Pendency of cases not a factor for awarding sentence:SC

SUPREME COURT

The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that pendency of criminal cases cannot be a factor for awarding a death sentence to a convict as it may violate his right to the presumption of innocence.

“The history of the convict, including recidivism, cannot, by itself, be a ground for awarding the death sentence,” the top court said.

It said mere pendency of one or more criminal cases against a convict cannot be a factor for consideration while awarding a sentence. “Not only is it statutorily impermissible (except in some cases) but even otherwise it violates the fundamental presumption of innocence – a human right – that everyone is entitled to,” a bench presided over by Justice Madan B Lokur said.

“It must be held that in terms of Section 54 of the Indian Evidence Act the antecedents of a convict are not relevant for the purposes of awarding a sentence, unless the convict gives evidence of his good character,” a bench, also comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta, said.

The court explained the legal position in its judgement on a review petition filed by the death row convict Rajendra Pralhadrao Wasnik. He was convicted for the rape and murder of a three-year-old girl in 2007 in Amravati in Maharashtra. The court, however, directed that he would not be released from jail till the end of his life.

It found that the trial court, the Bombay High Court and also the apex court had earlier not taken into consideration the probability of reformation, rehabilitation and social re-integration of the convict into society.

On considering his review petition, the court noted the prosecution was remiss in not producing the available DNA evidence. After being informed about pendency of two more cases, the bench said, “We must express our shock and anguish that the appellant had the opportunity to commit the offences alleged against him on more than one occasion due to bail granted to him.” 

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Pendency of cases not a factor for awarding sentence:SC

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