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Fixed Term Sentences Exceeding 14 Years Can Be An Alternative To Death Sentence In Certain Cases : Supreme Court

Ashok KM
22 Sep 2022 8:45 AM GMT
Fixed Term Sentences Exceeding 14 Years Can Be An Alternative To Death Sentence In Certain Cases : Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that fixed term sentences exceeding 14 years can be awared in appropriate cases to strike a delicate balance between the victims' plea for justice and rehabilitative justice for the convicts.

This fixed term sentence can only be by the High Court or this Court and not by the trial Court, the bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Abhay S. Oka and Vikram Nath observed.

In this case, the Trial Court awarded death sentence to the accused who were 'trusted employees' of the deceased. Major General Kailash Chand Dhingra (K.C. Dhingra) and his wife Smt. Sangeeta Dhingra, who were aged couple, were killed by the accused while they were sleeping. The High Court refused to confirm the death sentence and imposed life sentence on them.

In appeal before the Apex Court, the State and complainant contended that given the brutality of the crime, the court should impose a fixed term sentence before which the convicts are not liable to be considered for grant of remission. It was submitted that there should be at least a fixed term sentence.

The court noted that it was a pre-planned murder for gain and greed by somebody who was in a position of trust with the family.

"At an advanced stage in such health respect, there is always an element of trust and faith in the person by a person who employs them as well as the family members. Work takes other family members elsewhere and with the joint family system having broken down, the role of such trusted help becomes even more significant. It is also the significance of the society where a wrong signal goes if a trusted person breaches that trust to kill the person who had employed them in such a gruesome manner. As stated by the trial Court, the society itself demands justice, apart from an utter element on deterrence which is in any aspect of conviction. The approach cannot be the vindictive but lack of appropriate sentence leaves the cry of justice of the society un-addressed apart from the fact that other persons who may have the propensity to carry out the crime feel they will get away with the lighter sentence, in case they are caught. Battering two sleeping people beyond recognition who imposed trust in their employee certainly calls for something more than merely a life sentence under Section 302, IPC, even if death sentence is not to be imposed", the bench observed.

The court therefore imposed a fixed term sentence of 30 years. While allowing the appeal, the bench observed:

"In Shankar Kishanrao khade vs. State of Mahrashtra (2013) 5 SCC 546, it was held that if there is any circumstance favouring the accused such as lack of intention to commit the crime, possibility of reformation, young age of the accused, accused not being a menance to the society, no previous criminal record etc., the accused may avoid capital punishment. The Court opined that the crime is important but so is the criminal and hence the Supreme Court in recent past has substituted death penalty with fixed term sentences exceeding 14 years. In appropriate cases such as the present case, imposing a fixed term sentence creates a possibility for the convict to re-integrate into society after serving his/her sentence. It strikes a delicate balance between the victims' plea for justice".

Case details

State of Haryana vs Anand Kindoo | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 780 | CrA 1797-1798/2010 | 8 September 2022 | Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Abhay S. Oka and Vikram Nath

Headnotes

Indian Penal Code, 1860 ; Section 302 - Brutal Murder - Sentencing - In appropriate cases, imposing a fixed term sentence creates a possibility for the convict to 8 re-integrate into society after serving his/her sentence. It strikes a delicate balance between the victims' plea for justice - This fixed term sentence can only be by the High Court or this Court and not by the trial Court - If there is any circumstance favouring the accused such as lack of intention to commit the crime, possibility of reformation, young age of the accused, accused not being a menance to the society, no previous criminal record etc., the accused may avoid capital punishment - The crime is important but so is the criminal and hence the Supreme Court in recent past has substituted death penalty with fixed term sentences exceeding 14 years - The approach cannot be the vindictive but lack of appropriate sentence leaves the cry of justice of the society un-addressed apart from the fact that other persons who may have the propensity to carry out the crime feel they will get away with the lighter sentence, in case they are caught.

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