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Jagmohan Singh V. State of Uttar Pradesh. Case Study



 Proceeding under Section 29/30 read with Section 4A of the U.P.

Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act were initiated against the

Petitioner. The Petitioner filed his objections to the aforesaid notice

and specifically stated that conditions required under Section 4A of

the Act were not satisfied and that the proceedings were without

jurisdiction. (the Uttar Pradesh Imposition of Ceiling on Land

Holdings (Amendment) Act, 1972), therefore, merely because during

relevant year two crops were grown, would not lead to conclusion

that the land was irrigated.

 The discretion has been exercised concurrently by the trial court and

the High Court and the question is whether there are sufficient

reasons for this Court to interfere with that discretion. 

 We are not inclined to interfere with the sentence imposed by the

High Court. 

 In the first place, he contended, the death sentence puts an end to all

rights guaranteed under clauses (a) to (g) of sub-clause (1) of Article

19 and the law with regard to capital sentence is unreasonable and not

in the interest of the general public.

 In his submission, this was a stark abdication of essential legislative

function, and Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code is vitiated by the

vice of excessive delegation of essential legislative function.

 Lastly it was contended that the provisions of the law do not provide

a procedure for trial of factors and circumstances crucial for making

the choice between the capital penalty and imprisonment for life.

 It was contended that, unless it was shown that the sentence of death

for murder passed the test of reasonableness and general public

interest, it would not be a valid law.

 The question for our consideration is whether the law, namely,

Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code which prescribes the sentence

of death for murder passes the above test.

 It is essential that we approach this constitutional question with

objectivity and proper measure of self-restraint. 

 The Judges were invited to reject capital punishment on the ground

that it violated the Eighth Amendment which forbade "cruel and

unusual punishments".

 Mr. Justice White started his opinion: "In joining the court's judgment

I do not at all intimate that the death penalty is unconstitutional perse

or that there is no system of capital punishment that would comport

with the Eighth Amendment.

 Even when the court was presented with a wealth of evidence

complied by Sociologists and research workers in refutation of the

necessity of retaining capital punishment, only two Judges out of nine

could be persuaded to hold that capital punishment perse is

constitutionally impermissible.

 The framers of our Constitution were well aware of the existence of

capital punishment as a permissible punishment under the law.

 If the Sessions Judge, after trial, comes to the conclusion that the

accused is guilty of murder and deserves to be sentenced to death, he

is required under Section 374 of the Criminal Procedure Code to

submit to the High Court the proceedings before him and itis the High

Court which has to review the whole evidence and consider whether

the sentence of death passed by the Sessions Judge should be


 In cases where the Sessions Judge acquits the accused of murder but

the High Court in appeal sets aside the acquittal and sentences him to

death, the accused is entitled under the Constitution to prefer an

appeal as of right to this Court.

 In the state of affairs if the Legislature decides to retain capital

punishment for murder, it will be difficult for this Court in the

absence of objective evidence regarding its unreasonableness to

question the wisdom and propriety of the Legislature in retaining it.

 Neither Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code nor any other provision

in the Criminal Procedure Code says in what cases the capital

punishment is to be imposed and in what others the lesser


 It is argued by Mr. Garg that the Legislature has left this awful duty

to the Judge or Judges concerned without laying down any standards

to guide them in their decision.

 In the connection we have to take note of the policy of the law with

regard to crimes and their punishments.

 "Discretion of Court as to punishment. -In all crimes except those for

which the sentence of death must be pronounced a very wide

discretion in the matter of fixing the degree of punishment is allowed

to the Judge who tries the case. 

 The policy of Criminal Law as regards all crimes, including the crime

of murder, is to fix a maximum penalty-the same being intended for

the worst cases, leaving a very wide discretion in the matter of

punishment to the Judge.

  Absence of any discretion with regard to the sentence raised strong

criticism in England because it was recognized, as was done in many

other countries, that death penalty was not the only appropriate

punishment for murder.

  A Royal Commission was thereupon appointed in 1949 to consider

and report whether liability under the Criminal Law in Great Britain

to suffer capital punishment for murder should be limited or modified

and if so to what extent and by what means.

 In para 535 of the Report, it pointed out that "the general liability

under the existing law to suffer capital punishment for murder cannot

be satisfactorily limited by such means (i.e., re-defining murder or

dividing murder into degrees) because no legal definition can cover

all the multifarious considerations, relating to the offender as well as

to his crime, which ought to be taken into account in deciding

whether the supreme penalty should be exacted in each individual


 Where an error is committed in the matter of sentence the same is

liable to be corrected by appeals and revisions to higher courts for

which appropriate provision was made in the Criminal Procedure


 The Committee were of opinion that, considering the general terms in

which offences were defined, it would be inexpedient, in most cases,

to fix a minimum punishment; and they had so altered the Code as to

leave the minimum punishment for all offences, except those of the

gravest nature, to the discretion of the Judge who would have the

means in each case of forming an opinion as to the character of the

offender, and the circumstances, whether aggravating or mitigating,

under which the offence had been committed.

  Any further refinement in the definition of murder was not

practicable and not attempted. 

 Finally, the majority observed at p. 726: "In light of history,

experience, and the present limitations of human knowledge, we find

it quite impossible to say that committing to the untrammeled

discretion of the jury the power to pronounce life or death in capital

cases is offensive to anything in the Constitution". 

  It was next contended by Mr. Garg that uncontrolled and unguided

discretion in the judges to impose capital punishment or

imprisonment for life was hit by Article 14 of the Constitution.

 No reasons are offered to show that they are constitutionally invalid,

and the death sentence imposed after trial in accordance with the

procedure established by law is not unconstitutional under Article 21.


 The five-judge bench of the   Supreme   Court, by a unanimous

verdict, upheld the constitutional validity of   death   penalty   and  

held   that   capital   punishment   was   not violative of Articles 14,

19 and 21 and. 

 In this case the validity of death sentence was challenged on the

ground that it was violative of Articles 19 and 21 because it did not

provide any procedure. 

 It was contended that the procedure prescribed under Cr. P.C. was

confined only to findings of guilt and not awarding death sentence.

 The Supreme Court held that the choice of death sentence is done in

accordance with the procedure established by law. It was observed

that the judge makes the choice between capital sentence or

imprisonment of life on the basis of circumstances and facts and

nature of crime brought on record during trial.2.


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