Bangalore’s Jack the Ripper: B.A. Umesh v/s Union of India

Court Name: The Supreme Court of India

Jurisdiction: Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction

Appeal Number: Criminal Appeal No. 1892 of 2022 arising out of S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 890 of 2022]

Appellant: B.A. Umesh aka Umesh Reddy

Respondent: Union of India

Bench: CJI D Y Chandrachud, J. P.S Narasimha, J. S. Ravindra Bhat

Date of Judgment: November 4, 2022

Legal Provisions: Illegal Solitary Confinement, Commute, Prisons Act 1894, Indian Penal Code(1860), Article 21, Article 14, Article 19 and Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.

Facts of the Case:

  • After the Supreme court upheld the Karnataka High Court’s judgment of “death sentence” in which the appellant was convicted for killing of nine women and raping more than 20 women, the police assumed that number of women he raped are much more than reported due to social stigma they didn’t report it[1].
  • Also due to lack of evidence he was acquitted in 11 cases. Death sentence is given in “rarest of rare cases” and in his matter he was given death sentence for raping and murdering a 37year old widow named Jayashree maradi who lived alone with her son in Peenya, Bangalore. In this case, Umesh (appellant) choked the victim and killed her and then had sex with her dead body[2].
  • During this period he escaped from the custody of police six times[3].
  • He filled the “mercy petition” in front of the President of India, on May 7, 2012 the Government of Karnataka rejected his plea[4] and the President rejected it as well on May 12, 2013.
  • He was kept in “solitary confinement” in 2006 which continued for ten years. In 2021, the Karnataka High Court rejected Reddy’s appeal to commute the death sentence[5].

Issues Raised:

  1. Whether the solitary confinement of 10 years was unlawful?
  2. Whether the solitary confinement violates Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India?
  3.  Whether the prisoner’s right under section 309 of the CRPC was infringed?
  4. Whether delay in the mercy petition was a cruelty?

Submissions of the Parties:

Appellant side: The counsel on behalf of the appellant humbly submits before this Hon’ble court that

  • Appellant was kept in solitary confinement right from the decision made by the session court which awarded him death sentence.
  • The Prison manual is an evidence that the appellant was segregated and kept in a separate prison which actually amounts to solitary confinement referring to the case Sunil Batra v/s Delhi Administration [6]
  • Requested the court to set up a video conference with Mr. Nikhil Goel, AAG for the state so that the court can know the circumstances of the cell that the appellant was kept in.
  • The reports submitted by the District Session Judge of the Belgaum district were confirmed that is true by the appellant and with that the appellant also adds that he was kept in “Andheri Block” which had twelve cells and each cell would have only one prisoner and they were allowed to get out of the cell only twice a day for 2 yoga sessions and also stated that this was his worst period in imprisonment which was like solitary confinement as described in Sunil Batra’s case[7].
  • The appellant submitted that from 2006 till 2016 in Andheri Block, after October 2016 till January 2019 he was placed in same Andheri Block and later shifted to these barracks after January 2019 according to the report.
  • He has medical conditions which were confirmed by the medical officer in the court and who also confirmed that the appellant was kept in solitary confiment for 11 years which affected his mental health.

Respondent side: The learned senior counsel made the following submission while representing Union of India

  • The appellant was allowed from time to time to visit the library and canteen and also visitors were allowed from time to time and that didn’t constitute into solitary confinement of the appellant.
  • It was said that there was no delay on part of the respondent which is also conceded by the appellant.
  • The delay in mercy petitions depends on the circumstances of the case and in this case the mercy petition was delayed 5 months approximately which isn’t an inordinate delay.
  • According to the report given by the District Judge of Belgaum clearly states that the accused was not kept I solitary confinement but in the barrack cells.
  • That the appellant had still few judicial options that were open to him and even if he was a convict he couldn’t be treated same as a convict condemned to death.
  • When the mercy petition was filed, the respondent submitted the required documents to the President under Article 72 of the Constitution of India[8] with few additional documents and information which included the medical reports of the appellant.

Rationale:  Theunderlying reasons are for the decision by the bench which was headed by Uday Umesh Lalit, CJI, for commutation of death sentence

