Was He A Juvenile At The Time Of Occurrence? SC Asks 18 Years After Affirming Death Sentence [Read Order]
The Supreme Court has directed the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Pune, to decide the juvenility of a murder convict at the time of commission of offence, whose death sentence was upheld by the Apex court in the year 2000.
Narayan Chetanram Chaudhary and Jitendra @ Jitu Nayansingh Gehlot were sentenced to death by the Trial court finding them guilty of committing the murder of five women including one pregnant woman, and two small babies. On 05.09.2000, the Apex Court bench then comprising of Justices K.T. Thomas and R.P. Sethi upheld the High Court verdict that had affirmed the Trial Court sentence awarding death penalty. The Review petition was also dismissed on 24.11.2000.
About one and a half decade after dismissal of his review petition, Narayan Chetanram Chaudhary filed an application seeking reopening the Review Petition. He also filed another application under Section 9(2) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 seeking a declaration that he was a juvenile at the time of commission of offence. When this application came up for consideration in October, last year, the bench had directed the state counsel to take instructions on the additional documents on the question of juvenility of the applicant.
When the matter was again listed last week, the state counsel said he has no instruction in the matter. The bench comprising Justice NV Ramana, Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Justice Indira Banerjee said:
"The instant case reflects gross lethargic and negligent attitude of the State. In view of the pendency of the matter, we are restrained from observing anything further. Keeping in view Section 9(2) of the Act, we have no other option but to refer the matter to the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Pune, to decide the juvenility of the applicant."
The bench then referred the matter to the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Pune, to decide the juvenility. It said:
"The Principal District and Sessions Judge, Pune is directed to send a report to this Court, preferably within a period of six weeks. We hope and trust that the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Pune shall decide the juvenility of the applicant within the time stipulated hereinabove."
Accused's Counsel Told HC That They Were Aged About 20 To 22 Years
Interestingly, the High Court, in its judgment, had recorded the submission made by the counsel for the accused regarding their age. It reads:
"It was urged on behalf of the Accused that at the time of occurrence, they were aged about 20 to 22 years. This fact should be borne in mind while considering the question of awarding the sentence. In our opinion, their youth may explain rashness. However, the manner of conceiving the plot, the preparation for the same and its cold blooded execution, in our opinion, more than upsets us. Except the young ages referred to by Learned Advocate for the defence, there is nothing on record to indicate about either their past behaviours or the behaviour in course of the trial."
'When a man becomes a beast and menace to the society, he can be deprived of his life.'
While confirming the death sentence in the year 2000, the Apex Court had observed that the accused did not deserve any sympathy from the law and society. It made this observation:
"It is true that in a civilised society a tooth for tooth, and a nail for nail or death for death is not the rule but it is equally true that when a man becomes a beast and menace to the society, he can be deprived of his life according to the procedure established by law, as Constitution itself has recognised the death sentence as a permissible punishment for which sufficient Constitutional provision for an appeal, reprieve and the like have been provided under the law. It is true that life sentence is the rule and death sentence is an exception. We are satisfied that the present case is an exceptional case which warrants the awarding of maximum penalty under the law to the accused/appellant. The crime committed by the appellant is not only shocking but it has also jeopardised the society. The awarding of lesser sentence only on the ground of the appellant being a youth at the time of occurrence cannot be considered as a mitigating circumstance in view of our findings that the murders committed by him were most cruel, heinous and dastardly. We have no doubt that the present case is the rarest of the rare requiring the maximum penalty, imposable under law." After going through whole of the evidence, perusing the record, thoughtfully considering the submissions made before us and before the Trial Court as well as the High Court, we have come to an unmistakable conclusion that the present case is one of the rarest of rare cases warranting the extreme penalty imposable by law."