SC upholds 2:1 the validity of death sentence for murder

New Delhi: The supreme court on Wednesday upheld the validity of the death sentence for murder under penal law while it commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence of one Channnu Lal Verma, a resident of Chhattisgarh.

The bench of Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Hemant Gupta upheld the penal provision of the death sentence under Section 302 of the IPC by a majority of 2:1.

Justice Joseph differed seeking a review of the capital punishment as it has failed to be deterrent to curb the heinous crime. Justice Joseph is retiring on Thursday.

He cited a report of the Law Commission which says the death penalty has failed to be a deterrent to curb heinous crimes.

However, Justice Deepak Gupta also speaking for Justice Hemant Gupta, defended the retention of the death penalty. The majority judgment referred to earlier judgments of the top court in Bachan Singh and Machhi Singh upholding the validity of the capital punishment.

Justice Joseph in his minority judgment said that trial court proceedings at times get impacted by public opinion and even the investigating agencies mount pressure for the conviction of the accused.

It is court’s duty to be “constitutionally correct” even when its view is “counter-majoritarian,” Justice Joseph said. “After all, the society’s perspective is generally formed by emotionally charged narratives. Such narratives need not necessarily be legally correct, properly informed or procedurally proper.”

The top court had earlier, in Delhi gang rape case, upheld the validity of the death sentence, and in the Bachchan Singh’s case in the 1980s, the top court had coined the doctrine of “the rarest of rare” case for the award of the death sentence.

In the instant case, three judges while pronouncing the split verdict on the validity of death sentence as punishment, commuted the death sentence of one Channnu Lal Verma of Chhattisgarh who was convicted and awarded the death sentence by the trial court and the same was upheld by the High Court.

Channnu Lal Verma was convicted for the murder of three people who had appeared as witness against him in an alleged rape case. Channnu Lal Verma was acquitted in the rape case.

Channnu had murdered 25-year-old Ratna Bai, her father-in-law Ram Sahu and mother-in-law Firtin Bai.