Citing an express provision of criminal law relating to rape and some special reasons the Supreme Court has justified reducing the jail term of three gang rape convicts who were sentenced to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment by both the trial court, and Punjab and Haryana high court.
While noting that rape is a non-compoundable offence (i.e. cannot be compromised) with minimum sentence of 10 years, a bench comprising justice Markandey Katju and justice Gyan Sudha Misra said: "We think there are adequate and special reasons for doing so."
The court invoked the proviso of Section 376 (2) (g) that permits imposition of a lesser sentence for which adequate and special reasons have to be given.
"Considering that the incident happened in the year 1997 and that the parties have themselves entered into a compromise, we uphold the conviction but we reduce the sentence to the period of sentence already undergone in view of the proviso to Section 376 (2) (g) ....," the bench observed.
The court mentioned in its order that an application and affidavit were filed before it stating the accused and the victim wanted to end the "dispute".
The bench did not acquit the accused, but decided to invoke the special provision to let them free on the ground that the incident was an old one and the victim and accused were married. "The prosecutrix (victim) also has two children," the court said.
But it increased the fine imposed by the trial court from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 50,000 and asked them to give it to the victim.
"We direct that each of the appellant will pay a sum of Rs. 50,000 by way of enhancement of fine to the victim....," the bench ordered. It asked the accused to pay the victim within three months. If they fail, the fine would be recovered as arrears of land revenue.