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Friday, September 20, 2013

DEATH CONFIRMED = Herein, A1 and A2 have committed a cold blooded murder in a pre-ordained fashion without any provocation whatsoever. The motive behind the gruesome act was to avenge the act of informant in approaching the machinery of law enforcement inspite of threats by the appellants. The victims were five innocent children and wife of the informant who were sleeping unalarmed when the appellants came and locked them inside their house while it was set ablaze. Further, wrath of A1 and A2 is reflected in their act of first gagging the informant, thereafter attempting to burn him alive and later, when he tried to escape, firing at him thereby leaving no stone unturned in translating their threats into reality. As a result of the aforesaid incident, having witnessed the threats of burning given by the A1 to the informant tuned into reality, none but the family of the deceased-informant came forth to depose against the appellant-accused persons during the trial. The crime, enormous in proportion having wiped off the whole family, is committed so brutally that it pricks and shocks not only the judicial conscience but even the collective conscience of the society. It demands just punishment from the Court and the Court is bound to respond within legal parameters. The demand for justice and the award of punishment have to be in consonance with the legislative command and the discretion vested in the Courts. “…the punishment is the way in which society expresses its denunciation of wrong doing; and, in order to maintain respect for the law, it is essential that the punishment inflicted for grave crimes should adequately reflect the revulsion felt by the great majority of citizens for them. It is a mistake to consider the objects of punishments as being a deterrent or reformative or preventive and nothing else... The truth is that some crimes are so outrageous that society insists on adequate punishment, because the wrong doer deserves it, irrespective of whether it is a deterrent or not.” 90. In light of the aforesaid, having regard to the gravity of the offence committed, we are of the considered opinion that with regard to A1 and A2 this case falls into the category of rarest of the rare cases and is not a case where imprisonment for life is an adequate sentence and thus, constrained to reach the inescapable conclusion that death sentence imposed on A1 and A2 be confirmed. 91. Therefore, the sentence of death imposed on A1 and A2 is confirmed and the sentence awarded to A3 is commuted to life imprisonment till the rest of his life. 92. The order of stay on the execution of the capital punishment of A1 and A2 is vacated.

        punishable in                     
                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                     CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS.249-250 OF 2011

    DEEPAK RAI                                 Appellant(s)


    STATE OF BIHAR                        Respondent(s)


                    CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS.1747-1748 OF 2011

    JAGAT RAI AND ANR.                     Appellant(s)


    STATE OF BIHAR                        Respondent(s)

                               J U D G M E N T

   H.L. Dattu, J:

              1. These appeals are directed against the judgment  and  order
                 passed by the High Court of Judicature at  Patna  in  Death
                 Reference No. 6 of 2009 and Criminal Appeal(DB) Nos. 989 of
                 2009 and 158 of 2010, dated 19.08.2010.   By  the  impugned
                 judgment and  order,  the  High  Court  has  confirmed  the
                 judgment of  conviction,  dated  17.09.2010  and  order  of
                 sentence,  dated  30.10.2009  passed  by   the   Additional
                 Sessions Judge cum  FTC  No.  2,  Vaishali  at  Hazipur  in
                 Sessions Trial No. 195 and 571 of 2006, whereby the learned
                 Sessions Judge has convicted the  three  accused-appellants
                 for offence under Sections 120B, 148, 302  read  with  149,
                 307 read with 149, 326, 429, 436 and 452  of  Indian  Penal
                 Code, 1860 (for short ‘the  IPC’)  and  sentenced  them  to


              2. The Prosecution case in a nutshell is: On the fateful night
                 of 01.01.2006, the deceased informant (PW-7)  was  sleeping
                 in the Varanda of his house  and  his  wife  alongwith  the
                 children, two daughters aged 12 and 10 years,  respectively
                 and three sons aged 8, 6 and  3  years,  respectively  were
                 sleeping in the room inside  the  house.  At  around  01.00
                 A.M., he was awakened by the sound of footsteps of  several
                 people. In the dim light of a night bulb and  further  from
                 their voices, he identified the persons who had  come  near
                 his house armed with lethal  weapons  as  appellant-accused
                 persons and nine  other  villagers  besides  10-11  unknown
                 persons. Before  the  informant  could  escape,  appellant-
                 accused-Jagat Rai(A1) and Deepak Rai(A2) caught hold of him
                 and pushed him on the ground whereafter 3-4 unknown persons
                 got over his body and gagged him. Then  A1  instructed  few
                 others to surround the house from all  sides  and  sprinkle
                 kerosene over it, while the other  accused  persons  locked
                 the door  of  the  room  where  the  informant’s  wife  was
                 sleeping alongwith the children and set the house  on  fire
                 trapping them inside. Thereafter, they  sprinkled  kerosene
                 over the informant’s body and held him to the ground  while
                 A1  set  the  informant’s  mouth  on  fire  by  lighting  a
                 matchstick. Upon rising of a blazing  flash  of  fire,  the
                 accused persons fled away  leaving  the  informant  behind.
                 While the informant also attempted to escape, A2  fired  at
                 him but the informant managed an escape and  raised  alarm.
                 On hearing such noise, the informant’s  four  brothers  and
                 other family members who resided in  the  adjoining  houses
                 woke up, reached the spot and witnessed the accused persons
                 running away while the informant was on  fire.  Until  then
                 the fire in informant’s house  had  reached  its  enormity,
                 swallowing the informant’s family and injuring the  buffalo
                 and calf on the property. The informant (PW-7)  was  rushed
                 to the Primary Health Centre, Raghopur.

              3. The fardbayan was recorded at 7:30  AM,  on  the  basis  of
                 which an FIR was registered against  the  three  appellant-
                 accused and few others for the offence under Sections  147,
                 148, 149, 452, 342, 324, 326, 427, 436, 307 and 302 of  the
                 IPC at 9:00 AM on 01.01.2006. The motive of the  occurrence
                 was alleged  to  be  the  informant’s  refusal  even  after
                 consistent threats by A1 to withdraw the FIR lodged by  him
                 for the theft of informant’s buffalo  against  A1  and  his
                 family, in pursuance of which two  members  of  his  family
                 were arrested.  Upon  investigation,  the  chargesheet  was
                 drawn against the aforesaid accused persons on  21.03.2006.
                 The learned  Judicial  Magistrate,  First  Class,  Hazipur,
                 Vaishali bifurcated  the  case  of  the  absconded  accused
                 persons-A1, A2 and 8  others  and  committed  the  case  of
                 Bacchababu Rai (A3) and 5  others  for  trial  as  Sessions
                 Trial No. 195 of 2006,  by  order  dated  06.05.2006.  Upon
                 arrest of the accused persons-A1, A2 and one  other,  their
                 case was separated from other absconder-accused persons and
                 committed to trial as Sessions Trial No. 571  of  2006,  by
                 order dated 15.12.2006.
              4. While in Sessions Trial No. 195 of 2006, 17 witnesses  were
                 examined and 14 exhibits were produced, in  Sessions  Trial
                 No.571 of 2006, 14 witnesses were examined and 11  exhibits
                 were produced by the  prosecution.  Since  both  the  cases
                 arose out of the same FIR, they were consolidated by  order
                 dated  12.01.2008,   whereafter   their   trial   proceeded
                 together. While A2 examined 8 witnesses, other two  accused
                 persons- Binay Rai and Ranjay Rai examined five  and  three
                 witnesses, respectively in their defence.

              5. Since the evidence of prosecution witnesses recorded in the
                 two trials corroborates the prosecution  case  in  material
                 particulars, brevitatis causa and to  avoid  repetition  we
                 would only notice  them  once.  The  informant  (PW-7)  has
                 identified the  appellant-accused  persons,  supported  the
                 prosecution case in his evidence and testified  in  respect
                 of the  time  and  manner  of  occurrence  of  the  fateful
                 incident and the motive of the accused persons. PWs 1, 2, 3
                 and 4 are the brothers of PW-7 who resided adjacent to  PW-
                 7’s house. They have identified  the  accused  persons  and
                 further corroborated the prosecution  case  in  respect  of
                 time of occurrence  and  motive  of  the  appellant-accused
                 persons. PW-1 has stated that as soon as  he  heard  PW-7’s
                 shrieks and noise from the blazing fire, he rushed  outside
                 his house and witnessed the accused persons  fleeing  away.
                 He found PW-7 on fire and immediately covered  him  with  a
                 blanket to douse  it;  whereafter,  he  along  with  others
                 attempted to set the fire off at PW-7’s house but the  fire
                 having transformed into a conflagration it was too late  to
                 save the six deceased persons. PW-5 (wife  of  PW-2),  PW-6
                 (mother of PW-7), PW-14 (wife of PW-1), PW-15 (sister of PW-
                 7) and  PW-16  (wife  of  PW-4)  have  also  supported  the
                 prosecution case  in  respect  of  PW-1’s  account  of  the
                 incident, i.e., the fleeing away of  the  three  appellant-
                 accused persons along with others and  the  motive  of  the
                 accused persons behind the incident. PW-8, the  Doctor  who
                 conducted post  mortem  examination  of  the  six  deceased
                 persons, has corroborated the  prosecution  case  that  the
                 death occurred by 100% burn injuries. PW-10, the Doctor who
                 treated PW-7, has testified  in  respect  of  the  injuries
                 suffered by PW-7. His evidence  alongwith  the  post-mortem
                 report corroborate the  time  and  manner  of  the  fateful
                 incident.  Further,  PW-11  (the   Investigating   Officer)
                 supported the prosecution case with regard to the time  and
                 place of the occurrence and the presence  of  charred  dead
                 bodies  of  the  six  deceased  persons.  The  Trial  Court
                 discarded the testimonies of the defence witnesses  at  the
                 outset and proceeded with the trial.

              6. Upon meticulous consideration of the evidence on record and
                 the submissions made by the parties, the  learned  Sessions
                 Judge has observed that even though the witnesses  examined
                 by the  prosecution  are  related  to  the  victims,  their
                 testimonies when considered with due care and  caution  are
                 corroborated by the evidence of informant (PW-7), the  post
                 mortem reports, evidence of the Doctors(PW-9  and  10)  and
                 the  evidence  of  PW-11,  the  Investigating  Officer  and
                 therefore, cannot be rejected on the prima facie ground  of
                 them  being  interested  witnesses.  The  Trial  Court  has
                 believed   the   aforesaid   evidence   corroborating   the
                 prosecution case in respect of  A1,  A2  and  A3;  however,
                 doubted the presence of other accused persons  since  their
                 names have neither been mentioned in the fardbayan nor  has
                 the evidence produced against  them  proved  their  offence
                 beyond  reasonable  doubt.  In  light  of   the   aforesaid
                 observations, the Trial Court has  reached  the  conclusion
                 that the three appellant-accused persons are guilty of  the
                 aforesaid offence and has convicted them accordingly  while
                 acquitting  the  others,  by  judgment  dated   17.09.2009.
                 Further, after affording an opportunity of hearing  to  the
                 appellant-accused persons on the question of sentence,  the
                 Trial Court has sentenced them to  death,  by  order  dated
                 30.10.2009, relevant paragraphs of which are reproduced  as
        “Heard both sides on the question of sentence on behalf of the  held
        guilty accused Bachcha Babu Rai, Jagat Rai, Bipat Rai  alias  Deepak
        Rai, it has been submitted that before  this,  they  have  not  been
        punished in any case of  them  Bipat  Rai  @  Deepak  is  a  retired
        military personnel.  Keeping in  mind,  their  age  has  also  first
        conviction, minimum of sentence may be inflicted.

