- The world is filled with talented people and they utilise their talent for committing crimes.
- Notorious criminals are prevalent not only in India but also in abroad.
- The Kerala High Court recently released a 61 year old man from the prison and he had been convicted under 14 cases for 18 years and his sentence could have been lower if the Magistrates Courts had used their power.
- The article discusses the interpretation of the Courts in deciding cases of offenders convicted under numerous cases.
- The article also discusses notorious criminal personalities of the world from different times to analyse how and why such incidents occur.
Crime and criminal are two words that people normally tend to avoid. But there are people who take up committing crimes as their profession. Some do it because they have no other option, some do it because they are too lazy to do it the right way and some do it just for the sake of the adventure and thrill that comes with it.
Now when we say, people commit crimes for the sake of adventure, it is evident that there is no reasonable explanation behind it. There are people who have committed so many crimes in their lifetime that if they are punished for their crimes, then the rest of their life would pass in the prison itself and these criminals can be what we call notorious criminals. But what makes it the highlight is the fact that criminal law is against the public in general so when someone does something against one person, the act is intended to be done against the society. This does not just include rape or murder, even cases of theft, fraud, etc. act as an enemy to the society and this brings the criminals to the eyes of the public.
A few days back, the case of Kerala High Court releasing a 61 year old man from prison came into light. Now the question arises, how is it related to the notorious criminals? He was convicted in 14 cases and was in the prison for the last 18 years.
The case of Sivanandan v. The Superintendent Central Prison and Correctional Homecame into limelight when a Writ Petition was filed before the High Court under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution and Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Code. The petitioner had been in the Central prison for 18 years for cases of theft, housebreak, lurking house trespass, etc. for all of which he had pleaded guilty. He was punished with sentences starting from 6 months to 5 years in the various cases before several Magistrate Courts. None of the Courts had taken cognizance and used their powers under Section 427 of Cr.P.C. to order for the sentences to run simultaneously as a result of which the sentences would be for 30 years and 6 months with a fine of Rs. 43,500. The counsel pleaded before the Court for his release as he was old and infirm and his continued detention would be illegal.
The Court referred to various judgements and ordered the release of the petitioner and also stated that the powers under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. should be used with utmost caution.
In the case of State of Punjab v. MadhanLal[2009 KHC 455] the Supreme Court had ordered for the sentences to run simultaneously when the conviction is done in more than one cases. However the power is discretionary and the maximum sentence awarded is the most relevant aspect to be considered while ordering concurrent sentence. The decision is to be taken considering the facts of the case as held in Neera Yadav v. CBI[2017 KHC 6223] .
In the case of Ammavasai and Another v. Inspector of Police[AIR 2000 SC 3544] , the accused was sentenced for a maximum period of 7 years of rigorous imprisonment and for the other offences included, the total years would be 28 to 35 years in jail. The Court had granted him a 14 year sentence considering the facts and the gravity of the offences committed. But in the case of Benson v. state of Kerala[2016 KHC 6678] , the Court had rejected the request to interfere and grant concurrent sentences and on appeal, the Apex Court had stated that it is subject to qualification and granted the running of sentence concurrently after observing the gravity of the offences.
Some Notorious Criminals
Natwarlal was a man born in Bihar. In his early days, he realised his ability to forge signatures after he deposited bank drafts for his neighbour. He encashed Rs.1000 and ran away to Calcutta where he did his Bachelor of Commerce degree. His knowledge from the degree and his ability to forge helped him to successfully pull off the cons. He had numerous aliases and used different methods to con the shop owners, jewellers, bankers and foreigners. His cons were targeted to the rich and wealthy and he gave his earnings to the less fortunate people of his native village. He had been awarded punishment in 14 cases of forgery with sentence of 113 years but he broke out of the prison each time he was arrested. The exact incidents, though are not evident, but he is considered as the greatest con man in the history of India.
