Shiva Kumar @ Shiva @ Shivamurthy versus State of Karnataka

Shiva Kumar @ Shiva @ Shivamurthy  versus State of Karnataka 

Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले

(Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017)
Shiva Kumar @ Shiva @ Shivamurthy             …Appellant
State of Karnataka    ...Respondent
J  U  D  G  M  E  N  T
1. Heard learned counsel for the parties.  
2. The   appellant   has   been   convicted   for   the   offences
punishable under Sections 366, 376 and 302 of the Indian
Penal Code, 1860 (for short, ‘IPC’).  The controversy is limited
to the sentence for the offence punishable under Section 302 of
the   IPC.   The   learned   Sessions   Judge   (Fast­Track   Court)
sentenced the appellant to undergo rigorous imprisonment for
the rest of his life.   The appellant preferred an appeal before
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
the High Court to challenge the conviction and sentence.  The
State Government preferred an appeal for enhancement of the
sentence.     The   High   Court,   by   the   impugned   judgment,
dismissed both appeals.  On 21st April 2017, notice was issued
by this Court only on sentence.
3. The learned counsel appearing for the appellant­accused
submitted that in view of the law laid down by the Constitution
Bench   of   this   Court   in   the   case   of  Union   of   India   v.   V.
Sriharan alias Murugan & Ors.1
, a modified sentence can be
imposed  only   by  the  Constitutional  Courts   and  not   by  the
Sessions Courts.  He submitted that the Constitutional Courts
can grant life sentence either for the entirety of life or for a
specific   period,   only   while   commuting   the   death   penalty
imposed on an accused.  If the death penalty is not imposed,
the Courts are powerless to impose a modified sentence.   He
also relied upon a decision of this Court in the case of Swamy
Shraddananda  (2)  alias  Murali  Manohar  Mishra v.  State
of Karnataka2
.  He invited our attention to paragraph 105 of
the   decision   of   the   Constitution   Bench   in   the   case   of  V.
1  2016 (7) SCC 1
2  2008 (13) SCC 767
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
, wherein this Court has laid down that a modified
sentence can be an alternative only to the death penalty.  He,
therefore, submitted that the Constitution Bench held that a
fixed­term sentence or modified sentence can be imposed by
way of substitution for the death penalty.  
4. He submitted that even the subsequent decisions of this
Court show that imposition of a modified sentence was made
only in the cases where the death penalty has been commuted.
He relied upon the decision of this Court in the case of Sahib
Hussain alias Sahib Jan v. State of Rajasthan3 and in the
case of Gurvail Singh alias Gala v. State of Punjab4
5. On   facts,   he   pointed   out   that   at   the   time   of   the
commission of the offence, the appellant’s age was 22 years.
He pointed out that the appellant has a young wife, a small
child and aged parents.   Moreover, he has no antecedents and
poses no threat to society.  Moreover, his conduct in jail is all
throughout  satisfactory and in  fact, he has  completed B.A.
degree course while in jail.   Lastly, he pointed out that the
3  2013 (9) SCC 778
4  2013 (10) SCC 631
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
appellant has undergone sentence for approximately seventeen
years and two months.
6. The submission of the learned counsel appearing for the
respondent – State is that the Constitutional Courts are not
powerless to impose modified sentences considering the gravity
of the offence, the conduct of the accused and other relevant
factors even though the death penalty has not been imposed.
He submitted that the power of the Constitutional Courts to
grant   a   modified   sentence   could   not   be   circumscribed   by
holding that the said power can be exercised only when the
question is of commuting the death sentence.  By pointing out
findings of the Trial Court and the High Court, he submitted
that in the facts of this case, the most stringent punishment
was contemplated.   He submitted that in any case, the High
Court, after considering all the factual aspects, has reiterated
the view taken by the Sessions Court by imposing a sentence
for the entirety of the appellant’s life.
