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"Every Sinner Has A Future": Supreme Court Commutes Death Sentence Imposed On Man For Rape & Murder Of 4 Year Old Girl

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
20 April 2022 11:43 AM GMT
Every Sinner Has A Future: Supreme Court Commutes Death Sentence Imposed On Man For Rape & Murder Of 4 Year Old Girl
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The Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence awarded to a man accused of rape and murder of four year old girl.The bench comprising Justices UU Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi observed that the maximum punishment prescribed may not always be the determinative factor for repairing the crippled psyche of the offender.The Trial Court had awarded death sentence to the accused...

The Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence awarded to a man accused of rape and murder of four year old girl.

The bench comprising Justices UU Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi observed that the maximum punishment prescribed may not always be the determinative factor for repairing the crippled psyche of the offender.

The Trial Court had awarded death sentence to the accused Firoz for the offence under section 302 of IPC and directed to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of 07 years and pay fine of Rs. 2000/- for the offence under section 363, to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of 10 years and pay fine of Rs. 2000/- for the offence under section 366 of IPC, to undergo life imprisonment and pay fine of Rs. 2000/- for the offences under sections 376(2)(i), 376(2)(m) of IPC and under sections 5(i)r/w 6 & 5(m) r/w 6 of POCSO Act. The High Court dismissed his appeal and confirmed the death sentence.

In appeal, re-appreciating the evidence on record, the Apex Court bench held that the prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt all the circumstances individually and also proved the circumstances forming a chain, so conclusive as to rule out the possibility of any other hypothesis except the guilt of the accused.

Regarding the death sentence awarded for murder, the bench made the following observation:

"While affirming the view taken by the courts below with regard to the conviction of the appellant for the offences charged against him, deem it proper to commute, and accordingly commute the sentence of death for the sentence of imprisonment for life, for the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC. Since, Section 376A IPC is also applicable to the facts of the case, considering the gravity and seriousness of the offence, the sentence of imprisonment for the remainder of appellant's natural life would have been an appropriate sentence, however, we are reminded of what Oscar Wilde has said - "The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future". One of the basic principles of restorative justice as developed by this Court over the years, also is to give an opportunity to the offender to repair the damage caused, and to become a socially useful individual, when he is released from the jail. The maximum punishment prescribed may not always be the determinative factor for repairing the crippled psyche of the offender. Hence, while balancing the scales of retributive justice and restorative justice, we deem it appropriate to impose upon the appellant-accused, the sentence of imprisonment for a period of twenty years instead of imprisonment for the remainder of his natural life for the offence under section 376A, IPC. The conviction and sentence recorded by the courts below for the other offences under IPC and POCSO Act are affirmed. It is needless to say that all the punishments imposed shall run concurrently."

Case details

Mohd Firoz vs State of Madhya Pradesh | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 390 | CrA 612 OF 2019 | 19 April 2022

Coram: Justices UU Lalit , S. Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi

Headnotes

Criminal Trial - Sentencing - Restorative justice - To give opportunity to the offender to repair the damage caused, and to become a socially useful individual, when he is released from the jail - The maximum punishment prescribed may not always be the determinative factor for repairing the crippled psyche of the offender. (Para 43)

Criminal Trial - The court conducting the trial/appeal is not only obliged to protect the rights of the accused but also the rights of the victim, and the interest of the society at large. The Judge presiding over the criminal trial has not only to see that innocent man is not punished but has also to see that guilty man does not escape. Both are his public duties required to be discharged very diligently to maintain the public confidence and uphold the majesty of the law. (Para 35)

Death Sentence - Rarest of Rare doctrine discussed. [ Referred to Bachan Singh Vs. State of Punjab  (1980) 2 SCC 684 ; Machhi Singh vs.  State of Punjab (1983) 3 SCC 470 ; Shatrughna Baban Meshram Vs. State of Maharashtra (2021) 1 SCC 596 ] (Para 41-42)

Constitution of India, 1950 ; Article 21, 39A - Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 ; Section 304 - Right to a fair trial - Right to fair and speedy trial applies as much to the victim as the accused - While expediting the trial, it is imperative on the Court to see that the due procedure is followed during the course of trial. (Para 33)

Indian Evidence Act, 1882 ; Section 106 - Last Seen Together - Once the theory of "last seen together" was established, the accused was expected to offer some explanation as to under which circumstances, he had parted the company of the victim -Section 106 of the Evidence Act does not shift the burden of the prosecution on the accused, nor requires the accused to furnish an explanation with regard to the facts which are especially within his knowledge, nonetheless furnishing or non-furnishing of the explanation by the accused would be a very crucial fact, when the theory of "last seen together" as propounded by the prosecution is proved against him, to know as to how and when the accused parted the company of the victim. (Para 26)

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 ; Section 313 - No conviction could be based on the statement of the accused recorded under section 313 of the Cr.P.C. and the prosecution has to prove the guilt of the accused by leading independent and cogent evidence- When the accused makes inculpatory and exculpatory statements, the inculpatory part of the statement can be taken aid of to lend credence to the case of prosecution. (Para 23)

Circumstantial Evidence - Five golden principles regarding appreciation of evidence when the case of the prosecution hinges on the circumstantial evidence discussed [Referred to Sharad Birdhichand Sarda vs. State of Maharashtra 1984 (4) SCC 116 ] (Para 22)

Summary : Appeal against Madhya Pradesh HC judgment which confirmed Death Sentence of man accused of rape and murder of 4 year old girl - Conviction upheld -  Death sentence commuted to life imprisonment -  Imposed the sentence of imprisonment for a period of twenty years instead of imprisonment for the remainder of his natural life for the offence under section 376A, IPC.

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