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


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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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?

Rajiv Gandhi killing: SC dismisses plea against convicts' release (Tamil Nadu)

09 MAY 2019 Last Updated at 7:12 PM | SOURCE: IANS

The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the plea by families of those killed along with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a LTTE suicide bomber at Tamil Nadu's Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991, opposing the release of the seven remaining convicts in the case.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, said: "All aspects were covered in the earlier constitution bench verdict in the case and, therefore, nothing survives in the case. In view of the above, the writ petition stands disposed of." As an outcome of the apex court's decision, Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit will take a decision regarding freeing the seven convicts held guilty in the assassination of the former PM and 16 others. On September 9, 2018, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet passed an order recommending the release of the convicts but the issue has been pending before the Governor, who is yet to take any decision, as the petition of the victims' families was pending in the top court.

When in 2014, the then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa decided to free the convicts, who have already been in jail for 28 years after the apex court commuted their death sentences to life imprisonment, K. Ramasugandam, John Joseph, R. Mala, M. Samuvel Diraviyam, America V. Narayanan and S. Abbas filed a petition against it in the apex court. Senior advocates Gopal Sankaranarayanan and Prabu Ramasubramanium, representing A.G. Perarivalan, who is one of the seven convicts, brought the CJI's attention to the victims' petition pending in the top court since 2014. They also argued that none of the convicts were ever made parties in the case, despite that their lives were directly linked, and as a consequence, the petition has become infructuous.

Agreeing with the argument, the court said: "Having considered the matter, we are of the view that no live issue remains for adjudication in view of the Constitution Bench judgement of this court." A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by then Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, had in 2015 upheld Centre's right to decide, on the remission of sentence of life convicts, specifically where the case was investigated by the Centre. It then allowed the three-judge bench to give the final word on the case. Sankaranarayanan contended the three-judge bench had already closed the case, and as a consequence, there is simply nothing left in the top court and the court agreed.

Following these verdicts in 2015, the Tamil Nadu government had written to the Centre in March 2016 proposing remission of sentence of these convicts as it expected the Centre would be in harmony on this issue. But, in April 2018, the Centre refused to budge from its previous stand opposing the release, saying the crime was unparalleled in the history of the country. The apex court took an opposite stand to the Centre in September 2018, and asked the Tamil Nadu Governor to decide the fate of the convicts.

Man gets life sentence for killing wife, father-in-law (Maharashtra)

08 MAY 2019 Last Updated at 11:12 PM | SOURCE: PTI

Mumbai, May 8 A city court Wednesday awarded life sentence to a man for murdering his wife and father-in- law over monetary issue in 2013.

During his deposition, a police official said he was on patrol duty in October 2013 when he came to know about the double murder in Sakinaka area of suburban Andheri. The official said when he reached the spot near a housing society, he found two bodies lying in a pool of blood. According to the prosecution, the president of the housing society told police the bodies were of Nilesh Kamble's wife Saraswati and his father-in-law Mahadev Lokhande.

The housing society president, a key witness in the case, had told the court that after committing the crime, Kamble called him saying he had killed both of them. The key witness told the court the convict had further revealed that his father-in-law was demanding Rs 70,000 from him, which led to a fight between them. During the scuffle, Kamble attacked his father-in-law with a knife and then his wife when she tried to intervene, leading to the death of the duo, the prosecution said. AVI RSY NSD NSD

Solitary Confinement Of Death Convict Prior To Rejection Of Mercy Petition Palpably Illegal: SC

BY: ASHOK KINI2 May 2019 8:41 AM 

"On receipt of a mercy petition, the Department concerned has to call for all the records and materials connected with the conviction." 

The Supreme Court has observed that solitary confinement of a person sentenced to death prior to the rejection of mercy petition is palpably illegal. The bench comprising Justice NV Ramana, Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer upheld the Punjab and Haryana High Court judgment that had commuted death sentence awarded to a murder accused whose mercy petition was rejected by the President of India in 2013.

The Death sentence awarded to Dharam Pal, in a murder case, was affirmed by the Supreme Court in the year 1999. His petition seeking pardon, filed in 1999, was rejected by the President in the year 2013. The Punjab and Haryana High Court allowed his writ petition and commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment in light of the change in circumstances- his acquittal in the rape case, which was an important deciding factor by this Court in negating his appeal and delay in deciding his mercy petition by the President, among other ground.

Solitary Confinement Of Death Convict Prior To Rejection Of Mercy Petition Palpably Illegal: SC [Read Judgment]
Justice NV Ramana, Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer 
Convict cannot be said to be "under sentence of death" till the mercy petition is rejected.
In this proceeding, the centre admitted that Dharam Pal remained in solitary confinement for a period of 18 years, and has undergone imprisonment for a total period of more than 25 years till date. Referring to Sunil Batra judgment, the bench observed that even if the Sessions Court has sentenced the convict to death, subject to the confirmation of the High Court, or even if the appeal is filed before the High Court and the Supreme Court against the imposition of death punishment and the same is pending, the convict cannot be said to be "under sentence of death" till the mercy petition filed before the Governor or the President is rejected. 

