Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: The criminal appeal was filed before a Division Bench of P.K. Jaiswal and Anjuli Palo, JJ. by the accused to set aside the conviction and sentence passed under Section 363 of Penal Code and criminal reference to confirm death penalty awarded by First Addl. Sessions Judge, Nagod for a crime under Section 376(a)(b) of Penal Code.

Accused was convicted and was given death penalty for gruesome rape of a 4-year-old girl. Trial Court had charged the appellant under Sections 363, 376(a)(b) of Indian Penal Code and Section 5(j)(n) of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Trial Court had found him guilty. Appellant in this appeal challenged the findings of the Trial Court on the ground that there was no direct evidence against him and that its finding was contrary to the law and facts. The question before the court was whether the trial court had rightly convicted accused and whether this case comes under rarest of the rare category. High Court did not find any mistake while examining of the DNA and the testimony of the witnesses was also found to be reliable. Thus, Court viewed that Trial Court had rightly convicted appellant. Thereby, his conviction was maintained. Appellant urged that he was only aged about 28 years and had no previous criminal conviction.

High Court observed that a person who was performing the pious duty of a teacher had to nurture the character and morality in children and not commit a crime against them. Court after considering the facts and circumstances of the case along with the mitigating circumstances concluded that this case comes under the category of the “rarest of the rare case”. Therefore, this appeal was dismissed and sentenced to death penalty was affirmed. [Mahendra Singh Gond v. State of M.P., 2019 SCC OnLine MP 200, dated 25-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Karuna Nand Bajpayee and Ifaqat Ali Khan, JJ., dismissed a petition on the ground that the contentions raised by the petitioners’ counsel were related to disputed questions of fact.

The Court had been called upon to adjudge the worth of prosecution allegations and evaluate the same on the basis of various intricacies of factual details. The veracity and credibility of the indictment was questioned, the absence of material which would substantiate the allegations that were contended and false implication was pleaded.

The High Court dismissing this petition held that only a prima facie satisfaction of the court about the existence of sufficient ingredients constituting the offence is required in order to see whether the FIR required to be investigated or deserves quashing. The ambit of the investigation into the alleged offence is an independent area of operation and does not call for interference in the same except in rarest of rare cases. Further, it stated that the operational liberty to collect sufficient material cannot be scuttled prematurely by any uncalled for overstepping of the Court. It has to be an extremely discreet exercise. Call for determination on pure questions of fact should be adequately discerned either through proper investigation or should be adjudicated upon only by the trial court and even the submissions made on points of law can also be more appropriately gone into only by the trial court in case a charge sheet is submitted. The Court did not deem it proper to have a pre-trial before the actual trial begun. The FIR was thus not quashed. [Seraj Ahamad v. State of U.P., 2019 SCC OnLine All 23, Order dated 08-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: A Division Bench of Arvind Srivastava and Rakesh Kumar, JJ., upheld the judgment of the trial court and dismissed the appeal, but modified the death sentence of the appellant to a sentence of life imprisonment.

In the present case, the accused-appellant was charged with committing offences under Section 302 and Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, and was also charged under Section 6 of the POCSO Act, for raping and murdering a six-year-old girl. The prosecution had provided a number of witnesses, including testimonial evidence from the informant, his wife, the investigating officer of the case, the medical officer etc., to substantiate the charges. The prosecution had also presented evidence which consisted of the blood-stained clothes of the appellant as well as the victim, the medical report containing the details of the injuries on the body and the possible cause of death.

Even though the appellant had denied all charges under which he was being tried, the defence did not present any evidence or bring any witnesses to repudiate the said charges. The claim by the defence that reliable witnesses had not been relied upon, the evidence presented had been compromised and that the presented witnesses were interested witnesses was rejected by the Court.

The Court decreed that in cases pertaining to rape and sexual assault, it was extremely unlikely that there would be any eye-witnesses. In light of the same, the Court held that the prosecution had conclusively proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the appellant had committed the offence of rape and then murdered the victim.

