Created Fear & Vulnerability Amongst Women, Had Profound Impact On Society: Kerala High Court Confirms Death Sentence Of Man Convicted Of Brutal Rape-Murder

Update: 2024-05-20 14:54 GMT
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The Kerala High Court today confirmed the death sentence imposed upon Muhammed Ameer-Ul Islam, a migrant labourer from Assam for committing the rape and murder of a law student in Perumbavoor on April 28, 2016.The division bench comprising Justice P.B. Suresh Kumar and Justice S. Manu observed that the case was deeply disturbing and represented a severe violation of human dignity and sanctity...

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The Kerala High Court today confirmed the death sentence imposed upon Muhammed Ameer-Ul Islam, a migrant labourer from Assam for committing the rape and murder of a law student in Perumbavoor on April 28, 2016.

The division bench comprising Justice P.B. Suresh Kumar and Justice S. Manu observed that the case was deeply disturbing and represented a severe violation of human dignity and sanctity of life since after committing rape in an inhumane manner, the victim was murdered horrendously. The Court found that the case has far-reaching consequences since it creates fear and also vulnerability amongst women.

The Court on applying the Crime Test, Criminal Test and Rarest of Rare Test, dismissed Ameer-Ul Islam's appeal and confirmed the death sentence awarded by the Sessions court.

“Before parting with the case, it is necessary to observe that it is with a heavy heart that we uphold the ultimate penalty of death sentence to the accused in the case. We hope and fervently believe that this judgment would serve as a resolute deterrent to those who would consider perpetrating such abhorrent acts in future, so that persons similarly placed like the victim who are innumerable in our society, would live with a sense of security and without fear.”

Ameer-Ul Islam was found guilty and was convicted by Special Judge for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Ernakulam under sections 449 (trespass), 342 (wrongful confinement), 302 (punishment for murder) and 376 (punishment for rape) and Section 376 A (punishment for causing death or resulting in persistent vegetative state of victim) of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced among others, to death.

As per the prosecution case, the accused under the influence of alcohol barged into the residence of the victim and committed rape and murder. While the victim resisted the rape, the accused out of such frustration and vengeance brutally attacked her with a knife. The knife was repeatedly inserted through the vagina and a portion of her internal organs came out. The victim aged 30 years belonged to the scheduled caste community and was deserted by her father in childhood.

The Court went on to analyze in detail the oral evidence, medical evidence and DNA evidence to state that the prosecution had satisfactorily established that the death of the victim was homicide.

The Court stated that the subsequent normal conduct of the accused after the commission of the crime does not mean that he would not have committed the crime. It also stated that the prosecution case cannot be called improbable merely for the reason that the accused proceeded to commit rape with a bottle of liquor and a knife in his hands. The Court found that failing to establish the blood group of the victim has no consequences since DNA evidence is more authentic than the evidence based on the blood group.

It then stated that there are circumstances establishing the guilt of the accused such as his absence from work on the day of the occurrence of the crime, his presence near the victim's house, leaving his locality to his native place in Assam, not using his mobile number after the crime, taking new mobile connection, recovery of the knife, blood stains of accused from recovered objects, victim's clothes and injury from bite bark on his finger etc.

The Court stated that the accused committed sexual assault on the victim before committing murder. It stated that the accused had mens rea to commit rape and that the victim was subjected to rape by insertion of an object into the vagina as defined under Section 375(b) IPC. It stated that since the death of the victim was caused during rape, Section 376A of IPC is also attracted.

It said, “The Court stated that the brutality committed by the accused on the body of the victim to cause her death can only be regarded as acts committed out of frustration, aggression and vengeance as also to evade the law and get rid of the criminal liability.”

The court further stated that since rape and murder were committed at the residence of the victim, the accused is also guilty under Sections 342 and 449 of the IPC.

The Court thus stated that the accused committed the crime and the prosecution has established circumstances conclusively establishing the guilt of the accused. “In the light of the discussion aforesaid, according to us, the finding rendered by the trial court that the accused is guilty of the offences punishable under Sections 449, 342, 376, 376A and 302 IPC, is in order”, concluded the Court.

Death Sentence Reference

The High Court observed that special reasons have to be stated for awarding the death sentence since the legislative intent is “imprisonment for life is the rule and death sentence is the exception”.

The Court referred to the landmark decision in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab (1980), where the Apex Court held that the death penalty could only be imposed in the 'rarest of rare' cases. It then referred to the landmark decision in Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab (1983), where the Apex Court laid down a list of categories of rarest of rare cases where the death penalty could be imposed.

Relying upon Swamy Shraddananda (2) v. State of Karnataka (2008), the Court stated that the guidelines laid down in Machhi Singh (supra) cannot be taken as inflexible, absolute and immutable and there would be scope for flexibility.

The Court stated that aggravating circumstances relate to the crime and mitigating circumstances relate to the criminal. It stated that both crime and criminal are equally important for the imposition of sentence upon the accused.

Referring to Sangeet, in Shankar Kisanrao Khade v. State of Maharashtra (2013), the Court held that there should be no mitigating circumstance favouring the accused to avoid capital punishment. It said, “to award death sentence, the “crime test” that is, the aggravating circumstances favouring capital punishment has to be fully satisfied, that is, 100% and “criminal test” 0%, that is, no mitigating circumstance favouring the accused.”

Applying the Crime Test, the Court found that the accused stabbed the victim several times including mutilating and pulling out her internal organs using a knife. The Court stated that the facts of the case satisfies crime test and observed thus, ” It was a cold blooded murder without provocation, for the only sin committed by the victim was that she resisted the attempt of the accused to commit rape on her. As indicated, the crime committed is in the nature of extreme brutality, that shocks conscience of the society.”

Applying the Criminal Test, the Court sought the aid of Project 39A for conducting a mitigation study of the accused. The Court did not agree with the findings in the report that the accused was not extremely culpable due to poor and inadequate legal representation. It stated that the mitigating circumstances pointed out in the report were not sufficient to commute a death sentence to imprisonment for life. It thus stated that no mitigating circumstances were favoring the accused to avoid capital punishment.

Applying the Rarest of Rare Test, the Court confirmed the death sentence imposed upon the accused and stated thus, “…the society would certainly approve the awarding of death sentence, especially since the victim was a young lady who was forced to live in a structure on the side of the public road, on account of her impoverished social background, and the crime was one committed within the premises of her own shelter. Needless to say, the death sentence awarded to the accused is liable to be confirmed and we do so.”

The Court thus imposed the ultimate penalty of death sentence upon the accused. The Bench concluded the judgment by quoting Nobel Laureate, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience, but the conscience of the whole humanity”.

Counsel For Accused: Senior Advocate Sasthamangalam S Ajithkumar, Advocates Rayjith Mark, Sreejith S. Nair, V.S.Thoshin, P.A.Meera, E.A.Haris, Satheesh Mohanan

Counsel For State: Special Public Prosecutor N.K.Unnikrishnan

Amicus Curiae: Advocates Mitha Sudhindran, Saipooja

Case Title: State Of Kerala V Muhammed Ameer-Ul Islam, Muhammad Ameerul-Islam V State Of Kerala

Case Number: DSR 2/ 2018, CRL.A 113/ 2018

Citation: 2024 LiveLaw Ker 294

Click here to read/download Judgment

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