In this regard, the bench observed: 
"Throughout the period of deciding his mercy petition by the President, he was kept in solitary confinement in various jails. Solitary confinement prior to the disposal of the mercy petition is per se illegal and amounts to separate and additional punishment not authorized by law… …. Thus, solitary confinement prior to the rejection of mercy petition, which has taken place in spite of various decisions of this Court to the contrary, is unfortunate and palpably illegal. In the present case, the Respondent underwent such a long period of solitary confinement that too, prior to his mercy petition being rejected, thereby making it a formidable case for commuting his death sentence into life imprisonment, as rightly held by the High Court" 
Prolonged Delay In Execution Of Death Sentence Violates Fundamental Right
The court also upheld the High Court observation that the prolonged delay in execution of a sentence of death has a dehumanizing effect and this has the constitutional implication of depriving a person of his life in an unjust, unfair and unreasonable way so as to offend the fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution. 

All Relevant Materials Should Be Placed Before President While He Considers Mercy Petition
The bench further observed that the fact that he was subsequently acquitted in the rape case (SC while confirming his death sentence had taken note of the conviction by Trial Court) has great bearing on the quantum on sentence that ought to be awarded to him and the same should have been brought to the notice of the President while deciding his mercy petition.
On receipt of a mercy petition, the Department concerned has to call for all the records and materials connected with the conviction. When the matter is placed before the President, it is incumbent on the part of the concerned authority to place all the materials such as judgments of the courts, as well as any other relevant material connected with the conviction. 
The bench, taking into account all circumstances, finally directed his release after the completion of 35 years of actual imprisonment including the period already undergone by him.

HC sends death penalty ruling back to trial court (Maharashtra)

Mumbai, Apr 25, 2019

Three years after a Thane court awarded death penalty to a man for raping and murdering a 7-year-old girl, the Bombay High Court Thursday remanded the case back to it on account of procedural lapses.

A bench of justices B P Dharmadhikari and P D Naik set aside the trial court's order awarding Atul Rama Lote death penalty Thursday. It remanded the case back to the trial court, asking it to reconsider the facts and evidence and decide whether to hold a retrial or proceed anew from the stage of framing of charges -- when procedural lapses were committed. On September 28, 2016, the Thane court awarded Lote death sentence. He was accused of abducting, raping and killing the minor daughter of an acquaintance in 2014.

When the state government's petition seeking confirmation of death sentence was taken up by the High Court, Lote's lawyer Yug Chaudhary pointed out certain lapses. In February 2014, the police charge sheeted Lote under IPC sections 363 (kidnapping), 366 (A) (kidnapping a minor girl with the intent of forcing her to have intercourse), 376 (rape) and 302 (murder), Chaudhary said. Generally, these offences attract life imprisonment or ten years in jail, and death is awarded only in the "rarest of rare cases", he argued.

On September 26, 2016, two days before the sentence was passed, the prosecution invoked section 376(2) of the IPC (rape of a victim under 12 years of age) and provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, making it a case fit for death penalty, the lawyer pointed out. The court should not have permitted amendment of charges just two days before the verdict, Chaudhary said. He also argued that Lote did not get proper legal assistance from his lawyers, appointed through Legal Aid. The high court said it could not overlook these procedural lapses and especially the fact that two key charges were pressed only two days before the verdict. It, however, refused to acquit Lote, and said instead the trial court must consider Lote as an undertrial and reexamine the proceedings.

Death (sentence) upheld for man who pushed 4 into Bhakra (Punjab)

Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, April 25, 2019

HC upholds death sentence in 15-yr-old case

Worshipping with their eyes closed on the banks of Bhakra canal on June 3, 2004, Kulwant Singh, his wife and two minor children were pushed into the water by a relative, Khushwinder Singh of Fatehgarh Sahib, who had taken them there on the pretext of seeking blessings from a “baba”.

Man gets death penalty for murdering four of family
Convict Khushwinder Singh in custody. tribune photo
Fifteen years on, a Punjab and Haryana High Court Division Bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Gurvinder Singh Gill today upheld the death sentence for Khushwinder, pronounced by the Mohali CBI special judge.With the CBI probe hitting a dead-end, the case had to be shut in September 2009. But a letter from the Punjab ADGP (Crime) to the CBI in July 2012 led to its reopening. 

The ADGP said Khushwinder, an accused in a similar case of killing of a family where a female member survived, had during investigation confessed to his involvement in pushing to death Kulwant and his family.Speaking for the Bench, Justice Sharma said the motive attributed was that Khushwinder wanted to grab Kulwant’s money from a recently sold property. After developing close ties with Kulwant, who was under debt, Khushwinder persuaded the victim family to accompany him to the crime spot and pushed them into the water. While the bodies of Kulwant and his daughter Ramandeep Kaur were recovered, those of his wife Harjit Kaur and son Arvinder Singh could never be found.

