THE Calcutta High Court has commuted the death sentence awarded by a trial court to a repeat offender under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 on the grounds that there was no clear, unequivocal evidence to show that the death penalty would act as a deterrence to the commission of a crime.
“… in the absence of clear and unequivocal evidence with regard to the deterrent impact of the death penalty on crime statistics, I am loath to impose the extreme penalty of death when the alternative sentence (is) of rigorous imprisonment of 30 years and that too without any possibility of remission…,” a two-judge bench of Justices Joymalya Bagchi and Surva Ghosh observed.
“Imposition of death penalty on the appellant may or may not deter others from committing similar crimes in future. However, no statistical data or empirical study has been placed before me on behalf of the prosecution to conclusively establish that imposition of the death penalty would definitely lead to reduction of crime committed by others in society,” Justice Bagchi said on behalf of the bench.
Cautioning trial courts to exercise due diligence while awarding the death penalty, the bench said,“… in cases involving capital sentence, the trial judge conducting the trial ought to be most careful and cautious while framing charges so that it does not give an impression that he conducted the proceeding in a cavalier manner with scant regard to the cherished fair trial rights of the accused”.
The court was dealing with appeals filed by Ansar Rahman @ Ramesh Giri and Dipak Giri, who were convicted by the trial court under Section 21 (C) of the NDPS Act for possessing heroin above the prescribed commercial quantity. Ansar Rahman was given the death sentence and Dipak Giri was sentenced to 30 years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 3 lakh.
The death sentence awarded to Ansar was commuted by the court given his advanced age and the absence of any material to show any criminal behaviour on his part to commit or abet similar offence from the correctional home.