Saturday, February 9, 2013

Rarest of rare test needs society's approval: SC

Rarest of rare test needs society's approval: SC
  The 'rarest of rare case' test is
not 'judge centric' but depends on the perception of society
and whether it would approve the award of death sentence to
those convicted in certain types of crimes, the Supreme Court
has held.
"Courts award death sentence, because situation demands,
due to constitutional compulsion, reflected by the will of the
people, and not judge-centric," a bench headed by Justice K S
Radhakrishnan said.
"To award death sentence, the aggravating circumstances
(crime test) have to be fully satisfied and there should be no
mitigating circumstance (criminal test) favouring the accused.
"Even if both the tests are satisfied as against the
accused, even then the court has to finally apply the rarest
of rare cases test, which depends on the perception of the
society and not judge-centric, that is whether the society
will approve the awarding of death sentence to certain types
of crime," the bench also comprising Justice Dipak Misra said.
The observations were made in a judgement by the apex
court which commuted the death penalty awarded to two men for
hacking to death four members of a family in August, 2000 over
a property dispute, in Punjab.
The apex court modified their punishment to life
imprisonment of 30 years, saying "so far as this case is
concerned the extreme sentence of capital punishment is not
Gurvail and Satnam Singh were awarded death penalty by a
trial court in 2000. The punishment was upheld by the Punjab
and Haryana High Court in 2005.
The court while modifying their punishment said, "Some
of the mitigating circumstances, as enunciated in Machhi Singh
case, come to the rescue of the appellants. Age definitely is
a factor which cannot be ignored, though not determinative
factor in all fact situations. The probability that accused
persons could be reformed and rehabilitated is also a factor
to be borne in mind."
Gurvail was 34-years-old at that time of committing the
crime, while Satnam was 22-years-old.
The apex court in its 13-page judgement also observed
that while awarding death sentence, the court has to look into
variety of factors like "society's abhorrence, extreme
indignation and antipathy to certain types of crimes like rape
and murder of minor girls, especially intellectually
challenged minor girls, minor girls with physical disability,
old and infirm women etc.", and clarified that the examples
are illustrative and not exhaustive.

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