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IPC [S.302] - Mitigating factors and Death sentence - Santosh Kumar Singh vs. State through CBI (2010) 9 SCC 747

Kavya Sreejith ,
  13 May 2020       Share Bookmark

Court :
Supreme Court of India
Brief :
The Court identified that when a decision with regard to sentencing is to be chosen between death sentence and life imprisonment, the philosophy underlying “rarest of the rare” principle only demands the imposition of a lesser punishment. The Bench gave emphasis to the change in appellant’s family status, death of his father, predicament he has faced for fifteen years etc. as certain mitigating factors, among other aggravating factors, to reduce the death sentence to a life imprisonment u/s 302 of IPC.
Citation :
Appellant: Santosh Kumar Singh Respondents:State through CBI
  • Bench: Harjit Singh Bedi, J.
  • Court: Supreme Court
  • Appellant: Santosh Kumar Singh
  • Respondents:State through CBI
  • Citation: (2010) 9 SCC 747

Issue: 

Are the mitigating factors in favour of the appellant a sufficient reason to reduce the death sentence? Is life imprisonment inadequate in this scenario?

Facts:

  • The appellant Santhosh Kumar Singh was convictedby High Court for rape and murder of Priyadarshini Mattoo based on multiple forensic evidence, documents and witness statements. He had harassed, stalked and intimidated the deceased often and complaints were lodged at several police stations in this regard. A Police constable was appointed for the personal protection of the deceased, who found her strangled to death in her bedroom while all her family members were away. Medical evidences and forensic report on the deceased’s body and her post-mortem report revealed conduct of rape by the appellant. Broken glass pieces found near her body matched with the broken visor in the appellant’s helmet. He was reported to have been seen by some of the witnesses around the place of crime a few minutes before her body was found. There was a fresh fracture in the appellant’s right hand. However, the trial court ruled the decision in favour of the appellant, acquitting him of all the offences charged against him. The reasons cited were that the CBI concealed evidences and fabricated them before the Court. It also came down heavily upon the Delhi Police for aiding the accused through trial and investigation owing to the fact that the appellant was the son of a high-ranking police official. This “benefit of doubt” was removed by the Delhi High Court, which held the appellant guilty of the offences he has committed. Hence, this Criminal Appeal.

Appellant’s contentions:

  • The injury and fracture on his right handdo not bring liability on him as the counsel provided many medical statements to prove that the injury occurred 10 days prior to the occurrence of the crime.
  • Pointed out that the forensic report cannot be relied on to decide the case as there was serious tampering of the same. There was reduction in the amount ofsamples from the blood vials taken for examination.
  • All the investigation officers and medical team were under a conspiracy to harm the appellant.
  • Motive alone could not form the basis for conviction as in a case of circumstantial evidence the chain envisaged was to be complete from the beginning to the end and the resultant hypothesis should only point at the accused alone as being guilty of the crime.
  • The present case did not fall under the category of “rarest of the rare cases”.
  • The appellant was “ledastray by the vagaries of youth”. However, now he was a family man with a wife and a girl child.

Respondent’s contentions:

  • The fracture was fresh on the day of crime, as reported by medical professionals.
  • There was no evidence of tampering with the samples collected by the forensic team and hence, the conclusion was right.
  • There was enough references to prove the motive of the accused, as she was not giving in to his approaches despite his relentless attempts.

Court’s observations and decisions:

The Apex Court recognized that the motive alone cannot be a convincing reason but in this case, it forges the long chain of the surrounding circumstances when read together. It upheld the decision of the High Court in interfering with the matter and setting aside the erroneous decision of the Trial Court that favored the appellant, despite the obvious evidences against him.

The Court identified that when a decision with regard to sentencing is to be chosen between death sentence and life imprisonment, the philosophy underlying “rarest of the rare” principle only demands the imposition of a lesser punishment. The Bench gave emphasis to the change in appellant’s family status, death of his father, predicament he has faced for fifteen years etc. as certain mitigating factors, among other aggravating factors, to reduce the death sentence to a life imprisonment u/s 302 of IPC.

 
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