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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Section 432 Cr.PC for remission and Section 433 Cr.PC for commutation - No Sentence should be considered for remission and commutation before serving of the minimum sentence = All murders shock the community; but certain murders shock the conscience of the Court and the community. The distinguishing aspect of the latter category is that there is shock coupled with extreme revulsion. What should be the penological approach in that category is one question arising for consideration in this case. What is the scope of consideration of Death Reference by the High Court under Chapter XXVIII of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter referred to as ‘Cr.PC’), is the other question. Whether there is any restriction on the exercise of power under Section 432 Cr.PC for remission and Section 433 Cr.PC for commutation in cases of minimum sentence is the third main issue.= In the present case, the respondent has been awarded life imprisonment under Section 302 of IPC. Under Section 376 of IPC also he has been awarded life imprisonment. The third substantive sentence is under Section 201 of IPC. All these sentences are ordered to run concurrently. The sentence of life imprisonment is till the end of one’s biological life. However, in view of the power of the State under Sections 432 and 433 of Cr.PC, in the present case, we are of the view that the sentences shall run consecutively, in case there is remission or commutation. We further make it clear that the remission or commutation, if considered in the case of the respondent, shall be granted only after the mandatory period of fourteen years in the case of offence under Section 302 of IPC. Punishment has a penological purpose. Reformation, retribution, prevention, deterrence are some of the major factors in that regard. Parliament is the collective conscience of the people. If it has mandated a minimum sentence for certain offences, the Government being its delegate, cannot interfere with the same in exercise of their power for remission or commutation. Neither Section 432 nor Section 433 of Cr.PC hence contains a non-obstante provision. Therefore, the minimum sentence provided for any offence cannot be and shall not be remitted or commuted by the Government in exercise of their power under Section 432 or 433 of the Cr.PC. Wherever the Indian Penal Code or such penal statutes have provided for a minimum sentence for any offence, to that extent, the power of remission or commutation has to be read as restricted; otherwise the whole purpose of punishment will be defeated and it will be a mockery on sentencing. Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the present case, we make it clear that in the event of State invoking its powers under Section 432 or 433 of Cr.PC, the sentence under Section 376 of IPC shall not be remitted or commuted before seven years of imprisonment. In other words, in that eventuality, it shall be ensured that the respondent will first serve the term of life imprisonment under Section 302 of IPC. In case there is any remission after fourteen years, then imprisonment for a minimum period of seven years under Section 376 of IPC shall follow and thereafter three years of rigorous imprisonment under Section 201 of IPC. The sentence on fine and default as awarded by the Sessions Court are maintained as such.

published in http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/imgst.aspx?filename=40836

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                      CRIMINAL  APPELLATE  JURISDICTION


                       CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 659 OF 2006

State of Rajasthan                                 … Appellant (s)

                                   Versus

Jamil Khan                                         … Respondent (s)


                               J U D G M E N T

KURIAN, J.:



1.  All  murders  shock  the  community;  but  certain  murders  shock   the
   conscience of the Court and the community. The distinguishing  aspect  of
   the  latter  category  is  that  there  is  shock  coupled  with  extreme
   revulsion. What should be the penological approach in  that  category  is
   one question arising for consideration in this case. 
What is the scope of
   consideration   of   Death   Reference   by   the   High   Court    under
    Chapter XXVIII of the Code  of  Criminal  Procedure,  1973  (hereinafter
   referred to as ‘Cr.PC’), is the other  question.  
Whether  there  is  any
   restriction on  the  exercise  of  power  under  Section  432  Cr.PC  for
   remission and Section 433 Cr.PC  for  commutation  in  cases  of  minimum
   sentence is the third main issue.

2. On 23.12.2002, Pooja, a tiny girl below five years of  age  was  brutally
   raped and thereafter murdered by the respondent. He packed the dead  body
   in a sack and further in a bag and  secretly  left  it  in  a  train.  By
   Judgment dated 15.04.2004, the  Sessions  Court,  having  regard  to  the
   overwhelming evidence, convicted the respondent under Section 302 of  the
   Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) (hereinafter referred  to  as  ‘IPC’)  and
   sentenced him to death. He was also found guilty under Section 376 of IPC
   and was sentenced to imprisonment for life with  a  fine  of  Rs.2,000/-.
   Under Section 201 of IPC, he was  convicted  and  sentenced  to  rigorous
   imprisonment for three years and a fine of Rs.500/-.  There  was  default
   clause as well. The Sessions Court mainly relied on the decision of  this
   Court in Kamta Tiwari vs. State of Madhya Pradesh[1].  In  that  case,  a
   seven year old child was raped, murdered and the body was thrown  into  a
   well. This Court awarded death sentence. In the instant case,  the  Death
   Reference was considered by the High Court of Rajasthan  along  with  the
   Appeal leading to the impugned Judgment dated 09.11.2004.

      The case law on sentencing has been extensively  referred  to  by  the
High  Court.  But  without  reference  to  the  aggravating  or   mitigating
circumstances or to the special reasons, the High Court held that  the  case
does not fall in the category of  rarest  of  rare  cases  warranting  death
sentence. Thus, the High Court declined to confirm the  death  sentence  and
awarded life imprisonment under Section  302  of  IPC.  The  conviction  and
sentence under Sections 376 and 201 of IPC was maintained.

