ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Human Sacrifice, Sentencing and the Death Penalty

Failings of the Supreme Court

In the judicial discourse on the relationship between human sacrifice and punishment in criminal law, there are glaring errors. Looking closely at the Supreme Court’s judgment in Ishwari Lal Yadav v State of Chhattisgarh, the deviation from the principle of individualised sentencing and the consequences of ignoring evidence on the complex anthropological and psychological dimensions of human sacrifice are reflected upon.

In October 2019, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Ishwari Lal Yadav v State of Chhattisgarh (2019)1 confirmed death sentences for the married couple Kiran Bai and Ishwari Yadav in a case involving human sacrifice of a two-year-old.2 Relying on the guidelines laid down in Sushil Murmu v State of Jharkhand (2004)3 (another case on human sacrifice), it held that the present case was “the rarest of the rare,” meriting the death sentence, as had been rightly held by the courts below.

This article highlights the stark errors in the judicial discourse on human sacrifice. In the Ishwari Lal Yadav case, the Court completely disregarded the cultural context of human sacrifice and its implications on questions of culpability in criminal law. It is argued that the Court’s approach is contrary to the principle of individualised sentencing, and ignores evidence on the complex anthropological and psychological dimensions of human sacrifice.

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Updated On : 23rd Feb, 2020
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