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To Hang Or Not To Hang: Death Penalty Often Depends On Judges’ Perception Of Crime

Judges assess the severity of a crime in their own way, often leading to different degrees of punishment for crimes of similar nature.

To Hang Or Not To Hang: Death Penalty Often Depends On Judges’ Perception Of Crime Illustration by Saahil

In 2006, a Supreme Court bench of justices S.B. Sinha and Dalveer Bhandari commuted the death term of Amrit Singh, then 33, who was convicted of rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl three years earlier in a Punjab village. Both the trial court and the high court had held it to be a fit case for death sentence but the top court thought otherwise. “The manner in which the deceased was raped may be brutal, but it could have been a momentary lapse on the part of appellant (convict), seeing a lonely girl at a secluded place,” Justice Sinha had said in the judgment, converting the death sentence to life term.

In 2004, Dhananjoy Chatterjee, 39, was hanged at the Alipore jail in Calcutta for a similar crime—the rape and murder of a minor at her home in 1990. He was a guard of the apartment where the girl lived.“The courts must not only keep in view the rights of the criminal but also the rights of the victim of a crime and society at large while considering the imposition of appropriate punishment,” an SC bench of judges Madan B. Lokur and K.S. Radhakrishnan had said while uph­olding the death sentence to convict.

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