  • Referring to the preceding cases such as Sunil Batra’s case where the Supreme Court has clearly mentioned the guidelines of solitary confinement and the prison authorities do not have control and also the ability to subject prisoners to solitary confinement under section 30(2) of the Prisons Act[9]. Also how the prison authorities tortured and assaulted Sunil, due to which he suffered anal injuries, clearly shows the behavior of prison authorities with the inmates. To stop all these kinds of practices in the jail, the Supreme Court clearly mentioned that no one should be tortured or put into solitary confinement unless the court which has the actual power in these matters asks to do so.
  • In Shabnam v/s Union of India[10] and state of Uttarakhand v/s Mehtab[11], in both these cases the supreme court held that in a death warrant proceedings the principles of natural justice should be used where a convict should be allowed to exhaust all his legal remedies like appeal, reappeal , mercy and review petitions. And unless an offender who is sentenced to death uses all his basic, legal and constitutional rights available to him he cannot be put into solitary confinement.
  • Violation of Section 73 and 74 of the Indian Penal Code[12], under section 73 it is clearly mentioned that the court has the power to sentence the offender to be kept in solitary imprisonment for any duration depending upon the period of his imprisonment, if the term of the imprisonment is for more than a year then the offender might be kept in solitary confinement not exceeding a period of three months. This was violated by the prison authorities and even without the court order he was kept in solitary confinement as mentioned in the jail manual till January 2019 and later moved to barracks according to the report. Under section 74 the limit for solitary confinement is 7 days in any month of the whole imprisonment with intervals between them.
  • Violation of Article 14,19 &21[13], these fundamental rights which are not only available to the non-offenders but the offenders(prisoners) are also entitled to these three rights which says all are equal before law(14), freedom of movement(19) and right to live a dignified life(21). When a prisoner is sent to these solitary confinements way before he has exhausted all his rights is form of cruelty and a barbarian act as well because if he is put into solitary confinement which separates him from the rest of the prison or when he is kept captive in a cell where everyone else is walking freely in the prison or when he is treated separately by making him eat in his cell and in the same cell there is a toilet while everyone eats at the canteen. He loses his dignity and equality way before he uses all his rights.
  • Section 309 of the Criminal procedure code[14] is violated too; it took him totally 14 years 3 months 28 days under custody of sentence to death. Everyone has the right to speedy trial[15] in the eyes of the law no matter what kind of crime he has committed, especially being captive in a cell for 10 years clearly shows that due to the delay in mercy petition and appeal in courts has violated his right as well as the hope of the people in law.
  • Medical conditions, as per the report submitted by NIMHANS Bangalore the appellant seems to have combination of fetishistic transvestism which is dressing as the opposite sex to obtain sexual pleasure and he was also diagnosed with necrophilia which is indulging to have sex with the corpses of women due to which he was mentally ill[16].

Defects of Law:

In previous cases the Supreme Court itself has mentioned it that solitary confinement is cruel and no one should be sentenced to it but still they are kept in solitary confinement few days before their execution to convicts. Due to lack of amendments in laws like Prisons Act (1894) and Indian Penal Code (1860), there can’t be much done unless the Legislature takes the matter into its own hands. There are bills pending in the Parliament of India regarding the above mentioned laws but no changes have been made yet.

Interference:

The 262nd Law Commissions report 2015, says that punishments like death penalty and solitary confinement should be removed completely because of its cruel nature as well as it is expensive to build a cell with that requirements and the hope of reformation and rehabilitation of the offender reduces. The practice of solitary confinement destroys the mental and physical health which induces stress and weakness in the offender which is why a medical officer should visit them every single day.

A.Apeksha

BMS College of Law, Bangalore


[1] Varuna verma, Murders most foul , THE TELEGRAPH CALCUTTA INDIA, (Nov. 8, 2009) https://web.archive.org/web/20121030002431/http://www.telegraphindia.com/1091108/jsp/7days/story_11713568.jsp

[2] TNN, It’s gallows for Umesh Reddy sessions court sentence upheld,  THE TIMES OF INDIA,(Feb. 18,2009, 06:44pm) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/its-gallows-for-umesh-reddy-sessions-court-sentence-upheld/articleshow/4150981.cms

[3] Hirekop RajanSamuel, SC commutes the death sentence of B.A. Umesh, gives him 30years sentence, (Nov.06,2022, 12:04am) https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/bengaluru-news/sc-commutes-death-sentence-of-ba-umesh-101667672698445.html

[4] DHNS, Karnataka rejects the mercy plea of serial rapist Umesh Reddy, DECCAN HERALD,(May 7,2012, 08:56pm) https://www.deccanherald.com/content/247659/karnataka-govt-rejects-mercy-plea.html

[5] Hirekop RajanSamuel, SC commutes the death sentence of B.A. Umesh, gives him 30years sentence, (Nov.06,2022, 12:04am) https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/bengaluru-news/sc-commutes-death-sentence-of-ba-umesh-101667672698445.html

[6] Sunil Batra  v/s Delhi Administration, (1980), AIR 1579 (India)

[7] B.A. Umesh  v/s The Union of India,(2022) SCC Online SC 1528(India)

[8]  INDIAN CONSTITUTION. Art. 72

[9]  Prisons Act, 1894, Section 30(2) (India)

[10] Shabnam v/s Union of India,(2015) SCC Online SC 484(India)

[11] State of Uttarakhand v/s Mehtab,(2022)

[12]  Indian Penal Code,1860, Section 73 & 74 (India)

[13] INDIAN CONSTITUTION. Art 14,19 & 21

[14] Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Section 309 (India)

[15] Umamageswari Maruthappan, Justice delayed is Justice denied : the importance of speedy trial in CRPC, LAWYERS CLUB INDIA, (June 29,2021) https://www.lawyersclubindia.com/articles/justice-delayed-is-justice-denied-the-importance-of-speedy-trial-through-section-309-of-the-code-of-criminal-procedure-14125.asp

[16] Roja Kandath, Sexual Deviance Shrouded in Mystery, Inhabitation, THE TIMES OF INDIA (June 3, 2002, 10:39pm) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/sexual-deviance-shrouded-in-mystery-inhibition/articleshow/11894509.cms

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