The death sentence for Santosh Kumar Singh came after the court went through the arguments of the defence and the prosecution — the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in this case — on whether his crime fell in the "rarest of rare" category.
The CBI cited several gruesome cases where death had been awarded to the guilty. Two murder cases — Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab (1980) and Macchi Singh vs State of Punjab (1983) — were referred to in which the court gave death to the accused.
Also cited were the case of Dhananjay Chatterjee who was hanged in 2004 for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Kolkata and the State of UP vs Satish case last year, in which the Supreme Court had ruled that "rape is one of the most depraved acts".
"The iniquitous and diabolic act reaches the lowest level of humanity when the rape is followed by brutal murder," the Supreme Court had said in the Satish case.
On Monday, Additional Solicitor General Amarendra Sharan, appearing for the CBI, cited these cases when Santosh Singh's lawyer RK Naseem argued that the case did not fall within the ambit of "rarest of rare". Naseem said the Supreme Court had stated that extreme punishment like death was not called for, specially when the accused was acquitted once by a court on an element of doubt.
"Various courts have given death sentences in cases where rape is followed by murder. And which case can be more diabolic, gruesome, revolting, dastardly and inhuman than this? He (Santosh Singh) is a danger to society and the possibility of his reformation is ruled out," Sharan said.
Santosh Singh's lawyer argued that the convict should be given a chance to reform on the grounds that his conduct had been exemplary while he was in prison during the trial of the case. A plea for leniency was also made on the ground that Santosh Singh had responsibilities to fulfill as "the father of a two-year-old girl, son of an ailing father and as an aid to his mentally retarded brother".
The CBI said, "To decide whether a case is rarest of rare is left to the court's discretion. But in Bachan's case, the Supreme Court has laid down a few principles which were to be kept in mind while deciding the question of sentence."
"One of the very important principles is regarding aggravating and mitigating circumstances. It has been the view of the court that while deciding the question of sentence, a balance sheet of aggravating and mitigating circumstances in that particular case has to be drawn," said Sharan. That is, the court should keep in mind the factors that go against and for the accused.
But the bench's balance sheet went against Santosh Singh.
"After evaluating the circumstances in favour and against the accused, we find that the aggravating circumstances far outweigh the mitigating circumstances. The case falls in the rarest of rare category," the judges said.