How the apex court defines 'rarest of rare'

Subsequently, in a February judgment, another SC bench saved from the gallows a man sentenced to death for killing his wife and daughter when he was out of jail on parole. He had been jailed for 12 years for raping the daughter when she was a minor. The SC adopted a "humanistic" approach and said this case was not "rarest of rare", since the possibility of the convict's reformation was not foreclosed. However, a few days later, the SC sentenced to death a man convicted of killing a seven-year-old boy in another judgment. While justifying this case to be "rarest of rare," the court also said that the murder of the "only male child" would have caused extreme misery to the parents. A subsequent verdict involving two men on the death row for killing a couple and their two children decided "to go a little further" and explain the test for awarding death sentences. It said that after drawing out the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the "rarest of rare" test will be required. This test, the SC said, will depend on the "will of [the] people" and "perception of the society", and will not be judge-centric. The judgment read that the death penalty would "depend on the perception of the society, whether the society will approve the awarding of [the] death sentence to certain types of crime, or not".

Now, when different SC benches are apparently suggesting that the earlier Constitution Bench verdicts are not being applied uniformly, it would be interesting to see if the apex court delivers another Constitution Bench judgment to suit the present moment.

utkarsh.anand@expressindia.com

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