Thursday, May 30, 2019

Man Given Death Sentence For Killing Differently-Abled Younger Brother (Rajasthan)

All India | Press Trust of India | Updated: May 28, 2019 12:34 IST (Jaipur)

Ram Prasad Sahu, who had earlier served jail term in another case, was held guilty under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code for brutally killing his younger brother, Moti, in front of a huge mob on February 23, 2017.

A 42-year-old man has been awarded death sentence by a local court for killing his disabled younger brother.  The court of additional district and session judge, Jaipur metropolitan no. 14, awarded death penalty to Ram Prasad Sahu on Monday. Mr Sahu, who had earlier served jail term in another case, was held guilty under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code for brutally killing his younger brother, Moti, in front of a huge mob on February 23, 2017.

"The judge observed that there is no chance of improvement in his conduct and he is a threat to the society," public prosecutor Alok Sharma said. The incident had occurred in Bhatta Basti area of the city. Mr Sharma said that the man had placed his foot over the body and smoked a bidi next to it. Mr Sahu has served 14-year imprisonment in another case earlier. Besides, six other cases are also pending against him.

HC commutes death sentence in rape-murder case (Madhya Pradesh)

22 MAY 2019 Last Updated at 8:42 PM | SOURCE: PTI

The Madhya Pradesh High Court has commuted the death sentence of a man convicted for the rape and murder of his daughter to life imprisonment.

A division bench of Justices J K Maheshwari and Anjuli Palo passed the order on Tuesday. A trial court in Bhopal had on December 22, 2018 sentenced the accused Afzal Khan to death for raping and murdering his 6-year-old daughter. When the case came up for confirmation of death sentence, the high court held that it did not fall in the "rarest of rare" category so as to warrant the capital punishment, government lawyer Som Mishra said.

The division bench, instead, sentenced him to life imprisonment with a minimum jail term of 30 years without remission, and imposed a fine of Rs 20,000 on him, Mishra said. The incident had taken place on March 15, 2017. Khan raped his daughter and murdered her by hanging her from ceiling with a 'dupatta' before leaving for his shop. The probe revealed that he was suspicious of his wife's relationship with her former husband and wanted to take revenge, the government counsel said.

Under New Law, Madhya Pradesh Has Sentenced 26 Rapists to Death

21/MAY/2019

Activists are concerned that the swiftness with which judgments are delivered might mean the accused – who usually come from poor socio-economic backgrounds – are not receiving a fair trial.

In February 2018, Madhya Pradesh passed a law to allow sentencing those convicted of raping minor girls to death. Since then, the special court set up under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act has served 21 death sentences in 2018 and another five in 2019. Additionally, 168 eight rapists were served life imprisonment in 2018. One of these judgments was pronounced in a record of five days. Remarking on the swiftness of the judgment, director general of prosecution Rajendra Kumar says, “This is the swiftest capital punishment given to anybody in the history of jurisprudence. This case has found mention in the India Book of Records.”

Many of the accused come from extremely poor socio-economic backgrounds and could not even muster up a lawyer to defend themselves against the charges. One of the shortest trials was that of Motilal Ahirwar, who was accused of raping a seven-year-old girl on May 29, 2018. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on August 8. The trial of Rajkumar, an autorickshaw driver who was accused of raping a four-year-old girl on July 4 last year, was equally swift. The chargesheet was filed in a Special Court that deals under POCSO on July 20. The verdict was given on July 27. It turns out that since neither he nor his family could afford a lawyer, he was provided a lawyer from the MP States Legal Services Authority. The lawyer assigned to him was B.M. Rathore, who because of the speed with which the trial was conducted, revealed that he did not even have the time to speak to the accused.

DG Kumar brushes away criticism that the accused did not have lawyers. He clarified, “Lawyers have been made available to all the accused. It is not correct to say that they did not have lawyers.” “These are heinous crimes and deserve the strictest punishment,” said Kumar, citing the instance of a four-year-old girl who was abducted and raped by her father’s close friend in Satna district in July 2018. She had to be air lifted in an air ambulance and brought to the AIIMS, where a team of surgeons performed life-saving surgery on her genitalia. She was discharged from AIIMS six months later. “We did not want to delay the case and applied to a Delhi court to go ahead with the prosecution. A magistrate was appointed and the girl gave her statement over video. The rapist, who was a teacher in a primary school, was convicted over video since the girl recognised him as the abuser. He has been served a death sentence without the victim having to step into the court. This is also a first, where a victim was not required to come to court to give evidence. Even the PMO has taken note of this case,’ said Kumar.

