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SC cracks whip on rape cases

New Delhi, Nov. 30: Whether or not the Union government enacts a law providing death sentence for a rape criminal, the Supreme Court has ruled that courts should not award “inadequate” sentence to such criminals who are actually “animals in human forms”.

“The punishment should be the maximum prescribed under the criminal law,” the court said.

A division bench of Justices Doraiswamy Raju and Arijit Passayat increased the sentence of a criminal convicted for raping a woman at the “advanced stage of pregnancy” from 46 days’ imprisonment imposed by Karnataka High Court to the maximum punishment of five years.

The judges observed that trial courts should impose “appropriate” sentence keeping in mind the facts of the case, especially in cases of “heinous” crimes like rape. The “public confidence in the efficacy of law” would be undermined and an inadequate sentence to an offender convicted for such crimes would “do more harm to the justice system”, they said.

Justice Passayat said: “A rapist not only causes physical injuries but more indelibly leaves a scar on the most cherished possession of a woman that is her dignity, chastity, honour and reputation.

“The depravation of such animals in human form reaches the rock bottom of morality when they sexually assault children, minors and like the case in hand, a woman in the advanced stage of pregnancy.”

Allowing an appeal of the Karnataka government against the judgment of the high court, the court said: “Undue sympathy to impose inadequate sentence would do more harm to the justice system to undermine public confidence in the efficacy of law and society could not long endure such serious threats.”

“Protection of society and stamping out of criminal proclivity must be the object of law which must be achieved by imposing appropriate sentence,” the bench said, adding that “it is the duty of every court to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in which it was executed or committed”.

“It is expected that courts would operate the sentencing system so as to impose such sentence which reflects the conscience of the society and the sentencing process has to be stern where it should be”, especially in cases of rape, the bench said.

“The social impact of the crime, for example, where it relates to offences against women like the case in hand, dacoity, kidnapping, misappropriation of public money which have great impact and serious repercussions on social order and public interest, cannot be lost sight of and per se require exemplary treatment,” the court said.

“Any liberal attitude by imposing meagre sentences or taking too sympathetic a view merely on account of lapse of time or considerations personal to the accused only in respect of such offences will be result-wise counter-productive in the long run and against societal interests which need to be cared for and strengthened by the required string of deterrence inbuilt in the sentencing system.”

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