Not finding the 2010 Jind honour killing case in the category of ‘gravest case of extreme culpabilty’, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday commuted the death sentence awarded by the trial court to the victim’s father, Ram Raji, to life imprisonment. However, the court upheld the life term awarded to the girl’s mother, Kailash Devi.
Vikas, a 21-year-old Jat youth of Sangatpura village in Jind district, was in love with Ritu, a 19-year-old girl from the Brahmin family that resided in Krishna colony of the district. The couple wanted to marry but the girl’s parents killed both of them on the night of September 12, 2010.
Vikas’s father Ramesh had lodged an FIR at the police station in Jind on September 13, 2010.
Vikas’s body was found in a vacant plot in sector 8 of Jind town. After murdering Ritu, her parents cremated her at Brahmanwas village in the district without informing the police.
On August 10 last year, the Jind additional district and sessions judge convicted both the parents of the girl under Section 302 of the IPC (murder). The judge ordered that Ram Raji be hanged, while his wife Kailash Devi was sentenced to life imprisonment. The parents approached the high court against trial court’s orders.
While pronouncing the murder reference, the high court division bench headed by justice SS Saron held, “Even at the outset we may hasten to state that the trial court without drawing a balance sheet of aggravated and mitigating circumstances exercised the option of awarding death penalty to the accused appellant Ram Raji.”
The bench stated that in its view the case “that is entirely based upon circumstantial evidence does not call for extreme punishment of death sentence.”
The division bench added that it was a well-settled principle of law that only in the “gravest case of extreme culpability” the court should think in terms of imposing capital punishment of death. “The life imprisonment is a rule and the death sentence is an exception as per the current scheme of the penal law in India,” the bench said.
In its observations, the bench mentioned a similar honour killing case of Dalip Premnarayan Tiwari vs the state of Maharashtra of 2010 in which the apex court had reduced the death sentence awarded by the trial court and later confirmed by the high court to 25 years of actual imprisonment to three accused and 20 years to one of the accused.