On May 3, the Madhya Pradesh (MP) High Court commuted the death sentence of Akbar Khan, a 25-year-old man, convicted of rape and murder of an 80-year-old woman, after “considering the gravity and seriousness of offence.”
The High Court commuted the death sentence imposed under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to an imprisonment sentence for Akbar Khan’s remainder of natural life. The court was deciding whether an adequate sentence was imposed against Akbar Khan or not.
The High Court said that the “important circumstantial evidence undoubtedly establish that the appellant has brutally assaulted and raped an old lady aged about 75-80 years.” The court continued that it is inclined to give its stamp of approval to Akbar Khan’s conviction u/s 302, 376(1) and 450 of the IPC. “The ancillary question is whether the Court below has imposed adequate sentence on the appellant or not,” said the court.
The High Court also referred to Supreme Court’s decision in the Bachan Singh case (1980), the Machhi Singh case (1983) and other judgements which laid down the principles of deciding the quantum of the sentence. The court stated that “the mitigating circumstances and aggravating circumstances need to be looked into while deciding the quantum of penalty.”
“In the instant case, the mitigating circumstances against the appellant are – (i) it is not shown that appellant has any criminal record, (ii) the rape was outcome of personal lust, (iii) the sexual assault which resulted into death was not shown to be outcome of any premeditation and it was done by accused in spontaneity. (iv) the crime was not committed to terrorize or harm a particular or larger section of society. (v) no weapons were used. (vi) the accused is a young person aged about 25 years,” noted the High Court.
Furthermore, the High Court noted, “The aggravating circumstances are that – (i) victim was an old lady aged about 75-80 years, (ii) victim was in a defenseless and unprotected state. (iii) it was a case of abuse, assault and rape of a helpless old lady.”
The High Court relied on the Supreme Court’s recent judgement in Mohd Firoz’s case wherein “a small girl of four years was brutally assaulted and raped.” The High Court noted that “while affirming the conviction of appellant for the offences charged against him, the Supreme Court commuted sentence of death to the sentence of imprisonment for remainder of natural life for offence punishable under Section 302 IPC,” in Mohd Firoz’s case.
The High Court said, “In the facts and circumstances of this case, we deem it proper to follow the same course and while affirming the conviction, deem it proper to commute the sentence, considering the gravity and seriousness of offence to the sentence of imprisonment for the remainder of appellant’s natural life,” while referring to the Supreme Court judgement.
Mohd Firoz’s case
The High Court cited the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Mohd Firoz v State of Madhya Pradesh to commute the death sentence of rape convict Akbar Khan. The appeal before the Supreme Court was filed challenging the MP High Court’s order affirming Seoni Sessions Court’s decision awarding death sentence to the accused Mohd Firoz.
In Mohd Firoz’s case, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence of rape and murder convict Mohd Firoz in the case concerning rape and murder of a 4-year-old girl. The Supreme Court said, “Hence, while balancing the scales of retributive justice and restorative justice, we deem it appropriate to impose upon the appellant-accused, the sentence of imprisonment for a period of twenty years instead of imprisonment for the remainder of his natural life for the offence under section 376A, IPC.”
The Supreme Court cited Oscar Wilde’s quote, “The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” Furthermore, the Court said that one of the basic principles of restorative justice is “to give an opportunity to the offender to repair the damage caused, and to become a socially useful individual, when he is released from the jail.” It is pertinent to note that the Supreme Court was deciding on commuting sentence of a man convicted of rape and murder of a 4-year-old girl.