Centre should amend IPC for life imprisonment till death without remission: Supreme Court

Centre should amend IPC for life imprisonment till death without remission: Supreme Court

While deciding the case of rape of a 5 year old girl in Rajasthan, the apex court has requested the Central Government to amend the Indian Penal Code to provide for life imprisonment till death without any remission for heinous offences like rape and murder of children. Considering it amongst one of the most heinous crimes the court said “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”

In the instant case, a 5 year old girl was brutally raped and thereafter murdered by the accused, Jamil Khan. He packed the dead body in a sack and further in a bag, and secretly left it in a train. The sessions court awarded death sentence to the accused under section 302 of IPC and also found him guilty under sections 376 and 201 of IPC. But 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. The aggrieved state in its appeal to Supreme Court had sought the death penalty for the accused, Jamil Khan.

The bench headed by  justice C.K. Prasad and Justice Kurian Joseph observed, “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  betreated as the rarest of rare category.”

The bench went on to say, “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.”

Justice Kurian Joseph while writing the judgment articulated that, ”Punishment has a penological purpose.  Reformation, retribution, prevention, deterrence is 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  CrPC.  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 mockery on sentencing.”

The bench noted that since nine years had 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”. In the instant case, “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”.