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Analysis Of The Rarest Of Rare Doctrine

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 below-mentioned points.

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.

The apex court later laid down some of the instances where this doctrine can be applied:
  • 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 the victim
  • 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 it 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 Punjab )
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 interpretations.

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.

Author Note
Proper rules and regulation should be drafted by the legislature to make this doctrine more clear and precise.
  1. 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.
  2. the choice must be taken with due consideration and by keeping in mind the circumstances under which such crime has been committed
  3. 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.

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