New Delhi: A compromise between a victim of a rape case and the perpetrator should not be a ground for awarding lesser punishment to the convict as this trend exhibits "stark insensitivity to the need for proportionate punishments", the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled.
The court also said religion, race, caste, economic or social status of the accused or the victim, long pendency of the criminal trial, offer of the rapist to marry the victim or the fact that victim is married and settled in life "cannot be construed as special factors for reducing the sentence prescribed by the statute".
It cautioned the courts subordinate to it that it would not be "safe" to reduce sentence of a rape convict or accused in exercise of their discretionary powers under the Indian Penal Code, merely because the victim has settled the matter.
"A compromise entered into between the parties cannot be construed as a leading factor based on which lesser punishment can be awarded. In interest of justice and to avoid unnecessary pressure/harassment to the victim, it would not be safe in considering the compromise arrived at between the parties in rape cases to be a ground for the court to exercise the discretionary power under the proviso of section 376(2) of IPC," a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said.
"The power under the proviso should not be used indiscriminately in a routine, casual and cavalier manner for the reason that an exception clause requires strict interpretation", the bench, also comprising justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Ranjan Gogoi, warned.
The bench said of late some subordinate and high courts have taken a "softer view" and reduced the sentence of an accused to that already undergone during trial, when awarding punishment for such a heinous crime, despite their being stringent provisions for rape under the IPC.
"The above trend exhibits stark insensitivity to need for proportionate punishments to be imposed in such cases," it said.
Proviso of section 376(2) of IPC states "the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgement, impose a sentence of imprisonment of either description for a term of less than ten years."