Many times we have said that death penalty be given only in rarest of rare cases. That being the position, why should courts deviate from the direction, the Supreme Court reminded the trial courts and high court.
Sukh Lal, a native of Indore, was given death penalty for a double murder. He was working as a gardener in the house of the deceased. There were some personal problems that resulted in enmity and culminated in the murder of both husband and wife. The Indore district court granted death penalty to the accused which was upheld by the MP High Court. The accused approached the Supreme Court with an appeal whereby hearing arguments of the prosecution and the accused, the SC commuted the punishment to imprisonment for life.
The SC reminded the court that as early as 1980 it had ruled that for murder cases, life imprisonment is the rule and only in exceptional cases when it can be called rarest of the rare case, death penalty be imposed. But it has been found that in many cases the trial courts and high courts violate the dictum. It cannot be done. If the circumstances under which the murder has taken place and if it does not fall in the category of rarest of rare cases, only life imprisonment be given, the SC reiterated.
Earlier in 1980 itself the apex court had categorised the rarest of rare cases. Committing the murder with hired goondas is one of the rarest of rare case, as well committing murder by arson, looting, etc and brutal killing of pregnant women, committing murder for money, etc will be called rarest of the rare depending on the circumstances. When a murder takes place which shocks the conscience of the society, that can also come under the category.
At the same time the SC had on Nov 2017 ruled that there is need to re-examine the death penalty but it is for the Union Government to amend the IPC.