Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Going blind, spare me: Gujarat riot death row convict Babu Bajrangi

Written by Satish Jha | Ahmedabad | Published on: March 10, 2015 3:51 am

Satish Jha Babubhai Patel alias Babu Bajrangi, a Bajrang Dal leader who is on death row in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case, has sought mercy from Gujarat Governor Om Prakash Kohli, claiming that he is losing his eyesight. In a letter to the Governor, Bajrangi has appealed for remission of his sentence citing his medical condition. Bajrangi also claimed that he has developed several other illnesses over the past few years. Bajrangi is also facing charges in the Naroda Gam riot case along with co-convict and former state minister Maya Kodnani, who is out on bail. Sources in the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), which is probing the riot cases, said they are anticipating a correspondence from the Governor’s office on the matter.

Sources said the SIT feels that Bajrangi’s letter has no legal importance since he has challenged his conviction and sentence in the Gujarat High Court, where the matter is pending. “He has sought mercy from the governor on the basis of deteriorating medical condition. We have been informed about the letter and are trying to look at the legal aspects. The letter has no weight, given his appeal petition against the conviction,” said a source in the SIT. He said the fact that Bajrangi had challenged his conviction indicated that he had not accepted it, therefore legally his appeal for mercy doesn’t stand. Sources said the SIT is preparing its reply to the governor, in case he seeks an explanation.

On August 31, 2012, a special court had convicted Bajrangi, Kodnani and 29 others for killing 97 people in Naroda Patiya. In Bajrangi’s case, the order states, “Accused No.18 (Bajrangi) is convicted of the offence under section 302 (murder) read with Sec.149 of IPC and is sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for remaining period of his natural life subject to remission or commutation at the instance of the Government for sufficient reason only…” It further states, “The communal hatred displayed by communally charged mob on account of instigation of accused like A-37 (Kodnani), A-18 (Bajrangi)… resulted in the massacre.”

The court order held Bajrangi as “one of the principal conspirators and one of the executors of the conspiracy”, while terming Kodnani the “kingpin”.

Source: [last accessed 11.03.2015]

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ambulance driver sentenced to death for killing doctor

Press Trust of India | Jalgaon (Mah) December 18, 2013 Last Updated at 19:22 IST

Observing that it was the rarest of the rare offence, a sessions court today awarded death sentence to an ambulance driver for brutally killing a woman doctor last year in a post mortem room with the help of his two associates in order to steal her jewellery. The capital punishment was given to Yuvraj Sabre by sessions judge P D Ambekar on a plea made by public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam who argued that the murder was most brutal and cold-blooded. Another accused Pankaj Sadnanshiv, brother-in-law of Yuvraj, was given life imprisonment. Gulab Sindhi, also an co-accused, had turned approver in the case and was given pardon.

Dr Vijaya Choudhari was killed on March 12, 2012, in the civil hospital at Jalgaon when she was on duty. Yuvraj approached the doctor saying a body had been brought to the post mortem room for conducting autopsy. The doctor rushed to the post mortem room where the accused were present already. As soon as she entered, they locked the door and told the doctor that the body was kept inside another room. When she went there, Yuvraj strangulated her to death while the other two held her hands and legs.

The trio wrapped the doctor's body with a white cloth and took it to a crematorium to perform the last rites, according to the prosecution. The accused committed the crime to steal her jewellery, Prosecutor Nikam argued and said that they had killed her in the most brutal manner. The murder was cold blooded and pre-planned, he told the court. Altogether 24 witnesses were examined by the prosecution.

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

'Cyanide' killer of women sentenced to be hanged

By V M Sathish Published Sunday, December 22, 2013 The culprit, formerly a physical education teacher in a school in southern India, used to kill victims with cyanide pills A serial killer in India, nicknamed ‘Cyanide Mohan’, who was convicted for murdering three young women with cyanide poison pills after luring them with marriage offers, has been sentenced to death by a court in India. Mohan was convicted on Saturday by the Fourth Additional District and Sessions Court in Mangalore judge B K Naik in the southern state of Karnataka in the Anita Baremar, Leelavathi and Sunanda rape and murder cases out of the 20 serial rape and murder cases registered against him. Judge Naik said Mohan’s case fell in the ‘rarest of rare’ category. The death sentence will be implemented only after getting confirmation from the High Court. The court concluded from the revelations of 49 witnesses that he had taken the lives of innocent women without any provocation. A primary school physical education teacher, Mohan is an accused in 17 other cyanide murders, mainly in Karnataka. 50-year-old Mohanan, who hailed from Kanyana village near Bantwal in Mangalore district, was arrested in 2009, from Deralakatta village near Mangalore from the house of his third wife Sridevi by police investigating the case of a missing 22-year-old woman named Anitha.

