Caste system in India is one of the world’s oldest prevailing social hierarchy. What started as a means of division of labour, this practice has incorporated within itself, social, political and economic discrimination through the means of untouchability, slavery, forced division of labour etc. Various legislations and provisions have been enacted and adopted for preventing and abolishing the caste system, some of them include, the Protection of Civil Liberties Act, 1955, The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989, Article 15 which prohibits discrimination on certain grounds, which includes caste, article 17 which abolishes untouchability etc. The introduction of such provisions has had almost no effect on the mindset of the people, who even today recognise and acknowledge caste before associating with people or indulging with people in social activities.
In a horrifying incident which took place six years ago in the year 2013 in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, three young men were murdered in a gruesome manner with their body being disposed of in the most inhuman manner. One of the men was beheaded whose upper and lower limbs were cut, the other found in a septic tank of a toilet block, all in the name of caste. One of the deceased dared to traverse beyond the societal ascertained caste norms and had an affair with an upper caste girl, which costed him and his other fellow-workers their life. In State of Maharashtra v. Ramesh Vishwanath Darandale and ors, the Bombay High Court confirmed death penalty to five of the accused, with one of the accused being acquitted due to lack of evidence. While computing whether to award death penalty or life imprisonment, the family circumstances and rural background of the accused, the age, absense of criminal antecedents, conduct in jail and likelihood of reform is taken into account. By considering all the present circumstances, the court stated that the gruesome manner of murder clearly showed their intention to set an example in the society as to what happens if one belonging to the lower caste ventures to keep relations with a girl from the upper class of the society, hence, there is no scope for reform of the accused.
The court observed that,
“We have considered all aggravating and mitigating circumstances in the present case. Justice demands that, Court should impose punishment befitting the crime. In our considered view, looking at the factors like young age of the accused, absence of criminal antecedents and likelihood of reforms cannot be mitigating. Likewise, post crime, conduct of the accused clearly indicates there was no remorse felt by the, for the acts committed. We are therefore of the view that the aggravating circumstances are outweighing the mitigating circumstances and we don not find any justification to convert the death sentence imposed by the Courts below to imprisonment for the rest of life.”
Thus, confirming death sentence awarded to five of the accused under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and acquitting the sixth accused of all charges due to lack of evidence.
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