What are the Tangible Guidelines in Respect of Awarding the Death Sentence under Section 302 I.P.C.?
1. Section 302, I.P.C., and Section 354(3), Cri. P.C., have to be read in the light of Part III (Fundamental Rights) and Part IV (Directive Principles of the State Policies) of the Constitution of India.
2. The retributive theory has had its day and is no longer valid. Deterrence and reformation are the primary social goals which make deprivation of life and liberty reasonable as penal pancea.
3. The personal and social, the motivational and physical circumstances of the criminal are relevant factors.
4. Planned and motivated crime is another circumstance for awarding death penalty.
5. Killing of officers of law, like policeman on duty, soldiers and like, with a planning deserves death penalty.
6. Special reasons for imposing death penalty must apply to crime as such, not the criminals.
The Court observed that the death penalty is the last step when a murderer was not likely to be cured within a reasonable spell and tends to murder others, even in jail or immediately after release.
Mr. Justice A.P. Sen, in his dissenting judgment said that when a man commits a crime against society, by committing a diabolical, cold-blooded, pre-planned murder of an innocent person, the brutality of which shakes the conscience of the Court, he must face the consequences of the act. Such a person forfeits his right to life.
The majority judgment was delivered by Mr. Justice V.R. Krishana Iyer, and the bench which heard the appeal included Mr. Justice D.A. Desai. Mr. Justice Iyer and Mr. Justice Desai observed that if justice under the law justifies the lesser sentence, it was an abdication of judicial power to inflict the extreme penalty. In their view, murders were regrettable, indeed terrible.
But it is no social solution to add one more life lost to the list. It is cheaper to hang than to heal but Indian life any human life is too dear to be swung dead save in extreme circumstances.
Mr. Justice A.P. Sen, on the other hand, held that the question whether the scope of such sentence should be curtailed or not is one for Parliament to decide. It is not proper for the Court to trench upon the President’s and Governor’s prerogative to grant pardon or reprieve in taking upon itself the commutation of death sentence which is imposed on the facts and in the circumstances of a particular case, because there is a doubt that the executive may commute the sentence ultimately, or by one’s views as to utility of a death penalty.