Four members of a family killed (left to right) – Kulwant Singh, Harjeet Kaur, Ramandeep Kaur and Arvinder Singh
“It has been proven on record that the appellant had planned the murder of Kulwant and his family. He pushed them into the Bhakra canal. He has played with the sentiments of gullible family… The case falls within the ambit of rarest of rare cases. The appellant has killed four persons, including two minor children. There is no occasion for us to interfere with the well-reasoned judgment and order of the trial court,” asserted Justice Sharma.

Case files 
  • Khushwinder can still move the Supreme Court, file a mercy petition before the President, and challenge the rejection of that as well
  • In August 2004, Dhananjoy Chatterjee was sent to the gallows for killing and raping a minor in West Bengal 
  • All executions since then have been in terror cases — be it in Parliament attack case (Afzal Guru), Mumbai 26/11 case (Ajmal Kasab) or 1993-Mumbai blasts (Yakub Memon)

To fast-track sex assault probe, states to get forensic kits

TNN | Apr 22, 2019, 03.28 AM IST

NEW DELHI: The women safety division of the ministry of home affairs has set its focus on expediting investigations in a time-bound manner. According to the latest updates available with MHA, Madhya Pradesh is showing the way especially in particularly heinous cases securing the death sentence in 21 rape/POCSO Act cases since Criminal Law (Amendment) Act came into force in 2018. As per the investigation tracking system for sexual offences (ITSSO) launched on February 19, the MHA cites Haryana, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh as the leading states/UTs in terms of completion of investigations within two months. MHA set up ITSSO, an online mechanism to monitor and track investigation in sexual assault cases in accordance with the 2018 amendment to the law. 

It is an analytical tool based on CCTNS data available right from the police station to national level. Meanwhile, 2,575 officers have been trained by Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) and National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Sciences in collection, handling and transportation of forensic evidence, including trace elements like a single strand of hair, dead skin cells, blood etc. 

BPR&D has also procured 3,120 Sexual Assault Evidence Collection (SAEC) Kits for distribution to states/ UTs as orientation kit as part of training. The handling of evidence is based on the notified guidelines for collection of forensic evidence in sexual assault cases and standard composition in a sexual assault forensic kit. The latest update on the 'Emergency Response Support System (ERSS)' with a single emergency number (112) shows that it has been operationalised in 20 states and union territories. These include Andaman Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttarakhand & Uttar Pradesh, and Mumbai city. From the Nirbhaya Fund, Rs 292.89 crore has been utilised so far for this project.

Convicted (death sentence) escape from High Security Hindalga Jail Belagavi (Karnataka)

Apr 25, 2019

In a filmy style, a convicted for sentence to death and four other Jail inmates allegedly gave slip to the security personnel and escaped from the High Security Hindalaga Central Jail here on April 22. According to official sources on Thursday, Muragesh, hailing from Tamil Nadu was undergoing jail term after he was awarded death sentence by a Sessions Court, Chamarajanagara in 2015 on charges of brutal murder of five people, including a 8-year-old girl in Hrale village in Chamarajanagara district. 

Murugesh had been shifted from Chamarajanagara district prison to the Belagavi Central jail in 2017 and allegedly hatched a plot to flee from the Jail, as number of security personnel were reduced following deployment to the Election duties, on April-23. He managed to escape from the jail on April 22 by scaling the prison wall with four other inmates. Police said that man hunt was launched to nab Muragesh and other four who have escaped. UNI MV MSP SKB130

Convicted of Pune rape-murder, two issued execution warrants (Maharashtra)

Written by MAYURA JANWALKAR |Mumbai |Updated: April 21, 2019 3:45:21 am

This will be the first execution in Maharashtra after July 30, 2015, when Yakub Memon, convicted in the 1993 serial bomb blasts case, was hanged at Nagpur Central Prison.

Nearly two years after the President of India rejected their clemency petitions, two men convicted of the rape and murder of a BPO employee in Pune in 2007 are slated to be executed on June 24, according to warrants of execution issued earlier this month.

Convicted of Pune rape-murder, two issued death warrants
Purushottam Borate (left) and Pradeep Kokade (right) were convicted of the rape and murder of a BPO employee. Express
The principal district and sessions judge in Pune issued warrants on April 10 for the execution of Purushottam Borate, 36, and Pradeep Kokade, 31, whose death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court on May 8, 2015. Both Borate and Kokade are lodged at the Yerwada Central Prison in Pune. A warrant, issued in the name of Borate, authorises the officer in charge of the Yerwada Central Prison to carry out the execution. Sources said a similar warrant has been issued for Kokade. The victim, Jyotikumari, who hailed from Gorakhpur, had resigned from Wipro BPO (then Spectramind) with whom she had been working for around a year. Around 10 pm on November 1, 2007, her last working day with the company, driver Borate and his friend Kokade had picked her up from her home in the office cab for her night shift. When she did not return by 10 the next morning, her brother-in-law lodged a missing complaint with the police.

