The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the validity of the death sentence for murder under penal law while it commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence of one Channnu Lal Verma.The bench of Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Hemant Gupta upheld the penal provision of death sentence under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by a majority of 2:1.While Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Hemant Gupta upheld the penal provision of death sentence under Section 302 of IPC, Justice Joseph differed, seeking a review of capital punishment as it has failed to be a deterrent to curb the heinous crime.Justice Joseph, who is retiring on Thursday, has cited the 262 report of the Law Commission which has said that death penalty has failed to be a deterrent to curb the heinous crime.However, Justice Deepak Gupta, also speaking for Justice Hemant Gupta, defended the retention of the death penalty on the statute book. The majority judgment referred to earlier judgments of the top court in Bachan Singh and Machhi Singh case, upholding the validity of capital punishment.He said there was no need for re-examining the validity and correctness of the death sentence.
Section 302 of the IPC that provides for punishment for murder says: "Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine."Justice Joseph, in his minority judgment, said that trial court proceedings at times get impacted by public opinion and even the investigating agencies mount pressure for the conviction of the accused.The top court had earlier, in the Delhi gang rape case, upheld the validity of the death sentence, and in the Bachan Singh's case in the 1980s, the top court had coined the doctrine of "rarest of rare" case for the award of the death sentence.In the current case, three judges, while pronouncing a split verdict on the validity of the death sentence as punishment, commuted the death sentence of one Channnu Lal Verma of Chhattisgarh who was convicted and awarded the death sentence by the trial court and the same was upheld by the High Court.Verma was convicted for the murder of three people who had appeared as witnesses against him in an alleged rape case. He was acquitted in the rape case.He had murdered one 25-year-old Ratna Bai, her father-in-law Ram Sahu and mother-in-law Firtin Bai.