“Please give us death sentence. That way our appeal will be heard faster by the Supreme Court,” pleaded Deepti Devsthali (28), on behalf of her mother Leena (58) as well, when the Bombay High Court reduced their death sentence to life imprisonment in the kidnap and murder case of Pune-based orthopedic surgeon Dr Deepak Mahajan in 2006.
The division bench of Justices J. N. Patel and Mrudula Bhatkar acquitted the duo from murder charges, but found them guilty of kidnapping the doctor for ransom and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
The mother-daughter duo chose to argue their case on their own despite attempts by the HC to pursue them to take a lawyer from the legal aid panel. Immediately after the court pronounced the verdict, the duo requested that they be awarded death sentence. On a query by the judges, they said that if they were awarded a death sentence then the Supreme Court would hear their appeal faster.
The HC had set aside the death sentence, given to the duo by a Pune sessions court in December 2007, as the prosecution could not prove that the duo had murdered the doctor.
The prosecution presented evidence that established that the Devasthalis kidnapped the doctor and made calls to his family demanding ransom, but it could not explain the five-days delays between the kidnapping and the murder of the doctor.
However, the court found the duo guilty of conspiracy, forgery, cheating, causing hurt among other offences.
The HC has imposed a total fine of Rs 54,000 each on both the accused. “The fine amount is to be paid to Arjun and Rashmi Mahajan, children of the deceased,” observed the court.
The duo are presently lodged at the women's prison at Byculla and will be taken to Yerwada central prison in Pune, after they are given a copy of the detailed order on October 9.
Dr Parag Mahajan, the deceased’s brother, said the family will go through the detailed HC order and then decide if they want to challenge the acquittal.