HC commutes 34-yr-old’s death sentence to life term in 2019 rape case of minor
The Madras high court on Tuesday reduced the death sentence awarded by a lower court to a 34-year-old man to life term for the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl in Coimbatore on March 25, 2019. The division bench, however, ordered that the life imprisonment should be for at least 25 years of actual imprisonment.
“We are satisfied that this case does not come within the category of `rarest of rare cases’ by applying the principles laid down by the Supreme Court,” ruled the bench of justices P N Prakash and V Sivagnanam, while commuting the death sentence.
“It has not been demonstrated to us that the appellant (Santosh Kumar) was addicted to crime and that he is a menace to society, thereby ruling out any possibility of reformation. In the facts of this case, we are unable to persuade ourselves to hold that a sentence lesser than the death penalty is completely foreclosed. As life imprisonment is the rule and death sentence is the exception, the sentence of death awarded by the trial court is commuted to imprisonment for life with the rider that the appellant will not be entitled to any statutory remission or commutation until he has completed 25 years of actual imprisonment,” the court observed.
The bench said it was entitled to say so ‘in law in the light’ citing a Supreme Court judgment in Union of India vs. V. Sriharan @ Murugan and others case in 2016.
Since the DNA reports disclosed the involvement of an unidentified male other than the convict in the crime, the bench upheld the order of the trial court directing the Coimbatore superintendent of police to appoint a female investigating officer for further investigation in the case.
The bench ordered a compensation of ₹10 lakh awarded by the trial court to the mother of the victim to be paid within three months.
The bench then disposed the referred trial by the Thudiyalur police, seeking to confirm the sentence and a criminal appeal from the convict, challenging the order dated 27 December, 2019 of the special POCSO court in Coimbatore.