Friday, February 6, 2015

Delhi: 56-year-old's death penalty commuted to life term for child rape, murder

Nov 04, 2014 at 05:48pm IST Press Trust of India
New Delhi: A 56-year-old man, facing gallows for brutally raping and murdering a three-year-old girl, has been spared death penalty by the Delhi High Court which has commuted it into life term. The court considered a report of probation officer (PO) on possibilities of reformation and rehabilitation of convict Bharat Singh and concluded that he can be "reformed".

The high court on April 17 had upheld the conviction and sentence awarded to Singh for raping the minor. However, it had deferred its decision as to whether Singh can be sent to the gallows for murder, as awarded by the trial court, or serve life imprisonment. A bench of justices S Muralidhar and Mukta Gupta, which was to decide on the appeal of Singh and the death reference plea of the state, had asked the Delhi government to appoint a probation officer for giving a report as to whether there was any chance of convict being "rehabilitated or reformed" or if he is still a threat to the society."... Relevant to the present case, the court notes the positive feedback received by the PO from the jail authorities as regards the appellant's (Singh) conduct in jail and his preparedness to render services to his old and ailing inmates.

"In light of the above reports, the court is persuaded to conclude that there exists a probability that convict can be reformed and rehabilitated. He has been in custody only since April 2011. In the course of his serving imprisonment for life, there would be sufficient opportunity to evaluate the positive effects of the correctional measures," the court said.

The lower court had on January 15, 2013 awarded death penalty to Singh for the murder and life imprisonment for the rape of the child, saying the case "fell in the category of rarest of rare cases warranting the capital punishment". The judge said, "His continued incarceration would ensure that he would not commit criminal acts as would constitute a continuous threat to the society." "Consequently, the court declines to confirm the death sentence recommended to be awarded to Singh by the trial court and instead sentences him to imprisonment for life for the offence under Section 302 (murder) IPC," the court said, adding that the fine amount of Rs 50,000 for the offence under Section 302 IPC "is left unaltered".

The girl, who went missing on April 9, 2011 from her home, was kidnapped by the convict, a private security guard posted at a farm house, and was raped in the guards' room there. The medical report said the victim was not murdered after the rape, rather she died due to "neurogenic shock caused by forceful and painful sexual intercourse". The high court while upholding Singh's conviction relied on the DNA test reports that proved that it was the convict who had ravished the little girl. The court, however, concurred with the submissions of the defence lawyer that the death penalty cannot be awarded on the sole ground that the offence was grave in nature.

Taking note of the report, the court said, "The report of the Medical Board of IHBAS, which has been referred to in the Social Investigation Report (SIR) of the PO gives a definitive unanimous conclusion that there is nothing to suggest that Singh cannot be reformed and reintegrated, and put on to the reformative process through social correctional measures."

"The PO has mentioned in the SIR that a second review should be undertaken after imparting social and correctional measures. In this regard the court would like to draw the attention of the prison authorities to the 'Introductory Handbook on Prevention of Recidivism and Social Integration of Offenders' brought out in December 2012 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes. "Chapter IX of the said document has a section focusing on social reintegration of elderly prisoners," the judge said.

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