            On behalf of the prosecution it has been said  that  the  guilty
        held persons Bachcha Babu Rai, Jagat Rai, Bipat Rai@ Deepak Rai have
        committed a heinous  offence  and  their  offence  falls  under  the
        category of RARE OF RAREST.  Their  heinous  crime  has  ruined  the
        informant of this case, his wife and five children.   So  far  Bipat
        Rai is concerned, he is a retired  military  personnel  his  conduct
        should be all the more decent.  They are not of tender age nor  old.
        They do not deserve any mercy and they deserve death  sentence.   In
        the light of the reasoning of both sides as also on an appreciation,
        it is manifest, that the occurrence is of night when the  informant,
        his wife and five minor children and cattle all have been  burnt  to
        death.  The informant also subsequently died in this way, the entire
        family is ruined.  In the  light  of  the  guidelines  as  given  by
        Hon’ble Supreme Court, this case falls under the heading of RARE  OF
        RAREST cases.  Because of  this  the  guilty  held  accused  persons
        Bachcha Babu Rai, Jagat Rai and Bipat  Rai  allias  Deepak  Rai  are
        sentenced to death or offence u/s 302/ 149 IPC. …”

              7. Aggrieved by the aforesaid judgment and  order,  the  three
                 appellant-accused persons filed  appeals  before  the  High
                 Court which were heard alongwith the Death Reference No.  6
                 of 2009 and disposed of by a  common  judgment  and  order,
                 dated 19.08.2010. The High Court has elaborately dealt with
                 the  evidence  on  record  and  extensively  discussed  the
                 judgment and order of the Trial Court in order to ascertain
                 the correctness or otherwise of the conviction and sentence
                 awarded to the appellant-accused persons.  The  High  Court
                 has observed that since, the informant is the only  witness
                 who was present at the scene of crime, his testimony  alone
                 could  substantiate  upon  the  specific  role  of  accused
                 persons in the commission of the ghastly offence. In so far
                 as the identification of the appellant-accused persons, the
                 High Court has observed that the informant in the fardbeyan
                 specifically mentions their names and,  infact,  attributes
                 specific roles to them in the commission  of  the  offence,
                 i.e., A1 commanding  the  house  to  be  set  on  fire  and
                 lighting the matchstick to set  the  informant’s  mouth  on
                 fire and  later,  when  the  informant  was  attempting  to
                 escape, A2 firing at the informant.  Further,  that  during
                 the commission of the offence the accused persons  were  in
                 close proximity to the informant and the  presence  of  dim
                 light of bulb in the night and the illumination  by  flames
                 of burning house coupled  with  them  being  known  to  the
                 informant establishes their identity  in  the  evidence  of
                 informant, which is supplemented and  strengthened  by  the
                 evidence of PWs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.  The  High  Court  has
                 further observed that the prosecution case  in  respect  of
                 the time and place of occurrence and the factum of  accused
                 persons fleeing the spot of  occurrence  immediately  after
                 setting the house on fire causing death of six  persons  by
                 burning them alive and injury to  the  informant  has  been
                 well established by cogent, reliable and unimpeachable eye-
                 witnesses and further corroborated by  the  testimonies  of
                 the Doctors, post-mortem report,  medical  report  and  the
                 evidence of Investigating Officer.  On  the  basis  of  the
                 aforesaid, the High Court has concluded towards  the  guilt
                 of the accused appellants and sentenced them as follows:
        “…since the occurrence is ghastly murder of wife and  five  children
        of the informant by closing in room for not withdrawing the case  of
        theft of buffalo shocked the entire community bringing the  case  in
        the category of rare of rarest to attract the maximum punishment and
        hence the reference is answered in the affirmative and I do not find
        any merit in the two appeals and hence the appeals are dismissed……”

              8. Aggrieved by the aforesaid  conviction  and  sentence,  the
                 appellants are before us  in  these  appeals.  The  appeals
                 before us are limited to the question of sentence.


              9.  We  have  heard  Dr.  Sumant  Bharadwaj  learned   counsel
                 appearing for  A2,  Shri  Ramesh  Chandra  Mishra,  learned
                 counsel appearing for A1 and  A3  and  Shri  Nagendra  Rai,
                 learned senior counsel appearing for the respondent-State.

             10. Dr. Bharadwaj would submit that the Courts below have erred
                 in sentencing A2 as the  reasons  recorded  by  the  Courts
                 below do not conform to the  statutory  mandate  prescribed
                 under Section 354(3) of the  Code  of  Criminal  Procedure,
                 1973 (for short ‘the Code’), which require the judgment  to
                 record “reasons” in case of sentence of  life  imprisonment
                 and “special reasons” in case of death sentence.  He  would
                 submit that the since no extraordinary  reasons  have  been
                 assigned by the Courts below to sentence the  appellant  to
                 death instead of a less  harsher  sentence  and  that  this
                 Court in appellate jurisdiction cannot go into the same for
                 the first time while confirming  the  death  sentence,  the
                 matter requires to be remanded to the Trial Court for fresh
                 consideration on the question of sentence  as  per  Section
                 354(3) of the Code. Further, he would place  reliance  upon
                 the judgments of this Court in Ambaram v.  State  of  M.P.,
                 (1976) 4 SCC 298, Balwant Singh v. State of Punjab,  (1976)
                 1 SCC 425, Dagdu v. State of Maharashtra, (1977) 3 SCC  68,
                 Muniappan v. State of T.N., (1981)  3  SCC  11  and  Rajesh
                 Kumar v. State, (2011) 13 SCC 706; wherein this  Court  has
                 held that “special  reasons”  are  essential  for  awarding
                 death sentence under Section 354(3)  of  the  Code  and  in
                 absence of such reasons has commuted the sentence passed by
                 the Courts below from death to life imprisonment and submit
                 that since, in the instant case, no “special reasons”  were
                 recorded  by  the  Courts  below   while   sentencing   the
                 appellants, the sentence of  the  appellants  ought  to  be
                 commuted to life imprisonment.

             11. Shri Mishra would assail the sentence awarded by the  Trial
                 Court and confirmed by the High Court and  submit  that  in
                 the instant case  mitigating  circumstances  overwhelmingly
                 outweigh the aggravating circumstances and therefore,  ends
                 of justice would only be achieved by commuting the sentence
                 of the two appellant-accused persons, A1 and A3, from death
                 to imprisonment for life. He would put forth the  following
                 factors in support of his submission:

           “Mitigating Circumstances:

           1. Appellants are not hard core criminals,
           2. They are not threat/ menace to the Society,
           3. They have no criminal antecedent/ background,
           4. They are not antisocial elements,
           5. Their conduct in Jail has been satisfactory,
           6. The State has failed to prove  that  they  are  incapable  of
              being reformed
           7. They have been in Jail for about seven years,
           8. Delay of seven years in execution of death sentence confirmed
              in death anticipating imminent death any moment,
           9. Death sentence is exception and life-imprisonment is rule,
          10. Global move to abolish  death  sentence.   138  nations  have
              abolished death sentence while 59 countries  including  India
              have retained death sentence. (2009)  6  SCC  498.   Relevant
              page- 544, paras 111-112,
          11. Jagat Rai at the time of commission of offence was  48  years
              while Bachcha Babu Rai was 43 years, comparatively young,
          12. Offence was committed  when  the  appellant  were  under  the
              influence of extreme of mental disturbance due to pendency of
              criminal case,
          13. There  is  every  probability  that  the  appellants  can  be
              reformed and rehabilitated,
          14. All the four main objectives which state intends  to  achieve
              namely deterrence, prevention,  retribution  and  reformation
              can be achieved by keeping the appellants alive.
           Aggravating Circumstances:

           1. It was a planned, cold-blooded brutal murder,
           2. Entire family was wiped out.…”

             12. A contrario Shri Rai would support the judgment  and  order
                 passed by the Courts below convicting the appellants of the
                 aforesaid offence and sentencing them to  death.  He  would
                 submit that the reasons recorded by the Courts  below  fall
                 within the statutory requirements under Section  354(3)  of
                 the Code as well as the parameters laid down by this  Court
                 for recording “special reasons” while sentencing a  convict
                 to death. He would distinguish  the  cases  cited  by  Shri
                 Bharadwaj as cases wherein  the  sentence  of  the  accused
                 persons was commuted due  to  reasons  besides  absence  of
                 “special reasons” for sentencing the accused therein in the
                 judgments and orders of the Courts below and further  place
                 reliance upon the decision of this Court in Gurdev Singh v.
                 State of Punjab, (2003) 7 SCC 258 amongst  others,  wherein
                 this Court has sentenced the accused  persons  therein  who
                 were responsible for causing the death of fifteen  persons,
                 besides causing grievous injuries to eight others to  death
                 after   balancing   the    aggravating    and    mitigating

             13. We have given our anxious consideration to the materials on
                 record in its entirety, the submissions made by the learned
                 counsel for the parties and the judgments and orders of the
                 Courts below.

Issues for consideration:

             14. The questions which fall for our consideration and decision
                 are first, whether the reasons assigned by the Courts below
                 while sentencing the appellants are “special reasons” under
                 Section 354(3) of the Code and second, whether the  offence
                 committed by the  appellants  fall  into  the  category  of
                 “rarest of the rare” cases so as to warrant death sentence.

Cases cited by Shri Bharadwaj:

             15. At the outset we would examine the decisions relied upon by
                 Dr.  Bharadwaj  and  examine  whether  at  all  should  the
                 sentence in the present case, for lack of  special  reasons
                 being assigned by the Trial Courts  as  well  as  the  High
                 Courts, ought to be commuted to imprisonment for life.

             16. In Ambaram case (supra), the  appellant-accused  was  tried
                 along with four others for murder of two  persons.  It  was
                 the appellant therein who shot  one  while  his  companions
                 assaulted the other to death with sharp-edged weapons and a
                 lathi. He was convicted under Section 302 of the IPC by the
                 Trial Court and sentenced to death alone by the Trial Court
                 as well as the High Court against which he  had  approached
                 this Court by  filing  a  special  leave  petition.  It  is
                 pertinent to note  that  his  appeal  was  limited  to  the
                 question of sentence. This Court has noticed the change  in
                 the law introduced under Section 354(3) of the Code in 1973
                 which confers discretion on the Courts to inflict the death
                 sentence  or  the  sentence  of  life   imprisonment   each
                 according to the circumstances and exigencies of each  case
                 but enjoins duty upon them to justify it by giving  special
                 reasons and reasons, respectively. This Court has  observed
                 as follows:

        “1.      …The High Court has not  given  any  special  reasons  why
        Ambaram has been singled out for the award of the extreme  penalty.
        Nor do we find any such reason to  treat  him  differently  in  the
        matter of sentence from his companions who have  been  awarded  the
        lesser penalty. On this short  ground  we  allow  this  appeal  and
        commute Ambaram’s death sentence to that of imprisonment for life.”
                                                         (emphasis supplied)

             17. In Balwant Singh v. State of Punjab, (1976) 1 SCC 425  this
                 Court has observed as follows:

         “4. …On the facts of this case, it is true that the appellant  had
         a motive to commit the murder and he did it with an  intention  to
         kill the deceased. His conviction under Section 302 of  the  Penal
         Code was justified but the facts found were not such as to  enable
         the Court to say that there were special reasons for  passing  the
         sentence of death in this case.”
                                                         (emphasis supplied)

    Thereafter, this Court has observed the error  committed  by  the  High
    Court in applying the principle of extenuating circumstances under  the
    older Code even after the present Code coming into force in 1973  which
    requires the Court to  assign  special  reasons  while  awarding  death
    penalty and observed the follows:

         “5. The High Court has referred to the two decisions of this Court
         namely in Mangal Singh v. State of U.P., (1975) 3 SCC 290  and  in
         Perumal v. State of Kerala, (1975) 4 SCC 109  and has then said:

             “There are no extenuating circumstances in this  case  and  the
             death sentence  awarded  to  Balwant  Singh  appellant  by  the
             Sessions Judge is confirmed ....”

