Apex court: don’t be lenient while giving punishment in caste killings


Apex court: don’t be lenient while giving punishment in caste killings

Legal Correspondent

“Judges tend to become apologetic in cases of murders arising out of caste”

“Has this hands-off approach led to creation of casteless utopia?”

Bench says considering the gravity of offence, death penalty ought to have been awarded

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked the trial courts and High Courts not to show any leniency while awarding punishment in cases relating to murders due to caste conflicts.

“We notice that while judges tend to be extremely harsh in dealing with murders committed on account of religious factors, they tend to become more conservative and almost apologetic in cases of murders arising out of caste on the premise [as in this very case] that society should be given time so that the necessary change comes about in the normal course,” said a Bench of Justices S.B. Sinha and H.S. Bedi.

The Bench said: “Has this hands-off approach led to the creation of the casteless utopia or even a perceptible movement in that direction? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’ as would be clear from mushrooming caste-based organisations controlled and manipulated by self appointed commissars, who have arrogated to themselves the right to be the sole arbiters and defenders of their castes with the license to kill and maim to enforce their diktats and bring in line those who dare to deviate. Resultantly, the idyllic situation that we perceive is as distant as ever.”

In the instant case, the Bench was dealing with a batch of appeals filed by six persons. A trial court in Maharashtra had awarded death sentence to Bhagwansingh Randhava and three others and life imprisonment to Mayakaur Sardar and Nirmalkaur Sardar. They were charged with murdering a family of four in June 1999 to vindicate the honour of their caste.

Life term for six

On appeals, the Bombay High Court awarded life imprisonment to the six. While they filed appeals challenging the life sentence, the State, in its appeal, sought death penalty for them.

Writing the judgment, Mr. Justice Bedi said: “The efficacy, or otherwise, of the death penalty is a matter of much debate in legal circles — with two diametrically opposite views on the subject. As judges applying the law, we must be alive to the needs of society and the damage which can result if a ghastly crime is not dealt with in an effective and proper manner.”

The Bench said, “Both parties are Sikhs, a religion which had its genesis in a revolt against casteism with the belief that there was only one caste — humanity — imbued with one spirit, humanism and thus promoted the brotherhood of men with the ethos that no one was good or bad as all had emanated from the same “Noor” [light].”

Considering the gravity of offence, death penalty ought to have been awarded to the accused. “However, we are not inclined to reverse the life sentence awarded by the High Court and to re-impose death penalty in view of the fact that the accused had served eight years of their sentence in jail.”

One acquitted

The Bench, however, acquitted Rana Darshan Singh and ordered his release.

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