By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2022-05-24 08:00:07
In a bid to gradually do away with the death penalty, the Supreme Court had, in the Bachan Singh case in 1980, decreed that it should be given only in "the rarest of rare" cases. The enormity and nature of the crime and the manner in which it was conducted must be such as to shock the sensibilities for the criminal to be sentenced to death. To further reduce the need to impose capital punishment, the Supreme Court on Monday said that courts must, along with the enormity and nature of the crime, also consider the mental state and conduct of the convict before and after the crime in order to judge whether it is fit to impose the death penalty. While this is a good advice, it is debatable whether the court should have applied it in this particular case in commuting the death sentences of two men and one woman to 25 years in jail for murdering three generations of women of one family in Indore in 2011.
While it is accepted that law and society cannot act with the motive of revenge and the law should be used to reform and rehabilitate the criminal, in the instant case the Supreme Court has itself admitted that the crime was "extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical, revolting or dastardly" and the manner of execution was also "vicious and pitiless". Doesn't that make it a "rarest of rare" case? The criminals committed the crime in their full senses, with planning and showed no remorse. That they allegedly reformed in jail through various activities - one man becoming the captain of the jail cricket team and starting to take interest in his family, another becoming a voluntary health worker and the woman excelling in embroidery work - should not have been enough reason to lessen the punishment, given the enormity of the crime.
The court said that psychiatric evaluation of the accused is must and the state must produce material disclosing psychiatric and psychological evaluation of the accused at the trail stage to help judges decide if there were mitigating factors. That could be taken into account to consider if a person was in a highly disturbed state of mind and not in his or her senses when he or she committed the crime. But in the instant case, three persons had colluded to commit the most gruesome of murders. Not all of them could have been in a disturbed state of mind. They knew what they were doing and that it was illegal and beastly. Still they heartlessly killed the three women. This was a fit case for death penalty, as per law and as per the earlier directions of the apex court.