November 10, 2021 2:50:15 am
The Supreme Court on Tuesday commuted the death penalty imposed on a man convicted for the rape and murder of a 5-year-old to life, stating that low age of victims hasn’t been the only criteria for imposing death sentence in such cases in the past.
A Bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao referred to the top court’s verdict in another case in which it had surveyed 67 judgments of the Supreme Court in the past 40 years in which death sentence was imposed by the trial court or the High Court for offences under Sections 376 (rape) and 302 (murder), and where the age of victims was below 16 years.
The top court Bench, also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and B R Gavai, said that “out of these 67 cases, this Court affirmed the award of death sentence to the accused in 15 cases.
In three… out of said 15 cases, the death sentence was commuted to life sentence… Out of the remaining 12 cases, in two cases (where review petitions were heard in open court)… the death sentence was confirmed… Thus, as on date, the death sentence stands confirmed in 12 out of 67 cases….”
The court added that of these 67 cases, at least in 51, the victims were below 12.
In 12 of those 51 cases, the death sentence was initially awarded. “However, in three cases… the death sentence was commuted to life… It appears from the above data that the low age of the victim has not been considered as the only or sufficient factor by this Court for imposing a death sentence. If it were the case, then all, or almost all, 67 cases would have culminated in imposition of sentence of death on the accused,” the top court said on Tuesday.
The Bench added that though such an offence was heinous and required condemnation, it was not “rarest of the rare, so as to require the elimination of the appellant from the society”.
The decision came on appeal by Irappa Siddappa, who was held guilty and given the death penalty by a trial court.
The Karnataka High Court confirmed the decision on March 6, 2017. Sidappa was convicted for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a five-year old-girl in 2010.
After the incident, he had put the body of the victim in a gunny bag and thrown it into a stream.