         As we have said above,  even  after  noticing  the  provisions  of
         Section 354(3) of the new Criminal Procedure Code the  High  Court
         committed an error in relying upon the two decisions of this Court
         in which the trials were held  under  the  old  Code.  It  wrongly
         relied upon the principle of absence of extenuating  circumstances
         — a principle which was applicable after the amendment of the  old
         Code from January 1, 1956 until the coming into force of  the  new
         Code from April 1, 1974. In  our  judgment  there  is  no  special
         reason nor any has been recorded by the High Court for  confirming
         the death sentence in this case. We accordingly allow  the  appeal
         on the question of sentence and commute the death sentence imposed
         upon the appellant to one for imprisonment for life.”
                                                         (emphasis supplied)

             18. In Muniappan v. State of T.N., (1981) 3 SCC 11, this  Court
                 has observed that not only has the Trial  Court  failed  to
                 provide adequate  hearing  to  the  accused  under  Section
                 235(2), but also it as well as  the  High  Court  have  not
                 assigned appropriate reasons while awarding and  confirming
                 the sentence of the accused, respectively and thus, reached
                 the conclusion that the sentence  of  death  could  not  be

             19. Further, in  Dagdu  case  (supra)  and  Rajesh  Kumar  case
                 (supra)  this  Court   has   considered   the   facts   and
                 circumstances of the case in its entirety  while  balancing
                 the aggravating and mitigating circumstances to decide upon
                 the adequacy of sentence awarded by the  Courts  below  and
                 upon reaching such satisfaction that the case did not  fall
                 into the  category  of  “rarest  of  the  rare”  warranting
                 “special reasons” for  the  award  of  death  sentence  has
                 commuted the sentence of the accused.

             20. Thus in the  aforementioned  cases,  this  Court  has  upon
                 examination  of  both-the  evidence  on  record   and   the
                 reasoning of the Courts below while sentencing the  accused
                 reached  an  independent  conclusion  that  the  facts  and
                 circumstances of the case  do  not  warrant  imposition  of
                 sentence of death. Therefore, it  is  not  the  absence  or
                 adequacy of “special reasons” alone  what  weighed  in  the
                 mind of this Court while commuting the sentence. The  facts
                 in toto and procedural impropriety, if any loomed large  in
                 exercising such discretion. Hence, the reliance  placed  on
                 the aforementioned decisions is rejected.

Scope of Article 136 vis-à-vis examination of “special reasons”

             21. Further, we are unable to accept the submission that in any
                 case the failure on  the  part  of  the  Court,  which  has
                 convicted an accused and  heard  him  on  the  question  of
                 sentence but failed to express the “special reasons” in  so
                 many words, must necessarily entail a remand to that  Court
                 for elaboration upon its conclusion in awarding  the  death
                 sentence for the reason  that  while  exercising  appellate
                 jurisdiction this Court cannot delve into such reasons.

             22. Since the appellants are before us by way of an  appeal  by
                 special  leave,  we  would  first  examine  the  scope   of
                 jurisdiction  of  this  Court  under  Article  136  of  the
                 Constitution of India vis-à-vis criminal appeals.

             23. The appellate jurisdiction vested in this Court  by  virtue
                 of Article 136 is not plain  statutory  but  expansive  and
                 extraordinary.  The  Court  exercises  its  discretion  and
                 grants leave to appeal in cases where it is satisfied  that
                 the same would circumvent a grave miscarriage  of  justice.
                 Such jurisdiction is not  fettered  by  rules  of  criminal
                 procedure but guided by judicially evolved principles.

             24. We are fortified by the decision of this Court in State  of
                 U.P. v. Dharmendra Singh, (1999) 8  SCC  325,  where  while
                 examining the applicability of Section 377(3) of  the  Code
                 to an appeal under Article 136 has observed as follows:

       “10. …A perusal  of  this  section  shows  that  this  provision  is
       applicable only when the matter is before the  High  Court  and  the
       same is not applicable to this Court when an appeal for  enhancement
       of sentence is made under Article 136 of the Constitution. It is  to
       be noted that an appeal to this Court in  criminal  matters  is  not
       provided under the Code except in cases covered by  Section  379  of
       the Code.  An  appeal  to  this  Court  under  Article  136  of  the
       Constitution is not the same as a statutory appeal under  the  Code.
       This Court under Article 136 of the Constitution is  not  a  regular
       court of appeal which an accused can approach as of right. It is  an
       extraordinary jurisdiction which is exercisable only in  exceptional
       cases when this Court is  satisfied  that  it  should  interfere  to
       prevent a grave or serious miscarriage of justice, as  distinguished
       from mere error in appreciation of evidence. While  exercising  this
       jurisdiction, this Court is not bound by the rules of  procedure  as
       applicable to the courts  below.  This  Court’s  jurisdiction  under
       Article  136  of  the  Constitution  is  limited  only  by  its  own
       discretion (see Nihal Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1965 SC  26.  In
       that view of the matter, we are of the opinion that  Section  377(3)
       of the Code in terms does not apply to an appeal under  Article  136
       of the Constitution.

       11. This does not mean that this Court  will  be  unmindful  of  the
       principles analogous to those found  in  the  Code  including  those
       under Section 377(3) of the Code while moulding a procedure for  the
       disposal of an appeal under Article 136 of the  Constitution.  Apart
       from the Supreme Court Rules applicable  for  the  disposal  of  the
       criminal appeals in this Court, the Court also adopts such analogous
       principles found in the Code so as to make  the  procedure  a  “fair
       procedure” depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.”
                                                         (emphasis supplied)

             25. More so, it is settled law that an appeal by special  leave
                 under  Article  136  is  a  continuation  of  the  original
                 proceedings. In Moran M. Baselios Marthoma  Mathews  II  v.
                 State of Kerala, (2007) 6 SCC 517, this Court categorically
                 observed as follows:
       “13. We, therefore, are of the opinion that despite  the  fact  that
       the appellants had insisted upon before the High Court for  issuance
       of a writ or in the  nature  of  mandamus  upon  the  State  or  its
       officers for the purpose of grant of police protection as this Court
       has exercised its appellate jurisdiction under Article  136  of  the
       Constitution of India, it can and should go into  that  question  as
       well viz. as to whether the writ petition  itself  could  have  been
       entertained or not, particularly, when the appeal is a  continuation
       of the original proceedings.”

             26. Further, this Court in Netai Bag v. State of W.B., (2000) 8
                 SCC 262 while observing that the scope of an  appeal  under
                 Articles 136 and 226  cannot  be  wider  than  the  earlier
                 proceedings,  has  noticed  that  the  appeals  under  said
                 provisions are continuation of the original proceedings.

             27. Thus, jurisdiction of this Court in  appeal  under  Article
                 136  though  circumscribed  to   the   scope   of   earlier
                 proceedings is neither fettered by the  rules  of  criminal
                 procedure nor limited to mere confirmation or rejection  of
                 the appeal. This Court while considering  the  question  of
                 correctness or otherwise of the  sentence  awarded  by  the
                 Courts below has exercised discretionary jurisdiction under
                 Article 136 and hence can not only examine the  reasons  so
                 assigned under Section 354(3) but  also  substantiate  upon
                 the same, if need so be.

             28. With the aforesaid in view, let us now examine  the  issues
                 before us.
Issue one: “Special reasons” under Section 354(3) of the Code

             29. Under Section 367(5) of the  Code  of  Criminal  Procedure,
                 1898 (for short “old Code”),  the  normal  sentence  to  be
                 awarded to a person found guilty of murder  was  death  and
                 imprisonment for life was an exception. The Amending Act 26
                 of 1955 amended Section 367(5) of the old Code resulting in
                 vesting  of  discretion  with  the  Court  to  inflict  the
                 sentence of life imprisonment or death  each  according  to
                 the circumstances and exigencies of the case.  The  amended
                 Section 367(5) of the old Code reads as follows:
        “367. (5) If the accused is convicted of an offence punishable  with
        death, and the court sentences him  to  any  punishment  other  than
        death, the court shall in its judgment state the reason why sentence
        of death was not passed.”

             30. The present Code which was legislated  in  1973  brought  a
                 shift in the then  existing  penological  trend  by  making
                 imprisonment  for  life  a  rule  and  death  sentence   an
                 exception. It makes it mandatory for the Court in cases  of
                 conviction for an offence punishable with imprisonment  for
                 life to assign reasons in support of the  sentence  awarded
                 to the convict and further ordains that in case  the  Court
                 awards  the  death  penalty,  “special  reasons”  for  such
                 sentence shall be stated  in  the  judgment.  It  reads  as
                 follows :

        "When the conviction is for an offence punishable with death or,  in
        the alternative, with imprisonment for life or  imprisonment  for  a
        term of years, the judgment shall state the reasons for the sentence
        awarded, and, in the case of sentence of death, the special  reasons
        for such sentence."

             31. For the first time, this shift  in  sentencing  policy  has
                 been observed by Krishna Iyer J. (as he then was) in  Ediga
                 Anamma v. State of Andhra Pradesh, (1974)  4  SCC  443,  as
        “18. It cannot be emphasised too often that crime and punishment are
        functionally related to the society in which they occur, and  Indian
        conditions and stages of progress  must  dominate  the  exercise  of
        judicial discretion in this case.
        21. It is obvious that the disturbed conscience of the State on  the
        vexed question of legal threat to life by way of death sentence  has
        sought to express itself legislatively, the stream of tendency being
        towards  cautious,  partial  abolition  and  a  retreat  from  total

        (Also Ambaram case (supra), Joseph v. State of  Goa,  (1977)  3  SCC
        280, Triveniben v. State of Gujarat)

             32. Further, this Court in Harnam v. State of  U.P.,  (1976)  1
                 SCC 163 supplemented the aforesaid observations  and  noted
                 as follows:

        “4. …The seminal trends in current sociological thinking  and  penal
        strategy, tampered as they  are  by  humanistic  attitude  and  deep
        concern for the worth of the human person, frown upon death  penalty
        and regard it as cruel & savage punishment to be inflicted  only  in
        exceptional cases. It is  against  this  background  of  legislative
        thinking which reflects  the  social  mood  and  realities  and  the
        direction of the penal and procedural laws that we have to  consider
        whether the tender age of an accused is a fetor contra-indicative of
        death penalty.”