Her sister had reported that Jyotikumari’s Bangalore-based friend was unable to get through to her on her cellphone after her call – made during the cab ride – was abruptly disconnected the previous night. Police found her body on the morning of November 2, 2007, at Gahunje, about 35 km from Pune. Borate and Kokade were later arrested. In March 2012, the Pune sessions court convicted the duo and sentenced them to death. The sentence was upheld by the Bombay High Court in September 2012 and by the Supreme Court in May 2015. Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao had rejected their mercy petition in April 2016.

This will be the first execution in Maharashtra after July 30, 2015, when Yakub Memon, convicted in the 1993 serial bomb blasts case, was hanged at Nagpur Central Prison.

Post Conviction Mental Illness Is A Mitigating Factor To Commute Death Sentence

BY: ASHOK KINI15 April 2019 1:47 PM

"This Court cautions against utilization of this dicta as a ruse to escape the gallows by pleading such defense even if such aliment is not of grave severity." 

The Supreme Court has held that post conviction mental illness will be a mitigating factor while considering appeals of death convicts. The bench comprising Justice NV Ramana, Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Justice Indira Banerjee commuted death penalty of a person convicted of rape and murder of two minor girls. The accused was convicted and sentenced to death by the Trial Court in 2001. The High Court confirmed the death sentence. The Supreme Court in November, 2008, dismissed his appeal. Review petitions were also dismissed by circulation. Later, invoking the judgment in Mohd. Arif @ Ashfaq v. The Registrar, Supreme Court of India, he filed petition seeking reopening of review petitions.

Breaking: Post Conviction Mental Illness Is A Mitigating Factor To Commute Death Sentence :SC [Read Judgment]
Justice N.V. Ramana (L), Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar (C), Justice Indira Banerjee (R)
Two issues were raised in the Review petition. One is that the Trial Court had not given him a separate hearing while awarding the sentence, in direct contravention of Section 235(2) of the Code of Criminal procedure which provides for the right of pre-sentencing hearing. The counsel for the accused also contended that the execution of persons suffering from mental illness or insanity violates Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and that such mental illness or insanity would be a supervening circumstance meriting commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment.

Regarding the first issue, the bench observed that as long as the spirit and purpose of Section 235(2) is met, inasmuch as the accused is afforded a real and effective opportunity to plead his case with respect to sentencing, whether simply by way of oral submissions or by also bringing pertinent material on record, there is no bar on the pre-sentencing hearing taking place on the same day as the pre-conviction hearing. Depending on the facts and circumstances, a separate date may be required for hearing on sentence, but it is equally permissible to argue on the question of sentence on the same day if the parties wish to do so, the bench added. The bench also considered in detail the question whether post conviction mental illness can be considered a mitigating factor to commute the death penalty. 

The bench observed:
"Considering that India has taken an obligation at an international forum to not punish mental patients with cruel and unusual punishments, it would be necessary for this Court to provide for a test wherein only extreme cases of convicts being mentally ill are not executed. Moreover, this Court cautions against utilization of this dicta as a ruse to escape the gallows by pleading such defense even if such aliment is not of grave severity."
The bench issued these directives: 
  • That the post-conviction severe mental illness will be a mitigating factor that the appellate Court, in appropriate cases, needs to consider while sentencing an accused to death penalty. 
  • The assessment of such disability should be conducted by a multi-disciplinary team of qualified professionals (experienced medical practitioners, criminologists etc), including professional with expertise in accused's particular mental illness. 
  • The burden is on the accused to prove by a preponderance of clear evidence that he is suffering with severe mental illness. 
  • The accused has to demonstrate active, residual or prodromal symptoms that the severe mental disability was manifesting. 
  • The State may offer evidence to rebut such claim. Court in appropriate cases could setup a panel to submit an expert report. 
  • Test of severity' envisaged herein predicates that the offender needs to have a severe mental illness or disability, which simply means that objectively the illness needs to be most serious that the accused cannot understand or comprehend the nature and purpose behind the imposition of such punishment.
In this case, the bench noted that the reports of psychiatrist suggested that the accused has been reeling under bouts of some form of mental irritability since 1994. Commuting the sentence to life imprisonment sans remission, the bench also directed the state to his case under the provisions of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 and if found entitled.

SC stays death sentence of Theni man (Tamil Nadu)

NEW DELHI , APRIL 17, 2019 01:12 IST

Warrant has left no time for the convict to file an appeal, says Bench led by Chief Justice

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the execution of a 30-year-old man convicted for killing a college girl and her lover after raping her near Suruli Hills in Theni district in 2011. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi set aside the warrant of execution issued by the Theni principal sessions judge after the Madras High Court upheld the conviction of Diwakar for murder, and confirmed the death penalty on March 13. The date of execution of the convict, as per the warrant, was April 22.

