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A Landmark Judgment: The Aloke Nath Case And The Definition Of 'Rarest Of Rare

The particular case at hand, is that of a criminal one in nature. The case deals with the offences of criminal conspiracy, murder, amongst others. This assignment covers briefly the facts, judgements and thereafter a critical analysis of the case structure and law. The facets of the offences along with the liabilities and constitutional provisions are discussed elaborately. This case was regarded as a landmark judgement, wherein the absolute definition of 'rarest of rare cases' were discussed between the federal courts.

The case 'Aloke Nath & Ors. V. State of West Bengal was a landmark judgement of 2006. Numerous wrongs were put forth by the counsel of the petitioner, including Criminal conspiracy, offence of disappearance of unquestionable evidence, murder, and further. The accused were put to trial and charged under the laws of the Indian Penal Code.

This very case was judged in the Apex Court of the country, The Supreme Court of India, benched by J. SB Sinha and J. Dalveer Bhandari. This case was that of a criminal appeal filed by the petitioners, after an unsatisfactory judgement by the sessions and the High court of West Bengal.

Here, the Supreme court deeply questioned and analysed the definition and ambit of 'Rarest of Rare cases' and subsequently overturning the judgement of death penalty, citing the case as rarest of rare, while upholding certain significant parts of the judgement by the lower courts.

The appellants moved the High court after the judgement by the sessions court in 2003. Thereafter, preferring the appeal further upward in the Supreme court.

Facts Of The Case
A property transfer by the owner was done towards his wife for reasons not of particular reference. A total amount of 65000 was transferred by Arunmoy Bose to the primary accused, Aloke Nath. As opined by Bikash Pal, who identified as a witness to the above stated transaction, there was already a family deed dispute. At disagreement by other owners of the property, The purchasers declined from furthering any amount unless the said part of property was put into their possession.

Aloke Nath caused death of Biswanath Dutta, one of the owners of the property that Aloke Nath had promised to sell to Bose and others. The accused voluntarily confessed to causing death by suffocating the victim, by pressing his neck while sleeping, death by asphyxia and thereafter concealing the dead body. The doctor opined death due to throttling.

As per the confession of Mrinal Dutta, he was forced to be part of the conspiracy of murder and join Aloke Nath and there was doubt about his greater involvement. The main accused Aloke Nath remained silent throughout trial.

Issues Of The Case
There were various questions and points of contentions that rose in front of the judiciary.
  1. Was the death penalty warranted and upheld by the appellate court in this case?
  2. Can confession of co-accused be considered as final and independent alongside it being considered the sole ground for conviction?
  3. Is it elemental to consider the proportionality of crime and the degree of punishment awarded as against the offence committed?
  4. Whether death penalty should continue to be lawful and practiced by the Courts of India or may be abolished wholly?

Judgement And Analysis
  1. The court observed that confession of a co-accused cannot be the sole grounds for a conviction. The court in Kashmira Singh v. State of M.P was of the decision that the confession solely of the accused cannot be the only point of consideration for a conviction. It can only efficiently be used to support other evidence. This was substantiated in Ram Parkash v. State of Punjab, where the court also held that a voluntary confession by accused, even if pulled back at a later stage, may permissibly be considered against the co-accused under Section 30 of the Evidence Act but in a prudent and reasonable court, the court may not act upon such without a strong corroboration in material.
  2. The decision regarding death penalty was not upheld. The court simply observed that when a particular statute provides for death penalty, as long as it is not ultra vires to the constitutional provisions, total elimination of application cannot be upheld. However, keeping in view the outcome of the Courts in this particular case, the jurisdiction of this particular court is limited. The sole criteria was established that of the case fulfilling the category of 'rarest of rare case'. Is this particular case a case of 'rarest of rare?', the court was of a negative opinion.
  3. The court believed that the intensity of the crime has to be proportionate to the nature of the offence committed. The principle of proportionality between a sentence and a crime is a principle that acts as a foundation of every justifiable criminal sentence. Criminal law adheres to the proportionality principle, prescribing liability as per the nature and culpability of each criminal conduct. This maintains fluidity and upholds the judge's discretion to arrive at a sentence of each case.

This particular case of the offences listed under, discussed briefly and concisely, highlighted the power and discretion that Superior courts exercise over lower courts. The Supreme court also revaluated the judgements of the High court and Sessions court, upholding some decisions, while overturning some fundamental judgements, thus paving way for an elaborate debate for what the 'essential' for conviction under a particular offence is, and what essentially is the essence and ambit of 'rarest of rare' and the ideal punishment for such offences.

The courts argued that death penalty, though not to be abolished, must be taken as last resort, only for crimes of overly grievous and rare In nature, and if they supersede the seriousness attributed with life imprisonment. The court simply observed that the nature and intensity of the crime must be directly proportional in degree with the punishment awarded, and thus cannot be arbitrary and unreasonable.

Conclusively, the case of Aloke Nath & Ors. Vs State of West Bengal, highlighted and acted as a precedent case law, for it widely discussed and defined the laws regarding extra judicial confessions, rarest of rare crimes and proportionality of crime and punishment.

  1. AIR 1952 SC 159, 1952 Cri LJ 839
  2. Aloke Nath Dutta Vs. State Of W B
  3. 1959 AIR, 1 1959 SCR 1210

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