Ediga Anamma Vs. State Of Andhra
Pradesh  INSC 27 (11 February 1974)
SARKARIA, RANJIT SINGH
CITATION: 1974 AIR 799 1974 SCR (3) 329 1974
SCC (4) 443
F 1974 SC1039 (12) F 1974 SC2281 (6) RF 1975 SC
573 (9) F 1976 SC 653 (13) F 1976 SC2071 (4,5) RF 1976 SC2386 (4) RF 1977 SC
949 (18,19) R 1977 SC1747 (6) RF 1977 SC1812 (2) E 1979 SC 916 (6,45,86,198) R
1979 SC1384 (10,12) RF 1980 SC 898 (81,82,197,198) MV 1982 SC1325 (38,69,71) RF
1983 SC 361 ((2)4,10,21) D 1983 SC 465 (9) RF 1985 SC 231 (2)
Criminal Law--Practice and Procedure--Offence
of murder--Circumstances justifying lesser sentence.
The appellant, a rustic young woman, flogged
out of her husband's house by her father-in-law, was living with her parents
with her only child. She committed a premeditated, cleverly planned murder of
another young woman and her child because of rivalry between the appellant and
the murdered woman for the affections of an illicit lover. The Sessions court
awarded the death sentence and the High Court confirmed.
In appeal to this Court.
HELD : The death sentence must be dissolved
and life sentence substituted.
(i) Modern penology regards crime and
criminal as equally material when the right sentence has to be picked out
although in our processual system there is neither comprehensive provision nor
adequate machinery for collection and presentation of social and personal data
of the culprit to the extent required in the verdict on sentence. However, in
the Criminal Procedure Bill, 1973, Parliament has wisely written into the law a
post conviction stage when the judges shall "hear the accused on the
question of sentence and then pass sentenced on him according to law."
[334 C] The unmistakable shift in legislative emphasis is that life
imprisonment for murder is the rule and capital sentence the exception to be
resorted to for reasons to be stated. The disturbed conscience of the state on
the vexed question of legal threat to life by way of death sentence has sought
to express itself legislatively, the stream of tendency being towards cautious
partial abolition and the retreat from total retention. [336 H] Code of
Criminal Procedure Section 367(5) as amended by Act 26 of 1955; Criminal
Procedure Bill, 1973, Sections 235, 238 and 354(3); Indian Penal Code
(Amendment) Bill, 1972, Section 122, referred to.
(ii) The case on hand has to be disposed of
under the present Code and the Court has to fall back upon the method of
judicial bunch in imposing or avoiding capital sentence aided by such
circumstances as are present on the record introduced for the purpose of
proving guilt. [334 D] (iii) In the present case the criminal's social and
personal factors, her feminity and youth, her unbalanced sex and expulsion from
the conjugal home and being the mother of a young boy-these individually
inconclusive and cumulatively marginal facts and circumstances tend towards
awarding of life imprisonment. [339 B--C] Further, the Sessions Judge
pronounced the death penalty on December, 31, 1971 and the appeal is being
heard in February 1974. This prolonged agony has ameliorative impact according
to the rulings of this Court.
Piara Dusadh v. Emperor A.I.R. 1944 F.C.I.;
N. Sreeramula v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 1973 C.L.J. 1773; State of Bihar v. Pashupati
Singh, A.I.R. 1973 S.C. 2699. referred to.
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Criminal
Appeal No. 67 of 1973.
Appeal by Special Leave from the Judgment and
Order dated the 24th March, 1972 of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Criminal
Appeal No. 12 of 1972 and Referred Trial No. 1 of 1972.
330 R. P. Kathuria, amicus curiae for the
P. Ram Reddy and P. P. Rao for the
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
KRISHNA IYER, J. In a rural region of Andhra Pradesh Freudian fury or explosion
of sex jealousy expressed itself in a gruesome murder of a young woman and her
tender child by the accused, :a young woman, with an only child ten years old,
all, because notwithstanding both being married, they had invested amorous
affections in a middle-aged libertine.
