  SC  2049;    Grasim

    Industries Ltd. & Anr. v. State of Madhya Pradesh & Anr., AIR  2000  SC

    66; Laxminarayan R. Bhattad & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra & Anr.,  AIR

    2003 SC 3502; Project Officer, ITDP & Ors. v. P.D. Chacko, AIR 2010  SC

    2626; and Commissioner of Central Excise, New Delhi v. Hari Chand  Shri

    Gopal & Ors., (2011) 1 SCC 236).

 

    20.     Thus, the law on the issue can be summarised to the effect that

    punishment should always be proportionate/commensurate to  the  gravity

    of offence.  Religion, race, caste, economic or social  status  of  the

    accused or victim are not the  relevant  factors  for  determining  the

    quantum of punishment. The court has to  decide  the  punishment  after

    considering  all   aggravating   and   mitigating   factors   and   the

    circumstances in which the crime has been committed.  Conduct and state

    of mind of the accused and age of the sexually assaulted victim and the

    gravity of the criminal act are the factors  of  paramount  importance.

    The court must exercise  its  discretion  in  imposing  the  punishment

    objectively considering the facts and circumstances of the  case.   The

    power under the  proviso is  not  to  be  used  indiscriminately  in  a

    routine, casual and cavalier manner for the reason  that  an  exception

    clause requires strict interpretation. The legislature  introduced  the

    imposition  of  minimum  sentence  by  amendment  in  the  IPC   w.e.f.

    25.12.1983, therefore, the courts are bound to bear in mind the  effect

    thereof.

            The court while exercising  the  discretion  in  the  exception

    clause has  to  record  “exceptional  reasons”  for  resorting  to  the

    proviso. Recording of such reasons is sine qua  non  for  granting  the

    extraordinary relief. What is adequate and special  would  depend  upon

    several factors and no straight jacket formula can be laid down.        

 

    21.     In the instant case, the High Court  recorded  the  submissions

    advanced on behalf of the parties  to  the  extent  that  none  of  the

    convicts wanted to press his appeal on merits as it was not possible to

    succeed in view of the  statement  of  the  prosecutrix  Guddi  (PW.1),

    recorded  by  the  trial  court  and  her  statement  recorded  by  the

    Magistrate under Section 164 Cr.P.C. on  5th  September,  2002.   Thus,

    they pleaded only for reduction of punishment.

             The  Public  Prosecutor  vehemently  opposed  the  prayer  for

    reduction of punishment.

             In  spite  of  the  fact  that  the  learned  counsel  for  the

    appellants before the High Court did not press their appeal on  merits,

    the High Court affirmed the findings insofar as the rape is  concerned,

    recorded by the trial Court.  The High Court held:

           “So far as commission of offence of rape with her is  concerned,

           I find that the same is fully  proved  from  her  statement  and

           other prosecution evidence, and  I  am  of  the  view  that  the

           learned trial Court has considered the prosecution  evidence  in

           detail and has rightly convicted the accused  persons  and  both

           the learned counsel are right in not pressing  their  appeal  on

           merits.”

 

             After affirming the conviction for rape for both the  accused,

    the High Court observed that  Heera Lal accused  did  not  commit  rape

    himself but had only accompanied Vinod Kumar.  The High  Court  further

    observed  as under:

           “I do not want  to  discuss  the  evidence,  in  detail,  but  I

           certainly find his case to be a fit one to reduce  the  sentence

           of imprisonment to a period of 11 months and  25  days,  already

           undergone by him. So far as accused Vinod Kumar is concerned,  I

           find his case to  be  a  fit  one  to  reduce  the  sentence  of

           imprisonment looking to the whole statement of the prosecutrix.”

                                            (Emphasis added)

 

    Thus, it is evident from the  aforesaid  discussion  that  the  learned

    counsel for the appellants before the High Court did not argue the case

    on merit but the High Court affirmed the findings on commission of rape

    making reference to the evidence,  however,  further  made  observation

    that the court did not want to discuss the evidence in detail.  We fail

    to understand as how the findings  on  commission  of  rape  have  been

    affirmed without  discussing  the  evidence  on  record.   It  was  not

    necessary at all as the counsel for those parties  did  not  argue  the

    appeals on merit.

 

    22.     The Court further took note  that  awarding  punishment  lesser

    than the minimum sentence of 7 years was permissible only for  adequate

    and special reasons. However, no such reasons have been recorded by the

    court  for doing so, and thus, the court failed to ensure compliance of

    such mandatory requirement but awarded the punishment lesser  than  the

    minimum prescribed under the IPC. Such an order  is  violative  of  the

    mandatory requirement of law and has defeated the legislative  mandate.

    Deciding the case in such a casual manner reduces the criminal  justice

    delivery system to mockery.                    

 

    23.     Thus, in the facts and circumstances of the case,  the  appeals

    are allowed.  Sentences awarded by the High Court  are  set  aside  and

    seven years R.I. awarded by the trial court is restored.

                 Respondents are directed to surrender before the concerned

    court within a period of four weeks from today and shall  undergo their

    remaining part of sentences. In case the respondents fail to  surrender

    within the said period, the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Jaipur (City) is

    directed to take them into custody and send them to jail.   A  copy  of

    the order be sent to learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Jaipur  (City),

    Rajasthan.

                                                               ………………………..J.

                                                          (Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN)

                                                                ……………………..J.

                                                               (DIPAK MISRA)

    New Delhi,

    May 18, 2012

 

 

 

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