By – Priyanshi Bhatia
IN THE HIGH COURT OF RAJASTHAN
|NAME OF THE CASE
|Rajkumar vs. State of Madhya Pradesh
|(2014) 5 SCC 353
|DATE OF THE CASE
|25th February 2014
|State of Madhya Pradesh
|B.S. Chauhan, J. and M.Y. Eqbal, J.
|STATUTES/ CONSTITUTION INVOLVED
|1. Constitution of India 2. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 3. Indian Penal Code, 1860
|Section 376, 302 and 450 of the IPC, 1860 Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
The present case analysis analyses the Judgment by the Supreme Court of India relating to a case wherein the rape of the 14-year-old girl, followed by the brutal murder was committed. This paper states the various provisions that were used by the courts, the factual matrix along the brief background stating what led to the filing of a case before the Apex Court. Lastly, followed by a conclusion wherein the opinion is given on the decision of the court.
~ Priyanshi Bhatia
Killing someone, or in legal parlance committing the murder has been recognized as a cruel and barbaric act. It may be in the vengeance of the murder committed, or for some else ulterior motive, like committing while robbery etc. But, the act of commission is cruel that society wants the removal of the criminal on the grounds of apprehension of danger, and him being the menace to the society also, because it shakes the societal conscience. So is the rape against the minor girl child. More often than not the criminals take advantage of a child’s innocence, by either luring or enticing them. That she is subjected to such barbaric act by someone in whom they have reposed trust, such acts arouse a sense of revulsion in the minds of the common man.
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
That this appeal had emanated and preferred from the Judgment dated 27.06.2013 of the High Court of MP, Jabalpur bench, whereby the High Court has upheld the conviction of the Appellant under Section 376 and 450 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, by the trial court, and affirmed the death penalty awarded for the offence of Section 302 IPC, 1860 by the trial court in the judgment dated 05.02.2013.
That the trial court had treated the case of extreme culpability and rarest of rare, thus thereby has sentenced the Appellant to rigorous imprisonment for life for the offence of Section 376, rigorous imprisonment for 10 years on the count of Section 450 IPC, and had awarded death sentence on the question of Section 302 IPC, 1860. And the reference had been made to the High Court for the confirmation.
FACTS OF THE CASE
The facts of the case have been succinctly given as follows:
That on a fateful night, the parents of the Prosecutrix had gone to the agricultural field, leaving behind the former along with her three siblings, namely Sushma, Sanchit and Aric. That the Appellant was a known to the family of the Prosecutrix, was also a neighbour to them and used to live half a kilometre away from their house, along with his wife and child. That he was also on the visiting terms with the family and the children used to call him ‘Mama’.
On that fateful night, when the parents had gone, the Accused Appellant came to their house, took meal and liquor in the complainant’s house, and thus was in an inebriated state. He had also asked the Prosecutrix to not sleep with her siblings, to which she deferred.
That around midnight, he allegedly committed rape on her, followed by the causation of some injuries on her person and then causing the murder by strangulation. The said event had been witnessed by the Sanchit, who is the main eye witness herein, but as a child. When the parents came home the following morning, he narrated the incident to them, thereafter the complainant filed the FIR, and the investigation started.
ISSUE RAISED BEFORE THE COURT
The issue that arisen before the court of law was that-
1. Whether the evidence of the child witness in the present case reliable?
2. Whether the adverse inference could be drawn if the Accused does not offer any explanation under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973?
3. Whether the punishment of the death penalty is justified in the present circumstances?
ARGUMENTS FROM THE APPELLANT SIDE
- The Counsel for the Accused-Appellant has contended that he has been falsely roped and implicated in the present case at the instant of the Police officials. The counsel further contended that there is no eye witness in the case, and the brother of the Prosecutrix is the child witness whose testimony could not be relied upon, as, if he had seen the event, he would have raised the alarm.
- The counsel has also contended that the it is clear cut case and is based on circumstantial evidence wherein the Prosecution has failed to discharge its burden, and that there are not enough evidence to warrant the conviction of the Accused.
- On the question of sentence, the counsel had prayed that the awarding of death sentence is not warranted in the present facts and circumstances.
ARGUMENTS FROM THE RESPONDENT SIDE
- The learned counsel on behalf of the State has vehemently denied the consideration of the appeals on the ground the crime which is done had been pre-planned by the Accused-Appellant herein, which according to her is manifested from the fact that he had asked the Prosecutrix to not sleep with her siblings.
- The Counsel had further contended that the chemical report and the DNA report points towards the Accused, and the manner in which it has been done and the gravity of what crime is done, vividly warrant the death penalty. Thus, she prayed that the Appeal be dismissed on the said grounds.
- It has also been contended by the counsel for the Respondent that there is direct ocular evidence against the Accused-Appellant of the 10 y’old boy Sanchit, who is PW 2 in the instant case. The counsel had relied upon the testimony of the witness who had deposed that- the “Mama’ had came to their house. The counsel further submits that the testimony of the PW2 is corroborated with the Medical Evidence available on record.
- That the Accused had not offered any explanation under the Section 313 CrPC which he is under the obligor to, as there are incriminating evidences available against him. Therefore, he pleaded that the court ought to draw the adverse inference from this.
- On the question of Sentence, it has been contended by the counsel for the Respondent that the sentence awarded by the courts below is in consonance with the rarest of rare doctrine, as the offense had shocked and shaken the conscience of the society.
- Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
“376. Punishment for rape —
(1) Whoever, except in the cases provided for by sub-section (2), commits rape shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may be for life or for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine unless the women raped is his own wife and is not under twelve years of age, in which cases, he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both: Provided that the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of fewer than seven years.”
- Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
“302. Punishment for murder —
Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or 1[imprisonment for life], and shall also be liable to fine.”
- Section 450 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
“450. House-trespass to commit an offence punishable with imprisonment for life —
Whoever commits house-trespass to the committing of any offence punishable with imprisonment for life], shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
- Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
“313. Power to examine the accused —
(1) In every inquiry or trial, to enable the accused personally to explain any circumstances appearing in the evidence against him, the Court-
(a) may at any stage, without previously warning the accused, put such questions to him as the Court considers necessary;
(b) shall, after the witnesses for the prosecution have been examined and before he is called on for his defence, question him generally on the case: Provided that in a summons- case, where the Court has dispensed with the personal attendance of the accused, it may also dispense with his examination under clause (b).
(2) No oath shall be administered to the accused when he is examined under sub-section (1)
(3) The accused shall not render himself liable to punishment by refusing to answer such questions, or by giving false answers to them.
(4) The answers given by the accused may be taken into consideration in such inquiry or trial, and put in evidence for or against him in any other inquiry into, or trial for, any other offence which such answers may tend to show he has committed.”
On Point 1. Whether the evidence of the child witness in the present case reliable?
The court observed that the Sanchit, who is the child witness herein, was 10 years old at the time of the incident, and the courts below have believed and relied upon the testimony of the said child. The court stated the admissibility of the evidence of the child is no more res Integra. The Court further stated that the legal proposition of law states that any person is competent to depose, unless he does not understand the questions put to him, or is not able to give rational answers that too by the reason of tenderness, extreme old age, or disease or infirmity.
That court held that the courts are required to form an opinion as to whether the child can understand questions and give rational answers thereto. That since the child is susceptible to be tutored and swayed away by what others might tell him. The court held that the trial court must also see that whether the child can discern right and wrong, and this could be adjudged by putting questions to him.
For this court had placed reliance on the judgement of State of MP vs. Ramesh (2011) 4 SCC 786 and the case of Suryanarayana vs. the State of Karnataka (2001) 9 SCC 129.
On Point 2. Whether the adverse inference could be drawn if the Accused does not offer any explanation under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973?
The court held that there is a duty cast by the law on the Accused to explain, in his statement under Section 313 CrPC, 1973, as to the incriminating evidence that had been produced against him by the Prosecution. That he may exercise his Right to Remain Silent, by not speaking or being in complete denial when his statement is sought to be recorded. But, in such an event the court is entitled to draw the adverse inference against him. For this principle, the court has placed reliance on the case of Ramnaresh vs. the State of Chattisgarh (2012) 4 SCC 257, Munish Mubar vs. the State of Haryana (2012) 10 SCC 464, and the Raj Kumar Singh vs. the State of Rajasthan (2013) 5 SCC 722.
The court opined that in the present case, the Appellant had not taken any defence, nor offered any explanation in his statement of Section 313. That he was bound to explain how did the Prosecutrix die. The court further held that in light of these circumstances, the trial court was right in drawing the adverse inferences against him.
On Point 3. Whether the punishment of the death penalty is justified in the present circumstances?
That the court has referred to the judgement of Bantu v. State of MP, which dealt with the case of rape and murder of a 6-year-old child, and the court, opined that it does not fall under rarest of rare. The court observed the Accused was less than 22 years; there were no injuries on the body of the victim. They held that although the crime was heinous, but commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.
The court opined that the death penalty need not be inflicted unless the case is of extreme culpability. That life imprisonment is the rule and the death penalty is the exception, and before awarding the latter the court must consider the circumstances of the case and the Appellant. Also, that such punishment should only be inflicted when the court deems that the life imprisonment punishment would be inadequate for the circumstances. It further held that the court is also required to take into consideration the aggravating and the mitigating circumstances, and the latter has to be accorded full weightage. Thus, it becomes evident that the death penalty could be awarded only when mitigating circumstances are absent, and it would depend upon the factual scenario of the case.
The court also referred to 3 Judge Bench judgements in the case of Swamy Shraddananda vs. the State of Karnataka (2008) 13 SCC 767 in which the death penalty was set aside and life imprisonment was awarded.
Thus, by relying upon the present legal authorities, the court had stated that although the Appellant had committed a heinous crime and raped an innocent, helpless and defenceless minor girl he is indubitable liable to be punished severely, this case is not the one to fall under the rarest of rare doctrine. Hence, the court set aside the death penalty and awarded life imprisonment.
More often than not, we have heard about the cases wherein the rape has been committed on the small and hapless girl child, followed by the murdering of her, to avoid attracting the testimony of her. But the least does the criminal know that by doing so he is not doing an escape act, rather would warrant two punishments to his fate. And, both of them are heinous crimes. Such criminals should indeed be punished but not to an extent that is not proportionate to the crime committed.
In the present case, it can be concluded that indubitably the crime committed is cruel, as the killing of someone is cruel, and if the death penalty was given it would have tantamount to killing of the person, as the giving of the death penalty is considered as an exception. In all cases, wherein such punishment is given by the courts, the courts fulfil the mandate of the law. Also, after taking all relevant aggravating and mitigating factors into consideration.
On the point of punishment of Rape, it is concluded that awarding of the rigorous life incarceration is, that would have the rippling effect of deterrence, as the societal and courts conscience, both, are shaken.