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SC to examine validity of child gangrape law

  • Published
    17th Aug, 2022
Context

The Supreme Court recently agreed to examine the validity of a law which sends a guilty man either to a lifetime in prison or to the gallows for gang raping a child under 12 years without affording him a chance to atone for his crime or reform.

About

Petitioner:

  • Petitioner is serving a prison sentence which would last till the end of his natural life for the gangrape of a nine-year-old in Maharashtra in 2019.
  • He was initially sentenced to death by the Special Court which tried the case.
  • The Bombay High Court had commuted it to life imprisonment without remission.

Argument:

  • Section 376DB (gangrape of a child under 12 years of age) of the Indian Penal Code restricted the trial judge’s options to either a sentence for “the remainder of the person’s natural life” or death penalty.
  • Life imprisonment is the “minimum, mandatory” punishment under the provision.
  • Section 376DB was introduced in 2018 when the penal code was amended to provide harsher sentences for the offence of rape.
  • Unlike Section 376DB, the minimum punishment prescribed under Section 376AB (rape of a child under 12 years of age) was 20 years of imprisonment.
  • The petition argued that Section 376DB violated Articles 21 (right to life) and 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution.
  • It was held that life sentences cannot be considered just punishment as it provided the prisoner with no opportunity for atonement and such sentences were incompatible with the respect for human dignity.

Similar SC Observation for Murder:

The SC in 'Mithu Vs Punjab' in 1983, had ruled that Section 303 of IPC was unconstitutional to the extent it provided for mandatory death penalty to a person who committed a murder while serving life sentence in another case. Section 303 had mandated that courts would impose no other punishment but death penalty in such cases.

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