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Sanjeev Verma, Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, October 03, 2012
The Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday cleared the way for hanging two convicts, Vikram Singh and Jasbir Singh, for kidnapping for ransom and later committing a "cold-blooded murder" of a 16-year-old Hoshiarpur (Punjab) boy Abhi Verma "in inhuman, diabolic and dastard manner" in 2005.

However, the division bench comprising justice Surya Kant and justice RP Nagrath directed the Patiala central jail superintendent to keep the death warrants, issued for October 5 by the Hoshiarpur district and sessions judge, in abeyance till October 12, so as to enable the convicts to avail their remedy of filing appeal in the Supreme Court.

Finding no merit in the petition filed by Vikram Singh and Jasbir Singh, the bench said petitioners' submission has "no legs to stand and must fall flat" adding that the decision "to hang the petitioners to death has been unarguably taken following the procedure established by law."

Court had found Vikram, Jasbir and Jasbir's wife Sonia of kidnapping and later committing murder of a Hoshiarpur goldsmith Ravi Verma's son Abhi for a ransom of Rs. 50 lakhs in February 2005 in a preplanned manner by injecting Chloroform and Fortwin in heavy doses to the victim after tying both his hands and legs and sealing his mouth with a tape to prevent the detection of offence.

The trial court had on September 3, 2005 convicted the trio under sections 302 (murder), 364-A (kidnapping for ransom), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) Indian Penal Code and sentenced all of them to death.

Later the high court had on May 30, 2008 confirmed the death sentence awarded to the three accused. The convicts filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, which on January 25, 2010 upheld death sentence in case of Vikram and Jasbir. However, Sonia's death sentence was commuted to life sentence.

With an intention to linger on the death sentence awarded to them, Vikram and Jasbir had approached the high court challenging the legality of convicting them under section 364-A of IPC and had sought directions to strike down the section from IPC stating it against articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

The petitioners had informed that the legislative object of 'death' as one of the sentences for the offence under section 364-A was to curb the menace of cross-border terrorism in kidnapping cases against 'the government or any foreign state or international intergovernmental organization' and not to punish any individual.

However, the bench said that the petitioners' counsel's "contention completely overlooks the fact that the phrase "any other person" was inserted in section 364-A at the onset only to punish a private individual's kidnapping for ransom."