Diwakar (Theni Murder Case)
The CJI-led Bench noted that the warrant of execution left no time for the convict to file an appeal in the Supreme Court. If implemented, the convict would be executed even before the time allowed under law to file an appeal was exhausted. “The period for filing of a special leave petition/an appeal against the order of conviction and sentence passed is yet to be over, we are of the view that the warrant for execution of death sentence, dated March 27, 2019, 27.3.2019, is contrary to the law,” the apex court held. The Supreme Court further recorded: “We are also told that the petitioner is in the process of filing an appeal. The same as and when filed, will receive due attention of the court”.

In its judgment, the High Court had termed the murder as a “brutal act on the helpless young couple, that too after raping the girl”. “The savageness of the act was shocking and such a person will be a menace to the society,” it had observed. The trial court had sentenced Diwakar to death in March 2018, saying the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.

Thiruvananthapuram: Man murders neighbour, rapes his wife; local court awards death sentence (Kerala)

Updated Apr 12, 2019 | 09:20 IST | Mirror Now Digital

Death sentence was awarded to a man by a local court for murdering another man and allegedly raping the latter's wife. The sentence was awarded to the accused by Mini S Das, additional sessions judge.

Death sentence was awarded to a man by a local court for murdering another man and allegedly raping the latter's wife. The sentence was awarded to the accused by Mini S Das, additional sessions judge. A penalty of Rs 1.75 lakh was also levied on the convict. The alleged incident took place in Koliyoor which falls under the jurisdiction of the Kovalam police station. The incident took place in July 2016. The convict was identified as Anil Kumar alias Kolusu Binu. 

 Anil Kumar alias Kolusu Binu & Chandrasekharan
While one of the accused was given a death sentence, the second accused, Chandrasekharan of Tamil Nadu was awarded a life sentence. Chandrasekharan was accused of trespassing, murder, robbery and attempt to murder. A penalty of Rs 1 lakh was imposed on Chandrasekharan. According to the Times of India, the incident took place on July 7, 2016. A man and his wife were sleeping at their residence in Koliyoor when the two accused allegedly attacked him. The husband was attacked with a sledgehammer and an iron rod. The wife was attacked with the same weapon. After attacking the wife, Anil Kumar allegedly raped her. 

The woman went into a coma due to brain damage. Though the woman gained consciousness, her memory was lost. The accused then ransacked the house and robbed the couple of their valuables. The crime came to light after the children of the deceased woke up after a few hours. The accused were booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The case of the prosecution was being handled by Special public prosecutor VS Vineeth Kumar. Since the case did not have any eye witnesses, the decision was taken on the bases of circumstantial and scientific evidence. Anil Kumar was the neighbour of the deceased and shared a friendly equation with them. Kumar had made several attempts towards the victim but after she refused, he decided to commit the crime. 

Persuasive argument against death penalty (Book)

Published : Apr 7, 2019, 3:47 am IST

In India, from the time of Raja Nand Kumar’s case (1775) to the decision of the Supreme Court in the Bachan Singh case (1980).

Demons and Demigods: Death Penalty in India, by Aparna Jha Oxford University Press, Rs 495.
Demons and Demigods: Death Penalty in India, by Aparna Jha Oxford University Press, Rs 495.
In the interests of fair disclosure, I should, at the outset, state that I believe that the legal system, with its scheme of graded punishments, with different punishments set out for different crimes, is fair and just, and that includes the imposition of capital punishment for certain crimes. And yet, I am now reviewing a book that is opposed to the imposition of capital punishment. 

Aparna Jha, a lawyer practising in the Supreme Court, has drawn upon her experience as a lawyer for four young death row convicts, telling their story, and the story of the research carried out by her during the case, to come out with an eminently readable book. 

The author, who has written an anthology of short stories as well as a novel, has used her skills as a storyteller to take us through some of the leading cases on the death penalty, describing the actual crimes and associated violence in an almost poetic manner. She makes no attempt to mitigate the severity of the violence that was inflicted upon the deceased, with gruesome details being penned down. And yet, the author believes that the perpetrators of such violence deserve to live, that the death penalty, being nothing but state-sanctioned murder, is wrong, and makes out an impassioned case for not depriving a human being of life. As the last words in the book say if a person is subsequently found innocent, “Can they ever be brought back to life? Then why kill them?”

“The quality of mercy” to quote the Bard, is “…an attribute to God himself”. Mercy, however, cannot absolve the guilty, it merely mitigates the punishment. Over the centuries debate has raged about the desirability or efficacy of the death penalty. Opponents and proponents of the penalty have clear battlelines drawn between them. In India, from the time of Raja Nand Kumar’s case (1775) to the decision of the Supreme Court in Bachan Singh case (1980), the application of the death penalty has travelled from being the fitting punishment for the crime of forgery to a punishment in the exceptionally heinous “rarest of the rare” murders. And now the debate has moved on from the death penalty as a punishment in the rarest of the rare cases, to the abolition of the punishment altogether.

