Courts should never mention the caste or religion of litigants in judgement titles, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday.
A bench comprising Justices Abhay S Oka and Pankaj Mithal made the observation while hearing an appeal filed by the Rajasthan government against a High Court order reducing the sentence of a man named Gautam who was held guilty of raping a five-year-old girl.
The bench questioned why the convict’s caste was mentioned in the judgement titles of the Rajasthan High Court and the trial court.
“An accused has no caste or religion when the court deals with his case,” the Supreme Court said. “We fail to understand why the caste of the accused has been mentioned in the cause title of the judgments of the High Court and the trial court.”
The bench added that the title of the Supreme Court judgement would be amended to remove the caste from the title after the verdict is pronounced.
While the trial court had sentenced Gautam to life imprisonment, the High Court had reduced the sentence to 12 years of imprisonment. The High Court had taken into account his young age, the fact that he belonged to a poor Scheduled Caste family and that he was not a habitual offender. The High Court had also noted that he had been in jail since May 8, 2014.
The Supreme Court, however, said that the caste of the accused person could not be a reason to show leniency in such cases. It also held that the man not being a habitual offender was “entirely irrelevant”.
The bench also said that in such offences, the financial condition of the accused person should not normally weigh on the court’s mind. “In this case, the victim’s family is from the same economic strata as the respondent,” the Supreme Court noted.
The court, however, took into account the fact that the man was only 22 years old at the time of the offence and that he had been in prison since 2014. For these reasons, it sentenced him to rigorous imprisonment for 14 years.
“The respondent-accused shall not be entitled to remission while undergoing the enhanced sentence,” the Supreme Court said in its order. “The remission granted earlier will remain unaffected.”
The bench added that whenever a child is subjected to sexual assault, the government or legal services authority should arrange for the child’s counselling. “It will help the victim children to come out of the trauma, which will enable them to lead a better life in future,” it said.