On questioning him, Karnataka State Police was shocked to learn that Mohan was involved in the murder of 20 other women. He had been luring young women into a relationship with him by offering to marry them without dowry or job. Most of the cyanide murders were committed in public toilets of bus depots, according to Indian media reports. The South Indian expatriate community in the Gulf is keenly discussing the court’s judgement in this case on social networking web sites. The killer’s modus operandi was to take the women to distant places, and after sex with them in lodges, would give them cyanide tablets under the pretext of being contraceptive pills. After the women died, he would abscond with their ornaments and money. Mohan used to book rooms in lodges in different aliases but used the same handwriting and address. Karnataka Police had earlier closed many of these cases as suicides resulting from failed love affairs. According to the police, Mohan was greedy for money, gold and women but his neighbours and close relatives were not initially willing to believe that he is a serial killer. Even his two wives were unaware of his series of killings till he was arrested, according to Indian media reports.

All the murders took place between 2003 and 2009, and most of the victims were women in the age group of 22 to 35 who could not afford to pay dowry or were unable to find suitable husbands. Four of his victims were from Kerala and five from Kodagu in neighbouring Karnataka state. Most of the victims had cash and gold ornaments with them, sometimes borrowed from neighbours and family friends. One of the victims even took a bank loan of Indian rupees 25,000 before eloping with Mohan. Mohan has confessed to killing 20 women, mostly from the lower socio-economic background. In 2009 alone, nine women were killed for the jewellery and the money they carried. Police caught hold of the physical education teacher, while investigating the case of Anitha who was missing from her village of Bantwal. Anitha was his 18th victim. He was traced from the mobile phone contact list of one of his victims. According to the information released by Karnataka Police, ten of the 21 murders happened in the Mysore bus stand, three at the Madikeri bus stand, two each at the Hassan bus stand and Banglore bus station, and one near the Kollur temple in Udupi district. Mohan himself appeared for his defence in court, after studying a number of legal books, according to media reports. He argued that the case had not been proved beyond all reasonable doubt. He had also begged for leniency as his family was poor, his two children were in high school and his mother was in good health. He had tried to kill himself when he was in police custody.

Mohan learned about cyanide from a goldsmith who told him he used the poisonous material to polish the precious metal. He obtained the deadly material by posing as a goldsmith. Mohan would approach single women in public places, pretending prior familiarity and would pursue them for a few weeks before proposing marriage without dowry. He would present himself as a government official and elope with the victim to a distant place and book a room in a lodge close to a temple in a different name. He used to select lodges near a temple on the pretext that they would be married in the temple the next day. Either or a day before the wedding, he would give the victims two cyanide pills, convincing the victims that they are contraceptive pills and would advise them to go inside the bus depot’s toilet to take the pills because after taking the pills they would vomit. Mohan had divorced his first wife but had two other wives living in separate houses. He started the killing spree after he was sacked in 2003 from government service. Karnataka Police recovered cyanide pills, forged identity and visiting cards in various names, fake government seals and rubber stamps, gold ornaments and mobile phones from his house. He maintained a list of women he tried to attract and was successful with about 20 per cent of the women he tried to lure, police said.

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

Bhopal: Rape convict gets death sentence

TNN | Dec 24, 2013, 04.30AM IST

BHOPAL: A sessions court in Sagar district awarded capital punishment to a 20-year-old youth, who had raped and murdered a six-year-old girl on December 7, 2012. Additional district judge's court found Vijay Raikwar guilty of luring the girl to his house, raping and strangulating her to death. Vijay's friend, Rajan Raikwar, who was also booked by police, was acquitted by the court as prosecution failed to produce evidences against him during trial.

Rajan was charge-sheeted for tampering and destroying evidence. The girl was a Class I student who lived with her parents at a village under Rehli police station area. After returning from school on that day, she went to Vijay's house to meet his friend, Rahan. Though Rajan was not inside the house, Rajan took her in and raped her. Later he strangulated her to death fearing she would reveal the matter to her parents. He covered her body in a sheet and left it abandoned near a pond at the village outskirts.

Meanwhile, when the girl did not return home till 8 pm, her parents started a search in the locality. One of their neighbours informed that she was last seen at Vijay's house. And when her parents reached Vijay's house, her clothes were recovered. He initially pleaded ignorance but when interrogated by the police, confessed to his crime. 

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

Minor rape-murder case: HC reserves order on death penalty

Press Trust of India | Mumbai December 26, 2013 Last Updated at 13:56 IST

Bombay High Court has reserved its order on the death penalty confirmation petition of a labourer who had raped and killed an eight-year-old girl in the neighbouring Thane district in 2009. A sessions court of Thane had awarded death sentence to Shekhar Gupta in May this year on charges of kidnap, rape and murder of the girl. The court had termed it as "rarest of rare" case.

