The Supreme Court on Friday termed as "absolutely unwarranted" and against "judicial discipline and propriety" certain observations made by the Rajasthan High Court in its verdict in a matter in which the Apex Court had earlier confirmed the conviction of an accused in a murder case.

A Bench of Justice M R Shah and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat observed that it was "not open" for the High Court to make comments on the investigation or merits of the case when the conviction was already confirmed by the Supreme Court after hearing the counsel for the accused.

The Bench noted the Apex Court had earlier set aside an order commuting the death penalty of the accused to life imprisonment and remanded the matter to the High Court to consider the question of sentence for murder.

It also noted that thereafter, after considering the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the High Court not only commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment but made certain observations in its judgment, including the investigation.

"Judicial discipline requires that once the conviction was confirmed by this court that too after hearing the accused, the high court should not have thereafter made any comment on the merits of the case, more particularly, when the conviction was specifically confirmed by this court and the matter was remitted to the high court only for the purpose of considering the sentence." the Bench held.

The Apex Court passed the order on an appeal filed by the state against the May 2022 judgment of the High Cout which commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment.
Senior Advocate K.V. Viswanathan appeared for the Respondent-Accused before the Apex Court.

The Bench noted that the state is also aggrieved by certain observations made by the High Court in one of the paragraphs of its verdict. It also noted the accused was earlier convicted in the case and the trial court had awarded him the death penalty. Later, the High Court commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment and the state challenged it before the Apex Court.

In its judgment, the Court noted the High Court directed a fresh investigation to book certain other accused whose DNA samples were obtained from the leggings of the victim in the case.

" ...having gone through the impugned judgment and order passed by the high court, more particularly, the observations made in paragraph 42, we are of the opinion that the observations made by the high court in paragraph 42 are absolutely unwarranted and against the judicial discipline and propriety,"
the Bench held.

"When this court earlier confirmed the conviction of the accused for the offence under section 302 IPC and that too after hearing senior advocate appearing on behalf of the accused, thereafter, it was not open for the high court to make comments upon the investigation and/or on merits of the case,"
the Court observed.

The Bench noted the High Court ought not to have made the observation that certain aspects were not brought to the notice of the Apex Court and conviction was upheld without hearing the side of the accused.

The Court observed that it is required to be noted that when it had passed the order remanding the matter for sentence and confirmed the conviction, it had heard the advocate appearing for the accused.

"Therefore, the high court is not right even factually in observing that this court confirmed the conviction without hearing the side of the accused on merits," the Court held while setting aside the observations made by the High Court.

Regarding the High Court judgment commuting the death penalty to life imprisonment, the Bench held it saw no reason to interfere with it and partly allowed the appeals.
Cause Title - The State of Rajasthan v. Komal Lodha