There is no crime in India where the only possible punishment is death. The gravest offences such as murder, mutiny, rape and killing of a child below 12 years of age, abetment of suicide of a minor, abetment of sati, etc., carry the death penalty. However, in all of these cases, the death penalty is one of alternate punishments. The law takes into account that for the same offence, different punishments may be possible. In other words, there is already an inherent protection for the wrong-doer to plead mitigating circumstances to seek a lower penal consequence.

The application of the death penalty has been diluted further still by judicial pronouncements, and now it is only in the rarest of the rare cases, after considering all mitigating circumstances that the penalty is awarded. 

Take for example one of the cases discussed in the book — the case of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a young security guard in an apartment complex in Kolkata, who raped and murdered a teenaged school-going girl who lived in the apartments which he was supposed to guard. There were no eyewitnesses to the murder, but the circumstantial evidence was so strong that the death penalty was upheld by the Supreme Court. In a case where a young girl is savagely murdered by the very man who is supposed to protect her, should issues of the poverty of the parents of the murderer, or the possibility of reform, be factors to reduce the sentence to life imprisonment? The author thinks they should. But the author’s argument is based on a moral premise that to kill is wrong, and the killing of Dhananjoy Chatterjee by the state is as wrong as Dhananjoy Chatterjee’s killing of the girl who had her whole life ahead of her.

The morality of the law is a subject which is once again contentious and the source of a never-ending debate. However, the fact remains that the death penalty is on the statute books, and till such time it remains there, it is the bounden duty of courts to administer it, within the parameters of the law and judicial precedent. For a judge of any court, even the highest, to say that he or she would not sentence a person to death on moral principles, would be reducing the law to mere words on paper, reducing its efficacy and setting a precedent that may have severe repercussions. On the other hand, if the civil society was able to convince parliamentarians that the death penalty should be removed from the statute books, that would be a completely different thing. 

If you are looking for a book that contains an intellectual debate on the pros and cons of capital punishment, drawing upon the various theories of punishment and justice, and citing facts and figures, this book is not it. It is, however, a useful starting point for an overview on the subject, since the author does refer to other points of view as well as some of the global perspectives on the death penalty, albeit from her point of view. 

The interesting thing is that this book made me pause, introspect and review my thoughts and stand on capital punishment. I would say that any book that can make any other person review his or her own beliefs, deserves to be read, whether you agree with it or not. My views are still unchanged, but reading the book did make me think again.

The reviewer is a lawyer practising in Delhi.

Sentenced to death for honour killing, Hisar man set free by HC (Haryana)

Posted at: Apr 7, 2019, 7:00 AM; last updated: Apr 7, 2019, 4:56 PM (IST)
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Court says prosecution failed to provide credible proof

Chandigarh, April 6, 2019: Less than six months after Ashok, a resident of Hisar district, was sentenced to death in an honour killing case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has acquitted him. The matter was placed before the Division Bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Gurvinder Singh Gill for the confirmation of death sentence pronounced in December last year for poisoning his sister over an inter-caste marriage. Ashok had filed an appeal.

The prosecution contended that Ashok was unhappy with his sister’s marriage to Rohtash. Ashok was charged with administering poison to his sister, resulting in her death. The prosecution had claimed that her body was cremated hurriedly. Justice Sharma said the case record indicated that the police visited the place of occurrence and collected the residue of vomit. Ash and burnt bones were also lifted from the cremation ground before being sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory. Poison did not emerge as the cause of death. 

In any case, the marriage was solemnised in August 2015 and the date of incident was February 13, 2017. The deceased’s cousin, Krishan Kumar, had admitted that there was no resentment in the family. The polygraph test of the parents of the accused showed that the answers given by them were not deceptive. Justice Sharma asserted that Rohtash, on whose insistence an FIR was registered, had not supported the prosecution case. “The chain of circumstances is not complete. The prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt,” the Bench ruled, while setting Ashok free. 

Key loopholes
  • Contrary to charge, forensic lab report said poisoning was not the cause of death
  • Victim’s cousin testified there was no resentment in family
  • The accused’s parents did not give deceptive answers in the polygraph test

Koli gets 11th death sentence in Nithari murder case (Uttar Pradesh)

06 APRIL 2019 Last Updated at 7:36 PM | SOURCE: IANS

Ghaziabad, April 6 A CBI court awarded death sentence -- 11th -- to Surender Koli in the Nithari serial killing case, here on Saturday.

CBI Prosecutor J.P. Sharma said it was the 11th case in which Koli has been ordered to be hanged till death. But the court acquitted the co-accused Maninder Singh Pandher, due to lack of evidence. According to Sharma, a 10-year-old girl went missing after she had gone to deliver 'ironed' cloths at D-5, residence Pandher, where his domestic help Koli was living, on June 21, 2005. When the girl did not return home for two days, her parents lodged a complaint at Sector 20 police station on June 23, 2005.

Surender Koli (L); Maninder Singh Pandher (R)
The case was handed over to the CBI on June 11, 2007 and the agency submitted chargesheet on April 9, 2008. The court of special judge Amit Vir Singh held Koli guilty on Friday. On Saturday, the court awarded a death sentence to Koli and imposed a penalty of Rs 1.10 lakh on him. The court, however, acquitted Pandher for lack of credible evidence. On December 26, 2006 the Noida Police had recovered scull from the back of the house. In a DNA test, it was established that the scull was of the missing girl. The DNA report became most crucial evidence against Koli.

