New Delhi: The Supreme Court has upheld the
death sentence of a "hot tempered" and "dictatorial" husband
who set ablaze his wife and their three children after a
A bench of justices Markandeya Katju and C K Prasad
agreed with the concurrent findings of the sessions court and
the Bombay High Court that the convict Ajitsingh Harnamsingh
Gujral, a businessman, deserved death penalty as his offence
fell under the "rarest of rare" crime category warranting the
The apex court rejected the plea of defence counsel
Jaspal Singh that since no motive was established and as there
was no eye witness, the conviction cannot be sustained.
"From their testimony (witnesses), it is evident that the
appellant was a dictatorial personality who wanted to dominate
over his family and was also hot tempered. He would even beat
his wife (deceased) with a leather belt.
"As to what motivated the appellant to commit this
gruesome and ghastly act is impossible for us to say because
the court cannot enter into the mind of a human being and find
out his motive. We can only speculate," Justice Katju, writing
the judgement, said.
On the night of April 10, 2003, Gujral had poured
kerosene on his wife Kanwaljeet Kaur, son Amandeep Singh
(20) and daughters Neetia (22) and Taniya (13)and set them
ablaze after a row with Kaur.
The victims were charred to death on the spot. The couple
were married for 27 years and according to the prosecution
Gujral was prone to frequently lose his temper and beat his
wife with a leather belt.
The apex court said though there was no eyewitness, the
fact that Gujaral was last seen with his family four hours
before the incident clearly established his involvement.
The bench rejected the contention of Gujral that he had
gone by car to Delhi from Mumbai to meet his his sister who
was in a serious condition owing to cancer.
"In our opinion, since the accused was last seen with his
wife and the fire broke out about 4 hours thereafter, it was
for him to properly explain how this incident happened, which
he has not done. Hence, this is one of the strong links in
the chain connecting the accused with the crime.
"When a person living in Mumbai receives a message that
his relative is critical in Delhi, he would have ordinarily
take a flight from Mumbai to Delhi and would not go by car,
which journey would take several days.
"A flight from Mumbai to Delhi takes two hours. There was
no shortage of money with the appellant as he was found with
cash of Rs.7,68,080," the apex court said.
The bench said Gujral, who was bound to protect his
family, had resorted to the savage act and hence deserved no
"In our opinion, a person like the appellant who, instead
of doing his duty of protecting his family, kills them in such
a cruel and barbaric manner cannot be reformed or
rehabilitated. The balance sheet is heavily against him and
accordingly we uphold the death sentence awarded to him," the
The apex court said the convict did not act on spur of
the moment or under any provocation as he had brought a large
quantity of petrol into his residential apartment, which shows
that he had pre-planned the diabolical and gruesome murder in
a dastardly manner.
"In our opinion, a distinction has to be drawn between
ordinary murders and murders which are gruesome, ghastly or
horrendous. While life sentence should be given in the former,
the latter belongs to the category of rarest of rare cases and
hence death sentence should be given.
"It is only the legislature which can abolish the death
penalty and not the courts. As long as death penalty exists in
the statute book, it has to be imposed in some cases,
otherwise it will tantamount to repeal of the death penalty by
the judiciary. It is not for the judiciary to repeal or amend
the law as that is in the domain of the legislature," the