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He Was Under Extreme Mental Disturbance: SC Commutes Death Sentence Of Man Accused Of Kidnap-Murder Of Three Children [Read Judgment]

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
6 March 2020 1:58 PM GMT
He Was  Under Extreme Mental Disturbance: SC Commutes Death Sentence Of Man Accused Of Kidnap-Murder Of Three Children [Read Judgment]
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"Sometimes it is stated that only rights of criminals are kept in mind, the victims are forgotten. However, at the same time, while imposing the rarest of rare punishment, i.e. death penalty, the Court must balance the mitigating and aggravating circumstances of the crime and it would depend upon particular and peculiar facts and circumstances of each case."
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The Supreme Court has commuted death sentence awarded to a man accused of kidnapping and later murdering three children.

Manoj Suryavanshi was convicted under Sections 302 and 364 by the Trial Court, and sentenced to death. This was later confirmed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Two sons of one Shivlal – Vijay aged about 8 years, Ajay aged about 6 years and a daughter Kumari Sakshi aged about 4 years were allegedly kidnapped and murdered by the accused.

Taking note of the evidence on record, the bench of Justice Uday Umesh Lalit confirmed the concurrent conviction recorded by the High Court and the Trial Court. The bench also rejected the contention that since the sentence was recorded on the same day on which the conviction was recorded and therefore it has vitiated the award of sentence. It said:

There is no absolute proposition of law that in no case there can be conviction and sentence on the same day. There is no absolute proposition of law laid down by this Court in any of the decisions that if the sentence is awarded on the very same day on which the conviction was recorded, the sentencing would be vitiated.

Referring to the judgment in Absar Alam v. State of Bihar (2012) 2 SCC 728, the bench said that the mental condition or state of mind of accused is one of the factors that can be taken into account in considering the question of sentence. It noted that it has come on evidence that the offence was committed under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance and that the accused was emotionally disturbed due to the elopement of his wife with the uncle of the deceased and that his children were suffering in absence of their mother with them. Taking note of this as a mitigating factor, the bench said:

We are of the opinion that in the facts and circumstances of the case, more particularly, the mental condition of the accused at the time of the commission of the offence and that the accused was under extreme mental disturbance due to his wife eloped with the uncle of the deceased and his children were deprived of the company of their mother, the mitigating circumstances are in favour of the accused to convert the death sentence to life imprisonment. It is true that the court must respond to the cry of the society and to settle what would be the deterrent punishment for an abominable crime. It is also equally true that a larger number of criminals go unpunished thereby increasing criminals in the society and law losing its deterrent effect. It is also true that the peculiar circumstances of a given case often results in miscarriage of justice and makes the justice delivery system a suspect; in the ultimate analysis, the society suffers and a criminal get encouraged. Sometimes it is stated that only rights of criminals are kept in mind, the victims are forgotten. However, at the same time, while imposing the rarest of rare punishment, i.e. death penalty, the Court must balance the mitigating and aggravating circumstances of the crime and it would depend upon particular and peculiar facts and circumstances of each case.

Converting the death sentence to life imprisonment, the bench directed that the life means till the end of the life with the further observation and direction that there shall not be any remission till the accused completes 25 years of imprisonment.

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