             33. In Allauddin Mian v. State of Bihar, (1989) 3  SCC  5  this
                 Court has examined the purpose  of  inclusion  of  “special
                 reasons” clause as follows:
        “9. … When the law casts a duty on the judge  to  state  reasons  it
        follows that he is under a legal obligation to explain his choice of
        the sentence. It may seem trite to say so, but the existence of  the
        “special reasons clause” in the above  provision  implies  that  the
        court can in fit cases impose the extreme  penalty  of  death  which
        negatives the contention that there never can be a valid  reason  to
        visit an offender with the  death  penalty,  no  matter  how  cruel,
        gruesome or shocking the crime may be… While rejecting the demand of
        the protagonist of the reformatory theory for the abolition  of  the
        death penalty  the  legislature  in  its  wisdom  thought  that  the
        “special reasons clause” should be a  sufficient  safeguard  against
        arbitrary imposition of the extreme penalty.  Where  a  sentence  of
        severity is imposed, it is imperative that the judge should indicate
        the basis upon which he  considers  a  sentence  of  that  magnitude
        justified. Unless there are special reasons, special to the facts of
        the particular case, which can be catalogued as justifying a  severe
        punishment the judge would not award the death sentence. It  may  be
        stated that if a judge finds that  he  is  unable  to  explain  with
        reasonable accuracy the basis for selecting the higher  of  the  two
        sentences his choice should fall on the lower sentence. In all  such
        cases the law casts an obligation on the judge to  make  his  choice
        after carefully examining the pros and cons of each case. It must at
        once be conceded that offenders of some particularly grossly  brutal
        crimes which send tremors in the community have to be  firmly  dealt
        with to protect the community from the perpetrators of such  crimes.
        Where the incidence of a certain crime is  rapidly  growing  and  is
        assuming menacing proportions, for example, acid  pouring  or  bride
        burning, it may be necessary  for  the  courts  to  award  exemplary
        punishments to protect  the  community  and  to  deter  others  from
        committing such crimes. Since the legislature in its wisdom  thought
        that in some rare cases it may still  be  necessary  to  impose  the
        extreme punishment of death to  deter  others  and  to  protect  the
        society and in a given case the  country,  it  left  the  choice  of
        sentence to the judiciary with the rider that the  judge  may  visit
        the convict with the extreme punishment provided there exist special
        reasons for so doing. …”

             34.  In  Bachan  Singh case  (supra),  while  determining   the
                 constitutional validity of  the death penalty,  this  Court
                 has  examined  the   sentencing   procedure   embodied   in
                 Section 354(3) of the Code. Following issue was  framed  by
                 this Court in the aforesaid context:
        “15. (i)… (ii)…whether the sentencing procedure provided in  Section
        354(3) of the Code of  Criminal  Procedure,  1973  (2  of  1974)  is
        unconstitutional on the  ground  that  it  invests  the  court  with
        unguided and untrammelled discretion and allows death sentence to be
        arbitrarily or freakishly imposed on a person found guilty of murder
        or any other capital offence punishable under the  Penal  Code  with
        death or, in the alternative, with imprisonment for life.”

             35. To answer the  said  issue,  this  Court  referred  to  and
                 considered Jagmohan Singh  v.  State  of  U.P.  (which  was
                 decided  under  the  old  Code)  and  culled  out   several
                 propositions from that decision. Keeping  in  view  of  the
                 changed legislative policy, this Court agreed with all  the
                 observations in Jagmohan Singh case (supra)  but  for  two-
                 first, that the discretion in the matter of  sentencing  is
                 to be exercised  by  the  Judge  after  balancing  all  the
                 aggravating and mitigating circumstances of the  crime  and
                 second, that while choosing  between  the  two  alternative
                 sentences  provided  in  Section  302  of  the  IPC,  i.e.,
                 sentence of death  and  life  imprisonment,  the  court  is
                 principally concerned with the  aggravating  or  mitigating
                 circumstances connected with  the  particular  crime  under
                 inquiry.  This Court observed that  whilst  under  the  old
                 Code, both the sentence of death  was  the  rule  and  life
                 imprisonment was an exception, Section 354(3) of  the  Code
                 has reversed the sentencing  policy  with  the  legislative
                 mandate that if a sentence  of  death  is  to  be  awarded,
                 special reasons need to be recorded by the Courts. That  is
                 to say, the legislative policy now virtually  obviated  the
                 necessity  of  balancing  the  aggravating  and  mitigating
                 circumstances for the award of punishment in respect of  an
                 offence of murder. The Court observed as follows in context
                 of departures from Jagmohan Singh case (supra):

        “164. (a) The normal rule is that the offence  of  murder  shall  be
        punished with the sentence  of  life  imprisonment.  The  court  can
        depart from that rule and impose the sentence of death only if there
        are special reasons for doing so. Such reasons must be  recorded  in
        writing before imposing the death sentence.
        (b) While considering the question of sentence to be imposed for the
        offence of murder under Section 302 of the  Penal  Code,  the  court
        must have regard to every  relevant  circumstance  relating  to  the
        crime as  well  as  the  criminal.  If  the  court  finds,  but  not
        otherwise, that the offence is  of  an  exceptionally  depraved  and
        heinous character and constitutes, on account of its design and  the
        manner of its execution, a source of grave danger to the society  at
        large, the court may impose the death sentence.”

             36. In  the  aforesaid  background  this  Court  observed  that
                 special reasons, in the  context  of  the  said  provision,
                 obviously  mean  “exceptional  reasons”  founded   on   the
                 exceptionally grave circumstances relating to the crime  as
                 well as the  criminal.  It  being  extremely  difficult  to
                 catalogue such special reasons, they have to  be  construed
                 in the facts of the case and  relative  weight  has  to  be
                 given to mitigating and  aggravating  factors.  This  Court
                 observed that these two aspects  are  so  intertwined  that
                 isolation of one from the other would defeat the mandate of
                 law  and  held  with  hope  that  in  view  of  the  “broad
                 illustrative guidelines” laid down therein, the Courts:

        “209. … will discharge the onerous function with evermore scrupulous
        care and humane concern, directed along the highroad of  legislative
        policy outlined in Section 354(3) viz. that for persons convicted of
        murder,  life  imprisonment  is  the  rule  and  death  sentence  an

    (Also: State of Maharashtra v. Goraksha Ambaji Adsul, (2011) 7 SCC 437;
    Sangeet v. State of Haryana, (2013) 2 SCC  452;  Sandesh  v.  State  of
    Maharashtra, (2013) 2 SCC 479)

             37. In Swamy Shraddananda (2) v. State of Karnataka, (2008)  13
                 SCC 767 this Court opined that the term  “special  reasons”
                 as explained in the Bachan Singh case (supra)  indicates  a
                 relative category based  on  comparison  with  other  cases
                 under Section 302 as under:

        “44. The matter can be looked at from another angle. In Bachan Singh
        it was held that the expression “special reasons” in the context  of
        the  provision  of  Section  354(3)  obviously  means   “exceptional
        reasons” founded on the exceptionally  grave  circumstances  of  the
        particular case relating to the crime as well as  the  criminal.  It
        was further said that on conviction for  murder  and  other  capital
        offences punishable in the alternative with death  under  the  Penal
        Code, the extreme penalty should be imposed only in  extreme  cases.
        In conclusion it was said that the death penalty  ought  not  to  be
        imposed save in the rarest of rare cases when the alternative option
        is unquestionably foreclosed. Now, all  these  expressions  “special
        reasons”, “exceptional reasons”, “founded on the  exceptional  grave
        circumstances”, “extreme cases”  and  “the  rarest  of  rare  cases”
        unquestionably indicate a relative category based on comparison with
        other cases of murder. Machhi Singh, for the  purpose  of  practical
        application sought to translate this relative category into absolute
        terms by framing the five categories. (In doing so, it  is  held  by
        some, Machhi Singh considerably  enlarged  the  scope  for  imposing
        death penalty that was greatly restricted by Bachan Singh).”

             38. The said five categories  of  rarest  of  the  rare  crimes
                 delineated in Macchi Singh case (supra) are as follows:

        “I. 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 of 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
        (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

        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.”
                                                         (emphasis supplied)

             39. This Court has cautioned  that  though  the  aforesaid  are
                 extremely  important  factors  could  not   be   taken   as
                 inflexible, absolute or immutable, they must  be  perceived
                 only as indicators which the Courts must bear in mind while
                 deciding upon the sentence and assigning  special  reasons,
                 if required.

             40. The Constitutional Bench of this Court in Shashi  Nayar  v.
                 Union, (1992) 1 SCC  96  has  observed  that  the  “special
                 reasons clause” means reasons, specific to the  fact  of  a
                 particular case, which can be catalogued  as  justifying  a
                 severe punishment and unless, such reasons are not recorded
                 death sentence must not be awarded. Under  this  provision,
                 if the basis  for  awarding  the  higher  sentence  can  be
                 explained with reasonable  accuracy,  after  examining  the
                 pros and cons of sentencing options achieving  proportional
                 balance with the severity of the crime committed only  then
                 should the higher punishment be  awarded.  This  Court  has
                 noted that thus, Section 345(3) is a  sufficient  safeguard
                 against the arbitrary imposition of the extreme penalty and
                 unless the nature of crime and  the  circumstances  of  the
                 offender reveal that  the  sentence  to  life  imprisonment
                 would be wholly inadequate, the  Courts  should  ordinarily
                 impose a lesser punishment.

             41. This Court in Sandesh v. State of Maharashtra, (2013) 2 SCC
                 479 has discussed the aforesaid principles and observed  as

        “21……it is not only the crime and its various facets which  are  the
        foundation for formation of special reasons  as  contemplated  under
        Section 354(3) CrPC for imposing death penalty but it  is  also  the
        criminal,  his  background,  the  manner  in  which  the  crime  was
        committed and his mental condition at the relevant time, the  motive
        of the offence and brutality with which the crime was committed  are
        also to be examined. The doctrine of rehabilitation and doctrine  of
        prudence are the other two guiding principles for proper exercise of
        judicial discretion.”

             42. The aforesaid would reflect that under this  provision  the
                 legislature casts a statutory duty on the  Court  to  state
                 reasons for choice of the sterner sentence to be awarded in
                 exceptional cases as against the rule of life  imprisonment
                 and by necessary implication, a legal obligation to explain
                 them  as  distinguished  from  the   expression   “reasons”
                 follows. The  legislative  mandate  of  assigning  “special
                 reasons”  assures  that  the  imposition  of  the   capital
                 punishment is well considered by the Court  and  that  only
                 upon categorization of the case as “rarest of  rare”,  thus
                 leaving no room for imposition of a  less  harsh  sentence,
                 should the Court sentence the accused person to death.

             43. Incontrovertibly, the judicial approach towards  sentencing
                 has to be cautious, circumspect and careful. The Courts  at
                 all stages- trial and appellate must therefore  peruse  and
                 analyze the  facts  of  the  case  in  hand  and  reach  an
                 independent conclusion  which  must  be  appropriately  and
                 cogently justified in the “reasons”  or  “special  reasons”
                 recorded by them for imposition  of  life  imprisonment  or
                 death penalty. The length of the discussion would not be  a
                 touchstone for determining correctness of a  decision.  The
                 test would be that reasons must be lucid  and  satisfy  the
                 appellate Court that the Court  below  has  considered  the
                 case  in  toto  and  thereafter,  upon  balancing  all  the
                 mitigating and aggravating factors, recorded the sentence.

