Death penalty only for criminals beyond reformation,


KOLKATA: Upholding a 2007 trial court judgement of life imprisonment for four convicts accused of rape and murder of a minor, the Calcutta High Court on Monday ruled that death penalty can only be imposed in “rarest of rare cases” when the opportunity of rehabilitation and reformation of a convict has been ruled out. The court said mere gravity and heinousness of the crime cannot be the only criterion for a death sentence.
“Judges should never be bloodthirsty …life sentence is the rule and death sentence is an exception,” the courd stated.
At the time of the admission of appeal in 2007, a suo motu rule was issued to enhance the sentence of life imprisonment to death penalty. Hearing the issue after two decades, Justices Joymalya Bagchi and Gaurang Kanth observed: “the extreme penalty of death can only be imposed in the rarest of rare. In Bachan Singh v State of Punjab, the apex court emphasized the necessity of balancing mitigating circumstances with aggravating circumstances in order to come to a conclusion whether the case falls in a ‘rarest of rare’ category. Mere reference to gravity or heinousness is not enough. The court, prior to imposing death penalty, must satisfy its conscience that there is no possibility of rehabilitation and reformation of the convict and he would remain a continuing threat to society.”
The four accused were convicted of raping and murdering a minor at an abandoned steel factory in Taratala in January 2004. The victim’s body was found in the factory by ASI Prasanta Kumar Guchait of Taratala police station on January 7, when he was conducting his anti-crime patrolling duty. Medical examination showed that the victim had been raped by multiple people. The prosecution’s evidence revealed that two months before the victim went missing, her father had been assaulted by one of the convicts after he refused him money to buy liquor.
The HC observed that jail conduct of the convicts had been satisfactory, indicating that they cannot be deemed as individuals beyond rehabilitation and reformation.

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