The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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12 death terms in 8 months
- Crusader judge vows to rescue society from anarchy

Samastipur, Oct. 3: Twelve people were sentenced to death between January and August by a Samastipur judge, who has taken it upon himself to “pull society away from the brink of anarchy”.

Senior sessions judge S.M. Ram, whose judgments have sparked a furore in the judicial circles here, argues that “life is a beautiful gift of God” and whoever snuffs out a life in a “macabre, fiendish” way deserves capital punishment.

Of the 12 death sentences sent to Patna High Court for review this year, 10 were handed by the fifth district and sessions judge, Samastipur.

Advocates had boycotted Ram’s court in July, protesting against his “inflexible attitude”. Senior advocate S.K. Prasad accused the judge of “blurring the distinction between an ordinary crime and a rarest of the rare” case. Others said he was overstepping the legal parameters and tilting towards “activism”.

However, even as the lawyers protest, police said law and order in the city has improved as a result of the judgments handed down by Ram.

“I am aware of the controversy over death sentence that often divides the liberals and the conservatives. All I can say is that there are two purposes of a court judgment. One is to bring the culprits to justice. The other is to create a fear of law so that no other person can tread the path of crime. My judgments are meant to fulfil both,” Ram told The Telegraph today.

Ram pointed out that “there is no foolproof legal formula” to assess the gravity of a crime and judges have to fall back on “discretionary powers”.

Though the judge refused to give details of the seven cases in which he has handed the death sentences, The Telegraph has obtained copies of his judgments, sprinkled with quotes from Urdu poet Amir Khusro, philosophers and British legal experts.

In a February 12 ruling, Ram had sent Phulo Shah and Ehasan Shah, both in their mid-twenties, to death row for killing one Saheb Ali for money in Samastipur in 1995. Quoting Khusro, the judge wrote in his sentence: “On the day of judgment, you will not be able to conceal the killing of innocents. If the sword is silent, the bloodstains on your sleeve will reveal your guilt.”

The first death sentence ordered this year was on January 25 in the case of rape and murder of a 15-year-old.

Three of the four accused had been acquitted earlier. Sentencing the fourth accused, Kamal Singh, to death, Ram expressed concern over “exploitation of woman in a male dominated society”. “Their prestige and honour in society are at stake these days due to hooliganism,” he wrote in the judgment.

Advocate Amresh Kumar Singh said most of the death sentences were likely to be struck down by Patna High Court or the Supreme Court. “But imagine the mental trauma the death row convicts would have to undergo till their cases are disposed of in the high court,” he said.

The rulings have sparked panic among accused whose cases are to come up before Ram. Many have been advised by their advocates to go for long adjournment pleading illness so that they can avoid capital punishment.

Asked about his reaction, district and sessions judge, Samastipur, Madhusudan Singh refused to be drawn into the controversy. Any judge had the right to interpret law from his own perspective, he said. “We cannot be a party to any controversy,” he added.

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