P.W. 16, conveniently a widower. It is an
admitted fact that the accused, although married, was keeping illicit relations
with P.W. 16, a shepherd, but she discovered that lately her paramour was on flirting
contacts with the deceased. This knowledge angered her so much that she
extinguished the life of her rival on November 4, 1971 in the afternoon in a
jungle, manipulating her murderous venture so cleverly that for a time people
thought that she was the murdered and searched for her body. Closer enquiry
revealed that the victim was Ansuya and the other innocent one her baby less
than two years old.
Shri Kathuria, appearing as amicus curiae,
has presented a painstakingly meticulous argument on behalf of the prisoner,
who has been condemned to death by the courts below. It is but meet that we
appreciate the industrious advocacy enthusiastically made by this young
By sundown on November 4, 1971 a cadaver was
found in a field outside the village of Konapur, Medak District, Andhra
Pradesh. The deceased was a damsel who was first mistaken to be the accused
because her face had been burnt out of recognition and on her body was found
clothing which belonged to the accused a deviced to, as later evidence
discloses, by the accused to throw enquirers off ,the scent.
On November 8, 1971 the dead body of a baby,
daughter of Ansuya, the deceased, was
recovered, from the sand bed ,of a stream near the field. Investigations
disclosed that Anamma. the accused, was the perpetrator of this fiendish crime.
She was duly prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to death for the offence of
murder and life imprisonment for secreting evidence of the crime, 'under s.
20 1, 1. P. C. An appeal by the accused and a
referred trial under the Code resulted in a Bench of the High Court affirming
the guilt and upholding the sentence. A jail appeal has come before us, argued
by Shri Kathuria as amicus curiae.
The people involved are more or less
primitive rustics and sex inhibitions do not appear to have interdicted private
philandering. The prisoner had been married to P.W. 7 of Ankenpally, three
miles distant from Konapur where her parents resided. Carnal knowledge with
P.W. 16 developed even when she was in her husband's house and she manifested
her passion by stealing gold rings from the house of one Rachappa to make it
over to P.W. 16 as a memento of her illicit love, Indeed, this little stealing,
induced by her improper 331 relations with P. W. 16, was discovered. She
suffered flagellation from her father-in-law for this act, and her father, P.W.
2, removed her to his own house as a sequel.
The setting of Konapur did not stand in the
way of her continued intimacy with P.W. 16, who responded by shifting to this
The deceased, Ansuya, was the wife of P.W. 12
who was, as ill-luck would have it, the neighbour of the accused's family.
Opportunity tempted and Ansuya also established erotic contact with that
lascivious, P.W. 16. The prisoner, in due course, came to know about the
shifting of affections by her paramour who tried to bluff her in vain. Fired by
jealously the prisoner fixed her mind upon liquidating her rival.
On November 4, 1971 at about 3 p.m. the
ill-starred Ansuya had left for the fields taking the baby with her. The
accused tempted and shadowed her, with some clothes from her house, to be
washed in the village stream. P. W. 15, P. W. 4 and P. W. 13 have given
testimony which, if believed, will show that the accused and the deceased were
seen together in the fatal field at about 5 p.m., the day the mother and child
died. It is said that the accused had removed a chisel from her house as she
proceeded to the field and used it to lethal purpose. The medical evidence
shows that Ansuya and Nirmala were stabbed to death with a chisel identified by
the accused's own father, P.W. 2, and the blacksmith who made it, P.W. 15.
Apparently overborne with uncontrollable hatred for the woman who hijacked her
paramour's sexual affection, the accused had planned to kill with cunning. The
manner of stabbing to death was bad enough; it was more brutal for her to have
disfigured the face of the victim which was found burnt. With a view to mislead
and thereby evade easy detection she removed from the deceased's body her
clothes and clothed it with a language belonging to herself. She removed the
child's body, wrapped it in a piece of cloth brought by her and buried it
beneath the river sand. Thereafter she made towards the house of P. W. 11, her
uncle, told P. W. 16 what she had done and pressed him to elope with her. The
sense of safety of P.W. 16 prevailed over his urge for sex relations with this
girl and so he declined to follow her.
