The Supreme Court in the case State of Haryana vs Anand Kindoo observed and stated that fixed term sentences exceeding 14 years can be awared in appropriate cases to strike a delicate balance between the victims’ petition for justice and rehabilitative justice for the convicts.
The bench comprising of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Abhay S. Oka and the Justice Vikram Nath observed that this fixed term sentence can only be by the High Court or this Court and not by the trial Court.
In the present case, the trial court awarded death sentence to the accused who were ‘trusted employees’ of the deceased. However, Major General Kailash Chand Dhingra (K.C. Dhingra) and his wife Smt. Sangeeta Dhingra, who were an aged couple and were killed by the accused while they were sleeping. It was refused by the High Court to confirm the death sentence and imposed life sentence on them.
In an appeal before the Apex Court, the complainant and the state contended that given the brutality of the crime, the court should impose a fixed term sentence before which the convicts are not liable to be considered for granting of remission. Thus, it was submitted that there should be at least a fixed term sentence.
The court observed that it was a pre-planned murder for gain and greed by somebody who was in a position of trust with the family.
The bench observed that at an advanced stage in such health respect, there is always an element of trust and faith in the person by a person who employs them as well as the family members. However, the work takes other family members elsewhere and with the joint family system having broken down, the role of such trusted help becomes even more significant. Also, it is the significance of the society where a wrong signal goes if a trusted person breaches that trust to kill the person who had employed them in such a gruesome manner. It has been stated by the trial Court, the society itself demands justice, apart from an utter element on deterrence which is in any aspect of conviction. Further, the approach cannot be the vindictive but lack of appropriate sentence leaves the cry of justice of the society un-addressed apart from the fact that other persons who may have the propensity to carry out the crime feel that they will get away with the lighter sentence, if in case they are caught. While, battering two sleeping people beyond recognition who imposed trust in their employee certainly calls for something more than merely a life sentence under Section 302, IPC, even if death sentence is not to be imposed.
Therefore, the court imposed a fixed term sentence of 30 years.
The bench while allowing the appeal observed in the case Shankar Kishanrao khade vs. State of Mahrashtra (2013) 5 SCC 546, wherein it was held that if there is any circumstance favouring the accused such as lack of intention to commit the crime, young age of the accused, possibility of reformation etc., accused not being a menance to the society, no previous criminal record etc., the accused may avoid capital punishment. It was opined by the court that the crime is important but so is the criminal and hence the Supreme Court in recent past has substituted death penalty with fixed term sentences exceeding 14 years. It stated that imposing a fixed term sentence creates a possibility for the convict to re-integrate into society after serving his/her sentence. A delicate balance is strike the balance between victims’ plea for justice.