7. Under Chapter III of the IPC, different punishments have
been   provided.     Section   53   provides   for   five   categories   of
punishments:   the   death   penalty,   imprisonment   for   life,
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
imprisonment (either rigorous or simple), forfeiture of property
and fine.  It is also a settled position that when an offender is
sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life, the incarceration
can continue till the end of the life of the accused.  However, it
is subject to a grant of remission under the provisions of the
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short, ‘Cr.P.C.’) and the
Constitutional powers vested in the Hon’ble Governor and the
Hon’ble President of India, as the case may be.  While imposing
a life sentence, if it is directed that the accused shall not be
released   for   a   specific   period,   it   becomes   a   modified
punishment.   In such a case, before the expiry of the fixed
period provided, the power to grant remission under Cr.P.C.
cannot be exercised.
8. The learned counsel appearing for the appellant has relied
upon what is held in paragraph 56 of the decision of this Court
in the case of Swamy Shraddananda2
, which reads thus:
“56. But  this leads to  a  more important
question   about   the   punishment
commensurate   to   the   appellant's   crime.
The sentence of imprisonment for a term of
14 years, that goes under the euphemism
of life imprisonment is equally, if not more,
unacceptable.   As   a   matter   of   fact,   Mr.
Hegde informed us that the appellant was
taken   in   custody   on   28­3­1994   and
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
submitted that by virtue of the provisions
relating to remission, the sentence of life
imprisonment, without any qualification or
further direction would, in all likelihood,
lead  to   his   release   from   jail   in  the   first
quarter   of   2009   since   he   has   already
completed   more   than   14   years   of
incarceration.   This   eventuality   is   simply
not acceptable to this Court. What then is
the answer? The answer lies in breaking
this   standardisation   that,   in   practice,
renders the sentence of life imprisonment
equal to imprisonment for a period of no
more than 14 years; in making it clear that
the   sentence   of   life   imprisonment when
awarded   as   a   substitute   for   death
penalty would   be   carried   out   strictly   as
directed   by   the   Court.  This   Court,
therefore,   must   lay   down   a   good   and
sound   legal   basis   for   putting   the
punishment   of   imprisonment   for   life,
awarded as substitute for death penalty,
beyond any remission and to be carried
out as  directed  by  the Court  so  that  it
may be followed, in appropriate cases as
a uniform policy not only by this Court
but  also  by  the  High  Courts,  being  the
superior   courts   in   their   respective
States.  A   suggestion   to   this   effect   was
made by this Court nearly thirty years ago
in Dalbir Singh v. State of Punjab [(1979) 3
SCC 745 : 1979 SCC (Cri) 848] . In para 14
of   the   judgment   this   Court   held   and
observed as follows: (SCC p. 753)
“14. The sentences of death in the
present   appeal   are   liable   to   be
reduced   to   life   imprisonment.   We
may   add   a   footnote   to   the   ruling
in Rajendra   Prasad   case [Rajendra
Prasad v. State   of   U.P.,   (1979)   3
SCC 646 : 1979 SCC (Cri) 749] .
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
Taking   the   cue   from   the   English
legislation   on   abolition,   we   may
suggest   that   life   imprisonment
which strictly means imprisonment
for the whole of the men's life but in
practice   amounts   to   incarceration
for   a   period   between   10   and   14
years   may, at   the   option   of   the
convicting   court,   be   subject   to   the
condition   that   the   sentence   of
imprisonment shall last as long as
life   lasts,   where   there   are
exceptional indications of murderous
recidivism   and   the   community
cannot   run   the   risk   of   the   convict
being   at   large. This  takes care of
judicial apprehensions that unless
physically   liquidated   the   culprit
may   at   some   remote   time   repeat
We think that it is time that the course
suggested   in Dalbir   Singh [(1979)   3   SCC
745 :1979 SCC (Cri) 848] should receive a
formal recognition by the Court.”
