SUPREME COURT PREFERS LIFE IMPRISONMENT TO DEATH PENALTY
The Division Bench of the Hon’ble #SupremeCourt in the matter of Bhagchandra v. State of Madhya Pradesh (Criminal Appeal No. 255-256/2018) passed judgement dated 09.12.2021 and has set aside the Order of the Division Bench of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Jabalpur in Criminal Appeal No. 1684/2017, which dismissed the Appeal preferred by the Appellant i.e. Bhagchandra (herein referred as ‘Appellant’). The Appeal was challenging the Order passed by the Second Additional Sessions Judge (herein referred as to the ‘Trial Judge’ dated 04.07.2017 by which the Appellant was convicted for offences punishable under Section 302 read with 201 and Section 506(B) of the Indian Penal code (herein referred to as ‘IPC’).
Section 302 deals with Punishment for #murder, Section 201 deals with removal of #evidence and Section 506(B) deals with #criminal #intimidation.
Facts of the case:
The Appellant is the brother of Deceased Thakur Das, Deceased Devki Prasad and the Uncle of Deceased Akhilesh. Kiran Patel, Urmila and Kamlesh are Wife, Son and Daughter of the Deceased Devki Prasad respectively. They all along with Deceased Akhilesh, Thakur Das along with their Mother Kisiyabai reside together in the village Pur in Madhya Pradesh.
On 11.10.2015, on 5.00 to 5.30am, Kiran Patel went to attend nature’s call, while returning back she saw the Appellant rushing to her house with an axe. After entering the house, Kiran saw that the Appellant had killed Thakur Das and Akhilesh by beheading them. Thereafter, she saw Appellant killing Devki Prasad as well. The Police filed an FIR based on the information given by Kiran Patel.
The matter came up for trial before the Session’s Judge, which held the Appellant guilty of charges based on Sections 302, 201 and 506(B) of IPC. The Trial Court on the above mentioned charges awarded death penalty to the Appellant for which the Ld. Trial Court made reference to the High Court for confirmation of the death sentence.
The Appellant being aggrieved by the Ld. Trial Courts Order approached the Hon’ble High Court via appeal no. 1684/2017. The Hon’ble High Court upheld the death penalty by the Trial Court. The Appellant thus filed the present Appeal before the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:
1) Though there may be minor discrepancies in testimony of the witnesses, without touching the core of the case, some minor technical glitches by the Investigating Officer cannot be used to reject the plethora of evidence in the case as a whole and relied upon State of Uttar Pradesh v. Krishna Master & Ors. (2010)12 SCC 324.
2) Minor omissions made by Police Officers can be overlooked in an investigation. The statements given to Police are meant to be brief statements and the same may be full of minor mistakes which cannot corrupt the whole case. These minor discrepancies and errors are something that no criminal case is free of and hence those minor omissions cannot be allowed to disregard the evidence as a whole.
3) The Hon’ble Court also applied the concept of ‘Rustic Witness’ (a rustic witness is one who is not well educated and comes from poor strata of the society), in such cases his/her evidence has to be considered as a whole. As such a witness’s testimony may have some discrepancies due to shock, horror, agony or illiteracy as they belong to a lower strata and are not well versed with knowledge of law.
The Hon’ble Court further held that in lieu of Rajendra Pradhanrao Wasnik v. State of Maharashta((2019)12 SCC 480), the duty of the court is to examine whether the criminal can be reformed or habituated, considering that all the criminals are human beings first, therefore, court should always consider the possibility of reforming the convict rather than just ending his life by awarding death penalty.
Keeping in mind the above view point and considering the fact that Appellant doesn’t not have any previous criminal records, the court reduced the punishment of death penalty to the rigorous imprisonment of 30 years, thereby taking a human approach.
In this matter the Apex Court has preferred to take a lenient approach to the death penalty, possibly as the Accused was a rustic. It is hoped that such a lenient approach will serve its purpose as the Accused has committed a heinous crime.
Senior Legal Associate
The Indian Lawyer
Sushila Ram Verma
The Indian Lawyer
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