The matter then came to the High Court for confirmation of the death penalty. A division bench of Justices V K Tahilramani and V L Achiliya after hearing the case recently reserved its order. The case dates back to December 25, 2009, when the victim's blood splattered body was recovered from an isolated spot near the police firing range on the foot hill of Yeoor forest in Thane.

The next day, police arrested Gupta after three children - the friends of the victim - gave a statement that they had seen Gupta take the girl on December 24 from Lokmanya Nagar slums where she resided. During search, the police also recovered Gupta's blood-stained clothes from his room near the Yeoor forest. According to prosecution, Gupta had lured the girl with chocolates and biscuits and taken her to an isolated spot where he raped her and then murdered her. The victim's father had even run into Gupta while searching for his daughter in the neighbourhood.

At that time, Gupta denied having seen the girl. While convicting Gupta, the sessions court had relied on circumstantial evidence and the last seen theory.

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

Re-trial can't be ordered due to new evidence in Rajiv assassination or Veerappan aides cases: Supreme Court

India | Written by A Vaidyanathan , Edited by Shamik Ghosh | Updated: January 03, 2014 17:28 IST

NEW DELHI: Supreme Court today made it clear that it can't order a re-trial on grounds of new evidence in the cases relating to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and sandalwood smuggler Veerappan's aides, who are on a death row. Chief Justice of India Justice P Sathasivam today said, "Now it has become fancy for an Investigation Officer to make statements after twenty years that he has committed a mistake. We can't reopen the trial.

If we encourage this it will set a bad precedent and all cases will come here" These comments assume significance because the investigation officer in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case had said recently that he had not fully recorded the statement of Perarivalan, one of the convicts facing death sentence. Perarivalan's mother has approached the Madras High court to commute her son's sentence to life based on the new evidence. The Chief Justice's observations came during the hearing of a plea which sought re-trial in a case where four associates of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan were convicted and sentenced to death for killing 21 policemen.

The petitioner's lawyer Colin Gonsalves argued that new evidence has come and there should be re-trial. The Chief Justice said, "In every criminal case there may be slackness. It may be Veerappan or Rajiv Gandhi case. We can't entertain these type of petitions," and dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court had already reserved its verdict on Veerappan's aides to commute death sentence to life because of the delay in deciding on their mercy petitions by the President.

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

Patna: Capital punishment to 10, lifer to 4 in Amausi massacre set

Press Trust of India | Patna January 3, 2014 Last Updated at 19:42 IST

The Patna High Court today set aside the death sentence of 10 and life imprisonment to four others in the Amausi massacre in Khagaria district over three years ago, on benefit of doubt. A division bench of Justices V N Sinha and R K Mishra passed the order on appeal filed by all 14 convicts challenging the Khagaria district court order of 2012 awarding death sentence to ten and lifer to four others.

"The appellants are granted benefit of doubt ... The ADJ's order is being set aside and the appeal allowed," the bench said while acquitting all the 14. "The appellants are directed to be released forthwith if they are not wanted in any other case," the court ruled. Khagaria's Additional District and Session Judge Chandra Bhushan Dwivedi, had in an order on February 15, 2012, awarded death sentence to ten accused persons and lifer to four others. Altogether 16 people, including five children, all residents of Itcharia village, were gunned down allegedly by the armed Dalit men of Amausi Bahiar village on the intervening night of October 1-2, 2009.

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

Kin of Veerappan aides on death row happy at SC ruling

IANS, Chennai | Updated: Jan 21, 2014 04:37 IST

The family members of Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran, aides of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, Tuesday expressed their happiness over the apex court's judgment commuting their death sentence to life imprisonment. Speaking to IANS, Madaiah's son M Paramasivam said: "We are happy at the news. I will soon go and meet my father." Paramasivam is a daily wage earner living in Tamil Nadu. Madaiah, Bilavendran, Gnanprakasham and Simon Antonyiappa were sentenced to death for killing 22 people, including policemen, in a landmine blast near Palar bridge on the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border in 1993.

Last year, President Pranab Mukherjee rejected their mercy petitions filed in 2004. "It is a welcome judgment. It is a good judgment. We hail Chief Justice P. Sathasivam," Kulandai Samy, brother-in-law of Bilavendran, told IANS. The apex court, in a landmark decision Tuesday, held that if there is an inordinate delay on the part of the government in deciding on the mercy petitions of death row convicts, their sentence could be commuted to life imprisonment. The decision will have an impact on other convicts facing the noose for many years. "It is a positive judgment. It underscores the democratic values of India," S. Balamurugan, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu wing of the People's Union for Civil Liberties, told IANS. K Muniswamy Veerappan Gounder, widely known as Veerappan, was killed in a gun battle with police in October 2004.

