Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Supreme Court, Marriage and Murder

On 10 December 2009 a Division Bench of the Supreme Court, consisting Justice V. S. Sirupurkar and Justice Deepak Verma reduced the death sentence of Dilip Tiwari, a murderer, to 25 years of imprisonment because the victims were of “so called lower caste.”
Dilip Tiwari’s sister had married Prabhu, a member of Ezhavar caste of Kerala. Dilip Tiwari, a Brahmin, with the help of Sunil Yadav and Manoj, murdered Prabhu, Prabhu’s father Krishnan Nochil, Prabhu’s brother Bijit and a neighbour Abhyaraj at Andheri on 17 May 2004. They had hacked them to death. Prabhu’s mother India and sister Deepa were injured in the attack.
The Sessions Court had sentenced the murderers to death and Bombay High Court had confirmed it.
The judgment, inter alia, had the following sentences:
“…Caste is a concept which grips a person before his death and does not leave him even after his death. The vicious grip of the caste, community, religion, though totally unjustified, is a stark reality. The psyche of the offender in the background of a social issue like an inter-caste community marriage, though wholly unjustified, (Italics mine) would have to be considered in the peculiar circumstances.
It is common experience that when the younger sister commits something unusual and in this case it was an intercaste, intercommunity marriage out of the secret love affair, then in the society it is the elder brother who justifiably or otherwise is held responsible for not stopping such affair. It is held as the family defeat.
At times, he has to suffer taunts and snide remarks even from the persons who really have no business to poke their nose into the affairs of the family. Dilip, therefore, must have been (Italics mine) a prey of the so-called insult which his younger sister had imposed upon his family.
The murders were the outcome of a social issue like a marriage with a person of so-called lower caste. However, a time has come when we have to consider these social issues as relevant while considering the death sentence in the circumstances as these.”
This judgment is dangerous and should not be allowed to set a precedent. If something is wholly unjustified it should not be considered whether the circumstances are peculiar or otherwise. Intercaste marriage is not a peculiar circumstance, more so in Bombay.
The judgment says Dilip, therefore, must have been a prey. Either he was a prey or he was not. Even if he were a prey that did not give him a right to murder. If other people poke their nose they should be told to shut up. Since the judges were sure about him being a prey this sentence should not have been part of the judgment.
The judgment goes against equality enshrined in the constitution of India when it says “when we have to consider these social issues as relevant while considering the death sentence”. This justifies discrimination on the basis of caste and less punishment for people of “upper castes” for crimes against people of “lower castes”.
The Government of India must act. A review petition must be filed against this judgement in the Supreme Court. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Law Minister Veerappa Moily must begin the process of removal of these judges Justice V. S. Sirupurkar and Justice Deepak Verma.

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