Basi Reddy, J.
1. The accused in this case, Amalla Koteswara Rao, has been convicted of the murder of a man called Boginedi Peddanna and has been sentenced to death by the Sessions Judge of Guntur. The offence is stated to have been committed on 19-3-1952 in the village of Anantharappad near the tobacco barn of P. W. 2 (Parchuri Bodaiah alias Chinna Hanumaiah). The manner of attach was by stabbing with a big knife (M. O. 1), described by one of the witnesses is a Knife generally used for cutting goats and fowls. It has a blade of about 8' in length. The victim died at about 8--00 P. M. on the same day in the Government General Hospital, Guntur, where he had been removed for treatment. (After narrating the case for the prosecution and discussing the evidence (Paras 2-17), the judgment proceeded:)
18. In the face of the unimpeachable and conclusive, evidence adduced by the prosecution, the plea of the accused is unavailing. All the aforesaid pieces of evidence proved by reliable evidence, establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt and we are in agreement with the learned trial Judge that the accused is guilty of the offence of murder. We therefore confirm the conviction of the accused under Section 302 I. P. C.
19. There remains the question of sentence. The learned Sessions Judge has imposed the sentence of death, on the ground that there are no extenuating circumstances in the case. But, in our view, the approach to the question of punishment should be somewhat different. The theory that where there are no extenuating or mitigating circumstances, it is incumbent upon the Court to Impose the sentence of death, stems from the assumption that the sentence of death is the normal punishment for the offence of murder and the lesser sentence of imprisonment for life is the exception. This view was based on Sub-section (5) of Section 367 Cr. P. C. as it stood before the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1955, (Act No. XXVI of 1955), and it provided:
'If the accused is convicted of an offence punishable with death, and the Court sentences him to any punishment other than death, the Court shall in its Judgment state the reason why sentence of death was not passed:' (The Sub-section contained a proviso which is not material for the present purpose.)
This Sub-section has, however, been substituted by a new Sub-section by Act No. XXVI of 1955, and in the new sub-section, the main clause of Sub-section (5) as extracted above, has been omitted. The result is that by virtue of the provisions of Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, the Court is now allowed full discretion to award the sentence of death or the lesser sentence of imprisonment for life for the offence of murder. That being the legal position now, the view that the extreme penalty is the normal sentence and the mitigated sentence is the exception, does rot hold water. It can no longer be said that death is the normal punishment for murder, and the view formerly held by Courts in India that it is not for the Judge to ask himself whether there are reasons for imposing the penalty of death but he should ask himself whether there are reasons for abstaining from doing so, has lost its validity.
It seems to us that the correct approach to this question is that upon a conviction for murder, the Judge should ask himself the question, 'Are there any aggravating circumstances in this case which imperatively call for the exaction of the extreme penalty?' If, in a given case, there are such circumstances, it is his bounden duly to award the capital sentence in the larger interests of society. It is not the province of the Judge to question the wisdom of the policy of the law. He should not allow caprice or sentiment to sway his discretion, if, on the other hand, circumstances of an aggravating nature are absent in a given case, the Judge would be justified in imposing the lesser of the two punishments prescribed by law viz., the imprisonment for life. The mere fact that a human life has been taken, cannot in itself be an aggregating factor calling for the extreme penalty for the simple reason that, if death is not caused with the requisite intention or knowledge, the offence would not amount to murder.
20. Viewed from this angle, it must be held thatthe instant case does not present any aggravating circumstances. The prosecution was unable to prove anyproximate or immediate motive for the crime. The motivesuggested by the prosecution referred to something thatHad happened a year before the offence, but it is hardlylikely that the accused would have nursed a grievance fora whole year and suddenly attacked the deceased on thatfateful day. Something must have happened in-between,which the record of the case does not disclose. It maybe that it was a chance encounter between the accusedand the deceased and the attack itself was sudden andunpremeditated. The eye-witnesses saw only the last stageof the incident on hearing the cry of the deceased. Whathad immediately preceded that, and what motive hadreally prompted the accused to launch such a ferociousattack on the deceased in the middle of the day, are allleft in the dark. We therefore consider that the lesser ofthe two sentences prescribed by Section 302 I. P. C.would meet the ends of justice in this case. We accordingly set aside the sentence of death passed by the lowerCourt and instead impose on the accused the sentence ofimprisonment for life. His appeal is allowed to thisextent.