3. The State has come in appeal contending that  it  is  a  fit  case  where
   punishment of death should be awarded to the  respondent.   There  is  no
   appeal by the respondent  challenging  the  conviction  and  sentence  as
   confirmed by the High Court under Sections 302, 376 and 201 of IPC.

4.  Having  regard  to  the  above  background,  it  is  not  necessary   to
   extensively refer to the factual matrix, except for the relevant aspects.
   However, to understand the nature of the crime, we  shall  refer  to  the
   injuries noticed by the medical board in the post mortem:
 “Ext. genital part blood stained and  vaginal  bleeding  present,  vaginal
 tear (2nd degree) extend upto anal office postrly, hymen  rupture,  cervix
 admit one finger loose, vaginal smear is taken, send for FSL  &  slide  is
 prepared from vaginal secretion, send for FSL.

      1.    Ligature mark 1cm x 0.5cm deep is present around the whole  neck
      below the thyroid cartilage, base is brownish Red dry  parchment  lobe
      appearance on cut sectioned the sub cut tissue  beneath  the  ligature
      mark is ecchymosed;

      2.    Abrasion- 3cm x 0.2cm in size three in number parallel  to  each
      other, vertical position mid of the neck  antrly  below  the  ligature
      mark;

      3.    Ligature mark 1cm breadth is present on antero lateral and  post
      part of middle of both leg, this mark is post mortem in nature.

      Injury No. 1 & 2 ante mortem in nature.”




5. In the opinion of the Medical Board, asphyxia due  to  strangulation  was
   the cause of death.

6. The injuries present  on  the  body  of  the  tiny  child  would  clearly
   establish the barbaric nature of  the  commission  of  the  offence.  The
   respondent had some previous acquaintance with the child when he used  to
   visit his parents who stayed in the neigbourhood. It has come in evidence
   that the respondent had planned the crime. On the  fateful  day,  he  had
   come to the place, drunk, carrying with him a sack and a blue  bag.  PW2,
   who knows the accused, had seen him proceeding towards his house carrying
   a white coloured katta (sack) on his shoulder and a blue coloured bag  in
   his hands. According to PW3, the accused had gone  to  his  shop,  bought
   peanuts and madhu gutka. He lured the child by offering peanuts and  took
   her to his parents’ house. PW3 had seen the accused carrying  the  loaded
   bag on his shoulder. It is not necessary to discuss  the  other  evidence
   available  from  the  recovered  articles  which  all  have  conclusively
   established that it was the respondent who committed the offence.

7. Aggravating  factors  qua  the  crime  and  mitigating  factors  qua  the
   criminal should be properly balanced so as to decide whether  an  offence
   of murder would fall under the rarest of rare category to be visited with
   the extreme punishment of death.  The  Court,  under  Section  354(3)  of
   Cr.PC, has to give special reasons, in case death  sentence  is  awarded.
   The very decision of the Court that a case falls under the rarest of rare
   category would ordinarily meet the requirement of special  reasons  under
   Section 354(3) of the Cr.PC since inclusion of a case  in  that  category
   can be only on such finding. As held by the Constitution  Bench  of  this
   Court in Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab[2], the finding would depend on
   facts and circumstances of each case. To quote:
      “201. …As we  read  Sections  354(3)  and  235(2)  and  other  related
      provisions of the Code of 1973, it is  quite  clear  to  us  that  for
      making the choice of punishment or for ascertaining the  existence  or
      absence of “special reasons” in that context, the court must  pay  due
      regard both to the crime and the criminal. What is the relative weight
      to be given to the aggravating and mitigating factors, depends on  the
      facts and circumstances of the particular case. More often  than  not,
      these two aspects are so intertwined that it is difficult  to  give  a
      separate treatment to each of them. This is so because “style  is  the
      man”. In many cases, the extremely cruel  or  beastly  manner  of  the
      commission of murder is itself a demonstrated index  of  the  depraved
      character of the perpetrator. That is why,  it  is  not  desirable  to
      consider the circumstances of the crime and the circumstances  of  the
      criminal in two separate watertight compartments. In a sense, to  kill
      is to be cruel and, therefore all murders are cruel. But such  cruelty
      may vary in its degree  of  culpability.  And  it  is  only  when  the
      culpability assumes the proportion of extreme depravity that  “special
      reasons” can legitimately be said to exist.”
                                                         (Emphasis supplied)



8. In Machhi Singh and Others vs. State of Punjab[3],  a  three-Judge  Bench
   of this Court has made an attempt to cull  out  certain  aggravating  and
   mitigating circumstances and it has been held that in  case  imprisonment
   for life is inadequate in view of the peculiar aspects of the crime, then
   alone the sentence of death should be awarded. To quote:
        “38.           xxx  xxx   xxx


              i) The extreme penalty of death need not be  inflicted  except
                 in gravest cases of extreme culpability.

             ii) Before opting for the death penalty  the  circumstances  of
                 the ‘offender’ also require to be taken into  consideration
                 along with the circumstances of the ‘crime’.

            iii) Life imprisonment is the rule  and  death  sentence  is  an
                 exception. In other words death sentence  must  be  imposed
                 only when life imprisonment appears  to  be  an  altogether
                 inadequate  punishment  having  regard  to   the   relevant
                 circumstances  of  the  crime,  and  provided,   and   only
                 provided, the option to impose sentence of imprisonment for
                 life cannot be conscientiously exercised having  regard  to
                 the nature and circumstances  of  the  crime  and  all  the
                 relevant circumstances.

             iv) A balance-sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances
                 has  to  be  drawn  up  and  in  doing  so  the  mitigating
                 circumstances have to be accorded full weightage and a just
                 balance has to be struck between the  aggravating  and  the
                 mitigating circumstances before the option is exercised.


