|The nature and gravity of crime are germane to consideration|
New Delhi: Courts should impose the death penalty only when life sentence appears altogether inadequate for the crime, the Supreme Court has held.
A Bench consisting of Justices Arijit Pasayat, P. Sathasivam and Justice Mukundakam Sharma said: “While deciding the question whether the extreme penalty of death sentence is to be awarded, a balance sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances has to be drawn up.”
Death sentence should be imposed “when the murder is committed in an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical or dastardly manner so as to arouse intense and extreme indignation of the community; when the victim is an innocent child, or a helpless woman or an old or infirm person or a person vis-À-vis whom the murderer is in a dominating position.”
Confirming the death sentence awarded to a person for raping two minor girls and murdering them, the Bench said: “It is the nature and gravity of the crime, but not the criminal, which are germane to consideration of appropriate punishment in a criminal trial.”
Writing the judgment, Justice Pasayat said: “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 the victim belong.”
The Bench pointed out that shockingly a large number of criminals went unpunished, thereby they were encouraged increasingly; in the ultimate, justice suffered with the weakening the credibility of the system.
“The imposition of appropriate punishment is the manner in which the court responds to society’s cry for justice against the criminal. Justice demands that courts should impose punishment befitting the crime so that the courts reflect public abhorrence of the crime.”
Offences against women, dacoity, kidnapping, treason and other crimes involving moral turpitude per se required exemplary punishment.
The Bench said “Any liberal attitude by imposing meagre sentences or taking too sympathetic a view merely on account of lapse of time in respect of such offences will result-wise be counter-productive in the long-run and against societal interest which needs to be cared for and strengthened by a string of deterrence inbuilt in the sentencing system. If for the extremely heinous crime of murder, perpetrated in a very brutal manner without any provocation, the most deterrent punishment is not given, the case of deterrent punishment will lose its relevance.”
In the instant case, Mohan Anna Chavan was awarded death sentence by a trial court in Maharashtra for raping and murdering two minor girls. The Bombay High Court confirmed the sentence.
Dismissing the appeal against that judgment, the apex court pointed out that this was not the first occasion Chavan was convicted of rape of minors. Strangely, when he first committed the rape, he was only sentenced for two years. “This case falls in the rarest of rare category. The past instances, the depraved acts of the accused call for only one sentence, that is death sentence.”
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