                 (emphasis added)
9. In the case of V. Sriharan1
, the Constitution Bench was
dealing with the question which is quoted in paragraph 50,
which reads thus:
“50. Having   thus   noted   the   relevant
provisions in the Constitution, the Penal
Code,   the   Criminal   Procedure   Code   and
the DSPE Act, we wish to deal with the
questions referred for our consideration in
seriatim. The first question framed for the
consideration   of   the   Constitution   Bench
reads as under : (V. Sriharan case [Union of
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
India v. V.   Sriharan,   (2014)   11   SCC   1   :
(2014) 3 SCC (Cri) 1] , SCC p. 19, para 52)
“52.1. Whether imprisonment for life in
terms of Section 53 read with Section 45
of the Penal Code meant imprisonment
for rest of the life of the prisoner or a
convict undergoing life imprisonment has
a right to claim remission and whether
as per the principles enunciated in paras
91   to   93   of   Swamy   Shraddananda
(2) [Swamy   Shraddananda   (2) v. State
of   Karnataka,   (2008)   13   SCC   767   :
(2009)   3   SCC   (Cri)   113], a   special
category of sentence may be made for
the   very   few   cases   where   the   death
penalty   might   be   substituted   by   the
punishment of imprisonment for life or
imprisonment   for   a   term   in   excess   of
fourteen years and to put that category
beyond application of remission?”
10. While   answering   the   question,   the   Constitution   Bench
(majority   view)   held   that   imprisonment   for   life   in   terms   of
Section   53   read   with   Section   45   of   the   IPC   means
imprisonment for the rest of the life of the convict.  In such a
case, right to claim remission, commutation etc. in accordance
with law will always be available.   Thereafter, in paragraph
105, the Constitution Bench held thus:
“105. We,   therefore,   reiterate   that   the
power  derived   from  the  Penal  Code   for
any   modified   punishment   within   the
punishment   provided   for   in   the   Penal
Code   for   such   specified   offences   can
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
only be exercised by the High Court and
in   the   event  of   further   appeal  only   by
the Supreme Court and not by any other
court   in   this   country.  To   put   it
differently, the power to impose a modified
punishment providing for any specific term
of   incarceration   or   till   the   end   of   the
convict's   life   as   an   alternate   to   death
penalty, can be exercised only by the High
Court and the Supreme Court and not by
any other inferior court.”
                      (emphasis added)
11. What   is   held   by   the   Constitution   Bench,   cannot   be
construed in a narrow perspective.   The Constitution Bench
has held that there is a power which can be derived from the
IPC to impose a fixed term sentence or modified punishment
which can only be exercised by the High Court or in the event
of any further appeal, by the Supreme Court and not by any
other   Court   in   this   country.     In   addition,   the   Constitution
Bench held that power to impose a modified punishment of
providing any specific term of incarceration or till the end of
convict’s   life   as   an   alternative   to   death   penalty,   can   be
exercised only by the High Court and the Supreme Court and
not by any other inferior Court. 
12. In a given case, while passing an order of conviction for
an offence which is punishable with death penalty, the Trial
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
Court may come to a conclusion that the case is not a ‘rarest of
the   rare’   case.     In   such   a   situation,   depending   upon   the
punishment   prescribed   for   the   offence   committed,  the  Trial
Court can impose other punishment specifically provided in
Section 53 of the IPC.  However, when a Constitutional Court
finds that though a case is not falling in the category of ‘rarest
of the rare’ case, considering the gravity and nature of the
offence and all other relevant factors, it can always impose a
fixed­term sentence so that the benefit of statutory remission,
etc. is not available to the accused.  The majority view in the
case of V. Sriharan1 cannot be construed to mean that such a
power cannot be exercised by the Constitutional Courts unless
the   question   is   of   commuting   the   death   sentence.     This
conclusion is well supported by what the Constitution Bench
held in paragraph 104 of its decision, which reads thus:
“104. That apart, in most of such cases
where death penalty or life imprisonment
is   the   punishment   imposed   by   the   trial
court and confirmed by the Division Bench
of the High Court, the convict concerned
will get an opportunity to get such verdict
tested by filing further appeal by way of
special   leave   to   this   Court.   By   way   of
abundant   caution   and   as   per   the
prescribed   law   of   the   Code   and   the
criminal   jurisprudence,   we   can   assert
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
that  after  the   initial   finding  of  guilt  of
such   specified   grave   offences   and   the
imposition   of   penalty   either   death   or
life   imprisonment,   when   comes   under
the   scrutiny   of   the   Division   Bench   of
the High Court, it is only the High Court
which   derives   the   power   under   the
Penal Code, which prescribes the capital
and   alternate  punishment,   to   alter   the
said punishment with one either for the
entirety  of  the  convict's   life  or  for  any
specific  period  of  more   than  14  years,
say 20, 30 or so on depending upon the
gravity of the crime committed and the
exercise of judicial conscience befitting
such offence found proved to have been
                  (emphasis added)
13. Hence, we have no manner of doubt that even in a case
where capital punishment is not imposed or is not proposed,
the Constitutional Courts can always exercise the power of
imposing a modified or fixed­term sentence by directing that a
life sentence, as contemplated by “secondly” in Section 53 of
the IPC, shall be of a fixed period of more than fourteen years,
for example, of twenty years, thirty years and so on. The fixed
punishment cannot be for a period less than 14 years in view
of the mandate of Section 433A of Cr.P.C.