        39. In order to apply these guidelines  inter  alia  the  following
        questions may be asked and answered:


           (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?


        40. If upon taking an overall global view of all the  circumstances
        in the light of the aforesaid proposition and taking  into  account
        the answers to the questions posed hereinabove,  the  circumstances
        of the case are such that death sentence is  warranted,  the  court
        would proceed to do so.”
                                                         (Emphasis supplied)




9. In Shankar Kisanrao Khade vs. State of Maharashtra[4], referring  to  the
   recent decisions (of about fifteen years), this Court has summarized  the
   mitigating factors and aggravating factors.  Young age  of  the  accused,
   the possibility of reforming and rehabilitating the accused, the  accused
   having no prior criminal record, the accused not likely to be a menace or
   threat or danger to society or the community,  the  accused  having  been
   acquitted by one of the courts, the crime  not  being  premeditated,  the
   case being of circumstantial evidence, etc., are some of  the  mitigating
   factors indicated therein. The cruel,  diabolic,  inhuman,  depraved  and
   gruesome nature of the crime, the  crime  result  in  public  abhorrence,
   shocks the judicial conscience  or  the  conscience  of  society  or  the
   community, the reform or rehabilitation of the convict is not  likely  or
   that he would be a menace to society, the crime was either unprovoked  or
   that it was premeditated, etc.,  are  some  of  the  aggravating  factors
   indicated in the said decision.


10. In State of Uttar Pradesh vs.  Sattan  alias  Satyendra  and  Others[5],
   this Court had  an  occasion  to  consider  the  penological  purpose  of
   sentencing. To quote:
      “30.  “21.‘9.  The  law   regulates   social   interests,   arbitrates
      conflicting claims and demands. Security of persons  and  property  of
      the people is an essential function of the State. It could be achieved
      through instrumentality of criminal law. Undoubtedly, there is a cross-
      cultural conflict where  living  law  must  find  answer  to  the  new
      challenges and the courts are required to mould the sentencing  system
      to meet the challenges. The contagion of lawlessness  would  undermine
      social order and lay it in ruins. Protection of society  and  stamping
      out criminal proclivity must be  the  object  of  law  which  must  be
      achieved  by  imposing  appropriate  sentence.  Therefore,  law  as  a
      cornerstone of the edifice  of  "order"  should  meet  the  challenges
      confronting the society. ...


           10. Therefore, undue  sympathy  to  impose  inadequate  sentence
      would do more harm to the  justice  system  to  undermine  the  public
      confidence in the efficacy of law and society could  not  long  endure
      under such serious threats. It is, therefore, the duty of every  court
      to award proper sentence having regard to the nature  of  the  offence
      and the manner in which it was executed or committed etc. …”

                                                         (Emphasis supplied)


11. This Court did not mince  words  while  discussing  the  requirement  of
   adequate punishment in Mahesh s/o Ram Narain  and  Others  vs.  State  of
   Madhya Pradesh[6]. To quote:
      “6. …it will be a mockery of justice to  permit  these  appellants  to
      escape the extreme penalty of law when faced with  such  evidence  and
      such cruel acts. To give the  lesser  punishment  for  the  appellants
      would be to render the justicing system of this country  suspect.  The
      common man will lose faith in courts. In such  cases,  he  understands
      and appreciates the language of deterrence more than  the  reformative
      jargon. ...”

                                                         (Emphasis supplied)



12. In Devender Pal Singh vs. State of NCT of Delhi  and  Another[7],  after
   referring to the Bachan Singh and Machhi Singh cases (supra), this  Court
   held that when the collective conscience of the community is so  shocked,
   it will expect the judiciary to inflict death penalty. To quote:
      “58. From Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab and Machhi Singh and  Others
      v. State of  Punjab,  the  principle  culled  out  is  that  when  the
      collective conscience of the community is so  shocked,  that  it  will
      expect the holders of the  judicial  power  center  to  inflict  death
      penalty irrespective of their personal opinion as regards desirability
      or otherwise of retaining death penalty, the same can be  awarded.  It
      was observed:


      The  community  may  entertain  such  sentiment   in   the   following
      circumstances:


           (1) 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.


           (2) When the murder is committed  for  a  motive  which  evinces
           total depravity and meanness; e.g. murder by hired assassin  for
           money or reward; or cold-blooded murder for gains  of  a  person
           vis-a-vis whom the murderer is in a dominating position or in  a
           position of trust; or murder  is  committed  in  the  course  of
           betrayal of the motherland.


           (3) 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; or in cases  of  ‘bride
           burning’ or ‘dowry deaths’ or when murder is committed in  order
           to remarry for the sake of extracting dowry  once  again  or  to
           marry another woman on account of infatuation.


           (4) 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.


           (5) When the victim  of  murder  is  an  innocent  child,  or  a
           helpless woman or old or infirm person  or  a  person  vis-a-vis
           whom the murderer is in  a  dominating  position,  or  a  public
           figure generally loved and respected by the community.


