This article was written by Divyaish Kumar Srivastava, a student of Shri HCPG College.
The history of crime extends long way back to the time the existence of human life on earth started. Man has been doing crime for the past thousands of years and there is no stoppage in the activities of crime in the present. In fact, in the present scenario, crime has increased its graph in compared to the previous years.
The basis of crime is not physical but mental. What that means is that it is not the physical actions but the mental state behind the occurrence of such a physical act is what constitutes a crime. Such mental state behind the occurrence of such a crime is known as “mens rea” or guilty mind. This means that for an act to be considered a crime, it should necessarily be done with a guilty intent.
THE HENIOUS CRIME AND ITS PUNISHMENT
The most heinous crime described under the Indian Penal Code is Murder. Section 302 of the IPC lays down that any person committing a murder shall be punished with a death penalty. Section 303 lays down that if any person serving a life sentence commits a murder then he shall be punishable with death.
However in the present scenario, death penalty (also known as capital punishment) is awarded where the acts of murder are such that they hurt the sentiments of the society at large(1). These are the cases which are described as “Rarest of the Rare.”
RAREST OF THE RARE : MEANING AND CONCEPT
The doctrine of “Rarest of the Rare” is based on “Gandhian Theory” that is “Hate the sin, not the sinner”. This
means that the court wants to state that death-penalty should be awarded rarely and only in such cases which
are heinous, affecting the humanity and are brutal .
The birth of doctrine of “Rarest of the Rare” took place in a case (2) where 4 men were awarded death sentence for shooting 17 persons including men, women and children in night in their homes in a family feud. In this case that Justice Thakkar spoke for the Supreme Court and categorized 5 categories of the rarest of the rare case.
These are :-
i. When murder is committed in any extremely brutal manner.
ii. When murder is committed with a motive that evinces total depravity and meanness.
iii. Antisocial or socially abhorrent nature of the crime.
iv. Crimes of enormous proportion like multiple murders
v. Personality of victim of murder like innocent child(3) or helpless woman.
There have been numerous cases of murder but not all have been described as “Rarest of the Rare”. Thus it is clear that for an act to be considered “Rare”, several other factors(4) have to be taken into consideration
Rarest cases are those in which the “collective conscience of the community is so shocked that it will expect the holders of the judicial power to impose the death penalty.” But the question here arises as to whether an act is really the rarest of the rare. This decision still solely depends on the will of the judges because what may appear rare to one judge may not appear the same to another.
Another point that plays an important role in the judgment of a rare case is the motive(5) behind the conduct of such cold blooded acts of gruesome violence. There has been a lot of study on such psychopaths and it is found that such motive finds its base in the social, economic and psychic condition of the accused(6).
Apart from the categories specified for crimes amounting to rarest of the rare, the supreme court has named the following crimes to be considered as the rarest of the rare :
1. Honor Killings which deserve to be a capital crime,
2. Police brutality in the form of encounter killings,
3. The practice of Sati,
4. Large scale narcotics trafficking,
5. Terrorist activities,
6. Offences of atrocities against members of scheduled casts and schedule tribes leading to the conviction or execution of the member.
ROLE OF INDIAN GOVERNMENT
The doctrine of “Rarest of the Rare” was formulated in 1983(7). But it was only in 2012 in the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23 year old medical student in Delhi that the doctrine caught the eye of the public and the public demanded in a protest, death penalty for the accused persons. It was due to this a case that the “Rarest of the Rare” crime list saw a new addition which stated “ death penalty in cases of rape that leads to death or leaves the victim in
persistent vegetative state.”
Apart from this repeat rape offenders would also be liable for death penalty(8).
The Government didn’t stop here and went on to take more strict steps in order to prevent such crimes from happening in the future. The then union government’s decision came nine days after the committee(9) submitted its report. The Union Cabinet cleared an ordinance that those who commit crimes against women face tougher sentences then those currently on statute book.
The new law for the rarest of the rare cases includes :-
1. Death penalty
2. Imprisonment for the rest of the perpetrator’s natural life
3. The majority age has been reduced from 18 to 16, where the accused has committed an act which falls within the category of “Rarest of the Rare”.(10)
4. In case of rape, old sentence of 7 years has been extended to 20 years.
Apart from these numerous amendments have been made in the criminal law with a view to stop such heinous crimes from occurring time and again and strengthening the present law statute of India for creating a better public image in the global scenario.
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1 Delhi Gang Rape in 2012, Jaghir Singh v. State of Punjab
2 Macchi Singh and ors. v. State of Punjab, (1983) 3 SCC 470
3 Kanta Tiwari v. State of MP
4 Circumstances of the case, Brutality of the Crime, Whether accused is a danger for the society, Reformation chances of accused etc.
5 Sangeet and anr. v. State of Haryana
6 Serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy (America), Cyanide Mohan, Auto Shankar (India)
7 Macchi Singh and ors. v. State of Punjab, (1983) 3 SCC 470
8 Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013
9 The Justice Verma committee which had been asked to suggest how to tighten the law for crimes against women
10 This decision was taken after the Delhi Gang Rape incident where one accused was awarded less punishment than others after he pleaded minority being 17 years of age.