"Reporting Flaws" And "Rarest of Rare"!!

Sometimes judgements of the superior judiciary appear whimsical or arbitrary to a common person. Judges are human. When they pronounce a verdict, they do so after exercising their “judgement”. Undoubtedly, judgement of more than one person or judges is unlikely to be identical or even substantially similar. But there are occasions, when one feels a crying need for a “modicum” of consistency in the judgements of courts in what prima facie appear to be very similar cases. One had to rely on a newspaper report today for providing an “accurate account” of one supreme court judgement [Supreme Court saves from noose man who raped daughter, killed her, wife]. The news appeared on the front page of a leading national daily. I am conscious of the pitfalls involved  in relying on media news, because I am all the time noticing lacunae in news reporting by mainstream media.  For the moment let us take that the news report has not materially erred in reporting the judgement delivered by a supreme court bench of Justices P Sathasivam and F M Ibrahim Kalifulla.
Bare Facts of the case as reported are: Man rapes his daughter in 1999. His wife is the prosecution witness. He is convicted and jailed for 12 years in 2001. He gets out on parole in January 2006. He promptly kills his wife, and daughter, whom he had raped earlier. His second daughter witnesses the crime and testifies against him. Trail court awards him death sentence and high court confirms it. Supreme court bench commutes the sentence to life.
Some reported observations of the SC bench were: ^^the crime in question was “gruesome” and “grotesque” and the convict’s previous conduct in raping his own daughter was “beastly“….”It was thirst for retaliation, which became the motivating factor in this case. In no words are we suggesting that the motive of the accused was correct, rather we feel it does not come within the category of ‘rarest of rare’…“^^.
  1. Father who rapes his daughter is abusing a position and relationship of trust. Someone he is supposed to nurture and protect, he grossly abuses. It is worse than even custodial rape.
  2. The bench says that murders were out of “thirst for retaliation”. Man is angry that the testimony of his wife, and presumably also of his daughter have resulted in his jail term. He has no remorse for his reprehensible conduct and seeks to blame someone else for his predicament. He murders his wife and daughter out of premeditation, therefore, and these cannot be blamed on some immediate provocation and arousal of extreme passion.
  3. The convict has also broken all the conditions of parole as to good conduct and abiding by the law.
  4. His second conviction for double murder has happened due to the testimony of his second daughter. His sentence has been commuted to life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he would not come out of the prison ever. If in future he is let lose on parole, would he murder his second daughter too? 

It is unlikely that the full facts of the case have been reported here. It is also unlikely that what is reported is necessarily the true version of the events or of what the judges said during the course of pronouncing the judgement. But it is very likely that almost everyone who read the news report had thoughts similar to those outlined in the above 4 points. The reaction of readers on Indian Express website are harsh and provocative because these have not paid heed to possible flaws in reporting. I wonder whether these “comments” would qualify for “contempt of court” under the archaic and obsolete notions of past that are still valid in our laws. 
  • Anil: That’s motivation for the criminals!! Absolutely rubbish Judgement. So if this is not ‘rarest of rare’, why cant they frame some strict policies to curtail such incidents? or are they waiting to see how far it can go? Our Judicial System is so pathetic. God save people of India.
  • Sachin: Absolute rubbish. The man need to be hanged…the judge needs to be impeached!
  • Unpopular: Criminal Friendly Justice. Our Judicial Dispensation has over the Years of Crime Loving UPA and other Criminal Leaders, who themselves indulge in Crimes of Various kinds, become Soft……
The report at one point records what the judges said: “However, after comparing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances,…..“. This indicates that something material and substantial about the case has been left out of reporting. while the standards of reporting news in general and judicial news in particular must improve vastly, a case is also made out to define, or at least illustrate substantially what exactly is meant by “Rarest of Rare Cases“. May be a much larger or Constitution bench of Supreme Court have a look at this to bring consistency in award of this ultimate punishment; since “death penalty” is unlikely to go off our statues in near future. If this is not done, the judiciary would face one more danger of falling into disrepute in the eyes of people.
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