             44. We must now briefly  advert  to  the  sentencing  procedure
                 prescribed by law. Under Section 235(2) of  the  Code,  the
                 Court on convicting an accused must  unquestionably  afford
                 an opportunity to the accused to present his  case  on  the
                 question of sentence and under Section  354(3)  record  the
                 extraordinary circumstances  which  warrant  imposition  of
                 death sentence keeping in view the entire facts of the case
                 and the submissions of the accused. In doing so if, for any
                 reason, it omits to do so  or  does  not  assign  elaborate
                 reasons and the accused makes a grievance of it before  the
                 higher court, it would be open to that Court to remedy  the
                 same by elaborating upon the said reasons.  Even  when  the
                 reasons recorded by the Courts below do not conform to  the
                 statutory mandate or  the  judicially  evolved  principles,
                 this  Court,  should  reach  the  conclusion  that  harsher
                 sentence of death requires to be imposed, could  supplement
                 them so as to  justify  the  imposition  of  such  sentence
                 instead of remanding the matter to  Courts  below  for  re-
                 consideration on the question of sentence. Further,  should
                 this Court  opine  to  the  contrary  that  the  facts  and
                 circumstances of the case  do  not  require  imposition  of
                 capital  punishment  and  the  ends  of  justice  would  be
                 achieved by a less harsh  sentence,  it  could  accordingly
                 commute the sentence awarded  by  the  Courts  below.  This
                 Court in Dagdu case (supra) has observed that remand is  an
                 exception, not the rule, and therefore ought to be  avoided
                 as far as possible in the interests of expeditious,  though
                 fair, disposal of cases.

             45. Herein, it is not the  case  of  the  appellants  that  the
                 opportunity  to  be  heard  on  the  question  of  sentence
                 separately as provisioned for under Section 235(2)  of  the
                 Code was not provided by the  Courts  below.  Further,  the
                 Trial Court has recorded and discussed the submissions made
                 by the appellants and the prosecution on the said  question
                 and thereafter, rejected  the  possibility  of  awarding  a
                 punishment less harsh than the death penalty. However,  the
                 High Court  while  confirming  the  sentence  has  recorded
                 reasons though encapsulated. The High Court has noticed the
                 motive of the appellants being non withdrawal of  the  case
                 by the informant and the ghastly manner  of  commission  of
                 crime whereby six innocent persons as young as 3  year  old
                 were charred to  death  and  concluded  that  the  incident
                 shocks the  conscience  of  the  entire  society  and  thus
                 deserves nothing lesser but death penalty.

             46.  There  being  no  impropriety  by  the  Courts  below   in
                 compliance with the  procedure  prescribed  under  law  for
                 sentencing the appellants, only the  question  of  adequacy
                 and  correctness  of  the  special  reasons  assigned   for
                 awarding sentence of death requires to be considered by us.
                  In our considered opinion, as noticed above,  it  is  only
                 upon examination of the facts and circumstances of the case
                 could the adequacy of the special reasons recorded  by  the
                 Courts below be determined by us. Therefore, we  would  now
                 consider the second issue to determine whether at  all  the
                 case falls in the category of rarest of the rare offences.

Issue two: Does this case fall into the  category  of  rarest  of  the  rare

             47.  We are mindful of the principles laid down by  this  Court
                 in Bachan Singh v. State, (1980) 2 SCC 684 and affirmed  in
                 Macchi Singh v. State of Punjab, (1983)  3  SCC  470 to  be
                 observed on the sentencing policy in determining the rarest
                 of the rare crimes. In Bachan Singh case (supra) this Court
                 has held as follows:
          "While considering the question of sentence to be imposed for the
         offence of murder u/s 302 of the Penal Code, the court  must  have
         regard to every relevant circumstance relating  to  the  crime  as
         well as the criminal. If the court finds, but not otherwise,  that
         the offence is of an exceptionally depraved and heinous  character
         and constitutes, on account of its design and the  manner  of  its
         execution, a source of grave danger to the society at  large,  the
         court may impose the death sentence."

             48. In Machhi Singh case (supra), this Court has awarded  death
                 sentence  to  the  accused  who  had  methodically   in   a
                 preplanned manner murdered seventeen persons of  a  village
                 including men, women and children. Therein, this Court  has
                 besides outlining the five broad categories  of  rarest  of
                 rare cases held that in order to apply  the  guidelines  of
                 Bachan Singh case (supra) the following questions ought  to
                 be answered:

         “39. “(a) Is  there  something  uncommon  about  the  crime  which
         renders sentence of imprisonment for life inadequate and calls for
         a death sentence?
         (b) Are the circumstances of the  crime  such  that  there  is  no
         alternative but to impose  death  sentence  even  after  according
         maximum weightage to the mitigating circumstances which  speak  in
         favour of the offender?”

    This Court has held that if the answer to the above is in  affirmative,
    then death sentence is warranted. This Court has further observed  that
    the motivation of the perpetrator, the vulnerability of the victim, the
    enormity of the crime, the  execution  thereof  are  few  of  the  many
    factors  which  normally  weigh  in  the  mind  of  the   Court   while
    awarding death sentence in a case terming it  as  the  “rarest  of  the
    rare” cases. While applying the test of rarest of the  rare  case,  the
    Court has to look into variety of factors  like  society's  abhorrence,
    extreme indignation and antipathy to  certain  types  of  crimes  which
    shake the collective conscience of the society.

             49. This Court in Rajesh Kumar v. State, (2011) 13 SCC 706  has
                 noticed the observations and principles evolved  in  Bachan
                 Singh case (supra)  resonating  through  the  international
                 sentiments on death penalty, as follows:
         “83. The ratio in  Bachan  Singh  has  received  approval  by  the
         international  legal  community  and  has  been  very   favourably
         referred to by David Pannick  in  Judicial  Review  of  the  Death
         Penalty: Duckworth (see pp. 104-05). Roger Hood and Carolyn  Hoyle
         in their treatise on The Death Penalty,  4th  Edn.  (Oxford)  have
         also very much appreciated the Bachan Singh ratio  (see  p.  285).
         The concept of “rarest of rare” which has been evolved  in  Bachan
         Singh by this Court is also the internationally accepted  standard
         in cases of death penalty.

         84. Reference in this connection may also be  made  to  the  right
         based approach  in  exercising  discretion  in  death  penalty  as
         suggested by Edward Fitzgerald,  the  British  Barrister.  [Edward
         Fitzgerald: The Mitigating Exercise  in  Capital  Cases  in  Death
         Penalty Conference (3-5 June),  Barbados:  Conference  Papers  and
         Recommendations.]  It  has  been  suggested  therein  that   right
         approach towards exercising discretion  in  capital  cases  is  to
         start from a strong presumption against the death penalty.  It  is
         argued that “the presence of  any  significant  mitigating  factor
         justifies exemption from  the  death  penalty  even  in  the  most
         gruesome cases” and Fitzgerald argues:
           “Such a restrictive approach can be summarised as  follows:  The
           normal sentence should be life imprisonment. The death  sentence
           should only be imposed instead  of  the  life  sentence  in  the
           ‘rarest of  rare’  cases  where  the  crime  or  crimes  are  of
           exceptional heinousness and the individual  has  no  significant
           mitigation and is considered beyond reformation.”
         (Quoted in The Death Penalty, Roger  Hood  and  Hoyle,  4th  Edn.,
         Oxford, p. 285.)
         85. Opposing mandatory death sentence, the United Nations  in  its
         interim report to  the  General  Assembly  in  2000  advanced  the
         following opinion:
           “The proper application of human rights  law—especially  of  its
           provision that ‘no one shall  be  arbitrarily  deprived  of  his
           life’ and that ‘no one shall be subjected to … cruel, inhuman or
           degrading … punishment’—requires weighing factors that will  not
           be taken into account in the process of  determining  whether  a
           defendant is guilty of committing a ‘most serious crime’.  As  a
           result, these factors can only be  taken  into  account  in  the
           context of individualised sentencing by the judiciary  in  death
           penalty cases ….  The  conclusion,  in  theory  as  well  as  in
           practice, was that respect for  human  rights  can  be  reliably
           ensured in death penalty cases only if the judiciary engages  in
           case-specific, individualised sentencing that accounts  for  all
           of the relevant factors…. It is clear, therefore, that in  death
           penalty cases, individualised sentencing  by  the  judiciary  is
           required to prevent cruel, inhuman or degrading  punishment  and
           the arbitrary deprivation of life.”
         (The Death Penalty, Roger Hood and Hoyle,  4th  Edn.,  Oxford,  p.
             50. In  Ramnaresh v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2012) 4  SCC  257,
                 this Court has reflected upon the aforesaid  decisions  and
                 culled out the principles as follows:

        “76. The aforesaid judgments,  primarily  dissect  these  principles
        into  two  different   compartments—one   being   the   “aggravating
        circumstances” while the other being the “mitigating circumstances”.
        The court would consider the cumulative effect of both these aspects
        and normally, it may not be very appropriate for the court to decide
        the most significant aspect of sentencing policy with  reference  to
        one of the classes under any of the following heads while completely
        ignoring other classes under other heads. To balance the two is  the
        primary duty of the court. It will be appropriate for the  court  to
        come to a final conclusion upon balancing the  exercise  that  would
        help to administer the criminal justice system better and provide an
        effective and meaningful reasoning  by  the  court  as  contemplated
        under Section 354(3) CrPC.

        Aggravating circumstances

        (1) The offences relating to the commission of heinous  crimes  like
        murder, rape, armed dacoity, kidnapping, etc. by the accused with  a
        prior record of conviction for capital felony or offences  committed
        by the person having a substantial history of serious  assaults  and
        criminal convictions.
        (2) The offence was committed while the offender was engaged in  the
        commission of another serious offence.
        (3) The offence was committed with the intention to  create  a  fear
        psychosis in the public at large and was committed in a public place
        by a weapon or device which clearly could be hazardous to  the  life
        of more than one person.
        (4) The offence of murder was committed for ransom or like  offences
        to receive money or monetary benefits.
        (5) Hired killings.
        (6) The offence was  committed  outrageously  for  want  only  while
        involving inhumane treatment and torture to the victim.
        (7) The offence was committed by a person while in lawful custody.
        (8) The murder or the offence was  committed  to  prevent  a  person
        lawfully carrying out his duty like arrest or custody in a place  of
        lawful confinement of himself or another. For instance, murder is of
        a person who had acted in lawful discharge of his duty under Section
        43 CrPC.
        (9) When the crime is enormous in proportion like making an  attempt
        of murder of the entire family or members of a particular community.
        (10) When the victim is innocent, helpless or a person  relies  upon
        the trust of relationship and social norms, like a  child,  helpless
        woman, a daughter or a niece staying  with  a  father/uncle  and  is
        inflicted with the crime by such a trusted person.
        (11) When murder is committed for a  motive  which  evidences  total
        depravity and meanness.

        (12) When there is a cold-blooded murder without provocation.
        (13) The crime is committed so brutally that it pricks or shocks not
        only the judicial conscience but even the conscience of the society.

