A Supreme Court order dated 1st September, 2016, which escaped the scrutiny of proponents and opponents of death penalty, has been accessed by Live Law. Vide this order, a three-judge Bench of the apex court comprising Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Prafulla C Pant and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit has commuted the death penalty awarded to one Shyam Singh from Madhya Pradesh after he was found guilty of committing parenticide and murdering his nephew.
The Trial (2011)
A trial court found Shyam Singh guilty of murdering his parents and nephew, on the intervening night of 18-19 April, 2011. The court convicted the accused under Section 302 IPC and awarded death penalty, subject to confirmation by the High Court.
High Court upholds death penalty (2012)
While upholding the death penalty of the accused and dismissing the appeal preferred by him, the high court had observed thus: “The accused-appellant had murdered his mother, father and nephew. The murder was cruel, brutal and it was committed in revolting manner. The accused-appellant was in a dominating position and he was in a position of trust because, he is the son of deceased father and mother. The deceased could not have had imagined that the appellant would commit such type of crime. There was no reason to commit the crime. Neither there was any provocation from the deceased persons. They had been sleeping. In our opinion, this is a fit case where the death punishment awarded by the trial court is to be confirmed because the appellant is so cruel that he had murdered his own father, mother and nephew. For such type of offence, there must a deterrent punishment so the society can live peacefully.”
Supreme Court sets aside death penalty
The apex court, in its order setting aside death penalty, observed: “No doubt, the accused appellant has been found guilty of triple murder, including the murder of both his parents. The manner in which the crime was committed is, indeed, brutal and cruel. The question that confronts the court is whether the offence of triple murder and the manner of commission of crime alone would be sufficient to justify the imposition of the death penalty.”
Setting aside the death penalty which was confirmed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court, the Bench observed: “It appears to us that the accused appellant is a young man addicted to drugs who needed money to sustain his habits. The accused comes from a deprived socio-economic background without any criminal history and his conduct while in custody does not suffer from any blemish. The possibility of reformation, on the materials on record, cannot be ruled out.”
Apart from other factors like young age, absence of criminal history and his conduct in custody, the court also observed, referring to Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar vs. State of Maharashtra, since the evidence in the case is entirely circumstantial, though it would not be a determinative factor, the same would be one of the factors that could be taken into account in adjudging the sentence to be awarded.
Read the Judgment here.