New Delhi, Aug. 27: The Supreme Court today slammed subordinate courts for using a discretionary provision to reduce rape sentences, terming the trend “stark insensitivity to the need for proportionate punishments”, a day after another bench voiced concern at the recent spurt in sexual assaults.
Today’s observations came as three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam declined to accept a compromise between the two rapists of a Haryana woman and the victim. The bench said courts cannot reduce punishments in a cavalier and casual manner merely because the victim and convicts had reached a compromise or because of passage of time. It said the duo must serve their 10-year terms.
Section 376 IPC prescribes the punishment for rapes but a sub-clause (2) grants leverage to a presiding judge to reduce the sentence in exceptional circumstances. The recent Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, had deleted the provision but the change applies to future cases.
The bench said the current case represented “yet another opportunity to inform subordinate courts and high courts that many had in the past “taken a softer view” while awarding sentences for such heinous crimes.
“This court has in the past noticed that few subordinate and high courts have reduced the sentence of the accused to the period already undergone by taking aid of the proviso Section 376(2) IPC. The above trend exhibits stark insensitivity to the need for proportionate punishments to be imposed in such cases,” the bench, also comprising Justices Ranaja Prakash Desai and Ranjan Gogoi, said.
The bench stressed that “the power under the proviso should not be used indiscriminately in a routine, casual and cavalier manner” as an “exception clause requires strict interpretation”.