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

The agony of awaiting death

T. R. ANDHYARUJINA Updated: January 30, 2014 00:41 IST

A convict sentenced to death has a constitutional right to petition the President for relief against his sentence, and the consideration of his petition is not an act of grace or mercy by the President but a necessary relief provided by the Constitution On January 21, 2014 the Supreme Court of India pronounced a momentous judgment relieving the agony of convicts in India sentenced to death awaiting their execution for prolonged periods of time. A bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice R. Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh held that inordinate delay in deciding a petition of a convict sentenced to death by the President can be torture and inhumane punishment to the convict.

In such circumstances, if the convict approaches the Court, the Court will hold that his fundamental right to protection of life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution is violated and the Court will commute his sentence to life imprisonment. The Court has held that a convict sentenced to death has a Constitutional right to petition the President for relief against his sentence, and the consideration of his petition is not an act of grace or mercy by the President but a necessary relief provided by the Constitution, and the Court will judicially review the decision to execute the convict after inordinate delay. In the 15 cases of convicts facing imminent hanging after the rejection of their petitions by the President, the Court found that there was inexplicable delay, from seven to 12 years, in deciding their petitions by the President and communicating the decision to the convicts.

The Court held that keeping such a convict in suspense while his petition was not decided by the President for many years was an agony for him which creates adverse physical conditions and psychological stresses on him and was a trauma not only on him but also his family awaiting his execution. The Court has also held that a Court cannot excuse the agonising delay caused to the convict merely because of the gravity of the crime for which the death penalty was imposed on him. With this judgment, any uncertainty in the law on execution of death sentence is now cleared. This is not for the first time that the Supreme Court has found that a convict sentenced to death has a right to be treated humanely and not put to the agony of awaiting his execution.

The Court had been in fact a pioneer in deciding cases of delay in execution of a death sentence. As early as 1974, Justice Krishna Iyer had written of the “brooding horror of haunting the prisoner in the condemned cell for years.” In 1983 and 1989, the Court delivered judgments which held that a prolonged delay in carrying out the death sentence would be inhumane and degrading treatment to the convict. These Supreme Court judgments were cited with approval by the Privy Council in 1994. Despite these pronouncements of the Supreme Court, the President of India and the government kept the petitions of death row convicts in suspense for prolonged periods of time, sometimes as much as 15 years in disregard of the plight of the convict and his family.

Uncertainty The law was brought into uncertainty in 2012, when the Supreme Court was moved to commute the death sentence on Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar who had been kept in suspense for seven years without a decision on his petition to the President. After a prolonged hearing in which the Court called for the records of all petitions pending consideration by the President, a bench of two judges (Justice G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhaya) held that as Bhullar was convicted under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, delay in his execution was irrelevant and refused to commute his sentence to life imprisonment. Bhullar was to be executed after pronouncing the judgment in his case on April 12, 2013 but because of his physical and mental condition the execution has been postponed.

Fortunately for Bhullar in the meantime the present larger bench of three judges was called to consider the correctness of the Bhullar judgment in the case of the 15 convicts due to be executed after an inordinate delay of many years. The larger bench of the Supreme Court has now differed from the view taken in Bhullar’s case and held that the gravity of the crime was irrelevant in considering the commutation of the sentence as this is always considered by the convicting Court sentencing him to death. While the judgment in Bhullar’s case was reconsidered by the Supreme Court by a larger bench to be wrong, the case of Afzal Guru could not be considered by the Court as he had been executed by then. If ever an execution of a death convict was carried out in the most inhumane way it was that of Afzal Guru who was convicted and sentenced to death for the crime of attacking Parliament.

Afzal Guru was hanged on February 9, 2013 over seven years after the Supreme Court’s pronouncement of the death sentence on him on August 4, 2005 and over six years after his clemency petition was made to the President of India on November 8, 2006. During this period, he and his family remained in a day-to-day agonising suspense. Apart from this delay, the rejection of his petition by the President was kept a secret and deliberately not communicated to his family, lest it become the subject of judicial consideration as had been done in other cases of delayed execution. Within a few days after the rejection of his mercy petition, Afzal Guru was hanged in morbid secrecy without informing his family and his body was buried in equal secrecy in the confines of Tihar Jail in New Delhi.

