Again a bomb blast in Hyderabad has questioned the Indian Legal System which provides for Death Penalty in rarest of rare cases. Supreme Court in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab (1980) 2 SCC 684 has defined the rarest of rare case principle. Most of the time Human rights activists talk about abolition of death penalty on the ground of Violation of human dignity and right to life. Most activist argue that Death penalty is inhuman and there is no scope of Death penalty in a civilized society. But rarest of rare principle as propounded by court provides that An act which shocks human conscience deserves Death Penalty. Rarest of Rare Cases Principle (Constitutional Validity of Death Penalty)1 .
The kind of cases in which protection to life may be withdrawn and there may be the demand for death penalty were enumerated in the following paragraphs:
It may do so “in rarest of rare cases” when its collective conscience is so shocked that it will expect the holders of the judicial power centre to inflict death penalty irrespective of their personal opinion as regards desirability or otherwise of retaining death penalty. The community may entertain such a sentiment when the crime is viewed from the platform of the motive for, or the manner of commission of the crime, or the anti-social or abhorrent nature of the crime, such as for instance:
I. Manner of commission of murder
When the murder is committed in an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical, revolting or dastardly manner so as to arouse intense and extreme indignation of the community. For instance,
(i) when the house of the victim is set aflame with the end in view to roast him alive in the house.
(ii) when the victim is subjected to inhuman acts of torture or cruelty in order to bring about his or her death.
(iii) when the body of the victim is cut into pieces or his body is dismembered in a fiendish manner.
II. Motive for commission of murder
When the murder is committed for a motive which evinces total depravity and meanness. For instance when (a) a hired assassin commits murder for the sake of money or reward (b) a cold-blooded murder is committed with a deliberate design in order to inherit property or to gain control over property of a ward or a person under the control of the murderer or vis-à-vis whom the murderer is in a dominating position or in a position of trust, or (c) a murder is committed in the course for betrayal of the motherland.
III. Anti-social or socially abhorrent nature of the crime
(a) When murder of a member of a Scheduled Caste or minority community, etc., is committed not for personal reasons but in circumstances which arouse social wrath. For instance when such a crime is committed in order to terrorize such persons and frighten them into fleeing from a place or in order to deprive them of, or make them surrender, lands or benefits conferred on them with a view to reverse past injustices and in order to restore the social balance.
(b) In cases of “bride burning” and what are known as “dowry deaths” or when murder is committed in order to remarry for the sake of extracting dowry once again or to marry another woman on account of infatuation.
IV. Magnitude of crime
When the crime is enormous in proportion. For instance when multiple murders say of all or almost all the members of a family or a large number of persons of a particular caste, community, or locality, are committed.
V. Personality of victim of murder
When the victim of murder is (a) an innocent child who could not have or has not provided even an excuse, much less a provocation, for murder (b) a helpless woman or a person rendered helpless by old age or infirmity (c) when the victim is a person vis-à-vis whom the murderer is in a position of domination or trust (d) when the victim is a public figure generally loved and respected by the community for the services rendered by him and the murder is committed for political or similar reasons other than personal reasons.
The above principles are generally regarded by Court as the broad guidelines for imposition of death sentence and have been followed by the Court in many subsequent decisions.
In the light of the rarest of rare principle it is absolutely justified to award death penalty to Terrorists as they act against innocent people and they even don’t spare children’s and woman. No leniency is justified to a person who acts against his fellow beings and also terrorism is planned murder with motive and intention which deserves to be dealt with strictly.
1 Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab (1980) 2 SCC 684
About the Author
Kush is a practicing lawyer at Delhi High Court. He graduated from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab, India in 2012.