The High Court then reviewed the death sentence which was given by the trial court. The Court held that death sentence should be reserved for the rarest of rare cases, and since the appellant was a young man who had not committed any offence prior to the present case, the Court reduced the sentence of the appellant to that of life imprisonment, stating that it would serve the purpose which the offence committed by the appellant merited. [State of Bihar v. Hari Kishun Sada,2018 SCC OnLine Pat 1988, Order dated 02-11-2018].

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench comprising of J.K.Maheshwari and Akhil Kumar Srivastava, JJ., addressed the issue of rape and murder of a minor girl to see if capital punishment of death penalty could be imposed upon the accused.

Accused in this case was alleged under Sections 376A, 302, 342, 201/511of IPC. He raped a minor girl aged 12-year old after which the girl died. The court had no doubt as to the commission of rape by the accused as many people witnessed the accused running away from the hut where the girl was found dead. The post-mortem report confirmed rape but the reason for her death was stated to be asphyxia. Trial Court observed that the case was proved beyond reasonable doubt. While sentencing accused, Trial Court took aid under Section 42 of POCSO Act as the victim was a minor girl. Stating instant case as rarest of rare case capital punishment of death was awarded.

The appeal went before High Court where the question of whether it was a “rarest of the rare case” was to be decided. Court referred various judgments of Apex Court to understand “rarest of the rare case” and on perusing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances court was of the view that the instant case would not come under “rarest of the rare case”. Therefore, Court set aside the capital punishment given for the offence under Section 376A of the I.P.C. [Sunil Adiwasi v. State of M.P., Criminal Appeal No.5015 of 2018, dated 17-08-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Almost after 5 years of the commission of the horrendous crime that shook not only the nation but the world, the Court upheld the death penalty of the 4 accused persons in the Nirbhaya rape and murder case, where a 23-year old girl was gangraped and tortured in a moving bus in Delhi on 16.12.2012. She succumbed to her injuries 13 days later in a hospital in Singapore. The Court said that It sounds like a story from a different world where humanity has been treated with irreverence.

Writing down a 429 page long judgment, the Court noticed that attacking the deceased by forcibly disrobing her and committing violent sexual assault by all the appellants; and insertion of rod in her private parts that, inter alia, caused perforation of her intestine which caused sepsis and, ultimately, led to her death, shows that the accused persons had found an  object for enjoyment in her and, as is evident, they were obsessed with the singular purpose sans any feeling to ravish her as they liked, treat her as they felt and the gross sadistic and beastly instinctual pleasures came to the forefront when they, after ravishing her, thought it to be just a matter of routine to throw her alongwith her friend out of the bus and crush them. The Court said that the casual manner with which she was treated and the devilish manner in which they played with her identity and dignity is humanly inconceivable.

R Banumathi, J, emphasizing upon the need for actions against the crime against women, said that the offences against women are not a women’s issue alone but, human rights issue. Increased rate of crime against women is an area of concern for the law-makers and it points out an emergent need to study in depth the root of the problem and remedy the same through a strict law and order regime. There are a number of legislations and numerous penal provisions to punish the offenders of violence against women. However, it becomes important to ensure that gender justice does not remain only on paper. She added that public at large, in particular men, are to be sensitized on gender justice.

The Trial Court awarded capital punishment to the accused considering the gruesome manner in which the offence was committed and the Delhi High Court had upheld the decision of the Trial Court. Ram Singh, the prime accused, had committed suicide in his cell in Tihar Jail in the year 2013.

