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Report No. 202

2.8 Some of the cases where the Hon'ble Supreme Court has commuted capital punishment to life imprisonment:

2.8.1 In Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab, (1983) 3 SCC 470, the three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court considered the Constitution Bench decision Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab and came to hold that where there is no proof of extreme culpability, the extreme penalty need not be given. The Supreme Court also further observed that the extreme penalty of death may be given only in the rarest of rare cases where aggravating circumstances are such that the extreme penalty meets the ends of justice.

2.8.2 In Suresh v. State of U.P., 2001 Cr. L.J. 1462 (SC), the conviction was based upon the evidence of a child witness and Chandrachud, C.J. speaking for the Court held that it will not be safe to impose extreme penalty of death in a conviction based on the deposition of a child. It was further observed that the extreme sentence cannot seek its main support from the evidence of a child witness and it is not safe enough to act upon such deposition, even if true, for putting out a life.

2.8.3 In Raja Ram Yadav v. State of Bihar, 1996 Cr. L.J. 2307 : AIR 1996 SC 1631, the Hon'ble Supreme Court came to hold that a gruesome and cruel incident did take place and yet did not think it appropriate to affirm a sentence of death and commuted to life imprisonment. The Hon'ble Apex Court held that:

"We feel that although the murders had been committed in a premeditated and calculated manner with extreme cruelty and brutality, for which normally sentence of death will be wholly justified, in the special facts of the case, it will not be proper to award extreme sentence of death."

2.8.4 In "Sheikh Abdul Hamid & Anr. v. State of M.P., (1998) 3 SCC 188" the Hon'ble Supreme Court has held that:

"Special reasons given by the trial court in awarding death sentence to the appellants and confirmed by the High Court, were that it was such a cruel act where the appellants have not even spared the innocent child and the motive being to grab the property. We have given our earnest consideration to the question of sentence and the reasons given by the High Court for awarding death sentence to the appellants. Having regard to the guidelines stated above, it may be noticed that in the present case it was not pointed out by the prosecution that it was a cold-blooded murder. There is nothing on record to show how the murder has taken place. In the absence of such evidence, we do not find that the case before us falls within the category of the rarest of rare cases, deserving extreme penalty of death."

2.8.5 In "Ronny Alias Ronald James Alwaris & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra, (1998) 3 SCC 625" where there were more than one offender, it has been held by the Hon'ble Supreme Court that:

"The possibility of reform and rehabilitation, however, cannot be ruled out. From the facts and circumstances, it is not possible to predict as to whom among the three played which part. It may be that the role of one has been more culpable in degree than that of the others and vice versa. Where in a case like this it is not possible to say as to whose case falls within the "rarest of the rare" cases, it would serve the ends of justice if the capital punishment is commuted into life imprisonment."

2.8.6 In "Gurnam Singh & Anr. v. State of Punjab, (1998) 7 SCC 722". The Hon'ble Supreme Court while commuting the death sentence to imprisonment for life has said that:

"We are also of the view that in the absence of any evidence as regard the motive for abduction and as regards the accused who actually caused their deaths and the manner and circumstances in which they were caused, the Designated Court should not have imposed death sentence upon appellant Gurnam Singh."

2.8.7 In "Allauddin Mian & Ors. v. State of Bihar, (1989) 3 SCC 5" The Hon'ble Supreme Court has said that:

"Having come to the conclusion that Allauddin Mian and Keyamuddin Mian are guilty of murder, the next question is what punishment should be awarded to them, namely, whether extinction of life or incarceration for life. Section 36302, IPC casts a heavy duty on the court to choose between death and imprisonment for life. When the Court is called upon to choose between the convicts cry 'I want to live' and the prosecutor's demand 'he deserves to die' it goes without saying that the court must show a high degree of concern and sensitiveness in the choice of sentence."

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