The disparate woman left for her husband's
village, while a search for her was being made by P. W. 2, her father. The dead
body in the field was found covered with the accused's clothing and beguiled by
this circumstance P.W. 2 reported to the police Patel, P.W., 5 (Ex. P 1) that
his daughter had been murdered, perhaps by her father-in-law. Taken in by this
report, the Patel informed the police and the SubInspector, P.W. 26, proceeded
to the scene of occurrence, held inquest and sent the body for postmortem
P.W. 22, the doctor, did the autopsy in the
afternoon of November 5. 1971 and the body was brought back to Konapur by
sundown. The Inspector of Police took over the investigation, took into custody
the clothes" near the scene and questioned a number of persons in the
village. The tragic body was being made ready for cremation when the Patel of
village Ankanpally, P.W. 10, 332 moved down to the place with the accused, to
the bewilderment of the people gathered. Meanwhile, P.W. 12, the husband of
Ansuya, finding his wife and child missing, went in search of them vain. The
tidings came of the dead body and the revelation that it was not that of the
accused, as originally suspected. So apprehension turned on the dead body being
that of Ansuya. They went to the place but it was night and the next morning,
i.e., November 6, 1971, P.
W. 12the husband-and P.W. 13-the
mother-in-law-examined the corpse and to their shock discovered it to be the
body of Ansuya. A Panchnama, P-10, was prepared. P.W. 12 reported to the police
officer, P.W. 27 (Ex. P-2) and investigations revived in the new direction. P.
W. 27 sent for the accused, who wanted to see her son, and they all met at the
police station. P.W. 16 turned up at the police station, and breaking down
perhaps under the stress of all that had happened, the accused said that she would
confess. Ex. P7, the confession, was recorded which led to the discovery of the
child's body, the bundle containing the burnt clothes and chisel, etc. (Ex.
P-8). The langha of the accused was also recovered (Ex. P-9). Post-mortem was
done over the body of the child, the accused was arrested and eventually she
was charged with offences under S. 302 and s. 20 1, I.
P. C of course, there is no direct evidence
in the case but the prosecution has placed a clinching wealth of circumstances
and an extra-judicial confession to P.W. 16 to substantiate its version. It is
trite law that Ex. P-7, the confession made while in police custody, is
inadmissible except to the narrow extent salvaged by discoveries made in terms
of S. 27 of the Evidence Act. We are left, therefore, with the confessional
statement made to P.W. 16 orally. If it can be invested with veracity the guilt
of the accused is virtually made out. But it is common-place law-and vehemently
urgedthat a retracted confession made orally to a near-villain like P.W. 16,
who had reason to play for safety, was liable to be rejected without a second
look at the statement. The High Court-and the Sessions Court-have considered
the many weaknesses relating to this confession. Those defects have been
pointed as deadly by counsel for the appellant. We are satisfied that the
credence given to it by the courts below cannot be treated as strange or
otherwise seriously erroneous. Certainly he had no ill-feeling for the accused
and nothing palpably improbable has been made out in the spontaneous
unburdening of her bosom by the accused in distress, hastening to her paramour
after the murder in the hope that she would now vanish with her lover, and
telling him the murderous truth. Marginal mistrust generated by counsel's
argument is inadequate to reject the testimony of P.W. 16. However, there are
circumstances attaching to his whereabouts and the slight delay in his
statement to the police and the dubiety of his character which permitted his
openly wearing a stolen gold ring received from another man's wife. It is but
fair, therefore, for the Court to search for convincing corroboration. The
precedents cited before us by counsel for the appellant take us no further than
the need to ask for satisfactory reinforcement of a retracted confession not
too good to be treated as sufficient in itself to fasten the guilt.
