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SC upholds Death Sentence to couples who killed seven members of a family, including a 10-month-old child

Gaurav Pathak
15 May 2015 4:39 PM GMT
SC upholds Death Sentence to couples who killed seven members of a family, including a 10-month-old child
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The Supreme Court today awarded death penalty to a couple which had killed seven members of a family, including a child.

The couple were in love and wanted to marry, however, as the girl's family was opposed to the same, the couple had drugged the entire family and hacked them to death.

Maintaining the judgment awarded by the Trial Court which was confirmed by the Allahabad High Court, the three judge Bench, consisting of Chief Justice of India HL Dattu and Justices S.A. Bobde and Arun Mishra said, “Death penalty is not proportional if the law’s most severe penalty is imposed on one whose culpability or blameworthiness is diminished, to a substantial degree, by reason of youth and immaturity. This however does not seem to be the case herein. The appellant-accused persons’ preparedness, active involvement, scheming execution and subsequent conduct reeks of calculated and motivated murders. The act of slaughtering a ten month old child by strangulation in no chance reflects immature action but evidence for the lack of remorse, kindness and humanity. The crime is committed in the most cruel and inhuman manner which is extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical and revolting. Therefore, as the instant case requires us to award a punishment that is graduated and proportioned to the crime, we have reached the inescapable conclusion that the extreme culpability of both the appellants-accused makes
them the most deserving for death penalty.”

Before the Supreme Court, the amicus curiae, who was representing the accused-appellant argued only on the aspect of sentencing. The amicus curiae submitted, “instant case is based entirely on circumstantial evidence and the prosecution case garners support from no eye-witnesses and therefore, the same could not have been relied upon by the Trial Court to sentence the appellants-accused to irreversible consequence of death.” He also said, “mitigating circumstances of the appellants-accused, that is, them being young at the time of incidence, the mental stress undergone by them due to opposition of their alliance from the deceased family and the factum of appellant-accused Shabnam being pregnant at the time of the offence ought to be considered in context of the offence committed by the two appellants-accused and lenient approach be adopted in determining and awarding appropriate sentence to them.”

Opposing the lenient approach regarding sentencing, the Counsel for the State submitted, “the present case is a fit case to be classified as “rarest of rare” and hence, the appellants-accused deserve nothing but death penalty for the dastardly crime committed by them..”

The Apex Court thereafter pursued the precedents on aggravating and mitigating circumstances and also the rarest of rare doctrine. Thereafter, the Court noted the mitigating and aggravating circumstances in the case and the judgment notes, “The aggravating circumstances indicate the extreme brutal, calculated and diabolical nature of the crime, which suggests that there is little likelihood of reform of these accused and of their abstaining from future crime. All these features stench of the apathetic attitude of the appellant-accused daughter towards her family and mirrors the extent of her depravity in schemingly committing the cold blooded murder of her own parents, brother, sister-in law and ten-month old nephew. This itself triggers intense indignation in the community. It is the combined concoction of all aggravating circumstances, that is, victims of the crime, motive for commission of murder, manner of execution, magnitude of crime and remorseless attitude of the appellants-accused that stands before us in this case.”

Regarding the mitigating circumstances in the case, the Court observed, “The mitigating circumstances regarding young age of the appellants-accused at the time of commission of crime do not bear any significance in terms of outweighing the aggravating circumstances of their wanton act. Further, it has also been pointed out before us that the appellant-accused Shabnam was pregnant at the time of commission of offence and the couple now has a dependent minor child. While the said circumstances stand as such, it is pertinent to notice that this Court has consistently held that such compassionate grounds are present in most cases and are not relevant in considering commutation of death sentence.”

Finally, the Court observed, “In the result, we concur with and confirm the reasons recorded by the Trial Court and approved by the High Court while awarding and confirming the death sentence of the appellants-accused, respectively.”

Read the Judgment here.

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