Perpetrators usually know the victim
The National Crime Record Bureau’s (NCRB) data shows that in more than 94% instances of rape, the offender is a person that the victim knows – a family member or a neighbour. “Emotional manipulation does come into play in such cases,” he said, citing the example of a maternal grandfather who manipulated his daughter and granddaughter (who was the victim). Both of them turned hostile during the trial. “The verdict did not go against the investigating team because the DNA report matched the semen of the accused,” said DG Kumar insisting, “scientific evidence goes a long way in providing clinching evidence in these cases.” The grandfather appealed before the sessions court, which reduced the capital punishment to life imprisonment. After the death penalty was introduced for the rape of a minor, offenders have killed their victim. The perpetrator may also pressure the victim and family to remain silent. DG Kumar has come across several such instances, the most heinous being a case where the child’s brother and chacha chose to kill a girl after raping her. They did want her to give evidence against them.

Appeals process
In a majority of the cases, the accused have sought an appeal against the capital punishment. In six cases, the Bhopal high court confirmed the death sentence, while in four, it was reduced to life imprisonment. In some cases, life imprisonment has been given up to death, while in other instances, a rapist is made to serve a 14-year sentence. Convicted rapists are also usually confined to a solitary cell. Activists who had fought for stringent punishment in rape cases are unhappy with the speed at which these judgments are being delivered. Dr Ranjana Kumari, who heads the Centre for Social Research, believes these verdicts are ‘a political mockery’, with the courts playing to the political gallery. “At this rate, we will soon hear of thousands of such verdicts from across the country. In the police registry, there are four-and-a-half lakh names of men accused of rape during the past decade. Given these stats, will the state take responsibility for killing so many (rapists) in the future?” she asks. Kumari cites the example of the two Mewati brothers who were accused of raping and killing a six-year old girl in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh in June 2018. The local bar association passed a resolution not to defend them. The lawyer provided by the state said that since the public sentiment against them was so strong, they could not produce a single witness. They were served a death sentence on August 21.

The states of Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana passed similar laws recently, allowing those convicted for raping a child below the age of 12 to be served a death sentence. In July 2018, a special court in Alwar sentenced 19-year-old Pintu to death for raping a seven-month-old child in Rajasthan’s Laxmangarh area. In this state, the special judge conducted daily hearings and again, the verdict was delivered in record time. But the death sentence is considered the rarest of rare punishments. Between 2004-18, only four death sentences were served. From these, three were terrorists while the fourth man who hanged was Dhananjoy Chatterjee who had reportedly raped and murdered a 14-year old girl. In September last year, the Supreme Court stayed the death sentence Rajkumar, who was accused of raping a four-year-old. Lawyers expect the highest court to stay other cases too. Senior advocate Rebecca John has also expressed concern at the string of judgments issued by the lower courts in Madhya Pradesh. “Women safety should be a priority for any government, but this is hardly the way to show they mean business. These verdicts are nothing but an abdication of the principles of natural justice. Every individual has the right to a fair trial. Unfortunately, a lynch mob mentality seems to have taken over which has created an atmosphere of extreme prejudice,” she said.

Swetashree Majumdar, a young lawyer who worked on preparing the Justice Verma Committee report that made recommendations on rape, police reforms, providing quicker trials and stricter punishment for those who commit crimes against young girls, believes the government has not collated any evidence on whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent in cases of rape. “We have no statistics to show that the death sentence helps reduce rape. Even if we take the examples of our neighbours – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – who hand out the death penalty for rape, we find that it has not acted as a deterrent. The system desists from handing out these convictions,” said Majumdar.

When DIG Kumar was asked if the swift and severe punishments have acted as a deterrent, he mulls over the question for a while. He then says, “To a small extent, yes.”

Death sentence to child rapist; 7-yr RI to kin for destroying evidence in Nashik (Maharashtra)

Nashik, May 16, 2019 (UNI) 

A local court here has awarded death sentence to a 30-year-old man on charges of raping and murdering a six-year-old girl. The court also sentenced three members of the accused's family to seven years Rigorous Imprisonment(RI) each for destroying the evidence. 

In Wednesday's order, District & Sessions Court Judge Suchitra Godkhe held the primary accused Vilas Annasaheb Mahale guilty for raping the girl and strangling her to death in Male Dumala village of Dindori tehsil here. According to the prosecution, the accused lured the minor girl into his house in April, 2017 and killed her after rape. 