333 We are, therefore, thrown to the task of
evaluating the circumstances and the extent to which they buttress up the
self-incrimination content in the confessionMotive by itself is not much,
particularly in the absence of direct evidence, but in the company of other
factors it plays a probative role. The discovery of the child's dead body and
the clothes belonging to the accused, as well as the chisel of P. W. 2, the
father, which was admittedly missing, are a clear pointer to the guilt,
although by themselves do not cover the entire distance from "may be"
to "must be" in the proof of guilt. The noose of guilt is tightened
by the testimony of P.Ws. 4, 13 and 15. P.W. 13, the mother-in-law of Ansuya,
deposed that the deceased, her daughter-in-law, went out to fetch vegetables
from the fields and the accused was seen following her with a bundle of clothes
to wash them in the stream. P. W. 15, an apparently disinterested man, speaks
of having seen the accused at Khallam at about 5 p.m. near where the deceased
also was. Although the trial court did not choose to believe him, the appellate
court thought that it was not risky to rely on his testimony. P. W. 4 also swore.
to having seen the accused at Khallam at about sundown on the relevant date.
This shepherd also states that he saw the deceased collecting firewood near
about there and heard the cries of a girl. There has been a detailed discussion
of the evidence of these witnesses by the High Court and notwithstanding the
attempt elaborately made by Shri Kathuria, the evidence of these witnesses has
not been fractured or rendered incredible.
The fact that the accused was seen last with
the deceased in a place where and at a time when few others were around, the
fact that the deceased's body was covered cleverly by the clothes of the
accused-foolishly, as we now see by hindsight-the discovery of telltale clothes
on the baby's body, the lethal chisel, her blood-stained skirt concealed in the
bush, all strongly probabilise the truth of the confession.
In a well-considered judgment the learned
Judges of the High Court have covered all the relevant evidence and reached the
unhesitating conclusion that the accused had done to death Ansuya and Nirmala.
Shri Kathuria's persistent effort to attack almost every part of the
prosecution evidence testifies to his industry, which we appreciate, but hardly
carries conviction. All the circumstances converge towards the focal point of
guilt of the accused, her fatuous assumption that others would be deceived
along a wrong trail has failed, and the impending cremation which would have
blotted out a vital evidence was averted and truth has come out. We have hardly
'any doubt that the conviction deserves to be confirmed.
Counsel for the State correctly drew our
attention to 'the great limitations on the exercise of the extraordinary
jurisdiction under art. 136 of the Constitution, particularly, when dealing
with the concurrent findings of fact. He is right in contending that we, should
dismiss arguments which nibble at the credibility of witnesses. But finding the
case hanging on a retracted extra-judicial confession from 9--L954 Sup CI/74
334 a person who does not necessarily inspire great confidence, corroborated
only by circumstantial evidence, we thought it proper to make a conscientious
search to see, if truth had been reached and miscarriage of justice averted. We
are satisfied, as already stated, that the accused's guilt, to the extent human
instruments can apprehend, has been made out.
Guilt once established, the punitive dilemma
begins. The choice between death penalty and life term has to be made in a
situation which is not altogether satisfactory. Modern penology regards crime
and criminal as equally material when the right sentence has to be picked out,
although in our processual system there is neither comprehensive provision nor
adequate machinery for collection and presentation of the social and personal
data of the culprit to the extent required in the verdict on sentence. However,
in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, about to come into force, Parliament has
wisely written into the law a post-conviction stage when the Judges shall
"hear the accused on the question of sentence and then pass sentence on
him according to law." (S. 235 & s. 248).
