Life sentence upheld for rape and murder of sister-in-law; accused also killed her 13-month-old child

Offences against women require exemplary punishment from trial courts and High Courts, the Supreme Court has held.

A Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and M.Y. Eqbal said: “In justice delivery system, courts are conscious and mindful of the proportion between the rigour of offence committed and the penalty imposed as also its impact on society in general and the victim of the crime in particular. Social impact of the crime, where it relates to offences against women, cannot be lost sight of and per se requires exemplary treatment. Public abhorrence of the crime needs reflection through imposition of appropriate sentence by the court.”

In the instant case, Kumar caused the death of his sister-in-law Vijayalakshmi of Yercaud after raping her. He also killed her 13-month-old baby and later burnt both bodies. The trial court awarded life sentence to him and this was upheld by the Madras High Court.

Kumar, in his appeal, took the stand that there was no direct evidence to connect him with the offence and that the confession he made to his neighbour was not admissible in evidence.

Writing the judgment, Justice Sathasivam said: “The law is well settled as to what extent extra-judicial confession can be relied on. If the same is voluntary and made in a fit state of mind, it can be relied upon along with other materials. It is true that extra-judicial confession is a weak type of evidence and depends upon the nature of circumstances like the time when the confession was made and the credibility of the witnesses. It is seen from the evidence of prosecution witnesses that the appellant-accused had the motive, namely, he had a lustful eye towards his sister-in-law, which had been proved beyond doubt. An overall assessment of the evidence of the prosecution witnesses clearly establishes the circumstances against the accused in a cogent manner.”

The Bench said: “The High Court, while analysing the entire prosecution case and the different versions, appreciated the efforts made by the team headed by A.G. Pon Manickavel, then Superintendent of Police, who personally investigated the matter and brought all relevant and acceptable materials before the court of law. As appreciated by the High Court, we also express our appreciation of the team headed by Mr. Manickavel for the tireless investigation in presenting the truth before the Majesty of Law. We are in entire agreement with the conclusion arrived at by the trial court and affirmed by the High Court. Consequently, we dismiss the appeal as being devoid of merits.

“Though the trial court imposed life imprisonment which was upheld by the High Court in view of the gruesome act of rape followed by double murder, we are of the view that the authorities having power of remission cannot pass any such order lightly without adhering to various principles enunciated by this court,” it said.

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