Tulip Kanth

New Delhi, May 14, 2022: In a case of rape and murder of an eight-year old girl, the Supreme Court has commuted the the death sentence awarded to the appellant-accused for the offence under Section 300, IPC punishable under Section 302, IPC to imprisonment for life with the stipulation that he shall not be entitled to premature release or remission before undergoing actual imprisonment for a period of 30 years.

Observing that 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, the Larger Bench of Justice A.M.Khanwilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice C.T.Ravikumar held that crime test and the criminal test are required to be followed before awarding capital sentence.

The accused, in this case, had committed the brutal act of rape and murder of an eight-year old girl child who was none other than the daughter of his own cousin, that too in a hapless situation. Subsequent to the filing of the final report and committal of the case, the trial Court framed charges against the appellant for offences punishable under Sections Section 376A 364A, 376(2)(i), 302, 201 IPC and under Sections 3, 5 and 6 of the POCSO Act. He was awarded death sentence. In the criminal appeal, the High Court confirmed the death sentence recorded for the offence under Section 302 IPC and also the sentences of offence under Sections 376(2)(i) and 302 IPC and Section 6 of the POCSO Act. Hence, this appeal was filed.

The Bench affirmed that  the trial Court and also the High Court had concurrently concluded that the death of the victim was homicidal in nature and the Courts had rightly found that the victim was raped. The Bench also held that the concurrent finding of the courts below that the appellant had committed the offence of aggravated penetrative sexual assault punishable under Section 6 of the POCSO Act also invited no interference.

The Bench considered the fact that the appellant had no criminal antecedents and he hailed from a poor socio-economic background and also his unblemished conduct inside the jail could not go unnoticed. Also, it was a fact that at the time of commission of the offence the appellant was aged 25 years, added the Bench. The Apex Court asserted, “Ultimately, what is required is consideration of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances with application of mind. They were not given the proper attention while considering the question of awarding the sentence for conviction under Section 302 IPC, in the case on hand.”

Thus, without finding any any reason to rule out the possibility and the probability of the reformation and rehabilitation of the appellant, the Bench held that the present case couldnot be considered as one falling in the category of rarest of rare cases in which there was no alternative but to impose death sentence. On such consideration, the Bench was of the view that it would be just and proper to award punishment of imprisonment for life to the appellant without application of the provisions of premature release/remission.

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