The Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of first-time offender, convicted for the murder of his two siblings and nephew over a property dispute, saying that it is important to take into consideration not only the crime but also the criminal’s state of mind and his socio-economic conditions while handing down a sentence.
The accused was sentenced to death by the trial court on April 4, 2017, and the verdict confirmed by the high court. The accused challenged the high court order in the top court.
A bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, B.R. Gavai, and B.V. Nagarathna said: “From the judgment of the trial court as well as the High Court, it does not appear that the courts below have drawn a balance sheet of mitigating and aggravating circumstances.
“The trial court as well as the High Court has only taken into consideration the crime but have not taken into consideration the criminal, his state of mind, his socioeconomic background etc.”
The bench noted that the accused hails from a rural and economically poor background and there are no criminal antecedents.
“The appellant cannot be said to be a hardened criminal. This is the first offence committed by the appellant, no doubt, a heinous one. The certificate issued by the jail superintendent shows that the conduct of the appellant during incarceration has been satisfactory,” said Justice Gavai, who authored the judgment on behalf of the bench.
The top court said it cannot be said that there is no possibility of the appellant being reformed and rehabilitated foreclosing the alternative option of a lesser sentence and making imposition of death sentence imperative.
Citing these reasons, the top court commuted the death sentence of the accused to 30 years imprisonment.
The bench added: “In view of the settled legal position, it is our bounden duty to take into consideration the probability of the accused being reformed and rehabilitated. It is also our duty to take into consideration not only the crime but also the criminal, his state of mind and his socio-economic conditions.”
The bench noted that the state government did not place on record any evidence to show that there is no possibility with respect to reformation or rehabilitation of the convict.
It pointed out that the trial court had convicted the appellant and imposed the death penalty on the very same day. “From the judgment of the trial court, it does not appear that the appellant was given a meaningful time and a real opportunity of hearing on the question of sentence,” said the bench.
Bhagchandra was convicted of killing his brothers – Thakur Das and Devki Prasad – and nephew Akhilesh, son of Devki Prasad, in October 2015. A case was registered at police station, Maharajpur.