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
14. Now, we come to the facts of the case.  The facts are such,
which will shock the conscience of any Court.  The deceased
woman,   who   was   happily   married,   worked   in   a   prominent
company   having   an   office   at   Electronic   City,   Bengaluru.
Considering the nature of her duty, she had to work till late
night or even till early in the morning.  The company used to
provide her conveyance in the form of a car.   The company
used   to   provide   cars   to   employees   on   different   designated
routes.   On the fateful day, the deceased left the office at 2:00
a.m. in a vehicle provided by the company.   She used to take a
vehicle plying on route no.131.   On that day, she was informed
by the appellant, who was the driver, that the vehicle operating
on route no.131 was not available.  The appellant told her that
she will have to travel by his vehicle operating on route no.405.
The   deceased,   accordingly,   sat   in   the   car   driven   by   the
accused.     The   maternal   uncle   of   the   deceased   lodged   a
complaint   by   stating   that   the   deceased   was   missing.
Ultimately, her dead body was recovered at the instance of the
appellant.  The clothes on the person of the deceased, footwear,
etc.   were   found   near   the   dead   body.     The   prosecution
successfully   established   the   charge   of   the   offence   of   rape,
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
punishable under Section 376 of the IPC as well as the offence
under Section 366 of IPC.   The appellant–accused was also
convicted for the offence under Section 302.   The life of the
victim was cut short in this brutal manner at the age of 28
15. In many leading cities, IT hubs have been established.  In
fact, Bengaluru is known as the Silicon Valley of India.  Some
of these companies have customers abroad and that is why the
company staff members work at night.  A large number of staff
members in such companies are women.  The issue is of safety
and security of women working with such companies.  We have
perused the judgment of the Trial Court.   It is true that the
Trial Court could not have directed that the appellant shall not
be released till the rest of his life.  The Trial Court noted the
fact that on the date of conviction, the age of the appellant was
27 years and he had a wife and small child as well as aged
parents.  Considering these factors along with the fact that this
was  the   first  offence  committed  by  the  appellant,  the  Trial
Court found that the case was not falling in the category of the
‘rarest of the rare’ cases.  We must hasten to add that the fact
that the accused has no antecedents, is no consideration by
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
itself for deciding whether the accused will fall in the category
of the ‘rarest of the rare’ cases.   It all depends on several
factors.   The State Government failed in its endeavour to get
capital punishment by way of filing an appeal.
16. This   is   one   case   where   a   Constitutional   Court   must
exercise the power of imposing a special category of modified
punishment.     The   High   Court   expressed   the   view   that   the
punishment   imposed   by   the   Trial   Court   was   justified   after
considering the balance sheet of aggravating and mitigating
circumstances.   It is the duty of the Court to consider all
attending circumstances.   The Court, while considering the
possibility   of   reformation   of   the   accused,   must   note   that
showing undue leniency in such a brutal case will adversely
affect the public confidence in the efficacy of the legal system.
The Court must consider the rights of the victim as well.  After
having considered these circumstances, we are of the opinion
that this is a case where a fixed­term sentence for a period of
thirty years must be imposed.
Criminal Appeal @ S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3400 of 2017
17. Accordingly, we modify the order of sentence of the Trial
Court for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the IPC.
We direct that the appellant shall undergo imprisonment for
life.   We also direct that the appellant shall be released only
after he completes thirty years of actual sentence.  The appeal
is partly allowed to the above extent. 
             (Abhay S. Oka)
          (Rajesh Bindal)
New Delhi;
March 28, 2023. 


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