The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and held that “Given these conclusions, we are of the opinion that in cases such as the present, there is considerable uncertainty on the punishment to be awarded in capital offences - whether it should be life imprisonment or death sentence.
Appellants :Sangeet & Anr.
Respondents:State of Haryana
Citation :Criminal Appeal Nos. 490-491 of 2011
K.S. Radhakrishnan, Madan B. Lokur
When can the punishment of life imprisonment be imposed instead of death penalty in the offence of murder?
- The accused Ram Phal and the appellants were found guilty of committing the murder of Ranbir, Bimla (his wife), Seema (wife of Amardeep) and Rahul the three-year-old child of Amardeep and Seema and grandson of Ranbir.
- However, Amardeep suffered grievous injuries but had survived and was the only star witness of the prosecution that took place when all of them were asleep.
- The accused believed that Amardeep’s family had performed black magic on his son Ved Phal who died after his marriage, so with a view of revenge the accused and the appellants committed the murders.
- Narendra had blown off the upper portion of the three-year-old son Rahul and Sandeep had shot Seema on the head and burned the body from the waist after pouring kerosene.
- The Trial Judge found the crime to be brutal in nature and thereby awarded them with a death sentence and High Court supported the Trial Judge’s decision and confirmed death penalty.
- Then, the appellant filed the criminal appeal in SC.
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It was contended that the nature of the offences committed do not constitute the rarest of the rare cases thereby death penalty shall be scrapped.
The respondent contended that the crime was of a brutal nature and death penalty shall be awarded.
The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and held that “Given these conclusions, we are of the opinion that in cases such as the present, there is considerable uncertainty on the punishment to be awarded in capital offences – whether it should be life imprisonment or death sentence. In our opinion, due to this uncertainty, awarding a sentence of life imprisonment, in cases such as the present is not unquestionably foreclosed. More so when, in this case, there is no evidence (contrary to the conclusion of the High Court) that Seema’s body was burnt by Sandeep from below the waist with a view to destroy evidence of her having been subjected to sexual harassment and rape. There is also no evidence (again contrary to the conclusion of the High Court) that Narender was a professional killer.Therefore, we allow these appeals to the extent that the death penalty awarded to the appellants is converted into a sentence of life imprisonment, subject to what we have said above.”
-Para 81&82 (Sangeet &Anr vs State of Haryana)