The disposal of Afzal Guru’s petition to the President had become a political matter, with the Bharatiya Janata Party unseemingly demanding his execution and making it an issue in the elections, and with the government for its own political considerations not deciding on the petition. In fact, between 2006 to 2008 the then Home Minister deliberately instructed the government of Delhi to delay responding to the file on Afzal Guru sent to it. In 2008, in one of the most pathetic statements revealing his mental distress, Afzal Guru during his incarceration pending his mercy petition said in an interview: “I really wish L.K. Advani becomes India’s next PM as he is the only one who can take a decision and hang me. At least my pain and daily suffering will ease then.” Reconsidering its legality Though the Court in its present judgment has not expressly referred to the inhumane execution of Afzal Guru, during the hearing as amicus curiae I had drawn the Court’s attention to the case of Afzal Guru.

The Court was therefore conscious of the manner in which a convict can be secretly executed without giving him a right to approach the Court after the rejection of his mercy petition and without even informing his family. The Supreme Court in the present case has therefore held that there should be a minimum period of 14 days between the receipt of a written communication rejecting the mercy petition by the convict and the scheduled date of execution. Such a period would enable the prisoner to have a last and final meeting with his family members and permit him to avail of a judicial remedy if necessary against the manner of his execution. The Court has also held that a convict cannot be subjected to solitary confinement during the period his petition was being considered by the government and no convict can be executed if he was suffering from a mental illness like schizophrenia.

Overall, the judgment of the Supreme Court is a landmark decision in cases of carrying out of the death penalty. It is in keeping with the judgments in other courts in the world which have held that trifling with the carrying out of a death sentence is agonising torture for the prisoner which a court would not permit. The death penalty itself has been abolished in 140 countries as a cruel punishment as against 58 countries which retain it. India has retained it with the dubious and unpredictable formula evolved by the Supreme Court of imposing it in “the rarest of rare cases.” At some stage, the Supreme Court may have to reconsider the legality of the death penalty itself. In the meantime, it is some consolation that the Court has now firmly declared the illegality of the practice in India of execution of death penalty after prolonged agonising suspense to the convict and his family.

(T.R. Andhyarujina is a senior advocate of the Supreme Court and former Solicitor General of India.)

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

Uttar Pradesh: Man gets death sentence for killing wife, four daughters

Press Trust of India | Faizabad (UP) January 30, 2014 Last Updated at 22:02 IST

A local court here today awarded death sentence to a man for killing his wife and four young daughters as he suspected the wife's fidelity. The court of Additional District Judge (5th) Daya Ram held Deen Dayal Tiwari guilty of the murders on a petition filed by his brother Dinanath Tiwari. The wife Siya Lali was 30 years old at the time of the murder while the daughters were aged between two and eight.

The incident took place in the midnight on November 11, 2011 when Deen Dayal, a resident of Moia Kapurpur village in Purakalandar police station area of Faizabad, hacked the five to death with an axe. He, later surrendered before the court. According to police, Deen Dayal killed them as he believed that Siya was having an extra marital affair.

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

Jammu: 2 given death penalty for killing five persons in 2006

MAR 4, 2015 | 12 JUMADAL ULA 1436 AH Press Trust of India

Jammu, Feb 12: A court here has awarded death sentence to two persons for “remorselessly” killing five people including a local businessman, his wife and daughter in 2006, noting the case falls under the rarest of the rare category. Principal and Sessions judge Jammu, R S Jain, awarded death penalty to Sangram Pardhi and Nanju yesterday and directed that the sentence of conviction imposed upon the accused be submitted to the High Court. Death penalty by a local court is subject to the confirmation of High Court.

On the intervening night of September 17 and 18 in 2006, five people including the cement tycoon Rajinder Bhushan Chopra, his wife Madhu Chopra, daughter Saloni, driver Jagan and helper Sonu were murdered in what was believed to be a case of business rivalry. The court observed that defence’s argument that the accused had no prior conviction carried no weight. “There is another significant aggravating factor. The accused killed vulnerable persons including a housewife and young girl. The counsel for accused has referred to mitigating factors.

One of the mitigating factors is that the accused have no previous convictions. That is a little weight in a murder of this gravity. The horror of what happened is all too apparent,” the order read. The court observed that the murders were premeditated and an extensive planning was done before the crime. “There is extensive premeditation and planning of both of them that they entered the house of the deceased Rajinder Bhushan Chopra when there was no reason for them to do so.

On February 2, the court had acquitted four other accused including a former Member of Legislative Council (MLC) of National Conference (NC) in the case. Former MLC Tarlochan Singh Wazir, his brother Ajaib Singh, Nagar Singh and Raju Simblia were let off by the court. “Having done so, both the accused either by themselves or with unknown persons tortured the inmates of the house which included a house wife namely Madhu Chopra and her younger daughter in a cruel and horrific manner,” Judge R S Jain wrote in the judgement yesterday. The judge said that the accused killed the five persons “in one go and remorselessly” which reflected their “maniacal nature and disregard for human life.