The case on hand has to be disposed of under
the present Code and we have to fall back upon the method of judicial hunch in
imposing or avoiding capital sentence, aided by such circumstances as are
present on the record introduced for the purpose of proving guilt. We are aware
that in Jagmohan Singh v. State of U. P.(1), there was an argument about the
absence of procedure laid down by the law for determining whether the sentenceof
death or something less is appropriate in the case. The Court viewed this
Criticism from the constitutional angle and observed :
"The Court is primarily concerned with
all the facts and circumstances in so far as they are relevant to the crime and
how it was committed and since at the end of the trial he is liable to be
sentenced, all the facts and circumstances bearing upon the crime are
legitimately brought to the notice of the court. Apart from the
cross-examination of the witnesses. the Criminal Procedure Code requires that
the accused must be questioned with regard to the circumstances appearing
against him in the evidence. He is also questioned generally on the case and
there is an opportunity for him to say whatever he wants to say. He has a right
to examine himself as a witness, thereafter, and give evidence on the material
facts. Again he and his counsel are at liberty to address the court not merely
on the question of guilt but also on the question of sentence. In important
cases like murder the court always gives a chance to the accused to address the
court on the question of sentence." "The sentence follows the
conviction, and it is true that no formal procedure for producing evidence with
reference (1)  1 S. C. C. 20.
335 to the sentence is specifically provided.
The reason is that relevant facts and circumstances impinging on the 'nature
and circumstances of the crime are already before the court." In any
scientific system which turns the focus, at the sentencing stage, not only on
the crime but also the criminal, and seeks to personalise the punishment so
that the reformatory component is as ,much operative as the deterrent element,
it is essential that facts of a social and personal nature, sometimes
altogether irrelevant if not injurious at the stage of fixing the guilt, may
have to be brought to the notice of the Court when the actual sentence is
The prisoner is a young woman of 24 flogged
out of her husband's house by the father-in-law, livingwith her parents with
her only child sex-starved and single. The ethos of the rural area where the
episode occurred does not appear to have been too strict or inhibitive in
matters of sex, for the deceased and the accused were both married and still
philandered out of wedlock with P.W. 16, a middle-aged widower who made no
bones about playing the freelance romancer simultaneously with them. Therefore,
the accused incautiously slipped down into the sex net spread by P.W.
16, and while entangled and infatuated,
discovered in the deceased a nascent rival. With the reckless passion of a
jealous mistress she planned to liquidate her competitor and crudely performed
the double murder, most foul. Perhaps it may be a fable extenuation to remember
that the accused is a young woman who attended routinely to the chores of
domestic drudgery and allowed her flesh to assert itself salaciously when
invited by uncensured opportunity for lonely meetings with P.W. 16. It may also
be worth mentioning that, apart from her youth and womanhood, she has a young
boy to look after. What may perhaps be an extrinsic factor but recognised by
the court as of humane significance in the sentencing context is the brooding
horror of 'hanging' which has been haunting the prisoner in her condemned cell
for over two years. The Sessions Judge pronounced the death penalty on December
31, 1971, and we are now in February 1974. This prolonged agony has
ameliorative impact according to the rulings of this Court. The leading case in
Piara Dusadh v. Emperor(1) was relied upon by this Court in N. Sreeramula v.
State of Andhra Pradesh(2). The following passage from the Federal Court
decision is telling :
"In committing the offence the appellant
must have been actuated by jealousy or by indignation either of which would
tend further to disturb the balance of his mind. He has besides been awaiting
the execution of this death sentence for over a year. We think that in this
case a sentence of transportation for life would be more appropriate than the
sentence of death." (1) A. 1. R.  F. C. L (2) (1974) C. L. J. 1775.
336 The decision in State of Bihar v.
Pashupati Singh(1) strikes a similar note. Although this consideration is
vulnerable to the criticism made by counsel for the State that as between two
capital sentence cases that which is delayed in its ultimate disposal by the
courts receives the less terrible punishment while the other heard with quick
despatch, for that very reason, fails to relieve the victim from condemnation
In this unclear situation it is unfortunate
that there are no penological guidelines in the statute for preferring the
lesser sentence, it being left to ad hoc forensic impressionism to decide for
life or for death. Even so, such sentencing material as we have been able to
salvage from the guilt material in the paper book persuades us to award life
imprisonment to the prisoner and modify to that extent the death sentence
imposed by the courts below.