Thirty-eight witnesses testified in the case.

Rape & Murder Of 3 Month Old Baby: SC Stays Death Penalty (Madhya Pradesh)


"The rape of a infant is nothing but a monstrous burial of her dignity in the darkness." (HC Observation) 

The Supreme Court, on Thursday, stayed death penalty imposed on a man convicted for rape and murder of a 3- month old infant. The bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, granted leave in the Special Leave Petition filed by Naveen @ Ajay against the Judgment of the Indore Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. In December 2018, the High Court bench comprising of Justice P.K. Jaiswal and Justice S.K. Awasthi had confirmed the conviction and sentence of Naveen @ Ajay recorded by the Trial Court. He was convicted under Section 363, 366A, 376 (A) (2) (i) (j) (k) (m), and 302 of the Indian Penal Code and also under Section 5 (m) (i) / 6 of the POCSO Act.

While confirming his death sentence, the bench at Indore had observed: "The rape of a infant is nothing but a monstrous burial of her dignity in the darkness. It is a crime against the holy body of a girl child and the soul of the society and such a crime is aggravated by the manner in which it has been committed. It was not committed by accused under any mental stress or emotional disturbance and it is difficult to comprehend that he would not commit such acts and would be reformed and rehabilitated. The act of the appellant / accused meets the test of "rarest of the rare case".

Last week, the same bench had stayed death penalty confirmed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in another case. In January, 2019, the Jabalpur bench of the High Court had confirmed death sentence of Rabbu alias Sarvesh under Sections 450, 376(2)(i), 376(D), 376(A) of IPC and Section 5(g)/6 of the POCSO Act. The prosecution case was that the accused, along with a juvenile co-accused, committed gang-rape on the girl and set her ablaze.

Bathinda court awards death to IAF Sergeant (Punjab)

Posted at: Mar 16, 2019, 7:13 AM; last updated: Mar 16, 2019, 2:11 PM (IST)

Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, March 15

Two years after he kidnapped and murdered an Airman, chopping his body into 100 parts and stuffing these into polythene bags, a Bathinda court today awarded the death sentence to IAF Sergeant Sailesh Kumar. 

“To be hanged by the neck till he is dead,” Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Kanwaljit Singh Bajwa pronounced the sentence. Sergeant Kumar’s wife Anuradha Patel, eight months’ pregnant at the time of the murder, was sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment for destruction of evidence. The ASJ observed the accused, a member of the armed forces, should have shown courage in some other field, “in place of butchery”. He said: “It would be a mockery of justice and the conscience of society would be shocked, if death penalty was not awarded to him as his act was abhorrent and dastardly.

“This is surely a case which falls within the category of rarest of rare cases.” 

Image result for IAF Sergeant Sailesh Kumar
The couple in custody for the murder of Indian Air Force corporal Vipan Shukla (inset) in Bathinda on Tuesday.
Photo: Pawan Sharma
According to the prosecution, the victim’s wife told the police that Vipin left house at the Bhissiana Airbase on February 8, 2017, but did not return. She and her father-in-law embarked upon a search. On February 21, they overheard two youngsters saying stench was emanating from the Sergeant’s residential quarters and informed the police. Evidence regarding the motive behind the murder was, however, not placed before the court.

Sergeant Sailesh Kumar kidnapped and murdered an Airman, chopped his body and stuffed parts into bags

An abhorrent and unjust device: on death penalty (Opinion)

MARCH 15, 2019 00:02 IST

Retention of the death penalty utterly undermines India’s moral foundations

On March 5, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court delivered verdicts in three different death penalty cases. In two of those the court entirely exonerated the suspects, while in the third it not only found the accused guilty of murder, but also deserving of capital punishment. Individually read, the judgments typify the deep penological confusion that pervades India’s criminal justice system. Collectively, the cases demonstrate how arbitrary the death penalty is, how its application is mired by a belief in conflicting values, and how the fundamental requirement of precision in criminal law has been replaced by a rhetorical cry for avenging crime by invoking the “collective conscience” of society.

Conjecture and farce
In the first of the cases, Digamber Vaishnav v. State of Chhattisgarh, two persons were convicted of murdering five women and were sentenced to death in 2014. A year later, the Chhattisgarh High Court affirmed these sentences. But the chief testimony, which formed the backbone of the prosecution’s case, was that of a nine-year-old child, who was, shockingly, not even an eye-witness to the crime. This, the court therefore ruled, was effectively a conviction premised on surmise and conjecture.