The prosecution said that the parents of the accused-Annasaheb Mahale (54) and Shaila Mahale (45)-and his brother Pravin Mahale (28) helped him in destroying the evidence. UNI RDS KAZ SB 1650/ 1655

Man gets death sentence for killing couple by pouring acid on them (Maharashtra)

09 MAY 2019 Last Updated at 11:36 PM | SOURCE: PTI

A 28-year-old man was Thursday awarded death sentence by the district court here for killing a married couple by pouring acid on them.

District and Sessions Judge R N Majgaonkar also ordered compensation in accordance to a Maharashtra government scheme for acid attack victims for the couple's orphaned children, aged five and eight years. The convict, Guddu Krish Yadav, was a worker at a chemical factory in Boisar MIDC near here in 2015 when the incident took place.

Image result for Guddu Krish Yadav
Guddu Krish Yadav
According to the prosecution, Yadav poured concentrated sulphuric acid on his colleague Rajkumar Balram Ravidas (35) and his wife Geeta (30) when they were fast asleep in the chemical company's quarters, leading to their death. The incident was an outcome of a fight over a mobile phone. In November 2015, Yadav had stolen the mobile phone of Ravidas, who complained to their boss. Enraged over being reprimanded by the boss, Yadav poured acid on Ravidas and his wife while they were sleeping, Additional Public Prosecutor Deepak Tare had told the court.

The judge relied on eyewitness account of Yadav's co-workers and said this is a "rarest of the rare case" where the accused "deserves nothing less then the death sentence". The prosecution has proved beyond all reasonable doubts the charge under IPC section 302 (murder) against the accused, he said. Around a dozen people were examined as prosecution witnesses in the case. 

Supreme Court India issues notice to Centre on death penalty in SC/ST cases

10 MAY 2019 Last Updated at 4:18 PM | SOURCE: IANS

The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Centre on a plea challenging the validity of a section which prescribes for mandatory death sentence in a case where an innocent member of a Scheduled Caste (SC) or a Scheduled Tribe (ST) is convicted and is executed as a consequence of false and fabricated evidence given by the accused. The action of a bench headed by Justice S.A. Bobde came on a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the mandatory death penalty under section 3(2)(i) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The plea was filed by advocate Rishi Malhotra. The advocate told the court that the provision is "manifestly arbitrary, disproportionate, excessive, unreasonable, unjust, unfair, harsh, unusual and cruel".

Under Section 3(2)(i) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, whoever, not being a member of SC/ST, gives or fabricates false evidence intending thereby to cause any member of SC/ST to be convicted of an offence which is capital by the law for the time being in force shall be punished with imprisonment for life, and with fine, and if an innocent member of SC/ST is convicted and executed in consequence of such false or fabricated evidence, the person who gives or fabricates such false evidence, shall be punished with death.

Rishi Malhotra
The petitioner requested the court to strike down the provision with regard to mandatory death penalty as prescribed under Section 3(2)(i) of The Scheduled Castes & The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. The petitioner said the said law is ultra vires of the Constitution and against the fundamental tenets of Constitutional laws. Citing various other sections which were quashed or amended by the court earlier, the advocate said: "As and when an occasion had arisen where the mandatory imposition of death penalty is called in question in different statutes, either this court by exercising its Constitutional powers of judicial review has struck down those provisions by holding it to be unconstitutional and void or the legislature itself has amended those provisions by removing the mandatory imposition of death penalty."

He mentioned Section 27(3) of the Arms Act which was declared void. He also told the court that the second part of Section 194 IPC is almost akin to Section 3(2)(i) of the Act but with a major difference in sentencing in as much as Section 194 IPC provides for an option of awarding death sentence or sentence of imprisonment for life. Similarly, Section 31A (1)(b) of the NDPS Act which initially provided for mandatory death sentence was rightly amended in 2014 by the legislature itself and further provided for an option of awarding death sentence or any other imprisonment as specified in Section 31 of the Act. Furthermore, if the mandatory death sentences are allowed to continue in the statute books, it would defeat the existence of very important provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure namely 235(2) Cr.P.C. as well as Section 354 (3) Cr.P.C. both of which provide for hearing of an accused on the quantum of sentence, the advocate added.


Life in the Hangman’s Shadow (Maharashtra)

By Nikita Doval
Thursday, May 30, 2019

Freed by the Supreme Court after 16 years spent on death row for a crime they did not commit, five men are desperately trying to rebuild their lives. More than a cause for celebration, their acquittal is reason to ask: how many more are wasting away in our jails?

His hands, they said, held down a girl as she was raped and then went to work battering his victim and her family to death. Rajya Appa Shinde holds up his left hand, marked by newly-formed calluses on his palm. “This is the hand of a man who works hard, always has,” he says to anyone who is willing to listen. “It is also the hand of a man who has been treated unfairly.”

