Judges: H.L. Dattu, S.J. Mukhopadhaya and M.Y. Eqbal, JJ.
Appellant: Deepak Rai
Respondent: State of Bihar
This appeal is filed against the verdict and judgment rendered in The State of Bihar v. Deepak Rai Death Reference No. 6 of 2009 by the High Court of Judicature of Patna on 19-8-2010 (Pat). The three appellants were found guilty of fence violations under Sections 120-B, 148, 302 read with Section 149, Section 307 read with Section 149, Sections 326, 429, and 436 by the learned Sessions Judge at Hajipur in Sessions Trials Nos. 195 and 571 of 2006, and the High Court upheld their convictions by the impugned judgement and order dated September 17, 2009 and the order of sentence dated October 30, 2009, respectively.
1. On the night of January 1, 2006, the victim was sleeping outside his house while his wife and five children were inside.
He was awakened at one a.m. by the noise of several people's footsteps. Over 12 to 15 armed people had gathered at his house. Before the victim could leave, the two accused (A1 and A2) seized him and forced him to the ground while gagged.
2. Accused A1 instructed other Accused to surround the home entirely and pour kerosene over it. They had no way out since the remaining suspects locked the door to the house where everyone was sleeping and lit it on fire.
3. They held the victim down and doused him in kerosene while A set Victims mouth on fire a matchstick . The victim was then left behind while the accused ran off. A2 opened fire on the victim as he attempted to flee, but the victim was able to get away and began yelling for his neighbors who was actually his brother.
4. The brother of the victim and other family members who were in the surrounding homes awoke, made their way to the scene, and saw the accused fleeing as the victim was on fire. The victim's house burned to the ground, killing his family and damaging his livestock.
5. The victim was sent to the hospital, but he did not survive because of his fatal injuries. Apparent motive was that the victim did not drop a previous FIR filed against the accused for stealing his livestock, which led to the apprehension of the accused.
1. What is the appropriate penalty that must be imposed in this case?
2. Whether the appellants' crime falls within the category of "the rarest of the rare" in order to invoke the death penalty.
Contentions of the Prosecution
The appellants argued that the courts erred in condemning the defendant to death due to the lack of compelling justifications. Since the court did not provide appropriate reasons for imposing the death penalty on the defendant, the Supreme Court cannot maintain the sentence and must remand the matter to the trial court for reconsideration.
The Counsel further cited Rajesh Kumar v. State through Govt. NCT of Delhi, in which the court declared that Special Reasons are of the utmost importance when imposing the death penalty. If there is no valid justification, the court must commute the death sentence to life imprisonment. The Counsel further argued that the verdict should be reversed in order to ensure that justice is served.
Contentions of the Defence
On the other hand, the Respondent backed the verdict reached by all the courts that convicted and sentenced the accused to death. In addition, the defence argued that this instance satisfies all of the specific grounds criteria necessary to sentence the defendant to death. The attorney also cited the decision in the case of Gurdev Singh v. State of Punjab, in which the court convicted the accused for causing the deaths of over 15 persons and the serious injury of around 8 others, after weighing the facts of the case.
The court determined that because the third main accused crime was not as severe as that of the other two accused, his sentence has been commuted to life in prison, which is a suitable penalty and proportional to his crime. However, the judges determined that the other two accused committed an act that belongs into the category of the rarest of rare situations, in which they mercilessly murdered seven innocent people for revenge. The rationale for the verdict was that the accused perpetrated a horrifying deed on innocent life. This was accomplished by strangling the victim, torching his home, setting him on fire, then firing at him as he attempted to escape. Therefore, A3, the third accused, has been sentenced to life in prison, while the other two accused have been given the death penalty.
Two of the key accused received the death penalty, while the other received life imprisonment. I agree with the court's ruling because the case was horrific and the accused destroyed an entire family. Capital punishment is outdated and should be eliminated, yet victims of rare cases cannot get justice if the suspects are imprisoned for life. The 3rd accused received a life sentence in this case. Democracies matter here. They prioritise rehabilitation above deterrence so the offender can change.
This article is written by Nitank Singh of Symbiosis law school Pune.