Holding that he was a minor at the time of commission of offence, the Madurai bench of the Madras high court on Friday set aside the death sentence imposed on a convict for raping and murdering a 10-year-old girl. The girl was murdered in 2006 at Jaihindpuram, Madurai.
Allowing the appeal of the convict, the bench comprising Justice M Jaichandren and Justice S Nagamuthu pronounced the conviction and sentence imposed on the appellant under all charges as set aside.
The case has been remitted back to the file of the Juvenile Justice Board, Madurai, for disposal in accordance with provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. The Juvenile Justice Board, Madurai, has been directed to dispose of the case within four months.
V Selvam of Anupanadi was arrested for rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl at her residence in Jaihindpuram. According to the police, he was working with a garland seller at Jaihindpuram. When his boss went away, the boy went to the house of the garland seller, beat up the girl, raped and murdered her. Later, he hid her body in a cardboard box meant for TV sets and fled, on October 26.
When the police went after him, he surrendered before the village administrative officer and confessed to have committed the crime. The accused was then handed over to the police.
Selvam is the sole accused in the case. He stood charged for offences under sections 450, 376(2)(f), 377, 302 and 201 of the Indian Penal Code. By judgment on August 1, 2008, the trial court convicted him under sections 450, 376(2)(f), 377, 302 and 201 of the IPC.
For offence under section 302 of the IPC, he has been given the death sentence subject to confirmation by the high court. He also got awards ranging from imprisonment of 10 years to a life sentence under the other provisions. In 2008, Selvam challenged the convictions before the Madurai bench.
It was contended that as on the date of alleged commission of offence, the accused was a juvenile in conflict with law since his date of birth was 01.06.1989. Therefore, it was submitted that he was entitled to the benefit of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, and so the entire trial before the lower court, which treated the appellant as an adult, stood vitiated.
On considering the said ground and after hearing both sides, a division bench directed the trial court to hold an appropriate inquiry in respect of the age of the accused as on the date of occurrence of offence and submit a report.
Accordingly, the additional sessions judge (mahila court), Madurai, submitted a report on February 22, 2010, reporting that the accused was not a juvenile in conflict with law as he was about 21 years of age at the time of commission of offence.
Again, the counsel for the petitioner contended that the inquiry was not conducted by the sessions judge in accordance with law. It was submitted that even the school certificate of the accused showing his date of birth was not considered, and instead, the opinion of the doctor alone was taken into account.
After hearing both sides, the division bench, by order on July 29, 2010, scrapped the report of the sessions judge and remitted the matter back to the additional sessions judge, Madurai, with a direction to conduct an inquiry in respect of the age of the accused as on date of commission of offence, and to submit a fresh report within four weeks.
Having considered all the above material, the sessions judge concluded that as on the date of commission of offence, i.e. October 22, 2006, the accused was aged 17 years, four months and 21 days, and thus he was only a juvenile.
In view of the specific provisions contained in the act and the law laid down by the Supreme Court in previous judgments, the Bench said, "We have no other option but to set aside the conviction and sentence imposed on the appellant under all charges and to remit the matter back to the file of the Juvenile Justice Board, Madurai, with a direction to the board to hold a necessary inquiry as per provisions of the act and dispose of the case in accordance with law, as the entire trial stands vitiated."
accessed on 28th Nov 2011
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