A man, convicted for raping his nine-year-old daughter, has been ordered to undergo 20 years of imprisonment without remission by the Supreme Court saying sanctity of the very relationship were destroyed by his debauched and devastating acts.
A special fast track court here had held the man guilty in 2013 and convicted him under Sections 376 (rape), 377 (unnatural offence) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to life imprisonment of a minimum term of 20 years along with fine.
The Delhi High Court upheld the man’s conviction and sentence in 2017.
Aggrieved by this decision, the man moved the top court invoking Article 136 of the Constitution which grants discretionary powers to the apex court to allow special leave petitions.
A top court bench of justices Abhay S Oka and Sanjay Kumar said the man was found guilty of one of the most “monstrous and horrific” of offences, the physical violation of his own daughter, “who was not even in the first flush of youth”.
“In the event he secures release after putting in just 14 years in jail, his possible re-entry into his daughter’s life, while she is still in her twenties, may cause her further trauma and make her life difficult.
“His incarceration for a sufficiently long period would not only ensure that he receives his just deserts but also allow his daughter more time and maturity to settle down and move on with her life, even if her villainous father is set at liberty,” the bench said.
The apex court said judges who bear the sword of justice should not hesitate to use that sword with utmost severity to the full and to the end, if the gravity of the offence so demands.
“The ends of justice would be sufficiently served if the life imprisonment of the appellant is for a minimum of 20 years of actual incarceration before he can seek remissions under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, or any other enacted law,” the bench said.
It said this is a fit and deserving case for exercise of the power vesting in this court to impose a modified special category sentence of fixed-term life imprisonment.
“The trust and faith that a young girl would repose in her father and the sanctity of the very relationship were destroyed by his debauched and devastating acts. In such a situation, allowing him the freedom to seek liberal remissions, so as to cut short his life imprisonment, would be nothing short of a travesty of justice,” it said.
The top court reiterated that the power to impose a modified punishment providing for any specific term of incarceration can be exercised only by the high court and the Supreme Court.
“We are, therefore, of the considered opinion that the law laid down in Swamy Shraddananda (supra) and V Sriharan (supra) with regard to special category sentencing to life imprisonment in excess of 14 years by fixing a lengthier term would be available to the high courts and this court, even in cases where maximum punishment, permissible in law and duly imposed, is life imprisonment with nothing further,” it said.
The bench clarified that exercise of such power must be restricted to grave cases, where allowing the convict sentenced to life imprisonment to seek release after a 14-year-term would tantamount to trivialising the very punishment imposed on such convict.
“Needless to state, cogent reasons have to be recorded for exercising such power on the facts of a given case and such power must not be exercised casually or for the mere asking,” it said.