      If upon taking an overall global view of all the circumstances in  the
      light of the  aforesaid  propositions  and  taking  into  account  the
      answers to the questions posed by way of the test for  the  rarest  of
      rare cases, the circumstances of the case are such that death sentence
      is warranted, the court would proceed to do so".

                                                         (Emphasis supplied)








13. According to Lord Denning, the punishment  inflicted  for  grave  crimes
   should reflect the revulsion felt by the great majority of  citizens.  To
   him, deterrence, reformation or  prevention  are  not  the  determinative
   factors. His statement to the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment made
   in 1950 reads:


      “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.”

                                                         (Emphasis supplied)

14. As held by this Court in  Ajitsingh  Harnamsingh  Gujral  vs.  State  of
   Maharashtra[8], a distinction has to be drawn  between  ordinary  murders
   and murders which are gruesome, ghastly or horrendous. In such cases,
      “93.  …While life sentence should be given in the former,  the  latter
      belongs to the category of the rarest of rare cases, and  hence  death
      sentence should be given. …”


15. Any murder would cause a shock to the society but all  murders  may  not
   cause  revulsion  in  society.  Certain  murders  shock  the   collective
   conscience of the Court and community. Heinous rape of minors followed by
   murder is one such instance of a crime  which  shocks  and  repulses  the
   collective conscience of the community and the Court. Such crimes  arouse
   extreme revulsion in society. While culling out the rarest of rare  cases
   on the basis of aggravating and mitigating factors, we are  of  the  view
   that such crimes, which shock the collective conscience of the society by
   creating extreme revulsion in the minds of the people, are to be  treated
   as the rarest of rare category.

16. Although the crime in  the  present  case  is  gruesome  and  renders  a
   loathsome shock to the community, we are bound by  the  ratio  in  Bachan
   Singh’s case (supra) which requires the Court to consider the  mitigating
   factors qua the criminal. In the instant case, the  respondent  no  doubt
   was young at the time of the commission of the  offence,  above  nineteen
   years of age. He was a labourer. But  while  considering  the  mitigating
   factors, poverty has to be understood in light of whether it was a factor
   influencing the commission of offence. In a recent decision by coordinate
   Bench of this Court, authored by one of us (Kurian, J.) in Sunil  Damodar
   Gaikwad vs. State of Maharashtra[9], decided on 10.09.2013, in   Criminal
   Appeal Nos. 165-166 of 2011, it has been held that:
      “Poverty, socio-economic, psychic compulsions, undeserved  adversities
      in life are thus some of the mitigating factors to be  considered,  in
      addition to those indicated in Bachan Singh and Machhi Singh cases.”




That was a case where a poor tailor finding it  difficult  to  maintain  his
family of wife and three  children,  one  of  whom  also  required  constant
treatment, decided to wipe out the  entire  family.  Poverty  shall  not  be
understood and applied as disjunct  from  the  factual  position.  In  other
words, poverty or socio-economic, psychic or undeserved adversities in  life
shall be considered as mitigating factors  only  if  those  factors  have  a
compelling or advancing role to play in  the  commission  of  the  crime  or
otherwise influencing the criminal. Thus, merely because the offender  is  a
poor person, his poverty will not be a mitigating factor. In this  case  the
mitigating factor of the crime is not poverty. The  lust  fuelled  crime  of
rape and murder and that too of a minor child of tender age has  nothing  to
do with the poverty, socio-economic background or other psychic  compulsions
of the criminal. The decision in Sunil Damodar Gaikwad’s case  (supra)  will
stand clarified to the above extent.

17. In the instant case, there cannot be any doubt  that  the  crime  is  of
   extreme mental perversion. It was a well-planned crime  as  can  be  seen
   from the discussion at Paragraph 7 ibid. The major mitigating  factor  as
   far as respondent in this  case  is  concerned  is  that  he  was  young.
   However, in Shankar Kisanrao’s case (supra), this  Court  held  that  the
   fact that the accused is young by itself is  not  a  major  and  deciding
   factor while considering the mitigating factors. Dhananjoy Chatterjee vs.
   State of W.B.[10], Jai Kumar vs. State of M.P.[11], Shivu and Another vs.
   Registrar General, High Court of Karnataka and Another[12], Vikram  Singh
   and Others vs. State of  Punjab[13],  Atbir  vs.  Government  Of  NCT  of
   Delhi[14], Mohd.  Ajmal  Amir  Kasab  alias  Abu  Mujahid  vs.  State  of
   Maharashtra[15], are some of the cases where this Court, in view  of  the
   overwhelming and aggravating  circumstances,  declined  to  consider  the
   mitigating factor of young age.

18. That the accused was under the influence of alcohol at the time  of  the
   commission of the offence also is not a mitigating factor. It  is  not  a
   case where somebody had forcefully administered  intoxicating  drinks  or
   drugs to the respondent and made him commit  the  offence.  That  he  had
   taken alcoholic drinks at around 10.00 a.m. is also an indicator  to  the
   premeditation of the crime shortly thereafter. Thus, having regard to the
   nature of the crime, the manner in which it was committed and above  all,
   having regard to the major aggravating factor of extreme repulsion  which
   has shocked the collective conscience of the community and the Court,  as
   also the sole mitigating factor of his young age, we are of  the  opinion
   that punishment of life imprisonment is grossly inadequate.

