By Swati Deshpande, TNN | Feb 7, 2013,

MUMBAI: Legal experts and human and women’s rights activists have expressed dismay over a reasoning given by the Supreme Court while upholding a death sentence in a 2007 case of kidnapping and murder of a boy. One of the “aggravating factors” to justify the death sentence was the fact that killing of a male child would lead to an end of the family lineage, stated the SC.The legal fraternity reacted sharply to the development. A retired judge of the Bombay high court, B H Marlapalle, who now practices in the Supreme Court, said on Wednesday from Delhi: “The reasoning that murder spelled an end of the family lineage and thus requires death sentence for the killer is not justifiable to bring the case in the rarest of rare category. Yes, there were other factors that the court has listed and the sentencing is based on the facts of each case, but does it mean that a male child has more value or is more precious than an only female child, who cannot take forward a family’s lineage?”

The SC had said: “Purposefully killing the sole male child, has grave repercussions for the parents… Agony for parents for the loss of their only male child, who would have carried further the family lineage, and is expected to see them through their old age, is unfathomable. Extreme misery caused to the aggrieved party, certainly adds to the aggravating circumstances.”

Senior criminal counsel Nitin Pradhan said: “The reasoning that the misery caused by death of the only male child, which brings an end to the family name, would be an added aggravating factor to justify capital punishment for the killer has no standing in logic or law. It reflects the mindset of the majority in a patriarchal society.”

Feminist advocate Kamayani Bali Mahabal said: “The apex court is reinforcing patriarchal values in its judgment. How can they do that when all of us (activists) are trying to demolish it. Is the agony of losing an only male child more than losing an only female child, merely because the son would have carried forward the family lineage? The judgment may come as a huge leap back for the women’s movement.”

Retired Supreme Court judge B P Singh said the judgment would not be a “precedent for future cases when an only male child is killed”. Citing a 1956 SC judgment, Singh said: “Inferences drawn in one criminal case is not binding precedent in successive cases. The findings in criminal cases are on the facts and circumstances of that case. Rarity depends on how cruel, heinous and barbaric the act of murder is, how beyond the ordinary it is.”