Vikram Singh vs. Union of India

0
492
In The Supreme Court of India
Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction
Case No.
Criminal Appeal No. 824 of 2013
Appellants
Vikram Singh @ Vicky & Anr
Respondent
Union of India & Ors.
Date of Judgement
21 August, 2015
Bench
Bench: T.S. Thakur, R.K. Agrawal, Adarsh Kumar Goel

Synopsis

The appellant Vikram singh was convicted and was sentenced death penalty by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. The appellant was convicted for the offences under Section 302 and 364A of IPC, as he kidnapped and killed a 16 year old boy, and demanded a ransom of 50 lakhs from the boy’s father.

The appellant filed a writ petition in the High Court challenging the constitutional validity of Section 364A, which got dismissed. Thereafter the appellant approached the Supreme Court.

Section 364A deals with Kidnapping for Ransom. It states that:

kidnapping or abducting any person or keeping a person detained after such kidnap or abduction, and threatening to cause death or hurt to such person, or through his conduct giving rise to a reasonable apprehension that such person may be subject to death or hurt, or cause hurt or death to such person in order to compel the Government or any foreign State or international inter-governmental organization or any other person to do or abstain from doing any act or to pay a ransom is an offence and a person committing such an offence shall be punishable either with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be made liable for payment of fine”.

Facts

The appellant was convicted and sentenced to death penalty under Section 302 and Section 364A of IPC.

Section 302 of IPC deals with the punishment for murder and Section 364A deals with the offence of kidnapping for Ransom.

The appellant Vikram Singh kidnapped and killed a 16 year old boy named “Abhi Verma” who was known to him. He also demanded a ransom of 50,000 lakhs from the boy’s father.

The boy realized the predicament he faced and shouted for help. His terror can further be visualized when he heard the threatening calls to his father and seen the preparations to do away with him, which included the taping of his mouth and the administration of an overdose of dangerous drugs. The child and his family faced horror, aggravated by the distress and the devastation faced by the family on the loss of an only son.

The conviction and sentence was affirmed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in appeal and eventually by the Supreme Court.

The appellant filed a writ petition in the High Court challenging the constitutional validity of Section 364A, which got dismissed. Thereafter the appellant approached the Supreme Court.

Issues

The issues raised in this case are as follows:

1. Whether the offence committed by the appellant i.e. Vikram Singh  be charged under Sec 364A though it was not committed against the Government, any foreign State or international inter-governmental organization.

2. Is Section 364A of IPC Unconstitutional on account of the punishment being disproportionate to the gravity of the offence so committed?

Arguments

Arguments in favour of Appellants:

1. Section 364A of IPC deals with those offences which are committed against the Government, any foreign state or international inter-governmental organization.

2. There is no provision in Section 364A of IPC for the offence of kidnapping and demanding ransom from a private individual.

3. Sec 364A of IPC is unconstitutional as the punishment imposed under the provision is disproportionate to the crime committed.

Arguments in favour of Respondents:

1. Section 364A of IPC was widely worded to cover not only situations where terrorists take hostages to compel the Government but also where any person abducts or kidnaps the victim for no more than compelling payment of ransom by the family of the victim.

2. The High Court has rightly analyzed the provisions, and examined the historical perspective to hold that Sec 364A was not confined only to cases involving acts of terrorism but was attracted even in those cases where the crime is committed for securing ransom.

3. Section 364A is not disproportionate regarding punishments considering the horror, distress and the devastation felt in the family on the loss of an only son.

4. Section 364A includes ordinary crimes as well.

Judgement

The three judge bench in the Supreme Court held that Section 364A is wide enough to cover those cases where the demand for ransom is not a part of any terrorist activity but for mere monetary gain from a private individual.

It rejected the contentions put forth by the counsels for petitioners stating that Section 364A attracts only offences committed against the government, any foreign state or international inter-governmental organization.

The Court held that “There is nothing in the provisions to suggest so”. The court highlighted the facts that though the Section 364A was amended later, legislature chose not to delete “any other person” from it. 

Section 364A deals with ordinary crimes as well

The counsel for petitioner argued that, as the offence Kidnapping/abduction of a person for ransom is already covered under other provisions of the Indian Penal code, Section 364A was added merely to deal with terrorist related ransom situations and not ordinary crimes.

The court held that ingredients of 364A are unique, and cannot be found in other provisions of IPC even in the provisions dealing with extortion.

Rule of Ejusdem generis does not apply

Ejusdem generis generally means of the same kind or nature. The petitioners contended that the expression ‘any other person’ in Section 364A may be read Ejusdem generis with the expression preceding the said words.

The court rejected this contention and held that “The tenor of the provision, the context and the statutory definition of the expression ‘person’ all militate against any attempt to restrict the meaning of the term ‘person’ to the ‘government’ or ‘foreign state’ or international inter-governmental organizations only.

Mithu and etc. vs. State of Punjab etc.:

In case of Mithu etc. vs. State of Punjab etc., denial of judicial discretion to award a sentence other than death was held to be a valid reason to declare the Section 303 of IPC constitutionally invalid.

It was argued by the counsel for petitioners that Section 364A is similar to Section 303 so far as it denies discretion to award a sentence other than capital punishment.

The court held that Mithu’s case is clearly distinguishable from the facts and circumstances involved in this case.  Many features discussed in Mithu’s case are not present in the case at hand for Section 364A.

The court further held that “In Section 364A, the Court enjoys the discretion whether to award the extreme penalty of death or the lesser alternative of a life imprisonment” and in Section 303 IPC there was no such alternative even.

Section 364A not disproportionate:

Citing several Indian as well as foreign decisions, the court laid down the certain principles for governing proportionality of punishments.

The appellant in this case was convicted under section 302 and Section 364A of IPC which was upheld by Supreme Court also. The court held that “A sentence of death in a case of murder may be rare one, but, if the courts have, upon consideration of the facts and evidence, found that the same is the only sentence that can be awarded, it is difficult to revisit that question in collateral proceedings like the one at hand.”

Case Comment

The Court has appositely interpreted Sec 364A of IPC in this judgment. Section 364A includes ordinary crimes (other than terrorist acts) not only against the government, foreign state or an international inter-governmental organization but against private individuals as well.

Therefore Section 364A is not unconstitutional and disproportionate with regard the punishment for the offence so committed.

The criminal justice delivery system of our country needs judgments in similar lines as this will make the penal provisions of criminal law more stringent and will avoid any loopholes for the culprits.

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

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Sree Ramya
I am Sree Ramya from University College of Law, OU Pursuing BA.LLB. The sphere of Criminal Law, Corporate Law, ADR and Environmental law attract me the most. Whenever I get any free time i like reading books, mostly autobiographies and magazines and I write poems on contemporary social issues. Apart from this I like watching movies and playing chess. I love taking part in quiz and essay competitions added to this I like to attend seminars and conferences on any socio-legal, socio-political and socio-scientific issues. I am a good listener with a lot of patience and I follow the principle of “Speak less and listen more”.