THE DELHI High Court on Monday sentenced Santosh Kumar Singh to death for the rape and murder of Priyadarshini Mattoo in 1996. The court said Santosh Singh deserved the maximum punishment for the "brutal act which sent ripples in society".
"We are of the view that in a crime of this sort, which has been committed with pre-meditation and in a brutal and gruesome manner, the accused Santosh Kumar Singh deserves no sentence other than death. We direct that he be hanged to death," declared the Division Bench of justices R.S. Sodhi and P.K. Bhasin, before a packed courtroom.
On October 17, the court had set aside the acquittal of Santosh by a trial court in 1999, saying his guilt has been "proved by the prosecution beyond doubt".
Santosh's father J.P. Singh, a former IPS officer, said Santosh would challenge the order in the Supreme Court. The Singhs have 90 days to file the appeal.
The sentence brought smiles to the faces of Priyadarshini's friends, who have been fighting for justice for the past seven years since Santosh was acquitted by the lower court. Santosh Singh, who sat outside the courtroom with a constable next to him, broke down as relatives and friends comforted him.
A few minutes later, he was escorted back to Tihar jail. On January 23, 1996, Santosh had barged into the Vasant Kunj house of the Mattoos.
He had raped 22-year-old Priyadarshini, who was alone at home, after first beating her with his motorcycle helmet. He then strangled her with an electric wire. Priyadarshini had earlier lodged complaints with police, saying that Santosh Singh had been stalking and harassing her, but had not been provided any protection.
The sentence was welcomed by Priyadarshini's father Chamal Lal Mattoo, who said it had renewed his faith in the judiciary. The sentence comes as hope for others seeking justice in similar cases, notably Neelam Katara -- fighting her son Nitish's murder case, and the Lall family who hope that Jessica's killers too will meet the same end.