The Supreme Court recently overturned the decision of the High Court in awarding capital punishment to an accused for the offence of murdering his sister and another as the act of the accused did not fall under the rarest of the rare case.

After considering the medical evidence and finding that the accused-appellants have not acted in a brutal manner, inasmuch as there is only single injury inflicted on both the deceased, a three-judge Bench of Justice B.R Gavai, Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Sanjay Karol observed that "the present case cannot be considered as ‘rarest of rare’ case, so as to award death sentence".

Advocate Sudhanshu S. Choudhari appeared for the Appellant and Advocate Chinmoy Khaladkar appeared for the Respondent.

Going by the background of the case, the deceased (Pooja) was married to one Jethiba Hashanna Varshewar, even though she was having a love affair with one Govind (Also deceased) for the past 5 years. The Appellant/Accused – Digambar is the brother of Pooja. On a fateful day, when Pooja left her matrimonial home without informing anybody, her husband lodged a missing report on the same day. The accused, having knowledge of the love affair of Pooja and Govind, was suspicious of this fact. Later, when the accused along with co-accused Mohan went to the house of the sister of Govind, they found both Govind as well as Pooja.

Thereafter, the accused tried to convince both, but in vain. Therefore, when en route, the accused assaulted Govind’s throat with a sickle. When Pooja tried to get hold of him, he removed the handle of the sickle and thrust the backside of the sickle in Pooja’s neck. These attacks by the accused resulted in death of the duo. The accused then lodged an FIR about the commitment to said crime. Pursuant to the investigation, the Trial Court convicted the accused for the offences punishable under Sections 302/201/120-B of IPC and sentenced him to death penalty while the co-accused Mohan was convicted for the offences punishable under Sections 302/201/34/120-B of IPC and sentenced to undergo life imprisonment. The High Court also confirmed the death sentence imposed upon the accused.

After considering the submissions, the Apex Court noted that the prosecution case mainly rests on the circumstances of the accused being lastly seen in the company of the deceased, and the death of the deceased occurring shortly thereafter.

The Apex Court observed that though the extra-judicial confession of the accused cannot be taken into consideration, however, his conduct of going to the Police Station and surrendering before the Police can certainly be taken into consideration in view of Section 8 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

The prosecution has established that the deceased and the accused persons left the house together and soon thereafter the death of the deceased person had occurred. As such, the burden to show as to what happened after leaving the house would shift on the accused in view of Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act. It is to be noted that what transpired after the accused left along with the deceased, is only within the knowledge of the accused. However, the accused persons have utterly failed to discharge the said burden”, added the Court.

Accordingly, the Apex Court confirmed the concurrent findings of the Trial Court and the High Court that the accused appellants are guilty of offence punishable under Section 302 of the IPC.

Going further, the Bench found that both the appellants do not have any criminal antecedents, and the accused who has been sentenced to capital punishment, was a young boy of about 25 years at the time of the incident.

Accordingly, the Apex Court held that the High Court as well as the Trial Court erred in holding that the present case would fall under the ‘rarest of rare’ case to award capital punishment to the appellant. However, the Court refused to interfere in the order of sentence of life imprisonment awarded to the co-accused.

Cause Title: Digambar vs. State of Maharashtra

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