19. We are also fortified in our view by the  following  decisions  of  this
   Court in similar circumstances. In State of  U.P.  vs.  Satish[16],  this
   Court reversed  the  acquittal  by  the  High  Court  and  awarded  death
   sentence. It was case of rape and murder of a minor girl aged  less  than
   six years. Shivu (supra) was a case of rape and  murder  of  an  eighteen
   year old girl by the neighbours. The death sentence on both  the  accused
   was upheld by this Court.  Bantu vs. State of  Uttar  Pradesh[17]  was  a
   case of the accused alluring a  five  year  old  child  with  a  balloon,
   committing rape and murder. The death sentence was upheld by this  Court.
   Shivaji alias Dadya Shankar Alhat vs. State of Maharashtra[18] was a case
   of a nine year old child being taken by a neighbour who promised to  help
   her to collect wood from the forest, raped and murdered her.  This  Court
   upheld the death sentence. Mohd. Mannan alias Abdul Mannan vs.  State  of
   Bihar[19], authored by one of us (Prasad, J.), is  a  case  of  rape  and
   murder of a seven year old child.  The  death  sentence  awarded  by  the
   Sessions Court as confirmed  by  the  High  Court  was  upheld.  Rajendra
   Pralhadrao Wasnik vs. State of Maharashtra[20] is  a  case  of  rape  and
   murder of a three year old girl child. There  also,  the  death  sentence
   awarded by the Sessions Court as confirmed by the High Court  was  upheld
   by this Court.

20. Although the High Court in this case referred to  several  decisions  on
   sentencing, it is sad to note that there is no discussion on any  of  the
   aggravating and mitigating circumstances. There is no consideration as to
   whether the case on facts falls under the rarest of rare category.

21. Chapter XXVIII of Cr.PC (containing Sections 366 to 371) deals with  the
   process of confirmation of death sentence by  the  High  Court.  For  the
   purpose of ready reference, we shall extract the provisions:

1 “366.  Sentence  of  death  to  be  submitted  by  Court  of  Session  for
   confirmation.-(1) When the Court of Session passes a sentence  of  death,
   the proceedings shall be submitted to the High Court,  and  the  sentence
   shall not be executed unless it is confirmed by the High Court.


2 (2) The Court passing the sentence shall commit the  convicted  person  to
   jail custody under a warrant.


3


4 367. Power to direct further inquiry to be made or additional evidence  to
   be taken.-(1) If, when such proceedings are  submitted,  the  High  Court
   thinks that a further inquiry should be made into or additional  evidence
   taken upon, any  point  bearing  upon  the  guilt  or  innocence  of  the
   convicted person, it may make such inquiry or take such evidence  itself,
   or direct it to be made or taken by the Court of Session.


5 (2)  Unless  the  High  Court  otherwise  directs,  the  presence  of  the
   convicted person may be dispensed with when such inquiry is made or  such
   evidence is taken.


6 (3) When the inquiry or evidence (if any) is not  made  or  taken  by  the
   High Court, the result of such inquiry or evidence shall be certified  to
   such Court.


7


8 368. Power of High Court to confirm sentence or annul  conviction.-In  any
   case submitted under section 366, the High Court-


     a)  may confirm the sentence, or pass any other sentence warranted  by
        law, or

     b) may annul the conviction, and convict the accused of any offence of
        which the Court of Session might have convicted him, or order a new
        trial on the same or an amended charge, or

     c)  may acquit the accused person:


      Provided that no order  of  confirmation  shall  be  made  under  this
   section until the period allowed for preferring an  appeal  has  expired,
   or, if an appeal is presented within such period, until  such  appeal  is
   disposed of.

9


10 369. Confirmation or new sentence to be signed by  two  Judges.-In  every
   case so submitted, the confirmation of the sentence, or any new  sentence
   or order passed by the High Court, shall when such Court consists of  two
   or more Judges, be made, passed and signed by at least two of them.


11


12 370. Procedure in case of difference of opinion.-Where any such  case  is
   heard before a Bench of Judges and such Judges  are  equally  divided  in
   opinion, the case shall be decided in the manner provided by section 392.


13


14 371. Procedure in cases submitted  to  High  Court  for  confirmation.-In
   cases submitted by the Court  of  Session  to  the  High  Court  for  the
   confirmation of a sentence of death, the proper officer of the High Court
   shall, without delay, after the order of confirmation or other order  has
   been made by the High Court, send a copy of the order under the  seal  of
   the High Court and attested with his official signature, to the Court  of
   Session.”


15


22. These provisions lay down the  detailed  procedure  on  confirmation  of
   death sentence.  The following are the mandatory requirements:
     i) Death Reference shall be heard by a Bench of  minimum  two  Judges.
        The Chief Justice being the master of roster is free to  constitute
        a Bench of more Judges.
    ii) On any point having a bearing on the  guilt  or  innocence  of  the
        convicted person, for which there is no  clarity,  the  High  Court
        may,
        (a)            conduct a further inquiry;
        (b)      take additional evidence;
        (c)      may get the inquiry conducted or additional evidence taken
                 by the Sessions Court.

