Dhananjay Mahapatra TNN 

New Delhi: For the murder of a 16 year-old Abhi Verma in 2005 after kidnapping him for ransom,three persons,including a woman,were awarded death penalty in 2006 that was upheld by the Supreme Court.
But,two of them got a fresh lease of life on Friday,as the Supreme Court stayed fresh execution warrant after they challenged the constitutional validity of Section 364A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that permits the courts to award capital punishment for kidnapping-cum-murder for ransom.
A bench of Justices Swatanter Kumar and S J Mukhopadhaya issued notices to the Centre and Punjab government after advocate D K Garg argued that Section 364A was meant to tackle kidnapping for ransom indulged in as a strategy by international terrorists to destabilize the country and not applicable to individual criminals.
The bench also requested Solicitor General R F Narimans assistance in the matter as Garg pointed out that the condemned prisoners had been living under the shadow of execution warrant since December,2006,and hence deserved to be punished with life imprisonment.
The trio Vikram Singh,Jasvir Singh and Sonia was convicted by a Hoshiarpur trial court for kidnapping minor Abhi and demanding Rs 50 lakh ransom from his goldsmith father,Ravi Verma.They murdered Abhi to eliminate evidence.The HC confirmed the death sentence in May,2008,and the Supreme Court dismissed their appeal on January 25,2010.
But,now they have raised an important question of law relating to validity of Section 364A,which was inserted in the statute retrospectively from 1993 after Parliament approved amendment of IPC in 1994.
Garg drew a comparison between Section 364 and 364A of IPC.He said: Section 364 deals with kidnapping or abduction in order to murder provide for a maximum punishment of life or 10 years,but Section 364A provided for death penalty for an additional offence of demanding ransom.
Thus,there is no rationale or justification for imposing death sentence for a mere additional ransom demand.This violated right to equality and right to life guaranteed under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution, he said.