Brutality of the crime committed is not the sole criteria for judging the case to be within the category of “rarest of rare” cases; it has to be one of extreme brutality and exceptional depravity so as to avoid the criticism that the death penalty has been taken as the norm and not the exception, the court said.
The Orissa High Court has finally decided not to sentence a man accused of murdering a 16-year-old girl to death by commuting the sentence to life imprisonment.
A single bench was called upon to decide the question of sentence as the judges of division bench though unanimously upheld the guilty, differed on the question whether this case falls in ‘rarest of rare’ category.
In a ‘split’ judgment delivered by the division bench of the high court in November 2015, answering the ‘death reference’ from trial court, one of the judges observed that ‘it is a case of brutal murder of a young adolescent damsel aged about sixteen years by infliction of twelve numbers of injuries on her person by means of a sharp cutting weapon and thus the death sentence is only adequate one’ and the other judge emphasizing the young age of the accused without any criminal track record opined that imposition of sentence of death is not called for.
Referring to more than a dozen judgments of the apex court on the issue of death sentence, the judge observed that the accused was ‘infatuated and thereby obsessed with the physical charm of the deceased and was under the extreme emotional and psychological disturbance due to passiveness of the deceased towards his infatuation’.
The court said: “The extreme fascination of the appellant towards the deceased and the failure on his part to win over her heart appears to have been the cause of frustration and that again being expressed in the last meet closing the chapter for ever is seen to have led the appellant to be greatly disturbed emotionally and psychologically to a degree beyond the range of human thermostat.”
The court also observed that the accused was a bachelor, a truck driver, and has members of the family needing his support and he has no such criminal track record to his credit and that the crime as committed does not appear to be premeditated, which is again a mitigating factor.
Commuting the sentence to life imprisonment, the court observed that brutality of the crime committed is not the sole criteria for judging the case to be within the category of “rarest of rare” cases; it has to be one of extreme brutality and exceptional depravity so as to avoid the criticism that the death penalty has been taken as the norm and not the exception.
“I conclude that the case in hand does not fall within the category of “rarest of rare” cases so as to say that only adequate penalty for the offence committed by the appellant is death and therefore, be hanged by the neck until he be dead,” the judge said.