Freed after 16 years on the death row, Rajya has found work digging ditches in Maharashtra’s Devgarh for the municipal corporation. He’s been trying, too, to rebuild the threads of his life: make an Aadhaar card, open a bank account, find a wife.

Bitterness, though, clings to his body, like chains once did.

“I am out of prison, yes, but what do I have? Ditches to dig, and a reputation that means no one is willing to marry their daughter to me. I am ready to start a second time over, but the world may not allow it.”

THE KILLINGS
Trambak Satote and his family—daughter Savita, sons Sandeep, Shrikant and Manoj, wife Vimla Devi and nephew Bharat More—had finished their dinner, and were chatting inside a makeshift hut in a guava orchard in Nashik’s Belatgavan on the night of June 5, 2003. Late that night, a group of men forced their way into the hut, robbed the family and left after beating the men into submission.

They came back again, this time to gang-rape and murder Savita. Four of the five men of the family were beaten to death. Vimla Devi and her son Manoj were the only survivors. The killings provoked considerable public outrage—and the local police were under enormous pressure to deliver justice.

Rajya was, he recalls, working as a daily-wage labourer in Umbargaon, Gujarat, when the police came looking for him. Six other people were arrested from Bhokardhan town in Jalna district, all from the same family. Two were let off but the remaining five—Rajya along with Raju Mhasu Shinde, Ambadas Laxman Shinde, Ankush Maruti Shinde and Bapu Appa Shinde—were not so lucky. After being interrogated and tortured by the police they found themselves in Nashik Central Jail, charged with murder. A sixth person, Suresh, was arrested a year later.

For more than a decade, the case made its way up endless stairs of the legal process, ending with the Supreme Court confirming the death penalty for five—Ankush was a juvenile who was let off in 2012. Then, something incredible happened: on March 5, the Supreme Court reversed its own judgment, and acquitted the men it had put on death row. “It is rare for someone sentenced to death to be found innocent after the Supreme Court had itself confirmed the death penalty,” says Yug Mohit Chaudhry, lawyer for the group, and a leading campaigner against the death penalty. “This is an odd case where the system righted itself.”

FLAWED INVESTIGATION
From the evidence, it’s clear the case should never have gone to trial in the first place. The prosecution’s entire case hinged on the eyewitness testimony of Vimla Devi and her son—who, as Chaudhary argued in his written submission, had not been able to describe the accused to the police. The two witnesses could not describe the identifying features of the perpetrators; they had been unable to even recognise their clothes. The defence also noted that Vimla Devi had identified an entirely different set of people as the perpetrators when photographs of suspects were shown to her soon after the murder.

Police investigators, though, had decided the men had carried out the killing—and were determined to beat the evidence out of them. “In the initial days when we were being beaten up," Rajya recalls, “I would ask them, ‘what have I done?’ And they would say, ‘you know’ and that was that.” Prosecutors submitted no DNA evidence—samples were taken but the results were never submitted—nor produced any worthwhile forensic evidence tying the accused to the killings.

In spite of these holes in the case, the trial court’s guilty verdict sentence was upheld by the Bombay High Court—though it reduced the sentence for three of them to life imprisonment. Then, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction—and enhanced the sentence to death. “The entire case was based only on Vimla Devi’s testimony,” says Chaudhry, “but it is contradicted by a great deal of evidence, and corroborated by very little. Coming up with these arguments was not rocket science; this was, in some ways, an easy case. But you needed someone to listen objectively and honestly.” In its judgment, the Supreme Court has awarded the acquitted men compensation of Rs 5 lakh for their sixteen years of wrongful incarceration, and ordered an inquiry into the conduct of the investigation. That’s small consolation though—and doesn’t go anywhere near answering the troubling issues the case raises about the administration of justice in India.

USUAL SUSPECTS
Institutionalised bias and blindness guided the course of the investigation into the Belatgavan murders. Section 93 of the chapter on Preventive Action in the Bombay Police Manual of 1959 is devoted to “wandering gangs.” It states that special surveillance must be kept over all nomadic communities and “whenever suspicious persons from such communities are found at or near a village”, the police must be informed. The Police Manual’s language draws on the Criminal Tribes Act, passed by Imperial Britain in 1871, targeted most of India’s nomadic communities, hunters and forest dwellers. There were several reasons, political as well as social, behind the inclusion of the tribes in this list—among them colonial fears that those beyond the control of empire might rebel against it.

