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The Supreme Court has said that when an accused executes a meticulously planned diabolic murder, without provocation or acting on the spur of the moment, and becomes a menace to society, then the crime falls in the category of rarest of rare cases warranting the death sentence.

“In our considered view, the “rarest of the rare” case exists when an accused would be a menace, threat and anti-thetical to harmony in the society,” said the apex court bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice R.K. Agrawal and Justice Arun Mishra in their Oct 9 order.

Holding that the death sentence in such cases was the only appropriate punishment, Chief Justice Dattu pronouncing the order said, “Especially in cases where an accused does not act on provocation, acting in spur of the moment but meticulously executes a deliberately planned crime inspite of understanding the probable consequence of his act, the death sentence may be the most appropriate punishment.”

The court said this while upholding the July 2, 2009, order of the Jharkhand High Court which had confirmed the Aug 1, 2008, order of the trial court convicting four accused of murder who had wiped out an entire family of eight of their immediate relative over a land dispute.

The trial court awarded all the four convicts the death sentence. However, the high court while confirming the conviction of the four by the trial court upheld the death sentence of two and commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment of the other two – Saddam Khan and Wakil Khan .

“We are mindful that criminal law requires strict adherence to the rule of proportionality in providing punishment according to the culpability of each kind of criminal conduct keeping in mind the effect of not awarding just punishment on the society,” the order said.

“Keeping in view the said principle of proportionality of sentence or what it termed as “just-desert” for the vile act of slaughtering eight lives including four innocent minors and a physically infirm child whereby an entire family is exterminated, we cannot resist from concluding that the depravity of the appellant’s offence would attract no lesser sentence than the death penalty,” the court said while upholding the order of conviction and sentencing by the trial court and its being confirmed by the high court with modification.

In the present case on June 6, 2007, one Mofil Khan and others attacked his brother Haneef Khan when he was offering prayers at a mosque in Makandu village in Jharkhand with sharp-edged weapons. Haneef died on the spot. Thereafter, the assailants went to Haneef Khan’s house and killed his six sons and wife. One of the sons was physically disabled.

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