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Mukesh v/s NCT Of Delhi: Critical Analysis

Facts of the Case:
  • Prosecutrix was a 23-year-old woman and a para-medical student.
  • She went to PVR Select-City Walk Mall, to watch a movie with her friend. While they were returning and were waiting for a transport at Munirka transport bus-stand, one of the culprits persuaded both of them to get inside vacant bus.
  • Both were attacked by six men who were already on the bus. One of them was a minor aged 17 yrs. The victim's companion tried to protect her but was beaten mercilessly by them.
  • On 16/12/2012, victim was assaulted and gang raped by 6 men, her private parts were tremendously damaged. They were later tossed off the bus. Culprits tried to run the bus over both of them. However, both succeeded in surviving.
  • They were taken to the hospital but later prosecutrix, due to several medical complications died on 29/12/2012.
Issues:
  1. Whether Section 375 of Indian Penal Code covers the crime of rape entirely or not?
  2. Whether the convicts of such crimes should be given death penalty or not?
  3. Whether a juvenile committing such heinous crimes should be given punishment equivalent to an adult?
  4. Whether public outrage on any gruesome occurrence can become a criterion for determining punishment in a case?
Rules
  • Constitution of India: Article 14.
  • Indian Penal Code, 1860: Section 120B, Section 201, Section 302, Section 307, Section 365, Section 366, Section 375, Section 376(2)(g), Section 377, Section 395, Section 396, Section 397, Section 412, Section 420, Section 471.
  • Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973: Section 313, Section 354, Section 357A, Section 428.
  • Indian Evidence Act, 1872: Section 10, Section 11, Section 24, Section 25, Section 26, Section 27, Section 45, Section 65, Section 65B, Section 112.
  • Limitation Act, 1963: Article 115.
  • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
  • Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2005.

Analysis
Contention from Appellant's side:
  1. The counsel pleaded that Judges should not rely upon DNA report as the victim had experienced blood-transfusion while undergoing treatment at hospital. In cases of blood-transfusion, there is a possibility that DNA profiling might vary.
     
  2. It was also presented that the condition of victim was miserable and therefore she was not in position to give dying-declaration. The third dying-declaration given by victim should have been video chartered and it is not possible to rely upon such type of declaration keeping in mind that the victim's condition was poor.
     
  3. Convicts Pawan Kumar and Vinay Sharma kept on asserting that they were not present in the bus and have not committed any offence against her. Third convict Akshay Singh asserted that he was not in Delhi on the day the incident took place. He went to his home town with his sister-in-law and nephew.
     
  4. The witnesses presented by him were his own family members who were trying their best to prove that he was with them at the time of occurrence of the incident and he was not involved in this matter in anyway.
     
  5. It was found that DNA profile created from blood stains obtained from the iron rod matched with DNA of the person in question. The defense counsel said that this should not be taken into consideration as neither the victim nor her friend had talked about it in their first proclamations.
     
  6. The convicts constantly said that their names were not mentioned in FIR. They also pleaded that Batla-House blamed were let off and they should not be given death penalty for such accusations. They tried to gain sympathy by saying that their poor status is the reason why they are not able to hire a good legal advisor.
     
  7. The convict Vinay Sharma is a student and has applied for air force and is not involved in said case. The counsel uttered that, "God gives life and only he can take it and not man-made courts." Death punishment should be awarded only in special cases and life imprisonment should be preferred for rest of cases. The crime was not pre meditated.
     
  8. The convicts Pawan Kumar and Vinay Sharma pleaded that they were juvenile when this incident occurred and their birth-certificate declaring their ages to be higher is not correct. Mukesh pleaded that he was not in the bus on the night when this incident took place. He only has the license to drive LMV's. He also said that police tortured him to confess the crime.
     
  9. Lastly, the convicts have a family who are dependent on them and the court should consider all these points before arriving at judgment.

Contention from Respondent's side:
  1. The counsel presented that there is enough evidence at hand to penalize all convicts.
     
  2. The crime was pre-meditated and falls under the category of 'rarest of the rare cases.' The convicts had persuaded the prosecutrix and her friend to get inside the vacant bus with a wrongful intention.
     
  3. The prosecutor demanded death penalty for all convicts and pleaded that 'no mercy should be shown to these merciless.' Death penalty would act as deterrent as crime against women is growing day-by-day. The convicts showed no mercy to the victim and same should be done to them.
     
  4. Lastly, crime committed is against the society as whole hence, death-sentence is demanded.

Analysis of Reasoning listed:
Supreme Court upheld Delhi HC and Trial Court's decision to grant death to remaining four convicts. Ram Singh, the fifth accused committed suicide while the sixth one being a minor was granted three year in-correction facility by Juvenile Justice Board. He was released in 2015. The Apex court in judgement laid down that the intention to run the bus over prosecutrix after committing such heinous crime indicated that every possible attempt was made to erase evidences.

The court relied on the case of Purushottam Dashrath Borate and Anr. vs State of Maharashtra[1], where it was held that the age of accused and his family background cannot be considered as mitigating circumstances. The dreadful acts reflecting the in-human extent to which the accused could go to satisfy their lust, being completely oblivious, not only to the norms of society, but also to the norms of humanity. The acts committed shook the conscience of society as whole. Human lust was never allowed to take such a demonic form and thus death sentence is unquestionably granted.

