‘Every sinner has a future’: SC commutes death penalty of 4-year-old’s rapist/murderer

The Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence of a man convicted of rape and murder of four-year-old girl, saying it is essential to to give an opportunity to the offender to repair the damage caused, and to become a socially useful individual, when he is released from the jail.

A bench of Justices U.U. Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat, and Bela M. Trivedi said: “Since, Section 376A IPC is also applicable to the facts of the case, considering the gravity and seriousness of the offence, the sentence of imprisonment for the remainder of appellant’s natural life would have been an appropriate sentence… however, we are reminded of what Oscar Wilde has said – The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”

Noting that “one of the basic principles of restorative justice as developed by this court over the years, also is to give an opportunity to the offender to repair the damage caused, and to become a socially useful individual, when he is released from the jail”, the bench said the maximum punishment prescribed may not always be the determinative factor for repairing the crippled psyche of the offender.

“Hence, while balancing the scales of retributive justice and restorative justice, we deem it appropriate to impose upon the appellant-accused, the sentence of imprisonment for a period of twenty years instead of imprisonment for the remainder of his natural life for the offence under section 376A, IPC,” said Trivedi, who authored the judgment on behalf of the bench.

The bench said the conviction and sentence recorded by the courts below for the other offences under IPC and POCSO Act are affirmed and it is needless to say that all the punishments imposed shall run concurrently.

Mohd Firoz, working in a private power plant in Madhya Pradesh, was convicted for raping and murdering the girl in Ghansaur town.

The trial court sentenced him death for the offence under section 302 of IPC and life imprisonment for rape. The Madhya Pradesh High Court dismissed his appeal challenging the trial court order, which he challenged in the top court.

The top court noted that the offence was barbaric and monstrous, where a tiny bud like girl was smothered by the appellant before she could blossom in this world. It added, however, it has been brought to the notice of this court that in a series of judgements, this court has not treated such cases as the rarest of rare cases.

The top court commuted the capital punishment of the convict to life imprisonment and in the rape case, reduced his punishment to imprisonment for a period of twenty years instead of life imprisonment. “We, while affirming the view taken by the courts below with regard to the conviction of the appellant for the offences charged against him, deem it proper to commute, and accordingly commute the sentence of death for the sentence of imprisonment for life, for the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC.”

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