Socio-economic status should't be criterion in rape cases: SC

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New Delhi, Feb 3 (UNI) The Supreme Court has held that courts should not be influenced by the socio-economic status, religion, race, caste or creed of the accused or the victim in rape cases.

While punishing an accused in a sexual assault case, a Division Bench, comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and P Sathasivam, in its judgement said the gravity of the offence should be the only consideration in the sentencing policy of the courts.

Madan Singh was sentenced to ten-year imprisonment by the trial court for raping a ten-year-old girl on August 29, 1999 in Rajasthan.

The Rajasthan High Court, however, remitted the sentence to seven years.

The apex court, while setting aside the judgement of the High Court, noted,'' The measure of punishment in a case of rape cannot depend upon the social status of the victim or the accused. It must depend upon the conduct of the accused, the state and the age of the victim and the gravity of criminal act. Crimes of violence upon women need to be dealt with an iron hand. The socio-economic status, religion, race, caste or creed of the accused or the victim are irrelevant considerations in sentencing policy.'' The apex court said the protection of society and deterring the criminal is the avowed object of the law and that is required to be achieved by imposing an appropriate sentence.

''The courts must hear the loud cry for justice by society in heinous cases of rape on innocent helpless girls of tender years as in this case, and respond by imposing of a proper sentence. Public abhorrence of the crime needs reflection through impositiopn of appopriate sentence by the courts. To show mercy in such a heinous crime would be a travesty of justice and the plea for leniency is wholly misplaced,'' the court said.

Justice Pasayat while writing the seven-page judgement for the bench allowed the appeal of the Rajasthan government.

UNI AKS/SC GT RP HS1427

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