What Does Rarest Of The Rare Case Means
The supreme court in the case of Bachan Singh vs the state of Punjab laid down
the principle quot life imprisonment is the rule and death sentence is an
exception”. The doctrine of rarest of the rare was first evolved and applied in
this case and later the criteria for deciding such cases were laid in the case,
Machhi Singh. The court while dealing with such cases has to consider all the
How the murder has been committed:
Whenever a person commits a murder in a
very brutal, ridiculous, and heinous way which shakes the sentiments, and
feelings of the entire community, in that case, there is a strong possibility
that the case would fall under the category of rarest of the rare.
court later laid down some of the instances where this doctrine can be
- When the accused burns the house of the victim with the intention to
burn him alive
- When the accused to murder victim performs inhuman and heinous acts on
- When the body of the victim is mutilated or cut into several pieces
How This Doctrine Get Evolved
Nathuram V. Godse V Crown
The first case where the rarest of the rarest doctrine was applied was in the
case of Nathuram V. Godse v. Crown
. The case is related to the assassination of
Mahatma Gandhi. It happened on the night of 30th January 1948 when Nathuram V.
Godse shot dead Mahatma Gandhi when he was attending the petition meeting in
Birla Mandir in Delhi. After a year of trial, capital punishment was given to
him by justice amaranth and later this judgment was upheld by three more judges
of Punjab high court.
Kehar Singh Vs Delhi Administration
The other case where this doctrine was applied was the case of kehar Singh vs
Delhi administration. The apex court, in this case, upheld the capital
punishment which was given by the trial court and which was later confirmed by
the high court. This famous case was related to the conspiracy and murder of
Indira Gandhi and the three accused kehar Singh, Balbir Singh, and Satwant
Singh were booked under section 302, 120 b, 34, 107, and 109 of the IPC. The
apex court in this case held that homicide comes under rarest of the rare cases.
Section 303 Of The Indian Penal Code
In India earlier death penalty was given compulsory for the crime committed
under section 303 of the IPC, but, in the case of Mithu v. State Of Punjab
was held that section 303 of the IPC was an unconstitutional and ultra virus as
it violates article 14 and article 21 of the Indian constitution
Why This Doctrine Was Formed)
The doctrine was mainly formulated to make our justice system easier as it laid
down some criteria under which a judge would be in a position to award the death
penalty to the accused.
Earlier it was completely on the judge to decide whether he has to award the
death sentence to the accused or not. in order to remove this discretion and
arbitrariness, this doctrine was incorporated .this doctrine tell a judge to
take two important factors before deciding on a particular case.
The aggravating factor ( mentioned in the case of Machhi Singh vs the state of
The mitigating factor ( it can be related to the economic condition of the
accused, first time offender, the background of the accused, etc )
Should This Principle Be Abolished In India?
Since there is no straight-jacket formula on what the rarest of the rare case
means, the issue occurs whenever the court has to impose the death penalty. In
all the cases where the death penalty is given as a punishment, it is difficult
to find out what can be classified as a rare case, and what will not. For
example, there are various cases where the death penalty has been to the person
who has committed both rape and murder, but, in many similar situations with the
same circumstances, the death penalty has not been given. In such cases, it is
difficult for the judge to find out such variation. The doctrine in the present
times has lost its clarity mainly because there is no procedure or guidelines.
Application Of Test Of Rarest Of The Rare – A Major Criticism
Ambiguity In The Doctrine
The doctrine of rarest of the rare just like any other doctrine is not free from
criticism. Many scholars and authors have pointed on the ambiguity that this
doctrine has, and it mainly existed because it is subject to multiple
Mindset Of The Bench
One of the major criticism that this doctrine face is the subjectivity that it
posses. the major criticism was raised by justice Bhagwati in his dissenting
opinion. He said that the life of the accused in this type of case is based on
the minds of the bench, how they interpret crime and the criminal, which
violates articles 14 and 21 of the Indian constitution.
Decision Are Arbitrary
Another most important criticism that is often raised is that the decision which
is given under this doctrine suffers from the arbitrariness of the bench. For
instance, there was a case, where the accused in a fit of rage severed the head
of his wife and killed her. The Supreme Court without any second thought
categorized this case under the rarest of the rare and awarded the death penalty
to the accused. But if we look at the case of amruta v state of Maharashtra the
decision of the supreme court looks arbitrary. The case has similar facts and
circumstances but still, the Supreme Court refused to give the death penalty.
The supreme court in the case of Laxman Naik vs the state of Orissa held that
the brutal cold-blooded murder of a tender age after committing a rape on her
falls within the category of rarest of the rare. But in the case of kamudi lal
vs state of up the same precedent was not followed, The case was related to
the rape and murder of a fourteen-year-old girl, where the court refused to
give the death penalty to the accused
Uniform Categories Has To Be Formed
The major criticism related to this doctrine was given by justice PN Bhagwati in
his dissenting opinion where he mentioned describing the crime as gruesome,
cold-blooded, and brutal are not the clear cut categories. There has to be
a uniform definition about the rarest of the rare case because these words are
subjected to multiple interpretations by different judges.
Proper rules and regulation should be drafted by the legislature to make this
doctrine more clear and precise.
- uniform rules need to be set up so that the court can distinguish
between a normal murder case and the rarest of the rare case.
- the choice must be taken with due consideration and by keeping in mind
the circumstances under which such crime has been committed
- capital punishment should not get postponed after its declaration
Supreme Court in the case of Triveni Bai v. Territory of Gujarat
the court held
that capital punishment should be postponed on some reasonable grounds. so that
the accused get some reasonable preliminary. it has also been held that there
should not be any deferral once capital punishment has been announced. it does
not mean that the court is not giving reasonable time to the accused to appeal,
but it means that it should be within a limited time frame.