Supreme Court: In a case where the Rajasthan High Court had made unwarranted observations on the investigation and the merits of the case bench of MR Shah* and S Ravindra Bhat, JJ has observed that Judicial discipline required that once the conviction was confirmed by the Supreme Court that too after hearing the accused, the High Court should not have thereafter made any comment on the merits of the case.
In the case at hand, the conviction was specifically confirmed by the Supreme Court and the matter was remitted to the High Court only for the purpose of considering the sentence, namely, whether death penalty and/or life sentence or any other appropriate sentence after the High Court had commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment mechanically and without considering the aggravating and mitigating circumstances which were required to be considered while considering the case of death penalty.
On remand, the High Court commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment. While the Court had no issue with this conclusion, its attention was brought towards observations made by the High Court on the investigation and that when the Supreme Court passed the order certain aspects were not brought to the notice of its Court and no assistance was provided to the accused — respondent to prefer an appeal before the Supreme Court. Not only this, but the High Court also directed to investigate the matter afresh to book certain other accused whose DNAs were obtained from the leggings of the deceased for the offence of murder, rape, sodomy and POCSO.
The Supreme Court observed that such observations are absolutely unwarranted and against the judicial discipline and propriety.
“When this Court earlier confirmed the conviction of the accused for the offence under Section 302 IPC and that too after hearing learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of the accused, thereafter, it was not open for the High Court to make comments upon the investigation and/or on merits of the case.”
While the Court set aside the said unwarranted observations made by the High Court made in paragraph 42 of the impugned judgment and order, it upheld the High Court’s decision of commuting the death penalty to life imprisonment as the same was taken after considering the aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
[State of Rajasthan v. Komal Lodha, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 41, decided on 13-01-2023]
Ed Note: The Judgment erroneously mentions the date of Supreme Court’s order remanding the matter to the High Court as 06.01.2002. The said order was passed on 06.01.2022. The same can be read here.
*Judgment authored by: Justice MR Shah
Advocates who appeared in this case:
For accused: Senior Advocate K.V. Viswanathan