It behaves us to indicate why we have chosen
In the twilight of law in this area, we have
been influenced by the seminal trends present in the current sociological
thinking and penal strategy in regard to murder. We have also given thought to
the legal changes wrought into the penal code in free India. We confess to the
impact made on us by legislative and judicial approaches made in other
countries although we have warned ourselves against transplanting into our
country concepts and experiences valid in the West.
It cannot be emphasised too often that crime
and punishment are functionally related to the society in which they occur, and
Indian conditions and stages of progress must dominate the exercise of judicial
discretion in this case.
In India the subject of capital punishment
has abortively come before Parliament earlier, although our social scientists
have not made any sociological or statistical study in depth yet. On the
statutory side there has been a significant change since India became free.
Under s.367(5) of the Criminal Procedure Code, as it stood before its amendment
by Act 26 of 1955, the normal rule was to sentence to death a person convicted
for murder and to impose the lesser sentence for reasons to be recorded in
writing. By amendment, this provision was deleted with the result that the
court is now free to award either death sentence or life imprisonment, unlike
formerly when death was the rule and life term the exception, for recorded
reasons. In the new Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 a great change has overtaken
the law. Section 354(3) reads :
"354(3) When the conviction is for an
offence punishable with death or, in the alternative, with imprisonment for
life or imprisonment for a term of years, the judgment shall state the reasons
for the sentence awarded, and, in the case of sentence of death, the special
reasons for such sentence." The unmistakable shift in legislative emphasis
is that life imprisonment for murder is the rule and capital sentence the
exception to be (1) A. 1. R. 1973 S. C. 2699.
337 resorted to for reasons to be stated. In
this context it may not be out of place to indicate-not that it is conclusive
since it is now tentative that under the Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Bill,
1972, s. 302 of the Penal Code has been substituted by a less harsh provision
limiting death penalty to a few special cases (vide s. 122 of the new bill).
It is obvious that the disturbed conscience
of the State on the vexed question of legal threat to life by way of death
sentence has sought to express itself legislatively, the stream of tendency
being towards cautious, partial abolition and a retreat from total retention.
Jagmohan Singh(1) has adjudged capital
sentence constitutional and whatever our view of the social invalidity of the
death penalty, personal predilections must bow to the law as by this Court
declared, adopting the noble words of Justice Stanley Mosk of California
uttered in a death sentence case : "As a judge, I am bound to the law as I
find it to be and not as I fervently wish it to be". (The Yale Law
Journal, Vol. 82, No. 6, P.1138). Even so, when a wise discretion vests in the
court, what are the guidelines in this life and death choice ? The humanism of
our Constitution, echoing the concern of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, is deeply concerned about the worth of the human person. Ignoring the constitutional
content of Anderson (2), and Furman(3), the humanist thrust of the Judicial
vote against cruel or unusual punishment cannot be lost on the Indian
judiciary. The deterrence strategists argue that social defence is served only
by its retention,-thanks to the strong association between murder and capital
punishment in the public imagination,-while the correctional therapists urge
the reform of even murderers and not to extinguish them by execution. History
hopefully reflects the march of civilization from terrorism to humanism and the
geography of death penalty depicts retreat from country after country. The U.K.
and the U.S.A. are notable instances. Among the socialist nations it has been
restricted to very aggravated forms of murder. The lex talionis principle of
life for life survives in some States still, only to highlight that in punitive
practice, as in other matters we do, not live in 'one world' but do move zigzag
forward to the view that the uniquely deterrent effect of death penalty is, in
part, challenged by jurists, commissions and statistics. But as a counterweight
we have what an outstanding justice of the Ontario appeal court said some years
ago(4) "The irrevocable character of the death penalty is a reason why all
possible measures should be taken against injustice-not forits abolition.
Nowadays, with the advent of armed criminals and the substantial increase in
armed robberies, criminals of long standing if arrested, must expect long
However, if they run no risk of hanging, when
found guilty of murder, they will kill policemen and witnesses with the
prospect of a future no more unhappy, as one of them put it.
than being fed, lodged, and clothed for the
rest of their lives." (1) 1 S. C. C. 20.
