Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Joymalya Bagchi and Suvra Ghosh, JJ., has recently observed in a case of rape and murder of a teenager aged just 13 years, that death penalty must only be invoked as a last resort when it is clear that there is no scope for the rehabilitation of a convict. The judges commented that one must not lose sight of the fact that the imposition of the death penalty is the last resort which the Court must do unwillingly and with a very heavy heart. It ought not to be awarded in cases where the glimmer of hope and rehabilitation is not completely lost. If upon balancing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, if there seems to be even a tiny glimmer of possibility to salvage the soul of a condemned convict then every effort should be made towards that end.

The Court emphasised that concern for human dignity and life must underscore the jurisprudence on the death penalty. The Bench further added that even if a convict appears to lack sensitivity, a higher standard is expected in response, given the constitutional scheme of things. On an examination of aggravating and mitigating factors, the Court held, that there was potential for the rehabilitation of the convict, and commuted the death penalty to rigorous life imprisonment. The Court took into consideration the Correctional Home report which recommended that the convict had good and sociable conduct and his inmates described him as a supportive person. [State of West Bengal v. Albert Toppo, DR 4 of  2017, decided on 10-12-2019]

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