Even though the so-called criminal tribes were denotified by the Indian government in 1952, the stigma continues. It is these tribes that the manual refers to as “wandering gangs”. The Shindes are Vadars, a subset of the Pardhi tribe. Traditionally they were hunters but now for generations they have described stone breaking, road laying and ditch digging as their occupation. Their lifestyle is no longer peripatetic. In fact, the Shindes have lived in Bokhardhan for over five generations now, but little else has changed. The only educated members of the clan are the three daughters of Raju Mhasu Shinde, who were toddlers when he was arrested. His wife Rani realised early on that it was their lack of education and complete destitution that had landed her husband and his clan in this situation. Her daughters would do better.

“There is no question that it was the Shinde’s caste, class and ethnicity that played a role in them ending up on death row,” says Reena Mary George of the Development Studies Department at the University of Vienna. “Police in most states keep a record of the so-called “Denotified Tribes” even today and pick them up first for any unsolved crimes in their areas.” Framing the Shindes was relatively easy: there were previous cases against them, for petty crimes like picking pockets, which meant they had few friends in the community. Their lack of social status and education meant they would be easy to implicate. George met the Shindes in 2009 when she was researching a landmark study, Death Penalty: A Human Rights Perspective, and had been given permission to talk to the prisoners on death row. The objective of the study was the impact of death penalty on the social, mental and physical state of the inmate.

In fact, it was George who realised that Ankush was a juvenile when he was sentenced. The judicial ball was set rolling and he was released in 2012. Her case study notes about Ankush record that “he has panic problems…hardly sleeps for half an hour…nervous, tensed and restless…confused at times on why this happened to him.” Death row inmates in India are kept in solitary confinement. He describes his cell—“small, no ventilation, very hot”—easily but struggles when asked to remember those days: “I was living but I was dead.” Even today the sight of a police man makes him nervous. After his release, he says the local police still kept showing up at his doorstep harassing him and his family. Rajya claims not to fear the police, but his life is filled with rituals to suggest the scars run deep. He takes photographs recording his day so that if the law comes calling again he is ready with his alibi.

SCARRED LIVES
All the Shindes have been marked by their 16 years on death row, but each in a different way. Ankush appears to have found a wellspring of inner calm; Rajya rages. Raju was the last to be released, as he had another case pending against him. On the day he came home, his wife Rani had prepared a feast for him from their limited means. “Sheera, bhaji, I made everything. He took one look at the food and said I’m not hungry. He didn’t eat for four days,” she says. Living at his mother-in-law’s house, where Rani has brought him for a change of scenery, Raju “sits and stares in the distance, doesn’t recognise people, doesn’t talk,” she says. His own mother and sister passed away while he was in prison.

Every single rupee matters to the desperately poor Shinde families, meaning they had little contact with the men while they were in prison. “Every visit cost up to Rs 2,000,” Rani recalls. “Where was I supposed to get that kind of money from?” “And even when I would manage to go, once in a couple of months, I would be made to wait for hours before I was allowed to meet him for fifteen minutes or so,” she remembers. Raju says that everyone advises him to “not think so much. But you tell me, how does one stop the clamour of thoughts?” The most articulate—and aggressive—of the men, Ambadas Shinde isn’t willing to accept he has finally received justice. “What is Rs 5 lakh in this day and age? They should have calculated our wages loss for 16 years, adjusted to inflation and then rewarded compensation.”

Rajya, Ankush and Raju are just a few months apart and were shy of 20 when arrested. Now they are in their mid-thirties, at the peak of their prime, some would say except for the sixteen years behind bars that have left them scarred. In his fifties, Bapu (who lives in Devgarh) is the oldest with Ambadas and Suresh bridging the gap. Little was done in prison to prepare the Shindes for the lives that now lay ahead of them. Prisoners on death row are not allowed to work; they have, thus, been unable to save even a small amount of money, or learn skills that might be of use to them. There is no infrastructure at all to support their reintegration into society, nor to deal with the brutal psychological scars sixteen years of wrongful incarceration on death row have inflicted. 

In India, the death penalty is meant for the “rarest of rare” cases. But studies show it is been handed out with disturbing frequency. A report by the National Law University reveals that trial courts pronounced 162 death sentences in 2018, the highest since 2000. As of December 31, 2018, 426 people are on death row in the country. More than 70% of them are from lower castes and religious minorities. Perhaps most importantly, the Shinde case demonstrates just how easily grave miscarriages of justice elude judicial scrutiny of the appellate judiciary. The acquittal of the six men is not a cause for celebration but rather the time to ask the disturbing question: how many others like them are wasting away in our jails?