Ankush Maruti Shinde v. State of Maharashtra, the second of the cases, saw a gut-wrenching series of events being reduced to macabre farce. In 2006, a trial court found six persons guilty of rape and murder and sentenced each of them to death. A year later, the Bombay High Court confirmed the finding of guilt, but commuted the sentences imposed on three of the individuals to life imprisonment. However, in 2009, the Supreme Court not only dismissed the appeals filed by those sentenced to death, but also, astonishingly, enhanced the penalties of the three persons whose sentences had been commuted by ordering that they too be punished with death. In doing so, the court relied on a 1996 verdict, in Ravji v. State of Rajasthan, where it had ruled that in determining whether to award the death penalty “it is the nature and gravity of the crime” alone that demand consideration. Although in May 2009, the Supreme Court had declared its earlier ruling in Ravji incorrect, by holding that even in those cases where the crime is brutal and heinous the criminal’s antecedents, including his economic and social background, must have a bearing on the award of the sentence, it took until October last year for the court to recall its order sentencing the six persons to death.

During this time, as the court records, “The accused remained under constant stress and in the perpetual fear of death.” What is more, one of them, who was later found to be a juvenile at the time when the alleged crime was committed, was kept in solitary confinement. He was not allowed to meet any of the other prisoners and was only allowed an occasional meeting with his mother. For their troubles — for having spent more than a decade on death row despite having committed no crime — the bench ordered that the state pay each of them a sum of ₹5 lakh. But while the court was quick to apportion blame on the prosecution, it didn’t so much as mention its own errors and its own proclivity to mirror the mentality of a mob.

A ‘rarest of rare’ case
Yet, we might have been forgiven for thinking that the court’s experience in hearing Digamber Vaishnav and, especially, Ankush Maruti Shinde may have made it more circumspect in upholding death sentences. After all, if these decisions had shown us anything, it was that the judicial process is far from inerrant. But the collective conscience of society, represented through the court’s capital punishment jurisprudence, it appears, is still alive and kicking. For in the third of the cases, in Khushwinder Singh v. State of Punjab, it not only affirmed the conviction of the accused, on charges of murdering six members of a family, but also gave its imprimatur to the award of the death penalty. The murders, the judgment holds, were “diabolical and dastardly” and the case fell into the “rarest of rare” categories where “there is no alternative punishment suitable, except the death sentence”.

The rarest of rare doctrine has its origins in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab(1980). There, the court declared Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, which prescribes the death penalty for murder, as constitutionally valid, but bounded its limits by holding that the punishment can only be prescribed in the rarest of rare cases. Since then, the court has repeatedly cautioned that capital punishment ought to only be decreed when the state can clearly establish that a convict is incapable of being reformed and rehabilitated. But, in Khushwinder Singh, the court does not place on record any such piece of evidence that the state was called on to produce. Indeed, the court does not so much as attempt to answer whether the accused was, in fact, capable of reformation or not. Instead, it merely endorses the death sentence by holding that there simply were no mitigating circumstances warranting an alternative penalty.
Victims of the system

That capital punishment serves no legitimate penological purpose is by now abundantly clear. There’s almost no empirical evidence available showing that the death penalty actually deters crime. If anything, independent studies have repeatedly shown the converse to be true. In the U.S., for instance, States that employ capital punishment have had drastically higher rates of homicide in comparison with those States where the death penalty is no longer engaged. In India, evidence also points to a disproportionate application of the sentence, with the most economically and socially marginalised amongst us suffering the most. The Death Penalty India Report (DPIR), released on May 6, 2016, by Project 39A of the National Law University, Delhi, for example, shows that 74% of prisoners on death row, at the time of the study, were economically vulnerable, and 63% were either the primary or sole earners in their families. More than 60% of those sentenced to death had not completed their secondary school education, and 23% had never attended school, a factor which, as the report states, “points to the alienation that they would experience from the legal process, in terms of the extent to which they are able to understand the case against them and engage with the criminal justice system.” Just as distressingly, 76% of those sentenced to death belonged to backward classes and religious minorities, including all 12 female prisoners.

In the face of this invidiously prejudiced application, the retention of capital punishment utterly undermines the country’s moral foundations. Over the course of the last decade, the Supreme Court may well have expanded the rights of death row prisoners: delays by the President in disposing of mercy petitions now constitute a valid ground for commutation; review petitions filed by death row convicts now have to be mandatorily heard in open court. But as the judgments delivered on March 5 reveal, the very preservation of the death penalty creates iniquitous results. Cases such as Ankush Maruti Shinde, where the accused, as the judgment records, were very poor labourers, “nomadic tribes coming from the lower strata of the society,” ought to make it evident that the death penalty is an abhorrent and unjust device.

Not only are wholly irrational criteria applied to arrive at dangerously irreversible decisions, the law’s application is made all the more sinister by invariably imposing these standards on the most vulnerable members of society. The Constitution promises to every person equality before the law. But capital punishment renders this pledge hollow. It legalises a form of violence, and it closes down, as Judith Butler wrote, expounding Jacques Derrida, “the distinction between justice and vengeance,” where “justice becomes the moralised form that vengeance assumes.”

Suhrith Parthasarathy is an advocate practising at the Madras High Court