The Supreme Court has commuted to life term the death sentence awarded to a man convicted for raping and murdering a two-and-a-half-year old girl in 2013 in Maharashtra.
The top court, which said sexual assault on the minor girl was "very severe" and the conduct of the convict could be termed as "perverse and barbaric", observed that he did not consciously cause any injury with the intent to extinguish the victim's life.
"We therefore, find that though the appellant (convict) is guilty of the offence punishable under section 302 (murder) IPC, since there was no requisite intent as would bring the case under any of the first three clauses of section 300 IPC, the offence in the present case does not deserve death penalty," a bench headed by Justice U U Lalit said in its 139-page verdict.
The bench, while affirming the view taken by the trial court and the high court in convicting the accused who was a maternal uncle of the victim, commuted the sentence to life imprisonment for the offence of murder and 25 years rigorous imprisonment for the offence of rape.
The bench, also comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and Krishna Murari, delivered the judgement on an appeal filed by the convict against the October 2015 verdict of Bombay High Court which had confirmed the death sentence awarded to him by a trial court.
The bench noted in its judgement that about 67 cases were dealt with by the top court in last 40 years where the offences were of rape and murder and age of the victims were 16 years or below.
It said that out of these 67 cases, the top court had affirmed award of death sentence to accused in 15 cases.
It said in three out of these 15 cases, death penalty was commuted to life term by the top court in review petitions.
It noted that out of remaining 12 cases, death sentence was confirmed in two cases and review pleas were rejected.
The bench said as on date, death sentence was confirmed in 12 out of 67 cases where the principal offences allegedly committed were of rape and murder and victims were aged about 16 years or below.
It further said that out of these 67 cases, in at least 51 cases the victims were aged below 12 years.
The top court said in 12 out of those 51 cases, death sentence was initially awarded.
An FIR was lodged in the case by the victim's father in February 2013 and it was found that there were bite marks on the victim's body.
The accused, who was 21-year-old at the time of incident, had claimed that he was being falsely implicated in the case.
"The circumstances proved on record are not only conclusive in nature but completely support the case of the prosecution and are consistent with only one hypothesis and that is the guilt of the appellant (convict). They form a chain, so complete, consistent and clear, that no room for doubt or ground arises pointing towards innocence of the appellant," the bench said.
"The circumstances are clear, consistent and conclusive in nature and are of unimpeachable character in establishing the guilt of the appellant. The evidence on record also depicts an exceptional case where two and half years old girl was subjected to sexual assault. The assault was accompanied by bites on the body of the victim," the bench said.
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