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

HC confirms death for ‘monster’ youth

Shibu Thomas, TNN | Feb 17, 2015, 04.30AM IST

Mumbai: Three years after he raped and strangled a 13-year-old schoolgirl near Alibaug, the Bombay high court on Monday held a 25-year-old youth guilty and confirmed his death sentence. A division bench of Justices Vijaya Kapse-Tahilramani and Indira Jain said the accused Madhya Pradesh native Viran Rajput was "a menace to society and there is no possibility of him being reformed". The judges called the rape and murder of a defenseless schoolgirl "the ultimate insult of womanhood".

Rajput's lawyers urged leniency, pointing to his age and the fact that he had a wife, two minor children and old parents to look after but the HC rejected the plea. "The modus operandi, by resorting to a diabolical method, exhibits depravity, degradation and uncommon (nature) of the crime,'' the judges said, adding that it "had shocked the collective conscience of the community and the villagers who are required to send their minor girls to another village for education, in an era in which right to education is a constitutional guarantee".

The court upheld Rajput's conviction for the charge of rape, murder and the special law Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. This is one of the first HC cases where POCSO was invoked that had resulted in death penalty. Additional public prosecutor Arfan Sait said circumstantial evidence against Rajput was strong and proved beyond reasonable doubt that he had committed the rape and murder. Sait said the forensic evidence was crucial—traces of mud on the accused's trousers matched the soil in the area from where the girl's body was found.

The victim, a resident of Kamthekarwadi, near Alibaug, was studying in Std IX and was on her way home on October 17, 2012, when she went missing. The police detained Rajput after a villager reported that he had seen the youth follow the girl. The police questioned Rajput, who finally told them where he had buried the girl and hidden her clothes. The body was recovered and a medical report confirmed she had been raped and strangled with her dupatta. Rajput claimed that he had been implicated. A sessions court called him a "monster" and sentenced him to death. The HC confirmed the verdict. Sait pointed to circumstantial evidence against Rajput.

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

Chhattisgarh to witness first capital punishment

Rashmi Drolia, TNN | Feb 27, 2015, 08.34PM IST

RAIPUR: A review petition filed in Supreme Court by death row convict Sonu Sardar of Baikunthpur district against his death sentence was dismissed on February 10, state police said on Friday. The brief order uploaded on Supreme Court's website says that its judgment dismissing his appeal against the death sentence does not suffer from any error apparent warranting its reconsideration. Talking to TOI, Raipur Central Jail DIG KK Gupta confirmed saying that Sonu Sardar who was in Raipur jail till Friday evening and was being sent to Baikunthpur where he would be presented before district court and the death warrant will be released. Sardar has been in Raipur Central Jail for last 6-7 years.

As per court sources, Sardar's counsel Raju Ramachandran suggested before the bench of three judges that while there can be a presumption that youth and tender age are factors which could help reformation; it could be dislodged by the prosecution. One of the judges Justice Chelameswar specifically agreed with Raju Ramachandran that the fact that the convict did not participate in the jail break could be a mitigating factor, but was reluctant to place greater weight on the jailor's report recommending commutation of sentence for the convict on this and other grounds, as compared to the courts' conclusion that he did not deserve commutation.

Sardar, who was purportedly few months above the age of minority at the time of crime, was convicted and sentenced to death for killing five family members including two minors of a scrap dealer in Raipur on November 26, 2004, by the trial court on February 27, 2008. Chhattisgarh high court and Supreme Court had confirmed it on March 8, 2010 and February 23, 2012 respectively. Supreme Court had then on June 19, 2014 stayed execution of his death sentence.

The President had earlier rejected his mercy plea. However, Sonu Sardar is unlikely to benefit from the delay factor in disposing his mercy petition by the President, as all doors have been closed for him, unless the President gives due consideration to his second mercy petition, following the rejection of his review petition by Supreme Court. This would be the first capital punishment in Chhattisgarh while the last person hanged to death was Baiju alias Rambharosa on October 25, 1978, in undivided Madhya Pradesh. He was accused of murder of four people of same family at Gauripur at Surguja division.

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

Centre seeks fresh comments from Punjab, Chandigarh on Rajoana's death sentence

HC stays hanging of man who wiped out family of five

Abhinav Garg, TNN | Mar 3, 2015, 05.51AM IST

NEW DELHI: A man on death row whose plea has been rejected both by the President of India and the Supreme Court got a reprieve on Monday, when the Delhi high court stayed his hanging. Admitting the plea of Sonu Sardar, awarded capital punishment by SC for wiping out a family of five in Chhattisgarh, a bench of Justices Sanjeev Khanna and Ashutosh Kumar stayed the punishment till April 7, the next date of hearing. He is currently lodged in Death cell in a Raipur jail awaiting execution.