On 03.02.2017, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, R. Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan, JJ allowed the accused persons to file affidavits along with documents stating about the mitigating circumstances. However, after consciously and anxiously weighing the aggravating circumstances and the mitigating factors, the Court held that the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating circumstances now brought on record. [Mukesh v. State for NCT of Delhi, (2017) 6 SCC 1, decided on 05.05.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where a 4-year old girl was raped and battered to death by the petitioner, the bench of Dipak Misra, R.F. Nariman and U.U. Lalit, JJ refused to review the death sentence imposed by the bench in Vasanta Sampat Dupare v. State of Maharashtra, (2015) 1 SCC 253. The petitioner had allegedly lured the victim by giving her chocolates, kidnapped and raped her and had then caused crushing injuries to her with the help of stones weighing about 8.5 kg and 7.5 kg.

The review was sought on the grounds that after the Court awarded him death sentence via judgment dated 26.11.2015, the petitioner has completed Bachelors Preparatory Programme offered by the Indira Gandhi National Open University enabling him to prepare for Bachelor level study and that he has also completed the Gandhi Vichar Pariksha and had participated in drawing competition organized sometime in January 2016. It was also asserted that the jail record of the petitioner is without any blemish.

Rejecting the contention, the Court said that the aggravating circumstances namely the extreme depravity and the barbaric manner in which the crime was committed and the fact that the victim was a helpless girl of four years clearly outweigh the mitigating circumstances now brought on record. Hence, it was held that no case was made out to take a different view in the matter. [Vasanta Sampat Dupare v. State of Maharashtra, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 524, decided on 03.05.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: The Court recently had to decide on a death reference under Section 366 CrPC against the order of conviction under Section 302 IPC and sentence of death passed last year by the Court of Additional Sessions Judge, Hoogly. Also, the accused appellant had appealed against his conviction.

The accused was charged of killing his 26 year old wife and 7 year old son. The Court found that the victim lady was beaten and tortured since the day she entered her matrimonial home by her husband and other family members. Also, the accused threatened her to cut with chopper and both the victims were actually killed by slicing their throats with sharp weapon. Motive was clear and the weapon was recovered.

The accused was found guilty on trial relying on all the witnesses and circumstantial evidence proving his conviction beyond reasonable doubt on which he was awarded death sentence. The Division Bench of the High Court too agreed that the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt. The next important question that the Court had to decide in this reference was whether the punishment given commensurates with the offence and to ascertain this, the aggravating and mitigating circumstance needs to be considered.

The aggravating circumstances as noted by the Court were that the accused killed his own wife and child, that he had an affair with his sister-in-law and he killed the lady and child in response to the refusal to proposal of marriage by the sister-in-law, that he consumed country liquor in order to prepare himself to commit the brutal and cold-blooded murder and that he informed everyone that his wife was bitten by a snake after killing her.

The Court tried to consider the mitigating circumstances like the reason he consumed liquor knowing that in senses, he would not be able to do it observing that aggravating circumstances clearly outweigh the mitigating circumstances. The Court also considered it important to study from which the appellant came. It noticed that his background was neither defined nor refined. He was a truck driver, was accustomed to consumer liquor showing the strata of the society that he came from. The Court discussed that had he been educated, he could have found some other means of marrying her lady love.

The Court had to look into whether the case could be classified as rarest of rare case and cited Haresh Mohandas Rajput v. State of Maharashtra, (2011) 12 SCC 56 wherein Supreme Court observed that the rarest of rare case comes when a convict is a menace and threat to harmonious and peaceful co-existence of the society. The High Court perceived that there was no reason to believe that the appellant couldn’t be rehabilitated and reformed and it doesn’t seem that he would continue with his criminal activities proving to be threat to society.

At the same time, the Court considered that his acts did not call for sympathy and awarded 30 years of sentence without remission as granted in  Swami Shraddananda (2) v. State of Karnataka(2008) 13 SCC 767State of U.P. v. Sanjay Kumar, (2012) 8 SCC 537 and Gurvail Singh @ Gala v. State of Punjab, (2013) 2 SCC 713. The death reference was accordingly dismissed. [State of West Bengal v. Lakhikanta Adhikary, 2017 SCC OnLine Cal 197, decided on 10th February, 2017]