Socio-Economic Factors as Mitigating Circumstance in Sentencing
Mulla v. State of U.P. CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 396 OF 2008, Date of Judgment 08-02-10
Appreciation of Mitigating Factors
The SC in this case reiterates the rule that "life imprisonment is the rule and death penalty an exception". The court commuted death penalty awarded by the lower court to life imprisonment.
The criteria to determine whether the case falls in rarest of rare category is laid out as follows;
"(1) the gruesome nature of the crime
(2) the mitigating and aggravating circumstances in the case
(3) whether any other punishment would be completely inadequate.
The Court must satisfy itself that death penalty would be the only punishment which can be meted out to the convict."
Explaining the mitigating circumstance, the court enlarged the points of consideration adding socio-economic factors that might have led to the commission of the crime. Having said this, Justice Sathasivam was quick to add that "[w]e at no stage suggest that economic depravity justify moral depravity ... [though] socio-economic factors might not dilute guilt, but they may amount to mitigating circumstances"
Length of Life Sentence
Life sentence though convey the idea that it for the rest of life, do not stretch beyond 14 years. (See, Sections 45 and 47 of the I. P. C and Sections 432, 433 and 433A Cr. P. C).
The court but asserts that the sentencing court has the authority to prescribe the length of the incarceration. "This is especially true in cases where death sentence has been replaced by life imprisonment"
Remitting death penalty, the court hand out the punishment of life sentence in this case must extend to their full life, subject to any remission by the Government for good reasons.
"I realise that some of my criticisms may be mistaken; but to refuse to criticize judgements for fear of being mistaken is to abandon criticism altogether... If any of my criticisms are found to be correct, the cause is served; and if any are found to be incorrect the very process of finding out my mistakes must lead to the discovery of the right reasons, or better reasons than I have been able to give, and the cause is served just as well." -Mr. HM Seervai, Preface to the 1st ed., Constitutional Law of India.