The court also issued notice to the Centre seeking its reply to the allegation that there is "undue and avoidable delay" of two years and two months in rejecting Sardar's mercy plea by the President of India. Seeking commutation of death sentence to life term, the petition, filed by advocates Rishabh Sancheti and Ashish V. Padmapriya says the convict was kept in illegal solitary confinement in jail leading to "mental agony and torture of a kind that is difficult to imagine or conceptualize." It adds that "for each day after the sentence of death was confirmed by the Supreme Court, and while his mercy petition was pending before the Governor of Chhattisgarh and the President of India, the petitioner and his family have undergone a living hell not knowing if he would live or die, and if he would live to see another day or draw another breath, or whether that day and that breath would be his last."

Appearing for the death row inmate, senior advocate Indira Jaisingh highlighted the fact that he has been living under the shadow of the hangman's noose with the threat of imminent death hanging over his head for more than two years and two months. "During the time his petition was pending, Sardar suffered excruciating pain, mental agony and torture. Such pain and torment is a punishment far worse than death. This mental agony has wreaked havoc on the physical, mental and emotional health of the petitioner, which is avoidable, needless and unjustified," the counsel contended. Sardar has also blamed the State government of Chhattisgarh, the Centre and the President of India for the delay, arguing he had no part in the "excessive and unjustified delay."

Last month SC had dismissed Sardar's plea seeking a review of its 2012 verdict upholding his death sentence for "ruthlessly killing" five members of a scrap dealer's family in Chhatisgarh. The court dismissed the plea after holding a detailed hearing of the matter in open court. Sardar along with Ajay Singh and three more people killed Shamim Akhtar, a scrap dealer and four members of his family. In 2012 the apex court, while upholding Sardar's death sentence, had said: "Five members of a family including two minor children and the driver were ruthlessly killed by the use of a knife, an axe and an iron rod and with the help of four others. The crime was obviously committed after pre-meditation with absolutely no consideration for human lives and for money."

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

Mane not suffering from mental illness, says prosecution

PUNE: The medical documents of rogue bus driver Santosh Mane provided to the prosecution have revealed that he is conscious, well-oriented and not suffering from major psychiatric illness. The documents submitted by the Yerawada central jail were provided to the prosecution and its lawyer Dhananjay Mane when the case came up for hearing on the point of sentencing before the court on Saturday. District government pleader and public prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar relied on the medical report issued by the jail psychiatrist to show that Mane was normal.

On the plea filed by Mane's lawyer that he be referred to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist as he is unable to make his defence on the point of sentencing, Pawar opposed the plea saying that the trial in the case was over and he was convicted, but the Bombay High Court has directed the trial court to give him a hearing for complying with section 235 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The hearing in the case was deferred till October 25. On January 25, 2012, Mane hijacked an ST bus from Swargate bus depot and drove it for 14 km around the city in a manic spree that left nine people dead and 37 injured.

On April 8 this year, the court of additional sessions judge V K Shewale handed Mane death sentence under section 302 (punishment for murder) and other sections of the Indian Penal Code, saying that his crime fell in the "rarest of rare" category. While the trial court sent the death sentence for confirmation to the high court, Mane also filed his appeal. On September 21, a division bench of the high court comprising justice P V Hardas and justice P N Deshmukh in its judgment held that there has been a failure of justice as there has been no effective hearing on the point of sentence.

The high court bench set aside the sentence awarded to Mane, but maintained his conviction and remitted the case to the trial court for passing appropriate sentence in accordance with the law after complying with section 235 (2) of the CrPC.

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]

On the verge of unconscionable hangings

October 18, 2013 After correctly acknowledging the possibility of reformation as a ground to commute the death sentence, the Supreme Court must now consider the case of 22 individuals awaiting execution in the same vein Three judges of the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice of India, have come to the conclusion that Sushil Sharma does not deserve the death penalty for murdering his wife, Naina Sahni, and trying to dispose of her body by burning it in a tandoor. It is no secret that India’s death penalty jurisprudence, at all levels of the judiciary, is in a shambles and the reasoning adopted in Sushil Sharma’s judgment raises very serious concerns about the justice that has been meted out to 22 individuals on the verge of execution after their mercy petitions were rejected by the President (four of them by Pratibha Patil and 18 by Pranab Mukherjee). While a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the pleas of 18 of the 22 individuals only on the issue of delay caused by the State in deciding their mercy petition, the issue that I want to explore in the context of the Sushil Sharma case is the manner in which they were sentenced to death.