        Mitigating circumstances

        (1) The manner and circumstances in and under which the offence  was
        committed, for example, extreme mental or emotional  disturbance  or
        extreme provocation in contradistinction to all these situations  in
        normal course.
        (2) The age of the accused is a relevant  consideration  but  not  a
        determinative factor by itself.
        (3) The chances of the accused of not indulging in commission of the
        crime again and the probability of the accused  being  reformed  and
        (4) The  condition  of  the  accused  shows  that  he  was  mentally
        defective and the defect impaired his  capacity  to  appreciate  the
        circumstances of his criminal conduct.
        (5) The circumstances which, in normal course of life, would  render
        such a behaviour possible and could have the effect of  giving  rise
        to  mental  imbalance  in  that  given  situation  like   persistent
        harassment or, in fact, leading to such a peak  of  human  behaviour
        that, in the facts  and  circumstances  of  the  case,  the  accused
        believed that he was morally justified in committing the offence.
        (6) Where the court upon proper appreciation of evidence is  of  the
        view that the crime was not committed in a  preordained  manner  and
        that the death resulted in the course of commission of another crime
        and  that  there  was  a  possibility  of  it  being  construed   as
        consequences to the commission of the primary crime.
        (7) Where it is absolutely unsafe to rely upon the  testimony  of  a
        sole eyewitness though the prosecution has brought home the guilt of
        the accused.
        77. While determining the questions relatable to sentencing  policy,
        the court has to follow certain principles and those principles  are
        the loadstar besides  the  above  considerations  in  imposition  or
        otherwise of the death sentence.
        (1) The court has to apply the test to  determine,  if  it  was  the
        “rarest of rare” case for imposition of a death sentence.
        (2) In the opinion of the court, imposition of any other  punishment
        i.e. life imprisonment would be completely inadequate and would  not
        meet the ends of justice.
        (3)  Life  imprisonment  is  the  rule  and  death  sentence  is  an
        (4) The option to impose sentence of imprisonment for life cannot be
        cautiously exercised having regard to the nature  and  circumstances
        of the crime and all relevant considerations.
        (5) The method (planned or otherwise)  and  the  manner  (extent  of
        brutality and inhumanity, etc.) in which the crime was committed and
        the circumstances leading to commission of such heinous crime.”

             51. This  Court  has  consistently  held  that  only  in  those
                 exceptional cases where the crime is so brutal,  diabolical
                 and revolting so as to shock the collective  conscience  of
                 the community, would  it  be  appropriate  to  award  death
                 sentence. Since such circumstances cannot be laid down as a
                 straight jacket formula but must be ascertained  from  case
                 to case, the legislature has left it open for the Courts to
                 examine the facts of the case and appropriately decide upon
                 the sentence proportional to the gravity of the offence.

             52. We would now notice the decisions of this Court to  reflect
                 upon  the  various  circumstances  which  have   acted   as
                 mitigating and aggravating factors in given facts to result
                 in  commutation  of  sentence  or  confirmation  of   death
                 penalty; so as to examine  the  sentencing  policy  in  the
                 backdrop of balance-sheet of such factors in  the  case  at

Cases where death sentence is confirmed:
             53. In Dagdu v. State of Maharashtra, (1977)  3  SCC  68,  this
                 Court has observed as follows:
         “83. Having considered the matter in  all  its  aspects  —  penal,
         juristic and sociogical  —  and  having  given  our  most  anxious
         consideration to the problem, we are of the opinion  that  Accused
         3, 9, 10 and 11 deserve the extreme penalty of law and that  there
         is no justification for interfering with  the  sentence  of  death
         imposed upon them.
         84. Accused 3 put an end to four innocent lives, three small girls
         ten years of age and a woman in her thirties. Accused 9, 10 and 11
         committed the murders of Haribai, her nine-year old  daughter  and
         her  infant  child.  The  victims  had  given  no  cause  for  the
         atrocities perpetrated on them. They were killed as a child  kills
         flies. And the brutality accompanying the manner of killing defies
         an adequate description. The luring of small girls,  the  gagging,
         the cutting of their private parts, the ruthless defiling in order
         to prevent identification of the victims and the mysterious motive
         for the murders call for but one sentence. Nothing  short  of  the
         death  sentence  can  atone  for  such  callous   and   calculated
         transgression of law.  Morbid  pity  can  have  no  place  in  the
         assessment  of  murders  which,  in  many  respects,  will  remain
         unparalled in the annals of crime.  Accordingly,  we  confirm  the
         death sentence imposed on Accused 3, 9, 10 and 11.”

             54. In Sunder Singh v. State of Uttaranchal, (2010) 10 SCC  611
                 the accused had  gone  to  the  place  of  occurrence  well
                 prepared carrying  jerry  cans  containing  petrol,  sword,
                 pistol with two bullets, which showed his premeditation and
                 cold-blooded mind. In the incident five persons lost  their
                 lives while the sole surviving lady survived with 70%  burn
                 injuries. The murder was committed in  a  cruel,  grotesque
                 and diabolical manner, and closing of the door of the house
                 was the  most  foul  act  by  which  the  accused  actually
                 intended to burn  all  the  persons  inside  the  room  and
                 precisely that happened. Hence the Court did not  find  any
                 sentence less harsh than the death sentence.

             55. In M.A. Antony v. State of Kerala, (2009) 6 SCC 220 all six
                 members of a family were murdered  at  their  residence  at
                 night. The motive was money, and the absence of the accused
                 from his own residence during the corresponding period  and
                 recovery of clothes under Section 27 of the  Evidence  Act,
                 1872, fingerprints on the doorsteps of the  house  matching
                 with those of the accused, and recovery of  scalp  hair  of
                 the  accused  from  place  of   occurrence   were   damning
                 circumstantial evidence. Having  regard  to  the  chain  of
                 circumstances and the diabolical manner  of  commission  of
                 crime the death sentence was upheld.

             56. In Jagdish v. State of M.P., (2009) 9 SCC 495 the assailant
                 murdered his wife and five children (aged 1 to 16 years) in
                 his own house. The murders were particularly horrifying  as
                 the assailant was in a dominant position and a position  of
                 trust as the head of the family.  The  assailant  betraying
                 the trust and abusing his position murdered  his  wife  and
                 minor children (youngest being the only  son  just  1  year
                 old). This  Court  held  that  the  balance  sheet  of  the
                 aggravating  and  mitigating  circumstances   was   heavily
                 weighed against the assailant making it the rarest of  rare
                 cases. Consequently the award of death sentence was just.

             57. In Prajeet Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar, (2008) 4 SCC  434
                 the accused was a paying guest for a continuous  period  of
                 four years in lieu of a sum of Rs.500 for food  and  meals.
                 He brutally executed three  innocent  defenceless  children
                 aged  8,  15  and  16,  attempted  to  murder  the   father
                 (informant)  and  mother  who  survived  the  attack   with
                 multiple injuries. There was no provocation or  reason  for
                 committing this ghastly act at a  time  when  the  children
                 were sleeping. There were several incised  wounds  (muscle-
                 deep or bone-deep) caused to the deceased. Considering  the
                 brutality, diabolic, inhuman nature  and  enormity  of  the
                 crime (multiple murders and attacks), this Court held  that
                 the mindset of the accused could not be said to be amenable
                 to any reformation. Therefore, it came under the rarest  of
                 the rare category where not awarding a death sentence would
                 have resulted in failure of justice.

             58. In Ram Singh v. Sonia, (2007) 3 SCC 1 the wife in collusion
                 with her husband murdered not only her stepbrother and  his
                 whole family including three tiny tots of 45 days, 2½ years
                 and 4 years, but also her own father, mother and sister  so
                 as to deprive  her  father  from  giving  property  to  her
                 stepbrother and his family. The murders were committed in a
                 cruel, pre-planned and diabolic manner  while  the  victims
                 were sleeping, without any provocation  from  the  victim’s
                 side. It was held that the accused persons did not  possess
                 any basic humanity and  completely  lacked  the  psyche  or
                 mindset amenable to any reformation. It was a revolting and
                 dastardly act, and hence the case fell within the  category
                 of the rarest of rare cases and  thus  death  sentence  was

             59. In Holiram Bordoloi v. State of Assam, (2005) 3 SCC 793 the
                 accused persons were armed with lathis, and  various  other
                 weapons. They came to the house of the victim  and  started
                 pelting stones on  the  bamboo  wall  of  the  said  house.
                 Thereafter, they closed the house from the outside and  set
                 the house on fire. When the son, daughter and the  wife  of
                 the victim somehow managed to come out of  the  house,  the
                 accused persons caught hold of them and threw them into the
                 fire again. Thereafter the elder brother who was staying in
                 another house at some distance from the house of the victim
                 was caught and dragged to  the  courtyard  of  the  accused
                 where the accused cut him into pieces.  It  was  held  that
                 there was absence of any strong motive and the victims  did
                 not provoke or contribute to the incident. The accused  was
                 the leader of the gang, and the offence  was  committed  in
                 the most barbaric manner to deter others  from  challenging
                 the supremacy of the accused in the village.  It  was  held
                 that no mitigating circumstances to refrain  from  imposing
                 death penalty were found.

             60. In Karan Singh v. State of U.P., (2005) 6 SCC 342  the  two
                 appellants chased the deceased persons and  butchered  them
                 with axes and other weapons in  a  very  dastardly  manner.
                 After killing three adults, the  appellants  entered  their
                 house and killed two children who in no way  were  involved
                 with the alleged property dispute with the  appellants.  It
                 was held that the sole intention here  was  to  exterminate
                 the entire family. Thus, it was  the  rarest  of  the  rare
             61. In Gurmeet Singh v.  State  of  U.P.,  (2005)  12  SCC  107
                 appellant G,  along  with  his  friend  L  killed  thirteen
                 members of his family including small  kids  for  a  flimsy
                 reason (objection of family of G to the visits and stay  of
                 L at their house) while they  were  asleep.  The  award  of
                 death sentence was held proper.

             62. In State of Rajasthan v. Kheraj Ram, (2003) 8 SCC  224  the
                 accused deliberately planned and executed his two  innocent
                 children, wife and brother-in-law when they  were  sleeping
                 at night. There was no remorse  for  such  a  gruesome  act
                 which was indicated by  the  calmness  with  which  he  was
                 smoking “chilam” after the commission of the act. As it was
                 preplanned  and  after  the  entire  chain  of  events  and
                 circumstances were comprehended, the inevitable conclusion,
                 was that the accused acted in the most  cruel  and  inhuman
                 manner and the murder was committed in an extremely brutal,
                 grotesque, diabolical, revolting and dastardly manner.

             63. In Om Prakash v. State of Uttaranchal, (2003) 1 SCC 648 the
                 accused, a domestic servant killed three  innocent  members
                 and attempted to kill the fourth member of  the  family  of
                 his employer in order to take revenge for the  decision  to
                 dispense with his service and to commit robbery. The  death
                 sentence was upheld.

             64. In Gurdev Singh v. State of Punjab, (2003) 7  SCC  258  the
                 appellants, having known that on the next  day  a  marriage
                 was to take place in the house of the complainant and there
                 would be lots of relatives present in her house, came there
                 on the evening when a feast was going on and started firing
                 on the innocent persons. Thirteen persons  were  killed  on
                 the spot and  eight  others  were  seriously  injured.  The
                 appellants thereafter went to another place and killed  the
                 father and brother of PW 15. Out of the  thirteen  persons,
                 one of them was a seven-year-old child,  three  others  had
                 ages ranging between 15 and 17 years.  The  death  sentence
                 was held justified.

