The Delhi high court on Wednesday commuted to life the death sentence of a man convicted of killing several people and dumping their beheaded bodies outside the city’s Tihar Jail, saying there was no evidence.
Over the course of nine years, 49-year-old Chandrakant Jha was accused of murdering seven people who he thought were indulging in ‘immoral practices’ such as drinking, womanising and doing drugs.
A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and RK Gauba said, “In the present case, there was no witness and the prosecution had to rely on circumstantial evidence.”
However, it said that Jha would have to spend the remainder of his life in jail “without remission”.
“We would convert the death sentence to life imprisonment i.e. imprisonment for entire life without remission without affecting the power under Article 72 and 161 of the Constitution of India. This would be an appropriate and proportional sentence. We order accordingly,” the high court bench said.
The convict had earlier been sentenced to death in two cases, awarded life imprisonment in a third one, but let off for want of evidence in another four. Most of Jha’s victims were acquainted with him.
Jha, from Ghosai village in Bihar’s Madhepura district, was known to allegedly kill people simply because he did not approve of their habits. In 2013, a Delhi court presided by additional sessions judge Kamini Lau had sent Jha to the gallows because he “could not be reformed”.
Jha’s first alleged murder was in 1998, when he killed an acquaintance called Anil Mandal at Adarsh Nagar in New Delhi. Though the Haiderpur resident remained behind bars for over three years in this connection, he was eventually released for lack of evidence.
Jha allegedly murdered Shekhar – another acquaintance – in 2003 because he found the latter’s addiction to alcohol distasteful. However, he was acquitted in this case too.
It was with his next murder, that of another acquaintance called Umesh the same year, that Jha launched his macabre routine of disposing of decapitated bodies outside Tihar Jail. This was followed by the killing of Guddu in 2005 because Jha reportedly didn’t approve of his marijuana addiction.
The tide of justice, however, soon turned against him. Jha received the death penalty for killing another acquaintance Amit because he had committed the ‘sin’ of womanising in 2006, and the murder of 19-year-old Upender for entering into an affair with the daughter of one of his friends.
Jha final murder was that of Dalip in 2007, after the latter was found having non-vegetarian food. He earned a life term till the end of his life for this particular offence.
However, there were many aspects to the case that left police dumbfounded – the most bizarre among them being Jha’s habit of playing Robin Hood before killing the very people he had helped. The convict used to help migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar obtain jobs and house them at his JJ Colony residence. However, the moment they stepped out of line and began indulging in habits he considered abhorrent, Jha would murder them.