Date of Judgement:
8 November 2021
Justice L. Nageswara Rao
Justice Sanjiv Khanna
Justice BR Gavai
Appellant – Irappa Siddappa Murgannava
Respondent – State of Karnataka
The Supreme Court observed that the rape victims’ low age is not the “only sufficient factor” to consider while imposing a death sentence after hearing a criminal appeal.
- Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): Punishment for murder
- Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): Punishment for sexual assault
- Section 364 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): Punishment for kidnapping or abducting to murder
- Section 366A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): Punishment for procuration of a minor girl
- Section 201 of Indian Penal Code: Punishment for the destruction of evidence
- Section 235(2) of the Code Of Criminal Procedure (CrPC): If the accused is convicted, the Judge shall, unless he proceeds as per the provisions of section 360, hear the defendant on the question of sentence, and then pass judgment on him according to law.
- The appellant Irappawas convicted for kidnap, rape, and murder of a five-year-old girl in the village of Khanapur in Karnataka in 2010, and post the incident; he had put the body of the girl in a bag and thrown it into a stream.
- The Karnataka High Court confirmed the trial court’s decision on March 6, 2017, for the death penalty.
- The SC made an observation concerning a recent judgment in Shatrughna Baban Meshram v. State of Maharashtra, stating that the low age of rape victims in rape-and-murder cases has not been always considered as the “only” or “sufficient factor” by this court for imposing capital punishment.
- In the said judgment, 67 judgments of the Supreme Court in the previous 40 years were surveyed wherein the trial court had imposed the death sentence.
- The court noted that the death sentence was confirmed in 12 out of 67 cases where the principal offenses allegedly committed were under Sections 376 and 302 IPC and where the rape victims were aged about 16 years and below.
- Out of 67 cases, at least in 51 cases, the age of the victims was below 12 years, the court had noted.
- The Supreme Court’s crucial observation came on an appeal of Irappa Siddappa, who was convicted and given the death penalty by a trial court.
- The trial court’s decision was confirmed by Karnataka High Court on March 6, 2017.
- Whether the rape’s victim low age should be considered as the “only sufficient factor” for imposing capital punishment?
- In the case of Irappa Siddappa Murgannavar v. State of Karnataka, the SC mentioned that there is no doubt that the appellant, Irappa Siddappa, a resident of Gadag in Karnataka, committed an abhorrent crime, but for this, the incarceration for life will serve as sufficient punishment and penitence for his actions.
- The court observed that the prosecution has failed to produce any material to believe that if allowed to live, he would pose a grave and serious threat to society,
- The bench also said that the convict’s age at the time of the commission of the crime was only between 23 to 25 years, and he hailed from an impoverished family. This was not considered as a mitigating factor by the trial court.
- The court also commented on the Karnataka High Court’s observation of not finding any mitigating circumstances and found this observation incorrect.
- The SC mentioned that it believes there is hope for reformation and rehabilitation. And thus the option of imprisonment for life is undoubtedly not foreclosed and hence acceptable.
- The court has, therefore, partly allowed the criminal appeal and commuted the death sentence to that of life imprisonment with the condition that the accused shall not be entitled to premature release before undergoing actual imprisonment of at least 30 years.
- It also said the sentences awarded should run concurrently and not consecutively.
Irappa has no criminal history in the past, nor was any evidence was presented by the prosecution to prove that the commission of the offense was preplanned. The appellant's conduct in prison for the past ten years can be considered expiation for his past deeds, reflecting his desire to reform and take a humane turn.
Furthermore, the young age of the appellant at the time of the commission of the offense, his weak socioeconomic background, absence of any criminal antecedents, non-pre-meditated nature of the crime, and the fact that he has spent nearly ten years ten months in prison should be considered as other extenuating factors, which add up against imposition of the death penalty which is to be delivered only in rare cases.
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1. What is capital punishment?
2. Which section of the Indian Penal Code deals with the punishment for sexual assault?