(iii) On the basis also of the inquiry or additional evidence, if  any,  the
        High Court may,
           a) confirm the death sentence;
                 however, in case the convict has filed an appeal, the  same
                 has  to  be  disposed  of  before  passing  the  order   of
                 confirmation;
                 and, no order of confirmation shall  be  passed  until  the
                 period allowed for filing an appeal has expired.

            b) pass any other sentence;

            c) annul conviction;

            d) convict the  accused  of  any  offence  which  the  Court  of
               Sessions would or could have convicted him.

 (iv)              Amend the charges.

       v) Order fresh trial on charges already framed or on amended charges.

      vi) May acquit the accused.
     vii) In case the Bench is equally divided in  opinion,  their  opinions
          shall be laid before a third Judge of that Court and the  decision
          will depend on the opinion of the third Judge.

    viii) If the third Judge before whom the opinions have been placed is of
          opinion that the matter should be  heard  by  a  larger  Bench  of
          Judges, the reference has to be heard by a larger Bench,  in  view
          of the requirement under Section 392 of Cr.PC.



23. The detailed procedure would clearly show  the  seriousness  with  which
   the High Court has to consider a reference for the confirmation of  death
   sentence.  In  a  recent  decision  in  Kunal  Majumdar  vs.   State   of
   Rajasthan[21], a coordinate Bench of this Court has held  that  it  is  a
   special and onerous duty of the High Court. To quote:
      “18. … A duty is cast upon the High Court to examine  the  nature  and
      the manner in which the offence was committed, the mens rea if any, of
      the culprit, the plight of the victim as noted by the trial court, the
      diabolic manner  in  which  the  offence  was  alleged  to  have  been
      performed, the ill-effects it had on the victim as well as the society
      at large, the mindset of the culprit vis-à-vis  the  public  interest,
      the conduct of the convict immediately after  the  commission  of  the
      offence and thereafter, the past history of the culprit, the magnitude
      of the crime and also the consequences it had on the dependants or the
      custodians  of  the  victim.  There  should  be  very  wide  range  of
      consideration to be made by the High Court dealing with the  reference
      in order to ensure that the ultimate outcome of  the  reference  would
      instill confidence in the minds  of  peace-loving  citizens  and  also
      achieve the object of acting as a deterrent for others from  indulging
      in such crimes.”




24. The High Court must refer to the special reasons found by  the  Sessions
   Court for inclusion of the case in the rarest of rare category. It has to
   be seen that the Court of Sessions has already passed a sentence and what
   is required is only confirmation before  execution.   On  the  facts  and
   circumstances of the case, the High Court has  to  consider  whether  the
   case actually falls under the rarest of rare category. In other words, in
   the process  of  consideration  of  a  case  for  confirmation  of  death
   sentence, the High Court has to see whether there is presence or  absence
   of special reasons many of which are indicated in the decision  in  Kunal
   Majumdar’s case (supra). If on such consideration, the High  Court  finds
   that special reasons are available in the facts and circumstances of  the
   case, the High Court has to confirm the death sentence. In the absence of
   such  compelling  special  reasons,  the  High  Court  shall  award  only
   imprisonment for life.

25. In the facts of the present case, the offence  was  committed  in  2002.
   The accused was convicted and sentenced to death by the Sessions Court in
   April, 2004. In November 2004, the High Court commuted the death sentence
   to life imprisonment but maintained the other punishments under  Sections
   376 and 201 of IPC of life and three years respectively. The State  moved
   this Court in Special Leave Petition in May 2005. Leave  was  granted  on
   08.05.2006. For one reason or the other, the  matter  was  finally  heard
   only in September 2013. The question is:  Whether  this  Court  would  be
   justified in imposing the extreme punishment of death at  this  point  of
   time?

26. The Constitution  Bench  of  this  Court  in  Triveniben  vs.  State  of
   Gujarat[22]  and  various  other  cases  had  occasion  to  consider  the
   consequences of inordinate delay in disposal  of  mercy  petitions  under
   Article 72 or 161 of the Constitution of India. It has been held by  this
   Court that when a matter is pending before this Court, the person  always
   has a ray of hope and hence, it cannot be said that the delay  occasioned
   in Court would be a ground for commutation of death sentence. To quote:
      “16.  Even in this Court although  there  does  not  appear  to  be  a
      specific rule but normally  these  matters  are  given  top  priority.
      Although it was contended that this reference before us - a  Bench  of
      five Judges, was listed for hearing after a long interval of time.  We
      do not know why this reference could not be listed  excepted  what  is
      generally well-known the difficulty  of  providing  a  Bench  of  five
      Judges but ordinarily it is expected  that  even  in  this  Court  the
      matters where the capital punishment is involved  will  be  given  top
      priority and shall be heard of and disposed  of  as  expeditiously  as
      possible but it could not be doubted that so long  as  the  matter  is
      pending in any court before final adjudication even the person who has
      been condemned or who has been sentenced to death has a ray  of  hope.
      It therefore could not  be  contended  that  he  suffers  that  mental
      torture which a person suffers when he knows that he is to  be  hanged
      but waits for  the  doomsday.  The  delay  therefore  which  could  be
      considered while considering the question of commutation  of  sentence
      of death into one of life imprisonment could only be from the date the
      judgment by the Apex  Court  is  pronounced  i.e.  when  the  judicial
      process has come to an end.”
                                                         (Emphasis supplied)


27. In a recent decision in  Mahendra  Nath  Das  vs.  Union  of  India  and
   Others[23], this Court had considered the  consequence  of  delay  of  12
   years in deciding a mercy petition under Article 72 of  the  Constitution
   of India and held that it was a case of inordinate delay  causing  mental
   torment to the convict, and hence commuted the sentence of death to  life
   imprisonment.

