Death Sentence to Continue in Rarest of Rare cases



Those who have been advocating that ‘capital punishment’ should be completely taken off the statute must be disappointed by the judgement of the Supreme Court in ‘Khushwinder Singh vs. State of Punjab’ case. The Court reiterated that the death sentence will continue to remain valid in the ‘rarest of rare’ cases. In the previous piece of the Judicial Panorama, it was discussed how the six innocent persons, who were waiting to be hanged were acquitted because they were falsely implicated by the Police.

In this case, the court has said that anything less than the death sentence will be an injustice. The case of the prosecution is that one Jasmeen Kaur who was married to Rupinder Singh in the year 2005. They had two children from their marriage. However, the atmosphere in the family of Jasmeen’s in-laws was not good. So, she started living along with her husband and children at her natal place. Her brother was a drunkard. Jasmeen was approached by Manjit Kaur, wife of the accused Khushwinder Singh, who is the daughter of her maternal uncle. Khushwinder, the accused informed the family of Jasmeen that he knew one ‘Baba’ (holy man) who can make a person get rid of the habit of drinking permanently.

The accused further informed that he also knew one travel agent, who could send her husband, Rupinder Singh to Canada. The accused demanded Rs Two Lakh as initial expenses. He also informed that the remaining amount of Rs. 14 lakhs was to be paid on getting the visa. Thereupon, the family of the complainant pledged their gold ornaments with the goldsmith and borrowed money. The accused further informed that he had also got in touch with ‘Baba’ (holy man) to enable Gurinder Singh to give up his habit of drinking and, for that purpose, they would have to offer “Dhala” (offering certain pulses, rice etc. in running water).

On the evening of 25 June 2012 at about 06.00 p.m., the accused came  to the house of the complainant, Jasmeen, in his car and informed that the “Dhala” was to be offered on the night at about 02.30 a.m. and, for this purpose, the accused made Paramjit Kaur – mother, Gurinder Singh @ Babbu – brother and Rupinder Singh – husband of complainant respectively to accompany him. Gurinder Singh, the father of the complainant, also accompanied them as he was to pay obeisance at Gurudwara Rara Sahib. Then, on 26th June 2012 at about 11.30 a.m. the accused came back in his car and informed that Gurinder Singh, Paramjit Kaur and Rupinder Singh had been left with ‘Baba ji’. In the evening, the complainant should accompany him to the ‘Baba” for offering ‘Dhala’.

On the same day at about 6.30 p.m. Jasmeen Kaur, along with her father Gurmail Singh, son Jaskirat Singh and daughter Prabhsimran Kaur accompanied the accused in his Maruti car. On the way, the accused informed that he had received a phone call from ‘Baba ji’ that Gurinder Singh would permanently cure of his drinking habit, but in turn, Gurmail Singh, father of the complainant, would have to take a drink. Thereafter, on the way, the accused purchased a half liquor bottle and gave it to Gurmail Singh, who gradually consumed the half liquor bottle. Thereafter, the accused took some rounds and got the complainant, her children and Gurmail Singh towards the canal where he turned his car towards the bridge and informed the complainant that they were to first offer “Dhala”. On this Jasmeen Kaur and her father Gurmail Singh got down from the car and the children kept sitting in the car. They came to the bank of the canal and when they were to offer “Dhala” in the running water, the accused pushed both of them in the canal. Jasmeen Kaur, however, fell on one side of the canal near the edge and somehow saved herself. She came out of the canal and by coming along the canal she disclosed the entire occurrence to the official of the canal department who, further informed it to the parental family. They searched for her father and children, but she could not get to know anything about them.

The complainant had a firm belief that the accused by cheating their entire family on a false pretext had thrown her husband Rupinder Singh, her brother Gurinder Singh, mother Paramjit Kaur, son Jaskirat Singh and daughter Prabhsimran Kaur had been illegally detained somewhere or they had been thrown in the canal. The complainant further alleged that, along with her, her father Gurmail Singh was also thrown in the canal by the accused and the accused had killed him so that his dead body may be untraceable. The complainant further informed in her statement that they had sold their land for Rs. 37 Lakh and that money were lying at their home and only the accused knew about it. The accused, therefore, had finished her entire family as he wanted to grab the amount.

On being interrogated, the accused made some disclosures to the police, including that he had stolen Rs. thirty-six Lakh seventy thousand from the house of Gurmail Singh and he had concealed to money in his house in a bag which was lying in the almirah of his house from where the amount was recovered. During the course of the investigation and on the basis of the statement made by the accused during interrogation, the Chappals and shoes of the victims were found/recovered. That, during interrogation, the accused made a statement that on 26th June 2012 morning he administered sleeping pills with ‘mishri’ (Sugar) to Rupinder Singh, Gurinder Singh and Paramjit Kaur before offering ‘Dhala’.

The Sessions Court convicted the appellant-accused for offences punishable under Sections 302, 307, 364, 201 and 380 of the IPC and awarded death sentence for the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC. The High Court has, on re-appreciation of the entire evidence on record and by a well-reasoned judgment, confirmed the conviction and sentence passed by the Sessions Court, including the death sentence.

It is to be noted that six persons out of seven members of a family have been killed by the accused. The complaint was also thrown into the canal by the accused along with her father Gurmail Singh and her two children aged seven and eight years. The accused was last seen together with the deceased Gurinder Singh, Paramjit Kaur and Rupinder Singh. The dead body of Gurinder Singh was found by the police on 29th June 2012. The complainant having seen the accused last together with the aforesaid three persons has been established and proved by the prosecution by leading cogent evidence.

The Supreme Court in a catena of decisions that minor discrepancies are not to be given undue emphasis and the evidence is to be considered from the point of view of trustworthiness. Here in this case, there are no material contradictions which may affect the case of the prosecution. The complainant is the eye-witness and also the victim. She has been fully cross-examined by the defence. But the defence has not brought out anything from her cross-examination which may affect the case of the prosecution and/or which may doubt her trustworthiness.

Considering the aforesaid facts and circumstances of the case and the findings recorded by the Sessions Court and confirmed by the High Court, in detail by giving cogent reasons and on appreciation of the evidence on record, we are of the opinion that the High Court has rightly confirmed the conviction of the accused of the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC having killed/committing the murder of six persons.

In the present case, the accused has killed six innocent persons, out of which two were minors – below 10 years of age. Almost, all the family members of the complainant were done to death in a diabolical and dastardly manner. Fortunately, or unfortunately, only one person of the family could survive. In the present case, the accused has killed six innocent persons in a pre-planned manner. The convict meticulously planned the time. He first kidnapped three persons by way of deception and took them to the canal and after drugging them with sleeping tablets, pushed them in the canal at a mid-night to ensure that the crime is not detected. Therefore, considering the law laid down by this Court in the case of Mukesh v. State (NCT of Delhi), the case would fall in the category of the “rarest of rare case” warranting death sentence/capital punishment. Striking a balance between the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, we are of the opinion that the aggravating circumstance would tilt the balance in favour of capital punishment.

The crime is committed with extremist brutality and the collective conscious of the society would be shocked. Therefore, we are of the opinion that capital punishment/death sentence does not warrant any interference by this Court. Thus, the Supreme Court has again said that the death sentence cannot be abandoned if the crime is exceedingly shocking to the conscience of society.



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