             65. In Praveen Kumar v. State of Karnataka, (2003) 12  SCC  199
                 the accused was accommodated by one of the victims (who was
                 his aunt) despite her large family, and  she  gave  him  an
                 opportunity to make an  honest  living  as  a  tailor.  The
                 accused committed the preplanned, cold-blooded  murders  of
                 the relatives and well-wishers (including one young  child)
                 while they were sleeping. After the commission of the crime
                 the accused absconded from judicial custody for nearly four
                 years, which eliminated the possibility of any  remorse  or
                 rehabilitation. Held, the  extreme  penalty  of  death  was

             66. In Suresh v. State of U.P., (2005) 6  SCC  130  the  brutal
                 murder of one of  the  accused’s  brother  and  his  family
                 members including minor children at night  when  they  were
                 fast asleep with axe and chopper by  cutting  their  skulls
                 and necks for a piece  of  land  was  considered  to  be  a
                 grotesque and diabolical act, where  any  other  punishment
                 than the death penalty was unjustified.

             67. In Ranjeet Singh v. State of Rajasthan, (1988)  1  SCC  633
                 the entire family was murdered when they were  fast  asleep
                 and this Court observed as under:
        “13. With regard to the sentence  of  death,  there  cannot  be  two
        opinions. The manner in  which  the  entire  family  was  eliminated
        indicates that the offence was deliberate  and  diabolical.  It  was
        predetermined and  cold-blooded.  It  was  absolutely  devilish  and

             68. In Ramdeo Chauhan v. State of Assam, (2000) 7 SCC  455  the
                 accused committed a preplanned, cold-blooded brutal  murder
                 of four inmates of a house including two helpless women and
                 a child aged 2½ years during their sleep with a  motive  to
                 commit theft.  The  accused  also  attacked  with  a  spade
                 another inmate of the house, an old woman, and a  neighbour
                 when they entered the house. The Court held that the  young
                 age (22 years) of the accused at the time of committing the
                 crime was not a mitigating circumstance, and death  penalty
                 was a just and proper punishment.

             69. In Narayan Chetanram Chaudhary  v.  State  of  Maharashtra,
                 (2000) 8 SCC 457 there was a preplanned, calculated,  cold-
                 blooded murder of five women, including one pregnant  woman
                 and two children aged 1½ years and 2½ years, all inmates of
                 a house, in order to wipe out all evidence of  robbery  and
                 theft committed by two accused in the house at a time  when
                 male members of the house were out. It was  held  that  the
                 young age (20-22 years) of the accused persons cannot serve
                 as a mitigating circumstance.

             70. In Surja Ram v. State of Rajasthan, (1996) 6  SCC  271  the
                 appellant murdered his brother, his two minor sons  and  an
                 aged aunt by cutting their neck with  a  kassi  while  they
                 were  all  sleeping.  He  also  attempted  to  murder   his
                 brother’s wife and daughter but they survived with  serious
                 injuries. The dispute between them only related to  putting
                 a barbed fence on a portion of their  residential  complex.
                 The death sentence was held to be justified.

             71. In Ravji v. State  of  Rajasthan,  (1996)  2  SCC  175  the
                 accused in a cool and calculated manner wanted to kill  his
                 wife and three minor children while they were asleep.  When
                 his mother intervened he injured her with an  axe  with  an
                 intention to  kill  her.  He  then  silently  went  to  the
                 neighbour’s house and attempted  to  kill  his  neighbour’s
                 wife who was also asleep. When his neighbour intervened  he
                 killed him too and fled from the place  of  occurrence  and
                 tried to hide himself. The accused had  a  solemn  duty  to
                 protect  his  family  members  and  maintain  them  but  he
                 betrayed the trust reposed in  him  in  a  very  cruel  and
                 calculated manner without any provocation whatsoever. Hence
                 the death penalty had to be upheld.

             72. In Sudam v. State of Maharashtra, (2011)  7  SCC  125  this
                 Court held that  where  an  accused  was  found  guilty  of
                 committing murder of four children and a woman with whom he
                 was living with as husband and wife, the death penalty  was
                 justified and observed:
        “22. The manner in which the crime has been committed clearly  shows
        it to be premeditated and well planned. It seems that all  the  four
        children and the woman were brought  near  the  pond  in  a  planned
        manner, strangulated to death and the dead bodies  of  the  children
        thrown in the pond to conceal the crime. He not  only  killed  Anita
        but crushed her head to avoid identification. Killing four children,
        tying the dead bodies in bundles of two each and  throwing  them  in
        the pond would  not  have  been  possible,  had  the  appellant  not
        meticulously planned the murders. It shows that the crime  has  been
        committed in a beastly, extremely  brutal,  barbaric  and  grotesque
        manner. It has resulted in intense and extreme  indignation  of  the
        community and shocked the collective conscience of the society.
        23. We are of the opinion that the appellant  is  a  menace  to  the
        society who cannot be reformed. Lesser punishment, in  our  opinion,
        shall be fraught with danger as it may expose the society  to  peril
        once again at the hands of the appellant. We are of the opinion that
        the case in hand falls in the category of the rarest of  rare  cases
        and the trial court did not err in awarding the death  sentence  and
        the High Court confirming the same.”

             73. In Atbir v. Govt. (NCT of Delhi),  (2010)  9  SCC  1,  this
                 Court confirmed the death sentence given to  the  appellant
                 who had  committed  multiple  murders  of  members  of  his
                 family, who were none other than  stepmother,  brother  and
                 sister in order to  inherit  the  entire  property  of  his
                 father. The appellant,  in  consultation  with  his  mother
                 planned to eliminate the entire family of  his  stepmother,
                 and with this intention went to her house, closed the doors
                 and mercilessly inflicted 37 knife injuries  on  the  vital
                 parts of the victims’ bodies.

             74. In Ajitsingh Harnamsingh Gujral v.  State  of  Maharashtra,
                 (2011) 14 SCC 401 the appellant was convicted  for  burning
                 wife and  three  grown  up  children.  While  awarding  the
                 sentence of  death  this  Court  considered  the  following
                 circumstances  which  weighed  in  favor  of  the   capital

        “91. In our opinion, a person like  the  appellant  who  instead  of
        doing his duty of protecting his family kills them in such  a  cruel
        and barbaric manner cannot be reformed or rehabilitated. The balance
        sheet is heavily against him and accordingly  we  uphold  the  death
        sentence awarded to him.
        92. In the present case the accused did not act on any spur  of  the
        moment provocation. It is no doubt that a quarrel  occurred  between
        him and his wife at midnight, but the fact that  he  had  brought  a
        large quantity of petrol to his residential apartment shows that  he
        had pre-planned the diabolical and gruesome murder  in  a  dastardly

Cases where death sentence is commuted:

             75. Mohd. Chaman v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2001) 2 SCC 28 was a
                 case where the convict had raped a one-and-a-half year  old
                 child who died as a result  of  the  unfortunate  incident.
                 This Court found that the crime committed was  serious  and
                 heinous and the criminal had a dirty and perverted mind and
                 had no control over his carnal desires. Nevertheless,  this
                 Court found it difficult to hold that the criminal was such
                 a dangerous person that to spare his  life  would  endanger
                 the  community.  This  Court  reduced   the   sentence   to
                 imprisonment for life since the case was  one  in  which  a
                 “humanist approach”  should  be  taken  in  the  matter  of
                 awarding punishment.

             76. Dilip Premnarayan Tiwari v. State of Maharashtra, (2010)  1
                 SCC 775 was a case in which three convicts had  killed  two
                 persons and grievously injured two others, leaving them for
                 dead. A third victim later succumbed to his injuries. While
                 noticing that the crime was  in  the  nature  of,  what  is
                 nowadays  referred  to  as  “honour  killing”,  this  Court
                 reduced the death sentence awarded to two of the  criminals
                 to imprisonment for life with a direction that they  should
                 not be released until they  complete  25  years  of  actual
                 imprisonment. The third criminal was sentenced  to  undergo
                 20 years of actual imprisonment. That these criminals  were
                 young persons who did not have criminal antecedents weighed
                 in reducing their death sentence.

             77. Sebastian v. State of Kerala, (2010) 1 SCC 58 was a case in
                 which the criminal had raped and  murdered  a  two-year-old
                 child. He was found to  be  a  paedophile  with  “extremely
                 violent propensities”. Earlier, in 1998, he  was  convicted
                 of an offence under Section 354 IPC, that  is,  assault  or
                 use of criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage her
                 modesty, an offence carrying  a  maximum  sentence  of  two
                 years’  imprisonment  with  fine.  Subsequently,   he   was
                 convicted for a more serious offence  under  Sections  302,
                 363 and 376 IPC but  an  appeal  was  pending  against  his
                 conviction. The convict also appears to have been tried for
                 the murder of several other children but was  acquitted  in
                 2005 with the benefit of doubt, the last event having taken
                 place three days after he had committed the rape and murder
                 of the two-year-old child. Notwithstanding  the  nature  of
                 the   offence   as   well   as   his   “extremely   violent
                 propensities”, the sentence of death  awarded  to  him  was
                 reduced to imprisonment for the rest of his life.

             78. In Rajesh Kumar case (supra) the appellant had murdered two
                 children. One of them was four-and-a-half year old and  the
                 criminal had slit his throat with a piece of glass which he
                 obtained from breaking the dressing table. The other  child
                 was an infant of eight months who was killed by holding his
                 legs and hitting him on the floor. Despite the brutality of
                 the crime, the death sentence awarded to this  convict  was
                 reduced to that of life imprisonment. It was held  that  he
                 was not a continuing threat to the  society  and  that  the
                 State had not produced any evidence to  show  that  he  was
                 incapable of reform and rehabilitation.

             79. Amit v. State of U.P., (2012) 4 SCC 107 was a case in which
                 a three-year-old child was subjected to rape, an  unnatural
                 offence and murder. The convict was also  found  guilty  of
                 causing the disappearance  of  evidence.  The  sentence  of
                 death awarded to him was reduced to imprisonment  for  life
                 subject to remissions. It was held that there  was  nothing
                 to suggest that he would repeat the offence  and  that  the
                 possibilities of his reform over a period  of  years  could
                 not be ruled out since there was no evidence of any earlier
                 offence committed by him.

