“Undue leniency in sentencing shakes public confidence in Criminal Justice System”: Supreme Court modifies sentence in minor’s rape-murder case

unduly lenient sentence

Supreme Court: In a criminal appeal against the Jharkhand High Court’s judgment modifying death penalty to life imprisonment for the appellant to remain in jail for whole biological life without remission while upholding conviction under Sections 302 and 376 of Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) for rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl, the Division Bench of Abhay S. Oka and Rajesh Bindal*, JJ. further modified the sentence to fixed term of 30 years without any benefit of remission.

Appellant was convicted under Sections 302 and 376 of IPC by the Trial Court which imposed death penalty along with fine. The matter was referred to the High Court for confirmation, while the appellant simultaneously filed an appeal challenging his conviction and sentence. Both the matters were heard together and the Division Bench of High Court upheld conviction and modified the sentence while commuting death penalty into life sentence, and the appellant was directed to remain in jail for whole biological life without any benefit of remission. The appellant in the instant matter appealed against the High Court’s judgment confined to ‘award sentenced for whole biological life without any benefit of remission’.

Facts reveal the rape and murder of a 14-year-old wherein, the appellant’s guilt was proved beyond reasonable doubt. The Court observed that Trial Court proposed award of death sentence considering the case as rarest of the rare, which was modified to life imprisonment by the High Court without any scope for remission.

Considering the severity of the offence, the Court did not find any merit in extending the benefit of remission of sentence. However, for the fact that the appellant was 26 years old when the offence was committed, the Court was of the opinion that there may be chance for reformation. It was still precautious that “undue leniency in sentencing shakes public confidence in the criminal justice system, the deterrent effect may not be there”.

Considering the circumstances as a whole, the Court modified life imprisonment for biological life to a fixed term sentence of 30 years without any benefit of remission so that he spends the prime of his life in jail. It further added regarding the appellant to be released from jail only after undergoing full 30 years of sentence while excluding the period of imprisonment already undergone.

[Kashi Nath Singh v. State of Jharkhand, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 453, Judgment dated 20-4-2023]

Judgment authored by: Justice Rajesh Bindal

Know Thy Judge | Supreme Court of India: Justice Rajesh Bindal

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Appellants: Advocate Md. Anas Chaudhary, Advocate Shehla Chaudhary, Advocate Mohd. Anas Khan, Advocate Iduddin, Advocate Ansar Ahmad Chaudhary;

For Respondents: Senior Advocate Arunabh Chowdhury, Advocate Vishnu Sharma, Advocate on Record Pallavi Langar.

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