The young age of a murder and rape victim may not 93be the only reason to impose the death penalty on the convict, the Supreme Court said recently while commuting the death sentence of a man convicted of rape and murder of a 5-year-old girl to life imprisonment (Irappa Sidappa Murgannavar v. the State of Karnataka).
In this regard, the Court relied on its precedents set up in the case of Shatrughna Baban Meshram v. the State of Maharashtra, in which 67 judgments for the past 40 years, of the higher court, had been examined, wherein the court-imposed death penalty or life imprisonment in rape and murder cases.
Of 67 cases, at least 51 of the victims were under 12 years of age. The death penalty was initially imposed in 12 of these 51 cases. However, in 3 cases the death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment.
A Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai, therefore, said that the present case was not “the rarest of the rare” and that the lower court did not consider mitigating factors to be taken into account.
“The applicant’s advocate was right to point out that the Trial Court was concerned limited to finding that the appellant was young (23/25 years old) and belonged to a very poor family, but did not consider this to be attenuating: the court observed.