Four-year’ rape, murder: SC dismisses review plea against verdict commuting death penalty

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The Supreme Court has refused to review its judgment delivered on April 19, commuting the death sentence to a man, for rape and murder of a four-year-old girl, to life term.

Commuting the sentence, the top court had said: “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.”

Two review petitions were filed – one by the mother of the victim and the other by an organisation namely Bharatiya Stree Shakti. Both review petitions were dismissed by a bench of Justices U.U. Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat, and Bela M. Trivedi.

On the mother’s review petition, the bench said in the instant review petition, exception is taken to the commutation of death sentence which was awarded by the high court to that of the sentence for imprisonment of life for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the IPC.

It is submitted inter alia that as against the decision of this court in Shatrughna Baban Meshram v. State of Maharashtra, the death was caused by conscious act on the part of the accused and that the matter was not under clause four of Section 300 IPC, noted the bench.

“After considering the landmark decisions of this court in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab (1980) and Machi Singh and Others vs State of Punjab (1983), this court did not deem it appropriate to sustain the sentence of death awarded under Section 302 of the IPC. As the discussion in Paragraph 40 and 41 indicates (of April 19) the legislative policy under Sections 354 (3) and 235 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 was noted and the commutation was directed,” the bench said.

The top court noted that even after conclusion of hearing, certain material from the probation officer, the Director General of Prisons, and trained psychiatrist was also called so that the matter pertaining to sentence could be considered. “Thus, the commutation of sentence of death to that of life imprisonment was done by the court after bestowing attention to the relevant factors. In the circumstances, no case is made out to take a different view in the matter and this Review Petition is dismissed,” it said.

Victim’s mother filed the review through advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava. She had contended that her daughter, who was deceitfully kidnapped, brutally raped and viciously murdered by Mohd Firoz, also had a future.

The accused was sentenced to death by the trial court, which was confirmed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court. However, the top court commuted the death sentence saying: “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.”

“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.”

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