In terms of the law, not all murders, terrorist acts, rapes and murders, acts of treason, etc attract the death penalty. The “rarest of the rare” doctrine was introduced in Bachan Singh to lend some coherence to instances in which the death penalty might be justified by balancing aggravating and mitigating circumstances. However, the “rarest of the rare” doctrine has evolved into one of the most misunderstood and misapplied doctrines not just in public discourse but even in judicial pronouncements from courts at all levels. The “rarest of the rare” doctrine is often misunderstood as referring only to the heinousness of the crime. The focus is equally meant to be on the mitigating circumstances of the person including whether it has been decidedly shown that she is beyond reformation.

The Court seems to have placed significant weight on the point that the State had not led any evidence to show that Sushil Sharma was beyond reformation. These are very important moves by the Court as it is a clear attempt to move away from multiple judgments in the past where the focus was only on the brutal nature of the crime. This is an important step in the inevitable course correction that the Supreme Court will have to undertake on the manner in which it examines aggravating and mitigating circumstances in death penalty cases. By taking the position that the State, while demanding the death penalty, should demonstrate that the individual will revert to such crimes, the Court has brought the focus back on the mitigating circumstances and the appropriate burden on the State. It is this aspect of reformation that was articulated in Bachan Singh that has been ignored most often and the obligation is most certainly on the State to show the impossibility of reformation. It is of course not the position in Bachan Singh that any one factor can trump all others and Courts are meant to balance aggravating and mitigating circumstances. Reformation is an issue that is relevant to all prisoners who appear before the Court irrespective of the nature of the crime, age, sex and social background. If judges want to balance away the interests of reformation in favour of other factors, Courts must be left free to do so. However, there must be an obligation and culture of justification as far as reformation of the death row convict is concerned. As judges seal the fate of the convict, the least they must do is explain the evidence presented before them that led to the conclusion that the convict could not be reformed. If no such evidence is presented before the Court, there must be a presumption of reformation and judges must meet a high threshold of justification if they want to override that presumption. A disingenuous strategy adopted in many judgments confirming the death penalty has been to cite the brutality of the crime as indicative of the impossibility of reformation. To argue that an individual cannot be reformed because of the crime she has committed is a perverse articulation of what was intended in Bachan Singh.

BEYOND REFORMATION? Sushil Sharma has certainly benefited from the substantial weight assigned to reformation as envisaged in Bachan Singh. But the 22 individuals who stand on the verge of execution have not had the benefit of such enquiry into the possibility of their reformation. Apart from highlighting the brutality of the crime, in none of their cases did the State lead any evidence on reformation and unlike in Sushil Sharma’s case, neither did any judge ask the State why it had not presented any such evidence. We must have no illusion that we have brought these 22 individuals extremely close to their death without any court of law in this country having paid adequate attention to the possibility of their reformation.

Almost all of these 22 individuals have spent a very long time in prison and it reflects the lack of humanity in our legal system that we have no mechanism to evaluate the changes they have undergone. The most tragic aspect of death sentences in India is that we often have an image of the prisoner that is frozen in time. It is an image of her when she committed the crime and our moral judgment of the person at that point of time is all that seems to matter. There is no place in our public and legal imagination for the effects of long periods of incarceration. Some of them are the most trusted prisoners in the jails in which they are lodged, some others contribute to the administration of the jail by maintaining records and teaching other prisoners about work they could do in jail, some others have picked up skills and earned degrees while simultaneously having introspected about their time in jail.

Of course it is not just about the good things. Incarceration and differing levels of alienation from their families have left many of them extremely mentally vulnerable, displaying signs of severe depression and psychosis. In that sense, these 22 individuals have suffered a double injustice. Neither was the possibility of their reformation explored at the time of sentencing them to death nor is the system interested in evaluating them as individuals as they are today. It would be unconscionable to hang any of these 22 individuals without considering the issue of reformation meaningfully. Otherwise, it starts to look like there is one standard of justice for people like Sushil Sharma and quite another standard when it comes to Shivu, Jadeswamy, Maganlal, Jafar Ali, Gurmeet Singh, Suresh, Ramji, Perarivalan, Murugan, Santhan, Saibanna, Simon, Madaiah, Gynanaprakasan, Bilavendra, Dharampal, Sonia, Sanjeev, Praveen Kumar, Bhullar, Umesh and Sundar Singh.

(Anup Surendranath is the director of the Death Penalty Research Project at the National Law University, Delhi.)

Source: [last accessed on 04.03.2015]