The Supreme Court today commuted the death sentence of a man for raping and murdering a seven- -year-old girl in Jabalpur in 2011 and sentenced him to 25 years imprisonment without remission, holding that the offence does not fall under the category of “rarest of rare” case.
A bench of Justices J Chelameswar, Shiva Kirti Singh and A M Sapre while sentencing the man for 25 years considered the fact that there may be probabilities of such crime being repeated in case the convict is allowed to come out of the prison on completing life imprisonment of 14 years.
“The occurrence is of the year 2011 when the appellant was said to be about 27 years old. Considering the fact that the deceased, a helpless child fell victim of the crime of lust at the hands of the appellant and there may be probabilities of such crime being repeated in case the appellant is allowed to come out of the prison on completing usual period of imprisonment for life which is taken to be 14 years…
“We are of the view that the appellant should be inflicted with imprisonment for life with a further direction that he shall not be released from prison till he completes actual period of 25 years of imprisonment,” the bench said while dismissing the appeals of convict Tattu Lodhi alias Pancham Lodhi and modifying the sentence.
The bench said the facts of this case did not make out a “rarest of rare” case so as to confirm the death sentence of the appellant.
“The death penalty is therefore not confirmed,” the court said, noting the submission of counsel for the convict who sought 20 years in jail while Madhya Pradesh government which earlier sought confirmation of death sentence but later demanded jail term for the entire natural life.
The bench upheld the findings of trial court and High Court in convicting Lodhi for kidnapping the victim and later murdering the minor after subjecting her to sexual abuse.
“We find no good reason to interfere with the findings of the trial court, duly confirmed by the High Court, that the appellant-accused kidnapped the victim and after subjecting her to sexual abuse, throttled her to death,” the bench said rejecting Lodhi’s submission that the chain of circumstantial evidence is not complete and does not prove the guilt of accused.
Counsel for state government highlighted factors like brutality, helplessness of the victim, unprovoked and pre-meditated attack as well as societal concern in respect of a particular brutal or heinous crime.
“The judicial innovation of bridging the gap between death sentence on the one extreme and only 14 years of actual imprisonment in the name of life imprisonment on the other, in our view serves a laudable purpose as explained in judgments and does not violate any positive mandate of law in the Indian Penal Code or in the Code of Criminal Procedure,” the bench said.
“Hence the law is reiterated that in appropriate cases where this court is hesitant in maintaining death sentence, it may order that the convict shall undergo imprisonment for whole of natural life or to a lesser extent as may be specified,” it said.
The trial court had held Lodhi guilty of committing the murder of a seven-year-old minor girl, kidnapping, attempting to rape her and destruction of evidence relating to the crime.
It had sentenced him to death for offence under section 302 of IPC, life for offence under section 364 (kidnapping in order to murder) of IPC, seven years for offence under section 363 (kidnapping) of IPC, and seven years for rape of minor which was confirmed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.