(2) 100 California Reporter 152 (3) 408 U.
S.-218 (4) Capital Punishment-Thorstn Sellin P. 83 338 The final position, as
we see it, is neither with the absolute abolitionist nor with the Mosaic
retributions. It is relativist, and humanist, conditioned by the sense of
justice and prevailing situation of the given society. In England, men once
believed it to be just that a thief should lose his life (as some Arab
Chieftains do to-day) but the British have gone abolitionist now without
regrets. In contemporary India, the via media of legal deprivation of life
being the exception and long deprivation of liberty the rule fits the social
mood and realities and the direction of the penal and processual laws.
While, deterrence through threat of death may
still be a promising strategy in some frightful areas of murderous crime, to
espouse a monolithic theory of its deterrent efficacy is unscientific and so we
think it right to shift the emphasis, to accept composite factors of penal
strategy and not to put all the punitive eggs in the 'hanging' basket but
hopefully to try the humane mix.
We assume that a better world is one without
legal knifing of life, given propitious social changes. Even so, to sublimate
savagery in individual or society is a long experiment in spiritual chemistry where
moral values, socioeconomic conditions and legislative judgment have a role.
Judicial activism can only be a signpost, a weather vane, no more. We think the
penal direction in this jurisprudential journey points to life prison normally,
as against guillotine, gas chamber, electric chair, firing squad or hangmen's
rope. 'Thou shalt not kill' is a slow commandment in law as in life, addressed
to citizens as well as to States, in peace as in war. We make this survey to
just if your general preference where s.302 keeps two options open and the
question is of great moment.
Let us crystallise the positive indicators
against death sentence under Indian Law currently. Where the murderer is too
young or too old, the clemency of penal justice helps him. Where the offender
suffers from socioeconomic, psychic or penal compulsions insufficient to
attract a legal exception or to downgrade the crime into a lesser one, judicial
commutation is permissible. Other general social pressures, warranting judicial
notice, with an extenuating impact may, in special cases, induce the lesser
Extraordinary features in the judicial
process, such as that the death sentence has hung over the head of the culprit
excruciatingly long, may persuade the court to be compassionate. Likewise, if
others involved in the crime and similarly situated have received the benefit
of life imprisonment or if the offence is only constructive, being .under s.
302 read with s. 149, or again the accused has acted suddenly under another's
instigation, without premeditation, perhaps the court may humanely opt for
life, even like where a just cause or real suspicion of wifely infidelity
pushed the criminal into the crime. On the other hand, the weapons used and the
manner of their use, the borrandous features of the crime and hapless, helpless
state of the victim, and the like, steal the heart of the law for a sterner
sentence. We cannot obviously feed into a judicial computer all such situations
since they are astrological imponderable in an imperfect and undulating
A legal 339 policy on life or death cannot be
left for ad hoc mood or individual predilection and so we have sought to
objectify to the extent possible, abandoning retributive ruthlessness, amending
the deterrent creed and accenting the trend against the extreme and irrevocable
penalty of putting out life.
Here, the criminal's social and personal
factors are less harsh, her feminity and youth, her unbalanced sex and
expulsion from the conjugal home and being the mother of a young boy-these
individually inconclusive and cumulatively marginal facts and circumstances
tend towards award of life imprisonment. We realise the speculative nature of
the correlation between crime and punishment in this case, as in many others,
and conscious of fallibility dilute the death penalty. The larger thought that
quick punishment, though only a life term, is more deterrent than leisurely
judicial death award with liberal interposition of executive clemency, and that
stricter checking on illicit weapons by the police deters better as social
defense against murderous violence than a distant death sentence, is not an
extraneous. component in a court verdict on form of punishment.
We have indicated enough to hold that,
marginal vaccination notwithstanding, the death sentence must be dissolved and
life sentence substituted. To this extent the appeal is allowed, but otherwise
the conviction is confirmed.
Appeal allowed in part.