28. It is significant to note that all these were cases  where  the  persons
   convicted under Section 302 of IPC  and  sentenced  for  death  had  been
   waiting for the decision on the mercy petitions. The instant case is  one
   where a  person  whose  death  sentence  has  been  substituted  to  life
   imprisonment. Apparently reconciled to his fate, he has been serving  his
   term. Whether, at this juncture, it would be just and proper to alter his
   sentence to death is the disturbing question. State of Madhya Pradesh vs.
   Vishweshwar Kol[24], authored by one of us (Prasad, J.), was a case where
   the Trial Court had convicted the accused and imposed death  penalty  and
   in appeal, the High Court acquitted him. It was a case of bride  burning.
   The incident was of October, 2003. The Trial Court convicted the  accused
   under Section 302 of  IPC  and  the  sentence  of  death  was  passed  on
   30.04.2004. The High Court acquitted him on  06.12.2004  and  this  Court
   finding that it is a fit case for awarding death sentence and yet  taking
   note of the course of events referred to above, it was held that:
      “11.… notwithstanding the horrendous nature of the crime and  that  it
      called for the capital punishment, we find it  difficult  to  reimpose
      the death sentence on the accused at this stage.”


And the accused consequently was awarded sentence of life imprisonment.

29. In the case before us, nine years have passed after substitution of  his
   death sentence by life imprisonment. We are reluctantly of the view  that
   it would not  be  just  and  proper  to  alter  the  sentence  from  life
   imprisonment to death at this stage. In future, in order  to  avoid  such
   contingencies, cases where enhancement  of  life  sentence  to  death  is
   sought, should be given due priority.

30. Section 53 of the IPC provides for the following punishments:
      “First.- Death;
      Secondly.- Imprisonment for life;
      xxx xxx xxx
      Fourthly.-Imprisonment, which is of two descriptions, namely:-
           (1) Rigorous, that is, with hard labour;
           (2) Simple;
      Fifthly.-Forfeiture of property;
      Sixthly.-Fine.”



31. Imprisonment for life is till the end of  the  biological  life  of  the
   person, as held by a Constitution Bench of this Court  in  Gopal  Vinayak
   Godse vs. The State of Maharashtra and Others[25].  However,  this  Court
   has been, for quite some time, conscious  of  the  liberal  approach  and
   sometimes discriminatory too, taken by the States in  exercise  of  their
   power under Sections 432 and 433  of  Cr.PC  in  remitting  or  commuting
   sentences. In Jagmohan Singh  vs.  State  of  U.P.[26],  this  Court  had
   expressed concern about such approach made by  the  States  in  remitting
   life sentences. That led to the amendment in  Cr.PC  introducing  Section
   433A by Act 45 of 1978. Under  Section  433A  of  Cr.PC,  a  sentence  of
   imprisonment for life is imposed for an offence for which death is one of
   the punishments or where a death  sentence  is  commuted  to  life  under
   Section 433, he shall not be released unless he has served fourteen years
   of imprisonment.  It  appears  that  the  provision  has  been  generally
   understood to mean that life sentence would only  be  fourteen  years  of
   incarceration. Taking judicial notice of such a trend, this Court has, in
   cases  where  imposition  of  death  sentence  would  be  too  harsh  and
   imprisonment for life (the way it is understood as above) too inadequate,
   in several cases, has  adopted  different  methods  to  ensure  that  the
   minimum term of life imprisonment ranges from at least  twenty  years  to
   the end of natural life. In Shri  Bhagwan  vs.  State  of  Rajasthan[27],
   Prakash Dhawal Khairnar (Patil) vs.  State  of  Maharashtra[28]  and  Ram
   Anup Singh and Others vs. State of Bihar[29], it was 20 years;  in  Dilip
   Premnarayan Tiwari and Another vs. State of Maharashtra[30],  it  was  25
   years; in Neel Kumar alias Anil Kumar vs. State of Haryana[31], it was 30
   years; and in Swamy Shraddananda (2)  alias  Murali  Manohar  Mishra  vs.
   State of Karnataka[32], it was till the end of life without remission  or
   commutation.  Ranjit  Singh   alias   Roda   vs.   Union   Territory   of
   Chandigarh[33] is a case where a person committed a  second  murder.   He
   was sentenced for life imprisonment for the first murder. Taking note  of
   the fact that the co-accused was not given  death  sentence  and  awarded
   only life imprisonment, this Court in the  second  offence  also  awarded
   only life imprisonment. However, it was made clear that:
      “2. … in case any remission or commutation in respect of  his  earlier
      sentence is granted  to  him  the  present  sentence  should  commence
      thereafter.”




32. However in some cases, the Court had also  been  voicing  concern  about
   the statutory basis of such orders. We are of the view that  it  will  do
   well in case a proper amendment under Section  53  of  IPC  is  provided,
   introducing one more category of punishment - life  imprisonment  without
   commutation or remission. Dr. Justice V. S. Malimath  in  the  Report  on
   “Committee of Reforms of Criminal Justice System”, submitted in 2003, had
   made such a suggestion but so far no serious steps  have  been  taken  in
   that regard. There could be  a  provision  for  imprisonment  till  death
   without remission or commutation.