             80. In the present circumstances, we would place reliance  upon
                 the  observations  of  this  Court  in  State  of  U.P.  v.
                 Dharmendra Singh, (1999) 8 SCC 325. In this case, 6 accused
                 persons were charged with offence under  Section  302  read
                 with 149 of the IPC for murdering 5 persons: an old man  of
                 75 years, a woman aged 32 years, two boys aged 12 years and
                 a girl aged 15 years, at night when  they  were  asleep  by
                 inflicting multiple injuries to wreak vengeance. The  Trial
                 Court while convicting them had awarded  life  sentence  in
                 regard to 4 accused persons  and  after  assigning  reasons
                 awarded death sentence to the 2 others. In appeal the  High
                 Court upheld the conviction  of  all  accused  persons  and
                 while confirming life sentence on  the  4  accused  persons
                 came to the conclusion that the sentence of death  was  not
                 called for  in  respect  to  2  accused  persons  who  were
                 languishing in the death cell for 3 years and  consequently
                 reduced the sentence to that of imprisonment of  life.   In
                 appeal, this Court in context of the  argument  that  since
                 individual overt acts that have not been established,  even
                 if the conviction  is  to  be  upheld,  capital  punishment
                 should not be granted, has observed as follows:
         “15. We have carefully perused the evidence adduced in this  case,
         to the limited extent of examining whether the case in hand  is  a
         case which could be termed as rarest of the rare cases  so  as  to
         invoke the extreme penalty of death. The  learned  Sessions  Judge
         while  assigning  special  reasons  for   awarding   the   capital
         punishment came to the conclusion that the crime in question was a
         dastardly crime involving the death of 5 innocent human beings for
         the purpose of achieving the  sadistic  goals  of  Dharmendra  and
         Narendra, the  respondents  herein,  to  avenge  their  respective
         grouse against the complainant and his niece Reeta by  eliminating
         5 members of the family. Learned Sessions Judge distinguished  the
         case of the 4 other accused with that of these  respondents  based
         on the motive and on the ground that these  respondents  were  the
         principal perpetrators of the crime. It  is  seen  that  the  High
         Court has concurred with this reasoning  of  the  Sessions  Judge.
         However, the High Court  on  the  ground  that  the  accused  have
         languished in the death cell for 3 years, altered the sentence  to
         life imprisonment.
         23. It is possible in a given set of facts that  the  court  might
         think even in a case where death sentence can be awarded, the same
         need not be awarded because of the peculiar  facts  of  that  case
         like  the  possibility  of  one  or  more  of  the  accused  being
         responsible for offences less culpable than the other accused.  In
         such circumstances, in the absence  of  their  being  no  material
         available, to bifurcate the case of each accused person, the court
         might think it prudent not to award the extreme penalty of  death.
         But then such  a  decision  would  rest  on  the  availability  of
         evidence in a particular case. We do not think that a straitjacket
         formula for awarding  death  sentence  can  be  evolved  which  is
         applicable to all cases. The facts of each case  will  have  their
         own implication on the question of  awarding  sentence.  In  Ronny
         case (1998) 3 SCC 625,  this  Court  on  facts  found  extenuating
         factors to curb the sentence which is  clear  from  the  following
         extract from the said judgment: (SCC p. 654, para 47)
            “From the facts and circumstances, it is not possible to predict
            as to who among the three played which part. It may be that  the
            role of one has been more culpable in degree than  that  of  the
            others and vice versa. Where in a  case  like  this  it  is  not
            possible to say as to whose case falls within the ‘rarest of the
            rare’ cases, it would serve the ends of justice if  the  capital
            punishment is commuted into life imprisonment.”

             81. Further in Dharmendra Singh case (supra) this  Court  while
                 rejecting the mitigating  circumstance  of  expectation  of
                 survival due to reversal of sentence  by  the  High  Court,
            “25…In a judicial system like ours where there is a hierarchy of
            courts, the possibility of reversal of judgments is  inevitable,
            therefore, expectations of an accused  cannot  be  a  mitigating
            factor to interfere in an appeal for enhancement of sentence  if
            the same is otherwise called for in law.

            26. Taking into consideration the brutality of the  attack,  the
            number of  persons  murdered,  the  age  and  infirmity  of  the
            victims, their vulnerability and the diabolic  motive,  acts  of
            perversion on the person of  Reeta,  cumulatively  we  find  the
            sentence awarded by the trial court was just and proper. “

Mitigating and Aggravating Circumstances in the present case:

             82. Having noticed the decisions of  this  Court  on  the  said
                 aspect, we would revert to the  factual  position  in  this
                 case. Herein, the time, place, manner  of  and  the  motive
                 behind commission of the crime speak volumes  of  the  pre-
                 mediated  and  callous   nature   of   the   offence.   The
                 ruthlessness of the appellants is reflected through  brutal
                 murders of the young, innocent children  and  wife  of  the
                 informant by burning them alive to avenge  their  cause  in
                 the dark of the night; the cause being non-withdrawal of an
                 FIR filed by the informant for theft of his buffalo against
                 the appellant-A1. Further, from the record we  gather  that
                 only family members of the informant have come  forward  to
                 depose as the entire village must have  been  shocked  with
                 the ghastly murders of the deceased  persons  and  in  such
                 circumstances  would  not  have  come  forward  to  testify
                 against the  appellants  who  already  had  translated  the
                 threats given to the informant in village panchayat into  a
                 shocking reality. While  our  experience  reminds  us  that
                 civilized people generally unsuccinctly when the  crime  is
                 committed infact in  their  presence,  withdraw  themselves
                 both from the victim and the  vigilante  unless  inevitable
                 and consider that crime like civil disputes  must  restrict
                 itself to the two parties, it also evidences for the threat
                 the incident had instilled amongst the villagers that  none
                 in such close knit unit besides the sanguine relatives  had
                 come forth to testify against the accused.

             83. The mitigating circumstances elaborated upon by Shri Mishra
                 in respect of comparatively young  age  of  the  appellants
                 holds no ground, their army background and their  custodial
                 behavior fail to outweigh the aggravating  factors  in  the
                 present case. The argument  that  the  appellants  are  not
                 “antisocial elements” fails into inception in the light  of
                 the  effect  of  the  occurrence  reflected   through   the
                 abstinence of the villagers from deposing against  them  at
                 the trial.

             84. However, in the present case, while taking an overall view,
                 no overt act in the commission of crime could be attributed
                 to A3. The role played by A3 during commission of the crime
                 as established was to hold the barrels  of  kerosene  along
                 with one  other.  While  determining  the  gravity  of  the
                 offence committed by the appellants it must be noticed that
                 it is only A1 who had threatened the informant  of  burning
                 his house in case the FIR against his family and  him  were
                 not withdrawn. Further, A1 during the occurrence  not  only
                 scripted and instructed the rest of the  unlawful  assembly
                 but also lighted the matchstick to burn the house  as  well
                 informant’s body. A2, pushed the informant  to  the  ground
                 and later fired at him.

             85. Further, in respect of the mitigating factors  of  lack  of
                 criminal antecedents or probabilities of the appellants  to
                 be  menace  to  the  society,  we  would   re-iterate   the
                 observations of this Court in  Gurdev  Singh  v.  State  of
                 Punjab, (2003) 7 SCC 258 that it is indeed  true  that  the
                 underlying principle of  our  sentencing  jurisprudence  is
                 reformation and there is nothing in evidence to  show  that
                 the appellants have been a threat or menace to the  society
                 at large besides the FIR regarding the theft of buffalo. It
                 is also true that we  cannot  say  that  they  would  be  a
                 further menace  to  the  society  or  not  as  we  live  as
                 creatures saddled with an imperfect ability to predict  the
                 future. Nevertheless, the law prescribes for future,  based
                 upon its knowledge of the past and is being forced to  deal
                 with tomorrow’s problems with yesterday’s tools.

             86.  However,  in  the  peculiar  facts  of  this   case,   the
                 possibility of  A3  being  less  culpable  than  the  other
                 accused cannot be answered in  affirmative.  Therefore,  in
                 our considered view, we do not deem it proper  to  sentence
                 A3  to  death  in  light  of  there  being  no  overt   act
                 attributable to him and sentence to imprisonment  till  the
                 end of his life would  appropriately  serve  as  punishment
                 proportional to the degree of offence committed by him.

             87. In respect of A1 and A2, we are of the considered view that
                 the instant case falls into such category of rarest of  the
                 rare cases where culpability has assumed the proportion  of
                 extreme depravity and  the  appellant-accused  are  perfect
                 example of a blood thirsty, scheming and hardened criminals
                 who slayed seven innocent lives to quench their thirst  for
                 revenge and such revenge evolving out of a fellow  citizens
                 refusal to abstain from resorting to machinery  of  law  to
                 protect  his  rights.  The  entire  incident  is  extremely
                 revolting and  shocks  the  collective  conscience  of  the
                 community. The acts of murder committed by  the  appellants
                 are so gruesome, merciless and brutal that the  aggravating
                 circumstances far outweigh the mitigating circumstances.

             88. We now proceed to examine such special reasons which negate
                 the possibility of any  sentence  but  for  death  penalty.
                 Herein, A1 and A2 have committed a cold blooded murder in a
                 pre-ordained fashion without  any  provocation  whatsoever.
The motive behind the gruesome act was to avenge the act of
                 informant in approaching the machinery of  law  enforcement
                 inspite of threats by the appellants. 
The victims were five
                 innocent children  and  wife  of  the  informant  who  were
                 sleeping unalarmed when the appellants came and locked them
                 inside their house while it was set ablaze. 
Further,  wrath
                 of A1 and A2 is reflected in their act of first gagging the
                 informant, thereafter attempting  to  burn  him  alive  and
                 later, when he tried  to  escape,  firing  at  him  thereby
                 leaving no stone unturned in translating their threats into
As a result  of  the  aforesaid  incident,  having
                 witnessed the threats of burning given by  the  A1  to  the
                 informant tuned into reality, none but the  family  of  the
                 deceased-informant  came  forth  to  depose   against   the
                 appellant-accused persons  during  the  trial.  
The  crime,
                 enormous in proportion having wiped off the  whole  family,
                 is committed so brutally that it pricks and shocks not only
                 the judicial conscience but even the collective  conscience
                 of the society. 
It demands just punishment from  the  Court
                 and the Court is bound to respond within legal  parameters.
                 The demand for justice and the award of punishment have  to
                 be in consonance  with  the  legislative  command  and  the
                 discretion vested in the Courts.

             89. On the question of striking a delicate balance between  the
                 proportionality of crime to  the  sentencing  policy,  Lord
                 Denning has observed as follows  on  the  very  purpose  of
                 imposition of a punishment:
        “…the  punishment  is  the  way  in  which  society  expresses  its
       denunciation of wrong doing; and, in order to maintain  respect  for
       the law, it is essential that the  punishment  inflicted  for  grave
       crimes should adequately reflect the revulsion  felt  by  the  great
       majority of citizens for them. It  is  a  mistake  to  consider  the
       objects of punishments  as  being  a  deterrent  or  reformative  or
       preventive and nothing else... The truth is that some crimes are  so
       outrageous that society insists on adequate punishment, because  the
       wrong doer deserves it, irrespective of whether it is a deterrent or

             90. In light of the aforesaid, having regard to the gravity  of
                 the offence committed, we are  of  the  considered  opinion
                 that with regard to A1 and A2  this  case  falls  into  the
                 category of rarest of the rare cases  and  is  not  a  case
                 where imprisonment for life is  an  adequate  sentence  and
                 thus, constrained to reach the inescapable conclusion  that
                 death sentence imposed on A1 and A2 be confirmed.

             91. Therefore, the sentence of death imposed on A1  and  A2  is
                 confirmed and the sentence awarded to  A3  is  commuted  to
                 life imprisonment till the rest of his life.

             92.  The  order  of  stay  on  the  execution  of  the  capital
                 punishment of A1 and A2 is vacated.

             93. The appeals are disposed of in the aforesaid terms.

                                                               (H. L. DATTU)

                                               (SUDHANSU JYOTI MUKHOPADHAYA)

                                                               (M. Y. EQBAL)
SEPTEMBER 19, 2013.

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