Cases relied upon while giving judgement:
  1. Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab [2]:
    The Court ruled that severe depravity was a valid and specific basis for death penalty. The murder commission's overly inhumane or monstrous behaviour serves as a clear sign of perpetrator's twisted nature. Furthermore, accepting circumstances of the act and circumstances of the culprit in two separate watertight compartments is inappropriate. When a homicide involves great depravity, the argument for the death sentence becomes more compelling.
     
  2. Ram Singh vs Sonia and Ors.[3]:
    Here, it was decided that failing to apply death penalty in situation when crime was done in most disgusting and vile manner would be a failure of the judicial system.
     
  3. Devender Pal Singh vs State (NCT of delhi) [4]:
    The court ruled that if society's collective conscience is sufficiently outraged, then death penalty must be imposed.
     
  4. Machhi Singh vs State of Punjab [5]:
    The humanistic superstructure, according to the court, is the foundation of the idea of "reverence for life." The community is at risk if someone violates this value by killing another member. If the society's collective conscience is so horrified that the bearers of judiciary are ordered to carry out death penalty regardless of their subjective opinion on whether or not it is advantageous to keep the death penalty in place. Death penalty should be given.
     
  5. Ajit Singh Gujal vs State of Maharashtra [6]:
    It was decided that a line should be drawn between regular murders and grotesque, dreadful, or horrible killings. Although the former should receive a life sentence, the later should necessarily receive death penalty because it is one of the rarest situations.

Comment on the Case:
This case acted as turning point for feminist movement. Justice Verma Committee[7] was formed which suggested that meaning of rape should be enlarged. Crimes like acid attacks and sexual harassment should also be categorised as serious offense. These proposals were incorporated in IPC[8] through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. Section 326A[9] and 326B[10] were introduced which covered the issues of acid-attack whereas Section 354A[11] was also incorporated which death with the offense of sexual harassment. Inclusion of Section 354B[12], that deals with the offense of compelling a lady to take off her garments.

Karnataka Government launched a helpline number (1091) for females so that they can register any complain against any sort of sexual maltreatment. A 13-point action plan was introduced by Government of Tamil Nadu to ensure the well-being of women. The Jammu and Kashmir Government also amended laws relating to sexual harassment. Himachal Pradesh Government established various states and regional level committees to keep a check on assaults being committed against women.

The convicts, now have right to file an appeal against the decision of Court within a period of 30-days according to Article 115[13] of Limitation Act. Juvenile Justice Act[14] was passed that stated that minor between 16-18 years of age, if involved in conflict with law, shall be tried as an adult in cases of heinous offence.

Current case is where all accused have manipulated the judicial process to delay their punishment. Convicts will not be hanged until the last person on death row has exhausted his remedies as per judgment given by Supreme Court in the case of Harbans Singh vs State of UP & Ors.[15] Hanging must happen one-by-one. A person can deliberately cause delay in filing the petition, thus making others wait. This acts as an exceptional way of delaying the hanging process. A number of loopholes that existed in legal system was exposed by this case.

Conclusion
To conclude, there is no doubt that government is taking steps to reduce such offences, however, no stringent preventive action has been taken to stop the occurrences. Even after this landmark judgment given, India continues to witness increasing number of rape cases. Shakthi Mill Gang-Rape Case and Hyderabad Gang-Rape Case are some horrific incidents that took place after the abovementioned case.

Rather of promoting harshness, laws should be established to enhance certainty of punishment. The criminals not only sexually assaulted but murdered a woman in most horrific manner. They proceeded to use the Indian judicial system most audaciously. This put justice's patience to test, but it eventually won out over different delaying tactics.

It is unquestionably vital to give post-conviction remedies in order to correct grave injustices. However, it is critical that the victim and society as a whole get prompt and dignified justice. Some of the petitions are vexatious in nature. It ruins Court's time and they undermined the public's trust in swift justice, prompting a reassessment of quality-control mechanisms in India's post-conviction litigation. This case definitely sparked the fire for women's right and safety.

 Justice Verma Committee was formed within a week after said incident and the then finance minister allocated "Nirbhaya Fund" of INR 1000 Cr. for women's safety. Fast track courts were set-up to look at the pending cases and provide legal assistance to needy victims.

Ratio Decidendi
In present case, aggravating conditions outnumbered mitigating factors. In 'rarest of rare cases,' where any alternative sentence is 'unquestionably foreclosed', death penalty must be announced. Here, terrible abuses of human dignity have surfaced, and an unspoken sense of uneasiness had gripped the society. Human lust was never allowed to take such a demonic form and thus death sentence is unquestionably granted.

End-Notes:
  1. Purushottam Dashrath Borate and Anr. vs State of Maharashtra, (2015) 6 SCC 652
  2. Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab, AIR 1980 SC 898.
  3. Ram singh vs Sonia and Ors., (2007) 3 SCC 1.
  4. Devender Pal Singh vs State (NCT of delhi), AIR 2002 SC 1661.
  5. Machhi Singh vs State of Punjab, 1983 AIR 957.
  6. Ajit Singh Gujal vs State of Maharashtra, (2011)14 SCC 401.
  7. PRS Legislative Research, https://prsindia.org/policy/report-summaries/justice-verma-committee-report-summary (last visited May 29, 2021).
  8. Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  9. Indian Penal Code, 1860, Section 326A.
  10. Indian Penal Code, 1860, Section 326B.
  11. Indian Penal Code, 1860, Section 354A.
  12. Indian Penal Code, 1860, Section 354B.
  13. Limitation Act, 1963, art. 115.
  14. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
  15. Harbans Singh vs State of UP & Ors., 1982 AIR 849.

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