JAGMOHAN SINGH vs STATE OF U.P.
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
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
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
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.