Fifeen years ago, the rape and murder of Priyadarshini Matton by the son of a high ranking police officer rattled the conscience of the nation. It was apparent on the very face of the circumstances that the young man had no fear of the law on account of his father's position, and he had been consistently harassing he deceased despite her having reported the matter to the police on several occasions. Finally, his obsession for her led to his killing her.
The trial court acquitted, but the High Court reversed the acquittal and sentenced the convict to death. The sentence was reduced to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court on the ground that the case did not fall in the 'rarest of rare' category. This has opened the Rarest of Rare doctrine to the great deal of criticism on account of inconsistence in its application.
Apparently, the mitigation factors cited by the Supreme Court could not impress many. However, it seems that the Apex Court did not find much merit in the approach of taking a life for no reasons other that retributive justice. Therefore, it took a reformative angle and reduced the sentence.
Although the humane outlook of the Court is laudable, it must also be emphasized that in deciding cases involving crimes as shocking as this one, the popular outrage must not be ignored because a heinous crime is an offence against the society at large. Therefore, it must be ensured that the popular sense of justice is not offended and the faith of the people in the criminal justice system remains intact.