Phoolan Devi was born in 1963 to a lower caste family in a small village of Uttar Pradesh. She did not get to enjoy her childhood as a normal child. A girl child had to suffer at the hand of patriarchy in those days which happens even today, add to the fact that she was a lower caste girl. Her fate landed her married to a ruthless 30 year old man in exchange for a cow who repeatedly raped her for years. She left her husband and joined a gang but was gang-raped by a group of Thakur guys multiple times. She decided to avenge herself and took a path of leadership and became a gang leader. She started as burglar and turned into a dacoit and then returned to Behmai where she was subjected to the sexual tortures. She opened fire and killed 22 people there after the men who had been her perpetrators, refused to share the whereabouts of the remaining members. This incident repelled the upper castes whereas for the lower caste she was came to be known as a Goddess. She surrendered with conditions before the government and after 11 years she was freed. She went on to become a Member of Parliament but was shot by 3 masked shooters, who were allegedly upper caste men. This was the end of the Bandit Queen.
Victor Lustig was born in 1890 in Austria-Hungary. He was very talented but was a magnet for trouble. He tried his hand at gambling during his later teenage years when he had taken a break from studies. He used his education and fluency in various languages to his benefit and entered the world of crime. He conducted scams and cons which gave him wealth and he turned into a professional con man. He was the mastermind behind the Eiffel Tower scam. In the 1920s, the French Republic was finding it very difficult to maintain the repair of the tower and thus he forged documents and posed himself as the Deputy Director-General of the Posts and Telegraphs Ministry and took money from a dealer and fled. But later on, when he tried to do the same again, the police were informed and he fled to USA to evade arrest. He was sent into prison years later, when his mistress gave a tip to the federal agents on his counterfeiting, from where he tried to flee but was caught and sentenced to 20 years, including punishments for the crimes and prison escape. He contracted pneumonia in the prison and died as a result.
Theodore Robert Bundy had a difficult childhood and was subjected to constant bullying. He extremely intelligent and created a successful college career and emotional relationships. But despite his stability, he sexually assaulted and murdered young women in Washington, Oregon etc. between 1974 and 1978. He confessed to having murdered 28 women but hundreds are estimated. He was sentenced to death after a fairly publicized trial. His execution was done in the Florida’s electric chair. He was a very controversial personality as he drew attention with his charms and intelligence and inspired numerous novels and films, which is quite surprising as he was a criminal and not a celebrity. Imagine a criminal inspiring people, what kind of inspiration that would be!
I believe that it is important to consider the circumstances under which the offender has committed a crime. As mentioned in the Introduction, there are three major reasons of committing a crime, and it is important to consider those so that punishments can be awarded accordingly and there would be a slight probability of the crime rate going down. In the Sivanandan case, the offences were not of such a gravity for him to undergo 18 years of prison and he was detained for such a long period for which I believe he should be compensated as was done in the case of Rudal Shah v. State of Bihar[1983 AIR 1086] .Even though the cases are not similar, I feel the petitioner’s rights had been violated.
When we consider the case of Phoolan Devi, she was a victim of crime herself and had she received justice, she would not have taken up the path of crimes to avenge herself. So if cases like hers are considered, it would be beneficial for the society. But in cases like Ted Bundy, where even though he was bullied, his crimes were nowhere related to his crimes. It was totally for the sake of the thrill that provides and criminals like him should be given stricter punishments. The punishments should be such that a person would have a panic attack with the possibility of the punishment he would get in case of him being caught for a crime. The balance between both the scenarios is very important to be maintained.
The cases and crime rates have been increasing day by day and it is important to keep a check on the number of cases and criminals. Having a justice system, where the criminal acts go unpunished, would not create an ideal scenario. It is getting evident that the theories of punishments are taken seriously and punishments are being awarded to ensure that the objectives are fulfilled. The offenders who have the guts to commit repetitive crimes exist only because the justice system becomes lenient and gives them the benefit of doubt. The same is with new offenders; when they see the crimes of others going unpunished; it gives them the motivation do the same. Neither deterrence, nor retribution is created in any case.