Cases in question
A look at four cases: Indira Gandhi assassination case, the Priyadarshini Mattoo case, the tandoor murder case and the Parliament attack case.
Indira Gandhi’s assassination: “The evidence is overwhelming against the three accused. This is one of those ‘rarest of rare’ crimes in which the ultimate penalty is clearly called for. I sentence Satwant Singh, Kehar Singh and Balbir Singh to death”, judge Mahesh Chandra said while condemning the killers of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to be hanged.
“The crime is ‘rarest of the rare’ inter alia, on the ground that the convicts were involved in assassinating a great daughter of India and the Prime Minister of India and that the act of the accused not only took away the life of the popular leader but also undermined our democratic system which had been working so well for the last 40 years”, the Supreme Court noted while upholding the death sentences of Satwant and Kehar.
Satwant had confessed but the evidence against Kehar was purely circumstantial. The sentence was carried out on January 6, 1989 inside Tihar Jail. All posible appeals, including the presidential pardon, had been exhausted by the defence .
The Priyadarshini Mattoo case: “…We are of the view that circumstances form a complete chain that leads us to the only conclusion: That it is the respondent Santosh Kumar Singh who had committed rape upon the deceased and then murdered her … by acquitting the respondent despite being convinced that there was no doubt in the prosecution case the trial court had mauled justice. Its decision shocked the judicial conscience of this court,” Delhi High Court justices RS Sodhi and PK Bhasin said on October 17 in the Priyadarshini Mattoo case.
Seven years ago a sessions court had acquitted the accused on a technicality though the judge said he knew Singh was the one who had committed the crime. The campaign triggered by acquittals in the Jessica Lall case led to the appeal against this acquittal, stuck in the judicial labyrinth for six years, being fast-tracked. The conviction over, now suspense prevails over the sentence Singh will be awarded. This will be decided on October 30. Singh will appeal for a chance to reform, the CBI for his death.
The tandoor murder: “Profaning the dead body by cutting it into pieces and burning it in the tandoor of a helpless and hapless woman, whom the convict exploited for his own political career, is an insult to womanhood. Sentence of death is the only appropriate sentence,” judge GP Thareja said while convicting Sushil Sharma for murdering his wife Naina Sahni on November 7, 2003. Sharma was pronounced guilty by the same judge who had acquitted Santosh Singh in the Priyadarshini Mattoo case. Holding that the murder committed by Sharma fell in the “rarest of the rare” category as defined by the Supreme Court, Thareja, said he should be “hanged by the neck till dead.”
Sharma’s death sentence is yet to be confirmed by the Delhi High Court where his appeal against the conviction is being heard daily by a Division Bench comprising of Justices RS Sodhi and PK Bhasin, which had recently convicted Santosh Kumar Singh in the Priyadarshini Mattoo case. Sharma says the prosecution has not been able to make an unbroken chain of circumstantial evidence.
The Parliament attack case: The Parliament attack casea“The collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.” This is what a Bench of Justice PV Reddy and Justice PP Naolekar of the Supreme Court said while upholding the death penalty given to Parliament attack case convict Md Afzal. Terming the attack as “a challenge to the unity and integrity of the country”, the apex court said “the accused is a menace to the society and his life should become extinct.”
A POTA court had earlier awarded death to Delhi University lecturer SAR Geelani, Afzal and Shaukat Hussain Guru for conspiring with five terrorists including Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief Maulana Masood Azhar in the attack on Parliament. Shaukat’s wife Afsan Guru was sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment. However, on appeal, the Delhi High Court acquitted Geelani and Afsan while upholding the death sentence awarded to the other two convicts by the trial court. The SC later reduced Shaukat’s sentence to ten years rigorous imprisonment.