33. In the present case, the respondent has been awarded  life  imprisonment
   under Section 302 of IPC. 
Under Section 376  of  IPC  also  he  has  been awarded life  imprisonment.  
The  third  substantive  sentence  is  under Section 201 of IPC. 
All these sentences are ordered to run  concurrently.
The sentence of life imprisonment is till the  end  of  one’s  biological life. 
However, in view of the power of the State under Sections  432  and
   433 of Cr.PC, in the present case,
we are of the view that the  sentences
   shall run consecutively, in case there is remission  or  commutation.  
We
   further make it clear that the remission or commutation, if considered in
   the case of the respondent, shall be granted  only  after  the  mandatory
   period of fourteen years in the case of offence under Section 302 of IPC.

34. Section 433A of the Cr.PC has imposed a restriction with regard  to  the
   period of remission or commutation. It is specifically provided that when
   a sentence of imprisonment of life,  where  death  is  also  one  of  the
   punishments provided by law, is remitted or commuted, such  person  shall
   not be  released  unless  he  has  served  at  least  fourteen  years  of
   imprisonment.  In  the  case  of  the  respondent  herein,  second   life
   imprisonment is under Section  376  of  IPC.  A  minimum  sentence  under
   Section 376 of IPC is seven years.  Death is not an alternate punishment.
    However, the sentence may even be for life  or  for  a  term  which  may
   extend to ten years. Of the three options thus available, in view of  the
   brutal rape of a minor girl child,  the  Sessions  Court  has  chosen  to
   impose the extreme punishment of life imprisonment to the respondent.

35.  Punishment  has  a  penological  purpose.   
Reformation,   retribution,
   prevention, deterrence are some of the  major  factors  in  that  regard.
   Parliament is the collective conscience of the people. 
If it has mandated
   a minimum  sentence  for  certain  offences,  the  Government  being  its
   delegate, cannot interfere with the same in exercise of their  power  for
   remission or commutation. 
Neither Section 432 nor Section  433  of  Cr.PC
   hence contains a non-obstante provision. 
Therefore, the minimum  sentence
   provided for any offence cannot be and shall not be remitted or  commuted by the Government in exercise of their power under Section 432 or 433  of the Cr.PC.  
Wherever the Indian Penal Code or such  penal  statutes  have
   provided for a minimum sentence for any  offence,  to  that  extent,  the
   power of remission or commutation has to be read as restricted; otherwise
   the whole purpose of punishment will be defeated and it will be a mockery
   on sentencing.

36. Having regard to the facts and circumstances of  the  present  case,  we
   make it clear that in the  event  of  State  invoking  its  powers  under
   Section 432 or 433 of Cr.PC, the sentence under Section 376 of IPC  shall
   not be remitted or commuted before seven years of imprisonment. 
In  other
   words, in that eventuality, it shall be ensured that the respondent  will
   first serve the term of life imprisonment under Section 302 of  IPC.   In
   case there is any remission after fourteen years, 
then imprisonment for a
   minimum period of seven years under Section 376 of IPC shall  follow  and
   thereafter three years of rigorous imprisonment under Section 201 of IPC.
   
The sentence on fine and default as awarded by  the  Sessions  Court  are
   maintained as such.

37. The appeal is disposed of as above.




                                                     ………………………………….…..…………J.
                                   (CHANDRAMAULI KR. PRASAD)







                                                  ……….……..…...……..……………………J.
                                   (KURIAN JOSEPH)
New Delhi;
September 27, 2013.




      -----------------------
[1]    (1996) 6 SCC 250
[2]    (1980) 2 SCC 684
[3]    (1983) 3 SCC 470
[4]    (2013) 5 SCC 546
[5]    (2009) 4 SCC 736
[6]    (1987) 3 SCC 80
[7]    (2002) 5 SCC 234
[8]    (2011) 14 SCC 401
[9]    JT (2013) SC 310
[10]   (1994) 2 SCC 220: (1994) SCC (Cri) 358
[11]   (1999) 5 SCC 1: (1999) SCC (Cri) 638
[12]   (2007) 4 SCC 713
[13]   (2010) 3 SCC 56
[14]   (2010) 9 SCC 1
[15]   (2012) 9 SCC 1
[16]   (2005) 3 SCC 114
[17]   (2008) 11 SCC 113: (2009) 1 SCC (Cri) 353
[18]   (2008) 15 SCC 269
[19]   (2011) 5 SCC 317
[20]   (2012) 4 SCC 37: (2012) 2 SCC (Cri) 30
[21]   (2012) 9 SCC 320
[22]   (1989) 1 SCC 678
[23]   (2013) 6 SCC 253
[24]   (2011) 11 SCC 472
[25]   AIR 1961 SC 600
[26]   (1973) 1 SCC 20
[27]   (2001) 6 SCC 296
[28]   (2002) 2 SCC 35
[29]   (2002) 6 SCC 686
[30]    (2010) 1 SCC 775
[31]   (2012) 5 SCC 766
[32]   (2008) 13 SCC 767
[33]   (1984) 1 SCC 31

-----------------------
                                                                  REPORTABLE


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